Farewelling Spain in Toledo and Aranjuez

Sunday 18 to Wednesday 21 September

Toledo is built on a granite rock and the old city sits high off the ground. Cyber Serena, our satnav, directed us through gates into the old town and up the hill. It was Sunday afternoon, so our first impression was the number of tourists. We had not seen tourists in such numbers since Granada. There were busloads of people on walking tours, led by guides with wands, flags or umbrellas.

Toledo is an easy day tour from Madrid and a popular destination with many foreign tourists. The weekend added many Spanish families to the mix. It was a busy city.

It was Sunday afternoon so after we found our car park and hotel we went wandering.

We found the cathedral, a magnificent structure rising above the city skyline, and the bride and groom for afternoon wedding shots.

It was cooler than we had become used to, just high twenties and quite pleasant.

Our host had told us about a bar with a great view over the city – we got there at 7:00pm, but it wasn’t going to open until 8:30pm. Spanish eating & drinking times can be frustrating after a long day of driving and sightseeing.

After a little meandering we focused on a small bar for a Sunday evening drink and then had to fill in time until restaurants opened at 9:00pm. By then we were impatient to eat and chose badly. The food was disappointing.

With another 9 weeks of travelling ahead of us, our priority was to get our clothes washed. We had found an excellent automated laundry in Granada with outlets throughout Spain. Sure enough there was one in Toledo. We took a taxi and found decent coffee while our clothes were washing and drying. Hailing a taxi back to our hotel was another matter – not one available. As it turned out the walk back was short, eased by a series of escalators to assist the climb to the old city.

We toured the cathedral with the inevitable audio guide. Unfortunately these places of prayer insist on giving you a choral introduction to each new chapter. A nice introduction but it becomes tedious.

The cathedral had the usual elements of highly gilded and richly carved icons, but what was outstanding was the art collection. Lots of El Greco, a few Goyas, at least one stunning Carravagio and countless other artefacts depicting Jesus, his family, his ancestors and his followers in various forms.

We followed the suggested walking tour around the city, through the Jewish, Christian and Islamic quarters. There are so many houses of prayer in Toledo, it seems there is one in every corner.

Of course, from a visual point of view, the city skyline and the views from it are outstanding.  The old wall, beautiful entrances and majestic buildings surrounded by the River Tajo. No wonder it is such a popular day trip from Madrid!

And for the last night of our five-week Spanish journey, we happened across a delightful bar for a pre-dinner drink and decent wifi, and a fabulous restaurant where we indulged in pheasant and venison and a very nice bottle of Tempranillo, easily our favourite Spanish red wine. That certainly made up for the previous night’s frustrations.

Packed and ready to head to the airport but with a long wait to the evening flight, the tourist office suggested we make a lunch stop at Aranjuez.

There is a magnificent palace in Aranjuez, which is situated on the River Tajo upstream from Toledo. Carlos III built the palace as a spring residence for his children and set it in magnificent gardens which run along the river. Our time was limited so after a quick lunch we wandered through the garden Island. Tall trees showing off their Autumn offerings of seeds and nuts and miles of manicured box hedges. Fountains capturing the afternoon light and a couple of wary cats.

It was a pleasant intermission between the tourists of Toledo and the long flight to Nairobi.