Chapter Fourteen: Traveling To Toledo

P1020937Chapter Fourteen: Traveling To Toledo

Day Fourteen – Where Is Everybody, Coffee And Gin, Drinking Problem?, The Madrid Turn Around, We Are Not In Ohio, Room With A View, Pick Your Dish, Burger Joint, We’ve Got The Meats, Cathedral Shut Out, Short Changed, The Doménikos Theotokópoulos Experience, The Revenge Of The Sneeze and Oh Deer Balls

Digression: Later in our trip (while sipping some vino in Madrid), we all reflected on our list of Spanish cities we had visited, and we were unanimous in our observation that our “least” favorite (not “bad,” but “least” favorite) of the major towns we stayed was Córdoba (yes, I know many will disagree with this assessment…it’s only our opinion).  That’s not to say we should have skipped it, because the Mezquita is one of the most incredible historical sites I’ve ever gone to…period!  It’s just that Córdoba did not have the vibe or panache or whatever you want to call it of the other towns we toured.  Maybe it was the heat or perhaps everyone was hanging out at the fair, but Córdoba seemed dead when compared to Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla, Madrid…and especially the town we would take the train to on this day.

P1020647Bidding adios to Plaza San Miguel, we arrived at Córdoba’s train station, where we were, of course, the first ones waiting for our 11:30 train to Toledo. I was lonelier than the Maytag repair man, but eventually the train arrived and we were off for Madrid (where we would need to change trains to Toledo…have to go north to go south).

IMG_2516I took advantage of a few espressos while seated…

IMG_2517…and then I found out there was a “bar car.”  Since it was now after noon (not that time really would have made any difference), I sauntered back to the bar car and had them fix me a GinTonic.

IMG_2521Back at my seat, Tracy showed me an article in the Daily Mail (my new favorite trashy newspaper), which had a story entitled “How The Middle-Aged Now Have The Biggest Drink Problem Of All.”

IMG_2525Fortunately, she had married an older man.  At 63 I have passed middle age, and I felt sorry for that younger, drunken generation as I enjoyed my early afternoon GinTonic.

At Madrid’s Atocha station, we had a 30 minute turnaround, and after a couple of slight detours to wrong areas, we found our platform and settled in for the short 25 minute hop to Toledo’s Estacion del Ferrocarril, its historic train station that opened in 1920.

P1020649Adjacent to the station (that has a clock tower similar to many Toledo church towers) is a royal hall where King Alfonso XIII met important visitors when their train arrived.

P1020982The taxi picked us up, and I gave our driver the address to our apartment, Casa de los Mozarabes, Callejon de Menores 10.

P1020937As we drove up the hill, he said that we would eventually make a turn at Toledo Of Ohio. “Oh no,” I thought, “we’re in a Twilight Zone episode and the train took us to the wrong Toledo.”

P1020665Fortunately it was the Calle De Toledo de Ohio. He dropped us at a nearby farmacia and told us the apartment was down a narrow alleyway, only one block away (Photo below from internet).

23937888We had called ahead and were met by the very nice Becky and her son, Diego, who took us up a couple flight of stairs to our room…#6…on the top floor.  Wow!

14 Although a three-bedroom apartment, the cost (about €140 per night…split in half) was too good to pass up, especially after reading all the excellent reviews.  The reviews were spot on.

8The apartment had gorgeous views, and as you can see by the photos, was spacious.

P1020654This was another “deal of the century.”

P1020652Freshened up, we went out in search of a mid-afternoon lunch. Casa de los Mozarabes has a great location…within two minutes you are in the heart of Toledo.

First we stopped by Toledo’s main square, Plaza de Zocodover. On the square is the Arch Of Blood (being on blood thinners that had me worried). It seems that when someone was condemned to death and was executed in the square, the Brotherhood of Blood (sounds like a show “Sir Bleed-A-Lot” could star in) would console the condemned before they were executed.

P1020658Since there were no executions on this day, we quickly stopped in the TI, passed by a bunch of buildings (many with banners that we would find out were put up to celebrate Corpus Christi, the holiday that would soon interfere with our sightseeing.

P1020659We also caught a glimpse of the Tourist Train Vision Zocotren…

P1020928…that we would take in a couple of nights to get spectacular views of Toledo from Mirador del Valle.

P1020943We walked for a while in search of food.

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Almost all the outdoor tables at restaurants were full up, but we happened down a side street and ran into Mercado de San Augustín Gourmet Market, Cuesta del Águila 3.

11They have three floors (and a terrace) full of restaurants…

P1020663…bars…

IMG_2603…and places to buy meats and seafood.

P1020886Each floor offers different cuisines.

P1020888We thought about Japanese food for a moment, but on the top floor we found The Gourmet Burgers Burger Show (or as I called it, Meat The Press).

10The hamburgers were good, the beers even better, and it was off to see a little of Toledo late on a Saturday afternoon.

9We walked through town, passing by a butcher shop that I hoped PETA representatives wouldn’t find.

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Walking the streets of Toledo was far different from the previous day in Córdoba.  This town was “happening.”

IMG_2555We came upon a tour group walking through town, and the looks on their faces is why you should think twice about which tour to take…except, of course, Tuscan Tom’s Tour (no matter what country we visit…we’ve kept the name).

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Our plan was to go visit Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, called “one of the most impressive structures in all of Spain.”  It also was supposed to contain one of the most beautiful altarpieces in the world.

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Upon arrival at the Catedral, we received the bad news.  Due to that ever-present Corpus Christi (I was beginning to have a strong dislike of Texas by now), the cathedral was closed today and the following day due to preparations for the holiday I still didn’t know anything about.

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It would be open Monday, but the altarpiece would not be visible due to the preparations for Galveston, or whatever this Texas holiday was called.

We quickly changed plans and headed to Iglesia de Santo Tomé, which had been constructed to house the most famous painting of Doménikos Theotokópoulos (aka El Greco), The Burial of Count Orgaz.   Admittance was €2.50 each.   Being the Daddy Warbucks character that I am, I offered to pay.  I handed the guy €20,, and that was about the only eye contact he was going to make, hoping I’d go away. Telling him I had given him €20, at first he disagreed.

I admit, at times, I have a temper, but when I am across the pond, Kim (who has known me since our first day in college) has dubbed me “Euro Tom,” because I tend to take a calmer approach to problem solving in an attempt not to be deported. I firmly and resolutely told this guy that I had given him €20.  Knowing I wasn’t going away, he finally relented, but not happily and gave me my change.

Stepping inside a hallway, many people were already spying El Greco’s famous painting. I was about to take my camera out and shoot a photo when someone else attempted to take a picture. Faster than a Secret Service agent (when not buying hookers), a guy in a suit sternly (and I mean sternly) said no photos.  He meant business.

0902grecI didn’t know much about El Greco before visiting Spain (well, I really knew nothing about El Greco), but if this painting was any indication of his talent, I was very impressed. I was told that Santo Tomé is Toledo’s most-visited church (outside of the Cathedral).  After checking out the famed painting, we briefly stepped inside the church (both photos…above and below… are from the internet).

Santo-Tome-Church-in-ToledoWalking back to the apartment we passed by colorful window sills…

4…and a sign that gave me great hope for this town.

1I also ducked in a little church whose name I forget (there were lots of churches).

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We stopped by the store for provisions for the week (Mary had said she would make breakfast the next morning…

2…then we relaxed for a bit before our 8 p.m. dinner reservations at a nearby restaurant.

3La Abadia, Plaza San Nicolas, 3, had received good reviews and it also had one of those underground cavern settings that we enjoy.

P1020679We arrived in the front bar area (always dangerous for this group), and I had a pregame GinTonic.  This huge GT cost only €2.50. I immediately said I wanted to look for property in Toledo.  When I ordered red wine for the rest of the group, the bartender said they only had white. At €1.50 a glass, nobody cared. Each drink came with a side of appetizers (the chorizo sausage with onions and garlic was wonderful).

P1020682The downstairs dining would not be open until 8:30, so we were forced to order more drinks (thank God I’m not middle-aged, or I’d have been worried). This time they got their white wine, too, along with a salmon mousse with anchovies on a crostini (aka the Mary Special).

Our hostess came to bring us downstairs to the “cave,” and she sounded familiar as she hacked up a lung and sneezed more than one of the Seven Dwarfs.

sneezyWho could it be that she reminded me of?  Now it’s coming back…she sounded just like a tourist from Southern California visiting Paris in 2014.  At least she wasn’t wearing an oxygen mask like that jerk.

IMG_1103She did bring us our wine (which we promptly wiped down with “Germ be Gone” wipes), but thankfully our food was brought out by a healthy looking waiter.

5We all shared a delicious tapa (never thought I’d ever say that again) of goat cheese and bacon fondue with some circular pieces of meat that looked unfamiliar, which were rolled in sesame seeds.

“What are those?” I asked our waiter.

“Oh, those are deer balls,” he replied. Yes, this appetizer cost at least one buck, but at least no doe.

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I’ll admit we fawned over it for awhile, but when it came to taste…deer me..it was tasty. As we learned, “Deer Balls” are actually bite size pieces of deer back strap (which doesn’t sound much better) or tenderloin.

Dinner was quite good, especially the Brazilian grilled beef with potatoes that Kim and I ordered.

6Tracy tried the duck raviolis, while Mary ordered Toledo-style Partridge (sans David Cassidy).

David-Cassidy_then_thumbMarzipan is a Toledo specialty. According to a Spanish Food website, “…marzipan was invented by nuns of the Convent Of San Clemente in Toledo.”  Of course, anything invented by nuns is habit forming, so I ordered a marzipan sponge cake for dessert.  It was pretty good, but probably not worth the 12,000 calories.

We walked back along our little alley to our apartment.

7Although centrally located, Casa de los Mozarabes is very quiet at night. Well, except for one thing.  As soon as we shut the door, we heard the boom of thunder and a flash of lightening. Timing is everything, and the sky was beautiful.

P1020696Tomorrow, we would hit the Toledo turf running; checking out an old fortress and military museum, climbing some rickety stairs for a great view of the city, making a stop at El Greco’s museum, touring a nearby synagogue and visiting a very cool monastery complete with an animal that made for an interesting diversion. Oh yeah, I would also have the Giant GinTonic to end all Giant GinTonics, which contained the tonic water I still yearn for today, and I’m feeling “blue” I can’t get it in the United States.

Next: Day Fifteen – Scrambling For Breakfast, Military Exercise, Jimmy Stewart Wouldn’t Like This Climb, Peter The Cruel’s Old House, Hanging With El Greco And Friends, From El Greco To El Transito, Monster G&T, Another Isabella & Ferdinand Production, The Pooping Monkey, No GPS Required, New Meets Old (And I Don’t Mean Us), I Want More Marzipan and A Beautiful Rooftop Setting

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