Chapter Thirteen: The Marvelous MezquitaSeptember 16, 2015
Chapter Fifteen: Traversing ToledoSeptember 28, 2015
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.
Bidding 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).
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.
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.
Since 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.
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.
Walking the streets of Toledo was far different from the previous day in Córdoba. This town was “happening.”
We 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).
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.
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.
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.
I 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).
We stopped by the store for provisions for the week (Mary had said she would make breakfast the next morning…
We 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).
The 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.
Who 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.
“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.
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.
Marzipan 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.
Although 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.
Tomorrow, 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