September 22, 2021

Dateline – Toledo and Madrid, Spain

Today is the last day of the tour and one more destination to hit, Toledo. Madrid is the current capital city, but the capital was only moved here in the 17th century – the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons needed more room for palaces and additional population and Toledo, the capital since the Visigoths occupied Iberia during the collapse of the Roman Empire was left in the dust. It’s only about an hour away by train, car or bus so an easy jaunt first thing in the morning. We had a few brief showers on the trip and the skies were glowering when we got there, but things brightened up considerably through the morning and our luck with the weather continued. Toledo, as the medieval capital, is very much still a medieval town, built on a high bluff where the River Tagus makes a large oxbow bend through a gorge, it was easily defensible as a walled city and it’s also easy to see why the kings scampered after the introduction of gunpowder into warfare made such fortifications obsolete. The city retains a true middle ages feel. Winding narrow lanes with no rhyme or reason; fortified buildings, some dating back nearly a thousand years; it has a sense of unreality to it as if it’s some sort of movie set or theme park and, if you go around the next corner, you may stumble into Adventureland. The approach to the city, by a winding road on the opposite side of the gorge, lets you see it displayed out before you, looking all the world like one of the city sets of Game of Thrones, I half expected the Alcazar of the Cathedral to suddenly start unfolding as a little mechanical toy.

Tour of the city on foot, much my favorite way to do things. Highlights are the cathedral – Spanish Gothic with a great altarpiece and stunning collection of El Greco paintings (he was based in Toledo most of his working life). I’ve always liked his work. It’s incredibly modern looking for a Renaissance master. I’m not sure about the Baroque addition in the apse , a dome and rococo fantasia of a back altar constructed several hundred years after the original building was finished in order to let in more light. A few other stops including a small chapel to see a massive El Greco and the original synagogue from the 11th century, built for the Jews by the Moors and looking all the world like a mosque.

Lunch in a hacienda snuggled up on the town walls. Roast suckling pig plus several other courses. Then a bus load of napping and sated tourists heading back to Madrid. Did a little last minute shopping and wandering and then back for the second gala meal of the day (not having fully digested the first) a farewell dinner (sea bass) accompanied by several wines and champagne. Dinner entertainment provided by a rather good quartet of Spanish guitarists/mandolin players/vocalists doing the few songs in Spanish that American tourists tend to know. Guantanamera, Malaguena, Granada, Bessame Mucho etc. After a cocktail and three glasses of wine, plus champagne for toasting and to accompany dessert, the assembled crew demanded that I entertain them with something. I was just tiddly enough to do it so I found a karaoke track on YouTube on my phone and gave them a rousing edition of Don’t Tell Mama. (I figured I had to do something unexpected…) Hopefully no one recorded it.

Now bed and returning home through three airports and two airplanes tomorrow. Have my passport, have my ticket, have my negative Covid test. I figure the US will let me back in.I’ll let everyone know when I have safely returned home. Keep your hands and noses clean and wear your masks indoors. Spain is lifting more and more restrictions as no one is dying over here and most of the population is vaccinated. They may be back to full normal in the new year. I wonder where we’ll be?LikeCommentShare

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