Toledo: an enchanting medieval city

Nowhere did we realize we had missed the tourist season more than Toledo. There were probably 50 people on the entire train on our way in. The high-speed service took only 20 minutes to cover the 70 km. from Madrid. I read that every departure is full on summer weekends, when people from Madrid use Toledo as a weekend escape. For tourists, Toledo is a must-see stop on Spain’s Magical Medieval Tour.

Toledo was the easiest place we have ever visited to get lost in. Not even Venice compares. We learned quite early on our walking tour that our guidebook was pretty much useless for finding our way from one sight to another. The narrow, serpentine streets and alleyways conspired to completely neutralize my sense of direction.

Fortunately, using the Map app on my iphone (the Google one), I was able to pinpoint our location. Walk half a block, and I’d see our new position on a map. Unfortunately, doing so also racked up hundreds of dollars in roaming charges. I assumed that loading a map would be like loading a web page — maybe 100-200K of data. But no, every glance at the map seemed to require about a megabyte. An expensive lesson!

But the town was beautiful — one could even say magical — in the slanting light of early winter. The views from the top of the hill of the Tagus River and surrounding countryside were spectacular, and you could instantly see why the city was impregnable.

As with every place we visited, our hotel was very cheap. It was four-star accommodation for less than $100 per night. Yes, the room was small by North American standards, but the beauty of the old brick and the timbers of the high ceiling made for a stay which even I could call romantic. 😉

Unfortunately, the end of the tourist season also meant a paucity of choices in open restaurants. Walking in the area near our hotel around 9pm, we found only one place open — the Cervecaria Gambrinus. It looked like a good restaurant and had a good menu. Indeed, the food was good.

But we were never treated as insultingly in any restaurant in the world as we were by our server that night. I don’t know what we could have possibly done to offend him, other than being foreigners. Perhaps we ran into a proto-fascist. The friendly people we met more than made up for him. But it’s unfortunate that a bad experience sticks in your mind in the midst of so many good ones.

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