Sevilla, La Mancha, Toledo, Madrid

Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
Trip End Nov 24, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Saturday, November 23, 2013

Up at 7:00, bags out by 7:45, on the bus at 8:30.  Today was a lot of driving.  We left Sevilla and headed east toward Cordoba and then started headiing north toward Toledo and Madrid.  We drove for about two hours during which we passed from the Province of Andalusia to the Province of La Mancha through a tunnel in the Brown Mountains.  We stopped for a half an hour break at Pedro Abad another service area along the motorway.  Then we drove another 2 1/2 hours to Puerto Lapice (pwair-to lah-pee-tha) in Castile-La Mancha province.  We had lunch in this little village in the bar/restaurante where Don Quixote fell in love with Dulcinea.  The trough where he watered his horse was in the courtyard.  Larry and Derek had ham and cheese sandwiches and bear and I had chicken noodle soup and a crusty roll.  We went out into the little village to take pictures of the blue and white building, typical of La Mancha.  I also went into a shop and bought some saffron as it is pretty cheap in this part of Spain.  It is grown in La Mancha. 

It was another hour's drive to Toledo (toe-LAY-doe).  Our first stop was the Damascene Steel Factory where we saw an artisan doing the intricate work with gold on steel brought centuries ago from Damascus in present day Syria.  We then went into the shop where they sold jewelry, swords and knives done in this style.  It was really beautiful work and the price was a lot.  Then we drove to meet our tour guide Angel  who must be about 70,  He was a great tour guide and very funny.  We got off the bus at the base of the hill where the old city is.  To get up to the old city we went up stairs, an escalator and more stairs.  Angel took us on a two mile walk to the other side of Toledo which is the religious center of Spain.  It was the capital until the 1400's.  It has an Arabic Quarter, a Christian Quarter and a Jewish Quarter.  We walked through all three.  Angel warned us to stay together because the streets are narrow and very winding and it is easy to get lost.  It wasn't long before we understood his concern.  Most of the old city is pedestrian only as the street are so narrow.  We walked through a commercial district with all kinds of shops and restaurants to the main square, the Plaza de Zocodover an Arabic word which means livestock market.  There were more shops on the way to the Cathedral of Toledo.  One tower on the Cathedral is 300 feet high.  The other is only 150 feet high because the ground under it could not hold more weight.  It took over 250 years to complete the cathedral. It is the 5th largest in the world.  Angel told us the other cathedral in the top five is the Cathedral in Milan, Italy.  We first looked at the high altar which is done in gold leaf, some of the gold coming from the voyages of Columbus.  The Choir faces the high altar and contains over 100 chairs each carved with a different scene of the Reconquista when Muslims were slowly pushed back into Africa.  A unique feature of the Cathedral is the Transparante which is a hole cut into the ceiling to let the sun brighten the church.  The hole posed a problem but the artistic solution was a Baroque Masterpiece of angels and babies and sunbursts carved out of marble and full of energy and motion.  The sacristy is a mini-art gallery with 18 El Grecos and other works by Goya, Titian, Peter  Paul Rubens, Velazquez, Caravaggio, and Bellini.

Our next stop was a the humble church of Santo Tome (St. Thomas).  In it is housed El Greco's most beloved painting, the Burial of the Count of Orgaz.  Our next stop was in the Jewish Quarter to see the Sinagoga del Transito.  Inside the synagogue there are Jewish artifacts including costumes, menorahs, and books.  It was constructed for Jews with Christian approval by Muslim craftsmen.  Toledo has a three-culture legacy that is very evident in this synagogue.  Across from the synagogue was a large plaza on the bluff above the Rio Tajo (Tagus River).  There was a great view of the river gorge from the bluff.  From there we walked down, down, down to St. Martin's Bridge and across the river to our bus.

In another hour we were back in Madrid at the Agumar Hotel.  We had a little over an hour until the farewell dinner at the hotel.  When we went down there was a nice buffet set up with all kinds of Spanish dishes including Paella.  We had a great time toasting one another and saying goodbye, as we were not all leaving at the same time in the morning.
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