Holy Toledo!

Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
Trip End Oct 10, 2006

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Sunday, October 1, 2006

MOOD: Splurgy
DATE/TIME: Oct 2, 12:18am, Hotel Paraiso, Rm. 110, Ciudad Real
SONG STUCK IN MY HEAD: "Crying" by Roy Orbison
FOOD LAST CONSUMED: Tortilla Espanola, which doesn't involve tortillas as we know them in the States, but instead more big rolls, which I'm getting the sense is the national staple here. I think the tortilla part is related to Mexican tortas, or sandwiches. The Espanola part was a lovely piece of omelet with onions. Oh, and two Mahob beers with which I was served pieces of potato in a garlicky white sauce as tapas. Delicioso.

Today (Oct 1) was kind of a wash. I wanted to get out of Madrid, but as usual was aking my own sweet time in the morning. I got up at 9:30 but didn't leave the hostel until 12:30 or so. I took the Metro two stops to Atoche Renfe, the train station, because I didn't want to have to walk with my pack the whole way there, but I also wanted to use up some of the 10 tickets I'd bought for 6 Euros. At the station, it took me awhile to figure out where the best place to ask about tickets was, and by the time I did, the train to Toledo was about to leave, with the next one in two hours. I wasn't about to wait at the station that long, so instead I used one of my other Metro rides to the bus station, where there was a bus leaving in 15 minutes. And just like that I was on my way, and for only 4.25 Euros to boot.

The landscape outside of Madrid reminded me a lot of Inland California -- dry and brown with hay colored vegetation. Even out in the middle of nowhere there was still really creative graffiti art on overpasses.

After about an hour we reached Toledo, where I learned from the various bus company wndows that the last bus to Ciudad Real was at 8pm. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook, Ciudad Real is nothing special, and in fact I wanted to be in Cordova. But that would have meant doubling back to Madrid and taking a train, and I really don't like doubling back. So the plan was to stay in Ciudad Real tonight and make it to Cordoba in the morning. And then... who knows.

After depositing my big pack in a storage locker (which I had to fill out a form, including showing my passport, to get), I rode the #12 bus to the historical part of Toledo and got off at Zoco Plaza. Here I was, visiting this world historical site, a place filled with history, and there was a whole family riding around on Segways. Apparently you could rent by fifteen minute intervals or something, because they were just cruising around the plaza and not going anywhere. The girls were very tentative, but the young teenage boy was really motoring, with big-bellied dad trying to catch up. It was fun to watch.

From there I tried to follow the guide book's walking tour map, but instantly got lost. One of the first things I was supposed to go to was the castle, but it was closed for renovations. The next thing I was supposed to go to, the Cathedral, was closed for services, and when I went back later, was closed for the day. And then finally the Museo del Greco closed at 4. So the big reasons for my being in Toledo I didn't get to really see inside. Bummer.

But the rest of the town was worth seeing. With its warren of narrow streets and alleys and elevation looking over a river, it reminded me of hill towns in Tuscany. And the sunset later on was spectacular.

But the cobblestones! Dreaded, awful, horrible, motherfucking cobblestones! The blisters on my feet first appeared in Prague because of cobblestones, were exacerbated in Madrid just from too much walking, and today in Toledo it was bad. I was wearing my sandals just to mix things up from my shoes which were supposed to prevent blisters, but it was no good.

Being tired and grumpy, I decided to eat at a cafe. Though they were advertising a Menu del Dia, all they had at that time were "pastas, pizzas, paella." So I had the Paella Mixto, which had a couple of chicken wings, a langostino (crawfish), a big calamari ring and a bit of pork loin that was all bone. Overall it was good, though, and the house wine was nice.

And that was about it for Toledo. I got back to the bus station at 7:40, bought a ticket for Ciudad Real, with the sign for the bus listing two stops total but it was more like seven, and when I arrived here I had no idea where to go. The station was closed, and as it's a big city, it was kind of imposing. But I had spotted a couple of hotels on the drive in and tried to retrace the bus' steps, but I think we went through one confusing roundabout to many. Right when I was considering hitchhiking to Cordova, I spotted a large hotel sign, went in, found out the cost per night was 48 Euros, which is about 2.5 times the amount I've been paying for accommodations, but I figured what the hell. This would be the first time since Munich that I'd have my own room, and I deserved some rest without earplugs.

However, there is this repetitive mechanical nose outside that's just loud enough to bug me. Oh well, so much for this place being a 3 star joint. But the service in the bar was very nice. I love the tradition of little dishes of food served free with your drink. I couldn't get enough of the garlic white sauce. Maybe they'll have some at the free breakfast, but somehow I doubt it.

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