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Sept 30: Madrid

Today we went to Toledo. It turns out that the best way to get to Toledo is by bus, not by train. The busses run every half hour, whereas there are only three trains going to Toledo. The bus is surprisingly a shorter trip too.

So, we scoped out which Metro stop was the place to go, and left the hotel at an amazingly early time of around 8 AM. There was no one on the Metro at our stop at this hour, which makes sense given how late people stay up. We had to transfer twice, but the transfers were quick, and we arrived at the bus station quickly. We bought our tickets for the 9 AM train, grabbed a quick coffee and got on the bus.

The bus ride was a little less than an hour, and was quite pleasant. I was able to catch up on a little missing sleep along the way. The bus arrived at Toledo a little bit before ten, and we had to make our way up to the old town.

Toledo is a mideaval (sp?) walled city. Development in the surrounding town outside the wall has been controlled so that the newer buildings are in character with the older part of town. Toledo is a bit bigger than Girona, and because of its perfectly preserved nature, we were expecting to stumble upon another movie being filmed. Thankfully the town was movie free today.

We headed on up to the old town from the bus station. Toledo sits on a hill, so it was quite a hike up cobbled narrow roads to get to one of the main plazas. We found a nice cafe to have breakfast, and sat down for a cup of joe and a pastry.

From there, we headed on over to the cathedral. Toledo's cathedral is a very impressive gothic cathedral, with a beautiful altar, and some impressive paintings by El Greco and others of that period. We toured the cathedral, skipping the audio guide and using the Rick Steves' guided tour instead, which hit most of the highlights.

We wandered around the old town some more, marveling at the swords for sale in each store. This place is a souvenir junkie's heaven. Every other store sells trinkets or knives and swords (one of the specialties of the area) or marzapan (another specialty of the area). There are also about ten convents in the town, which is probably what gave rise to the expression "holy Toledo!". We saw many a nun strolling about.

We next went to the museum. It is under renovation so it was free. There were about 15 more El Grecos in the museum, as well as some interesting ceramics.

It was around 2 by now, and we'd had enough of the old town and museum hopping so we decided to head on home. If you ever decide to visit Toledo, I'd recommend staying over night and taking more time to see it. Much of the charm is the quirkiness of the old town, but as we'd already spent a bit of time in other old towns, it didn't hold as much interest as it might have had this been the only one. But it is a lovely town if you can get past all the souvenirs.

We trucked on down to the bus station, and managed to catch the 2:30 bus just barely. We were in the last set of seats. The bus ride home was a bit longer, as there was now quite a bit of traffic.

After getting off the bus, we headed over to the metro. Three transfers later, we were on the main shopping boulevard of Madrid. I wanted to do a little window shopping and hit my favorite stores. So we strolled up and down the area, which reminded me a little bit of 5th or Park ave in NYC. But we didn't go in to any stores.

I was getting pretty hungry, but as it was now around 4, there really weren't too many places open that were serving food. We found a chain, VIPs, which had pretty boring fare, and we shared a light snack before continuing on. We strolled down the boulevard in the other direction, and then decided to hoof it home.

By now it was about 7, still too early for dinner, so we rested in our hotel room for a while. At around 8:30 we set out to find one of Rick Steves' recommendations. Since the last two evenings' dinners were pretty mediocre, we decided to stick with Rick's picks... he's never steered us wrong in the food department!

We went to Taberna 100 Vino, a tapas and wine bar that also serves racions at dinner time. We had a couple of small tapas, and each ordered a main course. Kurt had a smoked fish salad, which was incredibly delicious. I had a clam and calamari "stew" (with noodles), which was also quite good. Phil had a meat dish that looked a bit like prosciutto. He put the meat in the rolls that were delivered, and ate it like a sandwich. Totally yummy!

We walked back to our hotel, stopping for an ice cream fix along the way. After a quick bout of packing, we called it a day at around midnight!

Tomorrow, we will visit the Palace and I'm not sure what else, before leaving for Barcelona in the evening.