Our final two days in Spain were spent in Madrid and Toledo. We traveled to Madrid on the AVE high-speed train from Málaga. Unfortunately erratic power meant the train is stopped unexpectedly several times., and we arrived three hous past our scheduled arrival.
We toured El Prado art museum. This amazing museum is celebrating its 200 year anniversary this year. It is the third largest museum in the world, and I loved the art collection. Unfortunately they did not allow photos inside the museum.
We also enjoyed a city tour of Madrid. Madrid is a lively, energetic, friendly city, filled with culture, history and art.
On our final full day in Spain, we toured the beautiful old city of Toledo. We drove around the walled old city, and stopped at a lovely view point of the bridge and the old city.
Toledo was is mentioned in Roman texts, so it is known to have existed in the Roman era. Then the Visigoths took it over; then the Moors, until it was re-conquered by the Spanish Christians in 1086. Toledo is a UNESCO world heritage site. The old city is very hilly, and I am grateful that the bus dropped us below near an underground escalator to get us up to the top of the hill. (Apparently the City got overwhelmed by all the tour buses that used to drive through. Now visitors can walk up Cholesterol hill, or ride the escalator)
We started our walking tour by walking to the main Central Square. I believe it is called Plaza Mayor; but ever since our guide told us all the locals call it McDonalds square (for the fast food chain that is a prominent storefront, occupying a historic building), that’s how I remember it.
We walked through the narrow winding streets of the old Jewish quarter. And we visited the oldest surviving synagogue building in Europe, Santa Maria la Blanca. As you can guess by the name, the beautiful old synagogue was converted to a church after Spain evicted (or converted) all the Jews during the inquisition.
Santa Maria la Blanca
We visited a demonstration of the traditional sword inlay work done in gold. I enjoyed our visit to a marzipan bakery. The larger than life Don Quixote statue below is made entirely of marzipan. The famous novel by Cervantes was set in La Mancha, which is bordered by the Toledo hills.
We continued through the Jewish quarter to St Tome church, which featured a amazing masterpiece by El Greco. Photos of the art and interior were not allowed. But I wish I had taken a photo of the lively street performer entertaining the line of tourists outside. She was a very slender older lady playing the part of Don Quixote, with her armor made out of egg cartons, and a toilet bowl plunger for her sword. She sang and danced and pranced around on a nonexistent horse. It would take a video to capture the fun of her acting.
We stopped at a local park, and then walked across San Miguel bridge.
My friend Linda and I both loved our trip to Spain and Portugal. It was a wonderful immersion into history, art and culture.