Madrid No. 2 and Toledo, Spain

Kellie and I got up early and took an hour and 30 euro (maybe a bit more with luggage) plane to Madrid following breakfast in the airport – mine was a ham and cheese tosta that was not quite as delicious but probably slightly healthier (less oily) than the one I had had the previous day in Lisbon. But I do love that Portuguese bread.

We arrived back in Madrid at the same hostel I had been to the previous week (actually it must have been two weeks prior!), and I enjoyed the familiarity, especially as the hostel worker recognised me. I tentatively booked myself onto the trip to Toledo the following day, aware that it would only go ahead if a minimum of four signed up. It was rainy and freakishly about four degrees so I quickly put on even more jumpers and socks than I had been wearing in the none too warm Lisbon, grabbed my gloves from the bottom of my suitcase, and we headed off to find a cafe.

We picked a non touristy looking one that had only English writing, picked the menu of the day and selected the top two in each course. We then enjoyed a leisurely couple of hours eating tapas and discussing our travel fatigue, figuring out why we were feeling a bit flat but reminding each other of our good fortune. At the end of the meal we were presented with two free shots of delicious juice: mine was banana.

We passed some shops and I bought a crazy retro blue jacket on a sale rack as it was quite cold and I didn´t have anything sufficient. I then had a nice long nap before the tapas tour at 6:30, which I was determined to make this time, and Kellie came along too. We went to two bars and had more plates of tapas than we needed, all the while chatting to a former Canberra local named Ryan.

Pigs strung up to demonstrate they weren't Jewish, harking back to the Spanish Inquisition
Pigs strung up to demonstrate they weren’t Jewish, harking back to the Spanish Inquisition

Afterwards I wanted to go on the pub crawl that I had last time left early, but it was so cold and raining that there was only one another person waiting at the meeting point and I gave up and went back due to the cold and rain. Instead, I had a good night´s sleep.

The next morning I got up at about ten and asked reception if the Toledo trip was on: it was! I ducked to the supermarket, stocked up one eggs, bread, porridge and milk and cooked some eggs on toast for breakfast. On the hour long mini bus trip to Toledo I chatted to a Torontonian named Mark who got me enthused about Toronto, and with whom I got along well.

The minibus stopped when we had a good view of Toledo so we could take some great photos. It then took us into town and the driver said he would meet us back there at 5: 5 hours from then. The three of us who spoke English went to the cathedral where there was a tourist information centre that gave maps. We also checked out the cathedral and went into an artesan workshop where they were making little bracelet thingies using gold thread.

Then, Mark and I wished to get some lunch because it is apparently famous and delicious in Toledo, but our Quebecan companion Stefan preferred to buy some groceries and do his own thing, so Mark and I went separately. We found a restaurant in a sunny courtyard with heat lamps (it was not warm!) and enjoyed a leisurely couple of hours sampling two dishes which claimed to be special dishes of Toledo. They amounted to two meat stews with fries: one was ´deer´and the other beef and pork. When combined with bread and a glass of wine, they were delicious. At the end of the meal we were presented with a small baked good each: Mark suggested it was marzipan. It was incredibly delicious and I was surprised. I thought marzipan was not very nice! Turns out I have not had real marzipan before. I think marzipan must be a specialty of Toledo, because it said Toledo on the wrapper and we thence passed many places selling marzipan.

Despite feeling relaxed and leisurely Mark and I figured we´d better do some sightseeing so we headed toward the El Greco Museum. It did not take us long to get there as Toledo is quite small and along the way we took our time, stopping at a bakery to sample another random but delicious baked good with some sweet stuff in it, possibly honey. I was tempted to buy a whole packet of the marzipan pieces, but resisted for better or worse. We got to the other side of Toledo and took photos of the pleasant view. We then started walking back and found another sight that was only 2.50 to get into and figured we´d better check it out. It turned out to be some kind of monastery and included some El Greco (famous spanish painter?) paintings. Mark pointed out that the trademark is the bright yellow and red cloth depicted.

On the way back to the bus we joked around with knight statues and marvelled at the medieval door knockers. My google maps on my iphone took us the way – right up confusing and steep small alleyways! We also quickly ducked into what we thought was a castle, right near our meeting point, but which turned out to be a library in a castle. We took the lift to the cafe on the 9th floor and took some more snaps of Toledo.

After another serious nap I got up in time to have 5 euro pasta and sangria at the hostel before meeting Mark and Stefan for a drink before we three headed to the different pub crawl I had been told about and found on Facebook. We met at the bear statue in Sol at 11pm and found we had picked well: there was a fairly large group, including a large group of people who had been studying in Madrid and were heading back on Thursday.

The pub crawl proved quite fun, especially due to our tour leader bearing a striking resemblance to the Foo from LMFAO, and doing the dance to their songs on the stage in our 2nd venue. The music played in the bars was also music I enjoyed in Australia, and everywhere was very busy: it turned out that despite being Tuesday night it was the beginning of a very long weekend in spain. The fourth venue was a salsa club, but when we got to the fifth there was a private function so we couldn´t go in. By this time it was 3:40, however, so Mark and I got delicious and unnecessary tacos before heading back to the hostel.

The next day I checked out, cooked breakfast, grabbed a cheeky free churro, and headed off to the Prado museum to enjoy it more thoroughly, or so I thought. It was May Day, a public holiday, and anti-austerity protests in the main street meant the Prado was closed. Instead I followed some other tourists into a random free museum that had two exhibitions in it: one on the mesopotamian peoples, and the other a very bizarre exhibition of modern artworks on shock and chaos. I didn´t stay long!

By the time I had had some lunch and made a failed attempt to find an electronics store to sell me a camera USB cord – most things were closed – it was time for me to board the train to San Sebastian. Luckily I checked in time that I actually had to take the train from a different train station, Chamartin, that was further north and required a 20 minute metro ride. I made it, but when I got there the departures board read neither `San Sebastian’ nor `Donostonia’ so I was cutting it fine when I managed to find out from a Customer Service lady that I had to go to platform 19. I did, but the whole time I was on the train, right until it arrived as planned at San Sebastian at the hour planned, was rather unsure that I was going to end up there without having to change trains.

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