Toledo Stories and Tips

Unveiling the Beauty of Toledo - June 2005

The Parador experience was enough to keep us satisfied in Toledo for 2 nights. Perched on the southern bank of the Tajo river, the Parador Nacional Conde de Orgaz afforded the best city-wide views anytime of the day. It seemed as if everyone else had avoided Toledo in the unnatural 35 degree heatwave. All but us. I consider this parador an all-inclusive resort or oasis in the middle of Toledo’s summer heat. Stately, spacious rooms with oversized kingsized beds and views that are unforgettable, terrace-side bar and fine dining over the city… even the swimming pool has a view that should be captured on one of the Bond films. Why would anyone stay anywhere else in Toledo? For once, I wouldn’t mind hanging out at the hotel instead of scurrying about the streets and alleys of a travel destination, hoping to extract every juice of adventure and local flavor. I’m a do-it-all type of traveler. For me, it’s not enough to do the superficial sights and attractions that other "tourists" do. I must possess a "greedy travel gene" that is obsessed with local cultural immersion. I need to see, hear, taste, touch, do, experience it all with every sense of me. And yet, here in Toledo, I am perfectly content to sit in front of my bedroom window or lounge beside the swimming pool, gazing at the different shades of sunlight that dresses the city below. Again, the heat might have something to do with my sudden lethargy and sense of inner complacency. The Parador experience was enough to keep us satisfied in Toledo for 2 nights. Perched on the southern bank of the Tajo River, the Parador Nacional Conde de Orgaz afforded the best city-wide views anytime of the day. It seemed as if everyone else had avoided Toledo in the unnatural 35°C heat wave - all but us.

I consider this parador an all-inclusive resort or oasis in the middle of Toledo’s summer heat: stately, spacious rooms with oversized king-size beds and views that are unforgettable, terrace-side bar, and fine dining over the city… even the swimming pool has a view that should be captured on one of the Bond films. Why would anyone stay anywhere else in Toledo? For once, I wouldn’t mind hanging out at the hotel instead of scurrying about the streets and alleys of a travel destination, hoping to extract every juice of adventure and local flavor. I’m a do-it-all type of traveler. For me, it’s not enough to do the superficial sights and attractions that other "tourists" do. I must possess a "greedy travel gene" that is obsessed with local cultural immersion. I need to see, hear, taste, touch, do, and experience it all with every sense of me. And yet, here in Toledo, I am perfectly content to sit in front of my bedroom window or lounge beside the swimming pool, gazing at the different shades of sunlight that dresses the city below. Again, the heat might have something to do with my sudden lethargy and sense of inner complacency.

The famed Alcazar is closed for renovations this summer. The rest of the city seems sleepy and lazy in the afternoon heat. Even having been warned that it’s easy to get lost in the streets of Toledo, we still found ourselves making little circles again and again. Didn’t we pass this plaza already?? If you didn’t buy those souvenir fans already, this is the place to break the piggy bank and indulge yourself. Sooner or later, the heat tends to break everybody’s will. Is this unique to Toledo in Spain? How much hotter could it get in July and August?? I dare not imagine nor come back to see for myself.

The Zocodover Plaza is the most natural place to start exploring Toledo. Flanked by pretty cafés and the ever-present McDonald’s, the Zocodover opens up to both the Alcazar and little alleys that take you past countless souvenir shops and tourist traps on the way to the Cathedral, Iglesia de Santo Tome, and on to the other side of the city, where the Iglesia San Juan de los Reyes mockingly hovers the Jewish quarters. To walk straight across town takes merely 2 hours (giving plenty of room for café or ice-cream stops). But definitely take some time to set aside the map and get lost in the labyrinth of alleyways and minor plazas. Just wandering blindly in Toledo is an introduction to the feel of the city. Somehow, I’ve come away respecting its privacy, like a beautiful and proud Spanish woman, aloof, yet self-aware and firmly poised behind the shadow of her fan.

HIGHLIGHTS:

*Parador - best views and accommodations that make you actually want to STAY at the hotel instead of venture out to take in the attractions
*Zocodover - the central artery to take in the pulse of the town
*Alleyways - all other sights and attractions seem to accessorize these alleys, and they definitely make you want to get lost in the maze

There are a limited number of trains from Madrid’s Atocha station running to Toledo each day. The duration of train travel is 1.5 hours. However, in June, the station in Toledo is undergoing some maintenance and major overhaul, so passengers are bused from another station 25 minutes away. When you purchase tickets in Madrid, they don’t mention this big fact, but the conductor on the train will let you in if you can understand Spanish. Even if you buy round-trip tickets from Madrid, you’ll have to pay an extra fare for the bus ride from Toledo’s train station to the nearby connecting train station. (I can’t remember the name of that station). Check www.renfe.es for the latest schedules.

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