One of the many, many benefits of living in Madrid: impromptu day-trips to places like Toledo. To give you a little mindless entertainment on this fine Friday, here are a few shots from yesterday’s visit. Have a marvelous weekend!
Yesterday, Heather and I decided to take a little day trip outside of Madrid – always one of my favorite things to do on the weekends here. She had never been to Toledo, which is of a course a “must see” city here in Spain. So I was up for taking my fourth trip to the very special little city to show her around. Special because it was the first city I visited outside of Madrid – I went there by myself the very first time I came to Spain and absolutely fell in love with it.
We got there and decided to just get lost in the city. Usually I pick up a map considering its windy streets can easily lead you to nowhere if you don’t know where you are going. But, I figured that I knew well enough what direction we needed to head in to find everything, so we may as well just wander aimlessly until we fell upon the best sites.
During our journey we decided to do what we do best – something we fondly call tapas hopping. It basically entails us partaking in one of the very common Spanish traditions of going from place to place (usually bars) and having a tapa and a drink and then heading to the next place. Ours was a mini version this time – normally we prefer to spend an entire weeknight hopping from bar to bar in the La Latina neighborhood of Madrid. Heather and I are both basically professionals at this – we love Spanish food with all our hearts (especially the wine, cheese and jamón……and bread, and tortilla, and olives….ok, we don’t discriminate!), and nothing makes us more happy than sampling various tapas at different bars. During this particular little tapas trip, we had a plate of delicious manchego cheese at one place (manchego is from the community that Toledo is a part of – Castilla La Mancha), accompanied by tintos de verano (summer wines), and then at our next stop we enjoyed jamón and gazpacho. The trip was also punctuated by a couple of stops for sweets – the city is known for its marzipan, so we had to be sure to sample that as well.
After wandering through the city and eventually finding our way back to the car, we headed up to the Parador of Toledo. Paradors are hotels that you can find throughout Spain – usually they occupy historic buildings and in general are sites worth seeing in and of themselves. The Parador in Toledo has a stunning view of the city, so it was there that we each grabbed some coffee before our hour long drive home. It was a perfect finish to our little adventure.
Today I am spending the day mentally preparing myself for the next few crazy weeks. This coming weekend, Jacob and I will be driving to Galicia, the northwestern most region of Spain. It’s one of the very few places in Spain I haven’t been, so I am eager to check it off my list! The following weekend begins the real craziness though – I found out this last week that I will need to go to a conference in Seattle on May 11. Well, my friend Kim is coming out to visit me in Madrid (for the second time!) on May 16th, so the only way for me to get a flight back in time is for me to actually fly through SF because Seattle doesn’t have as many flights. So, I will be flying to SF, staying there for a day, then flying to Seattle for three days, then flying back to SF for a night, and then, coincidentally, will be flying back on the very same flight as Kim to Madrid. Annnndddd thennnn, Kim and I will arrive in Madrid Saturday morning and hop directly onto a train to Cordoba, where we will be picking up a rental car and driving to Granada for the night….then back to Cordoba for a night, and then I will train-it back to Madrid on Monday morning and straight into work, and finish off the day with a Flamenco show. Wow – I am completely exhausted just writing this!
It will definitely be a tiring couple of weeks, but I am absolutely looking forward to the opportunity to go home, go to Seattle (and see all my family who lives there, including my two cousins who are pregnant – one of which who is due while I am there!!!), and then having a good visit with Kim.
More to come whenever I have a moment to catch my breath!
What a week Kim and I have had! I arrived here in Madrid last Tuesday, followed by Kim on Thursday. I couldn’t have asked for better timing – it’s not easy transitioning back to life here, and having a buddy with me while I get back into the swing of things cheered me up more than I ever could have imagined.
We had quite the itinerary laid out for Kim and she was up for the challenge. The first day Kim arrived she was a real champ – we pretty much headed right out to tour Madrid. We hit up Retiro Park, Puerta de Alcala, The Prado, and even shopping on Serrano – all before heading to drinks, dinner, then drinks again with Jacob. Kim powered through the night without a trace of jet lag.
The next day we returned to Madrid to finish up the site seeing, which included the Palace, Plaza Mayor, Sol, Gran Via and more shopping! We capped off the day with an evening at Jacob’s friend Manu’s house for homemade paella on the BBQ – best paella ever!!!
Saturday we hit the road and headed out to Segovia – Kim’s favorite spot on the trip. On the drive home we swung by La Granja (a palace with beautiful gardens) and made the trip home for a nice dinner in Madrid.
Sunday brought a new excursion for me – Salamanca. The city known for its university, was extra charming and like no other Spanish city I’d visited before. What we especially loved is that we were able to walk the perimeter of the inside and outside of the cathedral – a unique perspective that we’d never had the opportunity to see in the past. We discovered breathtaking views both inside and out (albeit a little frightening for me at times!).
Yesterday brought my favorite event of all – the running of the bulls here in San Sebastian de los Reyes. It happens all week this week (which is especially fortuitous since I have another friend coming on Thursday). We headed out early to reserve our spots to view the run. It didn’t disappoint! While short, it is exhilarating to watch nonetheless. Be sure to visit the movies page to see a clip of the race.
After the running of the bulls, Kim and I made the long trip to and from Toledo. Toledo is always a charming destination – although taking public transportation for virtually the entire expedition was exhausting for sure! In the future I think it should be best left to those with cars. We made up for the journey though by capping off the day, and her trip, with dinner in the caves of a local village – yes caves (they are natural caves used in old times for wine)! Each table had its own little cave, like a cubby hole. It was a unique and distinctly Spanish way to finish off her trip.
Now we have sent Kim off and fortunately I have another guest right around the corner. My friend Robin will be out on Thursday, at which time I will begin the tour of Spain again! Good thing I love this place! More to come next week…
While my mom was here, I was fortunate enough to return to one of my favorite places in Spain – Toledo. I traveled there for the first time when I first visited Spain. I had taken a day trip out there by myself and it truly was the highlight of that first trip. It’s a hilly compact city with a maze of charming miniature alleys and streets. A “must see” if you’re visiting Spain!
During our weekend itinerary we were also able to see an insanely amazing flamenco show at a restaurant in Madrid. I had only seen flamenco once before, and this time it just blew my socks off. I am trying to figure out how to upload the video my mom took to my site…so stay tuned. It’s virtually impossible to articulate how impressive it was!
We also took a trip up north to Segovia and La Granja, both places I’ve visited in the past. Segovia has an amazing Roman aqueduct that made me feel like I was right back in Rome. The city also has a gorgeous cathedral and an Alcazar (castle) that was an inspiration for the Disney castle. In La Granja we went to the palace and showed my mom the gardens famous for having over 100 fountains.
I certainly can’t complain about the opportunity to visit these places multiple times! Many thanks to Jacob for being the best tour guide and host ever – he gladly visits these places time and time again with the enthusiasm of someone seeing them for the first time!
Unfortunately, my mom has left now, so now it’s time to start getting settled….well, sort of. Next stop – Almeria, a city in southern Spain, later this week. It will be a nice beach vacation :-). I think I can get used to this!