It was going to be a long day so we woke early ready for a quick start and as usual my first job was to check the weather. The air felt fresher but from the hotel window I could see the sky was completely cloudless and the lady on Spanish breakfast television seemed confident that it was going to be fine all of the day.
The hotel buffet breakfast was a bit expensive and Sue and Christine don’t generally eat a lot so we agreed instead to return to the Plaza Mayor and we ended up at the bar that we had used last night. It was a bit chilly so we sat inside this morning and had a simple breakfast of toasted bread with either tomato or marmalade. It was cheap and it was local and we really liked it.
We set off straight after breakfast because today we planned to drive to the city of Toledo about one hundred kilometres to the west. We left Chinchón and drove first through the town of Villaconejos, which had a curious one-way system and the most savage speed humps that I have ever encountered. It really was impossible to drive over them faster than ten kilometres an hour and be confident of staying attached to the underside of the car. Next we arrived at Arunjuez where there is a royal palace and desperately confusing road signs that inevitably meant that we immediately got lost. The street signs seemed to have all the hotels and local restaurants listed and that left no room for directions to major cities like Toledo.
With a bit of luck we found our way across the town and shortly after that we joined a long straight road all the way to Toledo and the scenery began to change as it became untidy and scrubby as we left the chequerboard fields and their delightful colours behind. Just before midday we reached the outskirts of Toledo and at the top of the city we could see the Alcázar and the Cathedral and we followed the signs to the historical centre and after I tried to be clever and find a parking spot close by, and failed, I found a very large and convenient free car park right on the edge of the city and in my league table of Spanish city car parks Toledo went straight to the top. At the bottom by the way remains Seville!
It might have been right on the edge of the City but to get there involved a rather strenuous climb to reach it because Toledo is built on the top of a craggy outcrop of rock that in the middle ages made it impregnable to hostile forces. The whole city is a sort of natural castle with a moat, the Tagus River, running in a looping gorge around three sides of it. The only way an enemy could take it was to attack the north side and that was difficult because that was the most strongly fortified part of the city walls. The Tagus is the fourth longest river in Western Europe and the most important in Iberia and from Toledo it flows all the way to the Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon in Portugal.
Although it barely scrapes into the top one hundred biggest cities (it is actually eighty-sixth) Toledo has always been one of the most important cities in Spain and for many years it contested the status of capital with nearby Madrid and was in fact the principal city until 1560. But Madrid gradually came to prominence under the Hapsburg Monarchy and Phillip II took everyone by surprise and moved his court there and made it his capital in 1561. Toledo compensated for this by reinventing itself as the principal religious city in the country and today remains the seat of the Primate of all Spain.
At the end of the climb was the busy main square, the Plaza Zocodover, which was surrounded by tall imperial buildings and confusing little streets running off it in all directions. Kim found the tourist information office and after a while we established our bearings and walked towards the centre of the city and the magnificent cathedral. We walked around the outside without going in and then as it was lunchtime decided to find a little tapas bar that Kim and I had been to in March and thoroughly recommended.
This led to trouble because we disagreed about its location and we wandered around in circles for half an hour while we argued about directions. I took us in a pointless loop and then up and down steps that led nowhere. Kim was all the while confident that she knew exactly where it was but on past navigational performance I continued to doubt her. I shouldn’t have because eventually we found it and even though there was a bit of luck involved I had to openly admit that she was correct and had to make a humiliating apology- twice I think! After this she seemed to think she was Christopher Columbus or Scott of the Antarctic and she wasn’t going to let us forget that she alone had found this place.
We were glad that we had because this was a sociable little tapas bar that had a friendly waiter and an assortment of tasty dishes. We chose from the menu based on a combination of recommendations and previous favourites and (except for Sue and Christine’s chips) enjoyed a fine lunch and a couple of glasses of beer. We were all friends again now and in good spirit, the sun was shining, the wine was flowing and Christine entertained us with her thoughts about eating and swallowing raw oysters (censored)!