A weekend in Toledo

Posted on February 21, 2010

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As a belated valentine’s present, my boyfriend took me to the medieval town of Toledo, south-east of Madrid. It’s just half an hour on a direct train from the famous Atocha Station – ideal for an overnight stay, or even a day trip.

He booked Hotel del Cardenal which is in an 18th Century Manor house on the north end of the city wall of Toledo. It has fabulous gardens and would be amazing in spring. The  rooms are big and airy, yet somehow cosy. It’s only a 3 star but felt like 4. It also has a restaurant attached to it that is meant to be pretty good for the regional specialities of cochinillo (suckling pig) and  cordero asado (roast lamb). Right next to the hotel is one of the two sets of escalators that take you up to the city – perfect if you can’t face the climb after a hearty meal.

Toledo is situated on a hill on the bend of the river  Tajo, which ultimately leads to Porto in Portugal. You can really see where El Greco took his inspiration from in the surrounding hills of Toledo.  El Greco’s art can be seen in many places in Toledo including the Cathedral and the Museo de El Greco.

We started with a visit to Iglesia San Ildefonso which was 2.30eur to get into but well worth it for the view at the top of the two towers.We stopped off for lunch in La Flor de la Esquina,  situated in the square opposite the church. The duo de ensalatas was great – caramelized goats cheese and tomato marmalade salad, and roast duck and nut salad. Perfect refreshment before heading off to the Cathedral.

The cathedral is quite simply magnificent. It’s 7 euros to get in but you can easily spend an hour wondering around. The main chapel (pictured right) depicts the fourteen stations of the cross and beautifully kept. The Sacristy is more of an art gallery hosting works by El Greco, Goya, Van Dick and more.

It fascinates me just how many religious buildings there are in one small town but every one I saw was worth a visit in its own right. There is a jewish quarter with two pretty synagogues (Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca, and Sinagoga del Transito), and even two mosques (Mezquita de las Tournerias, and Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz) although these have now been converted to churches.

After touring on foot (the only way to see Toledo), we decided to stop for an aperitif and stumbled upon Circulo de Arte Toledo, which is in the converted 18th Century Iglesia San Vicente. It serves breakfast from 10am, tapas and bocadillos during the day, and cocktails in evening. It also hosts conferences, expos, concerts and book readings.

For dinner we decided to try La Abida. We booked late so didn’t manage to get a table downstairs where you can really feel that you are in the converted 16th century palace. The menu was 30euros including wine and was pretty good but not stunning. The main reason we chose the menu was that we could try all the local specialities, particularly the manchego cheese, judias con perdiz (beans with partridge) and cochinillo (suckling pig). The wine was a local crianza and pretty good too. We came rolling out after a couple of hours, just ready to go back down the hill to our hotel.

After a long lie in the next morning we headed to Cafe de las Monjas which is an old-fashioned patisserie on the east side of the town.  After a delicious fresh fruit juice it was time for a Spanish breakfast: Chocolate con churros (hot chocolate with long pieces of fried dough for dipping). They had a number of chocolates to choose from including various types of white chocolate.   Also worth a try is the marzipan is made by the nuns in the neighbouring convent.

Details

Hotel del Cardenal: Pº de Recaredo, 24, 45004 Toledo; +34 925 224900; hotel@hoteldelcardenal.com

La Abida: Plaza de St Nicolas 3, 45004 Toledo, +34 925 252 532.

El Cafe de las Monjas: Calle Santo Tome 2, 45002 Toledo; +34 935 213 424; elcafedelasmonjas.com

Tip: when you go, book the trains in advance, even if it’s only a day, as the trains fill up and you can be left waiting at the station.

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