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Madrid y Toledo Trip - Part 2
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 And now, part two of my awesome weekend trip!

I get up early, check out, and one metro ride later, I'm at the train station for my train to Toledo.  I get my breakfast and then eat it on the train to Toledo, which was nice.  Very fast.  Following my Rick Steve guide like the day before, I wander around the plaza a bit after getting a bus there from the train station.  It was raining off and on all day, and the hilly streets were slick.  Having checked out of my hostel that morning, I was currently carrying around my backpack full of everything I'd brought for the trip - clothes, blanket, etc.  Knowing that a lot of the shops close early, I decided the first thing I was going to do (after getting a map at the tourism kiosk), was to find my Sword.

Yes, the Sword.  I have been wanting a sword from Toledo ever since high school, and not only that, but I knew exactly what kind I wanted. I wanted a rapier, with a swept hilt (kinda like And after looking at several shops (plus the research I'd done in advance), I brush aside the offers of King Arthur or El Cid replicas and find my way back to V. Moreno, which looks respectable, has a good reputation (one of my professors mentioned it) and it's a family-run business where you can see the proprietor and his sons working on the jewelry and swords sold.  After watching one of the sons do some very intricate Damascene work on a plate, inlaying an intricate pattern of birds amidst geometric figures, I'm greeted by one of the daughters, who leads me to the armory, where I find the Sword.  And it is a thing of beauty.  A lovely leather scabbard, a clean blade, balanced but sturdy, the hilt just as I imagined it....and for less than a hundred euro.  I was sold.  The part of me that was an incurable swashbuckler as a kid, who used to have her Barbies rescue the prince, who once made tinfoil armor for her dolls so they could play at knights....that part of my brain was doing cartwheels.  Yes, it's going to go on my wall, not be used in battle, but still....I was ecstatic.  The saleswoman (daughter of the proprietor, as it turned out) boxed it up very carefully, and it was as I exited the shop I realized that it was 10 am and I was going to be in Toledo till around 6pm.  Which meant that I was going to be lugging it around for the next eight hours.  Using my ingenuity and the scarf I had, I lashed the box to my backpack and set off, still ecstatic, heading towards the cathedral.

On the way to the cathedral, I see a woman sitting there, a bowl at her feet.  Yes, beggars are pretty common in Spain.  But she looked like she hadn't eaten in a while.  And I still had food leftover from what Mati (my host mom) had given me.  So I asked her if she'd like some food, and when she said yes, I gave her the orange and packet of cookies I had in my backpack.  She accepted them gratefully and immediately began eating.  Most everyone else just passes the beggars by or actively avoids them.  Usually I'm the same.  But yesterday I wasn't.  And it felt good.

Outside the cathedral was a man selling books about Toledo, which were useful since in most places you can't take pictures of what's inside.  I flipped through and found one that had a lot of pictures of the cathedral and the art for e5 and bought it, then paid to enter the cathedral.  I lingered behind a tour group with a guide that spoke English for a bit, but for the most part, I read what Rick Steve had to say and then wandered around.  There's a lot of small chapels there, closed off by iron bars, but you can kneel in front of them and pray.  And I did.  It was very peaceful, praying there amidst all the beautiful art.  I prayed for my friends, my family, and for God to grant me safety and peace the rest of my time in Spain.  And I donated to light the little lamps in front of a few of the chapels.  

Emerging from the cathedral into the sunlight, I then went to the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes - which has a strong connection to Isabel of Castille, and has several paintings of her, in fact.  She was going to be buried in Toledo - the holiest city in Spain - but then after Grenada was reclaimed, she and her husband changed their minds and wound up being buried there.  The monastery has quite a bit of old art - sculptures, tombs, and a lovely garden.  I waited out the rain there a bit before heading back towards the main plaza.  As I did, I passed a museum that was displaying a variety of medieval torture implements related to the Inquisition. My morbid curiosity piqued, I paid the fee and went inside.  I saw a well-explained exhibition of a dark period in history, that explored both the religious and political aspects of what happened.  And I got to see several interesting things, like an Iron Maiden, a rack, and a scold's bridle (which was still used in the US till the late 1800's!).  

I went to the Rick Steve-recommended El Trebol for lunch, and ordered the e25 menu del dia - appetizers, two dishes, salad, a drink, and dessert.  Before the waiter came over, I had a chance to look around and see what everyone else was having.  I then decided that if the locals really like it, it must be good, so I ordered a glass of tinto de verano (which came with a dish of pickled onions and potato chips - and I like pickled onions, I discovered, and a small dish of patatas bravas), a small sandwich of jamon serrano.  For my main course, I had venison with wild mushrooms (both from around Toledo), and squid with tomatoes and garlic in a spicy sauce.  Both were amazing.  I then had flan with raspberries and raspberry sauce.  It was amazing.  I ate slowly, savoring every bite of the wonderful food and loved it.

I then went to the Confiteria Santo Tome (best in Toledo for the famous Mazapan) and after trying a few pieces for myself, bought a nicely-wrapped box to bring home to my host mother (she was very appreciative when I gave it to her this morning.  I'd gotten her favorite kind - purely by chance).  And then I went into the Santa Cruz museum, marveling at all the wonderful pieces of art - lots of El Greco and other religious art, and an exhibit of pottery from various places in Spain.  There were also some neat prehistoric artifacts, and the horns of a giant auroch.  I took photos of the Alcazar (the inside is open, but I didn't want to pay e5.50 to see the military museum when the outside is the interesting bit anyway), and then went back to the shop where I bought my sword to look at the Damascene some more.   While there, I bought my mother, sister, and myself some jewelry for a very nice price (through the end of February everything in Spain is on sale - rebajas, it's called - hence why I went to Toledo now even though it's cold and wet this time of year).  

I wandered around some more, then caught the train back to Madrid.  I took the train between stations, and then waited for my night train back to Caceres.   Given that the train left at 10:20 and got to Caceres around 2am, I knew that I needed to stay awake.  So about half an hour before I left, I went by the coffee place in the station and asked for something strong.  And I got it.  That, combined with the book I was reading made me too wired to go to sleep till almost 5am Sunday morning (quantum physics + late night + jittery from caffeine = too scared to go to sleep, due to existential doubt about the nature of reality).  The train was quiet - they didn't announce stops, so I was worried I'd miss mine but I didn't.  

And now?  Well, after I got up around 11am, I took my first hot shower in days (my showers in the hostel had been experiments in how quickly one could shower without freezing), and then worked on putting stuff away and doing homework.  All in all, I had an amazing weekend, and I -like- traveling by myself.  In the museums, I could linger over what I liked (Dutch masters, renaissance, old sculpture) and pass right by what I didn't (landscapes, pop art, Russian avant-garde), no worries at all.  I liked the peace of setting my own pace.  And I did not have any problems with people trying to accost me (could be because I speak Spanish well enough to pass, almost, or because my clothes blend in), and I was totally safe.  

Tomorrow I'm booking my Sevilla trip for early March.  This weekend we're going to Grenada and Cordoba as a group, so Sevilla by myself will be a treat.  And after that, once it warms up a bit?  Gibraltar and the Mediterranean!  

I love Spain, and I love traveling.  I miss my family and friends, but this weekend?  I was on cloud 9 most of the time.  Madrid and Toledo are awesome!


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