Our one night in Granada was done, and so my family and I left the city with our tour group to the next and final destination in the Andalusia region of Spain. We would be visiting Toledo, which is actually not in Andalusia, but rather in the Castilla-La Mancha, otherwise located about 45 minutes to an hour from Madrid.
Considering that it was Christmas Eve when we went to Toledo, many of the shops and the sites would be closed for observation (our tour guide told us that, in Spain, the 24th of December is actually a bigger holiday than the 25th itself, since people spend the time at home with family and friends before heading over to Mass at midnight). Unfortunate as it was, nevertheless we still saw some notable places in the city during our short day there.
Once the capital of Spain (aka the “Imperial City”), Toledo today is home to no more than 85,000 inhabitants, which makes for a rather small city. It’s located on a hill, overlooking the Tagus River, and is home to a blend of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish influences from its long and rich history.
After about two to three hours of driving from Granada, we arrived in Toledo in the late morning, where our tour took us to the hill on the other side of the city to get the city views from there. It was magnificent, with the bright, winter sun giving the entire place a deep, reddish glow that made it seemed as if it was taken out of a medieval painting. With the cathedral and the Alcázar of Toledo flanked by the stunningly-blue Tagus River, the views were too good to beat (as seen in the photo above).
From the vantage point, we had our photo opportunity time before we headed to a small hotel-restaurant villa perched on the hill, where we had lunch. Definitely a good location, especially since we got the views as we ate. We finished up our meal, and then we took the coach down to the city proper, where we met up with our local tour guide who would be taking us on a short walking tour of Toledo.
We started at the bottom of the city, right next to the Tagus River; we went up several flights of escalators to get to the main center at the top of the hill, and from there, we walked over to the Toledo Cathedral (again, closed due to Christmas Eve). Although it was closed and we couldn’t go inside, the exterior looked nice and there was a mini Christmas market going on in the plaza. There was even a stand that sold Turkish sweets (e.g. Turkish delights, baklava, etc.). While I didn’t end up buying anything from there, it looked mouth-wateringly delicious!
Passing by the cathedral, we headed into the old Jewish quarter, which was a maze of quiet, narrow cobblestone streets just like in Córdoba and Seville. Our tour guide also pointed out the small signs along the roads and walls with Jewish icons, e.g. the menorah, the Star of David, which were indicators of being in the neighborhood. Very cool!
Exiting the Jewish quarter, we came to the clearing and descended the hill, down the stairs back to the Tagus River, where we’d started the tour. Crossing the bridge over to our coach, we got views of the blue Tagus River, with the afternoon sun hitting the waters with its golden rays.
After about two hours, we were done visiting Toledo; it was then a one-hour ride back to Madrid, where we would be ending our four-night, five-day organized tour of the Andalusia region of Spain. We arrived back in the late afternoon and after saying goodbye and thanking our tour guide and driver for everything, we headed back to our hotel where we would spend one night before leaving for our next destinations the following morning, aka Christmas Day.
My visit to Toledo was a good one, even thought it was brief. Granted, the timing of it all, being that it was Christmas Eve when we arrived, was not ideal, but all the same, it was a pleasant finish to our time in Spain. Considering that I’d only been to Barcelona and Madrid before this past winter holiday, it was worth visiting other places in the country that gave me a more holistic look into its culture and history.
This is not to say that I’ve gotten a completely all-around picture of Spain this time around: in fact, this trip has inspired me to return someday to see more of what it has to offer. For some reason, I have the desire to visit Valencia, Salamanca, Malaga, and even San Sebastian. Don’t know much about any of them, but I hope to find out should I ever go back!
Although my time in Spain was over, I was not done with my winter holidays. I’ll be writing about my “mini-travel,” as I would call it, back in the Normandy region over New Year’s Eve and Day, so stay tuned! Next up: Le Havre and Étretat, France!