Sunday arrived and it was still raining, but I had to check out and move on to Toledo. A cab took me to the Atocha train station, where a rental car awaited me. As far as I know it is still awaiting me. I dragged my ridiculous luggage around (literally around) the station inside and out for over an hour and a half before I gave up and bought a train ticket to Toledo. Infuriatingly Hertz never answered any of the phone calls I made to discover where they were at the estacion.
I got to my lovely hotel late afternoon and set out to walk a bit. In my exhausted state I started off in the wrong direction and was unknowingly heading down toward the river. Toledo is a medieval walled city on a hill surrounded on three sides by the Tagus river. The cathedral and other sites are at the highest point in the old town. I was going downhill, away from everything interesting, including food.
After my half marathon with luggage I didn’t last very long exploring the wrong side of Toledo and returned to my hotel, ate last night’s leftovers and went to bed early. I was so tired that I slept through the night as if I were in my home time zone. Delightful.
Predating cars by a couple of millennia, the street design Of Toledo is very interesting to see and walk on, but I was never so glad not to have driven somewhere. In the US we have signs warning drivers of low over head clearances. In Toledo:
That sign to the left of the street tells drivers that the road ahead is 1.9 meters wide. 1.9 meters is a fraction of an inch wider than I am tall.
Monday morning was going to be my only opportunity on this visit to see Toledo so I got out early and went uphill this time. The cathedral was pretty easy to find, being both one of the taller buildings and also sitting on high ground. Easy to find is not the same as easy to get too. It was only 200 meters from my hotel, but there were very steep bits for an old guy in those 200 meters. It was a pretty morning though:
I circled about 270 degrees around the outside of the cathedral before I found an entrance. I went in, oohed and ahhed a bit in the fenced in area that I supposed kept us tourists from those doing actual business in the cathedral, turned and went back outside. A fellow that I had seen inside crossing himself and generally doing those Catholic things you expect to see in a cathedral was walking out at the same time as I.
Once we were outside of the hush-hush zone, he spoke to me in Spanish. To which I replied in my only well-practiced phrase, “Lo siento pero no hablo español.” To which he said something in Spanglish that I took to mean, “Do you want to see the inside of the cathedral?” “Si, gracias”, I replied and he took off, uphill at a speed that told me he was a life-long Toledan. I gasped and huffed as I tried to keep up.
After stepping aside for some cars passing we got about a quarter of the way around the cathedral to a large plaza. I realized that the very far side of the plaza was where I had come up from my hotel and turned right, just missing the main entrance to the cathedral until now, when I had completely circumnavigated the building. Good exercise at least.
Eleven o’clock, my guide said. They open at eleven o’clock. These are not in quotation marks because that is simply what I think he was saying. I had to be out of my hotel by noon, still had to sort out how I was getting to Granada without my rental car and, so could not stick around until eleven. I thanked the kind man and wandered off to take some pictures of this side of the cathedral.
When I finished I started to exit the plaza down the street that led back to my hotel, when my tour guide magically appeared next to me. “The monastery is open today and it is free. Would you like to see that?” “Sure,” I said and tiredly set off down an entirely different street. A little ways on, and mercifully downhill, we ducked down some stairs and through a doorway. My guide rapped on the glass in a locked door and called a name. No answer. More loud rapping and a louder call of someone’s name.
After a few minutes someone slowly unlocked the door and my guide ushered me in to workshop area with a half dozed workbenches lining either side of the room. Very detailed broaches and small, decorative platters in various states of completion were on the benches and on cabinets. They were very colorful and highly detailed.
We then walked through a door into another room. While the objects were beautifully made and very attractive, I realized that my guide was a busker and this was a souvenir shop. Those little medallions in his hand above were tagged at 175 to 250 euros. Swords and other items were much, much more expensive. I looked around a bit and then slipped out when the shopkeepers were occupied.
Back at the hotel I cleaned up, packed up and went down to the lobby. Elaina, at the front desk, had offered to help me get in contact with Hertz to find out how to resolve the problem of the rental car. She called several different locations in Madrid and had the same result that I had the previous day. Over thirty minutes of calling resulted in no answer at any office in Madrid.
Fed up and tired I decided to forget about the rental car and be done with it, so off I went in a taxi to the Toledo station, then back to Madrid, then, finally to Granada. After months of planing, paying for, packing and schlepping, I felt like my trip had finally begun.