Hello Toledo (Castilla – La Mancha, Spain)

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After the excitement of the Museum for the Blind I grab my kit from the hostel luggage room and head down to the Renfe Station to catch a train to Toledo. I am fortunate to get one of the last two seats on the next train, departing 45 minutes later. What I don’t know is that I can’t take camping gas on trains in Spain. I’m happy to hand the gas canisters over but Madrid has one final ridiculousness in store for me: there is no safe way to dispose of items that are banned from trains. I could write a few hundred words about the ridiculousness of what follows but won’t waste my time. The end result is that I left my gas canisters on the sidewalk outside the train station as directed by the police, despite this being rather unsafe.

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The Renfe train is comfortable and fast. It’s allocated seating and ticket entry only. The train makes the 85km journey to Toledo in 35 minutes. The flat plains of Spain zip past like a movie. All I can think about is My Fair Lady and the “Rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain”.

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I step off the train in Toledo and my frustrations disappear. The station building is stunning and none of the million (well maybe not a million) photos I took does it justice. I’m definitely not in Madrid anymore and I feel a sense of calm come over me. I also realise that it’s been about five days since I changed to a sugar and processed foods free diet so I’m probably a bit cranky from that. But it is different here in Toledo.

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I came here when I was sixteen years old with my family on a campervan road trip. I loved the city then and remember running around it as cross country training with my dad. There are many taxis waiting to take passengers from the station to the city. But do yourself a favour – walk. The walk into Toledo is one of the most incredible city arrivals you can have. As you leave the station turn left to the river and suddenly this stunning view will come to you. It’s breathtaking.

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The Puente de Alcantara (Alcantara Bridge) is a pedestrian only zone. I take my time crossing. The views up and down the river are fantastic. But it’s the act of walking into an old castle city that makes it special. I can just picture the knights in shining armour who rode across this bridge on their way to the city. And also the less shining armour many would have worn if they were arriving from a long journey or a battle. And then there’s the millions (I’m not exaggerating this time) of people who must have walked across this very bridge over the centuries. Some for transport and others as tourists.

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There is one modern touch here though and it’s a good one. An impressive series of escalators are hidden behind a high brick wall. These save today’s visitors from the long slog up the stairs that used to allow entry to the city. The escalators are almost space age in comparison with the medieval town. I have to admit to being glad I don’t have to lug my pack up the stairs anymore. And I can see the benefits for tourism because there are many tour groups here. The escalators means that buses no longer need to come right to the edge of the old town, and it also means that older or less fit people can get into the city.

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A bocadilla con jamon (breadroll with ham) seems like the perfect lunch for my walk through the old city to my hotel.

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I spend a few hours working at the hotel before going out to treat myself to my first bought meal in Spain. The city is quiet but magical. Madrid seems like a whole other world away and I relax as I meander through the narrow cobble stoned streets. I do eventually take a menu del dia (menu of the day) at a restaurant before exploring some more.

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I can tell that I’m going to like it here. Especially because Mum will arrive late tomorrow afternoon for our road trip together.

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