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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Toledo, Spain

Finally, the Saturday that I was looking forward to had come....
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Before going for this long trip, there were lots to prepare. Besides planning for the business related stuffs, I also take some time to plan for my weekend in Spain.
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Then I saw this from the internet :-
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"The city of Toledo, embraced by the Tagus River, is an unmissable visit if you only have 1 day in Madrid"
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Interesting, I want to go Toledo then. Once making up my mind, I booked a tour package through the internet, cost €67 (full day, inclusive lunch). Sounds a fairy good deal to me.
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I woke up early in that Saturday morning, then went down to the lobby to wait for the travel agency to come to pick me up. The girl arrived at around 8.20am. Thank God she speaks quite good English. She told me that the bus would need to pick several guests from other hotels before going back to the travel agency. From there, I should get on another bus to my destination.


The bus bent here and there to pick up the customers from this hotel to that hotel. I take this as a good chance to tour the city though.
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Around 9.45 pm, finally we departed to our destination, Toledo.
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Toledo is an old town located in central Spain, 70 km south of Madrid. The lady tour guide told us the journey would take around 1 hour. Ok, sounds easy peasy...In the bus, I took some time to read the history about Toledo.


Around 10.30 am, the bus stopped at a reception centre. The lady tour guide said we have 15 minutes to go for toilet or buy a cup of coffee. And she said we would have plenty of time to do shopping later, so, this was not the time yet. But I was greatly disappointed by her definition of "shopping" later on...

















When I saw these mini statue of armour, I really wanted to pick 2 for my boys. Think they would love it. But too bad, time's up. Everybody got to return to the bus then.


10 minutes later, I was elevated to see this beautiful fairy tale town right in front of my eyes.

Unlike this group of tourist who walked into the old town, we drove in. How I wish we could walk in like them too. Instantly, I felt I had missed many things along the way.

Our bus driver drove all the way up and finally stopped here. We get off the bus, and from here, we walked...
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Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire. Toledo is also named the city of Three Cultures, as for a long period of time (800 years), the Christian, Islamic and Jewish live peacefully within its wall.
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Many famous people and artists were born or lived in Toledo, including Al-Zarqali, Garcilaso de la Vega, Eleanor of Toledo, Alfonso X and El Creco. It was also the place of important historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. As of 2007, the city has a population of 78,618 and an area of 232.1 km2 (89.59 square miles).



Entering to the old quarters to visit the inside ...










The lady who walked in the middle was our lady tour guide. She is around mid-50, I guess. She speaks English alright, but she seldom speak it because most of the members can understand her own language. Being the only Asian in the group of 18 person, I couldn't ask for too much. So, I get very little information from her narration along the way. That's one of the disadvantages.




The shop that sells all sort of cheese, hams, bacon...not my cup of tea.



3 different window designs for 3 different levels...I think it sort of representing the 3 different cultures here.



I didn't know why the police car drove in the narrow street suddenly, but it did block the whole world from moving smoothly...



The city is like an immense museum of great beauty and holds some of the most genuine historical Spanish monuments. Its old gothics and renaissance buildings, its narrow streets and alleys, testify old days of magnificence.




In front is the tower of the Cathedral, we would pay a visit to the place a bit later.











The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo (Spanish : Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo), also called Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, is a Roman Catholic cathedral.



Puerta del Perdón (Door of Forgiveness), but obviously, the Door of Forgiveness wasn't opened to the public.




This door was closed too...




The entrance, is the only door that opened to the public. The lady tour guide had reminded us repeatedly that we must safe guide our receipt as it would be used in replacing an admission ticket to the other places that we would be going to visit later.
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The interior of this cathedral is very old, not very ornament and well maintain like the Cathedral de Malaga. Also, photographing is very strictly prohibited, so I couldn't take any photos out from there.
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Also, I felt like tied to this group of people for the fear that I might get lost from them. It would give me a lot of troubles if I did. So, I couldn't walk around and see this cathedral in the way I wish. Sigh, that's why I don't like to join tour to anywhere. If it wasn't because I went there alone, and the place is far away from the city, I won't want to join tour, I definitely want to go by my own.



20-30 minutes later, we all left the cathedral. The lady tour guide led us to walk to that direction without saying anything.






I think we have bumped into a wedding ceremony at that time, but I didn't see the newly wed couples though.


Looking back to the Cathedral. It looks stunning under a bright sun.





Absolutely beautiful...




Despite of being the only Asian in the group, I wasn't totally isolated. There is a couple from the group, who treated me very friendly. From time to time, the man who can speak better English, would approached me, either asking me to take photos for him & his wife, or asking me if I need him to take a photo of myself. Well, why not?





The lady tour guide walked pretty fast, and I felt sucks to have to follow in her pace...


In order to keep close to the group, I couldn't stop for more than 30 seconds to look around this area. I started to groaned inside. I wonder if anyone in the group who shared the same feelings like me?




I think there are many things worth checking out from this area, but too bad I was restricted to this narrow path only. Anyway, I tried to give myself more time as possible. Soon, I was at the back of everyone, and got to chase the group after some distance away from them.



The wall of the buildings are very unique...I wonder if those are residential building or others?



Passing by this small cookies shop...I wanted to buy some, but no time for me to do this. Damn it.







We walked non stop for 20 minutes like that...








Finally, we stopped at the church of St. Tome, lining up for our turn to go inside...


Inside there laid the painting of El Greco, which get famous only 300 years after his death. Imagine, someone come to tell you this one day : "hey, your great great great great grandfather had made a remarkable painting, which is...." sure there would be a lots of question marks spinning in your head, right? "Errr...who??"


This is the very famous painting of El Greco "The Burial of Count Orgaz". In fact, the only painting in the Church of St. Tome.
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This painting portrays the benefactor of the church being buried with the assistance of St. Augustine and St. Stephen, who have miraculously appeared at the funeral to thank him for all the money he gave to religious institutions named after them.
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Though the count's burial took place in the 14th century, El Greco painted the onlookers in contemporary 16th-century costumes and included lifelike portraits of people he knew. It was the custom for the eminent and noble men of the town to assist at the burial of nobles, and it was stipulated in the contract that the scene should be represented in this way.
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There is no record of the identity of all the sitters, but a self-portrait of El Greco is third from the left, looking out at the viewer immediately above the head of Saint Stephen. Andrés Núñez, the parish priest and a friend of El Greco's, who was responsible for the commission, is the figure on the extreme right.
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El Greco's son appears as the young page at the front left. The signature of the artist appears on the handkerchief in the boy's pocket, followed by the date "1578" - the year of Jorge Manuel's birth, not the date of the painting. The boy points to the body of the deceased, thus bringing together birth and death.



10 minutes later, we walked out from the church of St. Tome, and continue the walk to I-don't-know-where-until-we-stopped-again.
















The stone path that we were walking on is quite similar to the 'pebbler-path' in the park. Some said if you are not healthy, your feet will feel very painful after walking on the pebbler for a while. Well, that's how it feels walking on this path.


Looking back...




10 minutes later, we stopped and waited at here...The lady tour guide said we would be taking in to a small theater to watch a short movie about the history of Toledo.



The scenary here is spectacular. Down there is the Tagus River that embrace the whole Toledo city.



One of the bridge that connect the city to the other side of the land.


I think those are bungalows for the flirty rich annoymous.


After watching the short movie that last for 5 minutes, we continued the way....I was attracted by the woman in front of me, for her beautiful hair.


Sinagogue of Ste. Maria la Blanca, founded in 1203, is a museum and former synagogue in Toledo. It is considered the oldest synagogue building in Europe which is still standing.
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The synagogue was designed and decorated by Mudejar architects (defined as Moors working on Christian soil on non-Islamic buildings) and the Islamic influence is readily apparent. The overall effect is very much that of a mosque rather than a synagogue.
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Its stylistic and cultural classification is unique as it was constructed under the Christian Kingdom of Castile, by Islamic architects for Jewish use. It is considered a symbol of the cooperation which existed among the three cultures during the Middle Ages.


Stormed in the early 15th century by a Christian mob led by St. Vincent Ferrer and converted into a church, the synagogue was later used as a carpenter's workshop, a store, a barracks, and a refuge for reformed prostitutes.



In front there is another church that we would be going...


It's call Church of San Juan de los Reyes.



The Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes is a historic monastery in Toledo. It was founded by by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to commemorate their triumph over the Portuguese at Toro in 1476.
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In 1809 the monastery was badly damaged by Napoleon's troops during their occupation of Toledo, and abandoned in 1835. Restoration began in 1883 but was not completed until 1967. The monastery was restored to the Franciscan order in 1954.









Its cloister has a small garden, very secluded feel.



The orange trees and the tangy scent of orange blossom are a tradition bequeathed by the courtyards of the Islamic Mosques and luckily maintained in many monastry and church cloisters.



And again, the lady tour guide didn't allocate time for us to go upstair for a walk.



Inside the church....





















The church is not big. Basically, I just stood at the center to cover everything in my camera. Sigh, got to chase the group again...






We didn't stop here, so I really don't know what this building is.


3 beautiful plates hang on the wall somewhere...










Walking out from the old city...My first thinking when I fount out this : "Err, is that all?" Then, the lady tour guide told us it's time to go for lunch, but she didn't say if she would bring us back again. Well, I just don't think so. Bugger...




Like it or not, I just got to follow the group and walk back to the bus that were awaiting for us down there.



This picture was taken in the bus...


this too...




and this too...




15 minutes later, the bus stopped here. Apparently, we were going to take our lunch at this restaurant. The time was around 1 pm.



The restaurant is called Cigarral Monte-Rey Toledo
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Just when I was hesitating in where to sit, my new-found-friend, Cesar waved to me and asked me to sit next to him and his wife in a table of 10 person. Ok, why not? It's good to have his company too, otherwise, I would have bored to death.
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Our lunch consisted of a bowl of vegie soup, a large plate of stew chicken tight + chips, a small cup of ice-cream. The main course would taste better should it was hot enough. Anyway, I was hungry, so I ate with no complaint.
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We finished our meal in 45 minutes, sat around the table there and waited for another 20 minutes. But the lady tour guide still hasn't show up. Then, we walked out to this open area and waited there...but the lady tour guide was like disappeared from the horizone.



Looking at the beautiful fairy tale city from far, I started to feel regret to have joined this tour. Come on, I deliberately joined a full day trip to Toledo simply because I wanted to spend more time in the city, not hanging in the places that is less interesting...like this restaurant.



I JUST WANTED TO GO THERE, why is it so difficult ?? Bugger...
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Finally that old lady appeared after we have waited for another 30 minutes. I sighed a relief. I guessed everyone was getting really impatient by then, but no point to complain her.
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The time was around 3 pm by then, we really have wasted too much time here for a lousy lunch. Absolutely not my will to stay here for nothing.


Then, the bus driver drove to this point to pick up some members who didn't join us for lunch.


While waiting, the beautiful pink flowers outside my window had captured my attention. They look something like Sakura flowers from Japan.


After everyone was in the bus, we drove away. The view outside is spectacular, but I could only snap some pictures in the bus...How pathetic.



Alcázar of Toledo and Cathedral over the Tagus River



I felt disappointed to have to leave this beautiful old city like this, didn't feel enough of it at all. But what can I do? Sigh...


The last stop was to go to visit a typcial factory of Damasquino, well known handicraft art of Toledo. In order words, it's 'shopping' time, a MUST activity if one is to join a tour operated by travel agency. Sigh...
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Well, since I was brought to here, I tried to pay attention to it.




This old man was live-demonstrating on how to sew a gold thread to the surface of the subject. His hands are very skillfuly, must have taken a long time to be that accurate in what he was doing here. I stood there to watch him for a while, then enter the shop.


Inside the shop..



The flowers and the birds on the surface were molded, but the gold thread that connect them are handmade. So, the more gold thread there are, the more expensive the item would be.




Judging from the gold thread, this item is more expensive than the pedants above.






This one is bloody expensive. Anyway, I don't know much about gold, so it's hard to say if the item worth that price.





Too expensive for my liking...




This too...



I have lost my interest in those gold piece very fast...



and the other items are not very interesting as well...


My boys sure like this one, but I can't be moving this back home, right...


This too...


15 minutes later, I get out from that factory-shop. Standing there, looking up to the beautiful sky, I felt great disatisfaction. Why was I standing there like an idiot?
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A woman from our group, started to complain about all this. Ok, finally I know there is some one who felt exactly like me. We felt better after we acknowledged each other's feeling about this trip.
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Not long later, everyone from the group had came out from there, so did the lady tour guide. She told us she would bring us to a great place for taking nice photos... Only when I heard this, I felt cheer up a bit. She better made this happen.


So, we went back by the same road ...




But again, this photo was taken from the bus...




this too...
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I started to think if she was kidding us. What she meant just now was that she would take us for another bus ride, and hopefully, we could take some nice photos along the way, if we were quick and lucky enough...




Thank God the bus finally stopped here. We all get off the bus happily to enjoy the panoramic view, in steady mode. I wanted to think it was the last good thing the lady tour guide did for us.
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In fact, Toledo city is 10x more beautiful than this photo can show. You just got to see it with your own eyes to believe it.


The Alcázar on the left and Cathedral on the right dominate the skyline.












The left side of Toledo...



and the right side...




The couple, Cesar and his wife, Mary has been good to me the whole trip. They come from Argentina, and they were in Spain to visit an old friend, and of couse, for vacation too. They were so happy when I invited them to take a photo with me. Cesar even wrote his home address to me, and asked me to send the photos to him. It's really nice to get to know them, though we couldn't communicate well.
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Later, I realized I should have asked Cesar for his Facebook account instead. Wonder if he is that IN? Maybe I will check it out later.

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We left Toledo slightly over 4 pm, and reached Madrid city around 5 pm.
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7 comments:

Gargles said...

Well, I won't complain much IF i get to see Toledo with my own eyes.

Anyway, from the sound of it, the tour did sound quite lousy, especially the lunch part of it. She was obviously taking a good long rest from her daily routine, not entirely interested in her clients at all.

Well, perhaps someone did complain to her before that the walk could be too exhaustive and feedback-ed better to drive tourists around to cover more sceneries. In any case, tours are like these, can't satisfy everyone's needs, eh?

jessylee said...

yeah, you are right.
I shouldn't have complained that much lo..

The tour wasn't a total failure. Out of 10 marks, I will give this tour 5.5 marks. Very generous already.

As for that lady tour guide, I think maybe she get bored of the place after hundreds times taking tourists here...so she failed to care about the client's feeling about this place.

Yeah, guess tours are like this, can't satisfy everyone's need. So, I better don't join tour if i can travel there on my own.

cy said...

Absolutely stunning, MY. Especially the final pictures of those panorama view of the city. ANd I agree too that tour package is always not good.
I was in China and the day package was good but the places of so-called shopping is disastrous. Anyway, keep posting Spain photos. :)

reanaclaire said...

wow...what a long post.. but wonderful pictures.. oh, only 5.5 marks? i guess next time better to go backpack.. maybe can see more places..

jessylee said...

CY, yeah lo..
the shopping part is really disastrous.

some more, a woman from our group told me the price they tagged is even more expensive than buying from elsewhere. anyway, i don't know lah..i have never compared the price before

jessylee said...

reanaclaire, yes, it's better to go backpack if possible. More freedom..

Anonymous said...

I loved this old city of Toledo when visited in 2012.Sadly all my photos were lost in a house fire recently, so thankyou for the memories. Emma

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