40 Quid for a Squid

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

Lynn and I had a wander around Toledo. That’s the only way to approach it—as a wander— because there isn’t one straight street that runs for more than a city block.  Here is a photo of our battered map we consulted seven times a day, and still managed to get turned around:

Toledo is on a hill on a peninsula, so it made a great fortress in its day.  There’s a medieval wall surrounding it, occasionally punctuated by imposing gates:

We passed bakeries with marzipan and something baked that looked like a squid:

“It’s never a squid!” Lynn remarked. “What city would have a squid as a mascot?  We’re nowhere near the sea, either.”  We later learned it was a dragon, but I prefer to continue believing it’s a squid.

“I’ve got to buy one,” I insisted, “They’re so beautiful!”

“They’re 40 quid,” Lynn pointed out, using the British slang for a pound.  Ah, maybe not.

We passed shops full of swords, knives, scissors, and everything else that is sharp.  Sharp instruments are one thing Toledo is known for.  I made a note to buy Vince a good knife and also purchase swords for my nephews, who are three and seven years old.  Let you think I’m out to help them murder each other, there were plenty of wooden and foam varieties on offer.

Toledo is also famous for damascene, a craft in which gold wire is worked into a black background to make plates, jewelry, and knick knacks.  It was spectacular to see shop windows full of it.

We accidentally found the main square, which had a Burger King with a bathroom. You had to buy something in order to get the code to use it.  By now it was after noon so I didn’t mind snarfing down a small cheeseburger while Lynn tried a mango shake.  A mango shake—it sounded so exotic and healthy, but according to Lynn it was mainly just sugary.

Toledo, like Granada, had a “touristic trolley.”  This one was easier to buy tickets for and board, so in five minutes off we went.  The trolley couldn’t navigate the narrow lanes of Toledo central, so it exited one of the city gates and stopped to let us off for scenic views from across the river.  It really is a romantically beautiful city, and the sky even cleared on one side for a few minutes.

We worked up an appetite saying, “Ooh” and “Aah” so we walked into the first restaurant off the main square that we saw.  I don’t remember what Lynn had, but this would be the best meal I had on my entire trip.  I don’t even remember what my main course was, but the starter was venison carpaccio, and it was fantastic.

I never knew that venison could be so tender, so flavorful. Maybe the title of our map, “Toledo: Capital Española de la Gastronomía,” wasn’t just marketing bluff speak.

I had wondered how we would fill four days in Toledo.  There were no world-famous attractions there like in Madrid or Granada.

I needn’t have worried. The map offered 29 attractions, and we made it to 13 of them. This afternoon, after my cosmic experience with venison, we chose to visit the Cathedral.  Even though it was far and away the most massive building in the city and had a stupendously tall tower that could be seen from most vantage points, it took us the better part of an hour to find the entry.

It was worth the effort.  We spent hours there; my favorite thing was the dozens of grotesques carved in wood that lined the seats where the big wigs used to sit.  The one-eyed one was particularly creepy.

There was nothing about them on audio guide, which mainly went on about the architectural features and historical dates. If I knew I could remember any of it, it could be really interesting, but after touring dozens of churches in the last few weeks I knew it would all be a blur.

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