I had read somewhere that for the physically challenged or the just plan lazy there was a lift from the new town of Toledo, up to the old city, which is perched on a hill. I had envisaged a kind of funicular type thing. But oh no, not Toledo...Toledo has escalators! A series of escalators at that, to take you up and down. I have never heard of escalators into and out of a city before, but now I have, and have ridden it down. Something new and exciting everyday eh!
So today's plan was a day trip to Madrid. It's a half hour train ride away from Toledo. And no, I didn't fancy cycling there..that was never in the plans..the Madrid plains look boring cycling plus, quite frankly, the size and scale of Madrid was daunting. (Having now been into the city and seen the seven lanes of traffic in the centre, I am feeling pretty justified in that, it was scary enough as a pedestrian).
Now Madrid..Madrid is quite fantastically bonkers, and I love it. I wasn't there for long but I am for sure going to go back for a proper look when I have more time and money. Getting off the train it all seemed quite normal. Until getting into the main station where it was like a tropical forest with palm trees and the like taking up most of the space, a few stalls scatteres among. In between you and the trees there is of course a fish pond....of terrapins. What else would one have in a train station eh?! And that kind of set the theme for the day. Everywhere you looked there was amazing buildings and visages, and awesomely quirky bits and pieces.
I had no real plan for the day. There was a few things that I had read were 'must see' but it was really a day of wandering about, getting lost and basically going where my feet and the interesting buildings took me. So I headed into the city centre via the back streets that ran parallel to the main road. Towards Plaza Mayor, and then on to the Cathedral and Palace. The cathedral is quite amazing..on the outside it is bright white marble/stone, and the inside reflects this brightness too. The main structure of it is quite traditional but the murals and the stain glass windows were fantastically coloured and bright, and almost modern in design and impact. It almost glowed with colour especially with the sun shining through. I was most impressed and in awe of it, I don't think I have been in another religious building with quite the same brightness, feel and atmosphere.
I wanted to head up into the dome to see the view across the city but they charged for this. As with going into the bright white Palace next door. Both things on my check list of things to do when I return. After this it was a meander back through the maze of streets and plazas, soaking up the atmosphere and all the different things and people about. There was always street music usually violin or accordion, which gave it all a very quintessential European city feel.
And then came the Parque del Buen Retiro. I was expecting just a park..the normal city park thing, you know? Oh no..not in Madrid, this park was a world unto itself. You could quite happily allocate a day or two to exploring it, it's that huge and has that much going on. There are different sections with different themes, so you'd have areas such as: ornate gardens, the boating pond with Romanesque statues and frames behind, a crystal palace, a terrapin pool (of course), outside 'gym' areas where all the local boys strutt their stuff, dark woods and trees, chess tables where the older men hang out, random roundabouts when there is no traffic except bikes/runners/skaters..the list goes on and on..
Other little mad Madrid things
- mini buses..literally a bus miniturised (as opposed to a minibus van thing) for about 5 people.
- random Icarus sculpture on the top of a building.
- a guy on his bicycle, with another bike strapped to his back. I am all for the n+1 philosophy with how many bikes you have, but usually for using just one at a time.
- huge scary babies head sculptures at the train station. No explanation. Just there. Just a bit freaky.
Coming back to Toledo, it all seemed quite quiet and refrained, a whole different world to where I had just been, but both as beautiful and charming in their own ways.
Side note: day 23 language explanation.
- origin: from the Spanish word mermelada or marmelade in English - referring to how this condement is made.
- Definition: To be slowly cooked over a number of hours, causing a thickening effect.
- Use: for example 'to feel mermelised'..to have a fuzzy and thick head or body after too many hours in the hot sun.
There..it does make sense