Viva Madrid! Holy Toledo!

So it seems I am a little behind on blog posts, but I have seen so many beautiful cities–some for the first time, some with wonderful memories–these past two weekends, and I got to see them with my parents! Taking on the role of unofficial tour guide, I was very excited to show them exactly why I love Spain so much and hope that they fall in love with it too. Our weekends included learning a little bit of Spanish, getting a little lost, trying new food, and getting to see some gems of Spain! The itinerary of their 11 days here went Madrid for the first weekend, Toledo for the day that Sunday, then they would head to Barcelona while I had class in Cáceres, meeting up that following Thursday to head down to Sevilla together. This post will focus on Madrid and Toledo.

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So excited to visit Toledo!

I  was so excited to finally see Madrid and be able to act like a tourist. For me, Madrid was always simply a means of getting somewhere else. We took a train there to go to the airport or to another city by train, but never had I really gotten a chance to explore it. Our first stop on Friday morning after fighting through some jet lag (on their part) was the Royal Palace. The Palacio Real in Madrid was built by Felipe V and loosely styled off of Versailles in France.

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While it is not the permanent residence of today’s royal family, it is still used for formal ceremonies and get togethers–none of which we were invited to. Open to the public are only 50 of the 2800 rooms built and decorated in this enormous palace–every one of which is a different style. I knew I had already decided that being a Spanish princess would be a great idea but seeing this palace furthered my desire. The intricate detail in every nook and cranny of this place was breath taking–though sometimes a little over the top. It would suit a king very well.

Gorgeous rooms of the royal palace in Madrid
Gorgeous rooms of the royal palace in Madrid

It was a rainy weekend in Madrid, so we were happy to have the opportunity to stay inside and have tea with the parents of some close family friends who live in Madrid. While I was looking forward to this very much, I knew it was also going to be very daunting for me: they only spoke Spanish and my parents only spoke English. So I had a solid two and a half hours of translation practice between my parents and Los Abuelos as we caught up after not seeing each other for about 9 years! It was great practice and wonderful company plus, we had a large range of Spanish dulces to test, which my dad and I gladly volunteered to do.

Our wonderful Saturday afternoon hosts!
Our wonderful Saturday afternoon hosts!

After two days of rain in Madrid, we luckily had a beautiful Sunday to spend in Toledo for the day. Part of the immense culture in Spain are the smaller towns that have each been ruled by three to five dynasty’s and/or religions since their founding, bringing all of these cultures together to make the town what it is today. While Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla are beautiful it is hard to get that medieval feeling that you do in a city like Toledo. So we took the 30 minute AVE (high speed train) ride out to this city on a hill to learn about the country’s former religious capital.

Toledo, Spain
Toledo, Spain

Toledo (pronounced toe-laaay-dough, Mom) is famously known in the states for the saying “Holy Toledo!” because that is exactly what it was. With roots from the Romans, Jews, Visigoths, Muslims, and Christians this city was once the holiest in the land–marked by its enormous Cathedral that stands today. If you ever visit this city, while I always recommend a map, this is the only place I would say don’t bother. The winding streets were so confusing and frustrating to navigate, I finally put it away. The city is small enough to find your way back, and on the way you will find lovely little shops and cafes as well as some of the highlights of the city!

Castilla la Mancha, the province where Toledo is, is famous for two of its old inhabitants: El Greco, a painter who brought Toledo to fame through his artwork, and Miguel de Cervantes who wrote Don Quixote. With this being the 400th anniversary of the death of El Greco (fondly nick named “The Greek”), there are huge exhibitions of his work throughout the city. So huge, that we couldn’t even get in to see it! But I did get to pose with a new friend:

Cervantes and I
Cervantes and I

While sight seeing was lovely, I think what my parents really enjoyed was the new food they got to try. Well, hopefully they enjoyed it…eyes, scales, tails, teeth and all!

Someone is looking a little nervous before digging into his extremely fresh and whole fish...
Someone is looking a little nervous before digging into his extremely fresh and whole fish…

Despite the looks of it, it tasted amazing! And my dad, so proud of his bit of Spanish skills would always love to tell the waiter. Therefore, when he would come by and ask “Que tal todo?” about our food, my dad would answer “Mucho gusto!!” with a lot of excitement. The waiter would stand there…smiling slightly confused before he would nod and walk away. My dad turned to me and asked “What happened?” and I said “The waiter asked ‘How is everything?’ and you told him ‘Nice to meet you!'” Luckily we cleared that up before they left for Barcelona without me!

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