The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
We added a new traveler to our fold this year. Our niece, Emma, was finally brave enough to travel with us! Jared, Lauren and David had time off from college as well, so with Dave's mom, we would be a 7 group.
We took the Pink line #8 to the end, then connected to the Dark Blue line #10 for 3 stops to the Tribunal stop, and then went 7 stops on the Light Blue Line #1 to Atoche Renfe train station. Quite a feat on a crowded subway with 10 people, 8 rollaboards and a few backpacks and purses. We arrived at the train station in plenty of time for the 12:30PM train, but alas, it was full. We bought tickets for the 1:50PM train.
We found a nice restaurant (La Barrila) with "outdoor" seating inside the train station arboretum. The forest was filled with giant greenery and HUNDREDS of turtles!
We had sandwiches and beverages and the group got
acquainted with one another until it was time for our train.
There was some confusion over the seats but once we were seated, it was a quick 30 minute ride to Toledo.
The 20 minute walk to town (according to our newly purchased Rick Steves' 2011 guidebook) actually took us an hour. It was, as Rick said, an uphill haul over rough cobblestone. We should have stopped at the TI in the train station for a map and directions. Instead, we followed the GPS on a convoluted route. The more direct route would have been to go through the Bisagra Gate to Plaza de Zocodover and then slightly downhill to the Cathedral near our hotel.
The hotel was fabulous! We got 2 triple rooms for the kids and 2 double rooms for the adults. There was a special November rate of €60 double and €80 triple AND they offered a 10 percent discount for carrying the Rick Steves guide. Instead of numbers, the rooms had names like Los Curtidores, Los Tintoreros and Los Alfareros. We won the room lottery! Our room (Los Curtidores) had a double bed, a twin bed and a small courtyard. Oh, and a strange looking saddle. The kids rooms each had three twin beds and the other double had two twin beds. All of the rooms had a private bath.
We took a few minutes to relax before setting out to explore the town. After a short nap, we roused the kids and walked up the pedestrian street to Plaza de Zocodover. We did a little window shopping along the way.
The kids had an afternoon snack of McDonald's items to tide them over until dinner. BJ took a walk, looking for the Tourist Information office which she did not find, but she was rewarded with a nice view of the town.
We set out in search of a restaurant for dinner. The fixed price menu at Taberna Lizarrán interested us and they were able to seat a party of 10. Of course, we were eating pretty early (around 8PM). The Spaniards, it seems, don't start dinner until 10PM. The three course meal choices were between 8 Euro and 12 Euro and included a beverage (wine, beer or water). For our first course, some had paella while others had pasta. BJ ordered the spaghetti marinara which was noodle looking squid atop plain pasta with no apparent sauce. We ordered a variety of main courses; chicken stew, lamb chops, roast pork and veal. Dessert choices were ice cream, custard or flan.
Back at the hotel, we gathered in our room since it was the largest and the kids caught us up on what are the popular
www.youtube.com videos. Apparently this year, freaking out is the popular thing to do. All of the kids were aware of the "Greatest Freakout Ever" video. Freaking out became a theme for the trip as the kids imitated the boy in the video.
Our first stop for the day was the Cathedral. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral which was a shame because it was so pretty! We admired the elaborate reliefs, carvings, frescos, statues, paintings and stained glass, finishing our tour in the treasury.
We decided to follow the Islamic Toledo walking tour that BJ had downloaded from the internet but the map was confusing and very few of the streets were marked.
We finally found the Puerta de Alfonso VI and the Puerta de Bisagra so we could begin our walking tour. We never located stops 3 or 4, the Gate of Valmardon and the Gate of El Sol (that we know of). We continued on looking for the Mosque of El Cristo de la Luz.
Everyone was hungry so we stopped for lunch at Cason de los Lopez de Toledo. We chose to eat in the cafeteria which is reported to have the same food as the restaurant at lower prices. A couple of the kids got the fixed price menu which they said was good. The sandwiches which the adults ate were nothing special.
We all needed a potty break by now, so we made a quick stop at the hotel before proceeding to Alcazar.
We strolled back past Zocodover to the scenic overlook for some pictures.
Back at Plaza de Zocodover, we secured seats at our favorite watering hole and let the kids take off to go shopping. They came back periodically to show us their treasures.
BJ got a facebook post from her flight attendant friend recommending the Meson La Orza restaurant. She decided to go alone to take a quick look at it (a group of 10 people don't run to take a quick look at anything). There is too much opportunity to stray off course or to have inertia set in!) BJ saw a number of sights that we had missed on our walking tour along the way.
The menu at Meson La Orza was in English but seemed a little extravagant for the kids who would rather have pizza anyway.
From the train station, we were able to jump right on the light blue line #1. 6 stops to Gran Via and we were 2 blocks from our hotel. The Hostal Alcapulco was located on the 4th floor of the building at Salud 13. In Europe, the ground level is considered level 0, so the 4th floor is actually up 5 flights of stairs. Thankfully there was an elevator to pile the bags in. We were too early to check in so we dropped the bags and left to do some sightseeing.
We asked what was going on and were told that there were dignitaries in town. A few minutes later, a limo pulled up and some people got out and went inside the building. Soon afterward, a horse drawn carriage entered the square. The dignitaries got in the carriage and rode away. A few minutes later, this process was repeated for more dignitaries.
We took a peek into the Torre del Oro Bar Andalu to see the gory depictions of bull fights.
Lunch was at Bar Eduardo Cerveceria just outside of Plaza Mayor near the Mercado de San Miguel.
We continued our walk to the Palace, stopping at the Cathedral of Almudena on the way. We were permitted to take photographs in this cathedral.
We finally made it to the palace only to discovered that it was closed, presumably because of the dignitaries we had seen in the horse drawn carriages.
We decided to head for the Prado museum. We had read in our guide that the museum was free to anyone under 18 and discounted for students, but there was nothing on the ticket signs about this. We asked at the counter and were required to present both student ID and government ID to get the discounts. The Prado was overwhelming but we were not allowed to take photographs.
Tony elected to find a place for some quiet time while we toured the museum. Thanks to text messaging, we were able to find him at the Cafe Bar Ricote near Puerta del Sol. We went inside for some tapas and beverages.
We had dinner on the back side of the building where our hotel was located at a little place called Puerto Rico. They gave us an English menu that did not seem to contain all of the choices that the diners around us were having, but the food was good and very reasonably priced.
We asked the waiter at Hotel Europa to take a picture of us but he misunderstood and thought we wanted him to be in a picture with us.
By the time we all hooked back up, it had gotten too cold to sit outside so we looked for a place for lunch indoors. Ginos Ristorante caught our eye. They had a very large dining area downstairs that could easily accommodate our group of ten.
After lunch, we went back to Puerta Del Sol and found that a demonstration was going on. More questions to Spaniards resulted in hand gesturing that looked like handcuffs. We speculated about what the demonstration was. When we got home, and looked it up on the internet, we found that it was a protest by the prison guard union regarding their pay and working conditions.
We did a little shopping for souvenirs and then relaxed at the hotel for a bit. The adults went next door to the Irish pub while the kids went out exploring on their own. We stopped back by the hotel to see if the kids wanted dinner but they were still out. We went to Garbo next to the hotel and got a nice quiet table for 4. Just as we were finishing our delicious dinner, we got a text from the kids. They made a loud entrance to the restaurant so we shoo'ed them out and gave them money for McDonalds.
Another great trip with great friends and family!