On our second full day in Espana we took a tour to Toledo and Segovia. If you go look at organized tours from Madrid to these two cities you’d probably be surprised to see that they are a little out of our daily budget and you’d wonder why we decided to do a paid tour when Toledo is easily accessible by train from Madrid. The reasons we decided to book a tour is 1. when you are doing this much traveling it is sometimes nice to have someone else worry about getting you from place to place 2. it would have been really hard for us to see both of these cities in one day without a tour and 3. I really enjoy the information about the cities that the tour guide provides (Drew doesn’t care though he just wants cool looking pictures – so don’t forget to checkout the pictures page).
Toledo was interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that it was the capital of not only Spain but the Holy Roman Empire before the capital was moved to Madrid. Due to the fact that it was the capital and then abandoned there are some quite remarkable buildings there that were well preserved including the cathedral and the residence of the bishop. The thing I was most intrigued about though was that for hundreds of years (before the King Fernando and Queen Ysabell united Spain under Catholicism) Jewish, Muslim and Catholic communities lived very peacefully in the small little city – something it seems we still can’t do today. This led to some really interesting buildings as well – for instance we saw a Jewish Synagogue that looked more like a Mosque from the outside
Although Toledo was very interesting Andrew and I both agree that Segovia was more picturesque. The first thing that you are amazed by when you arrive at in Segovia is the Roman Aqueduct that still exists and provides water from several miles away to this little city. The stones in the aqueduct have no mortar in between them they are held together by tension and compression which is incredibly impressive since they were built almost 2000 years ago. The next spectacular thing we saw was the Segovia Cathedral which is unlike any cathedral we have ever seen (and trust me we have seen A LOT of cathedrals). The finale of the city was the Alcazar which is a palace that is now owned by the royal college of artillery (for a long time they actually tested gun powder recipes in it). We were able to tour a large part of the castle and it was wonderfully restored and absolutely beautiful – it definitely rivals Neuschwanstein and looks like was Disney fairytales are made of.
The next day we took it easier and stayed in Madrid. We went to Plaza de Cibeles which has the Madrid City Hall that currently has a “Refugees Welcome’ sign hanging from it and explains the large mixture of cultures Spain has. Next we walked around Parque Del Buen Retiro which is a beautiful park and we would have loved to do a picnic lunch there but it was rainy so we were just happy to watch the ducks, black swans and copious turtles swim around. This park also houses an absolutely amazing rose garden and a quite striking Palacio de Crystal which typically has exhibits from the museum but was currently getting some new glass installed.
After the park we took advantage of the fact that the Museo de Prado is free from 6 – 8 pm and viewed a lot of the exhibits. Our favorites were the works of Ruben which we’ve come to enjoy after visiting his home in Antwerp, Belgium several years ago. We completed the evening with a Flamenco show. If you are like me when you hear Flamenco you think of a woman in a long ruffly dress dancing with her arms above her head which the show did have. So understandingly, Drew was excited to get a seat right next to the stage. However, the majority of the show was men and the only way I can describe it is really fast tap dancing. The result was Drew had men in tight pants shaking their behind uncomfortably close to his face. It was hilarious. I enjoyed it and I’m glad we went though I don’t think I’d go to another one unless maybe it was world renowned Flamenco dancers or something like that.