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Monday, May 3, 2010


Early Easter morning we packed up the car once again and headed back north, one last night, this time Toledo. Tom and Arlene had a room booked in the Hilton and Chris and I deviously snuck in. The hotel was outrageously decadent: extra beds and couch (why? For others to sneak in of course), the bathroom’s shower, bathtub, and toilet all separated by sliding frosted-glass doors, the downstairs lobby easily suitable for both a fancy wedding reception and royal ballroom…

We spent the afternoon wandering Toledo’s narrow, winding streets, which are encapsulated behind lofty, ancient walls. At the city’s front gate, Puerta Bisagra, sits the tower and megalithic bridge with a proper moat still flowing underneath. I wonder about the evolution of city planning; so many centuries focused on methods to defend and isolate against merciless invaders, now resolved to modern issues like waste management, business districts, and green spaces, etc.

Puerta Bisagra, entrance to Toledo's Old City

Tom and Arlene savoring the views and the sunshine...

Marzipan, one of Toledo’s culinary traditions, is produced in mass and sold throughout the city (and duty free, in case you missed your many chances). Some shop windows even displayed large almond-goo cathedrals, while others exhibited miniature nuns baking breads and sweets (part of a nun-run café). Chris and I sampled various goodies with Arlene-- glad someone else shares my sweet tooth! However, I must admit, once again Mexican cuisine tops its predecessor, as I remember sampling fruit-shaped marzipan in the Yucatan with Chris that were far superior.

Creepy nun dolls slave away, baking sweets and bread...

Yes that's a giant almond-sugar tribute to the Cathedral, complete with Inquisition marchers!

Team Hassler went inside the city’s giant cathedral, an enormous gothic structure replacing a 16th cathedral that replaced a 6th century mosque that replaced a 1st century cathedral… I meandered around the nearby tangle of streets, hunting for good photos. Eventually, we regrouped and trotted around awhile before deciding on a restaurant serving paella, charging an outrageous $15 per plate. Who spends 15 bucks on rice? Hungry tourists I guess. Luckily, the overpriced entrees in Spain are usually offset by free tapas with drink purchase, so we discovered later that the best way to dine is to really just order a beer or whatever and happily accept the free sandwich it comes with.

Our one and only paella experience-- it was tasty!

Team Hassler in front of Toledo's Gothic Cathedral

Chris and I woke early the next morning to take advantage of the fitness center (gotta work off all that paella, right?) then hit the town to explore once again. Amazing how “fun” a sterile gym and BBC news (TV in English?!) can be after 2 years… Our schedule left a few hours to return to the bridge, lose ourselves among the city labyrinth, and grab a quick lunch before zipping off for the airport. Arlene and I ate at an outdoor café, savoring delicious mushroom-asparagus-fava omelet and one final bowl of gazpacho.

Stopping for our final meal before hitting the road

Once again we strategically packed our bags and boxes, playing the reshuffling game so that each box weighed less than the allotted 22 kilos, and what else can Tom and Arlene cram in to their carry-ons? Oh and Tom can you wear Chris’ jacket over the 2 you’ve already brought?

Chris and Tom trailing behind us through Toledo's narrow streets

After a tense highway drive to the aeropuerto, Tom and Arlene dropped us at RyanAir’s terminal so that we could hurriedly check in for our flight to Morocco. Yeah Morocco! We locked a box of bike supplies in a nearby storage unit, said our goodbyes, and boarded the teensy weensy jetliner. Somehow Chris scored our tickets for 5 euros each, how could we not take advantage? Kizmet I tell you, but they would say Inshallah…

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