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Exploring Madrid and Toledo. Spain, January 2018.

Spain was not originally on our radar when I began planning for our most recent (and most adventurous) trip abroad. It turns out, flying through Spain made our plane tickets to/from Morocco a lot cheaper, so I figured "What the heck, let's spend a few days in Spain." When a person thinks about his or her bucket list of travel destinations, it always includes those locations that are at the top of that list, the places we would love the opportunity to travel to--Spain had never been even close to the top of my travel wish list, quite frankly. I was quite wrong to think this, though, because Spain is incredibly beautiful, and I am so glad we ended up there.


We spent three days in Madrid, with one of those days dedicated to sightseeing around the nearby city of Toledo. Much of Madrid can be spent sightseeing on foot, and we had the extra benefit of staying in an apartment hotel located right off of Plaza Oriente, which overlooks the Palacio Real de Madrid (Madrid's Royal Palace). Walking through the Royal Palace was a fun way to imagine what court life was like during the various reigns in Spain, and the tour through each ornately decorated room was beyond fascinating. Other stops we made included the Prado Museum, Buen Retiro Park, and the Almudena Cathedral, to which we journeyed on foot via Madrid's bustling streets. Gran Via, Madrid's great boulevard, also made a great spot for a tapas and sangria lunch.


To get to Toledo, we took a 30 minute railroad ride from Atocha station. The brief train ride brought us through the countryside outskirts of Madrid, which were covered in a light fog that made it feel as though we were speeding through fields of silk. After arriving to Toledo's railroad station, we took a taxi to the midpoint of this old city, the Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, or Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo. Saint Mary's Cathedral is a 13th century Gothic style Roman Catholic cathedral, which is very impressive in person. I grew up Roman Catholic, and though I do not practice any longer, I am always in awe of grand cathedrals that are true architectural works of art. The many stained glass windows in St. Mary's create iridescent rainbows that decorate its walls, and the cathedral's high reliefs suggest an otherworldly environment. The structure also boasts work by El Greco, and a beautiful ceiling fresco by Luca Giordano.


Toledo, itself, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its extensive cultural and architectural presence. The city has been influenced by all three of the major monotheistic religions--Christianity, Judaism, and Islam--which I feel makes it quite special. However, it is a bit exhausting walking around the city on foot, because there are many inclines and declines through the narrow streets, so the only major site we visited was the cathedral.


Madrid is a must visit for any frequent traveler. It has sparked an interest in me for travel to Spain that I never knew I had, and I look forward to seeing more of what this beautiful old country has to offer.


Madrid

Royal Palace, Palacio Real de Madrid

Plaza Oriente, adjacent to the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Courtyard between the Royal Palace and the Catedral de la Almudena.

Courtyard between the Royal Palace and the Catedral de la Almudena

Courtyard between the Royal Palace and the Catedral de la Almudena

Palacio Real de Madrid facade.

Courtyard between the Royal Palace and the Catedral de la Almudena

Hubby and I in the Royal Palace courtyard.


Curtis and his sister, Rebecca, in front of the Royal Palace.

Bubbles in the courtyard between the Royal Palace and the Catedral de la Almudena.

Palacio Real de Madrid interior.

Palacio Real de Madrid interior.

Palacio Real de Madrid interior.

Palacio Real de Madrid interior.

Our vacation apartment, Oriente Plaza Apartments, right across the street from the Royal Palace. Hubby is tired at this point!

Buen Retiro Park

Crystal Palace, Buen Retiro Park.

Crystal Palace, Buen Retiro Park.

Shadow play at the Crystal Palace, Buen Retiro Park.

Crystal Palace, Buen Retiro Park.

Sangrias and tapas off of Gran Via.

Walking through Madrid's calles.

School children learning about Diego Velasquez's Las Meninas at the Prado Museum.

Facade of the Catedral de la Almudena illuminated by the sunset.

Catedral de la Almudena interior.