Posted by: vlibrizzi | July 7, 2009

Summer Road Trip: Madrid and Toledo

So, yes, C. convinced me to leave San Sebastian after all (by promising that we would return very soon)….and now we’re in Madrid. 

DSC_0596We rented an apartment for a week in Madrid right behind the Gran Via. We thought Madrid would be a great city to stay in for a week so that we could relax and feel like we’re really getting to know a place instead of just driving through. But after arriving at our apartment and taking a cursory look around, we began to think otherwise. 

Don’t get me wrong, Madrid is really nice. There are great museums, good restaurants, and nice areas. It just so happens though that we are staying right near Madrid’s version of Times Square. So, it’s smelly, very loud, and, well, a bit seedy. And, we haven’t yet found the good restaurants, or visited the great museums like the Prado, so I realize that we haven’t fully given the city a fair chance yet. Hopefully, by the end of the week we’ll grow to love it here, but in the meantime we’re making the most of it. 

DSC_0599Yesterday, we visited the Royal Palace (photo above), toured the ornately decorated rooms (one room was floor to ceiling porcelain) and then took a long siesta before trying to make dinner in our apartment. I bought frozen paella, made some rice, and we opened a bottle of wine that we had brought from France (see me cooking in the photo to the left). But, sadly, although the paella looked good, it was no substitute for the real thing…and honestly, it tasted terrible, so we scrapped the whole meal and, like true madrilenos, headed out late at night for tapas on the Cava Baja. 


DSC_0604Today, we drove to Toledo (about an hour away from Madrid) and spent the day visiting the hilly city. The city was actually built on a hill and you have to climb up the streets to get to the top. Luckily, the Spanish have installed escalators for tourists to get to the top…so our walk wasn’t quite as strenuous as it could have been. 

We absolutely loved Toledo! Honestly, I was considering whether we should just stay there for the rest of the week…but we already paid for our apartment in Madrid in full 😦



DSC_0607We first visited the Toledo cathedral and were absolutely blown away by the interior architecture. For us, it was a dose of sensory overload with the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical art all mixed together on the walls and ceilings. In particular, we loved the high altar which is  crammed floor to ceiling with gold painted wood figures. And, C. really loved the tansparente, an opening to the ceiling behind the high altar that is a true Baroque masterpiece…you see angels, babies, sunbursts, and anything else that can cram into one small space! 

You’re not supposed to take photos inside the cathedral, but C. discreetly took a few. You can see a photo of the main altar from afar in the photo to the left. Sorry for the blurriness…we had to hide the camera while taking photos…we’re such rebels 🙂





DSC_0620After visiting the cathedral, we walked over to the Santa Cruz museum to see their enormous collection of El Greco paintings. El Greco lived and worked in Toledo, and there are lots of paintings to prove it. After our museum visit, C. decided that El Greco is now his favorite artist! You can see him looking at one of El Greco’s best paintings, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary at the Santa Cruz museum.

So, after that proclamation, we had to walk a little bit further to see El Greco’s masterpiece at the Santo Tome church: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. And, it was well worth the walk in the desert-like heat. The painting was beautiful…I think we just stood staring at it for ten minutes. We would have stayed longer, but the church was closing…and it was our time to head back down to the bottom of the town (down the escalators to the newer part of the city) to drive to the best part of our day…




DSC_0603…The Parador of Toledo. We read in our travel book that the best views of Toledo are from this particular Parador (hotel), so we drove Francois up another mountain to get a view of the city on a hill, from another big hill. 

We sat out on the terrace, had a sangria and some manchego cheese, had a spaniard snap a photo of us, and watched as the sun set on Toledo. It was an amazing end to a really great day.


  1. Nice!
    Gotta be careful of admitting to snapping those shots – what if you run for office someday 🙂 jk.

    I see you brought wine with you on the road trip – we did the same thing! We heard it was quite expensive in Scandinavia, so we bought some bottles and carrefour and kept them in our trunk to have during vacation. Good idea!

  2. Just caught up with your blog when I arrived back from Costa Rica! I am trying to find out the name of this great bar I went to in Madrid–everything was all white! I’ll keep you posted 🙂

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