|A TRIP REPORT IN PICTURES
(and a few words)
Spain was new to us--and for the most part still is. Casey, our wonderful grandson, accompanied us on this trip. Thus, we found
ourselves with a new focus to our travel style--introducing an almost 5 year-old to the joys of the world and the intrigue of travel.
Our usual hours of exploration on foot and by car, the stopping at little surprises along the road, the meandering backroads until late
at night and then finding ourselves lost, shopping for that cultural treasure with which to enhance our home--these routines did not
prevail. Instead, we interspersed museums, cathedrals, charming and quaint villages with McDonalds, playgrounds, running on the
beach and the occasional amusement park--and eating a lot of helado.
Do we regret the trade-off--maybe a little bit when we think of what we did not see and do on this our first trip to Spain-but then we
remember a little boy's fascination with the weird eyes in the Picasso painting or the fun he had playing with the little children in a
small plaza in Toledo or the sparkle in his eye as he helped guide the carriage horse in Seville and we know we would not have done
this trip any other way. The eyes of a child are an incredible way in which to see the world!
This trip consisted of three weels in Spain and
another three weeks in Italy--but Spain was the
bigger adventure as we have been to Italy many
times. We are quite comfortable there and have spent
a considerable amount of time in the past exploring
its fascinations. Spain, on the other hand, was a true
challenge, as not having been here before, we really
didn't know what we were doing or how to do it. Some
day we will come back without a child and explore in
our usual fashion--seeing, sensing and trying to learn
about a culture and a people.
We hail from San Diego--so a trip to Europe always involves at least one change of planes in the US and on this trip another change in
Europe--a lot of flying and a long trip for a little boy. So we decided to fly from San Diego to Chicago and then on to Frankfurt. After
stretching our legs in the small historical section of Frankfurt, having a nice meal and a good night's sleep at the Sheraton which
connects directly to the airport, we were on our way to Madrid the next morning. This worked exceedingly well. We picked up our car
at the airport and drove to Toledo where we had a three night reservation at the Hostal Cardenal (which, I can highly recommend).
Having broken up the trip this way, Casey was able to handle a full day of exploration in Toledo--which involved mucho walking and
by that night he was ready for a good night's sleep. Finding a McDonald's in the main plaza helped a whole lot!
This is a very lovely small hotel built into
the old city walls. It was a Cardinal's
residence a few hundred years ago.
Its gardens are beautiful--shady with a cool
breeze even when the weather is warm--as
it was with us. It is delightfully charming
with an authentic, non-glitzed interior. We
were in a nice suite with a lovely veranda
overlooking the grounds.
Just a few steps away from the entrance is
an escalator to the top of the city walls and
parking is across the street in a public
The restaurant on the hostal grounds is
well-known and respected--somewhat
elegant with very good service and a nice
We enjoyed our meal
--especially since we had
a babysitter for
Casey--who had french
fries and catsup delivered
from the kitchen--a real
Marabella didn't speak
English and Casey was
limted to 1-10 in Spanish
(he now has a much
larger vocabulary), but
they got along very well.
She was very good. Casey
still talks about her. I
must warn you, though,
babysitters in Europe are
OUT AND ABOUT TOLEDO
We took a few minutes
to settle in and then
were ready to
bushy tailed. A quick
trip to the top and we
found this delightful
little plaza with a small
eatery. Casey watched
the children a few
minutes and then
bravely sauntered over
and introduced himself.
After leavning the cathedral, we went to Plaza Zocodever--the big, main,
social square in Toledo. The place where you claim a table at one of the
surrounding cafes and sit and watch and absorb and let cares and frustrations
sort of wash away. Casey was delighted to find a McDonalds and, ignoring our
aversion to US fast food establishments, we gladly got him a kid's meal--little
toy and all. Now he was happy! Ken and I had a sandwich and cerveza from
the cafe next to McDonalds and we all sat and watched the "parade" in front
of us. When traveling, this is one of the greatest, most rewarding things to
do. Somehow, many of my recurring memories of countries we have visited,
focus on these pleasant moments. These memories usually warm my soul
more than mentally revisiting frescos, cathedrals, museums or other
After a few tentative overtures they discovered a delight in getting to know each other: soon they were running around, playing "find
the scarf" together. Ken and I found great pleasure in watching the interactions and interchanges and knew that we could not have
asked for a better beginning. What a super introduction to Spain!. From here on, he felt quite at home. The language of children is
From there we wandered around some more, miraculously finding the first of the
many, many parks we acquainted ourselves with in Spain and Italy. Somehow on
past trips, we had looked right over these havens for children. And--right there
in the park, Casey discoved the ubiquitous ice cream sign that sprouts like wild
mushrooms everywhere you look in Spain. Casey minutely studied every one of
them, tried each of the culinary delights pictured thereon and, at some point
along the way, each one of them was his favorite.
With great effort and backtracking, we
found our way back to the escalator. By
now we were all tired, so napped until 8
(20:00) and then had our first dinner in
Spain, beginning Casey's experience
with dinner at 9 (21:00) and bed at 11
In the morning we rode the multi-level
escalator back to the top and began
wandering the streets and narrow,
narrow alleyways--in Toledo, you must
totally flatten yourself into the wall
when a car squeezes through what is
erroneously called a street. More than
once we were certain that we would have
fewer toes when leaving Toledo. DO NOT
TRY TO DRIVE INSIDE THE WALLS!
While wandering, we tried to absorb and
appreciate the total charm of this
unique, delightful old city which now has
a heavy reliance on tourism.
The cathedral in Toledo is quite spectacular with all of its gold--most of which was taken from the Inca civilization when Pizarro invaded
and conquered that vast, consequential group of people (see my pages on Cuzco, Machu Picchu and the Inti-Raymi Festival.) This is a
huge cathedral with many chapels and special exhibits with incredible work by artisans of old. We were not able to spend as much time
there as we would have liked as Casey did not share our fascination with this his first cathedral. My notes say "Casey's boredom was
aroused quite quickly--cathedrals do not seem to hold much fascination for 4 1/2 year olds." Thus, later in the trip we were pleasantly
surprised when he began to show an interest in churches and basilicas. This day all he could think of was the promised ice cream
waiting for him outside the doors.
There is a little train ride that begins in Plaza Zocodever, goes through the
narrow alleys and streets of Toledo and then makes the circular drive outside
around the city walls. Although your first thought upon seeing it might be
negative, rethink that observation. Navigating the city streets and the spectular
views from outside the city walls make this a special tourist treat. The dramatic
views of the town, cathedral and the Alcazar provide a good visual sense of what
Toledo was as a medieval city. Plus you get a different feel for the streets than
you do when walking them.
If you take a look at
the picture on the left,
you can see just how
the narrow streets can
be. The ride had its
bizarre moments when
the tren cars were
bigger than the alley
width. We were
actually scraping the
walls, tearing off large
chunks of masonary as
well as the handles on
the outside of the cars.
Shop keepers came
running to see what
was happening. Clearly
this was not the norm.
When we returned to
the point of departure,
some people had to
climb over the sides of
the cars to get out.
Casey, of course,
found this quite
menu and pleasant ambiance.