Monday, October 08, 2007

Madrid Excursions: Valle de los Caidos and Toledo

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MS and I walked the streets of Madrid to find some breakfast, and ordered this hearty meal of eggs, ham and toast with french fries at Glou Cafe.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that our eggs were cooked this way because it reminded me of how my mom used to cook breakfast for me sometimes. I loved how she would cut a hole in my toast for the egg yolk - it was kind of like a little treat in the morning for me.

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In any case, breakfast proved to be a good start for the day. We drove out to the Valley of the Fallen, where we took in part of the morning mass inside the chapel. Beautiful chants echoed in the stone halls, and we were mesmerized by the seemingly tranquility of the place.

IMG_2065.JPGAfter seeing some cute little kids come down from their hike from the cross, we decided that we could venture up the hill too.

So up we went.

With the sun bearing down on us and the insects buzzing in our ears, we trekked up the path. The cross seemed deceptively close because of its huge size, and with each turn we made, I could feel another one right around the corner.

At long last, we made it to the top and it was well worth the climb. The view of the valley was breathtakingly beautiful...

...Another great excursion just outside of Madrid could be found in the medieval town of Toledo.

MS and I stayed in the government-owned, four-star hotel for the weekend - the Parador de Toledo. We requested a room with a balcony that gave us this spectacular view of Toledo from across the river.

Toledo View

But beware of driving in this beautiful old city that's built upon a hill.

IMG_2422.JPGThe cobblestone streets and charming buildings are deceptively alluring, except for the fact that they are incredibly narrow, steep and windy. Almost all are one-way, and many lead you astray - deeper in the labyrinth that is Toledo.

I was thankful that MS took the wheel, and that he navigated the car when we got lost within these streets. At one point, our car had only a couple of inches on either side between our turned in rear view mirrors and the bricked walls that lined the street. We crawled down the narrow path and let out a sigh of relief when we finally made it back down to a more navigable road.

Once inside Toledo, the unbearable and scorching heat of 110°+ weather made you tired with exhaustion and thirst. We were lucky to find this cute little cafe that had AIR CONDITIONING and was open for a late lunch and ice cold water.

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One thing that MS and I had to get used to was the idea that we had to purchase our water to drink. That's something that we completely take for granted here - that still or tap water is generally complimentary with your meal. But in Spain, we were purchasing bottled water everywhere we went (especially where the water was not potable, like in Toledo).

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At Farolito Cafe & Bar, MS and I ate from their Menu of the Day - el menu del dia, which is usually always a great deal. We had bread, water, hearty meal of grilled chicken and vegetables with rice that left us in great spirits and ready for an afternoon full of walking and sightseeing.

Toledo is a history lover's MUST DO and see. Spain's tumultuous past can be seen in Toledo's Christian, Jewish and Muslim relics and architectural influences. It's amazing and a little hair raising to think of what happened here in 1492 with Queen Isabella's expulsion of the Jews and Muslims... and how much blood had been shed within the walls of the city.

In addition to being history buffs, MS and I love food. And doing a little bit of research with our Spanish travel guides, we found Toledo's Locum Restaurante.

The unassuming restaurant was housed off an obscure and small street with the same name, and we were lucky to be seated at the tail end of their lunch hour. The restaurant had three floors, with its kitchen and restrooms on the ground level and tables located on the second and third floors above.

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MS had the Rabo de toro deshuesado con pure de coliflor y cebollino [on the left] while I had the Cochinillo con manitas y pure especial de patata [on the right]. After a small sampling of their bread with a tomato based aperitif, we were excited when our dishes came out of the downstairs kitchen.

The dishes were plated beautifully, but I think we both were surprised to find the meats served cold. I'm not sure if it was their way of "giving it to us" for eating a late lunch, when they're really supposed to be in siesta. If they were trying to watch what we'd do with my camera out, repositioning the plates and clicking away. Or if that's just how they eat these dishes.

IMG_2416.JPGOur lack of Spanish language skills were again, against us - as we ventured to order something from the menu that we'd enjoy - even if we were playing a bit of culinary roulette.

Both meats - the toro and the pork - were salty and rich, full of body and heavy bites. Both of us would have loved more starches with the vegetable purees, but saved room for dessert and these cute little chocolates that came with our bill.

The late lunch/early dinner for us was one of our more expensive meals of the trip, and definitely felt like a true adventure - not knowing what to expect and definitely not expecting what we got!

But it was a romantic table for two and one that we'd always remember.

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Toledo at Night

The adventures continue...

4 comments:

KirkK said...

Hey BoLA - Wonderful photos.....and it sounds like a romantic meal to remember!

Tokyoastrogirl said...

Sounds lovely....and that egg breakfast looks delicious- exactly what I'd want to eat on vacation, in fact:). Strange about the cold meat....I don't understand it.

GT said...

Toledo looks great. I have to visit sometime.

Nothing much here. Just enjoying life. Let's meet up sometime soon...you know, so I can get my book back. I guess it's a plus that I get to see you too...haha.

Chubbypanda said...

I know what you mean about those streets. They occur a lot in cities/area that existed before paved roads and motorized transport. Ireland is particularly creepy. People fly down those narrow, one way lanes at ungodly speeds.

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