Toledo Weekend: La Piedra y Catedral

This weekend I stayed in Toledo instead of embarking on a weekend excursion in order to get some city photography and exploration done while I have time. Every weekend from here on out we have big plans that take up the entire weekend (but I won’t say what because that would ruin the surprise!) thus this weekend made the most sense to be a tourist in the city I am fortunate enough to study in.

The Cathedral
On Saturday I embarked on an excursion by myself to tour the famous cathedral of Toledo. The cathedral is a 13th century Roman Catholic gothic cathedral located very close to my school. It is huge, it’s hard to imagine how people hundreds of years ago managed to build such an architectural feat without bulldozers and major construction machinery. Granted it took hundreds of years to finish but still it is an incomprehensible accomplishment.

My only gripe with the cathedral is that it’s a bit expensive for a church tour in my opinion. Because it is a major attraction, the current charge for entry is 8€ for a majority of the church but 11€ for full tour with access to towers and bell.

I really love the gothic architecture and the church is very ornate and intricate with careful details of the altars and stained glass. It was very packed with visitors when I went, I wouldn’t recommend others visit it on a Saturday.
La Piedra
This was definitely the highlight of my weekend. On Saturday night we embarked on the hike up to La Piedra, a giant rock overlooking the entire city of Toledo. We left at around 8:45pm, enough time to make the hike to see the sunset.

The view was absolutely stunning. The clouds combined with the sunset ignited the sky into a candy colored spread, a beautiful contrast against the horizon of the ancient city. We sat in silence for at least twenty minutes, completely in awe of the view.

La Piedra is definitely the best free thing to do in Toledo. The hike was good exercise without being too rigorous and the climb up the rock had little natural stairs and a railing. The climb down in the dark was a little more difficult, I recommend bringing a flashlight or phone with flashlight app.

Overall it was an enjoyable weekend in Toledo, I’m glad I took the opportunity to see more of the sights around here and practice more photography with my camera. Next weekend a large group of students (including myself) are embarking on a weekend trip to Andalusia, to see Granada and Cordoba. I am very excited to see more of the south of Spain and cannot wait to blog my experience!!
Until next time!

Week 1 Snapshots: Toledo y Madrid

Toledo this past week has been a truly memorable experience. My classes have started and so far I enjoy all of them, and living with a host family is significantly improving my Spanish vocabulary and ability to articulate sentences. Walking up and down the steep, cobblestone roads of Toledo that wind throughout the city has taken a toll on my calves, they are becoming more toned each day. 

Because I am studying here, there has been less desire to experience touristy destinations right away. Mostly I have just spent a lot of time wandering about Toledo and trying to get completely absorbed into Spanish culture, adjusting my lifestyle to meet the demands of Spain. What does this mean? Late nights, later meals, siestas and new foods. It all has been somewhat of a shock to the system, but I am slowly getting used to all the changes. 


First things first, one thing that has been difficult for me to get used to is the schedule of eating here in Spain. Breakfast is fairly standard, small and simple such as some juice, coffee and cereal or yogurt, satisfying to get through the morning, nothing like a big American breakfast at all but it does the trick. For awhile, anyway. Problems start to arise around 11:30 because the stomach starts to growl but the brain realizes that when in Spain, lunch isn’t until at earliest 1:30. I have managed to adapt and get used to having roaring stomach pains before having access to lunch, and not only has it become tolerable but it seems to make much more sense to wait until starving to eat a big meal.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here in Spain, Toledo is no exception. Salads, bread, big entrees (typically meat) and various sides (generally rice dishes or potatoes or pasta) all come together to satisfy the starving study abroad student. I have really started to enjoy this aspect of living in Spain, eating big, complex meals midday to keep myself fueled and ready to go instead of just eating a sandwich or something light. It makes more sense to me in terms of calories to eat more when there is still daylight to burn, things to do and see.
Dinner has been the hardest to adapt to and plan my day around. After stuffing myself at lunch, finishing classes and typically snoozing for a bit, I generally don’t get hungry again until 8. This wouldn’t be a problem, except in Spain dinner isn’t usually served until at least 10pm. 
10pm?!?! That is so absurd to me and I am still getting used to it. In the United States most restaurants CLOSE at 10pm, here in Spain, that’s when things start going. I am generally starving once again by dinner, because it seems to me that snacking isn’t really a thing here, meals are what you eat and between them not much is consumed unless one goes out to enjoy tapas before dinner. 
Speaking of tapas, this past Friday I was very fortunate to be in Madrid at the same time as my friends parents, and I met up with them for dinner. We first ate tapas at Mercado de San Miguel near Plaza Mayor and then ate dinner. It was wonderful to see them.
Gran Via in Madrid


Going out/Nightlife
Toledo is a very touristy town, it attracts visitors from all over Spain and the world, especially now for the summer. There are several clubs/discotecas in Toledo and many bars to pass the evening at, and just like with their meal habits, the Spanish go out to start their evenings much later than what I’m used to in Minnesota. 
So far the majority of my evenings have been spent at Dragos, a cute little bar just down a narrow street from plaza de Zocodover in Toledo. The owner Jesús is an extremely nice man who encourages us to only speak Spanish while in his bar. Tinto de Verano has become my new favorite drink, red wine with an effervescent sour/soda mix and black vodka. We have also indulged in some chupitos fuegos, flaming shots. 


On Friday in Madrid we stayed at Cats Hostel, a beautiful, well run hostel centrally located near plaza mayor and Kapital, a well revered nightclub many from my program were excited to experience. I’m not big on nightclubs personally, but the club is huge and very famous, so for the experience I kept an open mind. 


It was a fiesta loca! It was a very exciting and fun party experience even for someone who is not so partial to night clubs. The drinks were ridiculously expensive but with the 16 euro cover we received 2 included drinks, and fortunately planned ahead and started drinking long before we got to the club. 

We stayed out until about 4:30AM and then headed back to the hostel, the party was still going strong at all the clubs at this hour. People in Spain truly party into the morning. 

Overall the first full week in Toledo was really enjoyable.It was pretty hectic and bustling, as it was Corpus Christi week, a major religious holiday that is celebrated here in Toledo. Residents from all over Spain come this week to take part or view the festivities, which made it even more flooded with tourists.  It has been somewhat of a major lifestyle adjustment, but it is going well for me so far. Here are more pictures from the first week of adventure

Street decorations for Corpus Christi



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