Saturday, April 19, 2014


Today was our last full day in Toledo, and we still had quite a few places we wanted to visit.  We were hoping the streets weren't quite the madhouse they were yesterday.

First order of business was to find some breakfast, and we found a small cafe near our hotel, chose a nice table on the patio and enjoyed some eggs scrambled with their wonderful Iberico ham.  It was cloudy and much cooler this morning--the weather forecast mentioned thunderstorms.

After our breakfast we walked over to the Cathedral, hoping it wasn't too busy yet.  We were wrong--the line for tickets was looooong, snaking down the narrow lane and clear around the corner.  It was moving slowly and as much as we wanted to see the Cathedral, we didn't want to stand in line for two hours!

We decided we'd window shop our way back to our hotel and visit a couple of spots right in our neighborhood, and try the Cathedral late this afternoon. 

Our first day in Toledo we'd noticed this small sign on an old building right across from our hotel:

This morning was a perfect time to take a look, so we bought our tickets and entered the synagogue.  We were surprised by the Moorish design, and also surprised by the lack of information.  No descriptive     notes or explanation of what we were seeing, so we really didn't know what we were looking at, other than it was 12th century.  I "Googled" it, and the following information is courtesy of Wikipedia:

Santa María la Blanca (literally Saint Mary the White, originally known as the Ibn Shushan Synagogue, or commonly "The Congregational Synagogue of Toledo'") is a museum and former synagogue in Toledo, Spain. Erected in 1180, it is disputably considered the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. It is now owned and preserved by the Catholic Church.
Its stylistic and cultural classification is unique as it was constructed under the Christian Kingdom of Castile by Islamic architects for Jewish use. It is considered a symbol of the cooperation that existed among the three cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsuladuring the Middle Ages.

So now we know!

A few pictures of the pretty interior:

Intricate carved detail on the columns:

A small section of original decorative painting:

After the synagogue we walked to the nearby San Juan de los Reyes Monastery, founded by King Ferdinand II to commemorate the birth of their son Prince Juan.  Construction began in 1477, and was completed in 1504.  The monastery was badly damaged by Napoleon's troops during their occupation of Toledo, and was eventually abandoned.  A long period of restoration began in 1883, and was finally completed in 1967.  The monastery is currently home to an order of  Franciscan monks.

The exterior of the Monastery, from the side

The main entrance:
 (pink barriers still in place from the Semana Santa procession)

Front view from along an interior section of the city wall:

David at the entrance from the cloisters to the church

Pretty Gothic style vault:

The altar:

Very ornate decoration:

Looking towards the altar:

The Monastery's Semana Santa float:

We walked out to the pretty Cloisters, which was beautifully landscaped.
This view is from the upper level:

The ceiling in the upper level of the Cloisters was amazing--very detailed carved and inlaid wood.

There were some very fanciful gargoyles.   Matt--these pics are for you!!

Robed and hooded figure with a long beard:

A cat gargoyle--a new one for us!

This was an odd one--half of a man--head first into the building:

It was now about 3 pm, and definitely time for our "late lunch".  We found a new area to explore just past the Monastery, and chose a small restaurant with outside seating, of course!

We really lucked out with this one--the best meal of our trip so far!  We both went for the "Menu del Dia", as the choices were very interesting.

I was surprised when David chose Chickpea and Octopus soup for his starter--it was very good:

My salad with cheese.  The cheese was wonderful, and was topped with a honey and fig dressing:

David's Deer in Orange Sauce--delicious!

My main--Roast Lamb.  Melt in your mouth tender and scrumptious:

Dessert?  Of course! 

My Coffee Mousse

David's "Cheesecake"--more like a flan.  Both deserts were very good!

Espresso with our deserts--look at the crema on top--mmmmm so good!

The view from our table--a gate and tower on the old city wall.  It just doesn't get much better than this!

After our long, relaxing and very delicious lunch, we walked though the gate.

This picture was take inside the tower looking out:

There was a pretty park across the street, and a lovely view of the river and beyond:

Looking back at the outside of the gate and tower:

View of the walls, looking down the street:

It was time to walk back to the Cathedral, a were hoping the line wasn't as long as this morning, because we really wanted to see the Cathedral!  We were in luck; there was only short line, and took about 30 minutes to get tickets.  

Here's the exterior of the Cathedral.  It's so huge, it's hard to get a picture of the entire church:

The Holy Cathedral of Toledo is the second largest church in Spain and was built between the years of 1227 and 1493 on the site of a Moorish mosque.  It was designed in the  French Gothic style.  The interior of the church is laid out much like the other church we visited in Segovia, in that the central nave has an enclosed main chapel and choir.  The aisles are lined with smaller chapels, each quite distinct in design and decoration.  

We were awe struck by the beauty of the decorations and artwork in the Cathedral, but it certainly wasn’t one of our favorites.  It didn’t feel welcoming to me, but closed off and not at all accessible.  Every chapel was gated and locked, as well as the main chapel and altar.  This is not something we’ve seen in our travels, and we were surprised.  Judging by the huge number of visitors, I’m sure the church feels the need to protect their priceless artwork.

Here are a few pictures of the interior, it was very dark in the church, so it was difficult to get decent pictures.

There are more than 750 stained glass windows dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries.  They were beautiful and very hard to photograph with our small cameras.  

This is one of the rose windows:

A view down the central nave, towards the back of the church:

After walking around the central nave, we visited El Toeoro--the Treasury.  It was pretty impressive!

Here are a few of my favorites:
17th C Baby Jesus on a gold base:

I loved the crowns, of course.  They were gorgeous jewel encrusted beauties.

Crown of the Virgin Sagrario, Patron of Toledo. 15th C

Early 19th C crown:

I liked the simplicity of this one, which is a 12th century crown belonging to Sancho IV:

We were in luck, as the Sacristy was open for visits today.  It was  absolutely stunning!  The main altar features a painting by El Greco “The Disrobing of Christ”  It is beautiful beyond words, and my pictures certainly don’t do it any justice, but here they are:

The ceiling of the Sacristy is painted:

Just outside the Sacristy and above the main altar is “El Transparente”.   This is a beautiful painted dome surrounded  by marble sculptures.  The domes reaches to the roof of the Cathedral, and is lit by windows on all sides.  It is amazing, one of the prettiest domes or chapels I’ve seen in any church. 

After admiring the beautiful Transparente, we walked around to look at the main altar.  It was hard to get a good look, as it was gated.  The early 16th century (1508) altarpiece is carved wood covered in gold leaf and polychrome.

Here’s the best picture I could get:

After a couple of hours in the church, we were definitely running on "sensory overload".  It was almost 7 pm, and we'd had along and wonderful day enjoying the treasures of Toledo.  We weren't quite ready to call it a day, and decided a nice glass of wine would be just the perfect ending to our day in Toledo.  We sat outside at a small cafe near our hotel, relaxing and talking about how much we have enjoyed Toledo.

Cheers, and good night from Toledo:

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and we have a 9:30 train to Cordoba--another new city to explore!  Stay tuned!


  1. Happy Easter to my favorite PeeP....

  2. Olives and wine, u just can't beat that. Pictures were great. Espresso, isn't it wonderful. I loved it. All pictures were beautiful.