"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, September 11, 2006

The drive from Merida to Toledo was by far the longest of our trip. About 250kms. Not that far compared to some of the drives we did last year in the North, but it seemed like a million miles and Toledo light years away from the relatively sleepy town we had just left behind.

Sitting on top of a large hill surrounded on three sides by water, Toledo is considered one of Spain’s finest cities and it is certainly one of the most visited as was apparent even on our early September visit.

We, however, found little about the place to charm us. It is beautiful enough alright and the cathedral is one of the finest I can recall seeing in Spain or anywhere. However, it is so rammed with day trippers from Madrid following their tour guides around that it is impossible to get any chance to enjoy what you are seeing. After the quiet of the last few days when we were often the only people walking around the places we visited it was a bit of a shock to the system.

We arrived a little after 1pm and HP had the fun task of navigating our car up through Toledo’s narrow roads which seemd to get ever narrower the closer we got.. I am not quite sure how he managed it, but we did succeed in finding our hotel and parking our car in their garage ( which required a 27 point turn ) before heading out to do a bit of sightseeing ourselves ( no hypocrisy there then)

The roof terrace of our hotel, the Santa Isabel ( fronted by the single most miserable man in history who looked so unhappy you would think that he had won a lottery and found that the first prize was a handjob from his nan ), offered spectacular views of the city over the rooftops. It gave us a chance to get our bearings and head off to explore. The cool of the cathedral proved a welcome relief from the heat outside and also from the hordes of tours which seemed to take up every available space. For some reason, the church was relatively empty and we were able to spend a good hour or so cooing at its splendours before taking a long walk around the city walls.

By then, we needed a cold one and fitted in a number of bars most of which were nothing to write a postcard home about. One small family bar however did find us ordering a small plate of Tortilitas de camarones, small flat pancakes with tiny shrimps. Probably the best thing about the day so far.

The guide books had warned us that Toledo by day could be disappointing but we were cheered by the information that, by evening, the city is reclaimed by the locals and becomes far more like any other Spanish city.

Were they right? Unfortunately not. We tried, we really did, but we just could not warm to the place. Tapatheid, a word I created last year to describe the giving of freebies to locals but not visitors, was in full effect and we were stiffed in the four or so bars we tried alongside being asked to pay far more than the normal going rate for a cana.

By now, thoroughly pissed off, we decided just to head for a meal and dived into Los Quatro Tiempos (The Four Seasons ) It was a good choice and, like our trip to Burgos last year ( equally as noxious a town ) offered a pleasing respite from the horrors without.

After a little pick me up first, we got an amuse of dried fruit mixed with jamon. A sort of Castilla La Mancha version of mincemeat.

Then to starters. For me, pimientos rellenos, a favourite of mine. This time stuffed with squid and artfully served with an ink sauce. For HP, another stab at Migas. Better prepared again than previous tries, but despite the addition of some very good eggs, we are still not getting it.

Main courses were really spot on. For HP more of those small chulletillas that he craves so much and, for me, the local dish of Toledo, Perdiz Estifado. Small partridge stewed with a great many black peppercorns.

Desserts were frighteningly day glow and vile, but we ate them anyway before sucking down our free chopito of booze and heading out of there without bothering to visit any more bars.

As HP put it “ without decent tapas, it is just a procession of gassy beers”

Well said.

I cannot think of any reason to return to Toledo
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