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Review of Classical Cities of Old Castile with Toledo
This is our 4th self-guided journey by rail and we booked the extension to Toledo and did this part of the journey first followed by Segovia, Salamanca and finally Madrid due to our connecting flight back to Manchester being very early in the morning. We extended our holiday staying 3 nights at Toledo, Salamanca and Madrid and kept to the 2 nights at Segovia.
TOLEDO: We purchased the Toledo wristband which made good value for money on the entry fees and visited all the included sites. We did not follow the Inntravel trail in the order due to the opening and closing times of the sites. However, everything is all within good walking distance of each other. Highlights of the tour were the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, Sinagoga Santa Maria la Blanca and Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz. The most spectacular visit was to the Cathedral and we spent well over 3 hours as there was so much to see. It was amazing. The entrance ticket included a free English audio guide which was excellent and we then followed this up by taking our photographs. Meals – we dined one evening at the Hotel San Juan de los Reyes and suggest you book as the dining room fills with their own hotel guests.
SEGOVIA: Lovely square to “people watch”, with a light lunch of lobster salad washed down with a glass of wine! Highlights include the Aqueduct and we walked the whole length. The Alcazar Palace was very well presented and with plenty of views of the surrounding area especially from the roof. We were fascinated by the nesting storks and from the palace roof we saw 4 nests on the tops of the cedar trees with different ages of chicks – usually with 3 in each nest. We discovered more nesting storks on tops of the roofs of other church buildings and we were enthralled. We dined both evenings at Jose Maria and booked the table. The first evening we ordered the speciality of the region “suckling pig” and as other guests had ordered the same this was presented in a traditional way to the table.
SALAMANCA:The Hotel Rector was so comfortable and very well situated with excellent service. We found the old and new Cathedrals worthy of their visits and the views from the roof splendid. Salamanca was very atmospheric especially around the University as the students were receiving their degrees. The monastery of San Esteban was very peaceful around the cloisters and with a large number of carvings and more nesting storks – we were so lucky! The Museum of Art Nouveau is a must-see and the Motor Museum is well worth a visit. Restaurants we dined at were: Restaurante Hoja 21, La Tagliatella and Meson de Gonzalo (inside).
MADRID: Very hot, dirty and busy as it was leading up to the FIFA World cup football so Plaza Mayor was mostly cordoned off whilst they built large TV mini stadiums. Highlights were the Cathedral and a must-see was The Crypt at Almedena, behind the main cathedral, not mentioned by Inntravel. The Royal Palace is so impressive that you need a good 3 hours to do it justice. We purchased the audio guide and went at our own pace. The Prado museum was another worthy visit but we did not do the whole museum. The Royal Botanical Gardens were free Tuesday afternoon and we discovered the largest Spanish collection of Bonsai trees on display – magnificent. A visit to the Retiro Gardens by the lake with an ice cream to finish off! The little Venecia Sherry bar was very welcoming for sherry aperitifs and tapas before our evening meal. The Café Central was a rip-off so did not enjoy that. We dined at El Inti de Ora which was OK but had a very good meal at Decadente - turn right out of the hotel on the corner Lope de la Vega.