22nd September 2012
It’s just a small hop from Torrelodones to Toledo, about 1 hour, so we arrive when it is still relatively cool and find there is free parking at the bottom of the hill. Yay. Then we get a bus into the centre. Well worth the investment.
The bus leaves us at Plaza Zocodover, which claims to have an information centre, but it is closed. The streets of Toledo are all very narrow, even the main ones, and being Saturday it is jam packed with tourists. After much sign language we reckon the Spanish tourist are as lost as we are. Finally a small portal opens lin the Plaza Major, behind, a large stage being prepared for a concert. Brave souls who enter may be rewarded with a map. This achieved, we descend into the former Jewish quarter in search of the Sephardic Museum. It is located in a former Synagogue, recently a church. Though the main hall of the Synagogue is very impressive, it’s walls covered with intricate tilings, a frieze of leaf motifs and delicately painted wooden ceiling, the overall effect is disappointing. The women’s gallery is a complete reconstruction and houses some displays of Jewish life, designed for people who have no idea of Judaism at all. The artefacts though are all fairly modern or of non Spanish origin. No photography! Bleahhh! Next there is a tour of the often bewildering alleyways, which nevertheless provide many great photo opportunities.
It is getting really hot (probably over 35degrees) and we are both tired and scratchy, leading to a grand shouting match as we reach our boiling car. As the air conditioning and litres of water kick in, we head towards Valencia and hopefully cooler weather. It is still relatively early, so we drive two hours to Cuenca. Hidden away in the centre of Spain, Cuenca has an incredibly beautiful old town, built on an outcrop of rock at the mouth of a spectacular gorge. We decide that a treat is in order, so we stay the night at an upmarket hotel. Not too bad at 81 euro, including garage for the car.
Travelling Europe by car has many advantages, including not having to keep to timetables, but “finding a place to park” anxiety is not one of them
Next morning we arise early and walk up to the old town, which is progressively revealed as the sun climbs over the hills. It is truly beautiful and set in a marvellous landscape. As we descend the sun threatens another heat wave, we leave for Valencia only two hours driving now.
One extraordinary thing which strikes us is the Spanish highway network, there seem to be motorways everywhere, all free (because we are avoiding tolls) and seem to be almost empty. Around Madrid there was traffic, but nowhere near as much as in France, or Italy where we went six years ago, but outside Madrid we seem to go for many minutes, without another car in sight, and you can see a long way on great sweeping or straight stretches. Even the secondary two way roads are excellent and practically deserted.