If you're in Madrid, you are just 10€ (Euros, ~$12) and a 45 minute bus ride from the historic city of Toledo. Trains are faster, but buses are cheaper, so cash me inside singing "The Wheels on the Bus."
Toledo is called the "City of Three Cultures" due to the confluence of Christian, Arab, and Jewish cultures in this one single city during the Middle Ages.
Some pre-trip tips:
1. Wear comfy shoes.
2. Bring Band-Aids in case your comfy shoes decide to tunnel a hole into your precious skin.
3. Don't be like me. Go when it's cooler. 99° F and 7-8 miles of walking is whew. Also, your Band-Aids from tip #2 will not stick to your sweaty feet.
When we arrived in Toledo, we made our way to Zocodover Square thanks to a tip from the travel master himself: Rick Steves. The many streets leading off the square are full of food, exhibits, and shopping. Also, there's a Burger King and a McDonald's in the square. Nothing like eating American junk food in one of the oldest cities in Spain, right?
We skipped the American junk food and opted for a place with one of my favorite qualities of Spanish culture: the menu del día. Lunch in Spain is like dinner in America. It's the big one. With the menu del día, you slap down around 12€ (~$14), and you get a drink, tapa (usually bread, olives, or chips), first course (paella, pictured above left), second course (carcamusa, middle), and dessert (custard, right). Just take a second and think about how much weight I'm going to gain while living in this country- My 600 Lb. Life: Expat Edition. Rick Steves told us not to miss the chance to try Toledo's specialty: carcamusa, or pork chili. Rick was right. He always is. Also, try Toledo's mazapan (not pictured) for dessert. Legend says it was invented by nuns as sustenance when the city of Toledo was under siege.
I will never get sick of historic cathedrals. Let these words apply to my life forever and evermore. Regardless of the flawed human beings who built them, their higher purpose is to point people to God, and it always does that for me. Now I'm going to shut up and let the pictures speak for themselves (click the arrow on the right of the gallery for more).
We bought our tickets in the shop across the street from the cathedral. A basic adult ticket is 10€ (~$12). The price includes a headset that provides information about the cathedral during your tour (must have a valid ID; note that US drivers licenses are not widely accepted as ID outside the US). Also, It's important to have something to cover your shoulders if you're wearing a tank top. Not everyone does this, but it's a sign of respect, so be mindful.
Toledo Train Vision
A train ride may seem super touristy. You're darn right it is, and it's fantastic. We paid 6,50€ (~$7.50) at the kiosk in Zocodover Square. They gave us some headphones and directed us to head a short distance up the hill to catch the train, which runs every 30 minutes. The "train" is really a car disguised as a train with trolley trailers behind it, but the company calls it a train, so 'tis a train. The headphones plug into the trolley, and the narration of the city's history is provided with 17 different language options. One of the languages is English [hallelujah, amen]. The best part of the trip is the stop at the top of a hill overlooking the city:
Also, we went to exhibit called "Ancient Instruments of Torture," and I nearly vomited. But if you're into that kind of thing, check it out.
It really, really is.