Tag Archives: España

Day 3: A Day Trip to Toledo

This was a long day and probably the most walking I’ll do the entire trip (about 9 miles)!

I woke up a bit late and showered and got ready and then walked back to Atocha station. I stopped back into the Church of the Holy Coss and went back by “my” coffee spot again to get a double espresso. I always tell myself to try new places every day when I travel but once I find somewhere I like, I always end up going back. I’ll definitely go back to Casa de Diego on Sunday too.

I got to the station at about 11:00 and tried to use the kiosk to buy a ticket but it wanted a passport number and I didn’t have my passport. I was super annoyed and thought I was going to have to walk back to my apartment and grab it. I went into the ticket office and they couldn’t help me but then I remembered I’d taken a picture of my passport and that would have the number. So, remember, if you are in the EU and plan for any train travel and don’t want to carry your passport around (I’m always worried about getting mugged or losing it) then take a picture so you can verify your identity.

I went back to the kiosk and bought a roundtrip ticket to Toledo for 22. I was really intimidated by the outside of the station and if you will remember my first misadventure this week, I am not so great at trains but this was the smoothest trip I’ve ever taken.

I found the departure board and saw that my train was leaving from the ground level platform and I still had an hour (they stopped selling tickets for the 11:20 train by the time I got to the kiosk so I had to take the 12:20). I went to the Mahou mini bar and grabbed a small beer and then went to the bathroom. I was dreading going to the bathroom in the train station but I always forget Europe isn’t plagued with the same issues as the US and the bathrooms aren’t absolute cesspools. For this bathroom, you paid a euro and got a ticket with a QR code which you scanned to enter. There were attendants and the bathroom was absolutely immaculate. Absolutely worth the euro–and no one was shooting up heroin in there!

I went to my departure platform about 15 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave and the attendant scanned my ticket as I went out of the door. I was nervous because in Italy in 2014 you had to validate your own ticket on the platform and I forgot once and the stupid ticket guy charged me an on-the-spot fine for not validating it. This system was much better/faster. I found my car and seat quickly but a Latino guy in line behind me had never taken the train before and he asked me for help finding his spot. He was in the wrong car so I told him to go to the next one. An older Spanish guy heard me and said, “No, this is car 2!” and I said, “Yes, I know, his ticket is for car 3…” It was cool to help someone while speaking Spanish. This is the second time someone has approached me–the first day in Lidl a French lady came up to me and asked me where the toilet paper was. Those are always some of my favorite experiences when traveling–people approaching me either because I look like I belong or because I look nice so they feel comfortable asking for help.

I got to Toledo and was going to take the bus into the main part of the city but I didn’t see any machines to buy tickets and I didn’t know if you could pay on board so I just walked.

Alcantara Bridge

I walked from the train station all the way across the city (after stopping for a few souvenirs–Toledo is souvenir central) to the old Jewish quarter. I visited two synagogues and a museum. The first synagogue, Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca or Ibn Shushan Synagogue, was 3 to enter. It’s only one main space and there was a group tour going on inside but it was cool to take a quick walk around–it’s considered the oldest synagogue in Europe and was built in 1180.

After that, I walked a bit further and went into the Sephardic Museum and the Sinagoga del Transito. My closest friend in New York is Mizrahi and grew up following the Sephardic rite so I’m most interested in those aspects of Jewish history and this was really fascinating to see. Of course, it was also sad to think about and see all of the artifacts predating the expulsion. It’s hard to imagine all of the people who were killed, exiled, and forced to convert after participating in and building such a deep history in Spain. Since taking a history course about the Islamic world in 2010, I’ve been interested in how Dhimmi lived in various Islamic states including Jews in Spain so it was also great to see aspects of Jewish life under Islamic rule as well. Besides the religious history, I really love Toledo because the architecture and masonry are so beautiful. It reminds me of many of the same reasons I love Assisi.

After the museums and synagogues, I decided to walk back to the other side of the village so that I would be closer to the train and could relax over a nice lunch without having to worry about missing my train. Toledo is hilly and the streets are cobbled and I’ve learned my lesson the hard way about trying to run around places like that.

After ordering a full plate of Manchego cheese (I didn’t know it was going to be that much but #noregrets), some croquetas, and wine, I walked back down the hill to the station and made my way back to Madrid.

When I ride the train, I always wish I could drive around some of the smaller towns I see from the window. It’s one of the only times I become melancholic while traveling–it would be fun to rent a car with a man a go explore! When I see a random hacienda (Spanish folks, is that the right term?) with agricultural equipment outside, it always makes me want to go see what’s going on there. I always wish I could make local friends because I want to know about what life is like in the countryside. My mom comes from a rural town in Alabama and I always wonder if the cultures are similar in rural areas around the world. Do they owe money to corporations they sell their products to? What is schooling like for their kids? Has their family always been farmers on that land? What happened to them during Fascist rule? I’ll never know but it’s always interesting to think about.

Once back in Madrid, I walked back to my apartment, showered, changed, and went out to find a drink. I was still full from lunch so I was looking for something quick. One thing I noticed yesterday, even on my way to the train station, is that so many more people were out and about than had been Wednesday or Thursday. The entire journey down Calle Atocha was packed and last night when I got back to Madrid the city was bustling!

I found a small cafe to have a couple of drinks. It was SO cold outside I ended up having my second round inside. I would have loved to have stayed out later but I was so tired and sore and cold and alone on a Friday night so I thought it would be best to head back to my apartment.

I spent a little more yesterday due to the train and extra wine at lunch but the full day was still only 70 (click the link to see how+what I’ve spent so far).

Today is going to be a bit more chill but I do have a surprise in store so make sure to follow me on IG and come back tomorrow to read more!

Day 2: The Rain in Spain…

Well this will be a short post because it rained all day and was in the mid-40s so I skipped a couple of things I had planned and caught up on some sleep in the evening.

I still managed to see some cool stuff and walked 11,500 steps though!

I walked from Plaza Mayor where I’m staying to Atocha and the National Museum of Anthropology, had a late lunch/early dinner, and called it a day.

For me, yesterday is the BEST thing about traveling alone–or doing anything alone, really. Had I been with someone else or had other people spent money, I would have felt obligated to be miserable and stay out in the rain and cold all evening. Since I’m by myself, I can do what I want and I don’t have to worry about upsetting or disappointing anyone else. It’s so nice and relaxing. Maybe that’s selfish? I had a talk with a friend a couple of weeks ago and they couldn’t believe I liked to go to the movies alone. They said going to the movies and sharing that experience with someone was the best part but I completely disagree. In most cases (there are many exceptions–like with a good romantic partner), when I do things with others I feel this overpowering obligation–at the cost of my own happiness–to make sure they are constantly and fully enjoying themselves even if that means I’m not. It’s like being around others automatically means I have to forego what I want and enjoy because I feel like they deserve to enjoy themselves more than they should feel obligated to sacrifice for my enjoyment. *shrug*

Well, enough of my psychobabble, let’s recap.

First, I stopped at Parroquia de Santa Cruz (the Church of the Holy Cross). One of my favorite things about Europe is passing random churches and walking in without any expectation of what I’ll see. This one didn’t disappoint. There were little chapels dedicated to different saints, acts, and events all around the edge and one of them was dedicated to La Virgen de 7 Dolores.

Not my photo

After saying a few prayers and looking at the other relics I went on my way. I stumbled upon a memorial to the Lawyers of Atocha who were killed by Fascists in 1977. It’s so interesting to read about recent history in a huge city, especially to remember that Fascism in Spain was still so powerful the year my mother graduated high school that lawyers were being murdered in the streets of the capital city.

The Hug

After seeing the church and monument, I saw another smaller church, Parroquia de El Salvador y San Nicolas and popped in. It was really dark and there wasn’t much to see and a bunch of old people were praying so I left. Just up the block, I found a cute little coffee counter across from a huge blade store called Luso. I got an espresso and a “zumo vit” and sat under the awning and watched people for a bit before I got too cold.

Calle de Atocha is also a street filled with fabric and yarn shops, which I love. When I was younger, so many places in the US used to sell fabric by the yard but I seldom see these stores anymore (besides JoAnn’s I guess). I wonder if a lot of Spaniards sew or have machines? Like more than in the US. It was raining pretty hard and was cold and I only have a raincoat so I tried to get to the National Anthropology Museum in a hurry.

I was pleasantly surprised by the anthropology museum. They had two exhibits about Pacific Island anthropology and that’s one of my favorite topics ever! Besides these special exhibits about the Philippines and the Chamorro in Guam and the Marianas they also had two bigger galleries dedicated to African and Indigenous American anthropology. It was only 3 which was great. I was disappointed some of the main galleries were closed for renovation because I wanted to see some European anthropology but it was a great way to escape the rain, it was super empty, and they had a clean bathroom.

My favorite thing I saw, besides the Chamorro language pieces and the historical maps of the shipping routes between Spain, Mexico and the Philippines, was a group of paintings by Sal Bidaure. It was neat to see a small connection between Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, and Mexican art!

After the anthropology museum I walked to the Prado but I was really tired and wet and cold so I decided to try to find a spot for a warm lunch. Spain loves its tapas and there isn’t a shortage of places but I really wanted a hearty meal. Again, just by chance, I stumbled down Calle de Cervantes and passed a neat Mexican store I had actually saved on my agenda to visit (it was closed for siesta) and the home of Miguel de Cervantes. En route to a soup spot I found on Google, I walked past Casa de Diego and saw that they had a full menu so I decided to stop there instead. I ordered a salad “ahumado” and albondigas which came with bread. It was the best meal I’ve had so far and I really liked the vibe in this place. The owners were helping customers and the bar was really nice too. I finished my meal with a small Mahou and then decided to forego the Prado and go back to my place for what was meant to be a nap.

The 27 hour day the day before caught up to me and I passed out for about 11 hours (only to be awoken at 3:45 by my panicking mother thinking my 33 year old, soft-bodied, ginger self had been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery) so that’s the end of day two!

It was abouttt as close to perfect as it could be for me. I got to see some Pacific Island history/anthropology, I got to go to a really neat church, I got to see a monument about contemporary European political history (my other favorite), I got to have a great coffee, eat a nice lunch, and then sleep.

I spent almost exactly 30 Euros bringing my total so far to 71.37 for two days. Let’s see what today brings!

I’m not gon’ do it, girl…

I did it! (If you haven’t seen this popular TikTok trend, peep it here).

SURPRISE! If you’re reading this, I’m on my way to Madrid, Spain and I didn’t tell ANYONE I was going (sorry, mom)!

The week before last, I was extremely depressed, couldn’t sleep, and basically at my wits end with life. I had just filed my taxes a few days before and simultaneously realized I hadn’t done anything for myself (other than ordering random garbage on Amazon…dopamine, amiright?) in a really long time, we’re talking like 5 years.

I thought for a few hours and decided I was going to take a trip! Where could I go for the cost of my tax return? I looked up a few flights, crowdsourced it, checked out the cost of food, and looked up the crime index on Numbeo (I even did my due diligence to make sure I don’t wander into any heroin dens, haha!)—ultimately, I chose Madrid! All in all, it took me about 12 hours to find flights, accommodations, and build a full 6-day itinerary.

I originally found another flight for a seven-day trip but I was too slow (and waiting for “signs” that I wasn’t being totally insane, haha!) and it was gone by the time I built up the courage to book my reservations. Lesson number 1: Don’t hesitate or you lose out on better deals!

I’ll share the places I plan to go now and wait to share each day’s itinerary after I’m back in my apartment for the night.

I used Google Maps to plan my entire trip!

I visited Spain on a tour in 2008 but I haven’t been back since then. I also haven’t been on a solo trip or to Europe since I went to Italy in 2014.

Little bb Anna in 2008

So, for the next 6 days, I’m going to be exploring Madrid (with a day trip or two), on a budget. Activities might include: a Real Madrid game, all the museums, some Catholic stuff, the grocery store, going to the movies, la hora del vermut, geocaching, etc. I’ll be making a post every day to chronicle my trip but I’ll also make a post about costs, my AirBnB, and other details once the trip is over.

You can find a cost tracker and packing list here. If you want to see how I spend and how I packed for a week in a carry-on, follow me on TikTok and Instagram!

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and follow me everywhere (literallyyy every social media channel you can think of) @thatgingeranna!