Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Holy Toledo!

It was now Tuesday, July 7th so that meant two tings, I was now 62 years old and the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain with its famous Running of the Bulls was starting.

Pamplona TV Coverage

This is a MAJOR news event in Spain. We saw several hours of TV coverage on the Running of the Bulls on Monday. The Tuesday "pre-game" show started at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday with a complete breakdown of everything you could posibly want to know about this happening.

At 8:00 a.m. the cannon was fired and off went the bulls, off went the runners and the potential for carnage was in full swing! The TV cameras captured the action from every angle imaginable including one camera on a wire high over the street that zipped along for about 100 meters chasing the bulls.

From start to finish was officially timed at 2 minutes, 30 seconds and only three people were hospitalized as we found out in the one hour "post-game" analysis.

This is easily the most scrutinized 800 meter run in the world and it goes on like this every morning for the next week!

Papa Hemingway sighting

The ancient Pamplona Running of the Bulls was made famous in Ernest Hemingway's book "The Sun Also Rises" published in 1926.

We celebrated my birthday by taking a day trip to nearby Toledo where we saw "Papa" wearing the traditional Pamplona garb.

To get to Toledo, we took Spain's highly efficient, low cost national train system (Renfe) that got us from Madrid to Toledo in only 30 minutes.

Toledo's Cathedral

Cathedral Entryway

Some consider this to be one of the best cathedrals in Europe from a purely artistic viewpoint. I happen to agree. Inside we found incredible craftsmanship by the artisans who built the impressive High Altar, Choir, statues, gold ornaments and gates surrounding them.

You could spend hours in the Choir alone admiring the incredible details.

We also walked away in awe of the Sacristy, a museum in its own right, boasting of 15 El Grecos and masterpieces by Goya, Titian, Rubens, Velasquez, Caravaggio and Bellini!

The Toledo Cathedral's High Altar

Toledo was the political capital of Spain until 1561 when Phillip II moved to the more spacious Madrid.

During its golden medieval period in the 1300's, Toledo took great pride in the harmony that existed between the Jews, Muslims and Catholics living inside its walls.

It was because of the city's pride in tolerance that I decided to take a few clandestine photos. I knew they would understand and not deal with me too harshly.

A Royal Tunic in the Sacristy

We were now officially hungry so we decided to start yet another round of noshing Toledo style. Our first stop was La Campana Gorda.

Fútbol Talk

These four friends next to us at La Campana Gorda only had one subject in mind, what would adding Kaká and Ronaldo to Real Madrid do to team chemistry. They were split 50-50 on how this will turn out next season.

I think it will be like the New York Yankees of the last decade, the whole will not equal the sum of its parts.

Tiled map of Toledo in La Capana Gorda

One of four priests having lunch with us today. La Campana Gorda is located near the Cathedral and is named after the huge bell found there.


Laurie shopping for fans and mantillas

She bought plenty of both. Here we go again with the formerly light weight luggage.

Toledo's Alcazar

Formerly the Imperial residence, it dominates the Toledo skyline. During the Spanish Civil War Franco's right-wing Nationalists and their hundreds of hostages were under siege here for two months. Finally Franco sent in more troops to defeat the Republicans and retake control of Toledo.

Just a random Toledo Garden

Another nosh stop on the Plaza de Zocodover

They love their tile work in Toledo

The Rio Tajo

We took the tram ride around the city of Toledo in the afternoon.

Oops, I have to take a short break while blogging to watch Day II of the Running of the Bulls on TV. Smooth Run, no major hits today but the analysis of the today's Run goes on.

As I was saying, the Rio Tajo surrounds the bluff that Toledo was built upon on three sides adding to the defense of the city in times of war.

Toledo Cityscape

The steeple of the Cathedral in the center and the Alcazar on the right.

A very good sweet shop

It looked innocent enough so we actually bought a few cookies and some caramels. We found a nice shady seat in the Plaza de Zocodover and proceeded to dig in.

That's when things got ugly. . .

Laurie offered me a bite of her caramel with nougat so, not wanting to offend her, I acquiesed. I started to chew the required 20 times before swallowing when I felt a large crunching sound. Apparently when I bit into a nut in the nougat, it broke off a 1/4 of one of my molars!

Great, we have a morning in Madred left before we fly to Bruges, Belgium for two days. That is not enough time in either city to do anything about the tooth and I'll be damned if I let a crackerjack British dentist anywhere near the molar given the U.K.'s reputation for dental greatness. Fortunately, there is neither pain nor any sensations with the molar so I'm hoping to just ride it out until I get back to Camarillo.

"Man Carrying Chair"

What the. . .

Waiting to board the bus back to the train station I noticed the Rio Mesa stop near the bottom of the bus' route board.

The Renfe's high-speed AVE train

The Toledo Train Station's beautiful old ticket window

This stunning Moorish style building was completed in 1919.

Waiting for the 7:30 to Madrid

Madrid's Atocha Train Station

We have had a GREAT week in Spain. We HAVE to get back here soon. It is nice to be in a country where I can understand 95% of what the natives are saying! The other 5% gets lost in the lisping.

It is now time to once again match wits with Ryanair as it is. . .


1 comment:

Gayleannie said...

Glad you are having such a wonderful time. Looking forward to seeing you soon.
Love, Gayle
PS...Can I borrow a white mantilla to wear over my shoulders to the wedding? JK