El Greco El Greco
Jamie Farr Jamie Farr
Alex Alex
Ah, Toledo! A gleaming city that stands at the mouth of the Maumee River, it ranks proudly among other revered Ohio cities such as Akron, Columbus, Dayton, and Youngstown! But there's another Toledo, one very far from the shores of Lake Erie, a Toledo where sandwiches are called bocadillos, and where nary a Mud Hen can be found. A city that boasts of the artist El Greco instead of the character actor Jamie Farr. If you haven't guessed by now where this Toledo is, you must have somehow missed the brightly colored banner at the top of this page. It's in Spain, of course, and the ancient city of Toledo was the first stop for Alex and his parents once they left Madrid.
skyline of Toledo, Spain The view from the pedestrian bridge into Toledo, Spain.

Big statue
Alex enjoyed running laps around this statue on Toledo's west end.
Toledo, about 42 miles from Madrid on the N401, was built on a hill nestled into a horseshoe curve in the Rio Tajo. El Greco, the great painter whose elongated figures and stylized use of colors set him apart from his contemporaries, arrived in Toledo in 1577 and spent the last 37 years of his life there. Alex arrived in 1999 and spent about four hours of his life there.

After the hustle and bustle of Madrid, it was a definite change of pace to arrive in Toledo in the midst of an afternoon siesta. It was about 2 p.m., and all the tourist attractions were closed. Alex and his parents sat down on a wall outside the church of San Juan de los Reyes and enjoyed a light snack. Alex and his father then passed the time happily running circles around the tall statue outside the church (photo left) while his mother contemplated the large feathery blobs of white pollen drifting down from the blue Toledo sky.

It was in Toledo that Alex first observed that the sidewalks in Spain are paved with beans. Actually, they're rocks, the smooth oblong kind that you're likely to find in your backyard, if you're the type of person who goes poking around your backyard looking for smooth oblong rocks. In Toledo the "beans" were simply pressed into the pavement in a seemingly random manner. In subsequent days, in Andalucian cities such as Granada and Córdoba, Alex and his parents would see the "beans" arranged in a wide variety of patterns.

Toledo has more impressive sights than beans pressed into the sidewalk. It also has one of the world's most spectacular cathedrals, which has been ranked alongside St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and Paris' Cathedral of Notre Dame. Construction of the cathedral began in 1226 (which, if you're keeping score, was quite some time ago) and wasn't completed until 1493. No need to reach for your calculators - we'll do the math for you. Construction of the cathedral took 267 years. That means that many generations of people spent the greater part of their lives working to build something that they knew couldn't possibly be completed within their lifetimes. Ponder that for a moment or two, and we'll meet you in the next paragraph.

Entrance to the cathedral is free, but with a paid admission visitors can see four additional rooms which feature priceless royal treasures of gold and silver,
In Toledo In Toledo The cathedral in Toledo
At left, Alex and his mother make funny faces outside the Cathedral of Toledo, then share a laugh about it (center). At right, Alex and his father pose in front of yet another of the cathedral's many doors.
paintings by El Greco and others, and the coronation room, where Joanna the Mad and Philip the Handsome were crowned. (Here at, we don't know much about Joanna the Mad and Philip the Handsome, but they certainly sound like a fun couple.)

By the time he reached the cathedral it was late afternoon, and Alex was beginning his cranky spiral towards naptime. Even in this state, however, Alex was impressed by the cathedral's many large stained glass windows. Alex referred to these windows as "kaleidoscope windows" after his father pointed out a large round purple window with a kaleidoscopic pattern above the altar. He was also impressed, as were his parents by the Transparente, which, we're told, is a "Baroque showpiece." It's an enormous work of art, combining sculpture and painting, that stretches from the floor all the way up to the inside of a dome in the highest part of the cathedral's ceiling. The interior of the dome is illuminated by sunlight. The sculpture is, essentially, a huge tangled pile of people that stretches up to the heavens. It's a remarkable piece of work, one that can make both adults and toddlers gasp in wonder.

The next stop after the cathedral was the Alcazar, the site of a famous Spanish Civil War battle. It was closed, however, despite what it said in the Frommer's Guide. So the little family piled back into their little Spain car, and began the long drive to Granada.