Day 10, Toledo: Time travel and paella | travel | Hindustan Times
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Day 10, Toledo: Time travel and paella

travel Updated: Jan 28, 2011 12:23 IST
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Just 45 minutes by bus from Madrid, Toledo is a day visit from Madrid for most visitors. But, since fairytale towns are more my thing than large cities, I chose to spend a couple of nights in Toledo. As the bus approached Toledo, I knew I had made the right choice. Slate towers and high church steeples dominate the skyline sheltering the red-roofed houses topped with wrought iron weather vanes. The river Tajo almost completely encircles it and gushes between the arches of the ochre-stone bridges that appear to have tethered the town to the 21st century. 

Toledo is a town with lots to see. It is often referred to as a melting pot of three cultures - Christian, Jewish and Islamic and this synergy of architecture and design all over town lends it a unique flavour. Toledo has a long list of must-sees but it is not the kind of place that justifies simply ticking the sights off the map. It is a place that demands attention, where every street and plaza calls for one to stop and marvel at. So, I leave the sight spotting for the next day and decide to spend today like Alice lost in Wonderland.

I have been accused of not giving Spanish food its due so today is the day to remedy that. As a vegetarian, it is a little difficult to enjoy the culinary delights in a country which loves its meat. I mean, one of their largest chain restaurants is called Museum of Ham!! That is not to say that good vegetarian fare is not available if you are willing to scour for it. And in Toledo I ventured and hit jackpot - vegetarian paella! Paella is a spiced rice preparation, traditionally packed with seafood or meat depending on the part of Spain it is cooked in. Yes, connoisseurs may turn their noses at a veggie paella but I dug in with gusto.

Guilt of wasting a day indoors in this lovely town stopped me from plodding back to the hotel for a siesta so I opted for the next best thing - a ride in the Zocotren. Designed like a magnified toy train, the Zocotren promises an overview of Toledo. It delivers much more. The train starts off in Plaza Zocodover one of the main plazas in the city, heads out into the surrounding hillsides and takes off on a 360* circuit which presents the best views of the town. The ride is well supplemented with a commentary on its history and legends. A warning to all visitors to Toledo - do NOT pass this up as a tourist trap!

The day ends with a walk through the town now sparkling in the moonlight. From Madrid to Toledo, a short bus journey but a leap back in time.