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Toledo, Segovia, Granada ... Storied Names
updated: Nov 21, 2009, 8:15 AM
By John McCafferty
One thing about Spain - it has classy trains. If you go first class, which isn't TOO much more money, you get the high-speed Avia trains that pretend they're airliners, which they almost are. Stewardesses buckle you in and serve food. It's a pleasure. They don't go everywhere in the country. The trains in Spain stay mainly on the plain . . .
So we zoomed down to the famous and delightful little city on the hill, Toledo. "Holy Toledo" is still said to be the religious center of Spain. It was also the center of some real horrors during the Inquisition that began in the late 15th Century.
I've never had much to say about Toledo. It's more of a visual experience (see related photos). Wonderful buildings. ZZzzz. Same for Segovia, except that Segovia is more fun to tour,
I think, with its cathedral and Alcazar Fortress somehow more accessible than Toledo's. And the food at the touristy, but enduring Candido restaurant is just outstanding, and not tourist-trappy in its pricing. Well, maybe a little trappy, but then most places seem pricey to Americans these days.
The beans with little piglet parts, like ears, are a real treat for determined bean eaters like me. I've read that the roast suckling pig is as good as it gets. You can sit there, almost in the shadow of an enormous and authentic Roman aqueduct, which still holds running water, and have an almuerzo mas fina. It's all very Espana.
This brings us to Granada, and its main attraction - the Moors' grand Alhambra. As in Madrid, we had an easy time finding a good hotel, but Granada came with a problem: a rather Looney Tunes set of regulations about touring the d----d Alhambra.
I'd been there earlier, and can say that it's rather impressive, if you like marble and reflecting pools, but maybe somewhat over-rated as a Wonder of the World. Nuts, we said, let's move on to Cordoba.
Finding our room in Cordoba was fun, then grueling, then fun again. Details on request.
I was amazed and delighted to find that years ago, friend Ron and I had zipped into Cordoba, checked out its huge mosque, decided that Cordoba was merely a city of houses attractively hidden behind walls and courtyards, dined at a colorful tapas bar, and left the next morning. We missed the main attraction -- the very interesting Old Town/Jewish Quarter! Sharon and I filled in the blanks here, and thoroughly enjoyed the place.
Celebrated with my birthday dinner (74th) with fried octopus appetizers and a very fine plate of bacalao - codfish. I asked the waiter,
"This tasted fresh, but it was frozen, right?" (Thinking that the ocean was quite a few kilometers away.)
"Oh no", he said. "Very fresh."
I thought for a minute and said, "But where is it caught?"
"Near Sweden, in the North Sea."
"I don't get it", I said, amused.
He explained that Spain and Portugal enjoy fish from the North Sea that is preserved by salting it. The salt is soaked away just before cooking, and the fish seems to be fresh.
Amazing! And here I thought salted fish was something out of the last century.
Next stop: Portugal
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