About a year ago, Bill and I made the difficult decision to leave Chicago and it's brutal winters for a while, so we began exploring different places to relocate to. Six months ago, we began researching, plotting and planning ways to bring our family to Spain. Then, on Tuesday, our efforts came to fruition. We left Chicago Tuesday evening and arrived in Madrid early Wednesday morning.
Exhausted and bleary eyed, we were very surprised to arrive in Madrid on the day that a major countrywide political protest was unfolding. When the taxi pulled up to our hotel, we found the streets covered in trash and the windows of the hotel covered in brown paper. Outside the main window of the hotel was a huge sticker that read, "CERRADO" (closed). Apparently our hotel was located across the street from the government offices and was, therefore, in the center of the turmoil. Fortunately, though, we did get our room and the protests only lasted 24 hours. By Thursday morning, the streets were cleaned and the millions of stickers that had been plastered all over the city had been removed.
We were trying to stay awake the first day in Spain, so we spent the afternoon at the Prado Museum and the Botanic Gardens (which were right across the street from our hotel). It was a beautiful - but exhausting - day. By 6:00 in the evening, we couldn't stay awake any longer and went to bed, sleeping for 14 hours! We spent the majority of Thursday at Retiro Parque, an enormously gorgeous park right in the center of the city.
Yesterday and today, we are in Toledo (To-lay-doh), and mid-sized medieval city 30 minutes south of Madrid. We muddled our way through an on-line apartment rental in the heart of the old town and are very happy that we did. When we arrived, we were greeted by Aurora, a probably 100 year old Spanish woman who has likely never left Toledo. Aurora doesn't speak a word of English, so it was very interesting watching her walk us through the apartment. For some reason, she decided to speak mostly to me, giving long verbal directions. I, of course, couldn't understand any of it but I am fairly certain that she gave me a lot of very important information! Our charming apartment looks out into a courtyard shared with a working cloister of a convent.
Toledo is an amazing city! As it was once the capital of Spain, the buildings and cobblestone streets here are thousands of years old. Streets are only about 10 feet wide (barely wide enough for a tiny car to wiz through) and are built on rolling hills. I read that Toledo is considered by many to be the religious capital of Europe, home to the largest number of cathedrals, mosques and synagogues in a single city. We hope to see many of these beautiful sites today.