Travel Tales and Tips – feeling old,missed trains and breathtaking Toledo views

I’m getting old. I know this because instead of being excited by the journey, I now feel like a grumpy old woman. I used to love airports, the organized chaos, the people from all over the world going to all places In the world. I used to love watching them wondering where they were going and the idea of a 14 hour flight thrilled me as the opportunity to spend more time in an aeroplane watching movies and looking at the clouds. Well, I have just barely survived a 14 hour flight followed by a 6.5 hour and then a 2.5 hour flight. Unable to sleep from the lack of leg room and concrete hard chairs, I spent my hours feeling the aches and pains of backache, picking at my food wishing the babies on board would stop crying. Then there was the stress of running around airports trying to find the right transit terminal, lining up to board the last  connection flight from Rome to Madrid only to realise they didn’t print out our boarding passes in Melbourne (my husband and I are traveling parts of Europe). I left my husband in line  and ran off to find the transit desk which was conveniently hidden right at the back of terminal behind a large crowd of people. Boarding passes printed, crisis averted. Now if I could just use the bathroom on the plane (hadn’t had time before) and get some food, I would be happy. Well, unfortunately as we hadn’t taken flight yet the water pressure hadn’t been activated so I had to ask the stewardess to help me out by pouring water over my soapy hands. I should have known that it was an unlucky omen for the flight, and my suspicions were confirmed when they lost my luggage somewhere between Rome and Madrid. Note to self: don’t fly with Alitalia again.

Finally in Madrid after almost 30 hours of travel, changing 3 planes in 3 countries, I put my university learned Spanish to good use by trying to find us the most thrifty way of getting to the old city of Toledo in Spain. After modestly blushing at the compliments of how good my Spanish is from the girls at the information desk (wouldn’t my professors be proud), I found the yellow express bus to Atocha train station and paid 10 euro for two tickets instead of the 30 euro taxi fare. I’m glad we took the bus which drove us through the beautifully decorated city centre of Madrid and were treated to an authentic traffic jam car horn concert. It was the background music to the giant Christmas  trees made entirety of lights. We got off at the train station which was also the last stop, and after some trouble found the correct ticket office. Toledo is a medium length journey of 30 mins on the express train and costs 10 euro per person each way  (I cleverly remembered to buy Return tickets). Unfortunately I was not clever enough to keep an eye on the time and the 20 minutes before departure flew by quickly while I ran around the large train station buying bottles of water,  couple of sandwiches and using the very clean and nicest bathroom I’ve seen (with a cheerful bathroom attendant-btw this costs 0.60 euro).

We ran to catch the train and threw our luggage into the scanning machine for the train station guards to check and asked for the platform for the train to  Toledo.

‘You mean the one scheduled to leave now? Platform 12, run! Run! Faster!’

So there I was running madly towards platform 12 dragging my hand luggage and shouting at my husband over my shoulder to run faster while the poor man was dragging a heavy suitcase and hand luggage. While I shouted at him to run faster the security guard was still shouting to me in Spanish ‘Run! Run faster!’

Unfortunately we could not run fast enough because the express train to Toledo closes boarding two minutes before departure. This information is written on the ticket in Spanish but I did not stop to read it in my rush to get water and food. So, if you ever catch the train to Toledo make sure you give yourself enough time to get through the security screening and you can sit in the waiting area facing the train platforms. You will also find bathrooms (not as nice as the ones just outside the train platforms area) and an overpriced kiosk where you can get a coffee and sandwiches.

Due to my inability to estimate time accurately, I left my husband guarding our luggage and ran back to the ticket office to buy another ticket to Toledo. It was the last train for the evening and left  at 9.50pm. After waiting 1.5 hours for our train we had a speedy 30 min ride and arrived at the most beautiful train station I’ve ever seen! Too dark to take pictures but I will take some on the way back to Madrid.

There are taxis stationed outside the station and it will cost almost 9 euros to get driven to the old city centre in front of the cathedral. I was following the Toledo train station guards advice to avoid getting ripped off by taxis trying to find your hotel. Depending on which hotel you stay in Toledo, look for the largest landmark near it and get dropped off there. With Google aps you can easily make your own way to the hotel and save some money.

If you have the good fortune to arrive in Toledo at night, you will be greeted by the breathtaking sight of the Cathedral’s illuminated spier reaching up into the heavens. It is also beautiful to look at during the day when there is fog and makes it look like the Cathedral reaches right up into the clouds of heaven.

Until the next blog- Merry Christmas!

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