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You can lose yourself wandering along Toledo’s pretty, cobbled streets. In fact, I did. Several times. Navigating in general, never mind windy, narrow streets, will never be my strong point, but at least Toledo is small enough to never be properly lost.
So what brought me to Toledo, the former capital of the Spanish empire? Truth was, I was eager to see more of Spain while I was in Madrid, and Toledo is just a paltry 30 minutes away by fast train.
Usually pre-planning, researching all the local hotspots is my forte, but Toledo was even more last-minute than my trip to Madrid so I let it slip. Anyway, it appeared that a lack of guidebook flicking and online browsing is bien when it comes to this UNESCO heritage site. You can’t walk a couple of hundred yards without coming across a grand mosque, church or synagogue, and Toledo is the kind of place that just calls for an aimless wander, ice-cream in hand, along the web of streets taking in the beautiful churches, the mesmerising views and stopping to soak up the rays in the plaza once in a while.
And besides wandering these labyrinths (and taking a peek inside the churches), there’s very little to actually do in Toledo. So expect to be just be bowled by this very attractive city.
However, there is one big drawback to visiting Toledo and that’s us – the tourists. There’s just too many roaming around to really enjoy it for what it is. Think dozens of tourist groups with their guides holding up umbrellas and then add some. In such a tiny place – the city can be crossed from one side to the other in 45 minutes – the crowds become unbearable at times.
Advice: Best to get off-the-beaten track and find some paths leading away from the key sites.
More pictures below.
London has more than its fair share of utterly captivating buildings. From St Paul’s Cathedral to the Tower of London and Westminster, many of the capital’s key emblems sit in every guidebook and have been seen by every Londoner. But there’s some that sit quietly under-the-radar like Wilton’s Music Hall.
I like to think I’m a teeny bit in-the-know when it comes to London’s cool hotspots, but only heard about this performance venue last month when I was flicking through an old Time Out book from 2007. As soon as I read about this grand building, I had to pay a visit.
And that visit was Wednesday after I called up to buy a pair of return tickets to the sold-out dance performance of Dracula. (Happy me).
Wilton’s Music Hall is somewhat off-the-beaten track. Tucked away down an alleyway ten minutes from Aldgate East, it’s not the easiest of venues to find, but heck is it special. You would be forgiven for walking past this building, decrepit and shabby on the outside but that’s part of its charm.
Inside lies two bars, both with exposed brickwork (created long before that decor suddenly became in vogue), and of course, the stage itself.
With iron pillars, periodic features and half-derelict walls, it reminded me somewhat of Miss Havisham’s decrepit mansion.
Wilton’s Music Hall is arguably the most atmospheric place to watch the superb and eerie dance version of Dracula, which is only running at the venue for one more week before it extends into a nationwide tour.
Sit up in the balcony to stare at the building in all of its glory.
As well as catching performances, you can pop into Wilton’s Music Hall for a drink or take one of the weekly history tours of the building.
Oh Madrid, you were just wonderful. Here’s a glimpse of what I got up to when I jetted off to Spain’s super-cool capital.
Gawd, it’s good to be back in Madrid. This was another rather impromptu (what else?) trip from me. I didn’t realise how much I needed a break until I dumped my suitcase at my friend N’s, who lives smack bang in the middle of the city, right next to the beautiful Palace (I have so much envy right now), and skipped over to foodie market San Miguel Mercado. Delighted to be there I made straight for the bar, paid €2 for a sangria, bought olives and cheese and spinach croquettes, and perched myself on a high stool overlooking the plaza. And let out a big sigh of relief. No freelance work, no major sights to urgently see (this was my second time here), six days to do as I please; Madrid was a break I realised I seriously needed.
So far it’s mainly consisted of: Sangrias, tapas, jogging by the river, siestas, a day trip to beautiful Toledo, meeting with a friend I hadn’t seen for NINE years (we met in Thailand in 2004), a press visit to a oh-so-relaxing hammam and a few cultural sights such as the stunning Egyptian temples and the Palace.
The weather has been perfect; it’s been about 25C everyday. And, the brilliant thing is, I’ve got two more days left to wander round with no set plan. I call that heaven.