My footfalls are light on the cobbles, hair and dress blowing gently in the breeze, I make light work of the hills about town. I know these streets. Every inch of them. It's like coming home to an old friend. The memory comes from something cellular, other worldly. The sense of deja vu is calling from every fibre of my being.
This is my town.
In real life, I've never been here before. I'm in Toledo, just south of Madrid for the next two nights, bit I'm only just getting over the feeling of landing somewhere I know intimately. This is a place with which my soul resonates. I should be getting lost as I wander the streets without a map, but I don't - though I'm not sure where I am going, I end up in places that I know I've had things to do with in my past - which ever past that may be.
So far, it's been a great day. After freaking about catching the train last night after seeing that some trains I wanted to get were fully booked, I got an early start and made my way down to Atocha Renfe to get my train tickets for all of the trip. The language barrier still on my mind, I wrote down all of the trains I needed, prepared for what ever may happen. The tactic worked. The woman who served me whose English was about as limited as my Spanish had no worries decipering my ticket needs - so all of that was done by 8.15. It also gave me a very different view of a railway station at this time - in Australia, people are running around like headless chickens - here, the place is near empty.
After the short ride to Toledo at midday and a nearly as long cab ride to my hotel, I found home. Home for the next two days is a hotel down Santa Isabel Street. This is the view from my room.
After settling in I made my way out to the streets. I'm home.
Two things have helped make the day so wonderful. Firstly the rain has gone and has been replaced by a wonderful, sunny, 18 degrees. The jeans, coat and jumper are packed in the bag again - I've got around in my favorite orange dress, a pair of leggings and my trusty dunlop volleys. Happy clothes.
The other thing that's happened - my Babelfish is working a little better. Whereas over the past few days I've been nervous about the language, now I'm taking a, "just give it a go,"mentality. It's working well. Though I still wish I'd taken a Spanish class in the last few months, I'm much happier just moving about, asking for things, counting in Spanish and generally trying to walk lightly around here. I've mastered the real basics. I even asked for stamps and ice cream today - and I got them. (Not at the same time.) People seem happy that I'm trying. "You English?", normally follows my attempts at Spanish - the "Soy Australiana."gets a nod and a smile. I can't do anything more than try.
The next thing to do was explore. Having another Lucy Honeychurch moment, I shoved my Lonely Planet to the bottom of the bag and just walked, firstly to find some lunch. Finding a restaurant filled with locals I went in and asked for a table for one. Taking the lunch special, I ordered the paella and what ever the waiter thought was good, to be washed down with sangria. Though not the best meal ever, it all tasted good - and the rice puddling, drowned in cinnamon was cool.
Next misson - find out about this place that has enthralled me so. I made myself inconspicious and tagged along with a tour group to see where they would take me - as you do. We ended up at a synagogue at the bottom of the hill. The synagogue has been there since the middle ages. Walking in you're bombarded with a millenium of prayer. It's one of the most peaceful places I've ever stood in.
Then it was to a park nearby. Been here too. Have a sneaky suspicion that I was thrown down this hill for being a heretic at some stage...
The cathedral will be done tomorrow, as will the other synagogue and the mosque.
The last stop of the day was at a Templar Knights exhibition - a fascinating look at the ancient orders that used to live in the city. I bought Mac, my freemason friend, a bottle opener with the Cross of St John on it - hope he likes it - he'd love this place. I somehow think he's be resonating with it even more than I am.
After a decent lunch, dinner was a small affair. Wandering the Toledo streets in the early evening is magic. Kids playing soccer, tourists looking lost, locals making their way about, people walking dogs. On finding an open geezer bar I ordered some patatas bravas and a beer. (It's a public holiday here nd many shops are closed, and a geezer bar is where the local old guys hang out - guaranteed good beer). I was greeted with a kiss on the cheek and something Spanish from a local. He could have said anything from "Happy All Souls Day" to "Nice tits". Doesn't matter really.
After dinner and a second beer, I made my way back here. I feel safe here. I'm being guided by an inner knowing.
This is my town.
I am at peace on my return.