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Trip Report Pedraza de la Sierra. With notes on Toledo, Caceres, Jarandilla la Vera and Segovia

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In early May I spent one week in Spain with overnights in the places mentioned above. The focus of my travels, in addition to seeing some of the main sights, was food. In summary:

The trip was 7 nights, split between Toledo (2 nights); Caceres (1 night); Jarandilla la Vera (1 night); Segovia (1 night); Pedraza (2 nights).

We flew Iberia from JFK to Madrid. The food in Iberia economy class is laughably poor. Otherwise, I have no hesitation in recommending this airline as service was no better and no worse than other European or American carriers in economy class.

We arrived at Madrid's Terminal 4. This is a recently opened terminal which doubles the size of Barajas airport. It is absolutely spectacular and worth a trip to the airport from central Madrid for anyone with an interest in modern architecture. The designer was the UK's Richard Rodgers along with the Spanish firm Estudio Lamela. You can see it here:

http://www.richardrogers.co.uk/render.aspx?siteID=1&navIDs=1,6,12,1189

For anyone who needs to make a connecting flight here, keep in mind that the place is huge. There are two new terminals connected by an air train. Signs estimate the travel distance between your destination and the departure gates and in many cases, the estimated time is 20 minutes or so.

I had reserved a car through Autoeurope. An 8 day rate for the smallest automatic cost USD$673 plus about 30 Euro airport charge to be paid after return of the car. We were upgraded at no charge to a Mercedes A class small wagon-type vehicle. This car was wonderful, very comfy, and with lots of room in the trunk. The agent was apologetic that it was not the latest model although it looked brand new to me.

We arrived about 7am in Madrid and were quickly on our way to Toledo, where our first overnight was to be at Hostal Cardenal. The roads are great and there was no traffic, as this was early Sunday morning. I was using Michelin red map Castilla-La Mancha-Extremadura. This map, although recently purchased in New York, was out of date as far as route numbers. A few newer roads were not shown. Not sure what the difference is between the Michelin Red series and the Yellow but would like to know for our next trip.

The trip took about 70 minutes or so. The Hostal Cardenal is at the edge of the Cacso Historico and is virtually fitted into the old city walls with a large garden in front. There is a free parking lot in front of the Bisagra Gate (where Alfonso VI entered the reconquered city with El Cid!) and supervised parking someplace else close by. We left the car out front in the open lot, making sure to tip the self-appointed watchman who is "on duty" during the day. The hotel clerk assured me that this should be fine and it was certainly convenient. There is a bit of a schlep through the gardens to the hotel entrance with a few sets of short steps so anyone with mobility issues might not choose this accommodation. Toledo, I believe, is the seat of the Catholic church in Spain and this hotel is the former residence of the Archbishop of Toledo who became a cardinal in 1779. The hotel dates from the late 18th Century. The gardens, shaded with mulberry trees, take their inspiration from the Generalife. Our room was not large and the decoration is more austere than the public areas but it was comfortable. A short walk from the front gate of the hotel, set into the city walls, takes you to a series of escalators which rise to the edge of the historic center. Toledo is not easy to navigate for a newcomer, so make sure you have a good map and wear cushy shoes as it is hilly! Our room (115 facing the gardens) cost 106 Euro; breakfast is 7 Euro per person.

After washing up, we paid a visit to the 12th Century synagogue Santa Maria La Blanca. This is a gem, all white with horseshoe arches and Moorish tracery. There are no Jews left in Toledo and the building was later used as a Catholic church.

Before arrival I had reserved a table at the hotel's restaurant for lunch. When we arrived at 3pm the place was filled with what appeared to be local people, many celebrating family events such as first communion. The party spilled outside to the table in the garden. My partner ordered the set menu for about 20 E. which included a main dish of stewed quail. I had the roast baby lamb. Price was 53 Euro for 2 with water and La Mancha wine. The atmosphere here is wonderful and the restaurant is beautiful. The roast lamb, however, is not in the same class as that which we enjoyed a few days later around Segovia, Sepulveda, and Pedraza. For anyone with an interest in the foods of this region, Author Janet Mendel has a new book in English, "Cooking from the Heart of Spain," which covers Castilla La Mancha.

After lunch and a small walk, we rested and now, so shall I, to return soon...

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