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Trip Report San Sebastian, Segovia, and, Holy Toledo, Is It Hot!

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My husband and I (on either side of 40, I won't say which is which) are back from a week and a half in Spain. We had traveled to Spain a few years ago and spent time in Madrid and Seville. This time we traveled to San Sebastian, Segovia, and Toledo.

...sorry that this report is as long as it is. I meant to only write a few paragraphs.

We flew in and out of Madrid. Upon landing in Madrid, we immediately rented a car and drove to Burgos to spend the night. Leaving the airport and driving the highway was a lot less stressful than we'd imaged it would be, but I'm really glad we had the sense to stop in Burgos (2.5 hours of driving) rather than attempt to drive all the way to SS that first day.

We stayed in the Landa Hotel outside of Burgos. We had a pleasant time and enjoyed an easy lunch of tapa-like foods in the bar's patio. The hotel and the customer service is definitely of a different time. (Our bags were carried to the room -- all of them by one man, all at once -- I desperately wanted to help!) Generally speaking, the hotel and restaurants were comfortable and peaceful. My only complaint was that the spectacular pool was closed due to a wedding. We had one of our best meals in Spain in their restaurant.

Instead of waiting for the pool to reopen the following morning, we packed up the car and headed to Burgos to tour the cathedral. It was a Sunday morning and the traffic was light in and around the city. We parked in one of the underground parking garages (having previously removed all items from the visible interior of the vehicle) and crossed our fingers. (Btw, we never had any problems with theft or any negative experiences of the sort.) Burgos was a really nice surprise! There was a large pedestrian street leading to the cathedral lined with cafes and shops. If I'm in the area again, I'll be sure to spend more time in the city.

After a visit to the cathedral and a quick stop in a sidewalk cafe, we hit the road for San Sebastian! The drive out of Burgos was uneventful and the traffic was light and easy. I spent my time staring at fields of sunflowers and reminding my husband not to speed. <smile> After a couple hours driving, we traveled through a 3.5 km tunnel and we arrived in a green, mountainous landscape! Our jaws dropped and we gasped at the beauty of the countryside.

Know that there are tolls. I'm not sure, but I think we paid at least 60 E during the entire trip.
The rest of the drive into SS went pretty well. The traffic did get get a little heavy and we missed some turns to the hotel, but all in all, driving in SS on a Sunday really wasn't bad. (I'll take SS to Boston any day!)

We booked four nights at the Hotel de Londres and truly enjoyed the hotel. Great location and a great room (attic room with a large sea view patio), but (no surprise) firm beds. ;)

We took the San Sebastian Food pintxos tour that first evening -- highly recommended -- but don't skip lunch! I went to the tour hungry and ended up drinking too much wine for the amount of food we consumed at the start of the tour. I don't remember much about the last hour of the tour.

Speaking of pintxos: Delicious! But I quickly learned to eat at less popular times to avoid the crush. (The crowds of people didn't bother my husband, but I don't enjoy being pushed and bumped while trying to eat.)

We were lucky to enjoy bright sunshine on three of the four days in SS. The beach and sea were huge draws for me, and I would have been disappointed if the weather hadn't cooperated. The sea was chilly but refreshing in the heat. The roped-off swimming area was huge and there were dozens and dozens of people swimming out to the platforms or swimming "laps" between the buoys. The beach had lifeguards who patrolled on red kayaks. As a swimmer I found this to be pretty close to paradise.

After four nights in SS -- even with the amazing weather -- we were ready for something different. Since we hadn't toured the towns around Madrid on our last visit, and because we planned our trip during a cold New Hampshire winter, we decided to spend a night in Segovia and two nights in Toledo. (Finding a cache of credit card reward nights for these two cities didn't hurt either!)

A note about what to wear in San Sebastian:

Wear whatever you look good in. Seriously. We saw it all. However, in the heat of summer, women wore a lot of light dresses and shorts and men wore long shorts and polo shirts (preferably close fitted with patterns or large logos). I wore long-ish shorts, capris, skirts. I'm thrilled to say that the travel-friendly "hiking-wear" fabric is getting more popular. I brought a couple of pairs with me and got a lot of wear out of them.
We spent one night at the parador just outside of Segovia. I really enjoyed the parador. The room was dated and the beds were firm (like *every* other hotel), but there was a small balcony overlooking the city in the distance. The pool was a big plus and surprisingly the water was chilly.

For dinner that evening, we got a cab into the city (wise choice) and were dropped off at the restaurant Jose Maria. After spending the last few days eating in bars, it was a luxury to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal. We had a cheese and jamon starter, I was craving veggies and got a plate of grilled vegetables and my husband ordered the garlic soup (Castillian soup?), I had the sole (delicious!) and my husband dared to have the suckling pig. When in Segovia... They served us a bottle of their house wine and we ate and drank like kings. We waddled out to the main square and walked around a bit before catching a cab back to the hotel.

The next morning we got up early and drove into the city around 8:30 and got some great pictures of the aqueduct and historic center before the heat and crowds set in.

We packed up and left Segovia for a quick stop in Avila. In truth, after Segovia, Avila was a little anti-climatic. The highlight of the town itself was when we popped into a tiny local bar and got a plate of food from the counter top hot plate (grilled peppers, sausages, etc.) and two bottles of water. Cost? 5.50 E. The experience? Priceless.
After a quick stop to snap some photos of the remarkable city wall, off we went to Toledo. We arrived at the Hilton outside of town in the late afternoon and immediately hit the pool for some R&R. After an hour or so of piercing heat, we napped and around 9:00 got a cab for the city. At the recommendation from the front desk staff, we got a table at La Abadia. It was an experience! I speak some Spanish and the waiter spoke English and together we pieced together a meal. I wish I'd brought my phone with the FoodDictionary app with me. There were a lot of words I didn't know on the menu.

Most interesting about that evening were the lack of people in the city. The streets around the restaurant were dark and completely empty. We didn't venture back to the city the next night and instead ate at the hotel.

The following morning we, again, caught a cab into town to take pictures and explore while the temps were cooler. I really recommend taking advantage of the cool mornings during the summer months. We bought tickets to the cathedral and were wowed by the expanse of the building -- especially in the cramped city of Toledo! We've seen enough huge European cathedrals to last us a lifetime, so we skipped the audio tour and got the highlights from Rick Steves' book. The highlights of Toledo were eating at another local bar and discovering the "fruit" marzipan of Santo Tome. Can you tell that we love our food? ;)

We spent the final night in Madrid at the Hotel Europa right on the Puerta del Sol. The room was fantastic with two windows opening to the plaza. We ate twice at the hotel in the outdoor cafe and enjoyed it all.

We finished off the trip with a quick trip to the Chocolatería San Ginés. Funny story: We were up early that morning to pack and get ready for our 7:00 cab to the airport. As we attempted to leave the hotel to visit the 24-hour cafe at 5:30, we were grilled by the front desk employee about where we thought we were going, that nothing was open, and how we should go back to bed. After a little convincing, he unlocked the door for us and we were relieved to be let back in to retrieve our suitcases. <smile>

It really was a great trip. We loved SS. At one point we asked ourselves, how soon can we make it back here? I'm glad the weather cooperated and we didn't feel the need to fill our time in the area with side trips. We really needed the relaxation. I'm glad that I've experienced Toledo, Segovia, and Avila, but I doubt we'll make any effort to go back anytime soon. And while walking the hot streets of Toledo, we decided that next year's vacation will be Scotland! ;)

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