The expression “holy, Toledo” may not be used that often anymore, but some people forget that there’s another Toledo other than the one in Ohio. In fact, it’s probably prettier and more historically significant. At one point, the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures all existed harmoniously within the city. The food of Toledo is characterized by the Castilian-Manchego cuisine, popularized by Cervantes in Don Quixote de la Mancha.
A round-trip bus ticket from Madrid to Toledo costs €9 and can be bought directly at the bus station. The bus dropped us off at the bottom of Toledo, and we took a local bus up the hill to Plaza Zocodover. The tourist information center is located at the corner of the plaza, and you can get free maps there. Don’t get sucked into buying maps from the old man who runs the tourist shop in the bus station.
After the information center, we walked to Museo del Santa Cruz. There is no admission fee, and each level has a different exhibit. Most of El Greco’s works in the building were taken for some tour around Japan, leaving us disappointed.
After the Museo del Santa Cruz, we had lunch. Surveying a few places around town, we settled on Lizarran. It had three menú del día options: €12, €16, or €20. We both went with the €12 option. My friend started with the potaje, the potage. It had chickpeas and spinach in a tomato-based broth. The potaje was very hearty, and the overflow of chickpeas made it a good vegetarian option.
I had the fabada, a stew of pork and beans with that same tomato base. It had pinto beans and two types of pork sausages. I only wished that we were given more bread to dip into the delicious broth, but then I would also be over eating.
For the main course, my friend ordered the guiso de pollo. It was two pieces of chicken stewed in another tomato-based sauce. On the side, there were French fries and a small salad. The chicken was moist, but my friend noted that there was nothing really special about the dish.
I had the bistec de ternera, the veal, which also came with a side of French fries and a small salad. While the veal tasted fine, the piece that I was given was pretty fatty. The cook also went a little overboard with the mushroom cream sauce on top.
For dessert, my friend ordered the arroz con leche, a milk and rice pudding, which came with a generous amount of cinnamon on top. This was not liked by either of us. The pudding was too watery, and the cinnamon did not go well with it. We left most of it uneaten.
I ordered the natilla, custard, for dessert. The natilla was very familiar in taste and texture to the crema catalana that I had tried in Barcelona. The only difference was that the natilla did not have a burnt sugar crust on top. It also came with lots of cinnamon, but we both agreed that the cinnamon actually went well with the natilla. It gave the natilla extra flavor.
The service at Lizarron was extremely quick. After we finished one course, the next came within less than a minute. This was good and bad; we didn’t feel as if we were sitting around unnecessarily, but we also would have like a bit more time to digest. Portions and prices were reasonable, but the just average and sometimes unsavory food drops Lizarron’s score.
After lunch, we looked at some stores. Toledo is known for its marzipan, so we decided to stop into a store and tried a few items. Stores selling local treats are all around the city, and they mostly sell all the same things. We tried three different sweets: a yema, a Toledana, and a marzipan delicia. All of them made us feel that our first experience eating marzipan would also be our last. We thought we were eating sugary soap and couldn’t bring ourselves to eat any more after two bites each. Below are pictures of many traditional treats, most of which have marzipan.
Trying to forget our marzipan fiasco, we next went to El Museo Sefardi, a former synagogue-turned-museum that is free after 2 PM. What remains of the synagogue is only the main hall. Be warned, all the explanations in the museum are only in Spanish.
Near El Museo Sefardi, there are also great views of the river. According to a description on our map, across the river is where all the rich people live. You can see some grand houses amongst the trees.
Our last museum of the day was el Museo del Greco. The museum is free after 2 PM, but it’s small, so it can get very crowded. My favorite paintings in the museum were the ones that El Greco did of Jesus and the 12 apostles. Each person had a symbolic item and pose. Three were on exhibition in Japan; darn it! Another interesting work was the altarpiece of St. Bernardine. The saint has a melancholic expression on his face to show deep spirituality.
You’ll notice that El Greco has a unique style of painting. He has elongated figures, often delirious saints, and subjects with a sort of mystic spirituality. No one can pinpoint for sure the reasoning behind his painting style, as El Greco was not especially popular during his own time period, but today researchers believe El Greco thought that natural beauty required elongated styles and dynamic human figures. To portray certain beings as divine, El Greco utilized elongation to give them an almost supernatural aura. To me, El Greco’s use of light for this same purpose ought to be applauded as well.
Then, we decided that we needed one last food stop. We went into a store to buy some manchego cheese – deliciously soft and creamy – and a torrija. Torrijas are usually made by stores only during Semana Santa. The torrija tasted a bit like cold French toast; inside was creamy, and the outside was coated in syrup and sugar. My friend liked the torrija, but I felt that it wasn’t something I would actively order again as I thought the tough outer edges were not pleasant.
With that last snack, we walked along the river back to the bus station.
Calle Toledo de Ohio 3