Madrid to Toledo to Cordoba

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Friday, November 24th

Left Madrid about noon on Friday the 24th, just as the department stores were getting all their Christmas stuff together; very similar to the elaborate Marshall Field's Christmas decorations in Chicago. Definitely time to leave.

We thought we knew how to get out of the city and, in fact, we WERE on the 4-lane beltway leading to the turnoff for N-401 to Toledo but we got cut off just before we needed to exit to the right for the turnoff. It took us another 45 minutes of backtracking through city streets, behind buses, through residential neighborhoods, to get onto the N 401. I knew we were headed in the right direction (in general) but it wasn't the way I'd planned it.

Most of the 60-mile road to Toledo was through urban area; only toward the end did we go through some rural areas. Then it started to rain. We got to Toledo, saw a sign for the tourist office but couldn't find it. We were up in the walled city by this time, riding on slippery wet cobblestones. We parked the bikes in the rain and Eric sat with them while I went to find a hotel.

My umbrella by this time had three bad ribs to it, but it's been with me for so long that I couldn't throw it out. It didn't exactly add to the cosmopolitan effect I was looking for, however (insert snide comment from offspring here).

One of the criteria for selecting a hotel is parking. If we can have the motorcycles somewhere near the hotel and not in a public parking area, then we feel much better. However, in many of the older areas of these cities, there is no parking at all. Somehow the city planners back in the 12th century weren't on the ball. So we have to scramble to find something.

Here there is a small area right in front of the hotel that they're willing to let us use. Great. We unload the bikes, then cover them up.

The view of the cathedral a half-mile away from our hotel is wonderful, except for a series of four telephone wires running right through the middle. It's going to be hard to edit these babies out of the photo, I think. But it's raining and foggy. Still makes a good photo.

Then the bells start, every 15 minutes. These are not the wonderful bells that we've heard in France and Belgium and Netherlands, but rather a clanky kind of tone. Nothing mellifluous about this at all. In fact, it's downright ugly. The only interesting thing is that I can see the pigeons surrounding the tower take off as the bells start, then return thirty seconds after the noise stops. You'd think these pigeons would have figured out things by now.

I visit the magnificent cathedral in Toledo, with its many El Greco paintings. It's huge. My first thought is: How do they heat this place? Clearly I spent too much time at Board meetings at First Church in Hyde Park. Dick Snow of the Property Committee would be proud of me.



Sunday Nov 26th - why can't it ever be easy?

The road south from Toledo to Ciudad Real to Montoro, the N-420, was magnificent. Dry, the temperature was in the upper 50's and even sun in and out. Stopped to talk to two motorcycle cops at one rest stop. They warned us of theft in Sevilla, and not to speed there, either. They clearly would have preferred our two bikes to their old BMW ("triples, K series," I'm told by the expert travelling with me). Eric leaves me in the dust twice, even though I'm cruising around 80 mph most of the time.

Then a barricade, barring the road. But you can go around it, it's not blocked completely, and the road looks good. After five minutes of debate, we do, and follow a beautiful newly paved road with no lane markings for at least ten miles. No traffic at all, either. It's great, but a little worrisome. I expect the empty road with unfinished lane markings to stop at a cliff's edge, and me hear Eric yelling as he goes over. I've seen too many Road Runner cartoons, though. It doesn't happen.

Then it starts to get foggy as we climb a bit. Then REALLY foggy. Not a good sign. Haven't we done this before, back in France somewhere (see "Lost in Rain Cloud" chapter)? But no sheep on the road this time.

It is very foggy now. I can barely see Eric in front of me. This would be really dangerous if there were traffic around.

Then the new road ends and we turn off into a little two-lane road. This is clearly the old road, which is being replaced by the one we've just been on. We don't know which we to go, there's nobody to help us, and we start yelling at each other out of frustration, over whose fault it is that we've gotten this lost (it's never mine). Finally we backtrack to a roundabout, and I seen a sign -- Montoro, 7 kilometers away.

We follow the narrow two-lane road, the fog has mostly dissipated, and it winds down to Montoro. Montoro, we know, is only some 30 miles from Cordoba. The end is in sight.

We get through Montoro. After stopping at a gas station, I phone the hotel we've reserved at to tell them to hold the room as we're "running late". Eric loses me on the Autovia to Cordoba as the dry roads are too much a temptation for him, and he really hasn't ridden like this in weeks.

When I catch up to him, we pull into the first exit ramp for Cordoba, which is Cordoba-East. Big mistake. We should know by now: stop and ask which is the best exit to take to get into the city. It took us another hour to find the hotel because we had come in the side way from the city.

But the hotel is right next to the great mosque in Cordoba. It's all worth it.


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