|Our last day in Somiedo we waited for the bus. We cleaned and packed from the room where we had been resident for two weeks and by 11am we were ready to go. On the bus at 5.30pm. Due to the remoteness of Somiedo there's only one bus a day heading north so we spent the day either sat by the river or in the cafe - where the owner had luke-warmed to us - by the meadow. There was a resignation of sadness of leaving competing with an itch to get moving onwards.
At 5.31pm the bus arrived, we boarded and watched out the window as the mountains slunk away and we were heading back to Oviedo and the rugged coast. By 8pm Laura and I made our way to the pension for the evening weighed down with our rucksacks, disoriented by the busy crowds doing Saturday night shopping. Oviedo seemed like a post match Murrayfield crowd in comparison to Somiedo town square and it's crowd consisting of a sleepy dog. Randomly, we were also stuck by the sheer number of sweet shops and patisseries. Getting to the pension, we dumped our stuff and went out to eat, choosing a tasty Byron Burger style hamburger joint which being in a big city was able to provide.
The next morning we had only a couple of hours till our train to Toledo via Madrid. There was just enough time to visit the park, grab a coffee, punch Woody Allen in the face for marrying his adopted daughter (see photos) and realise we had forgotten nearly every food store/supermarket would be shut on a Sunday so we would mostly be eating bakery goods for lunch on the train.
At the station, we queued at our platform and got on a comfortable train which whipped us back through the southern mountains, past dramatic peaks, across the plains and lonely castles on small hillocks and through the line of hills that guard the approach north of Madrid.
In Madrid we swapped mainline stations, fairly easily (with the help of the man in seat 61) and got to Madrid Atocha where we had our luggage scanned, ate varying salads (mine was nice, Laura's was poisonous) and then got the thirty minute train to Toledo. Again, the train was comfortable, relaxed, just generally nice and it wasn't long before we were at the historic station of Toledo.
If Oviedo was a change of pace, Toledo was something different again. An old city perched on a hill besieged by coach loads of tourists, the city walls made redundant by a system of Trojan escalators that ferried tourists from the coach parks outside the walls and delivered them back out above ground into the heart of the old city.
Laura and I walked the twenty five minutes from the station, in full backpacker mode, up the hill into the heart of old town where we had instructions to pick up the keys for our room from a local restaurant via a free glass of wine.
Our room was in a building above a very fancy restaurant in the heart of Toledo's historic centre and the rooms small balconies looked down into a narrow street which we could probably have been able to touch the opposite building if we both didn't have a mistrust of hotel balcony rails.
The hotel accomodation was really a flat rather than a room with sofa and kitchen but did primarily feel like just a flat above a fancy restaurant. There wasn't any staff really and only one other couple staying at the same time so we had the bizarre experience of eating breakfast in very fancy but also very deserted surroundings. Breakfast was tasty though if not a little random, the fruit was so perfectly ripe, the bread amazingly fresh and one day we even got fancy gold leafed chocolate mousse which we suspected was leftovers from the previous night dinner service.
The first day in Toledo we went back out onto the historic streets, heading for the cathedral past throngs of tourists and gangs of priests loitering on street corners. On the way to the cathedral we saw the museum of siege engines and strangely Laura agreed we should go and have a look. We ended up buying entry tickets that also gave us access to the Toledo witches museum, the Toledo torture museum and the Toledo templars museum.
The siege museum was pretty much what you would expect, lots of models of catapults, rams, siege towers and trebuchet and explanations of the physics that drove them. We also got to pose in old dungeons just for kicks too.
Then, sat outside the cathedral wondering whether we could justify paying twelve euros to see the inside of a big church, Laura found mention of the Manchego cheese museum which for only four euros included wine and well, manchego.
We headed straight there, met the friendly hostess, read the exhibition panels politely but really our hearts were just on a plate of cheese and wine, which once panels were read, was provided. The lesson I learnt was manchego cheese, despite being sheep's cheese, isn't horrible. Quite a startling sentence re-reading that now too. We got three maturities of the cheese, some red wine, some quince and a post cheese tapas and then politely, thoughtfully, scoffed the lot.
A lot of the remainder of the day was spent on a terrace cafe reading our books, trying to pet a stray cat, enjoying mid twenties weather and the view across the distant plains of La Mancha, only broken by me deciding I hadn't been touristy enough and panic buying a bag of marzipan shapes and two Don Quixote fridge magnets.
And a visit to the Witches museum which seemed to be a collection of fake dissected animals in jars, a variety of herbs and plants and then a few parts of animals glued together to look like seagull mouse demons or some other such trash. It was, even from the point of view of someone who has read books that contain witches, a load of old bollocks (similar to the old bollocks which also seemed to have been glued to the feathery mouse demon figurine on display).
The second day we got up and did our first non-handwash at a local laundry. The sense of achievement was matched by the sense of satisfaction I got after smelling my underpants. We went back to the terrace, tried to attract the attentions of the local stray cat again and then read some more and enjoyed some sun some more.
We decided to use our tickets bought yesterday to also go to the torture museum, thinking they'll be a macabre interest - like going to see a wallet made our of Hare's (from Burke and Hare's) skin at the Edinburgh police museum. Instead, we both left fairly traumatized after seeing a range of displays objects showing early torture and inquisition methods, only the fact we had not paid to go into the cathedral the previous day and contribute to more thumb screws for the gangs of roving priests made us feel better. That and a beer in a beautiful and peaceful courtyard followed by using my birthday present from my brother and sister-in-law to buy tickets to the 11,000 seater stadium in Malaga to watch Euroleagues basketball.
In the evening we made use of the hotel roof terrace to drink expensive drinks and watch the bats feeding across the rooftops of old Toledo, then went to a Laura chosen tapas restaurant which was really tasty, paid for as a birthday present by my brother and sister-in-law as Laura's birthday present. Laura and I tasted four dishes then rated them. Laura's favourite was fried green tomatoes under goats cheese, mine was more unsurprisingly steak in a bun.
The next day, we upped, packed and heading down to the station before the thirty minute train back to Madrid. We had the best part of a couple of hours in Madrid so went to find lunch for the afternoon train journey before fleeting the crazy fast paced streets back to the train station to wait. It should be mentioned, Madrid Atocha railway station is like a botanical glasshouse with huge trees, palms, ivys and regular sized terrapins. So we sat here for an hour before our platform was called twenty minutes before departure and we realised we now had to queue through a fifteen minute baggage security check before being able to reach out platform which made it exciting. But unsurprisingly, as pro backpackers now, we made the train, which was a thing of beauty, huge comfy seats and an updating information sign informing us of the train speed which went up to 270kph and the temperature outside in La Mancha which went up to 30 degrees.
And now we're in the exciting coastal city of Malaga. Malaga and the basketball warrants their own entry however at midday today we're on a bus to Almunecar where we're working on a farm for a month so blogging had to wait and with only a satellite internet connection in the farm due to its rural setting, another entry may not be forthcoming until next weekend.
Sorry for the rushed entry but the olive harvest/playing with the farm dog awaits.