Madrid is nearly dead smack in the middle of Spain, so naturally, day trips from the capital are easy both in terms of closeness and bus/train schedules.
There are two main options for traveling in Spain — the bus and the train. Recently, a high-speed train was added, and while it gets you places far faster than traditional transport, it is a bit pricey.
The bus was the best option for me — not only was it pretty inexpensive, but it also gave me the opportunity to see the countryside of Spain (the high-speed train is underground, so gazing out the window affords you nothing).
The week between VaughanTown programs, I spent most of my time in Madrid, hanging out in the city with Anthony and Emma. But, two of the days I traded the bustling city and packed Metro for the more peaceful towns of Toledo and Segovia.
I didn’t really plan either trip. I went to the bus station early Tuesday morning (the wrong bus station first, of course), and purchased my ticket (in Spanish, at a kiosk … I was really proud).
The bus from Madrid to Toledo is fairly quick — maybe 90 minutes — and the drive is magnificent.
I sat on the bus — the first seat since that’s where you see everything — and was thrilled when I saw the town crawling up the hillside and the powerful Catedral.
Toldeo, located in the Castilla-La Mancha region, is packed with history. Walking down the winding streets, you can stumble upon ancient synagogues, Roman walls and more.
I got off the bus and looked up, up, up to the buildings rising above my head. I decided to wing it — no map — I could see exactly where I wanted to go way up top the hill, I just needed to get there.
I walked around Toledo for hours, exploring the old narrow streets, wandering into stores, standing at the top of the hill, jaw agape, staring out into the brilliant green plains.
Admitedly, it would have helped if I had a tour guide, but I like to think I saved the tour guide for when it was really necessary — Segovia.
I hadn’t noticed the mountains surrounding Madrid before my adventure to Segovia. I had seen them, but they never seemed quite so picturesque as they did they day I sat on the La Sepulveda bus as it powered down the highway to Segovia.
Out my window, I could see perfectly the snow-capped mountains looming over the city. Then, we were next to the mountains. And then, we were in them.
The sun had disappeared as soon as we hit the mountains. Clouds rolled off the jagged tops and plummeted down the slopes, chilling me inside the warm confines of the bus.
I watched as the outdoor temperature gauge in the bus dropped from 14 to five to four to three and thanked my lucky stars I had placed my fleece next to the heater the night before and had the idea to grab my jacket … just in case.
When I got off the bus a little more than an hour later, I was happy to be at least greeted warmly by JC, a student taught by Jess and Deanna at a previous VaughanTown.
They had e-mailed introductions to us earlier in the week and JC had so kindly volunteered to show me around his home town in Castilla y Lyon.
Segovia is a remarkable city known for three main attractions — El Acueducto, the remains of a Roman aqueduct that cuts right into the heart of town; Alcazar, a gothic castle perched atop a hill that draws comparisons to Cinderella’ castle; and the grandest cathedral in the region, Catedral.
Having JC as my private tour guide and new friend was amazing. He had taken care of everything — reservations made for lunch, a complimentary entrance to Alcazar, a hike down to the bottom of the town to look up at the castle and even coffee in the afternoon.
Suffice to say, I slept nearly the entire two-hour bus ride home.
The next time I would be on a bus was Sunday en route to Monfrague … enough time for me to get back into Madrid life and then sadly exit it once more.