I crave those sun-drenched memories. The ones where it was warm and the lighting was just right, doing something simple with good people.
Our first international trip with our oldest boy was to Madrid. It was March, and we had just a bit warmer temperatures in mind. It was fine when the sun was out, but there were many a chilly moment, including a rain-drenched wait to see the palace (which is a story for another day).
We took a day trip to Toledo, which is a short high speed Ave train ride away from the city. This particular train is also notable for being a time machine, as when you arrive in Toledo it will be the middle ages. With tourist shops. Selling things you don’t need but will find yourself at least glancing at out of the corners of your eyes. We bought the boy a t-shirt. If he had been older he would have wanted one of their finest swords (kids into the idea of knights and stuff would love this place!)
Toledo was once a powerful city, but over the centuries it found itself less the center of attention. This leads to a frozen in time mystique that is perfect for street wandering. The hills and cobblestones don’t make it effortless, especially with a stroller, but it’s more than manageable.
While there, you should visit the cathedral. There is a room that acts as a mini art museum housing a number of works by my favorite artist (El Greco.) I enjoy the use of form and color that is not modern but appeals somehow to my modern art sensibilities. I find art in small doses like this are like a good appetizer. You get a taste but don’t get full. A little art tapa. And its a good amount for kids.
Speaking of food. We needed a snack. We were probably very near starving. Toledo is known, at least in one travel guide we had with us, for a sweet treat called Mazapan. It’s a sugary almond confection, very simple but very rich. I enjoyed it with a Coke, because for some reason I appreciate the sweet on sweet combination of soda and candy. My wife was probably drinking Fanta Lemon. The boy was sticking with milk.
After purchasing the Mazapan in a friendly little shop – a box for our little family and our lovely travel companions to share – we went looking for a place to sit and enjoy the sunshine. We found a tidy simple plaza up the hill just a bit. There was a bench or two, and some nice modest trees just starting to do their spring tree thing.
Did I mention that dappled light coming through the trees makes those sun-drenched memories all the more craveable?
The plaza was all cobblestones and low walls. It was small and empty. Quiet. Far from the city streets of Madrid. Far from real life. Instant memory. It was a memory as we lived it.
Mostly we just sat and ate our snack, enjoying. Sweet. We didn’t think to buy any to take home, to try later or to give away, because we often don’t think of those things. Or maybe we thought of it. But we didn’t buy any. We ate what we had and we drank our sugary drinks and we sat as the sun smiled on us.
I’m sure the boy, striking as his memory is, does not recall that afternoon. He was ten months old. But I wonder what he might think when he next visits Toledo, maybe with his kids, with the sun warming a nice spring day. Whether it’ll feel like a memory all at once, whether he’ll have just a little something from the time before, I know I’ll never forget.
We finished our snack and wandered down the rolling hills of the modest city. It was a great day for traveling and for the family. And then we took the train/time machine back to the city for more adventure.