Madrid and Toledo

Hi folks,

A word about jamon (ham). The Spanish probably make the best in the world. We can't really call it ham because it bears almost no resemblance to American ham. Sorry, Italia, but pata negra or Jamon Iberico de bellota (from black pigs fed on acorns) and possibly even Serrano ham is better than proscuitto. In Madrid there are many cafes with dozens, even hundreds of jamon hanging from their rafters. At prices up to $90 a pound (for pata negra), that is quite an investment.

A guide book we read said the Spanish craze for pork products started in the Middle Ages when eating jamon and pork or hanging one in view of your threshold, signaled you were a true Christian - definitely not a Jew or Muslim. Torquemada, don't look at me!! Somewhat like before we went into that crazy war and many Americans flew the flag from their cars, houses and anywhere they could.

This shop is called the Museo de Jamon.

Well, whatever its possibly ludicrous origins, the Spanish have developed their jamon into a thing of beauty. It is nutty, rich and an absolutely melt in your mouth burst of complex flavors.

Took a little break from Madrid and went on a day trip to Toledo. The fast train from Madrid now gets you there in 35 minutes and costs about $20 round trip.

One of the old gates guarding the bridge leading to Toledo.

The climb up the hill. We later found out there are escalators; a series of about 8 of them, which take you up and down the hill. We took them down, and actually with my sore knee, it is easier to climb up than down.

Truth be told, Toledo was a little too squeaky clean for us. The whole town looked as if it had just been sand-blasted. There were not hordes of tourists, as it is winter, but the town sure looked like they were gearing up for the influx.

Looking over the other side of Toledo.

Spent the rest of our time in Madrid going to the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums, both amazing museums, similar to the Louvre. The first time for Don and me. I had been through Madrid before, but had been feeling a bit ill and tired and so skipped the Prado. I was traveling with two other 19 year olds, and one of my traveling companions at the time, Erica, had the energy to go. She came back and admonished Deborah and me. Of course, she was right. One should drag oneself to the Prado, even if at death's door, if that is your only chance to see it.

An odd thing about both these Spanish museums; it seems as if these masterpieces, and they have many, enter the Spanish collections, and sort of disappear into a black hole, as far as American audiences are concerned. Don and I were both shocked that we had never seen many of these pieces before, not even in art history books. Neither allows photos, so unfortunately, we can't show you any of what we are talking about, although we did buy a few posters. 

One side of the royal palace. I didn't find the palace itself all that photo-worthy.


Era and Don