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We took a taxi from our Toledo hotel to the train station, for the same reasons we had taken one in the opposite direction a couple of days earlier (distance, heat, terrain, luggage). This time we paused awhile longer in the station itself, as the train to Madrid wasn't available yet. It's a very nice-looking station, having been built in 1919-20 in a Mudéjar style which had reached its peak several centuries earlier. A 2005 restoration (coincidental with the inauguration of the new high-speed service to Madrid) made everything look shiny and new.

Toledo Train Station
Toledo Train Station
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Mudéjar Ceiling
Mudéjar Ceiling
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We struck our customary pose of mild boredom amongst battered luggage. Philip found Wi-Fi, and was fiddling with his smartphone, while Nella, who was feeling unwell, was content to watch the world go by. Eventually we had to stir ourselves into action, as our train arrived and became available for boarding.

Nella and Philip and Luggage
Nella and Philip and Luggage
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Madrid Train
Madrid Train
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The high-speed train trip was brief, taking about 35 minutes. We arrived at Madrid's Atocha station, completing our ten-day grand circuit through central Spain.

Approaching Atocha Station

Approaching Atocha Station
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We caught the Metro at the Atocha station and took it to the stop in front of the Hotel Regina, where we'd stayed on our arrival in Spain. This time, however, we weren't staying in this hotel, but in the Hotel Quatro Puerta del Sol, a short distance down the Calle de Sevilla.

Hotel Quatro, Puerta del Sol

Hotel Quatro, Puerta del Sol
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After the short walk and the check-in procedure, Nella announced that she would be out of commission for a while, and that Philip and I should go entertain ourselves. She also asked that we see if we could find certain medications.

This is as good a place as any to insert a Travel Tip: Whenever travelling to Europe (or to any other country outside the U.S.), do not assume that you will be able to procure medicines you might need. It is best to bring along a small supply of any medicine you can imagine possibly needing. This should be obvious for prescription medicines, but also applies to medicines that can be easily bought over the counter in the U.S. Other countries do not have CVS stores, Walmarts or Targets. They do have pharmacies (in Europe, these stores usually have a sign with a green cross), but in some countries (like Spain, for instance), over-the-counter medicines are not displayed on racks for customers to just pick up and take to the cashier. You have to talk to someone who may not know English very well, or who may be unfamiliar with American brand names, and you might end up with a medicine you don't recognize that has an effect which isn't quite what you expect. For this reason it is advisable to bring along small supplies of things like pain relievers (Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin), cold remedies (Sudafed, Mucinex, Robitussin), digestive remedies (Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, Zantac), allergy remedies (Claritin, Benadryl) or motion-sickness preventers (Dramamine, Bonine). Ideally bring them in pill form to save on space and weight, and to avoid potential leakage issues (this might not be possible with some medicines).

I decided to look into the medication thing before considering entertainment. I found a green-cross store and talked to the person in charge of dispensing medications, whose English wasn’t the best (but better than my Spanish). After some discussion I purchased something which I took back to the hotel and gave to Nella. It turned out not to work very well.

By this time it was late in the afternoon, but we determined that the Almudena Cathedral was still open (and would be until 9 PM). Philip had not yet seen the cathedral, so he and I headed west.

I've already presented a page on the Almudena Cathedral, which we'd visited on our 2010 trip, and I don't have much to add. To review, the Almudena Cathedral is quite new as cathedrals go, not having been consecrated until 1993 (by Pope John Paul II). Construction had begun in 1879 (the Toledo Archdiocese had blocked the idea until this time, wanting to maintain spiritual supremacy), but was delayed by funding shortages and the Spanish Civil War.


Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral
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Cathedral Dome
Cathedral Dome
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The cathedral sports a number of bronze doors created by the Spanish artist Luis Antonio Sanguino de Pascual in 2000 and 2001. Here are a few of them:

Consecration Door, detail

Consecration Door, detail
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Columbus/Explorer Door
Columbus/Explorer Door
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Cathedral/Virgin/Child Door
Cathedral/Virgin/Child Door
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As far as layout and basic features, the Almudena Cathedral has everything one would expect to find in a traditional cathedral. But it's very much a 20th-21st Century church.

Chapels
Chapels
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Windows and Gallery
Windows and Gallery
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Nave and Organ
Nave and Organ
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Main Altar
Main Altar
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Inside the Dome
Inside the Dome
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Jesus with Cross and Crown
Jesus with Cross and Crown
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One of the few exceptions to the recentness of the artwork can be found at the epistle end of the transept (for landlubbers, "epistle end" means the right, or starboard end of the transept as viewed from the base of the church; the end to port is known as the "gospel" end), where the Altar of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena is situated. The altarpiece and Virgin figure are 15th Century. Below the altar is the tomb of Maria de la Mercedes, Queen Consort of Alfonso XII, who died in 1878 at the age of 18 from tuberculosis after helping to secure the property for the cathedral.

Transept Epistle from Transept Gospel
Transept Epistle from Transept Gospel
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Altar of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena
Altar of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena
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Metal Bouquet

Metal Bouquet
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It doesn't take very long to see what there is to see at the Almudena Cathedral, and we exited the place, having accomplished this to our satisfaction. Across from the cathedral to the north is Spain's Royal Palace, or Palacio Real, and we walked over for a closer look at it. We didn't go in, as it was late and we were getting hungry. Again, the Palacio Real has been covered in a page from our 2010 trip, and you should go there to learn more about it.

Palacio Real from Cathedral
Palacio Real from Cathedral
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Palacio Real
Palacio Real
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We walked around to the north side of the palace to take a quick look at the Sabatini Gardens. The gardens are named after Francesco Sabatini, an Italian architect who designed the royal stables that had occupied the space before it was turned into a garden in the 1930's. The gardens remained attached to the palace, meaning the public was not allowed to visit them until after the death of Francisco Franco. Juan Carlos I opened them to the public in 1978. We decided not to go into the gardens, for the same reasons that we didn't visit the palace. Apparently there are many interesting plants (duh), as well as pools and several statues (mostly moved here from the palace, which had become overpopulated with them).

Jardines de Sabatini

Jardines de Sabatini
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We did pass through the Plaza de Oriente, east of the palace. It also has a lot of statues, some of which you can see on the Palacio Real page. Here's the back side of the equestrian statue of Philip IV. You're welcome.

Monument to Philip IV, Fountain

Monument to Philip IV, Fountain
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On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for dinner at a Thai restaurant, where we also picked up some won ton soup for Nella.

Bangkok Thai Restaurant, Calle del Arenal

Bangkok Thai Restaurant, Calle del Arenal
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On returning to the hotel, we found that Nella was still not feeling well and was not enjoying herself. There was little we could do besides extend sympathy and won ton soup. Hopefully it helped a little.

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