I’m all for slow travel. I am. But the truth is, I’m not sorry for my weekend trips. I’ve already written my strong defense for weekend trips – I love ’em! – and my summer weekend trip to Spain was no less amazing.

I admit, I usually jam-pack my short trips in an attempt to see all that I can, but not this time. Traveling with my bohemian cousin and staying at a friend’s place in the city completely changed my travel pace. We were taking it slow, and it couldn’t have been better.

Toledo

Though we only had three full days in Spain, we decided to take a day trip to Toledo anyway, taking advantage of the time our friend was at work to do touristy things. Slow travel aficionados are likely thinking, “A day?! To understand all of Toledo?!?” But I don’t pretend to have understood all of Toledo.

Of course there’s no way to truly know the city in a few hours, but we got a feel. We toured quietly, politely and curiously. In our few hours in the city I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost again and again (we should have bought a map). I enjoyed the architecture. I enjoyed testing out my burgeoning Spanish. I enjoyed the view from the top of the library that we stumbled upon, the chat with the storekeeper about Toledo’s history with swords and the multiple beer stops taken during the day. We went to the Alcazar and read about the town’s history. We navigated school groups on small trains and then got out of there during the heat of the day, when the crowds of tourists were swelling.

Toledo, Spain

Framed view from the library windows.

 

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Toledo steel is known as being uncharacteristically hard. The city itself is famous for traditional sword-making and steel-working since about 500 BC.

 

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Toledo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage. Also for its historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures, which you can see in the language and architecture.

 

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Loved the Toledan architecture


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Madrid

It’s easier to travel slow when you’re traveling with a resident of the place. We didn’t waste time getting lost on public transportation. We knew the most direct and most beautiful routes. We saw the major plazas and monuments then went to get tapas at the most popular place in Madrid’s most hipster neighborhood, Malasaña. I was hoping for a splash of color and sun in my life, compared to Milan’s notoriously gray city life, and I definitely got it! The lifestyle was laid back, with all the amenities of a first world, first class country. Perfect to take it slow in style.

Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the third largest city in the European Union, behind only London and Berlin. With nearly 7 million people in the major metropolitan area, the streets are clean and the public transportation excellent. The city continues to evolve, making the gems of its past even more beautiful.

 

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The vibrant Plaza Mayor

 

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Souvenir shops left and right.

 

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A big part of what “slow travel” meant for us! Coming from Milan, I was pleasantly surprised at the prices in Madrid. They were fair, not astronomical.

 

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We spent an entire afternoon on our last day lounging on a blanket in the Parque del Retiro. Formerly the grounds of Philip IV’s palace, it’s Madrid’s most popular park and the largest park in central Madrid – and the perfect resting spot!

 

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A blanket and a park – the perfect way to travel slow


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There’s so much more to see, do and understand in Madrid, we barely skimmed the surface. Still, with just a weekend trip it’s silly to expect much more. We had three days to soak in the city life, to marvel in the sun, the colors and the atmosphere. We saw what we could, but left plenty of time to stroll, sit and rest. Our slow travel was a mindset. Though we didn’t have a week or more, we took what we could get of Madrid until we can visit her again.

The truth is, we don’t always have the luxury to take long trips. To truly travel slow in such a short amount of time, I travel mindfully, read and research the history and culture beforehand and try to remember that I’m just seeing a glimpse of the city while I’m there.

 

Check out my favorite photo essays from some my other short trips:

weekend road trip through Val d’Orcia, Tuscany
Just two days in London
And an interactive map: Florence in 8 Hours.

 

 

 

Written by ginamussio

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