Sciences Po winter break: day 8.
My final destination on my whirlwind week-long backpacking tour of Europe was a country I’ve actually never been to before: Spain.
It’s not that I haven’t been interested in visiting Spain. But each time I’ve visited Europe for a significant period of time (that is, the summer after my sophomore year and my junior spring), most of my travels have taken me in an eastbound direction, towards Central and Eastern Europe. Spain has just not ended up being a convenient stop, and it’s been too far away for a weekend or a day trip.
And there actually wasn’t anything significantly different now from those previous trips about the direction of my travels; the meaningful difference ended up that I had a free place to stay in Spain. My friend, Emma, was studying abroad in Toledo and living with a host family, which meant I had free lodging that I could take advantage of.
But it wasn’t just me who was going to make the most of a study abroad living situation — Emma was also planning to come visit me in Paris and stay in my apartment. Long story short, it didn’t end up happening — but I’ll get to that later.
Toledo was one of the most unique European cities I’ve visited — which is saying something, considering I had just come from Venice, which was also one of the most unique European cities I’ve ever visited. For one, Toledo was geographically different — it was hilly, with twisty roads that wound their way back and forth up and down the landscape. It reminded me of some of the scenes from Lord of the Rings — maybe not the Shire, but perhaps Minas Tirith, with the way the towers and roads seemed to be a part of a mountain. It wasn’t the most fairytale-esque of anywhere I’ve ever been, but it was the most fantasy-esque.
And Toledo was warm! It was probably 65 degrees and sunny in February, and even though the winter in Paris was milder than what I was used to in South Bend, I was still shocked with how beautiful the weather was.
It was a perfect day for a hike, which is how I ended up seeing so much of the surrounding countryside. I would have loved to have been able to spend more time there exploring the hills and valleys and some of what looked like ancient ruins scattered along the path.
We even took a little picnic of wine and cheese and bread up to the overlook, which is where I got these beautiful pictures of Toledo looking like Minas Tirith. It also felt lovely to stretch my legs and get some actual physical exercise in. I wasn’t able to workout at all the whole week (not that I was necessarily keeping to a strict regimen while I was at Sciences Po), and it was great to get my heart rate up a little.
After our hike, we took the zipline across the river to get back to town. Then, we took a short break for some food and to rest up before the night’s festivities.
Once again, I dressed in my red dress, blue coat, and sparkly mask, exactly what I had worn while I was in Venice. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have another costume, and though I did have a leopard print shirt that I could’ve feasibly used as a cat costume, I thought my masquerade ensemble was more suited for the occasion.
I’m glad I got to go out for a night during Carnival since my friends and I were too tired to go out in the evening when we were in Venice. Toledo may not have been as famous for their Carnival festivities as Venice, but it was still a lot of fun! There was live music, a parade, drinks, and dancing — though I do wish I could’ve understood some of the Spanish to have at least a little bit of a clue what was going on.
I think my favorite part of the night was watching people in their costumes go by. It was a different kind of a costume than what I saw in Venice. In Venice, everyone was dressed in historical gowns and wigs and Phantom of the Opera-style masks, while in Toledo, people were wearing essentially Halloween costumes. I saw plenty of Elsas and Darth Vadars and Hulks. I also saw a few people in blackface, which I could’ve done without.
And thus ended my eight day tour of Europe. I was actually there until the following day, Sunday, and then flew back to Paris in the afternoon. This was the last photo I took before I headed for the bus station to take me back to Madrid to hop on the metro to take me all the way through the city and back to the Madrid airport to take a plane back to the Paris Beauvais airport to take a shuttle back to Paris to take the metro back to my apartment at the Porte d’Orléans. It was a suitably long day of traveling to conclude a long week of traveling.
Turtleneck: Vintage (thrifted, Street Scene Vintage)
Turtleneck: See above
Coat: A vintage shop in Budapest (thrifted)