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Treasure-Find in Spain by Lu Sobredo


By Lu Sobredo

The meshing of the modern and of the medieval. That is Toledo, Spain. That was my takeaway this Spring 2024.

The rays of the setting sun bathe the hillsides. Artful shadows form on one structure onto another accentuating contrast between light and dark. A transformation that still takes my breath away. Toledo, Spain has captivated my imagination since I was introduced to this photogenic medieval city in the summer of 2010. 

We mostly took day trips in the earlier years of our visits. In 2021, it was time to splurge a little and stay a few nights at the Parador de Toledo, a monastery turned hotel in the old city. The lone structure that sits the highest almost atop the hillsides. The view of the Parador from the city center at night is ethereal with multiple windows illuminated, appearing like eyes from the past peering at the grandeur of the old city below. A photographer’s dream: my husband was in his element. A dreamer’s dream come true for me as this famed city permeated my thoughts, then my writing.

Ecstatic that in the Spring 2024, Spain was once more a destination. A place that soothes our soul and stirs creativity. I didn’t know what else to expect this time. Gauging from previous experiences, it would be a jolt to the system if the experience falls short. I’ve seen grandness, the nooks and crannies that put the city on the highly visited attraction in Spain. My husband and I have stayed at the Parador where the views were awe-inspiring. We were treated royally. The food teased our palates, and I couldn’t get enough. The staff were accommodating and efficient. Staff and leadership were gracious. What could top it? 

We found one that has potential. Hotel Aurea didn’t surpass the offerings of the Parador. Aurea held its own mystique that drew us. So much so that after staying for three nights in early May 2021, we returned for one more night eleven days later. Just for one more stay. One more look to commit the space deep in our memories and leave Toledo once more with smiles on our faces. A few more photographs. A few more walks up and down the rugged pathways. Toledo did lure  us back even after the mesmerizing adventures we had in Ireland and Northern Ireland in between.

What impressed me about Aurea? 

Only open for less than a year in September 2023, there was a sense of newness and beauty in the calm that greets you when you walk in. Maybe, one is just grateful to finally get off the rough downhill cobblestone path that leads to the hotel doors as no taxi could fit in that the narrow roads built in the Middle Ages. 

All staff spoke English. Pilar had the best grasp of the language. It turned out her mother was an English teacher, and it was a language she spoke early on from childhood. But we were served by many compassionate staff…Maria, Alfs, Cristina, Joseph and others.

Aurea sits meters away from the base of the famed cathedral—Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo. In the 12th Century the district’s proximity to the Cathedral drew clergy, so much so it came to be called Canon. The cathedral’s construction began in 1227, opened its doors in 1493 and it's still majestic today.

The hotel’s exterior matched the neighboring structures. Nothing about it gives away what you would find inside. The red adobe rooftops were as aged as the others in the city. 

Once inside you are greeted by a wall entirely tiled in yellow, black, and white Moorish patterns, and another wall boasts monastery-like alcoves with displays of artifacts, and another, an all glass wall inside the lobby. Another supporting wall hosted embedded rocks likely found during the renovation of the old seven residences that once stood in the place. 

Walking through the hallways when taking the time to absorb the look and feel of the place, one could discover something preserved from the past. 

In the hotel’s website these words appear: “My stays hold treasures of great value, including polychrome panels from the 15th century, cisterns, carve ceilings, and arches. Beautiful craftsmanship, a heritage from all those people of have left their mark on “the city of the three cultures.” Yes, the city is known as the city of three cultures, referring to the time when the Muslims, Christians and Jews resided there. 

Well, my hotel room did not contain the elaborate panels as described above, but the city view from our window and terrace took us back to the past. Outlines of red roofs and church steeples and church bells ringing in the background. It was magical. And under varying shades of light from the sun or without the sun, the old city seems to claim its glory.

Toledo at mid-day, sunset then dusk, and sunrise:

In Hotel Aurea, the medieval Toledo is embedded in surprising places in its structure, an architectural fusion of historical and modern periods.

And let’s not forget the hospitality of the hotel included an elegant yet understated breakfast buffet.

This piece is not at all about promoting Hotel Aurea. There are other hotels that are just as hospitable and welcoming and depicts the celebration of the city’s history. The Aurea is a recent and surprising. I simply wanted to showcase how the past can be preserved with reverence in artistic and creative ways. Remnants of the past infused in a tasteful way into a modern design for a scintillating tribute. The architecture becomes a testament to history yet manifests human progress and modern conveniences. A treasure.

Essay and Photos ©Lu Sobredo

May 30, 2024

About the Author 
Lu Sobredo is writer/publisher at Lu Travels Abroad, a blog dedicated to folks whose limitations do not hamper them from traveling. A year into early retirement her world collapsed from the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Her total life changed, but she did not let RA define her. With love from family, friends and an awesome doctor, she regained some functionality--her new normal. She will have RA all her life. And she now writes about life and travel with RA. During the pandemic of 2020, she stayed put and wrote poetry and a first novel, a travel of sorts but in the heart and mind. As of 2021, she and her husband began traveling again.



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