Holy Toledo! by Lauren Gadbois (Spring 2024)

It seemed as though 46 young Americans on a charter-bus five hours to Toledo, Spain, was a bad idea. No pasa nada. Right? However, this just so happened to be my favorite excursion yet. 


From exploring ancient cobblestone streets lined with majestic Gothic architecture to sampling traditional Spanish cuisine in bustling marketplaces, every moment was an adventure waiting to unfold. Our professors and SIS staff set up the perfect overnight excursion. 


Our charter bus took a hard brake and pulled up. Woke just about everyone up on the bus. Low and behold the famous windmills of Don Quijote outside. Exploring the famous mountaintop and picture-perfect windmills. The perfect pit-stop…even if it was just for fifteen minutes. 

The bus parked for good. We jumped off the bus to head into Hotel Carlos IV to drop off our bags. It was a beautiful hotel. Right away, we went to see The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo. I will never forget the first time I walked inside. Indescribable. By far my favorite catedral I have visited. Of course having Salva, my professor, as the tour guide only made the experience more light-hearted.


Afterwards, we had the rest of the night to explore. Of course, we used that time to grab any souvenirs and see the rest of the city. It felt like we were in a movie. All the locals were so kind and welcoming… even at McDonald’s. As crazy as it seems, there wasn’t anyone in our friend group that night that couldn’t pass up a McDonald’s McFlurry. An experience I will always remember. 


The next day, I had the best free continental breakfast of my life. I have never seen such a big Nespresso machine. Not to mention the gigantic pump of Nutella for the breakfast croissants. After we stuffed our faces, we walked over to see El Greco. El Greco, a famous painting by Theotokopoulos, renowned for its distinctive style, with elongated figures, intense colors, and dramatic lighting effects. The painting was ahead of its time and had a profound influence on later generations of artists. 

We walked over to the Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca and the Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes to end our trip. The synagogue was incredible. The architecture is captivating. But, my favorite was the Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes. The gigantic chandeliers and high ceilings were mesmerizing. Sylvia, our student coordinator, pulled my friend Gabriela aside. She asked if she would sing a song in the middle of the monastery. Our whole class gathered around to watch. Gabriela sang a worship song in Spanish. A song we all sing at Encuentro, our weekly worship gathering. She sounded beautiful in the echoey monastery. By the time she finished, there was not a dry eye in the place. Moments like that I will never forget. God is with us along this journey. He put us all here together for a reason. Such an incredible moment to pause and give Him the glory He deserves. It was the perfect finale to my favorite excursion. 

For those of us students fortunate enough to participate in this study abroad journey, Toledo will forever hold a special place in our hearts. The city is fascinating. As we look back on our time in Spain, we will carry with us the lessons learned and the memories made, forever grateful for the opportunity to embark on such a remarkable journey.

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