Toledo and concert in Chin Chon

Today we visited the city of Toledo. Our first stop was the Monasterio San Juan de los Reyes. It is a 15th-century Franciscan monastery and church where our choir sang at the 1pm Eucharistic service. The choir did a fabulous job. Although we might not all have understood every word in the service, the structure of the liturgy was familiar to us and praying together felt like a good thing at this turning point in the trip. We have four days left and tomorrow we are heading to our last hotel in Barcelona (the choristers are excited for Barcelona for a variety of reasons, including the promise of a swimming pool at the next hotel!). After the service at the monastery, we went on a short walking tour of Toledo, through the old Jewish quarter of the city, into the beautiful cathedral. 

Toledo's cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in the country. During Muslim rule, it was a mosque, but it was destroyed in 1085. The cathedral still manifests a number of different influences and apparently still has a service that uses the Mozarabic Rite (a 6th-century liturgy). The quire was decorated with ornate wooden carvings and had two organs facing one another. We briefly discussed whether Scott and Tripp should face-off with an organ competition, but unfortunately that didn't take place. One of the things this cathedral is well-known for is its sacristy (no longer used as such, as the guide pointed out that priests probably don't want to be dressing with all the tourists milling about), which contains at least 3 rooms of art by the master painters (the usual suspects: El Greco, Caravaggio, Titian, Velazquez...). 

We quickly had lunch and then headed off to Chin Chon for the evening concert. There was a change in plans from the original itinerary because of the national elections. Instead of performing in Madrid, where there was a concern about how the elections would affect the concert, we went to the small town of Chin Chon (named after a type of anise that grows there). While the choir rehearsed, some of the choir supporters went to sit in a beautiful shaded square with plenty of trees and a bar and an incredible view of the surrounding areas as the sun set. The choir joined us for a little until it was time for the concert. The acoustics in the church allowed the voices of the choir linger in the air and float up towards the high vaulted ceiling. 

After the concert, we headed to another small town in the direction back towards Madrid for dinner. We had dinner in the shadow of the church, there was breeze and much laughter and fellowship as we relaxed into the evening. After a delicious meal of salmorejo (a soup like gazpacho), beef stew and oven baked potatoes and fried milk with vanilla ice cream, we got on the bus, stuffed and happy and arrived back at the hotel at about 12.30am. 

Tomorrow morning we leave Madrid for the vibrant city of Barcelona! Hasta lluego!

Rev. Areeta