Saturday, 4th September 1965
28.08.1965 - 04.09.1965
After a week of hectic travelling, we are today taking it fairly easy, and are just wandering leisurely around Madrid. As I write this, I am sitting outside the Prado, the famous art gallery of Madrid, and have just seen its great collection of masterpieces by painters such as Goya, Velasquez, Titian and Rubens. They were fantastic. Madrid is rather a dusty, irregular sort of city, and I don’t like it anywhere near as much as Paris, where we were a few days ago.
We left London last Saturday, and the car has been going well ever since. We have clocked up about 1000 miles in it now without any trouble, though it is losing a little in performance. It drinks up a lot of oil, but we knew the rings were bad when we started. I hope we will get a few more thousand miles out of it. After a smooth Channel crossing, during which we played cards all the way (seasoned travellers that we are), we spent the first night in Calais. When we drove off the ferry we got a bit lost because of the lack of clearly lit signage and started driving round in circles. We kept meeting the same vehicles at different crossings, and looking behind us saw a procession of other cars following us. I don’t know why they thought we knew where we were going, but rather than be the Pied Piper we pulled over to let them pass and spent the rest of the night where we were.
On the Sunday we drove down through Amiens and Beauvais and were in Paris that afternoon. It took us a little while to get used to driving on the left hand side of the road, but by now it is almost second nature. Paris is a beautiful city, truly ‘magnifique’. We spent all day Monday wandering about; the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, along the Seine, Notre Dame, up the Eiffel Tower - tremendous view. We went to the Louvre and of course saw the statue of Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, among many other great masterpieces. I really love Paris, everything about it. It is the cleanest city I have been in too. I hope we can go back there before returning across the Channel to England.
The Tuesday morning we drove out to the immense Palace at Versailles, the palace of the last kings of France. I was more impressed by the vast grounds and the gardens than the interior, but it was all well worth seeing. That afternoon we drove on, heading for Spain. We slept Tuesday night by the roadside and on Wednesday drove through the Valley of the Loire with its beautiful Chateaux (I have sent you a postcard of the one we saw at Chenonceaux). Wednesday night we were not far from the Spanish border (outside Bayonne), and we struck bad weather for the first time. We had thunderstorms all day Thursday as we crossed into Spain and travelled along the coast to San Sebastian and Bilbao.
We then turned inland and after climbing into the mountains we reached Burgos that evening. It has the most wonderful Cathedral I have ever seen, with an amazing atmosphere, and we parked the night in the square beside it. The surrounding town is beautiful as well.
England and France have been somewhat ruined by tourism, but Spain for the most part remains untouched. Little is ‘put on’. The rugged beauty of the landscape, the small peasant villages, the proud, severe architecture of the towns, is Spanish to the core. Its cobblestone streets, its communal water troughs, its bullrings and colourful posters, are everyday Spain, and it’s really grand to be here again.
Yesterday we came down from Burgos (where El Cid was born and is buried) through the walled city of Segovia, with its Roman aqueduct and Alcazar (castle), out to the El Escorial palace, which we had seen from the train on our way to London from Granada six months ago, and finally to Madrid, with its hectic traffic. Tomorrow we are going to the bullfights and will leave Madrid on Monday morning to go to the south of Spain. We plan to make a return visit to Granada, then back into France, heading for Switzerland and Italy.
It is good to be on the road again, though it took a few days of getting used to. The weather today is really excellent, and I expect it will get a lot hotter as we move to the South.
Sunday 4th Sept.
- We have just come from the bullfight at the Plaza de Toros, here in Madrid. It was absolutely marvellous. I know there is something cruel about killing bulls for sport, but the colour, the excitement, the roar of the huge crowd, Ole’s and all - it was really a tremendously elating experience.
Tuesday 6th Sept.
- We have just reached Granada and I am finishing off in the P.O. there. This favourite city of mine is just the same as before, only the weather is so much hotter. We must have had 100F today, and the radiator boiled twice. 1600 miles so far and the Bedford is starting to play up a bit. As we approached Granada it began to get this loud clunking noise under the floor and we had to nurse it into town and find a garage. Turns out we need a new universal joint, which fortunately won’t cost much, so we might get a bit further. We are getting a general service as well. Tomorrow we will visit the Alhambra, the magnificent Moorish palace that overlooks Granada. We missed it last time because we couldn’t afford the entrance fee, and it is the main reason why we wanted to come back here on this trip.