Portbou, Spain

Sunday, December 9, 1928

Saturday I was again up before dawn and left Toulon at 6:30 AM. Hadn’t gone far before it began to rain but I had to keep on to get my Spanish visa before noon. It was strange how those gentle hills could go up at a steep pace for five straight miles. I was getting all wet when a man in a Ford truck, who had stopped on the road a moment to take a drink, offered to give me a lift—but not a drink. I gladly accepted. It was at the top of a hill and he took me about six miles, all downhill, but I was out of the rain. I rode the last ten, but the rain had ceased. It was nice and cold and I felt like an ad for the North Pole.

Once in Marseille I got all fixed up but in one thing and I found that out tonight. Was ready to leave at eleven, but rain put the clamps on it and so I spent the afternoon visiting Notre Dame de la Garde. It is situated on a high rocky hill in town and commands a fine view of all the surrounding country and the sea; also Île de Chateau d’If. There is an ascension lift, but as usual I hoofed it to save the 6¢. The building is of Italian Renaissance and has a tall square tower at the top of which is a large statue, gilded, of the Saviour. At night this statue is brightly lighted up and is very striking. The lower chapel is plain, of a low ceiling and pretty altar, and not very large. The upper chapel is somewhat larger, has a high ceiling richly worked in mosaics and an elaborate altar. The mosaics over and around the altar are very fine; in fact, these mosaics are quite noted. When the big bell in the tower rings when you are in the church, you really know it.

You see many soldiers from the French possessions in Africa traveling about and also some African soldiers that are really black. These French talk so blamed fast it is discouraging. On the train to Nice I forgot to mention that an Abbe started a conversation with me. Got his name and address in the old passport. Stanislas and the last name is Vach or Curé Le Brusc par Tours, Var. Not only a good church man but a well enough known painter to have his name in the guide books and to sell 45 in England for £4 per. [Can’t find any mention.]

Today I was up at 5AM and ready to leave at 5:20. However, it was raining and had been all night. Seems to be general in this section, rainy and cold. As I cannot afford to waste days on the way to Madrid, my only recourse was to take the train which I did, to Perpignan. Rained all the way. Then I had a happy idea that if I took a train the rest of the way to Barcelona and sat in the station all night, I could afford it. Thus two hours later after having put the O.K. on attractive Perpignan, I was again on my way. At the border town of Cerbère I had a rushing time trying to collect my 165 francs duty on the bike. Finally got about half a dozen officers stirred up and was ready when the train pulled out. In Portbou, the Spanish frontière town, we had to go through customs. They soaked me 49.12 pesetas or over $8 duty for the bike. I didn’t have any Spanish pieces of eight and after lots of trouble succeeded in getting some. Thus I paid for my sins in Marseille. Have been waiting ever since 8 PM for the 4 AM train. Dinner took up an hour and studying European History nearly three more. Still it is only 12:30 and darned cold in this little station. I have a brakeman’s lamp here and alternately warm my feet and hands by it. There are about 6 or 8 gypsies or Spaniards asleep in blankets in one corner and a dog in the other. This cold atmosphere makes me more studious than sleepy. It is still rainy here but I am hoping that on the other side of the Pyrenées there will be a change for the better. Have saved at least 5 days so far, granting good weather all the way. $4.00.

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