Valencia and Madrid, Spain

Wednesday, December 12, 1928

At 9:30 AM after some twelve hours on a slow train, I arrived at Valencia. Didn’t get much sleep because of a hard wood seat and a crowded train. Near Valencia we passed through miles of orange trees, just one huge grove. The trees were loaded and oranges were everywhere on the ground. Being thirsty, I got out at one of the stations and picked up three. I started something. At the next stop a whole mob of soldiers raided a large pile and came back with armfuls.

I was a little disappointed in Valencia. The new section is very pretty and modern. The main business section is very new and attractive. In its center is a nice plaza containing many kiosks or little flower stands, 53 I believe. The old section has narrow twisty streets and is not so clean, especially near the market district. Here it is very crowded and busy. Stands are everywhere along thee sidewalks. There is a large market building in which is sold about everything from dishes and bread to oranges and meat. One section is devoted entirely to fish and kindred beasts and rightly. If one has a bad cold he can better enjoy it. Fish, large and small, long, slimy eels, alive, clams, shrimp, everything.

In this old section is the Cathedral Metropolitan, quite old and having a high tower from which a fine view of the city, country, and sea can be obtained. On a clear day you can even see the Isole Baleari far out at sea. The cathedral is not striking on the interior. I got permission to see the Santa Chalice or Holy Cup of our Saviour. Christ drank from this cup. Since then it has had a long and interesting history and has passed hands may times. It reposed on a sort of altar in a small chapel and is displayed in a gorgeous setting. The cup itself is rather plain, of gold, but very beautiful. [From Wiki: The Santo Caliz (“Holy Chalice”) is a simple, small stone cup. Its base was added in medieval times and consists of fine gold, alabaster and gem stones.]

Near the good-looking station is the Toros, three stories high, round, and of red brick. I bought some food for lunch and ate it inside the place while watching some men play around practicing bull-fighting. That night at 8:50 PM I was again off on a long journey, this time to Madrid, 16 hours. I was on deck early and got a good seat in a car that had leather cushions. $6.00.

Again the train was crowded. The people didn’t seem to crave any windows down, so I had to roast. Managed to get a little sleep. This train was slow too, stopping 4½ hours on a country siding with two other trains to wait for the mails and another train to pass. We finally got to Madrid, though, about one. I was immediately “sold” on the place, before I had walked a block. After getting a room in the Hotel Pilar on the main drag, I went to the beautiful Palace de Communicaciones or Post Office where I finally located the Poste Restante. I nearly hit the deck when they handed me 19 letters and two newspapers. Just couldn’t seem to remember I was in Madrid. Plopped right down and spent 2½ hours reading. It sure is great to get letters and cheers you up no end. It is not dark here till 5:30 or 6 now.

At night Madrid is very well lit up, not only with street lights but many large electric signs and store displays. I was really surprised at the place. Almost like an American city—very modern and clean; has a subway; many nice wide streets and shaded boulevards. Of these the Paseo de la Castellana, Paseo de Recoletos, and Paseo del Prabo really all one huge boulevard, is the most important and beautiful, having fine buildings and hotels, walks, a park and three large plazas along its extent. At its intersection with Calle de Alcalá, the main business street, is the large circular Plaza de Castelar with a large monument in its center. On one corner is the post office. The Puerta del Sol is another large plaza, the most important in the city, and very busy. There are many fine stores in the business district and some dandy pretty office buildings, one a skyscraper 15 stories high—the highest I have yet seen in Europe.

The large Parque de Madrid is very nice. In it is a huge monument erected to Alfonso XII, facing a pretty lake. The Toros in Madrid is similar to that in Valencia though slightly larger. The Senate is an imposing building and was, on the evening I left, surrounded for a couple of blocks each way by many cops. The King was probably in there. The Palacio Real, home of the King, is sure a large place and quite attractive. It is guarded by many soldiers.

I got my Portuguese visa near the Palacio and then walked to there to take a picture of it. Standing opposite the main entrance watching some soldiers parade down the street was the luckiest thing I did that day for I saw His Royal Highness with another man come breezing out of the gate in a nice new Packard sedan. Everybody didn’t miss snapping to attention.

The San Francisco el Grande is a huge church and very striking.

I spent Thursday afternoon and Friday and Saturday in Madrid. Friday I bought my RR ticket to Lisbon from Cook’s to save a last-minute rush with my bike and baggage. Right then and there I started in on a most discouraging financial time and it has continued. The ticket 3rd was 8 rocks. After dinner I went up to the hotel and wrote to Jean till time to go to the station. It was a mile walk but a pleasant night. As luck would have it, the darkened 3rd class palace was similar to the old boxcar—and again hard wooden benches to repose on. Pleasant prospects for the next 16 hours. It wasn’t so warm either, but for once it was not very crowded. I liked Madrid a lot and hated to leave. $1.42 — $1.75 — $12.49.

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