Sketches of Spain

At the end of our month in Britain in 1985–86, my family and I boarded a ferry from Plymouth to Santander and drove off it into the wintry sunshine of Spain, for two weeks of exploring my first non-English-speaking European country. Heading south to Burgos, we followed a route from there to Cuellar, Coca, Turegano, Segovia, San Ildefonso, Madrid, Toledo, Belmonte, Cuenca, Teruel, Tarragona, Barcelona and Cadaques. I was bowled over by the country’s enormous, sumptuous cathedrals, and by the many immaculate castles dotting its barren landscape. I fell in love with El Greco in Toledo, Velázquez and Goya in Madrid, and Gaudí and Miró in Barcelona, and took numerous photos of castles, Roman ruins, dusty towns and dazzling architecture. The best are on show in part two of the Grand Tour: Spain and the South of France 1986.

The Grand Tour: Spain and the South of France 1986

I didn’t take photos at all in Madrid and Toledo, missing out five whole days of the twelve that we spent in Spain. Madrid, at least, I’ve had another chance to photograph, but I’ve never been back to Toledo; still, I’m reminded of it every time I eat mazapan (which I first tasted there), and whenever I use the sword-shaped letter-opener I bought instead of a full-size replica sword (as I wrote wistfully in my diary, there was “no way I could get one home”—surely the only possible reason for an eighteen-year-old not to buy a full-size sword).

Unlike the last instalment in this series, I haven’t transcribed any diary entries to include here; it feels as if I should do something a bit different with them, or just take a bit longer over it. But as well as recording my wide-eyed impressions of it all, my diary of those weeks is full of sketches of the castles and buildings that I saw along the way, sometimes in lieu of photographs, sometimes in case those didn’t turn out. So here’s one of those, from Segovia, and clicking on it will show several more.

Sketch of Segovia Aqueduct, 15 January 1986

After almost a fortnight in Spain we drove onwards through the south of France, stopping in Carcassonne, Nîmes and Nice, before reaching Italy. That leg of the trip is also covered in the gallery above, with the next to follow.

22 November 2019 · Memory