Page images
PDF
EPUB

Here, as everywhere else, I made a point of seeking for wine, but, although very abundant, I could only find such as had evidently been made without the slightest care.

After a passage of about fifteen hours, we reached Barcelona, landing at Barcelonette.

On putting my foot on shore, I was accosted by a man in broken English : "Sar, there be one great fire this night; custom-house to be burned.'

Not knowing how to pass the evening pleasantly, I was glad to hear of this variety; and, getting my portmanteau out of the steamer, and depositing it in an inn, accompanied him to the scene of action. Following his advice, I covered the lower part of my face with a large wrapper, and put an on old, loose, great coat.

I learned that the customs authorities, having hitherto exported all the contraband goods they seized, had now advertised some to be sold in Barcelona, which the manufacturing people had declared they would not permit; and that, if it were attempted, they would burn the custom-house down. My guide stated that the goods were French, but that, as little discrimination might be made between French and English, I had better not utter a word, and be as unlike a foreigner as I could.

Proceeding to that beautiful boulevard, the Rambla, we saw an immense concourse of people, many with torches; and in the midst of them a wagon with two horses for carrying off the goods.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

a

[ocr errors]

We joined the procession and marched down to the custom-house in the plaza, when there was a halt, and the noise of the ponderous knockers on the custom-house gate was heard. Being desirous to have a full view of this extraordinary scene, I was working my way towards the principal actors, when my guide friend declared he not go no farder;' so I went ‘farder' alone, wondering, I confess, what I should do if a troop of the fine-looking yellow dragoons were let loose among us; but they had the kindness not to interfere.

The knocking at the door and the noise became louder, but the gates stood motionless, till the cries of my friends the goods-destroyers became so decided, and their perseverance so evident, that the gate was seen to swing on its hinges; being unlocked from within.

In a moment the square resounded with cheers, torches were waved aloft, and a general excitement prevailed. The wagon was backed in, the goods loaded, the custom-house people assisting, and in a little time the order was given to march up to the Plaza do Commercio. Resolved to see it out, I joined the procession, arm in arm with a couple of fellows with clothing exceedingly suitable to a very hot climate, and with bare, brown, brawny arms, and the red cap. I could cheer and make a noise as loud

I as the lustiest, but as to speaking, I remembered the old Scotch saying, that it is sometimes prudent to keep a calm sough.'

After half a mile's march, we reached the square,

a

into an immense basin, and so deep, to the very water's edge, that you may almost step ashore from any-sized ship.

This basin is a natural opening from the sea, in which a Spanish fleet has many a time reposed. Farther inward is another; and around both are the dilapidated ruins of buildings, such as one would expect to see, were Portsmouth or Plymouth allowed to fall into a similar state of ruin.

My old and worn-out guide, whose dress seemed to be of the days of the Armada, and whose figure suited the scene, looked depressed and ashamed. When he saw me drawing the attention of a travelling companion to a copper bolt attached to a pillar, which had withstood the ravages of time, and making a remark which he justly attributed to the fallen state of Spain, he could not help exclaimingSí, señor, pobre España, pobre España!' We left the old man in his solitude, giving him a couple of pesetos, for which he expressed his thanks by a low bow, holding in his hand his large cocked hat, still adorned with tattered remnants of faded

gold lace.

We sailed that evening for the interesting town of Alicante, where, and indeed as far as Barcelona, I could meet with nothing but the same dark, coarse, red wine, universally drunk with water at meals along this eastern coast. Alicante has lately regained some of its former importance, as it is a favourite

[blocks in formation]

route to Madrid, for passengers coming by steam from Marseilles.

We passed the next day at Valencia, walking from the landing-place to the town, along a beautiful road, shaded by fine trees, and on each side such luxuriant fertility as I never before saw. Indeed, it is said, there are few things grown in the tropics which do not thrive here.

I was much struck with the elegance, and good taste of the dresses of the women, while the costume of the men is remarkable and graceful. It consists of a white shirt, open on the neck and chest, a small green vest, the arms bare to the elbows, wide red sash, white linen kilt, descending to the knee, hose of several brilliant colours, rolled so as to hold them up just below the knee, the usual Spanish canvass shoes, and the overhanging red cap with blue and white border.

On entering the town one is struck with astonishment at the rows of magnificent houses, with marble staircases and pillars profusely carved, and the beautiful courts with fountains and statuary, seen through the massive iron gates—all denoting the wealth which once belonged to Spain. Material decay proceeds slowly in this fine climate; there was little appearance of dilapidation or of age; but it was easy to perceive that these palaces had not been built for their present occupiers, and that Valencia, like many other cities in Spain, was a place of the past, whose glory had departed.

R

Here, as everywhere else, I made a point of seeking for wine, but, although very abundant, I could only find such as had evidently been made without the slightest care.

After a passage of about fifteen hours, we reached Barcelona, landing at Barcelonette.

On putting my foot on shore, I was accosted by a man in broken English: “Sar, there be one great fire this night; custom-house to be burned.'

Not knowing how to pass the evening pleasantly, I was glad to hear of this variety; and, getting my portmanteau out of the steamer, and depositing it in an inn, accompanied him to the scene of action. Following his advice, I covered the lower part of my face with a large wrapper, and put an on old, loose, great coat.

I learned that the customs authorities, having hitherto exported all the contraband goods they seized, had now advertised some to be sold in Barcelona, which the manufacturing people had declared they would not permit; and that, if it were attempted, they would burn the custom-house down. My guide stated that the goods were French, but that, as little discrimination might be made between French and English, I had better not utter a word, and be as unlike a foreigner as I could.

Proceeding to that beautiful boulevard, the Rambla, we saw an immense concourse of people, many with torches; and in the midst of them a wagon with two horses for carrying off the goods.

« PreviousContinue »