view-of-porto-portugal-from-river-1600x1066To Charles Augustus Strong
Hotel Continental
Vigo, Spain. September 8, 1928

Dear Strong,

My journey has been done approximately on time, and with the usual mixture of pleasant and unpleasant incident. The first day, in France, was very hot; then my predestined companion in the compartment rebelled against his fate, bribed the guard to put him elsewhere, and left me in happy solitude and quietness. From Paris to Orléans and from Bordeaux to the Spanish frontier, and some distance beyond, the main line is now electric, so that at least there are no smoke and cinders. . . .

Oporto is magnificently situated and staged—comparable to Naples or Constantinople, with a variety of romantic castles, steeples, and rococo churches crowning all the heights, and the specialty of two dizzy and graceful bridges spanning the river high in air. The cathedral, which is a castle as well, has a remarkable cloister (not in Baedeker, and discovered by my own eyes) Gothic done into baroque, and with blue tile compositions representing the Song of Solomon, by rolly-polly shepherds and shepherdesses of the 18th century, at once rustic and classical. The Latin text is conspicuously introduced, and the whole is one of the most amusing architectural jokes I have ever seen. And there is another smaller cloister within, most peaceful, like an ancient house in an acropolis. Altogether, Oporto was worth the trouble of getting there.

All Portugal, and this part of Spain, seems to be covered with pinewoods, sparsely planted, with occasional interludes of vineyard or maize—too green, for my taste, but pretty because hilly. Vigo Bay or la Ria de Vigo is magnificent, but the town insignificant, and Bayona, where I went yesterday for the day, is a fishing village with a castle in ruins, very picturesque, but not looking out on the open sea as I had expected. I found my sister well and apparently contented, but looking a hundred years old, and not giving any clear expression to her ideas. . . . For the moment I am remaining in this hotel, where I have a room looking out on the harbour, full of war-ships. It is cool & often hazy here. Yours ever


From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Four, 19281932.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Rockefeller Archive Center, Sleepy Hollow NY