December 25, 1961 – England

Washington Hotel, London, England – Clear, frosty and cold

     Edith and I slept late because we’d had such trouble sleeping last night due to the cold.  Edith and I ordered room service and I was excited when I found out that Eggs Benedict were on the menu here.  After breakfast Edith and I made ourselves ready to travel to spend the holiday with my relative, Lt. Leroy Chambers, his wife, Joan, and their children in Braintree, Essex.

     I called my cousin Leroy so he could give me directions to get to his house.  Edith and I bundled up made our way down to the lobby where I asked the clerk at the front desk if they could get us more blankets or additional heaters for our room.  I was glad when they said they could accommodate us.  We asked the door man to call us a taxi to take us to the train station.  It was very cold and we felt it hit us full in the face as we walked outside to get into the vehicle.  The temperature was around freezing and even though the sun was shining it didn’t melt the heavy frost on the ground or buildings.  Leroy had told me which train we needed to take but had cautioned me that we would need to change trains and then get off at Chelmsford.  Leroy asked me to call him when we got there and he would come pick us up. 

     We met a nice boy on the first leg of the train trip and even though I was pretty sure we could find our own way I was ecstatic that he helped us get to the right train for the final leg of our trip to Chelmsford.  Once we arrived at the depot I made a call to Leroy.  If the boy, John, hadn’t been there to help us it would have been an ordeal for Edith and I to maneuver by ourselves.  John even waited with us to make sure we were all right till Leroy arrived to pick us up.

     It was so nice to see Leroy again since the last time had been when he was a child.  Leroy’s wife and children were wonderful and had invited us to share their turkey dinner.  We had a delicious traditional meal with them and then visited for several hours before Leroy took us back to the train station and made sure we got on the right train.  Our trip going back wasn’t nearly as complicated as our trip going to Essex and we met a really nice family traveling back to London too.  We visited with them about our trip and they were interested in knowing about the various places we had been.  It felt good to finally understand the language again.  Once we reached the London train depot we were able to catch a taxi easily to go back to our hotel. 

London from Hotel

     Edith got out of the taxi ahead of me and walked off to the entrance without waiting for me to get out or offering to help pay for the fare.  Since she just looked away and kept walking I pulled out enough money to pay for the whole fare.  I was going to be glad to get home so I wouldn’t have to spend all my time with Edith.  Once I was inside I refrained from talking to her and I noticed she avoided any reference to the taxi ride.

     When we got to our room I found they had brought us a few more blankets and an additional heater and I knew we would be a lot warmer that night.  Once I’d taken off my coat and got settled all I really wanted to do was just relax for the rest of the evening. 

     Edith and I ordered soup from room service to eat for our dinner because we weren’t exceedingly hungry.  Then after we ate Edith wanted to play cards but I was tired and begged off.  Instead I took a long bath and went to bed.

Postcard from Spain

Avenida de America, Madrid

December 24, 1961 – Spain

Palace Hotel, Madrid, Spain – Rain, very cold

     We both slept late today and once we were up we prepared to leave for our flight at 1pm.  I called for room service to order our breakfast and then Edith decided she would call the tour office to reaffirm what we’d been told yesterday. 

     I heard her talking while I was in the bathroom but rushed out when I heard her slam down the phone.  I had never seen Edith so angry before but when she told me why she was livid I could understand.  She had found out that the Madrid tour agent, Melia, had confirmed us to leave on a flight that left at 10:30am instead of the later one.  As mad as we both were about the change and not being notified of it we didn’t have time to fuss and fume. 

     We’d been told the day before that someone would be at our hotel to help us get to the airport but when we finally made it down to the lobby with our bags no one was there.  Edith made another frantic call to the tour office but she was told no one would be there to assist us for some reason.  So at the last minute I paid the bill for our services at the hotel while Edith got us a taxi to take us to the airport.  Both of us were so annoyed by the time we got into the taxi we had trouble controlling our emotions.  We arrived at the airport late but were allowed to board even though they were getting ready to close the planes doors because the agent at the British European Airways desk graciously helped us expedite getting tickets and held the plane for us. 

     Once we were on the plane the stewardess moved us to first class since the plane was almost empty.  Seated up front made us feel like our luck had turned around so we finally were able to settle down and relax.  The weather leaving Madrid was wet, cloudy, cold, windy and rough but once we moved away from Spain and towards England it cleared up and we had a wonderful view of the English channel.  We were served a great lunch on the airplane and since I’d had to leave my breakfast uneaten I was very hungry.  We passed over the Jersey Isle and flew into London at 5pm and it was dark already which meant we could see all the lights and admire the city. 

Flying Over the English Channel

     After we’d landed, gotten our luggage and made it through customs I was glad to see the weather was clear as we tried to catch a taxi.  We also found it was very cold.  Our drive from the airport to the Washington Hotel where we were to stay was fun.  At check in I was given seven letters that made me happy and I was excited to read all of them.  Two were from Ramona, one from Bob and Pat, another one from Penny, one from Patrick, one from my brother Ed and one from my other brother Pat.  Edith received a couple of letters and frowned when she saw how many I had gotten.

     By the time we had checked in and gotten to our room it was time to have dinner but Edith and I were too tired to go down to the dining room so we ordered room service to eat in our room.  I had a stew and Edith had roast chicken.  We also ordered a couple of Irish coffees.  The meals and drinks were good and filling.  We toasted Christmas Eve to each other and hoped that our family and friends back home were happy and safe too. 

     After we finished eating Edith and I were too tired to do anything else so we went to bed but I had trouble getting to sleep.  My feet were cold and all we had in our room to heat it up was a small electric heater.  We turned it up as high as we could but it didn’t heat our room up as much as we needed.

December 23, 1961 – Spain

Palace Hotel, Madrid, Spain – Drizzly rain, very cold

     Edith and I woke up early but went back to sleep for a little while longer because both of us were still worn out from our ordeal yesterday.  We didn’t have any tours to take today and both of us were glad since it was still raining and cold outside.

     Finally about 10am Edith and I got up, ordered room service for breakfast and got ourselves ready to go back, once again, to the tour office to check on our flight arrangements.  Since we found we couldn’t count on them to keep us informed we decided to check on them frequently ourselves. 

     Since the rain had let up Edith and I decided to do a little more shopping after we finished our business.  I had seen a purse previously that I decided I wanted so we went back to that shop.  I was excited that the price had been dropped to $18 and true to form Edith determined she wanted one too.  However, the store didn’t have any more so we had to look around other shops to see if we could find another purse like mine.  An hour later we did find another place that had a similar purse but it cost Edith $22 which didn’t please her at all.  I came away with the feeling she blamed me for the difference in price.

     While we were looking around we found a nice little café that had wonderful smells coming out of it so we stopped to eat.  Afterward when we were done eating it had started raining hard so we caught a taxi back to our hotel and decided to stay there the rest of the day.  Once we were back in our room Edith and I partook of the siesta custom and took a nice long nap which I thought was much needed.

     When we woke up Edith and I ordered room service for dinner and then played cards for awhile till it was time to go to bed.  We wanted to go to bed early because the following day we had to fly to London.  As I lay there trying to sleep I was glad my trip was almost over.

December 22, 1961 – Spain

Palace Hotel, Madrid, Spain – Raining, very cold

     I slept better last night than I had the night before.  Edith didn’t do a lot of coughing and she woke up feeling much better this morning.  Edith and I had an early breakfast so we could take a taxi to the tour office where we were scheduled to join a group for a full day of sightseeing from 9:30 to 6:30am to Toledo.

     Once we arrived at the tour office I was sorry I hadn’t brought my rain coat because it had started raining.  We traveled 44 miles to the south of Madrid to get to Toledo which was situated on a hilly plateau and practically surrounded by the Tagus River.  Our guide told us that the city was famous for its steel, particularly the flexible metal commonly used to make fencing swords. 

     I was excited when we went to a factory where they did Damascene style of products and art work where they inlayed one metal like gold onto another one.  I bought some scissors for gifts that were really wonderful.

     We also visited two 15th century cathedrals that had a lot of statuary.  Then we went through the Synagogue of El Transito, the Presidio and a museum of Moorish, Arabic and Flemish architecture.  Finally we visited a recreation of El Greco’s home where we saw some copies of his original paintings. 

Toledo While it was Raining

Another View of Toledo in the Rain

     Edith told me on the trip back to Madrid that she thought our day of touring Toledo had been too long and disappointing.  I didn’t argue with her and added that I had seen enough statuary for awhile.  The return drive was miserable because I was still wet from getting rained on each time we had to go back and forth from the bus to buildings we visited.

     Back at the tour office at 7pm Edith noticed that they had once again changed our flight to London but hadn’t notified us.  Edith had taken them to task about this yesterday but this time she didn’t just talk to the agent at the front desk called for the supervisor.   After talking to the supervisor Edith and I went to a nearby café to eat dinner so we didn’t have to wait till we got back to the hotel.  Each of us ordered some soup and a sandwich to warm our spirits.  After eating we tried to find a taxi but weren’t able to so we finally gave up and walked back to the hotel.  After a few minutes it started to rain again so by the time we arrived at the hotel we were soaked, frigid and muddy from the splashes we’d gotten by cars that passed us.  While I felt horrible and was upset that my coat had gotten so muddy I knew Edith was in worse shape because of the problems she continued to have with her feet.  In addition her coughing had returned.  I enquired at the desk to see if I could get my coat cleaned and found out I could but it wouldn’t be done in time before we left for London.

     Once we were back in our room I tried to wash my coat off and laid it out to dry but I feared it wouldn’t help very much.  Edith and I ordered some hot tea to try and warm us up.  I suggested to Edith that she should take a hot bath while she waited for the tea.  By the time it arrived she told me that the bath had seemed to help her congestion so I was glad.  I decided to take a bath too and afterward we both went to bed.

December 21, 1961 – Spain

Palace Hotel, Madrid, Spain – Clear, very cold

     Edith was far from better the next morning and I felt sorry for her so I ordered room service.  I had a full breakfast and coffee but all Edith wanted was toast and tea. 

Madrid Fountain near Hotel

     After we ate Edith and I joined a scheduled tour with another group.  The city was interesting and traffic wasn’t too bad although Madrid’s wide streets were a little confusing because many ran diagonally.  Ten streets branched off an oblong square called Puerto Del Sol.  All the buildings we saw were of Spanish architecture and had quite a bit of iron grill work.  We also saw many monuments that were each quite stunning.  The Gate which had 18th century Italian architecture stood in a large circle.  We spent most of our time during the tour at the private museum of Lazaro Galdiano so we could see its vast collection of paintings including many masterpieces by Francisco de Goya, Rafael, Botticelli, El Bosco, Hans Meniling, Vander Weyden, El Greco, Murillo, Alonso Cano, and many others.  Edith was particularly interested in the Velasquez masterpieces which were filled with life and action.  At the museum of fine arts there were also many cases of miniatures and a very large collection of antiquities.  One room had a priceless array of fans from several countries.

     The Royal Palace, now a museum, was furnished in a manner someone with an exotic taste would appreciate.  Entire walls were covered with tapestries.  The porcelain rooms had elaborate designs on the ceiling and elsewhere.  The throne room was less ornate but had beautiful chandeliers.  The dining room could seat 300 guests and had ancient, gorgeous ornate clocks everywhere to keep perfect time.

     When we were dropped off at our hotel, Edith and I decided we should walk to the tour office to make the final arrangements for the remainder of our trip.  However, after only walking a few blocks Edith tired out and we had to hail a taxi.  That was when we had a problem.  The taxi we got had just dropped off a man when we got in. At the tour office the meter read 90 pesos but I wondered if the driver had put it back to zero since he had just driven us a couple of blocks.  Edith handed the driver only 5 pesos so the driver started yelling at us.  I thought Edith must not have any more change so I gave him 65 pesetas which was all the change I had.  Then surprisingly Edith pulled out more money and handed it to the driver.  Finally happy the driver waived us off and we got out.  After taking care of our business we caught another taxi back to the hotel but this time it only cost us 12 pesetas.  After doing some calculating of distance versus what we were charged we figured out the previous driver had duped us.  I also discovered that I had given him $2 more than Edith had and when I mentioned it to her all she could say was, “That’s okay” which annoyed me and made me feel like I’d been duped twice.  She didn’t offer to even try to reimburse me for what I’d overpaid.

     After lunch Edith decided to go back to our room, take some medicine and go to bed to nurse her cold.  I was still a little annoyed with her so I decided to walk around by myself to see what I could see but I had forgotten that after lunch they had their siesta time.  I decided I would have to come back later because some of the shops really looked interesting.

     When I returned to the hotel and inquired at the front desk, I found they were holding two letters from Ramona and one from Anna.   I sat in the lobby, read them and enjoyed hearing from home.  I decided to write Ramona and mail it on my way out again to shop later this evening.  I figured that if I wrote Ramona now and mailed it right away the letter would get to Ventura before I did: 

Dec 21, 1961 – Madrid, Spain

Dear Ramona, Anna, Ray, Janice, David, Mike, Binky and the Cat;

     Just received your letter mailed Dec 15.  Also your letter mailed Dec 16. 

     It is real cold here this morning and there was frost all over the ground at 9am when we left the hotel.  We went on tour of the art galleries and the palace.  Saw all the collections then came back here. 

     We sure got took this morning.  Edith was late getting ready and she insisted on walking to the tour office.  Part way she got tired so we saw a taxi and she grabbed it.  The driver had just stopped to let a man out.  Well we got to the office and he pointed to the meter and it read 90 pesos.  Edith handed him 5 pesos and of course he hollered.  Well I thought Edith didn’t have change so I gave him 65 pesetas when I ran out of change.  Edith gave him something more and we got out.  90 pesetas is almost $2.  Well I should have questioned it but we were late for the time we were supposed to be at the office so I didn’t.  Coming back the same distance cost us 12 pesetas this afternoon.  It sure costs something to be stupid here.  The worst of it was I paid most of it at least $1.50 and Edith said that was okay and didn’t offer to make it up to me. 

     I am a little homesick and I’m counting the days.  So you know we will be home on the 30th, God willing.  Barcelona was a nice city – 2 million people.  Our hotel was very nice.  We had a nice flight here and this city is beautiful.  Fountains all over in both cities. 

     I am wearing 2 pair of stockings to keep my legs warm. 

     I got a letter from Anna and I will enclose the clipping she sent me.  Aunt Emma is fine and everything is okay there.  I haven’t written to Ada lately we have been so rushed. 

     Now in Madrid we have 3 days.  Our flight plans were changed.  We fly to London on the 24th instead of the 25th.  It gives us an extra day in London and we will be there Christmas Eve.  However we hear that it is very, very cold and rainy there so if our hotel is cold we will probably be frozen when we get home.  Have the car warm and the house warm and my electric blanket on please.  I hope nothing happens to change our flight plans on the 30th.  Say a prayer for me. 

     It is nearly 4pm so I’m going shopping.  We have siesta here from 1 to 4 all shops are closed – makes it very bad for tourists because as it gets later it gets colder and colder.

     Well dear I’ll be seeing you all soon – Love Mother

     Edith still didn’t want to leave the room so I made my way back to a few of the stores alone to look through them.  In one store I found perfume that was cheaper than it had been in Barcelona so I bought another small bottle of My Sin.  I thought this one might be a good present for Pat.

     When I made it back to our room it was time to eat but Edith didn’t want to go down to the dining room so we ordered room service.  We were able to get the same choices that they had on the menu downstairs.  After eating we passed a quiet evening playing cards and it was enjoyable.

Fillmore Herald: Jan 11, 1962 Article

January 11, 1962

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