Castilian Days by John Hay

A Review by Robert Bovington

Castilian Days

I enjoyed this book. Unlike many travel books about Spain, it was not all about cathedrals, churches and castles.

American John Milton Hay was more famous as a statesman than as an author – amongst other things he was the 37th Secretary of State. He had also performed the role of private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and one of his publications “Abraham Lincoln: A History” which he co-wrote with John G. Nicolay was published in 1890.

“Castilian Days” was first published in 1875, though my copy was the Holiday Edition of 1903, recently launched in Kindle e-book format by Project Gutenberg.

The book is a good balance between people and places. The first part of the book is dedicated to the habits and customs of the ordinary people of Castile in the late 19th century. This is followed by a vivid description of the bullfight – a bit too vivid for my liking. Hay describes all the gory details, which includes horses being gored to death – old horses that have been worked to (near) death in the intense heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter. So, if you are squeamish, miss that chapter.

John Milton Hay

The remainder of the book is less morbid. These final chapters are mostly about some of the “must see” sights of this area of Spain – Madrid’s Prado, Segovia, Toledo, the Escorial and Cervantes hometown of Alcalá de Henares.

The author does include some background history of the places he visits and provides the reader with a balanced account of these locations – sometimes with enthusiasm but with the occasional averse comment.

There is also a chapter about holidays and fiestas.

Unless I am mistaken, there is no mention of the year in which John Hay undertook his journey around Castile. It must have been between 1873 and 1874 because he writes of the country being a republic. Despite the fact that the book is set over a century ago, many of the descriptions applied to the Spanish people and places, in my mind, still hold true today.

Escorial – sacristy
San Juan de los Reyes – cloisters
Advertisements

About Robert Bovington

Robert Bovington is an English writer of travel books. These include “Spanish Matters” and “Spanish Impressions” Robert Bovington was born in Brighton, East Sussex, the son of Leonard and Audrey Bovington. He is the first-born and has eight siblings – six brothers and two sisters. Having worked for many years in both the telecommunications industry and the teaching profession, Robert wanted to take on new challenges. He and Diane decided to relocate to Spain and, in 2003, the couple moved to Roquetas de Mar in sunny Andalucía. However, lazing on the beach was not Robert's idea of fun - he wanted to explore his new homeland. It didn't stop there! He was so impressed with Spain, its countryside, its historic cities and its culture that it inspired him to write about his experiences. Robert Bovington has been married to Diane for over thirty years. They have no children. However, Robert’s short marriage to Helene resulted in twin daughters Carole and Sheila. The author is also a grandfather and great grandfather. Robert met Diane when both belonged to the Crescent Operatic Society. Music is one of the author’s great passions. At primary school he sang in a choir in a concert of Bach and Handel. Another of his interests is football and for many years he supported Brighton & Hove Albion home and away. His favourite premiership team is Arsenal. Other interests include information technology, writing and ten-pin bowling.
This entry was posted in Books about Spain, Spain, Spanish Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s