The Project Gutenberg eBook of Europe from a Motor Car

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Title: Europe from a Motor Car

Author: Russell Richardson

Release date: December 9, 2012 [eBook #41588]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Greg Bergquist, Anna Hall and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
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Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The approach to the Stelvio pass Page 36



printer's decoration


Copyright, 1914
By Rand, McNally & Company

The Rand-McNally Press

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My Mother

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  1. chapter    page
  2. Preface    9
    1. Berlin to Marienbad    11
    2. Marienbad to Trafoi    24
    3. Crossing the Stelvio into Italy    36
    4. A Visit to Lyons    65
    5. Chambéry to Nîmes    79
    6. Nîmes to Carcassonne    97
    7. Carcassonne to Tarbes    110
    8. Tarbes to Biarritz    122
    9. A Day in Spain    130
    10. Biarritz to Mont-de-Marsan    143
    11. Mont-de-Marsan to Périgueux    159
    12. Périgueux to Tours    172
    13. The Châteaux of Touraine    182
    14. Orléans to Dieppe    197
    15. Expenses and Suggestions    215

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  1.     page
  2. The Approach to the Stelvio Pass    2
  3. A French Highway    11
  4. The Brandenburger Thor    20
  5. Cutting Across the Glacier    34
  6. Lake Como, Most Beautiful of the Italian Lakes    44
  7. Italian Villas on Lake Como    48
  8. Above the Val d'Aosta    54
  9. The Rhone at Lyons    66
  10. Out of the Silence and Gloom    80
  11. The Ancient Roman Theater at Orange    86
  12. Arc de Triomphe at Orange    88
  13. The Palace of the Popes at Avignon    90
  14. The Ruined Bridge of St. Benezet at Avignon    92
  15. The Maison Carrée at Nîmes    94
  16. The Castle and Double Line of Fortifications at Carcassonne    102
  17. The Walled City of Carcassonne    104
  18. The Pyrenees Were in Sight    112
  19. Ice Peaks of the Pyrenees    116
  20. The Grande Plage at Biarritz    126
  21. The Ox-carts Were Curious Creations    134
  22. The Death Stroke    140
  23. A Familiar Village Scene in Provincial France    156
  24. A Miracle of Gothic Splendor    162
  25. A Convenient Way to Carry Bread    176
  26. The Road Swept Us Along the Bank of the Loire    180
  27. The Château of Loches Behind Its Imposing Entrance    186
  28. The Château of Chenonceaux    190
  29. The Château of Amboise on the Loire    194
  30. The Wheat Fields of Normandy    198
  31. The Gothic Cathedral at Chartres    200
  32. The Seine at Rouen    208
  33. Where Jeanne d'Arc was Burned at the Stake    212

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The following pages have not been written to supplement the thousands of guide books about Europe. Long, technical descriptions have been avoided. An endeavor has been made, rather, to give our personal impressions of the Old World from a motor car. Our itinerary overlooked the larger cities whose contents have been so well inventoried by Baedeker. The life of the peasantry, the small towns seldom visited by American tourists, quaint villages unapproached by any railroad, the superb roads and views of the Tyrol, the crossing of the Alps over the snow-crowned Stelvio into Italy, the flight through northern Italy to Como, loveliest of the Italian lakes—such unique experiences amid beautiful scenery appealed to us more than the attractions of the crowded metropolis. We were out for a motor ramble instead of a sight-seeing tour. Our route did not follow entirely the familiar highways of tourist traffic. From the summit of the Alps we were to see, far below us, the valleys of picturesque Savoy. Then came the long, thrilling descent into France through Provençe, that treasure land of Roman antiquity, through the Pyrenees, lifting their huge[Pg 10] barriers between France and Spain, to Biarritz on the Atlantic. Spain was before us, the pastoral beauties of Limousin and Périgord, the châteaux of Touraine, and the cathedrals of Normandy.

An important part of our equipment was the Michelin Guide, which, with its convenient arrangement and wealth of useful information about hotels and roads, rendered invaluable aid. Its maps were so clear that it was seldom necessary to retrace our path. By means of them we planned our route and found our way through the different countries.

The writer wishes to thank Michelin & Co. of Paris, and Dr. Lehmann of the Benz Company in Mannheim, Germany, for their assistance and advice. The files of the London Daily Mail contributed helpful suggestions. Obligation is also expressed to Mr. Charles Netcher, whose good judgment and motormanship were indispensable to the success of the trip.

Russell Richardson.

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

A French highway Page 178

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Before us was the long stretch of the Potsdamer Strasse bathed in the sunshine of a July morning. Slowly the speedometer began to devour the kilometers of the Kaiser's imperial city, and the low music of the siren seemed like a song of rejoicing that we were at last starting on our quest of motor experiences along the highways of Europe. The exhilaration of the moment called for speed, a leaping burst of it, but a Berlin street is unfortunately no place for speeding. Numerous helmeted policemen, vigilant guardians of German speed laws, were sufficient reminders that the way of the motor transgressor would be paved with heavy fines.

These policemen looked like soldiers. In Berlin one is always surrounded by a military atmosphere. The city is the product and the producer of this martial spirit. The Prussian wars are written so completely in[Pg 12] pages of bronze and marble, one has the impression of being among people who are on the verge of war and prepared for it. Even as we glided along, a huge Zeppelin air ship hovered above us, one of those ill-fated war machines which have so often met destruction.

A little farther on, there was a stirring sound of military music, and our way was intercepted by a marching regiment. It was fully ten minutes before the last soldier passed. Such scenes are common in the capital of a country bounded on two frontiers by powerful nations, and dependent for its very existence upon the maintenance of a large standing army.

Gradually the music grew fainter, the warnings of countless "verbotens" became less frequent. Soon we were riding through the Prussian country, pleasantly pastoral and interspersed by red-roofed villages. Everywhere were barracks and soldiers, and each small community was throbbing with industrial life. This was prosaic, military, modern Germany; that is, it might have seemed prosaic had we not seen it from a motor car. There is a quality of romance about all[Pg 13] motoring in Europe. It is fascinating to appear unexpectedly among a people in the midst of their everyday activities, to see them as they really are, to flash for a brief moment upon the horizon of their local life, and then to whirl on to other scenes. Such a trip is never monotonous. There is magic in this song of the swift kilometers.

The tourist, by train or on foot, is overwhelmed by details. He sees small cross-sections of life. But the motorist, of all travelers, can see larger outlines. For him a thousand details merge to form a unit which he can grasp; to paint a picture of clear-cut, dominating impressions and filled with life-long memories. Even "the best traveler[1] on foot—Barrow or Stevenson—can enjoy himself, or interest others, only by his impressions of the insistent details of each trudged mile. The motorist alone can perform the great deduction of travel. His privilege is to see the surface of his planet and the activities of his fellowmen unroll in impressive continuity. He[Pg 14] moves along the vital lines of cause and effect. He sees how the earth has imposed character and habits upon her inhabitants."

When one has seen Europe from a motor car, the geography of the Old World ceases to be a mass of hazy facts set off by indefinite boundaries. We had vaguely thought of the Alps as being in Switzerland. After crossing them twice, these mountain barriers, extending from Vienna to the Mediterranean, through Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and France, were to have a new meaning. Most of us would probably confuse the old provinces of France with the departments which correspond roughly to our states. But Normandy, Brittany, and Provençe have no more geographical significance to-day than "Mason and Dixon's Line," which once served as a boundary between North and South. Places which had previously existed for us, in cold print, were to glow with life and color, and were in turn to tell their romantic story. Now, when we look at our map of France, we can see "the great central wheat plain; the broad wine belt; the western landes; the eastern pine slopes; the welter of history[Pg 15] in Touraine and Anjou; dear, yellow, dusty, windswept, singing, dancing, Provençe; the southward climatic procession of buckwheat, wheat, vine, olive, palm, and orange tree."[2]

Our chronicle of this first day of motoring includes a brief glimpse of Wittenberg, where Luther burned the Papal Bull and thus kindled the flame of the Reformation. After Wittenberg came Leipzig, famed as the home of immortal Baedeker. One cannot ride far in Germany without encountering a city counting its population by the hundred thousand. This wealth of population explains in part how Prussia, only a generation ago so agricultural, could have changed so quickly into a vast workshop; there has always been a plentiful supply of labor.

We stopped for the night at Chemnitz, a smoky city and with a dreary looking hotel showing in prominent letters the unpleasant name of "Hotel zur Stadt Gotha." The next morning we ran the easy gauntlet of customhouse formalities at Gottesgab, and crossed the Austrian frontier into Bohemia, that land of[Pg 16] shadows and thorn in the flesh of the Austrian government where the gay colors of peasant dress hardly conceal the evidences of poverty and squalid misery, and where hunger appears to be driving out plenty. It is a country of peasants. There are millions of them, back in the Middle Ages as to their agricultural methods, unable to adapt themselves to the harsh, progressive realities of the present, and careless whether the abundant meal of to-morrow will make up for the meager repast of to-day.

If you wish to see real misery, and to understand why the Bohemians emigrate in such great numbers to the United States, then take a motor trip through this most discontented and unhappy of all the Austrian provinces. Here amid picturesque and beautiful scenery one finds the rural slums of Europe. The small farm hamlets look forlorn and unkempt, the barnyards disorderly, the towns dirty and neglected, the people as if they were both the cause and effect of these conditions. It is a common sight of the road to see women harnessed with dogs or oxen. Here even wooden shoes would be something of a luxury.

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There is something fascinating about exploring these neglected corners of Europe in a motor car. The dress of the peasants is gay even though ragged, their life picturesque even in its poverty. One finds lights as well as shadows in the picture. Nature has softened the harsh lines of peasant life with dreamy, misty horizons, with pine-clad hills and dashing brooks, with pleasant vistas of distant mountains.

On reaching Carlsbad about noon we found the season of this fashionable watering place at its height. Crowds of visitors were promenading in the street, returning from the baths and springs or trying to stimulate jaded appetites by a few breaths of the fine invigorating air. The place is really beautiful with its fine setting of Bohemian mountains.

Friends were expecting us in Marienbad, so we resumed our journey early in the afternoon. This stretch of forty miles lay through the loveliest part of Bohemia. Such depths of blue atmosphere melting into the green of pine forests!

The forestry system of Bohemia is something[Pg 18] to admire and to study. For generations, governmental inspection has been tireless in its efforts to improve and develop the forests. There are many large estates which have their own private foresters; no opportunity for tree planting is neglected. On the smaller farms, if the soil is not adapted to the raising of fruits and vegetables, the state tells the farmer what trees will flourish best in that kind of soil. Thus no acre is wasted. Twice a year the official inspector decides what trees may be cut. If, during the year, some farmer wishes lumber, it is the inspector who decides what trees, if any, may be cut. No sooner has the tree fallen than a fresh sapling takes its place. The trees are planted in regular rows. There is no crowding. In such a land, forestry is a distinguished profession.

For some distance the valley narrowed almost to a cañon. Then wider views opened, until from a wooded ridge we saw below us in the valley the village of Marienbad. Nature was good to her children when she fashioned this rare resort, lying so white and clean in its green cradle of high pine-covered hills.

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Much too briefly must we give our impressions of life at a Bohemian watering place. Every one lives out of doors. The many villas are generously provided with balconies to catch the sunshine and pine breezes. Unlike most health resorts, the atmosphere of the sick room is absent. Few invalids are to be seen. Most of the Kurgäste come here for the purpose of reducing their weight. Their chief rule of life is to eat little and exercise much. The numerous tennis courts are constantly filled. The mountains invite to long walks. There are hot baths, steam baths, mud baths, and baths that would probably have been new even to the bath-loving Romans. The gymnasia are elaborately equipped with exercising apparatus. If one wishes to watch another phase of this struggle against excessive avoirdupois, he should rise at a dim gray hour and walk over to the Promenade. People of every nationality crowd about the mineral springs and then, with their glasses well filled, they take their places in the cosmopolitan throng which moves slowly up and down the long Promenade. One hears the confused murmuring of many voices in many[Pg 20] languages, the favorite topics of this linguistic Babel relating to various ailments and the weight-reducing qualities of different mineral waters. A less corpulent arrival is looked upon with envy. Slowly the glasses are emptied, and then again filled. It is customary to walk up and down for an hour, while drinking two glasses of mineral water. With each swallow the Kurgäste appear to be imbibing the hopes of their diminishing avoirdupois. The Germans are in the majority. They are always desperately conscientious in their endeavor to meet all the requirements of this simple but exacting life, possibly because they realize that a long devotion to beer and sandwiches is not the best means to preserve the youthful figure. Near the Promenade are weighing shops. A place like Marienbad naturally includes among its habitués some who could easily qualify for the monstrosity class. We remember one Egyptian phenomenon of enormous proportions who had to have his own private scales.

After the hour at the spring comes a strenuous half-hour climb to a hilltop restaurant where breakfast is served. How inviting those[Pg 21] repasts in the open air! The coffee is as good as can be found anywhere in Europe, and the scrambled eggs and Schinken aus Prague are served by pretty Bohemian waitresses arrayed in all the colors of their native costumes. At these hilltop restaurants orchestra music is always an attractive feature of the breakfast.

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The Brandenburger Thor Page 11

One is never sure what distinguished statesmen or prince of royal blood is sitting near by. While we were breakfasting one morning a gentleman dressed in an ordinary business suit approached and sat alone at a table close at hand. We learned later that he was the Prime Minister of Russia.

The activities and diversions of the day would be incomplete without a stroll after dinner down the pleasant Kaiserstrasse. At this evening hour all the visitors to Marienbad pass in leisurely review. The Austrian officers, erect and soldierly, make quite a striking appearance. Our attention was also attracted to the monks of Tepl, with their long black cloaks and broad-brimmed hats. They are the owners of Marienbad, and live in a monastery situated a few miles from the village. About[Pg 22] two centuries ago the monks of Tepl began to realize the commercial possibilities of their springs. Forests were cut away; streets were laid; marshes blossomed into gardens and green lawns; splendid buildings were erected for patrons who wished to take the various baths, and to-day Marienbad is a village of hotels and villas. Last year there were about forty thousand visitors. The monks whom we saw looked sleek and well-fed. They lead an easy life, hunting, fishing, and managing their lucrative property. The monastic vow of poverty has probably long since ceased to mean much of a hardship.

This fact of a modern village being controlled by a wealthy religious organization dating as far back as 1133 is most unique. It is doubtful if a parallel case can be found anywhere. The town shows in many ways the influence of its monastic administration. Licensed gambling halls, which are so prevalent in all of the French watering places, do not exist here. There is no night life. After ten o'clock in the evening the streets begin to look deserted. Amusement places of doubtful character have thus far found[Pg 23] no footing in this simple village life. Considering the thousands of idle and pleasure-loving Europeans who throng every year to Marienbad, it seems remarkable that the general tone of the place should have been kept so high.

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Even a congenial environment like that of Marienbad began to lack interest when we looked at our motor itinerary and saw awaiting us such rich experiences as climbing above the clouds over the snowbound Stelvio, or the sight of Carcassonne, tower-girt and formidable behind feudal walls. The call of the white road was irresistible when it led through the purple valleys of the Pyrenees to beautiful Biarritz on the Atlantic and to San Sebastian in Spain, where the Spanish king and queen hold summer court. The perfect day of blue skies added its persuasive voice.

We were again on the road. The villas of Marienbad withdrew behind the mountains, and we settled down to the complete enjoyment of the ride through Bohemia and southern Germany to Munich. On either side were quaint scenes of Bohemian life. Every little farm hamlet had its pond of geese, with a goose girl tending her flocks. One of them threw us a[Pg 25] flower. Her action meant more to us than she thought; it was a happy omen for the rest of the trip. Peasant women were toiling barefooted in the fields, or trudging along the road, bending under heavy burdens of wood. This human element in the scene was impressive. Here, as everywhere, the great drama of human life was being played. But the role of the actors was such a humble and pathetic one, so much of the land was given over to unfruitful fields, half cleared of stumps! There were no such pictures of content and prosperity as one finds everywhere in Germany and Holland. The houses were scarcely more than huts.

We halted in some of the towns to take a first lesson in the Czeck or Bohemian dialect. The store signs were mysterious, with their hieroglyphics. One shop contained sewing machines, and the word "Singowiski" above the door hinted that this might be the Bohemian translation of Singer sewing machines. Road signs were not always visible, and less often intelligible. Then we were obliged to ask the way. If the source of our information was a town official he usually spoke in German,[Pg 26] otherwise in Bohemian, an answer which did not relieve us of our uncertainty.

The German frontier was reached about noon. Our Triptyque received the customary official stamping at the Zoll-amt. To our great relief, no questions were asked about Pichner Torte, a very delicious kind of cake made only in Austria, and so good that tourists always lay in ample supplies. Such articles as a rule are heavily taxed at the Austrian frontier.

Just at this moment Looloo, our French bull terrier, became sick. The shock of coming so suddenly into German territory was probably too much for her sensitive French temperament, but she soon revived after eating a piece of French dog biscuit. We lunched at a Gasthaus in the small town of Furth im Walde. The first word on the wall which caught our attention was "Ausstellung." That was enough to make us feel that we were once more in the Fatherland. The Germans seem to be always holding or advertising exhibitions and fairs. "Ausstellung" and "Practisch" need have no immediate fear of losing their place in the vocabulary of the average German. There was no doubt of[Pg 27] our being in Germany. We would have known it from the trim, clean farms. Order and thrift were in evidence, every stick of every wood pile in place—all such a contrast to Bohemian untidiness.

Once more in the land of the Kaiser, and motoring through picturesque Bavaria, slow changing and old-fashioned, the mediæval part of modern Germany, a region of small towns and peasant farms. We were often delayed to pay the Zoll of a few pfennigs. The impost was not onerous, but it was inconvenient to stop so often. Frequently a little girl or small boy would come out to collect our pfennigs, and would hold up flowers for us to purchase. On one occasion we saw an aged collector of tolls apparently overburdened by official cares, his head sunk in slumber, and a large beer stein on a table near him. The picture was so characteristic of the slow-moving life around us!

Our motor flight through this fascinating region of Germany afforded opportunity to observe how the different towns had striven for a style of architecture original and unique. The houses had much warmth of color, much[Pg 28] more than one would see in northern Germany. But then Bavaria is of course closer to Italy, and to the vivid landscapes, the bright sunny skies of the southland, and this difference in climate is naturally reflected in the life of the people. It is not surprising that the great artists of Germany should have come from the south.

We remember vividly the town of Straubing, where we stopped to buy gasoline. In the middle of the street an old-fashioned clock tower rose above the red-tiled roofs and gabled houses. Many of the homes had attractive window gardens; red and blue were the prevailing colors. No one was in a hurry; life moved with a leisurely swing. Baedeker barely mentions Straubing, but we doubt if Nurnberg or Munich could show a street more typically south German or better worth the artist's brush.

At this point should be mentioned the happy discovery of the lunch box which thoughtful friends had stowed away with the baggage. There had been so much to attract our attention that we had overlooked it. Our motor appetites were equal to the occasion; fruit, cakes, and cold chicken sandwiches received no[Pg 29] mercy. It is unnecessary to add that scenery and sandwiches went well together, especially such scenery and such sandwiches.

The landscapes were not more varied than the weather. At times the road was wet where a shower had just preceded us. All day the sunshine had brightened and faded. Now we noticed a battalion of dark clouds massing heavily above us; little by little the blue sky surrendered to the storm king; the artillery of heaven thundered into action. It was worth a wetting to see the storm sweep toward us and then fade into the gorgeous sunset which closed the day. The church spires of Munich were luminous in the golden light. Swiftly we sped down the long, straight road into the city. When we stopped before the comfortable Regina Palast Hotel our speedometer registered one hundred and eighty-five miles, the longest run of the trip. The country ahead of us was to prove too interesting for any attempt at long-distance records.

The evening gave a pleasant glimpse of Bavarian life, of its good cheer and warm spirit of hospitality, so in contrast with the colder[Pg 30] social customs of the north. The Berliner is reserved, exclusive. When he enters a café he would like, if possible, a table where he can sit alone. But Bavarian sociability is all-pervasive. The café where we passed an hour or so was filled with it. Tyrolean warblers in native costume occupied the stage fashioned to portray a bit of south German landscape. Song books were handed us. Every one joined in singing the rollicking folk songs. Of course the evening would have been incomplete without a visit to the famous Brauerei and a cooling sample of Münchner Brau.

After a couple of days in Munich we departed for Landeck, in the Austrian Tyrol, a ride of one hundred and eighty-two kilometers. For some distance our course was the same as the route to Ober-Ammergau. Lunch at a wayside inn included Gänsebraten, which can only be described as "ausgezeichnet." Bright Tyrolese landscapes flew by. It was glorious running, the air buoyant with the breath of the mountains, which rose in a jagged, majestic profile above little villages where the houses were painted with queer scenes of peasant life.

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At Garmisch we were in the heart of the Bavarian Tyrol. It was a good place to stop for a few minutes to watch the people, the women almost theatrical in the gay colors of their dress, the men equally gorgeous with their red neckties, green hats and vests, to say nothing of green leggings which left knee and ankle bare. Every one wore the feather. Garmisch is not far from the Austrian frontier, so we purchased five liters of gasoline, this necessary article being much more expensive in Austria than elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, on reaching the Zoll-amt at Griesen we found that gasoline had jumped from forty-five or fifty pfennigs to a kronen a liter, an increase of about eight cents. The Austrian officials made us pay a duty of ninety heller on the five liters of gasoline which we carried as reserve. They also enriched the treasury of their government by a duty of 3.60 kronen on our twelve liters of oil, and thoughtfully suggested that we purchase five additional liters of gasoline at the Austrian rates. In view of our purchase in Garmisch, this invitation was declined. Had we carried a spare wheel and covers, they would have[Pg 32] requested us to remove them and would have weighed them in an outhouse opposite the Zoll-amt. It is customary to charge duty on tires if the equipment be above a certain weight. If one carries the average equipment, there is usually no trouble.

Just across the frontier a sign post, bearing the word "Rechtsfahren," reminded us of the change in the rule of the road. The scenery grew wilder. Nowhere in Europe can be found a more perfect country for the motorist than the Austrian Tyrol, with its splendid roads and incomparable scenery. Steadily the road circled and climbed. It was the sunset hour. Shadows were creeping out of deep valleys; a snowy mountain was turning to a lovely rose color in the crucible of the afterglow. Far down among the shadows we spied a little lake, still and black under the overhanging mountains.

The Post-Hotel in Landeck was surprisingly good. It is located right on the river Inn, which rushes noisily through the middle of the town. After an excellent Abendessen we retired early, and were not long in yielding to the drowsy roar of the waters.

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Breakfast was followed by an animated scene in front of our hotel. Amid a medley of motor horns, other cars were also departing. As we ascended beyond Landeck, the road swung with easy grades above the magnificent gorge of the Hoch Finstermünz pass, where we stopped for a picture. The ride from this point over the Reschen-scheideck pass was simply indescribable. In that exhilarating air, one seemed to be flying instead of motoring. We plunged through rocky tunnels, or hesitated as the road appeared to leap off into the abyss or the towering rock masses seemed to sweep forward as if to bar further progress. Then would come a sharp turn, opening up a new sweep of highway. The road was as good as we found anywhere on the trip, and wide enough for the motor cars that occasionally passed us. But accidents could easily have happened at the curves. Sure brakes and a tireless motor horn are invaluable at these critical moments.

It was a pleasant surprise at Reschen to see a cozy villa flying the American flag, and to discover acquaintances in this secluded corner of the Old World. We had forgotten that[Pg 34] buckwheat cakes could be so good. Our departure was accompanied with warnings about the difficulties of the Stelvio, which we were to climb the next day.

After being shown the picture of this most formidable of mountain roads, with its serpentine windings, rising mile upon mile, and finally disappearing above the clouds, we wondered if the car could possibly ascend such a barrier, and if it would not be better to reach Italy by some less dangerous route. One motorist had attempted the feat a few weeks before, and after climbing eight thousand feet was forced to turn back on account of deep snowdrifts. Mention was also made of a particularly dangerous curve where there had once been a fatal accident. These reports were not encouraging, but nevertheless we wanted to make the attempt. Every one who motors in the Austrian Tyrol has but one dream, one ambition—to submit his skill and car to the supreme test of scaling the Stelvio.

From Reschen the car ran along a pretty lake, then shot down a long grade to Mals and from there wound along to Neu Spondinig, where we [Pg 35]stopped for a few minutes for tea and to exchange motor experiences with other travelers, on their way to Landeck over the same route by which we had come.

Cutting across the glacier Page 38

Leaving Neu Spondinig, we turned sharply to the right and into the gloom of a deep gorge, crossing the bridges of the impetuous Trafoier Bach and climbing for several kilometers to Trafoi, where a most marvelous view burst upon us. Until this moment the high walls of the gorge had shut us in, but now the road suddenly opened into a view so magnificent as to seem almost unreal. We were directly under the shadow of the Ortler, with its twelve thousand feet of rock and ice. The glittering whiteness of the Madatsch glacier formed with its ice floods a veritable mer de glace. The scene was so wild, the impression so overwhelming, that for some minutes we forgot to order rooms for the night at the fine Trafoi hotel.

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It was before seven that we started on the long climb. An early start is important when the main care is to keep the engine cool. Cloudless skies favored our attempt. Across the gorge we saw the towering Weiskugel, its snows turned to radiant silver while the valley was still in shadow. The Ortler was transfigured, the Madatsch dazzling—almost blinding until our eyes had grown wonted to the brilliant spectacle. Slowly the long grades sank behind us. It seemed better to set a steady, even though slow pace, and maintain it until the summit was reached. So we were forced to use second speed. The sides of the engine bonnet had been tied back to give the engine every possible bit of cool air. From "hairpin" to "hairpin" we went, these curves so sharp that at first it seemed impossible to make them without backing. How they twisted above us like the loops of a gigantic lasso flung far up the mountain, into the region of eternal snow![Pg 37] Imagine it! Forty-six of them! Only on one turn were we forced to back, but with a large, powerful car this record would have been impossible. Any car that cannot turn easily in a fifty-foot circle would better find some other way of reaching Italy. It is not pleasant to back up when the edge of the precipice is a matter of inches.

When the Austrians built this road, a century ago, they were not thinking about motor cars. This masterpiece of road construction was intended for armies, not for automobiles. The makers of those curves, cut through heights of solid rock, never anticipated the luxurious modes of modern travel. If then they had only foreseen the coming of motor warfare, how much inconvenience would have been spared the impetuous motorist who to-day attempts to climb the Stelvio in a long, powerful car which cannot quite make the turns without backing. Surely, a few feet would have been added to those tantalizing, agonizing curves. How little the Austrians realized that their military invasion would be followed by the more peaceful motor invasion of our day.

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With every turn, our admiration for this perfect road increased. One marvels at such matchless feats of engineering, at such gigantic obstacles so completely overcome. Here, high retaining walls have been built to keep the road from crumbling away; there, mountain torrents that would have washed it away have been diverted. Turn after turn, and still higher to go! Pine woods gave way to stunted shrubbery, and then vegetation ceased altogether. We were above the clouds. Nothing but the sun above us. Snow banks appeared on either side; we could put out our hands and touch them. Then through Franzenshöhe, formerly the seat of the Austrian customhouse, to Ferdinandshöhe and the summit of Stelvio, 9,041 feet above the sea, the highest point of motor or carriage travel in Europe.

It is impossible to describe the thrill, the intoxication, of the moment as we stood there watching the ice fields roll away in great waves, as if the ocean, in a moment of wild upheaval, had been frozen. Leaving the car near the little Ferdinandshöhe hotel, we climbed an elevation of one hundred and fifty feet to the[Pg 39] Hotel Dreisprachenspitze, where one stands at the apex of three countries. We could look down into Italy. The ice floods of Switzerland swept to the horizon; a hundred snow peaks flashed in the morning sun. In the other direction yawned the mighty gorge of the Stelvio, where it had taken us two hours and seven minutes to make eight miles. The wind was of razor keenness.

On descending to arrange customhouse details with the Austrian officials, we found the car frozen in the ice. The hot steel-studded tires had melted a deep groove, and were now held fast in the prison of their own making. Even on the Stelvio we had not expected to be frozen fast on the first of August. In vain we opened wide the throttle. The wheels turned furiously without gaining an inch. Austrian soldiers came to our rescue. Half a dozen of us pushed from behind. Two American tourists who had just climbed the Stelvio from the Italian side in a Cadillac, also gave generous aid. With the additional help of pickaxes and quantities of sawdust, the car finally shook off its icy fetters.

[Pg 40]

Meanwhile we had succeeded in snapping some kodak pictures without attracting the notice of the Austrian officers. The Stelvio is a military road, various forts are in the neighborhood, and the government regulations forbid the taking of photographs. In securing these pictures we ran the risk of heavier penalties than the confiscation of the camera and films.

Fortune did not smile so cheerfully at the Italian dogana, two miles farther down. Hardly had we touched the kodak when Italian soldiers and customhouse officers rushed toward us. We were not sure whether we would be shot on the spot or simply left to languish in an Italian prison. One of the officers seized the camera, tied a red string around it, and sealed it. Observing that our ignorance of military regulations was fully equal to our ignorance of Italian, he instructed us in French not to open the camera until we were beyond Tirano, seventy miles away, the frontier town of the military zone.

During the ascent the engine bore the chief strain. It had worked heroically without once faltering. Now, upon the long down grades of[Pg 41] the Italian slope, we were forced to rely upon the brakes. The road descended with a continuous and fairly steep gradient for almost fourteen miles. It was dangerous, difficult work. We not only had to make the turns, which were just as sharp as on the Austrian side, but it was necessary to watch the straining brakes, releasing them when the grade permitted and alternating the emergency brake with compression. This was a feat demanding all the qualities of motormanship. Coolness and good judgment were indispensable at every curve of the descent. The road turned icy corners and edged along precipitous cliffs. If the brakes had refused to work, it would have been fatal; the downward plunge of the car would have been beyond control in a few seconds. But at that moment we were not thinking of danger. The thrill of the descent, the feeling of flying down from a great height, the ice peaks that rose higher above us, the stupendous chasm that at every curve opened newer and more savage depths—these were all a part of our exhilarating experience.

We were coasting much of the time; gasoline[Pg 42] and ignition had been cut off. Rocky walls hurled back the blast of our motor horn as we entered the slippery winter galleries of the Diroccamento defile. According to law, no vehicle may enter a tunnel if it is occupied. Farther down, the road looped like the coils of a great serpent, twisting, disappearing, only to reappear farther down as a faint streak of shimmering roadway. It was curious, that sensation of falling, always sinking lower and yet never reaching the bottom. One more sweep through the Braulio Valley, and we stopped for lunch before the luxurious hotel Bagni-Nuovi, that popular watering place for the leisure rich of Italy.

Our first repast upon Italian soil very fittingly included macaroni and a generous bottiglia di vino italiano. After lunch we went into the terraced garden, fragrant with orange trees, overlooking dreamy Bormio, the gateway of Italy. The warm sunshine was delightful after having so recently faced the icy winds of the Stelvio.

Here we joined an American party from Detroit, Mr. and Mrs. ——, who were chaperoning two attractive American girls on a motor[Pg 43] trip through Italy and the Tyrol. They had rented an Italian car in Rome, but had not found the investment altogether satisfactory, the usual story of rented cars in Europe. These chance meetings with other Americans en route were among the pleasantest features of our trip. We would gladly have prolonged the visit, had it not been necessary to leave early in the afternoon if we were to reach Menaggio on Lake Como before dark.

After descending into Bormio, one motors for some distance between high, vine-clad slopes, and then passes through two or three villages, typically Italian with their dilapidated churches and narrow, cobbled streets swarming with dirty children, many of whom took a special delight in darting across our track just as we were passing.

Northern Italy is wonderfully picturesque. The long defile of S. Antonio Morignone, the antiquated towns, the slender campaniles standing out so clearly in the misty, dreamy landscape, the plains of Lombardy with their scenes of peasant life,—these were all interesting details to be duly jotted down in the notebook of memory.

[Pg 44]

It was haying time. The farming methods seemed so primitive; everything was hand work. We did not see a single labor-saving machine. The International Harvester Company would not have done a profitable business here. The hayricks were very small, and even these were often lacking, for barefooted women staggered under large bundles of hay. Yet these backward farmers make stalwart soldiers. Sturdy and frugal, they are, as in France, the backbone and hope of the nation. Europe recognizes the fine horsemanship of the Italian cavalry. The "Corazzieri," or royal bodyguard, is a magnificent corps. It is difficult to believe that most of these men are peasants.

There was no need of a compass to learn that we were going west, for the afternoon sun shone full in our faces. This steady glare, and the dazzling reflection from the white, dusty road, became almost unbearable. It was constantly necessary to shield the eyes. There was no winding or turning. Often we overtook a hayrick occupying most of the highway. The driver was usually invisible [Pg 45]in the soft depths of the hay, and so drowsy from the sun or liberal drafts of chianti that persistent blasts of the motor horn were necessary to attract his attention. Tresenda was passed, and then Sondrio, the capital of the fertile Val Tellina, noted for its wines.

Lake Como, most beautiful of the Italian lakes Page 45

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The sun was a glowing disk upon the horizon when we reached Colico upon Lake Como, most beautiful of the Italian lakes. There was a crimson light on the water. Red sails drifted lazily toward the shore. Across the lake the high mountains rose cone-like to a peak, like extinct volcanoes. From a distant bell tower floated the clear, sweet tones of the angelus. Before some of the houses, young Italians were playing melodies on guitars. Twilight was falling, that wonderful twilight so full of color and feeling, of the romance and sentiment of northern Italy. After several miles along the shore, through these fascinating scenes, we reached Menaggio.

The evening in the cool lake garden of the Grand Hotel was a refreshing sequel to the afternoon's hot ride. We could see the government searchlight sweeping its bright rays in[Pg 46] search of smugglers. The Italian lakes are partly in Italy and partly in Switzerland. Salt and tobacco are state monopolies in Italy. The poor people are forbidden even to pick up from the docks the few grains of salt which may have fallen during the loading and unloading of ships. Guards patrol the beaches to compel those who use the sea for a washtub, thoroughly to wring the salt water from the clothes. In spite of all the government's precautions, large quantities of salt and tobacco are smuggled in from Switzerland over the Italian lakes. The Italian officials are poorly paid. The operator of the searchlight which we saw received only eight dollars a month. The small salaries breed bribery and corruption, and it often happens, therefore, that on a dark night the government searchlight fails to discover a rowboat that goes out from the Swiss shore. The smugglers escape the vigilance of the swift revenue cutters, and make a successful landing on the Italian side.

The next day was so hot that it seemed best to pass the time quietly at Menaggio, in our restful retreat. The rooms were large and[Pg 47] airy, and open to the fresh lake breezes. The hotel had once been a villa, and with its private garden of thick plane trees was just such a spot as the dusty motorist delights to stumble upon after a long ride over the hot Italian roads.

Our gasoline was running low, so noticing a sign with the words Benzino-Lubrificanti, we entered. The commercianti spoke as much English as we spoke Italian. We compromised on gestures. In Italy it is a safe rule to pay about half the price asked. After half an hour of bargaining we obtained five liters of gasoline for forty-five centesimi a liter. The price demanded at first was ninety-five centesimi. Our change included a couple of five-lira notes so dirty, greasy, and mangled that they looked in the last stages of the plague. We would have felt safer to have handled them with tongs. Within a few days we had received kronen, heller, marks, pfennigs, lira, centesimi. It was quite an education in the currency systems of Europe.

On the way back to the hotel we entered the cathedral. To find so imposing an edifice[Pg 48] amid so much poverty was a surprise. Equally astonishing was the way the steep hills behind the town were terraced and cultivated, as though the very rocks themselves had been made to blossom and bear fruit. An Italian woman across the street was filling her jug at a fountain. The nozzle, crumpled into a trefoil, was of the same style as that used by the Roman matrons twenty-five centuries ago. Little things like this show how slowly time has marched in these lake towns of northern Italy.

The cool fragrance of early morning filled the air when we waved addio to our padrone and followed the curves of the shore toward Como at the end of the lake. There is much in favor of an early start before the heat begins to quiver above the road and the air to resemble a continuous cloud of dust. Every foot of the way was interesting. There were bright-colored villas half smothered in vines; crumbling bell towers flung their shadows across our path; dizzy cliffs hung above us; the lake was constantly within view.

At one of the turns a bicycle rider shot by. [Pg 49]
We missed him by an inch. He was followed by many others, scattered over the distance of a mile. They were all riding recklessly, rounding the corners at top speed and with heads bent low over the handle bars. Different numbers were pinned on their backs. This was evidently a long-distance bicycle race. It was nerve racking to meet so many curves and not to know whether the riders would pass us on the right or on the left. There is no fixed rule of the road in Italy. In towns having a tram, one turns to the left. Southern Italy is still more confusing, since each town has its own rule. In Como we motored down two or three streets before finally discovering, after many inquiries, the road running northward to Aosta in the Italian Alps.

Italian villas on Lake Como

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

We regretted our last glimpse of the lake. Instead of hazy mountains, blue sparkling waters, red sails, and pretty villas, the scenery changed to flat, uninteresting country. Novara was reached by noon, its streets baking in the fierce August sun. At the Hotel Italia the flies covered table and dishes. The ménu card presented difficulties; it was written in[Pg 50] a very illegible Italian. We guessed at most of the courses, but macaroni was the only dish of which we were sure. But our plight was not quite so discouraging as that of another motorist who found that for three of his courses he had ordered eggs cooked in three different ways. The early afternoon was so hot that we had thought of taking a siesta, but soon gave up the idea. There were too many flies. The inmates of the garage were all fast asleep, and the two blinking men whom we aroused could not conceal their surprise at our unseasonable departure.

Once out in the country, the dust invaded and pervaded everything. It was real Italian dust, that sifted into us and all but blinded us. The heat was terrific. For fear of bursting a tire, we halted in a drowsy village to let the car cool off under a shady chestnut tree. As if by magic, a score of dirty, ragged Italian children surrounded us, and begged for centesimi. We threw them a few coppers, but this vision of riches only served to redouble the clamor. Flight seemed the only price of tranquillity.

[Pg 51]

A little way outside the village, a cloud rolled swiftly toward us. The motor car did not appear to be much more than a cloud when it passed us, so thick was the dust. If there is anything hotter or dustier than an Italian highway on the third of August, we do not wish to see it. The drivers of most of the small carts were curled up, content to let the patient mule take its own pace, provided their siesta was undisturbed. The shrill call of our horn often caused them to move a little; there would be a slight twitching of the reins, and then they would relax again into slumber. The mule never changed its course.

Beyond Ivrea the country became more rolling and broken, and the Alps, which an hour before had appeared as blue, shadowy cloud masses, now lifted bold, distinct outlines. This contrast in scenery was as abrupt as it was impressive. Perhaps it was a ruined castle perched like an eagle's nest amid high crags. Within the same view, the eye beheld the vineyards, not planted in the usual manner of row above row, but arbor above arbor, supported by white stone pillars, and these[Pg 52] arbors rising to the very summit of lofty hills.

The road which had been winding and rising above the magnificent valley of Aosta now ran into a level stretch. We had opened wide the throttle, when all at once a motor car flashed around a curve two hundred yards ahead of us. An officer in the back seat waved to attract our attention, and kept pointing back to the curve. The warning was just in time, for as we waited within the shadow of the bend, another motor car shot at racing speed around the curve. She was a French racer. There had been no warning shriek of her horns; the road was so narrow at this point that a collision could hardly have been avoided without that precious second of warning.

Every year in Europe reckless driving causes more accidents than all the steep roads of the Alps. This is the chief danger of motoring on the Continent. The roads are so good that there is the constant temptation to disregard the still small voice of prudence.

The old Roman town of Aosta was in sight. This "Rome of the Alps" is a perfect treasure[Pg 53] house of antiquities. Passing under ancient Roman arches, we rode down the quaint main streets to the Hotel Royal Victoria, situated, according to our Michelin Guide, "près de la gare." The hotel, although small, was clean. This fact of cleanliness speaks much for any hotel located in a small Italian town.

Our morning promenade revealed much that was interesting. The middle of some of the streets was traversed by a mountain stream, the above-ground sewage system of Aosta. It was curious to notice how a part of the ancient Roman theater had become the supporting wall of a crowded tenement house. Aosta remains to-day almost undiscovered to the American tourist world. Yet there are few places where antiquity speaks more vividly. The market place was a scene of activity. This is the starting point for the crossing of the Petit St. Bernard pass. Here tourists were climbing into large excursion automobiles, and German mountain climbers were setting out, well equipped with long, iron-pointed poles, ice picks, ropes, and heavy spiked shoes for their battle with snow and ice.

[Pg 54]

It was ideal weather for our second conquest of the Alps over the Petit St. Bernard, which is closed eight months out of the year. While very dangerous in places, the pass is free from the restrictions which the motorist finds on the Simplon. There, one has to give notice in writing of intention to cross. It is also necessary to pay five francs for a permit. The speed limit of six miles an hour is rigidly enforced. Nevertheless, as one experienced motorist told us, if the Simplon pass compels a speed of six miles an hour on the straight course, and one and three-fourths miles at the curves, the Petit St. Bernard ought to have a special speed-limit of three miles an hour on the straight and two guards at every corner. Except the Stelvio, there is probably not a more difficult mountain pass in Europe.

We left Aosta to its memories of Roman days, threaded for some distance the tortuous windings of the Val d'Aosta, and crossed the Pont de la Salle above a high gorge. Near the ancient village of Pré St. Didier a rocky tunnel buried us temporarily from the outer world. Here the ascent began, and continued [Pg 55]for some miles to La Thuile, the Italian dogana. As we climbed out of the valley the panorama included a sublime view of Mont Blanc, highest of the Alps.

Above the Val d'Aosta

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

At La Thuile, two Frenchmen, about to make the ascent on motor cycles, cautioned us about the dangers of the climb. The customhouse officials were unusually affable, and were delighted to be included in a group picture. Then the long climb of six miles to the summit began to reveal dangers and difficulties. One sharp curve followed another. We soon overtook the French motor cyclists. They were walking, having found the ascent too steep. It was thrilling to be able to look down into the sunshine and fertility of Italy and then to observe the barren world of rock and snow into which we had risen. The engine proved equal to the severe test. We used the same tactics which were so successful on the Stelvio, keeping the same pace until the summit was gained, where we let the car rest near the world-famous Hospice du Petit St. Bernard. Other cars had halted in succession, having made the ascent from the French side en tour to Italy.

[Pg 56]

There was missing one interesting personality who had greeted visitors to the hospice in other years, the Abbé Chanoux, for fifty years rector of the hospice and the last patriarch of that legendary region of the Alps. The hospices of the Grand St. Bernard, and of the Simplon in Swiss territory, are managed by priests, but the Abbé Chanoux reigned alone in his mountain hospital, assisted by a few helpers and by his dogs. For half a century it was always a joy, when he saw some traveler less hurried than the others, to offer him a glass of muscat in his workshop and then, after having shown his garden of Alpine plants, to point out the shortest road to La Thuile. To-day the tourist can see the Alpine garden and the grave where, at the age of eighty-one years, Abbé Chanoux was buried. The resting place is where he wished it to be, in view of Italy, France, Mont Blanc, and his beloved hospice.

Just beyond the hospice is a Roman column of rough marble bearing the statue of St. Bernard. One also sees, close by, a circle of large stones marking the spot where Hannibal[Pg 57] is supposed to have held a council of war. A simple slab by the roadside designates the boundary line between Italy and France. As if to emphasize the fact that we were in France, a group of French soldiers were on duty close to the frontier. The cuisine of the restaurant Belvedere, with its attractive carte du jour, took us into the real atmosphere of the country.

The descent of nearly eighteen miles from the summit to the French douane at Séez, was like passing from mid-winter to mid-summer. What a superb stretch of motoring it was! The panorama, one of those marvelous masterpieces which nature rarely spreads before the eyes even of fortunate motorists! From our point of observation, on a level with the ice peaks, we could look for miles down into the plains of Savoy. Mont Blanc glistened like burnished silver. We could trace the mountain streams from their cradle in the glacier to their wild leaping from cascade to cascade and to the more peaceful flow through the valley. Pine forests mantled the lower part of the mountain.

[Pg 58]

Ignition was cut off, and the car left to her own momentum. The grades were much steeper than on the Italian slope, and the curves without railing or protection of any kind. The slightest carelessness in steering would have been fatal. Flowers and grass began to cover the meadows. Pine forests surrounded us. Then we entered on the long, sharp descent to Séez, stopping at the douane where the French officials came out to receive us.

The following incident will sound almost too incredible even to be included in a story of motor experiences. There was a small duty to be paid on the gasoline which we were carrying. Our wealth consisted of American express checks, a few Italian coins, and some French change, insufficient by twenty centimes to pay the duty. One of the officials advanced the twenty centimes from his own pocket, thus saving us the inconvenience of trying to cash the express checks somewhere in the town. We wished to "snap" his picture, but his modesty was too great. He also refused the Italian coins which we tried to press upon[Pg 59] him as a souvenir of the occasion. One associates customhouse officials with so many things that are unpleasant, that the incident naturally made a great impression on us.

Our difficulties were by no means over. The winding road with its sharp grades required the greatest caution. Near the Pont St. Martin it appeared to run straight over a precipice, and then turned sharply to the right. This was the place where only a few weeks later an American party suffered a terrible accident. Their machine swerved while making the slippery turn, and fell nearly seventy feet among the rocks.

For a distance of seventeen miles from Bourg St. Maurice to Mouthiers the road was in an appalling condition, any speed over ten miles an hour being at the risk of breaking the springs. A railroad was being constructed, and the heavy teams had raised havoc. We were creeping through this traffic, when the sudden halt of the wagon in front compelled us to stop. Two big teams, drawing stone, closed in on either side. The drivers, intent only on looking ahead, did not notice that[Pg 60] their heavy wheels were in danger of smashing the car. We finally attracted their attention, but barely in time to avoid trouble. From Albertville our course was over the splendid Nationale, which runs from Paris to Italy.

It is always a pleasant experience to motor on these famous highways, to observe the governmental system of tree planting, and to study what trees have been found most suitable in certain regions to protect the road and the traveler. The ornamental horse chestnut and maple greeted us most often in the small towns of eastern and northern France. Long rows of plane trees formed one of the familiar and beautiful sights of Provençe. We often saw these trees fringing the fields to give shelter and protection from the blasts of the mistral. It was also interesting to notice how fruit trees have in many places replaced forest trees along the road. These national highways, so much improved by Napoleon, were for us like open books for the study of the French trees.

It has been well noted that "while the state has the right to plant along the national roads,[Pg 61] at any distance it pleases from the adjoining property, it exercises this right with judicious moderation and leaves, as a rule, two meters—six and one-half feet—between the trees and the outside edge of the roadway.

"Tree planting is let in small contracts, sometimes as low as five thousand francs apiece. The object of this is to promote competition and to attract specialists, such as gardeners and nurserymen, who are hardly likely to have the means for undertaking large contracts.

"Government inspectors see that the contractor plants well-formed trees, free from disease and in every way first class.

"As the best planting season is short, a fine is imposed for every day's delay. When the contractor gets his pay, a certain sum is retained as a guarantee; and for two years he is responsible for the care of the trees and for the replacing of any that died or that proved defective. The sum held back until the final acceptance of his work, protects the government from danger of loss."[3]

[Pg 62]

There was no hurry about reaching Chambéry, our headquarters for the night. The distance of a few miles could easily be covered before dark, so we halted for a little while by the roadside. The car was in remarkably good condition after the tremendous strain of the day's ride. Dimly, in the distance, towered the snow-clad heights where we had been motoring only a short time before. By thus tarrying a while we enjoyed dazzling retrospect, present beauty, and alluring prospect.

A big Peugot tore by. These wide, smooth highways of crushed stone invite speed. There is a speed limit of eighteen miles in the open country, but it has long been a dead letter. The French system is to allow the motorist to choose his own pace, but to make him fully responsible for accidents. By thus heavily penalizing careless driving, the law works to develop the driver's discretion and does not impose farcical speed limits. This absence of burdensome regulations eliminates an endless amount of friction, and is one of many conditions in France which have contributed to the pleasure and comfort of foreign motorists.

[Pg 63]

Now we were in Savoy, celebrated for its mountain scenery, its lakes, and curious peasant villages. There was a home feeling in our return to this beautiful French province, for we had motored here a previous summer. Many a delightful motor ramble was associated with the names of Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc; Evian-les-Bains, on Lake Geneva; Annecy, on the lake of the same name, that quaint city which so charmed the Prince of Wales, a few years ago, with its arcaded, winding streets and old-world charm; Aix-les-Bains, the noted and popular watering place; and there, only a few miles away, Chambéry, historic city of the dukes of Savoy and of the kings of Italy. It was fine to see that same blue atmosphere about us again, and, above all, to think that for weeks our motor wanderings were to be in France, the one country on the continent of Europe where an American can feel most at home, and where the motorist can find, amid diversity of scenery, a provincial life charming alike for its hospitality and old-fashioned customs. Riding through the twilight to Chambéry, we hunted up the Hôtel de[Pg 64] France. This hotel could hardly have been described as luxurious, but it was comfortable, as are most of the hotels in the provinces.

The chief interest of Chambéry centers about the Rue des Arcades. At one end of the arcaded street is the curious Fontaine des Elephants. This monument, on four bronze elephants, is dedicated "to the Comte de Boigne, who settled here after his romantic life of soldiering in India and bestowed much of the fruit of the pagoda-tree upon the town." At the other end of the street are the high, massive walls which protect the château where the dukes of Savoy lived and where some of the kings of Italy were born. There is little enough to recall the glamour and glitter of those proud days. The city, with its more prosaic emblems of civil and military authority, now occupies the château.

[Pg 65]


At Chambéry we interrupted our trip through southern France to visit Lyons, the center of the silk industry not only for France but for the entire world. For once, we traveled by train. There is an element of strain about mountain motoring which is as severe upon driver as upon car. A diversion is not only welcome but almost necessary to the motorist who has twice guided his car over the Alps within the short space of a few days. The exhilaration of looking down into France or Italy from the summit of the Alps does not lessen the dangers of the long descent, where for considerable stretches every foot of the way is crowded with possibilities of accident.

Lyons, while usually overlooked by the vast army of summer tourists, holds, in many respects, a unique place among the world's great cities. We would speak of its magnificent location upon two rivers, the rapid Rhone and the sluggish Saône; of the twenty-seven bridges[Pg 66] that cross them; of the many miles of tree-lined quays, which hold back the spring floods and offer a lovely promenade to the people. No one who has seen Lyons will forget how the houses rise in picturesque confusion, tier piled above tier, to the heights of Fauvière, where some of the Roman emperors lived centuries ago, and where, on the site of the old Roman forum, stands a beautiful church, overlooking the city and embracing one of the views of Europe of which one never tires. On a clear day the Alps are visible, and the snows of Mont Blanc, and just outside the city one can see the two rivers uniting in their sweep to the Mediterranean.

Lyons is a military stronghold. Its prominence as a manufacturing and railroad center indicates, of course, its great strategic importance. Seventeen forts guard the hills around the city. The army is much in evidence. This constant coming and going of the French soldiers gives much color and animation to the street scenes. Everyone is impressed by the cuirassiers. They are powerfully built and look so effective, like real soldiers who could uphold the traditions of Napoleon's time, and [Pg 67]who would feel much more at home on the battle field than at an afternoon tea. We saw the Zouaves, in their huge, baggy red pantalons and with their faces tanned by exposure to the tropical sun of Algeria. Their red caps reminded us of the Turkish fez.

The Rhone at Lyons Page 65

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The Place des Terraux, peaceful enough to-day with its busy shops and clouds of white doves, witnessed many a tragic spectacle of the French Revolution. The guillotine stood in the center of the square. Lyons, always royalist in its sympathies, was one of the first cities to raise the standard of revolt against the excesses of the revolutionists in Paris. The consequences of this act were fatal and terrible. The Reign of Terror in Paris was surpassed by the more gruesome reign of terror in Lyons. An army was sent against the city, which was finally captured, after a desperate resistance. "Then the convention resolved to inflict an unheard-of punishment; it ordered the destruction of a part of the city and the erection on the ruins of a pillar, with the inscription, 'Lyons waged war with liberty; Lyons is no more.'"[4]

[Pg 68]

The city was "the scene of perhaps the greatest cruelty of the Revolution, when women who had begged for mercy to their dear ones, were tied to the foot of the guillotine and compelled to witness hours of butchery."[5] It was soon found that the guillotine did not work fast enough. The defect was quickly remedied. Hundreds of captives were taken outside the city, where the guns of the revolutionists continued the slaughter on a larger and more satisfactory scale.

Possibly the most interesting fact about modern Lyons is its industrial prominence. Baedeker tells us that the city exports annually over one hundred million dollars' worth of silk. Its life seems to be founded upon this one industry. The rich Lyonnais are silk manufacturers. The museum of silks is the finest thing of its kind in Europe. In the old part of the city is the statue of Jacquard, the inventor of the silk loom. As we walked through the narrow streets, there could be heard the sharp clicking of the shuttles, a sign that the weavers were[Pg 69] busy at their looms. We were shown the "conditioning house," where the imported raw silk is tested and subjected to a high temperature. This is the first important step in the manufacture of silk, which in the raw state absorbs moisture readily. But by exposing the silk to heat at a temperature of seventy-two to seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit, the water evaporates and the weight of the silk may then be ascertained. To prevent fraud it is then marked by a sworn valuer. France raises very little raw silk, most of it being imported from Japan and China. Out of a population of nearly half a million, nearly a third is directly engaged in the production of silk, and the workers in the surrounding districts would probably number as many more. For a distance of thirty miles, outside of Lyons, the country is dotted with little houses, each containing one or more looms. The prosperity of few large cities is more clearly the result of a single industry.

Americans are especially interested in Lyons for its connection with the starting of silk manufacturing in the United States. A short time[Pg 70] ago we were shown a letter written in 1863 by an American living in Lyons. He refers to the excitement created in this district by the rumor that weavers were being engaged with a view to establishing silk manufacturing in the United States on a very extensive scale, and that several companies had been formed and had sent out agents to purchase in Lyons all the machinery and looms used in the manufacture of silk. The writer doubted if the conditions in the United States would make possible the success of the venture. In spite of this prediction, the industry developed rapidly, so that to-day nine hundred American manufacturers have a combined annual output valued at over two hundred million dollars. At the time of the assassination of Lincoln the United States government received a silk flag from the weavers of Lyons dedicated to the people of the United States in memory of Abraham Lincoln. The flag was of the finest fabric and was inscribed: "Popular subscription to the Republic of the United States, in memory of Abraham Lincoln. Lyons, 1865."

But while the United States is making more[Pg 71] silk than France, Lyons remains the real center and heart of the industry. American high-power looms are mostly engaged in turning out, by the mile, a cheaper kind of silk, and largely confined to standard grades in most common use. The thread is much coarser. After having lived in Lyons it is possible to understand why this city continues to be the center of the silk industry, even when we consider that this is a mechanical age, and that the inventions of one nation spread quickly to competing nations. American manufacturers are using the Jacquard loom, a Lyonnais invention. The first American looms were imported from Lyons, but one thing which was not bought and imported with the loom, was that aptitude for handling it which is inborn in the Lyonnais. Machinery has its limitations, and back of the machine is the question of efficient labor. The trained hand of the workman is needed at every turn. The looms of Lyons are famous for their light, soft, brilliant tissues. The silk thread woven into many of these beautiful products is so fine that two and one-half million feet of it would weigh only two and one-fifth pounds.

[Pg 72]

It is an experience to see the weavers at their work, and to watch the sure, skillful way in which they weave the thousands of delicate threads into harmonies of color. Their skill is the heritage that has come down from father to son. These workmen have a start of many centuries over their American competitors. Their ancestors were weaving silk before America was discovered, the industry being started in Lyons in 1450 by Italian refugees. Traditions count for a great deal in the silk industry, and from the moment when Lyonnais weavers gained the Grand Prix from their Venetian rivals, under Louis XIV, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, their looms were busy making costly robes and rare tapestries for the royalty of Europe. In the museum at Lyons is a robe worn by the famous Catherine II of Russia. One is shown tapestries that adorned the apartments of Marie Antoinette in the Tuileries at Paris, and the throne room of Napoleon I in the palace at Versailles. Money could not buy these precious souvenirs of the Lyonnais looms. Many of the gorgeous robes worn at the coronation ceremony of[Pg 73] George V were made in Lyons. To-day, as in the past, to make these rich silks and brocades that France is exporting, there is needed not only the skill of the worker, but the soul of the artist. This artistic French temperament is the important and deciding factor that makes Lyons the center of the silk industry. There has been the attempt to create in the United States a style which would be distinctly American. It failed. The German emperor also encouraged efforts to create a style which would be typically German. The result was the same. The atmosphere in these countries is too commercial and mechanical for artistic vitality. In such an environment it is said that the French weavers who are employed in American silk factories become less effective, and lose much of their artistic originality. The industrial pace is too fast. The cost of labor in the United States is so great that the emphasis has to be placed on speed and quantity in order to cover the cost of production. But in Lyons, with a cheaper labor cost, the organization of hand and power looms is so perfect that a manufacturer is able to fill large orders readily.

[Pg 74]

A superior loom organization, combined with a temperament naturally artistic and creative, explains the advantage of the Lyonnais manufacturer over his American rival, and why it is that American buyers for our large department stores come to Lyons twice a year to select designs and place orders with the Lyonnais manufacturers. Department stores which cater to the wealthiest class of trade have their representatives permanently stationed here to keep in closest possible touch with the latest French fashions.

This question of style is of such absorbing interest to the average American home that it will be worth while to notice the forces at work in Lyons to produce it. Paris is so largely the parade ground for new fashions that nearly everyone overlooks the tremendous influence of Lyons in the creation of styles. The hundred and more silk manufacturers of Lyons have their own designers, who are constantly devising new patterns and color combinations. Most of the new designs and color schemes that appear every season in muslins, taffetas, satins, in all the varied kinds and qualities of silk, have[Pg 75] their origin here. This is the creative source. It is Paris that discriminates and decides to which of these new patterns it will give expression in the models which will be copied in all the fashion centers of the world. Paris has the artistic sense of knowing how to combine the materials that Lyons furnishes. The two cities work together. The famous fashion stores of Paris and the silk manufacturers of Lyons are the primary factors in the creation of styles, and yet, after all, the origin of style is to be found in the spirit of the times. Our restless age craves constant change. A century ago in France, when life moved more slowly, the silk dress was an important part of the bride's trousseau, and after being worn on special occasions through her life, was handed down to the next generation. But to-day the styles change with the seasons.

And as they change in Paris so they change in the United States. If we look at this question of style simply from the standpoint of organization, it seems remarkable how perfectly every little detail of the complicated machinery has been worked out. A French[Pg 76] silk manufacturer, who arrived in Lyons after a visit to several American cities, was impressed not only with the rapidity with which styles spread from the upper to the middle classes, and the quickness with which the American people grasp new ideas of dress, but also with the fact that Paris fashions appear in New York and Chicago at almost the same time that they appear in Paris. He saw accurate reproductions of the spring Paris fashions, made in America of French materials, and with the color, the line, the idea, the detail, so perfectly reproduced that it would have been difficult to decide between them and the Paris garment. More and more we are coming to realize our great debt to France, and to the Old World, for our education in matters of taste, for our appreciation of beauty in line and color.

And in Lyons one comes closest to this artistic spirit in the workshops of the weavers, and especially those who work on the hand looms. There are thousands of these weavers of the old school that has done so much to make famous the silk industry of the city. Their wages are small and they work amid surroundings of[Pg 77] extreme poverty. We visited some of them in their shops. Often we found the loom situated in a damp, gloomy basement, or on the top floor of some old house that looked as though it might have passed through the storm and stress of the period of the French Revolution. These sanitary conditions are so bad that in 1911 there was organized a charitable company with the sole purpose of providing decent lodgings where the weavers could work under improved conditions of light and shade. We always found them hospitable, eager to exhibit their work and explain the workings of the loom. In one workshop the weaver was busy with a piece of satin, the design being wrought in silver and gold. For this beautiful bit of tapestry, which had been ordered for one of the apartments of the Queen of England in Windsor Castle, the workman was receiving only one dollar a day. On another loom there was being reproduced a piece of sixteenth-century brocade. A French millionaire had noticed the original in a museum and wanted an exact reproduction of it for a new château he is building. After a morning passed amid such scenes, you feel that[Pg 78] Lyons is worth visiting, if for no other reason than to see at their work these artists of the loom who are so closely associated with one of the world's oldest and most interesting industries.

[Pg 79]


From Chambéry our course ran southwest through the Midi, that great sweep of territory stretching across the Mediterranean basin from the Alps to the Pyrenees and embracing many of the most interesting regions in France.

Our departure, early in the afternoon, was under somber skies. We were just reaching the outskirts of the city when the engine gave evidence of trouble. The car ran for a little way and then stopped. An investigation revealed the necessity of cleaning the spark plugs. While engaged in this work, we did not notice the approach of an ox team which came swinging along the road, drawing a two-wheeled cart, the wheels high and heavy, of a type which one often sees in the Midi. We were bending over the engine, with no thought of impending danger, when, without warning, the great wheels were upon us. The driver was evidently asleep; it was too[Pg 80] late to attract his attention. The wheel grazed one of us, and then, as the oxen swung in, crushed the other against the fender. It was fortunate that the fender yielded just enough to cause him to be forced under it and thus saved him from serious injury. Our car carried the scars of that encounter until the end of the trip. We were just as well satisfied that it was the car which bore the scars.

Not more than a mile or so from the scene of this adventure, a sign called attention to a long tunnel just ahead. The signs of the French roads speak an expressive language, they are so elaborately worked out for the traveler's convenience. This time it was a voice of warning. Lamps were lighted. The tunnel closed over us. We could just make out the faint star of daylight ahead. Weird shadows danced in front of the car. In the silence and gloom, the noise of our progress over the slippery road was greatly magnified. We emerged from the tunnel to find ourselves above a broad valley and nearing the small town of Les Echelles.

Out of the silence and gloom

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

[Pg 81]

Until this point our course was the route to the Grande Chartreuse, the monastery where, in mediæval days, the monks concocted a soothing cordial to refresh the hours of rude toil. The road now branched off in another direction. Our hopes of catching a glimpse of the celebrated old monastery, built high amid enshrining mountains, were doomed to disappointment. A storm was about to break. Heavy clouds, weighted down by their burdens of water, blotted out everything. From a patch of blue sky above Les Echelles, the sun streamed, and then disappeared. We raced down the easy slope to gain shelter in the village a mile away. Swiftly the thick curtain of rain closed in. It was a question whether we would be able to reach shelter before the fury of the elements burst upon us. Once more our car proved equal to the emergency, and we poked our way into the shed adjoining a village inn and waited until the worst of the storm had subsided. The rain continuing, we put up the top, and started in time to see a brilliant rainbow arching the whole valley. It was only for a moment. For[Pg 82] the rest of the afternoon we splashed steadily through puddles and mud.

The scenery changed. Mountain landscapes gave place to the lowlands of the Midi, barren rocks to fertile peasant farms. It was all a glimpse of France as she really is; not like Germany, a land of large cities, but rather of small towns and rural hamlets where peasant ownership is a fact, and where the peasantry form a mighty political force. France, so torn by rival factions, would be like a machine without a balance wheel if it were not for a large peasant class attached to the soil by the bond of ownership. The life of the French peasant is not easy. He toils long hours for small rewards. Even in the rain, we could see him continuing at his work. But he is free. Those two or three acres are his own. That is the great point. This fact of possession, by creating local ties and by fostering patriotism, is the safeguard of the country. His implements appeared to be of the simplest; probably most of those whom we saw working on that rainy afternoon had never seen a steam plow or a harvesting machine. The[Pg 83] homes were equally rude. Everywhere in France we noticed the absence of those cozy, comfortable houses which are so characteristic of the average American farm. Few fences were to be seen, possibly because of the spirit of justice as regards property rights, or perhaps because the land laws had been so perfectly worked out.

We entered Romans through a street so unusually wide as to be a pleasant surprise. Darkness was coming on. Road signs were indistinct, so we were forced to inquire the way to Valence. The people were obliging. Whether we were in the country or in some small town, there was always in evidence that same spirit of hospitable helpfulness which we found at the French douane in Séez.

The street lamps of Valence were burning when we arrived at the Hôtel de la Croix d'Or, so well known to all who journey from Paris to the Riviera. The marble entrance was quite imposing, but apparently after reaching the top of the staircase the builders were suddenly seized by a passion for economy, since the interior was very plain, like most[Pg 84] of the hotels in the French provincial towns. The dinner, however, made up for other deficiencies. Here, and all through the Midi, we could be sure of delicious haricots verts, omelette, and poulet; and what may seem strange, we never became tired of these dishes. The art of cooking them must be a monopoly of the French cuisine, for they never tasted so good in other countries.

Valence is more of a place to stop en tour than to visit for sight-seeing. It is fortunate in being situated on the main route from Paris to the Riviera, the road that we were to follow, and probably the most popular and most frequented motor road in France. Over its smooth, broad surface passes the winter rush of motorists seeking the warmer, more congenial climate of the Mediterranean shores.

We often found more or less trouble in getting out of the larger French towns. The streets are apt to have a snarl and tangle. Carts and wagons block the way. Roads are the worse for wear. This seemed to us one of the big differences between France and Germany. The German town is neat, clean, well-kept as[Pg 85] if the watchful eye of municipal authority were always on the alert to notice and remedy small defects. The average French town looks neglected. The people are just as thrifty, but they appear to care less for appearances.

From Valence we swung more quickly than usual into the splendid Route Nationale above mentioned. It was Sunday. Peasants were entering and coming from the small age-worn churches. At that hour the fields looked strangely deserted. Blue skies were radiant, the air agreeably cooled by the rain of the night before, the dust well laid. More and more we were yielding to the fascination of Europe from a motor car. Train schedules did not trouble us. We were independent. There were no worries about having to arrive or depart at a certain hour. Life on the road was a constant flow of new impressions, new experiences. Every village had its own unique attraction. Many motor cars passed us, each one an object of interest. Possibly in our cruise along these high seas of the French roads our feelings were a little like those of the mariner when he sights a passing ship.[Pg 86] Where does she hail from? Where her probable destination? Of what make? What flag is she flying? It was always a welcome sight to view the Stars and Stripes flying toward us. One can usually tell the American car even when some distance away, it is built so high. We noticed many Fords and Cadillacs. There is not much of a market in Europe for the expensive American car, because the foreign high-priced car is considered by the Europeans to be good enough. The cheaper American product has a market because few of the foreign firms make a cheap car.

High noon was upon us, the heat oppressive, our appetites ravenous, when we stopped in the poor little village of Pierrelatte. The prospect for lunch was not encouraging. A single stray resident appeared at the other end of the silent street. The houses might have been occupied by peasants who wrested mere existence from a barren soil. The inn, which was pointed out to us, would never have been recognized as such. It looked more like a venerable ruin. In an American town of this size we would have hesitated before [Pg 87]entering, and then probably would have turned away in despair to look for a bakery shop to stay the pangs of hunger. But we were growing familiar with the small French towns. It does not take long to discover that a hotel with an exterior symbolizing woe and want can have a very attractive interior at lunch time.

The ancient Roman theater at Orange Page 88

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We are still carrying pleasant memories of that lunch. There was potage St. Germain, made as only the French can make it. The oil for the salade was from the neighboring olive groves of Provençe. The haricots verts picked that morning in the garden, the raisins fresh from the vineyard. Best of all were the mushroom patties. One portion called for another. Our hostess was pleased; there was no mistaking our genuine appreciation of her cooking. Interrupting her culinary labors, she told us that the mushrooms were of her own canning. Each year it was necessary to lay in a larger supply. Tourists had found them so good that, on leaving, they had left orders for shipment to their home addresses. Now she was planning to erect a small factory.[Pg 88] Her recital was interrupted by a Frenchman, who implored "une troisième portion." He purchased a dozen cans of mushrooms, and if they had been gold nuggets he could not have stowed them away more carefully in his car. The French are authorities when it is a question of good things to eat.

The road to Orange was like a continuous leafy arbor. This shimmering arcade was too refreshingly cool to be covered quickly. On the outskirts of Orange we halted to see the Arc de Triomphe, a wonderful echo from the age of Tiberius. The arch stands in a circular grassy plot and the road divides, as if this product of the Roman mind were too precious to be exposed to the accidents of ordinary traffic.

The antique theater at the other end of the town is just as remarkable for architectural splendor. It is not enough to say that this structure is the largest and most magnificent of its kind in the world. It is also the best preserved. Every year in August dramatic and lyrical performances are given by La Comédie Française. Thus, after nearly twenty [Pg 89]centuries, the theater is still serving its original purpose. We were impressed by the auditory facilities. One of us stood on the lowest tier of seats, and the other on the topmost row. Even a whisper was distinctly audible. The erection of buildings with such perfect acoustics may perhaps be classed among the lost arts.

Arc de Triomphe at Orange

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

Southward from Orange, the country began to look more like Italy. Olive and mulberry trees were more numerous. The cypress trees, so often seen in Italian cemeteries, gave an impression of solemnity, almost of melancholy, to the country. At times they fringed the highway or stood alone upon the horizon like a distant steeple against a crimson sunset.

The twilight was full of a brooding, dreamy silence as of communion with the past. This is the atmosphere of Provençe, an atmosphere of "old, forgotten, far-off things and battles long ago." If one is interested in wonderful ruins that suggest the might of Rome's empire, then let him go to Provençe, that part of southern France where the Romans founded their provincia, and where they built great cities. We found the hotels rather dreary.[Pg 90] The towns were quiet. Many of them, like Pierrelatte, looked so poor. The streets were dirty and littered. One notices these things at first, and then forgets them, the air is so clear, the sunshine so dazzling, the horizons so distinct, the stars so bright.

Much of the country is barren and rocky. But the rocks as well as the ruins have a rich, golden brown color from being steeped for centuries in this bright southern sun. The people are romantic, impractical, happy in their poverty, singing amid grinding routine. They have their own dialect, which is very musical. Even the names of their towns and cities are full of music, for example, Montélimar, Avignon, Carcassonne. The country, with its Roman ruins, its bright sun, its rich color, its laughter, and song, is like another Italy. Nowhere except in that land do we come so close to the great things of Roman antiquity.

We reached the Grand Hôtel in Avignon at nightfall, but dined outside that we might the better observe the life of the people. The sweet voice of an Italian street singer made [Pg 91]it easy for us to imagine ourselves under the skies of Florence or Naples. Avignon is the most Italian looking city in France.

The Palace of the Popes at Avignon Page 91

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The following morning was devoted to rambling. Sometime we must spend a week in this interesting walled city on the Rhone, where the popes lived between 1305 and 1377 in the huge palace that resembles a fortress. If there were nothing to Avignon but its high mediæval walls and watch towers, the place would be worth a long pilgrimage. These gray ramparts, apparently new, were actually built in the fourteenth century. What a picture they gave us of stormy feudal times, when even the Church was compelled to seek safety behind strong walls!

The Palais des Papes is a colossal structure. We have forgotten what pope it was who was besieged here for years by a French army, and then escaped by the postern; it does not matter. The palace walls looked high and thick enough to defy all attack. The scenes of vice and profligacy during this period must have rivaled the court life of an ancient Roman emperor. There was one pope, John XXII,[Pg 92] who in eighteen years amassed a fortune of eighteen million gold florins in specie, not to mention the trifling sum of seven millions in plate and jewels. Perhaps it was just as well for the popes of that time that the walls of their fortress towers were high and thick.

Above the palace of the popes and the adjoining cathedral is the Promenade des Doms, a public garden. We followed one of the paths that led along the edge of a high precipice. This view is one of the sights of Avignon. It embraces the valley of the Rhone, the swiftest river in France. The rapid current winds and disappears. Nearly opposite, on the other shore, is the village of Villeneuve. It is desolate enough now, with no trace of the beautiful villas which the cardinals built and where they were wont to revel amid luxury after the day's duties at the palace. Beyond the town we could see the stately towers of Fort St. André, in that early period a frontier fortress of France, so jealous of the growing power of the papacy. Most appealing of all, was the broken bridge of St. Benezet, resisting with its few remaining arches the hastening Rhone. Above one of the [Pg 93]piers is the little Chapel of St. Nicholas. The bridge is a romantic relic of the gay life of Avignon when the city was the refuge of the popes. Daudet, in his Lettres de mon Moulin, tells us that the streets were too narrow for the farandole, so the people would place the pipes and tambourine on the bridge and there, in the fresh wind of the Rhone, they would dance and sing.

The ruined bridge of St. Benezet at Avignon Page 92

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

"Sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse, 'on y danse;
Sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse tous en rond."

The distance to Nîmes was so short that we decided to motor there for lunch, see the vast Roman amphitheater and the world-famous Maison Carrée, and then push on to Montpellier, where we planned to spend the night and perhaps remain for a day or so.

The ride was more memorable for the oppressive heat than for any particular charm of scenery. It was noon when we crossed the river and looked back for a last view of the huge Palais des Papes. The sun blazed upon the white road, which quivered like white heat. There were few trees. The engine hood was so hot that we could not touch it. It would not[Pg 94] have surprised us if one tire, or all of them, had burst; they probably would have done so if we had gone much farther. The glare was so intense that we entirely overlooked the little octroi station on the edge of the town. We, however, were not overlooked. Some one was shouting and waving a hundred yards behind us. It was not inspiring to back slowly through our own dust to convey the valuable information that we carried nothing dutiable. Of course, at a time like this, the engine refused to start. After vigorously "cranking" for a quarter of an hour, and suffering all the sensations of sunstroke, we moved on to the Hôtel du Luxembourg for déjeuner.

Among our recollections of the lunch at this hotel were the ripe, purple figs. There is no reason why we should confess how quickly this delicious fruit disappeared. Farther north, in Berlin, such figs would have been a luxury, and might have appeared for sale at a fancy price in some store window. In Nîmes they were served as a regular part of the lunch. We could almost have traced our trip southward by the fruits that were served us from time to time.

The Maison Carrée at Nimes Page 95

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

[Pg 95]

The broad boulevards and shady avenues of Nîmes form a small part of the attractions of this prosperous city. There are fine theaters and cafés, especially the cafés with tables and chairs extending into the streets to accommodate the crowds of thirsty patrons. It was pleasant to be a part of this typically French environment, to watch this group or that, with their gestures, shrugging of shoulders, laughter, and rapid conversation. Many phases of French life pass before so advantageous an observation point.

But Nîmes is not simply a modern city. Nowhere else in France, not even in Orange, does one get a clearer idea of what the splendor of Roman civilization must have been. Provincia was a favorite and favored province of the empire; Nîmes was the center of provincial life. For five centuries the different emperors took turns in enriching and embellishing it. We visited the Maison Carrée, most perfect of existing Roman temples, inspected the gateway called the Porte d'Auguste, looked up at the Tour Magne, a Roman tower, saw the remains of the Roman baths, and then made our way to[Pg 96] the amphitheater, smaller than the Colosseum but so wonderfully preserved that you simply lose track of the centuries. The great stones, fitting so evenly without cement, have that same rich, golden brown color, the prevailing color tone of Provençe. We entered the amphitheater through one of many arcades, the same arcades through which so many generations of toga-clad Romans had passed to applaud the gladiatorial combats. Now the people go there to see the bull fights which are held three or four times a year. On that particular afternoon a large platform had been erected for the orchestra in the middle of the arena. Open-air concerts are very popular in Nîmes during the summer.

It was something of a shock to pass from these scenes of Roman life by a jump into a motor car—the amphitheater illustrating the grandeur of Rome's once imperial sway, the motor car symbolizing the spirit of our rushing modern age. The contrast was startling.

[Pg 97]


There was abundance of time to arrive in Montpellier before dark, so we let the speedometer waver between thirty and thirty-five kilometers. The road was hardly a model of smoothness. We were not always enthusiastic about the roads in the Midi. On the whole, they were not much more than average, and not so good as we had expected to find them after that first experience on the Route Nationale to Chambéry. Where there was a bad place in the road we usually saw a pile of loose stones waiting to be used for repair, but many of these piles looked as though they had been waiting a long time. The roads are apparently allowed to go too long before receiving attention. Owing to the increasing amount of heavy traffic, the deterioration in recent years has been more rapid than formerly. In some of the provinces, like Touraine, there were short stretches of roadway in urgent need of repair. With conditions as they now are, the money[Pg 98] voted by the government is insufficient to keep up the standard of former years. England now expends more than twice as much per mile as France, but while the French roads are in danger of losing to England the supremacy they have so long enjoyed, we cannot state too clearly that, taken as a whole, they are still the finest on the Continent. It is probable that the present signs of decadence are only temporary. The government is fully alive to the needs of the hour. In all probability the movement headed by President Poincaré more fully to open up the provinces to motor-tourist travel will have a good effect upon road conditions.

It would be hard to find a small French city which makes such a pleasant first impression as Montpellier; there is such an atmosphere of culture. One does not need to be told that this is a university town. Municipal affairs seem to be well regulated; the hôtel de ville would do credit to a much larger city. We discovered an open-air restaurant located upon an attractive place. The garçon, after receiving a preliminary pourboire, served us so well that we returned there the next day.

[Pg 99]

Everybody who visits Montpellier will remember the Promenade de Peyrou which rises above the town. The scenic display is great. Only a few miles away, and in clear view, tosses the restless Mediterranean. The prospect made us realize how far south we had come since the starting of our tour from Berlin. Another interesting bit of sight-seeing in the neighborhood is the Jardin des Plantes, a remarkable botanical garden which was founded as far back as 1593 by Henry IV, and is said to be the oldest in France.

Whatever the indictment against French roads in the Midi, the stretch from Montpellier to Carcassonne was above reproach. Much of the way it was the French highway at its best. Wide-spreading trees arched our route. We would have been speeding every foot of the distance if the beautiful scenery had not acted as a constant brake. For a little way we ran close to the sea. The fresh salt breeze fanned our faces. It was a rare glimpse of the Mediterranean. This enchanting scene lasted but a moment, for the road swerved into the great vineyards of the Midi, an Arcadian land of[Pg 100] peace and plenty, the home of a wine industry celebrated since Roman times. As far as the eye could reach, nothing but these green waves that billowed and rolled away from either side of the road. There was a touch of fall in the air, a glint of purple amid the green. Ripening suns and tender rains had done their work. The road led through Béziers, bustling center of preparations for the harvest. On several occasions we passed a wagon loaded with wine casks so large that three horses with difficulty drew it. The capacity of those huge casks must have been thousands of gallons.

At Béziers we could have taken the direct route to Toulouse, but then we would have missed seeing Carcassonne, the most unique architectural curiosity in France and perhaps in the whole world. Our roundabout course brought us to Capestang, a scattered peasant village inhabited by laborers in the vineyards. The luxuries and even the ordinary conveniences seemed far away from these homes. The shutters consisted of nothing but a couple of boards bolted or nailed together and clumsily working on a hinge. It was a region of flies;[Pg 101] certainly they had invaded the little inn where we lunched. A heavy green matting tried ineffectually to take the place of a screen door, and let in thousands of unbidden guests. Under these circumstances our lunch was a hasty one. As the noontide heat was too great to permit a start, we gladly accepted the invitation of our hôtesse to see the church. The cool interior induced us to prolong our acquaintance with the sacred relics and to admire with our guide a statue of St. Peter whose halo had become somewhat dimmed by the dust of centuries.

The afternoon's ride to Carcassonne was in the face of a strong wind. It was our first experience with the mistral, a curious and disagreeable phenomenon of Provençe. There was no let-up to the storms of dust it swept over us. There were no clouds; simply this incessant wind that hurled its invisible forces against the car, at times with such violence that we were almost standing still. A heavy rainstorm would have been preferable; at least we would not then have been so blinded by the dust. Occasionally the shelter of the[Pg 102] high hills gave a brief respite from the choking gusts.

All at once we forgot about the wind. In full view from the road was a hill crowned by the towers and ramparts of a mediæval city, a marvelous maze of battlements, frowning and formidable as if the enemy were expected any moment. We rode on to la ville basse, the other and more modern Carcassonne, a little checkerboard of a city with streets running at right angles and so different from the usual intricate streets of mediæval origin. Securing rooms at the Grand Hôtel St. Bernard, we hastened back, lest in the meantime an apparition so mirage-like should have disappeared. The first view of this silent, fortified city makes one believe that the imagination has played tricks. There is something fairy-like and unreal in the vision. It seems impossible that so majestic a spectacle could have survived the ages in a form so perfect and complete.

Carcassonne had always been one of our travel dreams. From somewhere back in high-school days came the memory of a French poem about an old soldier, a veteran of the[Pg 103]
Napoleonic wars, who longed to see la cité. One day he started on his pilgrimage, but he was sick and feeble. His weakness increased, and death overtook him while the journey was still unfinished. He never saw Carcassonne. Since that time we had wondered what kind of place it was that had made such an impression upon the French writers, and induced the French government to make of it a monument historique.

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The castle and double line of fortifications at Carcassonne Page 103

At that moment, as we climbed the hill, the past seemed more real than the present. We looked for armored knights upon the wall, and listened for the rattle of weapons, the sharp challenge of the sentry. Crossing the drawbridge over the deep moat, we were conducted by the gardien along the walls and through the fighting-towers, great masses of masonry that had known so often the horrors of attack and siege. In this double belt of fortifications there were sentinel stations and secret tunnels by which the city was provisioned in time of war. Here, was a wall that the Romans had built; there, a tower constructed by the[Pg 104] Visigoths; and all so well preserved, as if there were no such thing as the touch of time or the flight of centuries. Other places, like Avignon, show the military architecture of the Middle Ages, but it is the work of a single epoch. The defenses of Carcassonne show all the systems of military architecture from Roman times to the fourteenth century. Nowhere in the world can be found such a perfect picture of the military defenses of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. The walls and the huge round towers tell their own thrilling tales of Roman occupation, of Visigothic triumph, and of conquering Saracen. Then we could understand why the old French soldier longed to see Carcassonne, and why tourists from all over the world include the city in their itinerary of places that must be visited.

From our lofty observation point on the ramparts there was visible a great range of country, the slender windings of the river Aude, the foothills of the Pyrenees, and the vague summits of the Cévennes. We followed a silent grass-grown street to the church of [Pg 105]
St. Nazaire. It was beautiful to see the windows of rare Gothic glass in the full glow of the setting sun. Such burning reds, such brilliant blues and purples! "C'est magnifique comme c'est beau." A French family was standing near us. Before leaving the church, we looked back. They were still under the spell of that glory of color.

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The walled city of Carcassonne

There may have been an elevator in the Grand Hôtel St. Bernard, but we were not successful in locating it. In a general way, this modest hostelry was of the same type which one finds in most of the small French cities like Valence and Avignon. We were of course greatly interested in gathering and comparing impressions of provincial hotel life. This was particularly interesting in a country like France, where the provinces with their rural and small-town life represent to such a marked degree the nation as a whole. It is always an instructive experience to discover how other countries live, and to compare their standard of living with our own. The hotel life of any country, if we keep away from fashionable tourist centers, usually gives an[Pg 106] illuminating insight into the customs of that people. We had often noticed that the French are indifferent to matters relating to domestic architecture. So long as the kitchen performs its functions well, so long as the quality of the cuisine is above criticism, it does not matter if the rooms are small and gloomy or if the architect forgets to put a bathroom in the house. The Frenchman likes to dine well. The café ministers to his social life. But with these important questions settled to his satisfaction, he is not inclined to be too exacting about his domestic environment.

If we keep in mind these general observations, it will be easier for us to understand the defects and advantages of the French provincial hotel. Most of the hotels where we passed the night would not begin to compare, in many ways, with the hotels to be found in American towns of the same size. We noticed a characteristic lack of progressiveness in so many respects. It was exceptional to find running hot and cold water. The corridors were narrow and gloomy, the electric light poor for reading. If there was an elevator, it usually failed to[Pg 107] work. Bathing facilities were on the same primitive scale. The attractions of the writing room were conspicuous for their absence. In France it is usually the writing room that suffers most; either it is a gloomy, stuffy chamber, more fitted to be a closet than a place for correspondence, or else located with no idea of privacy, and in full view of everyone coming in and going out. There were no cheerful lounging or smoking rooms. Had it been winter, the heating facilities would probably have left much to be desired, and we might often have repeated our experience at the Hôtel Touvard in Romans. It was January, and very cold. Arriving early in the afternoon, we found that our rooms had absorbed a large part of the frigidity of out-of-doors. Complaints were fruitless. We were informed that it was not the custom of the hotel management to heat the rooms before seven o'clock in the evening.

In our selection of hotels we followed the advice contained in the excellent Michelin Guide, which has a convenient way of placing two little gables opposite the names of hotels[Pg 108] above the average. While they were not pretentious, the quality of service was surprisingly good. We could always get hot water when we wanted it. The maître de l'hôtel was always on the alert to render our stay as comfortable as possible, and to give us any information to facilitate sight-seeing. Most of the hotels had electric lights, such as they were; the bedrooms were clean and comfortable, the cuisine faultless. If it be true that one pays as high as two francs for a bath, that is because bathing among the French is more of the nature of a ceremony than a habit. As for the small and neglected writing room, we must remember that in France the café usurps that function of the American hotel. This is a national custom. How the Frenchman lives in his café! Here he comes before lunch for his aperitif, to discuss business or politics, to write letters, to read the newspapers and play games, to enjoy his tasse de café after lunch, and in summer to while away the drowsy hours of the early afternoon while listening to open-air music.

It was pleasant to meet in Carcassonne two[Pg 109] American students from Joliet, Illinois, who were making a long European tour on "Indian" motor cycles. One of them had received not less than six punctures the preceding day and was awaiting in Carcassonne the arrival of another tire. He was beginning to be a little doubtful about the perfect joys of motor cycling on the French roads. Neither of them spoke French, but their resourceful American gestures had up to that point extricated them from situations both humorous and annoying.

[Pg 110]


Our ride toward Toulouse led us steadily into southwestern France and nearer the Pyrenees. From time to time the landscape, with its fields of fodder corn, was peculiarly American. The illusion never lasted long; a château appeared on a distant hill, or a sixteenth-century church by the roadside, and we were once more in Europe, with its ancient architecture and historical association, with its infinite change of scenery and life.

Our trip never grew monotonous. There was always the element of the unexpected. For instance, in the village of Villefranche we rode into the midst of a local fête. Banners overhung the road; flags were flying from the windows; ruddy-cheeked girls in gay peasant dress were practicing in the dusty street a rustic two-step or farandole in preparation for the harvest dance.

While entering Toulouse we narrowly escaped disaster. It was not late, but our depleted[Pg 111] funds made it necessary to reach a bank before closing time. Suddenly a bicycle rider shot out from a cross street. There was a "whish" as we grazed his rear wheel. The infinitesimal fraction of an inch means a good deal sometimes.

We were too late; the banks were closed. The next day was a business holiday, and the following day was Sunday. Our letter-of-credit would not help us before Monday. But as luck would have it, we were able to discover and fall back upon a few good American express checks. Our hotel, the Tiviolier, gave us a poor rate of exchange, but almost any exchange would have looked good at that poverty-stricken moment.

Toulouse, the flourishing and lively capital of Languedoc, is a city of brick still awaiting its Augustus to make of it a city of marble. The old museum must have been a splendid monastery. We dined in three different restaurants, and fared sumptuously in them all. The cassoulet of Toulouse was so good that we tried to order it in other towns. The experiences of the day very fittingly included a trolley ride along[Pg 112] the banks of the famous Canal du Midi, and a visit to the remarkable church of St. Sernin, considered the finest Romanesque monument in France.

It would have been difficult not to make an early start the next morning, the air was so keenly exhilarating. The usually turbid Garonne revealed limpid depths and blue skies as we crossed the bridge. The road dipped into a valley and then, ascending, spread before us imposing mountain ranges. The Pyrenees were in sight; every mile brought them nearer. The name was magical. It suggested landscapes colorful and lovely, strange types of peasant dress, songs that had been sung the same way for centuries, exquisite villages that had never been awakened by the locomotive's whistle. Range retreated behind range into mysterious cloud realms. The road was like a boulevard Parisien under the black bars of shadow cast by the poplar trees.

At St. Gaudens, where we stopped before the Hôtel Ferrière for lunch, an American party was just arriving from the opposite direction. There were three middle-aged ladies and a [Pg 113]
French chauffeur who did not appear to understand much English. The question of what they should order for lunch was evidently not settled. One of them wished to order potage St. Germain. Another thought it would be better to have something else for a change, since they had partaken of potage St. Germain the preceding day. The remaining member of the party was sure it would be nicer if they saved time by all ordering the same thing, but did not suggest what that should be. The chauffeur, who looked hungry and cross, merely contributed a long-suffering silence to the conversation.

The Pyrenees were in sight Page 112

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Leaving our car in the garage and our sympathy with the unfortunate chauffeur, we went in to give appreciative attention to a well-served ménu. So long as we remained in France we never failed to order sardines. There is a certain quality and delicacy about the flavor of the French sardine which one misses outside of that country. Coffee was served outside, under the trees in front of the hotel, where we could watch the life of the road. St. Gaudens is on the main highway passing through the Pyrenees[Pg 114] to Cannes and Nice on the Riviera. It is also the central market for the fine cattle of the Pyrenees, and for their sale and distribution to other parts of France and the outside world. We could see them swaying lazily along the road, big, powerful creatures with wide horns and glossy skin.

Descending from St. Gaudens into the plain, we shot along the highway to Montréjeau, where there was a steep ascent through this bizarre little town, very Italian looking with its arcaded streets, red roofs, and brightly painted shutters. Then the moors of a high plateau swept by us until we darted downward and curved for several miles through a beautiful wooded valley.

One of the front tires was evidently in trouble. It was our first puncture in more than thirteen hundred miles of motoring, not a bad record when one considers the frequency of such accidents on European roads, where the hobnails of peasants lie in ambush at every turn. We halted by the side of the road, to put on a fresh tire, refusing many offers of assistance from passing cars.

[Pg 115]

An unusual reception awaited us near Tournay. The whole barnyard family had taken the road for their private promenade. There were a couple of mules, some goats, half a dozen geese, and a large white bull. He was a savage looking brute as he stood facing us and angrily pawing the ground. It did not add to our composure when a gaunt collie, awakened by the noise, came snarling up to the car. At this eventful moment, the engine stopped running. No one of us was in a hurry to alight and "crank up." The barnyard clamor would have rivaled the well-known symphony of the Edison Phonograph Company of New York and Paris. At last a peasant appeared. He whistled to the dog and succeeded in driving the bull to one side, so that we could edge by to less dangerous scenes.

The standard of living in these mountain communities is not high. We saw one farmhouse where the goats moved in and out as if very much at home and on the same social footing as their peasant owners. A mile farther on, we were spectators at a dance which the peasants were giving along the roadside. There was an[Pg 116] orchestra of two violins and a cornet, enthroned upon a wooden platform brightly decorated with flags and flowers. A dozen couples were dancing up and down the road. Wooden shoes were all the style. This unique ballroom floor impressed us as being rather dusty. Steepsided valleys yawned in quick succession. There were views of the snowy Pyrenees. On the side of a mountain we caught a moment's glimpse of Tarbes in the plain.

The Grand Hôtel Moderne was a happy surprise. The elevator actually worked, and the running hot and cold water was a boon delightful to find after these dusty mountain roads. Tarbes is chiefly interesting for its great horse-breeding industry. Barère, the regicide, described by Macaulay as coming "nearer than any person mentioned in history or fiction, whether man or devil, to the idea of consummate and universal depravity," was born here in 1755. Tourist traffic has found Tarbes to be a convenient stopping place on the through route from Biarritz on the Atlantic to the winter resorts of the Mediterranean shores, and also a natural center for excursions to the Pyrenees. [Pg 117]
We remained in Tarbes an extra day to make the trip to Lourdes, the tragic Mecca for increasing thousands of Catholic pilgrims.

Ice peaks of the Pyrenees

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A short half-hour's ride and then Lourdes, without doubt one of the most dismal and melancholy places in the world. We are certain that nothing would ever draw us there again. For many, the trip is a pilgrimage of faith; others go from curiosity; but for so many suffering thousands the miraculous spring at Lourdes is the goal of anxious hopes. They gather from all parts of France, from England, Scotland, and Ireland, and even from distant parts of Europe. Last year there were over six hundred thousand visitors. Around us, on that afternoon, we saw the sick and the dying. Some were hobbling along on crutches, others walking helplessly with sightless eyes. Many were being carried on stretchers, and there were sights that we would rather not mention. It seemed as if all the diseases to which mortal humanity is heir were represented in that pathetic throng. The following newspaper account describes the pilgrimage which left Paris in August, 1913:

[Pg 118]

"The great Austerlitz Railway station in Paris presented a strange and terrible scene—and above all, a distressingly pitiful one—yesterday afternoon, when the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes set forth on the long journey to the little Pyrenean village. During last night thirty-three special long trains converged on Lourdes from every quarter of France. Every train ran slowly because of the many sick people on board. And this morning all the trains will reach their destination and will discharge their pilgrims at the station near the shrine.

"From two to four o'clock, the greater part of the Austerlitz station was given up entirely to the pilgrims. The railway servants withdrew, and their places were taken by hundreds of saintly faced Little Sisters of the Assumption, and brave men of all ages and all ranks in life, all wearing the broad armlet that denoted their self-sacrificing service to the sick and helpless. One by one, on stretchers, in bath chairs, over a thousand suffering people, men and women of all ages, youths and little children, entered the great hall of the station.

"Each, as he or she is brought in, is laid upon[Pg 119] a bench transformed into an ambulance, to await the departure of the train. A silence that is almost oppressive falls upon the usually noisy station; people speak in whispers, and move with silent feet.

"Then the train—the long white train for the grands malades—moves softly in to the platform, and each poor human parcel is gently convoyed to its allotted place. Eventually, the long task is over, and then came the last moving ceremony. The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris passed slowly down the train and blessed the sick within it. A moment after, without a whistle or a sound, the long white train moved out.

"Eight other equally long trains followed, the last bearing at the rear the Red Cross flag."

We watched the procession forming to move toward the sacred miraculous spring, such a sad procession,—the halt, the maimed, and the blind, who had come, many of them, thousands of miles to bathe in the icy waters and be healed. Attendants passed us, carrying a sick man on a stretcher; the eyes were closed, the features white and fixed. We saw a mother[Pg 120] clasping a sick child; she also joined the slow, pitiful procession. Where will you find such a picture of human suffering! It was all like the incurable ward of a vast open-air hospital.

The fame of Lourdes dates back to 1858, when a little village girl, fourteen years old, named Bernadette Soubirons, said that she had seen and talked with the Virgin. This happened several times. Each time the Virgin is said to have commanded the child to tell others, and to have a church built above the spring, since its waters were to have miraculous powers of healing. Crowds went with her to the grotto, but she was the only one who saw anything. The Bishop of Tarbes believed in her visions. The fact that the child was "diseased, asthmatic, and underfed," and also that "she was not particularly intelligent," did not make any difference. Pope Pius X issued a Bull of endorsement. A basilica was built above the grotto, and from that time the thousands kept coming in increasing numbers every year.

We noticed that not all of the visitors to Lourdes had come on a pilgrimage of faith.[Pg 121] Everywhere one sees signs with large letters warning against pickpockets. The evidence of business enterprise was also unmistakable. There were large hotels; one long street was devoted to bazaars for selling pious mementos; the windows of many shops contained tin cans of all sizes for sale, these to be filled with Lourdes water. The many advertisements of Lourdes lozenges, made from Lourdes water, and the women dressed in black, sitting at the gates of the garden and selling wax candles, all helped to give the place an atmosphere of commercial enterprise.

[Pg 122]


From Tarbes the road climbed a high hill above the city and then flung its marvelous coils through the mountains to Pau, that fashionable English resort where the Pyrenees can be seen marshaling their peaks in such grandeur. The country around Pau looked very English. There were neat villages with high-pitched roofs, spreading trees, and a feeling of repose in the scenery very characteristic of the large English estate. With almost fantastic suddenness, the landscape changed. Peasant houses showed traces of Spanish influence. We saw no horses; plows and country carts were drawn by bullocks. Such fine looking cattle of the Pyrenees, hundreds of them! It seemed at least every few minutes that a new drove crowded in confusion down the road or across it, and made it very difficult for us to get through. There were many bulls. One hears so many exciting tales about the savage bulls of the Pyrenees that we were prepared for an attack at almost any time.

[Pg 123]

If any one would like to make sure of having an eventful experience, we suggest that he motor through the Pyrenees in a red car. Other motor cars kept the dust clouds flying. At one railway crossing we counted ten automobiles waiting for the bar to be lifted.

A score of hungry motorists were lunching in the village inn of Orthez when we arrived. One of them, a Frenchman, told us by all means to see the curious fortified bridge that crosses the Gave in this village. "C'est très curieux. C'est quelque chose à voir!" The ruin, with the high stone tower in the middle of the bridge, is a thrilling relic of the religious wars. One can see the tower window through which the unfortunate priests and friars were forced by the Protestants to leap into the rapid stream. Those who breasted the strong current were killed as they climbed out on the banks.

Bayonne was calling us. Our speedometer registered the kilometers so quickly that there were fully two hours of daylight to spare when we crossed the long bridge over the Adour in search of the Grand Hôtel. One street led us astray, and then another, until we were in the[Pg 124] suburbs before discovering our mistake. It was a fortunate mistake, for we were here favored with a view of the fortifications of Bayonne and the ivy-covered ruin of Marrac, the château where Napoleon met the Spanish king Ferdinand and compelled him to renounce the throne in favor of his brother Joseph. It is one of the strange turnings of history that the same city where Joseph was proclaimed King of Spain should have witnessed, six years later, the downfall of his hopes.

Our return search was more successful. We found the Grand Hôtel, and then were half sorry that we had found it. The hotel was crowded, the only chambre placed at our disposal not large enough for two people. An extra cot had been put in to meet the emergency. The room was gloomy, and opened on a stuffy little court. Many repairs were under way, so that the appearance of the hotel was far from being at its best. Had it not been raining heavily we would have gone on to Biarritz; but the torrents were descending. For one night we submitted to the inevitable and to the inconvenience of our cramped[Pg 125] quarters. On descending, we noticed other tourists still arriving. Possibly these new victims were stowed away in the elevator or in the garage.

Our stay in Bayonne was, under the circumstances, not long, but long enough for us to become acquainted with the jambon delicieux and the bonbons for which the city is so well known. After paying our compte, including a garage charge of two francs,—the first which we had paid since leaving Chambéry,—we covered the few remaining kilometers to Biarritz, stopping en route to pick up ten liters of gasoline in order to avoid the more extravagant prices of that playground for Europe's royalty and aristocracy. The choicest feature of our rooms at the Hôtel Victoria was the splendid outlook upon the Atlantic and its ever-changing panorama of sky and sea. The Spanish season was in full swing. There is always a season in the golden curve of Biarritz's sunny sands. The Spanish invasion during the hot summer months is followed by that of the French, when Parisian beauties promenade in all the voluptuous array of costly toilettes. For a couple of[Pg 126] months, Paris ceases to be the proud capital of French animation and gayety. During the winter, the place takes on the appearance of an English colony; and the Russian royal family has made spring a fashionable time for the invasion from that country.

The charm of Biarritz is irresistible. It is easy to see why Napoleon III made it the seat of his summer court and built the Villa Eugénie, which has since become the Hôtel du Palais. If one searched the whole coast line of Europe, it would be hard to find a spot so rich in natural beauty. The sea has such wide horizons; no matter how calm the weather, the snowy surges are always rolling on the Grande Plage. Other smaller beaches alternate with rugged, rocky promontories. The coast line is very irregular, full of arcades, caverns, and grottoes. At sunset, when the wind falls and the air is clear, the coast of Spain appears, the mountains respond to the western glow, and the low cadence of the waves makes the scene too wonderful for words.

We always looked forward to the morning plunge into the cool breakers. Eleven o'clock was the popular hour. Then the Plage was [Pg 127]
covered with brilliant tent umbrellas. There were the shouts of the bathers as the green, foaming combers swept over them. The beach was a kaleidoscope of color and animation. Dark-eyed señoritas, carrying brightly colored parasols and robed in the latest and most original French toilettes, walked along the shore. The Spanish women are very fond of dress, and especially of anything that comes from Paris. Often the breeze would sweep aside their veils of black silk, and show their powder-whitened faces. French girls, daintily gowned and with complexions just as "artistic," were busy with delicate embroidery. There were Basque nursemaids whose somber black-and-white checkerboard costumes contrasted with the latest styles from the gay metropolis. All types were there, from the portly German who adjusted his monocle before wading into the frothy brine, to the contemplative Englishman who smoked his pipe while watching the animated scenes around him. Where will one find a more cosmopolitan glimpse of fashionable Europe in the enjoyment of a summer holiday! After the plunge comes the drying off on the warm sands,[Pg 128] or the walk, barefooted and in bathrobe, along the Plage; then lunch in the casino restaurant above the sea, while an Italian orchestra plays music that one likes to hear by the ocean. For our tasse de café we would choose one of the cafés along the crowded avenue Bellevue. What a display of wealth and fine motor cars!

The Grande Plage at Biarritz

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

On one of these occasions we saw the young King of Spain stop his Spanish car before one of the stores. He was bareheaded, and was driving his own car. One of his officers sat with him. The king is a keen sportsman, and motoring is one of his favorite diversions. Under the reign of this popular and aggressive young monarch there ought to be great progress in the improvement of the Spanish roads and in the opening of Spain's scenic wealth to the tourist world. Toward the close of the afternoon every one went to the beautiful casino to enjoy the concert and une tasse de thé, and then later in the evening to watch the brilliant spectacle of dress and gayety.

The interesting places around Biarritz are part of its attraction. If we had stayed there for months, there could have been an excursion[Pg 129] for each day. Placed beside the ocean, at the foot of the Pyrenees, close to the Spanish frontier and amid the fascinating Basque country where the people have retained all their primitive ways and quaint dress, Biarritz makes an ideal center for one-day trips. The excursion which we enjoyed most was to the Spanish resort of San Sebastian, a modern seaside town where the king and queen pass the summer in their splendid Villa Miramar.

[Pg 130]


There is always a thrill about motoring for the first time in a new country. We had long looked forward to crossing the Spanish frontier and visiting the summer capital of King Alfonso XIII. It was a ride of about thirty miles, far too short for one of the most interesting sweeps of country to be found anywhere in Europe.

There was plenty of variety. This Basque country, forming a triangular corner of northern Spain and reaching over into France, is full of it. The people speak a dialect which is as much a puzzle to Spanish as to French. Until less than half a century ago, they had retained their independence. Proud of their history, and claiming to be the oldest race in Europe, they still cling to their language and hold to their ancient customs, their dances, songs, and pastoral plays. In this region of valleys and mountains we were always within sight or sound of the sea, the road approaching a smooth, white beach[Pg 131] washed with foam, or sinking into a quiet valley drowsy with the faint monotone of the waves.

A few miles before reaching Spain is the old seaside town of St. Jean-de-Luz, once the winter headquarters of Wellington and now buried in the shade of its venerable trees. The life in this little village of only four thousand people was not always so simple as it is now. Louis XIV was a frequent visitor, with his courtiers. One can see the château where the "Grand Monarque" lodged at the time of his marriage to the Infanta Marie Thérèse of Spain on June 9, 1660. Another page from this gorgeous period is the church of St. Jean Baptiste, where the ceremony took place. Following the Basque custom, the upper galleries are reserved for the men, while the area below is reserved for the women.

On reaching the Franco-Spanish frontier village of Béhobie a French officer appeared and, after he had entered the necessary details in his book, allowed us to cross the bridge over the Bidassoa River into Spain. This part of the town is called Béhobeia. It is a unique arrangement, this administration of what is practically one and the same town by[Pg 132] two different countries. Yet the difference between Béhobie and Béhobeia is as great as the difference between France and Spain. The houses across the river began to display the most lively colors. It would have been hard to say whether browns, pinks, blues, or greens predominated. Some of the people wore blue shoes. Red caps were the style for cab drivers. Of course we looked around for some of our "castles in Spain," but saw instead the Spanish customhouse. An official came out, modestly arrayed in more than Solomon's glory. He wore red trousers, yellow hose, and blue shoes, and looked as though in more prosperous days he might have been a matador. We had forgotten to bring along a fluent supply of Spanish. The oversight caused us no inconvenience. French is sufficient to carry one through any matter of official red tape.

One hears many reports about the difficulty of passing the Spanish customhouse, the severity of the examination, of the long delays. At our hotel in Biarritz they told us that the only safe way would be to pay eight francs to a private company on the French side of the frontier, and[Pg 133] that with the passavant so obtained, together with our triptyque, we would not only secure prompt service but also make this company responsible for our safety while in Spain. So much solicitude made us wonder just what percentage of our eight francs would be received by this hotel proprietor, so we decided to cross the frontier without the much advised passavant.

These warnings proved to be exaggerated. The delay was not greater than it would have been in France or Germany. The douaniers were, nevertheless, keenly alert to prevent the smuggling of motor supplies for purposes of sale in Spain. These articles are much more expensive in Spain than elsewhere in Europe. The number of our tires was noted, so that the officials could make sure that we carried the same number of tires out of the country. Another arrangement, new to us, was the method of ascertaining how much the gasoline duty would be. The amount of gasoline in the tank was calculated by depth only and not by capacity.

A hundred fascinating scenes of Spanish country life attracted our attention. Peasant[Pg 134] women, evidently returning from market, bestraddled patient little donkeys, or walked, balancing on their heads burdens of various kinds. One of them carried a baby under one arm, a pail filled with wine bottles under the other, and all the time preserved with her head the equilibrium of a basket piled several stories high with household articles. We would not have been greatly surprised to see another baby tucked away somewhere in the top story. These peasant types looked bent and worn, their wrinkled faces old from drudging toil in the fields; they fitted in perfectly with the dilapidated farmhouses. The country was fertile, with vineyards and cornfields, but a prosperity in such contrast with the wretched homes of the people. Little donkeys strained in front of heavily loaded wagons that would have taxed the strength of a large horse. The ox carts were curious creations, the wheels being without spokes, as though made from a single piece of flat board. The small chimneys on the houses resembled those which we had seen in Italy. We did not see a single plow, not even a wooden one; the peasants of the Basque country use [Pg 135]
instead the laga, or digging fork, an implement shaped like the letter "h."

The ox-carts were curious creations

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

San Sebastian is a clean, fresh-looking city, a place essentially, almost exaggeratedly, Spanish, with all that gayety and vivid architecture which one naturally expects to see in a place patronized by the royal court. It was hopeless to think of finding a place for our car in any garage. They were all full. This was the day of the bull fight. From different parts of Spain, as well as from France, motorists had swarmed in to see the matadors show their skill and daring. In Spain the people divert themselves at the bull fight very much as we would go to see a baseball game. We saw motor cars stationed in long files in the streets.

Leaving our car to stand in the rear of one of these imposing lines, we strolled down a bright, picturesque street to the Concha. Just as La Grande Plage represents Biarritz, so the Concha represents San Sebastian. "Concha" suggests a bay shaped like a shell. The word exactly describes the beautiful body of water around which the city is built. Through the narrow channel we could see the waves roll in,[Pg 136] contracted at first, then widening as they sweep down the bay to break on the long, curving stretch of yellow sand. From the Concha we could see the white walls of the royal Villa Miramar. The fortress La Mota guarded from its high elevation the narrow entrance to the harbor. We walked along the Paseo de la Concha, in the dense shade of tamarisk trees which nearly encircled the bay. Sitting in chairs under the trees were Spanish girls, their dark eyes glowing through their black lace veils. The scene was full of color, completely Spanish, the green of the tamarisks shining between the golden sands and the white villas which edged the water. We watched the bathers, haughty dons from Madrid and peasants from Aragon, for the moment on a level in the joyous democracy of the surf.

After lunching at the Continental Hotel, fronting on the Concha, we turned our steps in the direction of the amphitheater, where the bull fight was to take place. The tickets cost twelve pesetas (about $2.40) apiece. It was not with any anticipation of pleasure that we decided to watch the Spaniards engage in their[Pg 137] national sport. The bull fight is a combination of a scene from the Chicago stockyards and from an ancient Roman arena. It is a succession of shivers and thrills, from the first blast of the trumpet announcing the entry of the toreadors to the final estocade, when the last bull falls dying upon the bloody sand. Few of the toreadors die a natural death. Connected with the large amphitheater is the operating room, where the wounded fighters can receive prompt treatment. We were told that it is customary for them to receive the sacrament before entering into the arena. Their coolness and dexterity in sidestepping the mad rushes of the bull are wonderful. But the moment comes when the bull is unexpectedly quick, when the foot slips just a little, or when the eye misjudges the precious fraction of an inch which may mean life or death. We noticed at regular intervals, around the arena, wooden barriers, placed just far enough from the main encircling barrier to let the hard-pressed toreador slip in, when there was no time to vault.

These exhibitions take place all over Spain, and in San Sebastian at least once a week.[Pg 138] There is keen rivalry between Spanish cities over the skill of their toreadors. Bull fighting is not on the decline. The city of Cordova has just started a school for the training of professional bull fighters.

When we arrived the amphitheater was crowded to the highest tier of seats. The vast crowd, impatient, whistled and shouted. Attendants passed among the spectators, selling Spanish fans painted with bull-fight scenes. The large orchestra was playing. Suddenly, above the music and the noise of the crowds, sounded the piercing blast of a trumpet. The music ceased. The crowd became silent, then cheered and clapped as doors swung open and two horsemen dashed out and made the tour of the arena. They were followed by a procession of toreadors, picadores, and banderilleros, with their attendants. The picadores were armed with long pikes with which to enrage the bull. They were mounted on wretched skeletons of so-called horses, with one eye blindfolded. Six bulls were to battle with their tormentors before finally falling, pierced by the toreador's sword. Three or four horses are usually killed by each[Pg 139] bull. The banderilleros appear in the second phase of the struggle, after the horses have been killed. They are on foot. Their work is to face the bull, infuriated by the pikes of the picadores, and to plant in his neck several darts, each over two feet long and decorated with ribbons. The toreador comes on the scene the last of all, when the bull, though tired, is still dangerous. It would be a mistake to imagine that the bulls are spiritless, or have been so starved that they are weak, without strength, energy, and courage. These animals that we saw leap into the arena were all specially bred Andalusian bulls, the very picture of strength and wild ferocity.

We have no desire to describe in detail the barbarous spectacle which followed. In front of us sat an American couple. It was the lady's first bull fight, and when the moment was critical, the scene a gory confusion of bull, horses, and picadores, she would scream and hide her face behind her fan. In contrast, were the Spanish girls seated around us. Their faces were whitened more by powder than by emotion. They would languidly move embroidered[Pg 140] fans, or wave them with gentle enthusiasm when the banderillero planted a daring dart or the toreador thrust home the death stroke.

There was one moment in that exhibition, however, when even their hardened indifference to suffering was touched. One of the banderilleros planted his dart in the neck of the bull, but slipped while trying to get away from the enraged beast. There was a cry of horror, a groan of pity from the crowd as the great armed head lifted its victim and hurled him thirty feet through the air. The man struck heavily on the sand, moved a little, and then lay motionless. There was no shouting at that moment. An agony of suspense pervaded the amphitheater. But the bull was given no opportunity to follow up his attack; a toreador waved a red cape before his eyes; another dart was planted in his neck. He turned savagely to face and charge on his new assailants, who nimbly avoided his rush. The wounded man was carried from the arena. The enthusiasm and cheers of the crowd were unbounded when he revived and struggled with the attendants to get back into the arena.

The death stroke

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

[Pg 141]

After all, human nature has changed but little under these southern skies, so that what the plebeian sought in the gladiatorial combats of the amphitheater, the Spaniard or Frenchman of to-day seeks and finds in the bloody scenes of the course de tauraux.

We left early to get a start of the rush of motor cars for the French frontier, but others had done the same thing, so that by the time the Spanish authorities had stamped our sortie definitive, we found the international bridge filled with cars, all impatiently waiting to take their turn at the French douane. Then amid a whirl of dust and a blowing of horns, car after car leaped for the homeward flight. Ahead of us and behind us, cars of every make, motor horns of every variety. The dust fog was continuous. Every one seemed racing to get out of it. It was a likely place for an accident. There was the wind-smothered shriek of a horn as a French racer shot by to lead the exciting procession. Farther ahead, the road turned sharply, and we stopped to find thirty or forty cars held up at a railway crossing. One of them was the French racer; officers were[Pg 142] taking her number. It was growing dark, and we lighted our lamps. Looking back from the summit of a long hill, we could see the lights of other cars swiftly ascending around the curves. The wind was rising. Through the twilight came the dull roaring of heavy surf. A revolving beacon light, appearing and then disappearing, announced that we were once more in Biarritz.

[Pg 143]


Our three days in Biarritz had grown to three short weeks before we were able to break the spell of the alluring Grande Plage and shape our course in a northeasterly direction, along the foothills of the Pyrenees, through the picturesque regions of Périgord and Limousin to Tours and the châteaux country. Bayonne, the fortress city, looked peaceful enough with its tapering cathedral spires rising above the great earthen ramparts, now grass-grown and long disused to war. Not far from Bayonne the road forked; we were in doubt whether to continue straight on or to turn to the left. A group of workingmen near by ceased their toil as we drew near to ask for information. The answer to our question was very different from what we expected. One of them approached the car, brandishing a scythe in a manner more hostile than friendly, and asked if we were Germans. This question concerning our nationality came with all the force[Pg 144] of a threat. The restless scythe cut a nearer airy swath. He had recognized the German make of our car, and was convinced that we belonged to the hated nation allemande. A German motor car is not the safest kind of an introduction to these French peasants, especially when the vin du pays has circulated freely. If appearances counted for anything, this particular peasant was quite inclined to use his scythe for more warlike purposes than those for which it was originally intended. But his companions, more peaceably disposed, seizing him, drew him back from the car and gave us, although reluctantly, the necessary information.

It was not our first experience of this kind. In France there is a strong sentiment against Germany. Our German car was often the target for unfriendly observation. This fierce ill feeling appears to be increasing. Never since the war of 1870 has there been such a period of military activity in the two countries. Germany is raising her army to a total of nearly nine hundred thousand men, at an initial cost of two hundred and fifty million dollars, and a subsequent annual cost of fifty million[Pg 145] dollars. France has decided to meet these warlike preparations by keeping under the colors for another year the soldiers whose term of service would have expired last fall. This measure adds about two hundred thousand soldiers to the fighting strength of the French army. This increase of armament involves necessarily the admission of the increase of suspicion and antagonism.

At such a time of tension and suspense it was for us a rare privilege to motor through the French provinces, to stop in the small towns and villages and to hear from the lips of the people themselves an expression of their attitude toward Germany. Rural France is conservative; opinions and ideas form slowly, yet there can be no doubt but that their views represent the sentiment of the French nation which is so largely agricultural. No feature of our long tour through France was more instructive than this opportunity to study at first hand the influences at work to widen the gulf between the two nations. We conversed with soldiers, officers, peasants in the fields, and casual French acquaintances[Pg 146] whom we met in the cafés and hotels. Every one admitted the gravity of the situation, and said that nothing short of the actual shadow of German invasion could have induced France to submit to the tremendous sacrifices incident to the large increase of the army.

The enthusiasm with which France has consented to the enormous sacrifices entailed by increasing the army on so large a scale shows how widespread is the impression of impending conflict. France realizes that there is only one way to prevent war, and that is to be so strong that Germany will hesitate to take the fatal step. There have been past menaces of invasion, and while it is true that Germany has not made war for over forty years, she has repeatedly threatened it. William I and Moltke wanted to attack France in 1874 and again in 1875, before she had recovered from the effects of 1870, to make it impossible for her again to become a power of the first rank. Russia and England supported France; Germany drew back to wait for another chance. Professor Lamprecht, the great German historian, regrets that Germany[Pg 147] did not hurl her armies against France at that time. In the Delcassé crisis of 1905 France was again threatened. We know now that the Morocco negotiations between France and Germany in 1911 kept Europe on the verge of war for months.

This movement toward a more vigorous expression of French national spirit, while gathering strength for the last ten years, actually dates from the sending of the gunboat Panther to Agadir in 1911. This was the igniting spark. It was in that moment that the French nation found itself. The generation that lived through and followed the disastrous war of 1870 was saddened and subdued. There was little of that spirit of national self-confidence; politics played a larger role than patriotism. But now a new generation is to the front. Young France is coming into power, and the result is a rebirth of self-confidence and aggressiveness along patriotic lines. It will no longer be possible for Germany to be successful in a policy of intimidation against France, as she was in the Congress of Berlin in 1878. The new France is too[Pg 148] patriotic, too proud, too conscious of her own strength, to concede to any unreasonable demand for economic compensation that Germany or Austria might make.

If there were no other reason for possibility of war, the internal situation in Germany itself would be enough to place France on her guard. In spite of Germany's industrial progress, the struggle of the masses for bread is nowhere more bitter. The intense competition in the markets of the world, the necessity of paying interest on borrowed capital, the fact of a vast and rapidly increasing population—all this spells low wages in a country where taxes are high and where the burdens of armament are fast becoming unbearable. Such conditions make for socialism. Already the socialists form the most powerful party in the Reichstag. The Kaiser wishes peace, but he is, above all, a believer in monarchical institutions. If socialism continues to spread with its present rapidity, no one doubts that he would stake Germany's supremacy in a foreign war in order to unite the nation around him and to divert the people from their struggle[Pg 149] for a more democratic form of government. A successful war with France would not only mean rich provinces, a big war indemnity, but it would also mean a new prestige for the Hohenzollern government, sufficient to carry it through the socialistic perils of another generation.

In view of these facts, it is not surprising that the French nation considers a conflict inevitable, and especially when they see the Kaiser appealing to his already overtaxed and discontented people to make a supreme sacrifice. With Germany the question is one of economic existence. She can feed her population for only a fraction of a year. More and more she finds herself dependent upon rival nations for foodstuffs and raw materials. She has built up great steel and iron industries, but the supply of ore in the province of Silesia will be exhausted, at the present rate of consumption, in about twenty-five years. Germany will then be totally dependent upon France, Spain, and Sweden for iron ore. But France has an eighty per cent superiority over Spain and Sweden in her supply of this material.[Pg 150] Her richest mines are situated in Basse-Lorraine, hardly more than a cannon shot from the German frontier. By the conquest of a few miles in Lorraine, she would secure enough iron ore to supply her iron and steel industries for centuries. A suggestive commentary upon Germany's aggressive plans may be noted in the German atlas of Steiler. It writes the names of different countries and their cities in the spelling of each country. The French cities and provinces are written in French, with the exception of provinces of Basse-Lorraine, Franche-Comté, and Bourgogne. These are written in German.

Another force in Germany making for war is the Pan-German League. This is the war party of the armor-plate factories of the officers of the army and navy, of a large part of the German press, of the Crown Prince, of many who have intimate relations with the Kaiser. The spectacular demonstrations of the Crown Prince in the Reichstag against the too peaceful policy of the Chancellor at the time of the Morocco negotiations, the sending of the Panther to Agadir, the enormous[Pg 151] increase of the army and navy in recent years, the arbitrary suppression of French influence in Alsace-Lorraine, have all been the fruits of its efforts. There can be no question of the tremendous power of this organization which is so close to the heart of the Crown Prince. If the Kaiser should die to-morrow, France might well have reason to distrust the warlike and impulsive young ruler who would ascend the Hohenzollern throne. The Crown Prince has recently written a book called Germany in Arms. Its warlike fervor shows how little he is in sympathy with the emperor's loyalty to peace. What makes the influence of the Crown Prince all the more dangerous is the great discontent to-day in Germany with the government's foreign policy "of spending hundreds of millions upon a fruitless and pacific imperialism."

Added to all these influences which are straining the relations between France and Germany, is the question of Alsace-Lorraine, for more than two centuries a French province and ceded to Germany after the Franco-Prussian War as a part of the price of peace.[Pg 152] It is now a generation and more that Germany has tried to assimilate the province, but with so little success that to-day the people persist more than ever in their sympathy with French culture and their hostility toward Germany. There has been immigration; probably two fifths of the population are Germans, but the two peoples do not mix. The silent struggle between two civilizations goes on. The reason for the failure of German government in Alsace-Lorraine is due to its refusal to recognize this dual civilization. Alsace is largely French in sympathy; but instead of letting the people cling to their local customs, Germany has tried to make them think and speak German, and adopt the German ways. Instead of enjoying an equality with the other states in the regulation of local affairs, the province is treated as a vassal state, the governor being responsible to the Kaiser. Naturally such a system of government means the continual clash of the two nationalities. The teaching of French and French history has been almost suppressed in the schools, and the younger generation compelled to learn German. "But[Pg 153] they are French at heart, and after leaving school return again to the traditions of their family. After forty years, no music stirs them like the Marseillaise." It is said that the little Alsatian schoolboys, when on a trip to the frontier, decorate their hats and buttonholes with the French colors. No one can be long in Strassburg without realizing the futility of Germany's campaign against French influence. It is true that there is a certain veneer of German civilization; the policemen wear the same uniform as the Berlin police; German names appear over the principal shops; but in the stores and cafés one hears the middle-class Alsatians speaking French; French clothes, French customs prevail. In a word, the people, without French support, have gradually become more French in feeling and in culture than at the moment of annexation. One effect of this struggle against Germany's brutal and arbitrary policy has been to start a strong undercurrent of sympathy in France. In many of the French towns one sees Alsace postcards in the store windows. The picture on one card was a reproduction of a French painting. A soldier appears on the[Pg 154] lookout in a forest. Not far away is a captive bound to a tree. He is watching with expectant joy the coming of the soldier. One can easily guess that the captive is Alsace, the soldier, France. We might also speak of the petty annoyances practiced by the German authorities in Alsace upon any one suspected of French sympathy. Sporting clubs have been dissolved. One reads of French sportsmen who have been refused permission to rent "shootings." The most recent measure of oppression gives the governor of the province absolute power to suppress all French newspapers, as well as all societies supposed to favor French culture.

This is only a part of the evidence at hand, which gives the impartial observer reason to believe that the friction of nationalities in Alsace is the prelude to the larger and more terrible struggle to-day is regarded in France as inevitable. At the School of Political Science in the sorbonne at Paris, where the superiority of German methods used to be accepted without question, it is said the professors can now hardly mention them, for fear of hostile demonstrations.

[Pg 155]

This question of Franco-German relations has already overshadowed Europe. All attempts to promote a more friendly understanding have been fruitless. Even though the present tension be only temporary, it is very doubtful if there can be any approach to better relations until Germany has solved the question of Alsace-Lorraine, abandoning her policy of rough-shod assimilation, recognizing the existence of a dual civilization, granting autonomy of local affairs, and welcoming the province, on an equal footing with the other German states, to the brotherhood of the empire. With this source of discord removed, Alsace-Lorraine might become a bond instead of a barrier between France and Germany. Such a solution, however remote, would be an important step toward a more auspicious era of friendly feeling, of good faith. Unfortunately, the Kaiser is opposed to this conciliatory policy. The fact that Alsace-Lorraine belongs to the empire as a whole, and is therefore a bond of unity between the German states, makes him unwilling to disturb the present arrangement and to recognize anything approaching a dual government in Alsace-Lorraine.

[Pg 156]

In the light of the above facts, our encounter with the French peasant was of deep significance. We could see behind it the forces—economic, political, and sentimental—that are at work to divide France and Germany. Naturally, we were on the lookout for any incident of this kind which would give us a clearer view of the great question which is placing such terrible burdens upon the two countries.

We shall not easily forget our experience in one French town. It was Sunday evening, and the street was crowded with peasants and artisans. One of us had stuck in his hat a Swiss feather, such as is commonly worn in the Tyrol of southern Germany. He purchased a French newspaper, and after glancing through it, dropped it in the gutter. This harmless act very nearly involved us in serious trouble. A burly Frenchman, noticing the feather and taking him for a German, resented the apparently contemptuous way in which the journal had been thrown in the street. "Vous avez insulté la patrie," he said in a loud voice. Like a flash the rumor spread in the street that three [Pg 157]
Germans had insulted France, and a threatening crowd surrounded us. A restaurant offering the nearest refuge, we stepped inside to order une demi-tasse and to wait until the excitement had subsided. The garcon refused to serve us. Outside, the crowd grew larger. Then a policeman appeared. Upon learning that we were Americans, he quickly appreciated the humor of the situation, and explained the misunderstanding to the crowd pressing around the door. The excitement abated as quickly as it arose, and we were allowed to continue our walk without further interruption.

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

A familiar village scene in provincial France page 157

Mont-de-Marsan has little to relieve the monotony of its narrow village life. We bumped over cobbled streets to the Hôtel Richelieu, securing pleasant rooms which opened on an attractive little court, enlivened by a murmuring fountain. Dinner was hardly over when the silence of the country began to settle along the deserted streets. Such a soporific environment was sleep-compelling. An alarm clock was not necessary, for at early dawn the street resounded with a medley of noises, the varied repertoire of the barnyard,—a[Pg 158] hundred of them, in fact. Geese, chickens, goats, and sheep were all tuning up for the village fair. It is a mystery how we motored through that maze of poultry and small wooden stands heaped with fruits, poultry, game, even dry goods—a kind of open-air department store. The clerks were grizzled peasant women, some of them eating their breakfast of grapes and dry bread, others displaying tempting fruit to entice us into a purchase.

[Pg 159]


Motoring on to St. Justin, we plunged into an immense forest broken only now and then by small clearings and extending for nearly sixty miles to the lumber town of Casteljaloux. Woodland depths shut out the view. Mile followed mile of dark pines and somber perspective, an endless succession of dim forest glades. The sappers were at their work, peeling the bark from the long trunks and attaching small earthenware cups to catch the resinous gum. The road was so easy and smooth that we did not find it difficult to take notes. From the lumber yards of Casteljaloux was blown the fragrant odor of fresh-sawn pine. Bright sunshine flooded the wide-open country. The freedom of the fields was around us again. Here and there a maple showed the first gorgeous colors of autumn.

In the enjoyment of these peaceful scenes we ran unexpectedly through an encampment of French soldiers. The army was getting ready[Pg 160] for the autumn maneuvers. Rifles were stacked, and heavy accouterments deposited on the grass. There were three or four large Paris omnibuses transformed into kitchens, motor-propelled and equal to a speed of twenty miles an hour. Soldiers and officers watched us curiously, almost suspiciously. Our notebooks were hastily put aside. To be detected taking notes from a German motor car in a French encampment might have had unpleasant consequences, or at least subjected us to serious inconvenience. One of the officers took our number; another "snapped" us with a camera, but there was no attempt to interfere with our progress.

The infantry wore long blue coats and red trousers. One wonders why the French army, otherwise so scientifically equipped, should have such showy uniforms. If France went to war to-morrow, her soldiers would be at a great disadvantage. These uniforms would be a conspicuous target at the farthest rifle range. All other modern armies, like those of Germany, England, or Italy, have adopted the "invisible" field dress. But in France the colors have not[Pg 161] changed from the blue and red of Napoleon's soldiers. A few years ago the War Minister Berteaux tried to introduce a uniform of green material. His efforts were without success; the old color tradition was too strong. A French officer commented as follows: "The French army is one of the most routine-bound in Europe. In some things, like flying, we have a lead, because civilians have done all the preliminary work, but in purely military matters, like uniforms, officialdom delays reform at every turn. It was not until 1883 that we gave up wearing the gaiters and shoes of Napoleon's time, and took to boots like other armies." Even the officers whom we saw from our motor car were dressed in scarlet and gold, red breeches, and sky-blue tunics with gold braid.

A little farther on we passed several motor cars filled with French officers; just behind them came a dozen Berliet trucks of a heavy military type, loaded with meat and ammunition. These are the times of motor war. The automobile has revolutionized the old method of food supply. The long, slow train of transport wagons, unwieldy and drawn by horses,[Pg 162] has been replaced by swift motor trucks. The French army is unsurpassed in mechanical equipment. No effort has been spared to give the army the full benefit of technical and scientific improvements. This year, for the first time, the Paris motor omnibuses are serving as meat-delivery vans. With this innovation, the army can have fresh meat every morning, instead of the canned meats of other years. The supply stations can be, in safety, thirty miles from the front, and yet remain in effective communication with the troops. France is in grim earnest. The army is ready and competent. The terrible lessons of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 have been learned.

A French officer with whom we conversed on the subject of the French and German armies, spoke of the superiority of the French artillery over German guns in the recent Balkan war. He said that the French were counting upon their great advantage in this respect to offset the German superiority in numbers. Commenting on the wish of the Kaiser to visit Paris, he was quite sure that the Kaiser would never repeat the performance of his grandfather, [Pg 163]
Emperor William I, and arrive in Paris at the head of the German army.

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A miracle of Gothic splendor

Our lunch in Marmande reminded us of a banquet, but we were not yet French enough to do full justice to three kinds of meat. France is essentially a country of fields and gardens. How we looked forward to every déjeuner and every dîner so bountifully spread with the famous products of her soil! The cuisine of these small towns would not suffer in comparison with the hotels of larger cities. One is served more generously for half the price, and the cooking is just as good.

A delightful succession of little foreign touches brightened the ride from Marmande,—the sluggish bullock carts, and vineyards interspersed with tobacco fields, small churches with bell cotes guarded by solemn, century-old cypress trees; or perhaps it was an old Gothic house or an ancient gateway with a piece of mediæval wall still clinging to it. In one village we saw bizarre stores, where the doorway and window were one. This must be a survival of Roman times, because we had seen the same thing in Pompeii. We were quickly[Pg 164] called back from antiquity, however, by the cement telegraph poles which lined the road for some miles. It was a surprise to see such evidence of progress in a region where the years leave so few traces of their march.

By this time the weather had become the chief topic of conversation. A storm was swiftly approaching. Tall cypress trees creaked and swayed in the wind; the dark clouds, nearly above us, shot out murky, ominous streamers, like the tentacles of a gigantic octopus; a few big drops fell; then the floodgates burst. The drenching downpour was so sudden that there was no time to put up the top of the car. A tall tree offered refuge, but soon each separate leaf had a tiny waterfall of its own. Fortune did not entirely desert us, for a small farmhouse, near by, promised a more substantial shelter. It was just the kind of peasant's home that we had often seen from the roadside: an exterior of rustic quaintness, built of stone and rough timbers, and artistically framed in rustic vines and flowers. What would the interior look like? We knocked. A barefooted peasant woman opened the door.[Pg 165] She was surprised to see three dripping apparitions, apparently swept in by the rage of the elements, but her invitation to enter could not have been more cordial. The "salon" served the purposes of kitchen, bedchamber, and dining room. There was no trace of carpet or rug on the cobble-stoned floor. The heap of straw in the corner did not disclose whether it was for dog or goat. On the wall hung a cheap color-print of Napoleon. The hospitable "Asseyez-vous" called our attention to a single decrepit chair. There was not even a wooden table. The rain, pattering down the chimney, had almost extinguished the blaze in the small open fireplace. Could anything have been more barren or forlorn! Judging from the appearance of our hôtesse, the bathtub either did not exist or had long since ceased to figure prominently in the domestic life of the household. Two other peasant women of the same neglected appearance entered without knocking. One of them was barefooted; the other would have been if she had not worn heavy sabots. Both of them greeted us, but their dialect was unintelligible. The sun coming out[Pg 166] we said good-by with all the polite French phrases at our command. The three peasant women stood in the doorway and waved their ragged aprons till we disappeared over the hill.

The bridge spanning the Dordogne into cheerful Bergerac showed a town busy with festal preparation for the coming of President Poincaré. Pine branches were being wound around telephone poles; festoons of green decorated the houses; windows were bright with flags; the streets overhung with arches bearing inscriptions of welcome. We stopped at a tea shop which was also a boulangerie.

It was interesting to discover, from the local papers, that our route for the next two days was to be part of the itinerary selected by President Poincaré for his tour through the French provinces.

This trip resulted from the president's desire to know his people better, to become acquainted with their local life, to visit their industries, and especially to attract the attention of the motor world to beautiful and interesting regions of France which had too long been neglected,—these slumberous small towns of the Dordogne,[Pg 167] Limousin and Périgord, hidden from the broad travel track, rich in local traditions and peculiarities, wrapped in their old-world atmosphere, surrounded by exquisite landscapes with marvelous horizons. For these towns, the president's coming was a big event. Some of them recalled that since the days of Louis XI no ruler of the state had visited their village.

We were to see Périgueux, with its precious relics of Roman life and of the Middle Ages; Limoges, noted for its beautiful enamels and the center of the porcelain industry. It was this part of France, so little visited even by the French themselves, that President Poincaré chose for his week of motoring. For him, as well as for us, it was to be a delightful voyage of discovery.

The twenty-nine miles to Périgueux proved a memorable motor experience. Much of the way was among steep, tree-covered slopes. No one met us along the road.

It is surprising how far one can motor in France without seeing any trace of human life; areas of deserted country are so common; abandoned farmhouses appear so frequently.[Pg 168] The reason lies not alone in the drift of population to the larger towns and cities, but in the fact that the French birth rate is failing to hold its own. France, so rich in other respects, is actually threatened by a decreasing population. In 1911 the number of deaths exceeded the number of births by 33,800. In the first third of the last century, when the death rate was much higher than now, there were six births to every death; in 1871 the ratio had fallen to two births to each death; in 1901 it was even. If we consider the number of births per 10,000 inhabitants during the decades of the last century, we find the series to be an invariably decreasing one—from 323 in 1800 to 222 in 1900. In 1870 Germany and France had each about 38,000,000. Germany now has over 67,000,000, a gain of 27,000,000 over the present French population of 39,340,000. France is thus placed at a great disadvantage in the matter of national defense. If we assume the German army to be only 750,000 soldiers, there would be one soldier to every 89 inhabitants; France, to have the same army, would be obliged to have one soldier to every 52 or 53 inhabitants. The fact that the[Pg 169] French soldiers will now be compelled to serve three years in the army, as compared with two years in Germany, shows how France is now paying the penalty for neglecting that vital national problem of population.

Our ride to Périgueux gave vivid emphasis to the above figures. There was little evidence of peasant life. One had the impression of roaming through a vast, uninhabited country.

From the top of a hill the town, and the valley of the Isle, stretched beneath us a lovely view; the windings of the river Isle, its bridges mirrored in the crimson flood. Wooded hills faded slowly into the blue depths of twilight. The graceful Byzantine campanile and domes of St. Front reminded us of the church of St. Marks in Venice. Europe has few more romantic corners. Descending the hill, we motored over the river and into the town, under arches of electric lights arranged in letters to spell words of greeting to the president.

The Grand Hôtel du Commerce should have been torn down years ago. It was a good example of how poor a provincial hotel can be. Even the recommendation of the Touring Club[Pg 170] of France could not make us forget the musty smells that filled rooms and corridors. We opened wide all the windows. After a few minutes, the fresh air revived us.

For a place that occupies so little space in the pages of Baedeker, Périgueux is unique. Numerous remains from the different epochs of history may be found. The Roman period, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and modern times have all left their imprint. There is the massive tower of Vesône, once part of a Gallo-Roman temple. The Château Barrière has one curious feature: a railroad runs through the deep moat of feudal times. We shall need all our superlatives to describe the Jardin des Arènes. Where else will you find a public garden laid out on the site of an ancient Roman amphitheater, keeping the same size, the same circular form, and even preserving some of the original arches to admit the modern public? A French journalist once wrote that "even without its bright sunlight, even without imagination, Périgueux remains one of the quaintest towns in the world and one of those places which the French people would visit in crowds[Pg 171] if it were situated in another country." Viewed from a distance, the cathedral of St. Front makes a striking appearance; the five huge domes might have been transplanted from St. Sophia of Constantinople.

[Pg 172]


From Périgueux we followed the Isle for some distance before turning to wind over the hills. It was a region of chestnut trees, the marronniers for which the province is so celebrated. For miles the trees formed a stately hedge along both sides of the highway, and groves of them were in the near distance, their spreading branches reminding us of English oaks.

The ascent continued to Thivièrs, a tiny village of the Dordogne. One of the vieux citoyens pointed out the Hôtel de France as the best place to lunch. "On mange très bien lábas," he said. The lunch was a chef d'œuvre. We had never tasted such poulet au casserole or such cotelettes de mouton grillées. The lievre had a delicious suc de viande which went well with the pommes frités. There was vin à discrétion, and, besides, different kinds of fromage and the French melons, golden and juicy and always the best part of the repast.

[Pg 173]

Nothing is more delightfully characteristic of these small towns like Thivièrs than the delicacies peculiar to them. These little communities, so different from each other in local customs and mannerisms, are just as unique and original in their cooking. It was always interesting, when we had lunch or dinner in a new place, to scan the ménu for some new dish that we had never tasted. Whenever the garcon or maître de l'hôtel pointed to an item on the ménu and said, "C'est une specialitè de la maison," then we knew that something good was coming. One never tires of these French delicacies. Our regret at leaving them behind was usually tempered by the consolation that something equally new and delicious was awaiting us in the next place en route. Each one of the following names recalls experiences that we shall not soon forget. These are simply samples. The list would be too long if we named them all; the truites of Chambéry; the mushroom patties of Pierrelatte; the jambon of Bayonne; the truffes of Périgueux; the rillettes and vins of Tours; the miel du Gatinais of Orléans; the fried sole of Chartres and Dieppe. In Normandy, sweet[Pg 174] cider was often placed on the table instead of the mild vin du pays. The cheese, patisserie, and fruits were good everywhere.

Another item, which we cannot overlook, never appeared on the ménu and yet always flavored the whole repast. That was the geniality, the provincial hospitality, which greeted us in every little inn and hotel. The welcome was just as hearty as the farewell. If there was some one dish that we especially liked, the patronne was never satisfied till she was sure that we had been bountifully served. After so many experiences like these, it is easy to understand why the foreign motorist feels so much at home in France.

It was a splendid run to Limoges. The long grades were scarcely noticeable, the easy curves rarely making it necessary to check our speed. Donkey carts were fashionable, and sabots, as usual, in style. There was always a shining river or green valley in sight. Haute-Vienne, arrayed in flags and evergreens, awaited the coming of the president. Here, as all along the route, we saw the same joyful picture of festal preparations. The bridge over the river Vienne was like a green arbor.

[Pg 175]

Some of the worthy citizens of these communities were probably more familiar with town affairs than the current events of the outer world. We read in a local journal of a shopkeeper who shouted a lusty "Vive Faillières," to greet the president's arrival. The mayor of one village threw himself in front of the presidential car, and threatened to commit suicide if the president did not make a speech, as he had done in a neighboring town. These petty municipal jealousies gave us a picture of France in miniature. What country is more torn by faction! Internal dissension is the nation's peril.

The river kept us company until Limoges was in sight. The president had left the city only a few hours before our arrival. Decorations were still in their splendor. One arc de triomphe bore the words "Vive Poincaré." Another read, "Nos fleurs et nos cœurs." This popular ovation seems remarkable when we consider the strength of socialism in France, and the fact that Limoges is a socialistic center. The mayor, a socialist, refused to receive the president. The City Council was not present at the festivities of[Pg 176] welcome. Municipal buildings like the Hôtel de Ville were not decorated. All this was in accordance with instructions received from the leaders of the socialistic party. It was even considered unsafe for the president to include Limoges in his itinerary. But the people, the wage earners, the various trade organizations, acted for themselves. Their spontaneous, enthusiastic greeting was all the more striking in contrast with the cold indifference of the city authorities. To be in an important French city at just this time, on the very day when the president was there, to see all the preparations for his welcome, to hear the people talk about him and praise him, made us feel that we had been close indeed to one of the great personalities of modern Europe. France has found her leader, a man of vast energy who understands his country's problems and is peculiarly fitted to solve them. His motor tour through the provinces was like a triumphal march. Everywhere he preached that gospel of unity which is the great need of the hour.

Thanks to a letter of introduction, we had the interesting privilege of visiting a porcelain [Pg 177]
factory and of seeing the different processes through which the product passes from the shapeless lump of clay to the final touch of the artist's brush. The city reflects the artistic spirit of its inhabitants. One notices many attractive garden plots and window gardens, and the beauty of the flowers appears in their art. These artists can reproduce them in porcelain and enamel because first of all they have painted them in their hearts.

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

A convenient way to carry bread

After Limoges, came Tours as the goal of the day's run through the pastoral beauties of Limousin to the châteaux of Touraine. The air was crisp and clear. Two hours of easy running through the bright September sunshine brought us to the Palais Hôtel in Poitiers before noon—Poitiers, the city of old Romanesque churches and older traditions, where are living so many of the vieille noblesse who would rather eat dry bread than make their sons work. The echoes of Parisian rush do not penetrate these quiet streets. The people drink tilleul after lunch instead of coffee. The effect is to make them drowsy. In fact, we have seldom visited a place with such an atmosphere of slumber.[Pg 178] After lunch the patronne offered to show us some of the hotel rooms. Most of them were connected with a private salle de bain. The price was so reasonable that we at once placed this hotel in a class by itself. As before stated, bathrooms do not enter largely into the life of the French home or hotel. Even in cities like Tours, the public bathtub still makes its round from house to house once a week, or once a month as the case may be. An Englishman, who so often places cleanliness above godliness, is unable to understand this French indifference to the blessings of hot and cold water. In Lyons, the third largest city of France, there is a popular saying that only millionaires have the salle de bain in their homes. These facts will help to explain why the Hôtel Palais, with its many bathrooms, made such an impression on us. We regret that our snapshot of this hotel did not turn out well. We would have had it enlarged and framed.

From Poitiers to Tours one is on the famous Route Nationale No. 10, that remarkable highway which Napoleon built across France into Spain when his soldiers made the long[Pg 179] march only to meet defeat in the Peninsular campaign. We had followed it from Bayonne to Biarritz and on to San Sebastian. To see this familiar sign again seemed like the greeting of an old friend. It looks like an army road, the trees are planted with such military precision. One could almost feel the measured step to martial music. This straight-away stretch for so many miles through the country suggested the great soldier himself. Like his strategy, there was no unnecessary swerving. It was the shortest practicable line to the enemy's battle front. These magnificent routes nationales are the best illustration of the order and system that he gave to French life. We have often thought too much emphasis has been laid on the destructive side of Napoleon's career. He shook Europe, but Europe needed to be shaken. The divine-right-of-kings theory needed to be shattered. France needed to be centralized. If our motoring in that country had been limited to Route Nationale No. 10, this would have been enough to give us a new appreciation of Napoleon as a constructive force.

The afternoon's ride flew all too quickly. It[Pg 180] was glorious, as evening approached, to watch the harvest moon growing brighter and larger on our right, while the sunset fires slowly changed from burning colors to dusky gray. Tours was in sight, Tours on the Loire, names that we had always linked with the châteaux of Touraine. A multitude of lights gleamed from the plain below. Descending the hill, we crossed the Loire to the Hôtel Metropole.

Tours was not what we had anticipated. One reads about the kings of France who resided here, from Louis IX to François I. Plundering Visigoths, ravaging Normans, Catholics and Huguenots, even the Germans in 1870, all in their turn assailed the unfortunate city. We looked for half-ruined palaces and vine-covered, crumbling walls. The reality spread a different picture. Aside from the streets and houses of mediæval Tours, little remains of great historic interest. This large, busy industrial center produces so many articles that the list resembles a section from the new Tariff Act.

We enjoyed varying our châteaux excursions with rambles in the city. There are old gabled houses in the Rue du Change, where the overhanging [Pg 181]
stories rest on brackets richly carved. One loses all sense of direction in some of these intricate streets. The cathedral compelled us to linger longer than we had intended. The ages have given such a warm, rich gray to the stones that the usual atmosphere of frozen grandeur was absent. Our interest in Gothic glass and mediæval pillars was diverted by a wedding that was going on in the cathedral. One of the priests, who was assisting in the ceremonies, left his duties to offer us his services as guide; there is always a certain magnetic power to the American tip. Of course we climbed the Royal Staircase of the North Tower, even counting the number of steps. The fact that our numbers did not correspond is all that saves this part of our story from resembling a quotation from Baedeker. The panorama showed the city spread out in a plain between the Loire and the Cher. We grew to have an intimate feeling for these old cathedral towers. When returning along the Loire from our châteaux trips, it was always a beautiful sight to see them in the distance, clear-cut and luminous, or looking like majestic shadows in the haze of twilight.

The road swept us along the bank of the Loire Page 181

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Tours made a convenient headquarters for our explorations in Touraine, where along the banks of the Loire and the Indre were enacted the most important events in French history from Charles VII to Henry IV. Every one would be interested in an historical course having for subjects these Renaissance homes of France's gallantry and beauty. One lingers, and imagines the scenes of magnificent revel, the court life of kings and queens when the artistic and architectural glory of France was at its zenith.

It was easy to plan our one-day trips so as to include on the same circuit several of the most famous châteaux. The first day we motored to Azay-le-Rideau, Chinon, Rigny-Ussé, and Langeais, in the order named. The distances were short, perhaps one hundred and twenty-five kilometers in all, so that we could go leisurely and yet return to Tours before dark.

[Pg 183]

With this wonderful program before us, we crossed the Loire, and traversing a wooded country with areas of vineyards and gardens, came to Azay-sur-Indre. There were not even hints of a château, nothing but the aimless cobbled streets of the typical French town. We halted beside a long wall which holds back the encroaching village and betrays no sign of the surprise in store within. Any one about to see his first château would do well to visit Azay-le-Rideau, a veritable gem of Renaissance style. This graceful pile of white architecture, as seen to-day, belongs to the early part of the sixteenth century. François I built it. That patron of the beaux arts has placed our twentieth century under lasting obligation. Every line is artistic. There is the picture of airy lightness in the turrets and carven chimneys that rise from the high sloping roofs of blue slate. In gratitude for the preservation of this perfect work one forgets the ravages of the French Revolution. Passing over a small bridge, we followed the gardien through the sculptured doorway and up the grand staircase so often ascended by François and his Parisian favorites.[Pg 184] We were permitted to see the ancient kitchen and old kitchen utensils of wrought iron. Paintings and Flemish tapestries adorned the billiard room. The king's bedroom has a fine specimen of rare mediæval flooring. The ballroom, with its Gobelin tapestries, suggested the artistic luxury of the age. From nearly every window there were pleasing outlooks on a green woodland and on the sunny branch of the Indre, which surrounds the château on three sides. It was all a picture of peace. Azay-le-Rideau is a château of elegance, instead of defense. One could imagine it built by a king who had leisure to collect beautiful works of art and whose throne was not seriously threatened by invading armies.

Quite different from it is the château of Chinon, an immense ruined fortress built on a hill above the Vienne River. The walls are as impregnable as rocky cliffs. Chinon was the refuge of a king who had need of the strongest towers. Charles VII, still uncrowned, assembled here the States-General while the English were besieging Orléans. It was a time of despair. The French were divided,[Pg 185] discouraged, helpless, their richest provinces overrun by English armies. At this lowest ebb of French history, a simple peasant girl came to Chinon. Only a solitary gable and chimneypiece remain of the Grande Salle du Trône where Jeanne d'Arc told the king of her visions from heaven and of mysterious voices commanding her to save the nation. We entered the tower, her rude quarters till she departed a few weeks later to lead the French troops to the victory of Orléans.

After lunch we motored through the gardens of Touraine to the magnificent château of Ussé. The elegant grounds and surrounding woods formed an appropriate setting. Terraces descended to the wall below, where our view swept over a wide range of picturesque country, watered by the Indre. Much to our regret, we were not permitted to visit the château, which is now occupied by a prominent French family.

Langeais, a few miles away, gave us a more hospitable welcome. It is a superb stronghold upon the Loire, and has dark, frowning towers and a heavy drawbridge which looks very[Pg 186] mediæval. The widow of M. Siegfried, a Parisian millionaire, lives here part of the year with her daughter. M. Siegfried, who bought the château, was interested in art as well as in ships. He lavished his wealth to furnish the different rooms with furniture and objets d'art peculiar to the period. His will provides that after the wife's death the château is to belong to the Institute of France, and that a sum equal to six thousand dollars is to be devoted to its upkeep. Other tourists had arrived. The concierge conducted our party through the many different rooms, lavishly furnished and decorated in the period of Louis XI and Charles VIII. There were wide, open fireplaces. We were interested in the Grand Salon, where the marriage of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany was celebrated in 1491.

The return to Tours led along the banks of the Loire. Rain was falling, a cold drizzle which the rising wind dashed in our faces. The wide sweeps of the river grew indistinct. There were few carts to check our homeward spurt through the darkening landscape. We [Pg 187]
were fortunate in having so comfortable a hostelry for a goal. The dinner, equal to the best French cuisine, proved a pleasant ending to a memorable day.

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The Chateau of Loches behind its imposing entrance Page 187

The next morning ushered in one of those golden fall days that seemed made for "châteauing." The swift kilometers soon carried us to Loches, that impressive combination of state prison, Château Royal, and grim fortress overlooking the valley of the Indre. So many horrible memories are linked with the prisons of Loches that we almost hesitate to record our impressions. We have seen the dungeon cells of the Ducal Palace in Venice and the equally gruesome chambers of the Castle of Chillon, but the dungeons of Loches are the most fear-inspiring that we have ever penetrated. Perhaps a part of this impression was due to the concierge who showed us the prisons where famous captives were incarcerated and tortured at the will of monarchs. There was one dark cell with a deep hole, purposely fashioned that the victims should stumble headlong to their fate. Our guide gave us a graphic description of this method of execution.[Pg 188] In that gloomy hole, his sudden climax of "Très horrible," would have made any one shiver. Some of these cells extend an interminable distance underground. It is not the most cheerful experience to descend deeper and deeper into this subterranean darkness, to see the daylight growing fainter, to hear the trickle of water from the cold rocks, and then to imagine the slow, frightful death of many a political captive. Louis XI, not satisfied with the capacity of the dungeon, built a great round tower, the Tour Neuve, where he imprisoned the rebellious barons whose lives could not be taken.

Some one has written of this amiable king that "his reign was a daily battle, carried on in the manner of savages, by astuteness and cruelty, without courtesy and without mercy." In the cell occupied by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, may be seen the paintings, sun dial, and inscriptions with which he tried to ward off approaching madness. This prisoner is said to have died from the joy of regaining his liberty. Louis XI was resourceful in his method of imprisonment. In a subterranean[Pg 189] room of the Tour Neuve we were shown where the Cardinal Balue was suspended in a small cage. One reads that he "survived so much longer than might have been expected this extraordinary mixture of seclusion and exposure." Almost as horrible was the window cell in one of the torture chambers. The prisoner was confined on a narrow stone ledge between two rows of bars. There was barely space to stand up or lie down. A handful of straw served for a bed. On the one side, he was exposed to the elements, and on the other, he viewed the torments of fellow prisoners.

We turned with relief to less hideous scenes, to the apartments of the Château Royal, occupied by the irresolute Charles VII, the terrible Louis XI, and their successors; to the tower, from the top of which we had a commanding view of the quaint, mediæval town and the wandering Indre. Our guide did not forget to show us the tomb of Agnes Sorel, the beautiful mistress of Charles VII. Two little angels kneel at her head, while her feet rest on two couchant lambs, symbols of innocence. The monument would have made an[Pg 190] appropriate resting place for a martyred saint.

From Loches, we motored through a deep forest to the château of Montrésor, well protected on its rocky height by a double encircling wall, flanked with towers. Once within these formidable barriers, we were delighted with the pleasant grounds and green arbors above the valley of the Indrois. The building dates from the commencement of the sixteenth century, and was small enough to look more like a home than a palace. The concierge spoke of a distinguished Polish family who occupied it part of the year. This was the first "home château" we had seen. Everything looked livable; there was warmth and coziness and refinement in the different rooms. We felt almost like intruders into this domestic atmosphere. Some of the paintings were by great artists. One was Fleury's "The Massacre of the Poles at Warsaw," on April 8, 1861. There were rare specimens of antique furniture, and, most interesting of all, the "Treasury of the Kings of Poland," consisting in part of the large gold dish and silver soup tureen presented to John Sobieski by the city of Vienna, and of [Pg 191]
the silver-gilt services of Sobieski and of Sigismond II, King of Poland. The château has a rich collection of works of art and souvenirs relating to the history of Poland.

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The Chateau of Chenonceaux Page 191

The Hôtel de France nearby spread before us a ménu so good that we confiscated the carte du jour as a souvenir.

Eagerly we looked forward to Chenonceaux, built on the Cher, most exquisite of the French châteaux and for centuries the rendezvous of wit and beauty. Motor cars lined the roadside by the gates of the park. Some of the visitors had driven in carriages from the nearest railway stations. We sauntered down an avenue of trees to a large garden, rather a formal piece of landscape work. The drawbridge offered access to the château. François I purchased it. Later, Henry II, ascending the throne, gave it to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. The French women of that day had a big share in the shaping of history; the conversations of the boudoir were often more influential than state councils. Diane built a bridge which connected the castle with the other side of the river. Twelve years later, the death of Henry II gave[Pg 192] his widow, Catherine de' Medici, a chance to relieve her embittered feelings. She forced Diane to exchange Chenonceaux for another château. Upon the bridge built by her rival, Catherine erected a long gallery, surmounted by a banqueting hall. This fairy-like structure is so strangely placed, one is reminded of a fantastic ship moored in the river. It is remarkable for its celebrated Renaissance architecture and for the absence of bloody traditions. "Blois is stained with the blood of Guise; Amboise was the scene of massacre; Loches stands upon unnumbered dungeons; Chenonceaux alone has no bloodstain on its stones and no groan has ever risen from its vaults. Eight generations of kings took their pleasure there, and a long line of brilliant and beautiful women makes its history like a rope of pearls." Even the gloomy, plotting Catherine did nothing to disturb the peaceful records and gorgeous fêtes of Chenonceaux. In the "chambre de Diane de Poitiers" we saw a painting representing Catherine. Those cold, brooding eyes looked capable of anything, from the murder of the Duc de Guise to the massacre of St. Bartholomew.

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Two other châteaux of our itinerary still remained, Amboise and Blois, the latter perhaps the most famous of them all. We decided to visit these châteaux en route down the valley of Loire to Orléans. The following morning we bade farewell to Tours. The road swept us along the left bank of the Loire, all aglitter in the September sunshine. What a wonderful stream it is, the longest river in France, with its basin embracing one fourth of that country! There is not a river in the world like it. One feels the breath of romance, the spell of historical associations, the beauty of its curves sweeping through a smiling land. "Perhaps no stream, in so short a portion of its course, has so much history to tell."[6] Along its banks flourished for three centuries the court of the Valois kings. There are vineyards, the remains of mediæval forests, little villages that have scarcely changed in a hundred years, and splendid châteaux like those of Blois, Chaumont, Chambord, and Amboise, almost reflecting their towers in the water and rich in the wonders of the French Renaissance.

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Of all the châteaux along the Loire, Amboise enjoys the finest situation. From across the river we could see this dark Gothic mass rising from its cliff-like walls to dominate the town and far-winding stream. The panorama from the high terrace is one of the indescribable views of France. The real treasure of Amboise is the exquisite Chapelle de Saint Hubert, due to Charles VIII. His artistic zeal was tragically interrupted. We saw the low doorway where, according to tradition, he struck his head and killed himself while hastening to play tennis. On the terrace is a bust of Leonardo da Vinci, who died here in 1519. The name of Catherine de' Medici is connected with a frightful scene that occurred in the courtyard. A Huguenot conspiracy to capture the youthful François II was discovered. The fierce Catherine not only witnessed the executions from a balcony, but insisted upon the company of her horrified daughter-in-law, Mary Stuart. Twelve hundred Huguenots were butchered. One writer[7] makes the following grim comment: "It was a long job, of course, to kill so many, and the [Pg 195]
company could hardly be expected to watch it all, but the noble victims were reserved for their special entertainment after dinner." Catherine seems to have had a peculiar fondness for these innocent and edifying spectacles. We descended the spiral roadway of the colossal tower up which Emperor Charles V rode on horseback when he visited François I. This inclined plane was so perfect and gradual that our motor car could have climbed it with ease.

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The Chateau of Amboise on the Loire

Recrossing the Loire, we rode on to Blois for lunch at that famous hostelry, the Hôtel d'Angleterre, close by the river's edge. To the château of Blois belongs historical preëminence. This great castle was the center of French history in the sixteenth century. Elaborate and imposing, Blois recalls the splendor of the age as well as its crimes. Such fireplaces and such ceilings! The colors are crimson and gold. Amid this gloomy grandeur moved Catherine de' Medici. The memory of her presence alone is enough to make the air heavy with intrigue and murder, with all the passions that inflamed the religious wars. Joining the usual tourist crowd, we visited her apartments, including the[Pg 196] bedroom where she died in 1589, at the age of seventy, the most infamous of French queens. To us, the strangest fact in the life of this fierce, blood-loving queen is that she was permitted to die a natural death. In one of the chambers were curious secret cupboards where she may have concealed her jewels. The floor above suggested a terribly realistic picture of the assassination of the Duc de Guise, whose popularity and influence had aroused the jealousy of Catherine and Henry III. The concierge explained all the tragic details. This was the salle du conseil, where, on the morning of the assassination, the duke was summoned by the queen to a council; that, the cabinet neuf, where the king remained while the fatal blows were being struck. And there, in the king's chamber, at the foot of the bed, the spot where the body lay when the king exclaimed, "He seems greater in death than in life."

[Pg 197]


Leaving the châteaux country, we proceeded to Orléans in the lower part of the Loire valley, spending the night at the Hôtel Saint Aignan. The general appearance of the city is prosperous and modern. The walls which once surrounded it have been turned into promenades. Everything in Orléans seems connected with Jeanne d'Arc. There is a bronze equestrian statue with bas-reliefs of the "Maid" who, clad in white armor, led her soldiers from victory to victory. We hope sometime to be present at the brilliant "Fête de Jeanne d'Arc," which is held every year on May 8, in commemoration of her raising the siege of Orléans in 1429. Small shops display postal cards representing scenes from her life. The Musée is filled with interesting souvenirs. In the cathedral, where the people worship her as a saint, we saw on the walls votive tablets bearing inscriptions of gratitude to her for recovery from sickness. In the same street is the[Pg 198] "Maison de Jeanne d'Arc" where she was received by the Duc d'Orléans during the eventful siege. That morning was filled with an interesting series of historical sidelights.

From the vineyards of Touraine to the wheat fields of Normandy; the change was complete. Like an endless white ribbon, the road stretched straight through the vast plain of La Beauce, the granary of France. What far reaches of level fields! There were no telegraph poles, no hedges, no fences. We seemed to be moving through a strange solitude, empty of human face or habitation. The distant farmhouses and windmills were too much like specks on the horizon to seem real. There is, after all, no scenery to compare with the beauty of the lowlands, where every mood of heaven, every change of sky, is part of a wonderful picture. The weather, which was threatening when we left Orléans, now looked more and more like a storm. No shelter was in sight, nothing but the open country, the great dome of heaven, and the road ever narrowing ahead of us until its indistinct thread merged into a faint blur. Swift clouds took on a greenish, copper-colored hue, [Pg 199]
which deepened into black as they swirled toward us. Then the hailstones began to fall with a stinging force that increased with every movement. It was one of those furious hailstorms of northern France which are as characteristic of that region as the mistral is of the Midi. There were no mitigating influences. The wind was pitiless, untempered even by the shelter of a tree or barn. By stopping the car and crouching behind it, we secured a little protection from the biting blasts. The sun soon burst through the cloud barriers. We continued toward Chartres, stopping for a moment at a railway crossing to "kodak" a passing freight train.

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The wheat fields of Normandy

The approach to Chartres was impressively picturesque. The double spires of its vast Gothic cathedral, growing more distinct, finally towered above the moat and the Porte Guillaume, the fourteenth-century gateway of the city. Our hotel, the Grand Monarque, gazed upon the turmoil of a village fair. The din was deafening. A merry-go-round added the blare of brazen music; several hand-organs were in discordant evidence. We mingled with the[Pg 200] peasants around the small booths, and were almost enticed by a jolie paysanne into buying a pair of small sabots. Our ride in the small motor car of the merry-go-round was the dizziest burst of speed on our whole trip.

Little Chartres is overshadowed by its mighty cathedral. All interest concentrates there. Many consider it the finest in France. Every one would agree that the interior is incomparable. Nowhere can we find a more sublime expression of Gothic art. Those who fashioned this "sacred rock-work set to music" belong to the great unknown; their names are buried somewhere back in the early part of the thirteenth century when the cathedral was built. At least, they have given us a picture of their times; such structures could not be erected now. Our age is attuned to a different key; there are too many distracting influences. Then, there were no popular theaters, and few books or forms of amusement. The church was the natural center of thought and life. Only the religious inspiration of a people naturally artistic could have created the immortal works which the cathedral builders have bequeathed.

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The Gothic cathedral at Chartres Page 200

[Pg 201]

For a few miles outside of Chartres we were again on Route Nationale No. 10. The blue-and-white advertisements of various productions appeared close to the road signs. This is a common practice of the French advertisers, who wish to catch the eye of the voyageur. We had no idea there were so many different makes of pneus and chocolats. In the roadside hamlets the French advertiser makes use of the sides of barns and the corners of houses, but there is very little landscape advertising. Being Americans, we were impressed by this absence of disfiguring advertisements along the countryside in Normandy and other parts of France. The "Bull Durham" herd, so often found in American meadows, would not thrive in French pastures. It would be taxed out of existence.

Hardly had we sat down to lunch in the Hôtel du Grand Cerf of Nonancourt when there was a great shouting and beating of drums outside. A group of conscripts marched noisily by. They wore red, white, and blue cockades, and neckties of the same color, in curious contrast to their simple peasant dress.[Pg 202] In accordance with the provincial custom, it was a day of feasting to signalize their admission to the army. In two weeks they were to leave their homes to begin the long, tedious period of military service. A young cuirassier whom we met in Limoges, and who had just completed his first year of service in the cavalry, related interesting experiences of life in the French army. The discipline is severe. The German soldier is not subjected to a more rigorous training. The rising hour is 5 a.m. in the spring, and 4 a.m. in the summer. There are long, exhausting marches. As often as two or three times a week the recruits are awakened in the middle of the night to make a long march. Life is made to conform as closely as possible to the conditions of actual war. A day's work of eighteen hours is not unusual. Naturally, this means hardship, but it also means good soldiers. The French army is very democratic. Rich and poor are treated alike. Both live together in the barracks. There are no privileges. Even if a recruit is wealthy, he is not allowed to keep a valet. Every man is his own domestic. The German[Pg 203] army is not nearly so democratic. There, if the recruit has means, he can keep a servant and may live out of barracks in a comfortable apartment.

The conscripts whom we saw in Nonancourt were destined to anything but an easy, inactive life. For infantry as well as cavalry there is the same grueling routine. The three hours of drilling in the morning do not include gymnasium exercises for three-quarters of an hour. Such menial duties as peeling potatoes, or washing dishes and clothes, form part of the morning's work. The short noon respite is followed by three hours of military exercises. During this period of training the recruits receive only one cent a day, besides clothing, guns, and very simple fare. The term of service has recently been extended from two to three years, to offset the increases of the German army. The average age of enlistment is about eighteen years, an age when the American boy is entering college or laying the foundation for a business career. In comparison, the French boy is heavily handicapped. Even if his school days end at the age of[Pg 204] sixteen, he can do little in business. The French business man does not think it worth while to prepare the boy for an important position, since his military service is so close at hand. France pays a terrible price for national security. The financial cost, burdensome though it is, is the smallest item. Frenchmen who have lived in the United States often speak of the great advantages enjoyed by the young American who can devote to his education or to his life work those three precious years which the French youth must give to the army.

Anatole France, the distinguished French writer, was among those who protested against the new military law. "This addition of a year to the conscription comes on us just when France is moving forward with a new energy, both in science and industry. It will be a grave blow to all our higher life. Medicine especially will be injured, for the medicine of the army is not the medicine of the civil state. French science requires the time of its young students, and that will be gravely curtailed. The demand for another army year from all young Frenchmen, imposed without any exemptions, will draw off[Pg 205] the best from every field of life. It comes at a moment of great industrial development. It will check that development. It comes at a moment of expansion in our arts, especially in sculpture. It will be a heavy blow. Sculpture is not practiced on the battlefield."

We wonder if there is any help for Europe! How will it all end? So far as we can now foresee, the peace conference at The Hague, to have been held in 1915, has been indefinitely postponed. Instead of this gathering of the nations to establish some practical basis for limitation of armaments, there is the prospect of increased armaments. The burdens, already so crushing, are apparently only the prelude to what is coming. England is the pacemaker on the sea. Mr. Winston Churchill, in his recent speech before the House of Commons, urged that the naval budget for 1915 be raised to over a quarter billion dollars. He said: "The naval estimates for the next year are the largest in British history, $257,750,000. The causes which might lead to a general war have not been removed. The world is arming as it never armed before. All attempts at arresting it[Pg 206] have been ineffectual." Germany is more than ever a nation in arms. At the present rate of increase, her standing army in time of peace will soon number more than a million men. France, which less than a year ago passed the Three Years' Service Bill, already faces the possible necessity of adding still another year to the term of military service.

Count Witte, the Russian statesman, has estimated that forty per cent of the total income of the great powers is absorbed by their armies and navies. He said: "Unless the great states which have set this hideous example agree to call a halt and to knit their subjects into a pacific, united Europe, war is the only issue I can perceive. And when I say war, I mean a conflict which will surpass in horror the most brutal armed conflicts known to human history, and entail distress more widespread and more terrible than living men can realize."

Russia is making sweeping military reforms. The disastrous war with Japan taught valuable lessons. The reorganization of the army includes vast increases of men, and especially the improvement in facilities of transportation. The[Pg 207] railroad network in process of construction on her western frontier will probably be completed in 1915. When the plans of the Czar are realized in 1917, Russia will have one of the most formidable armies in the world, a war machine with a fighting strength of over four million men.

"Throughout Austria-Hungary there is just now a feeling of considerable dread of Russia's ulterior motives in a number of measures, military and otherwise, that are being discussed in political circles here. Of greatest moment in that connection is a short but vigorous speech made by the Hungarian premier, Count Tisza, before the Parliament. It was delivered while advocating the new army increase bill (since adopted by a large majority), which raises considerably the annual quota of recruits. After bewailing the necessity of imposing new burdens on a nation impoverished and already staggering under its load, he termed the contemplated increase in the fighting strength of the army an absolute necessity. 'The shadows of a coming big war are thrown ahead, and the losing side will forfeit its national life, or at least expect a painful amputation,' he cried."

[Pg 208]

In every country where we motored there was scarcely an hour which did not bring the sound of drums, the sight of barracks, of soldiers drilling or on the march. Whether in Germany, Austria, Italy, or France, there were the same sights of preparation for war. The sacrifices of peace in 1914 are hardly less exhausting than were the sacrifices of war in 1813.

"What a reflection on modern diplomacy the whole situation casts! A policy which men like Gray and Asquith have repeatedly characterized as one of madness, as one leading to bankruptcy, as one that makes a mockery of peace by throwing away half its benefits, is pursued because the diplomats can't agree on a plan of armament limitation. It is admitted that the frenzied rivalry in armament increase adds nothing to the relative strength of any power or group of powers, yet the frenzied rivalry continues at the expense of industry and constructive social and economical reforms. If the 'causes of a general war' in Europe have not been removed, what has diplomacy been doing and of what use are the alliances, the ententes, and understandings among the powers? Might not a [Pg 209]
little courage and boldness in pushing the armament-limitation idea and appealing to public, business, and democratic sentiment force the hands of the routine-ridden diplomats?"

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

The Seine at Rouen Page 210

For nearly twenty miles the road cut a white swath through the treeless plain of St. André to the cathedral town of Evreux. The wheat fields and cathedrals of Normandy should be mentioned in the same sentence. France, so full of the picturesque, has few finer sights than the view of these airy cathedral spires while one is still miles away from any town. We zigzagged into the valley of Iton, climbed, swooped downward, and crossing that hurrying stream, ran beside the river Eure into the main street of Louviers. The warning, "Allure modère," was unnecessary. The cobble stones were sufficient to make us slacken speed. The beauty of the church of Nôtre Dame served to stop us completely. The church, with its profuse embroidery of rich, delicate carving, shone like a jewel amid the motley and jumbled houses. It was like finding a rosebush blooming in the gutter of some neglected street. Through the forest of Pont de l'Arche to the town of the same[Pg 210] name, where we crossed the Seine, past bright little Norman cottages, our route shot ahead to Rouen, the center of cotton manufacturing for France, the most interesting mediæval city in Normandy, and renowned the world over for splendid Gothic churches. After inspecting the rooms of two or three hotels, we chose the Hôtel d'Angleterre, close by the crowded traffic of the Seine.

Sight-seeing in Rouen is more convenient by carriage than by motor car. We moved from the abbey church of St. Ouen to the church of St. Maclou. If Europe had no other remains of Gothic art, Rouen would be enough to describe all the splendor of that style of architecture. The cathedral is a whole library of description in itself. Curious is the legend of the Tour de Beurre, built by money received from indulgences sold, and permitting the people to eat butter in Lent.

"At the base of the Tour St. Romain, there still stands the lodge of the porter whose duties from very early times right up to 1760, included the care of the fierce watchdogs who were at night let loose in the cathedral to guard its[Pg 211] many precious treasures from robbers. How much would we give for a glimpse of one of those porters walking through the cavernous gloom of these echoing aisles, with his lamp throwing strange shadows from the great slouching dogs!"[8]

The central tower rises into a great spire of open iron work, more than one and a half times as high as the steeple of Trinity Church in New York. One seldom sees anything so quaintly picturesque as the little wooden cloister, Aître Saint-Maclou. From its courtyard, the burial ground for so many victims of the Black Death of 1348, one sees mediæval spires which rise in all directions. Another vivid reminder of the past is the archway of the Grosse Horloge, with its huge clock in colors of blue and gold and dating from the sixteenth century.

But the impressions of Rouen that thrilled us most related to the sad closing days of Jeanne d'Arc. At Orléans we saw her in the hour of victory, a young girl dictating to experienced generals, cutting her way through the English army around the city and bringing provisions and succor to the beleaguered inhabitants.[Pg 212] Our cocher escorted us to the tower where, with instruments of torture around her, she faced and baffled her brutal inquisitors. In the old market place, the scene of her martyrdom, one is shown a simple slab which reads, "Jeanne d'Arc, 30 Mai, 1431." This marks the spot where she was burned at the stake.

The last lap of the trip, the ride to Dieppe on the English Channel, was past many large Norman farms. Neat haystacks dotted the rolling acres. Nowhere else had we seen so many horses,—big, powerful creatures. Normandy breeds and exports them. Apple orchards were in constant view. Coasting down a long hill into the city, we left the car in the garage of the Grand Hôtel, and joined an enthusiastic crowd which was watching a football game between Dieppe and Rouen.

The new France is keenly interested in sports and games. In 1912 there was held in Paris the International Congress for Physical Culture, the idea being to impress upon the young the need for physical development. The extent to which the idea of physical culture has captured France will be evident from the following figures: in 1896 [Pg 213]
the various athletic societies had less than fifty thousand members; to-day, they have more than three hundred thousand members. France has indeed entered upon a new era. The chief characteristic of it is not literary but practical, self-assertive, and everywhere for action. The young Frenchman of to-day is more interested in sports than in art or literature. A French professor recently said: "I have lived my life in my library. There I have passed through my intellectual crises. There I have experienced my most fervent emotions. In the lives of my sons I notice that books play a very little part, or if they read, it is biography, and especially the biography of men of action like Napoleon."

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood

Where Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake

Now comes the pang of keen regret. We are close to the end. These weeks of unmingled joy stand around us like a group of friends, as if to stay our leaving. Four thousand miles of motoring, in five countries, and without an accident! Our car has taken on personality. Here, climbing a mountain to the very summit whose far-away vistas held us enchanted, or[Pg 214] rushing down on the other side, we skirted some quiet lake that lay embosomed in its own loveliness; there, a wild glen with its mysterious depths beckoning us to halt! We have seen the peasantry, as in France, looked upon their quaint costumes and customs, and caught the simple melody of their songs. We have gone close to palaces, and wondered whether prince or peasant were the happier. We have seen châteaux that were tragedies and cathedrals that were poems. We have seen the conscripts file slowly past, each surrendering three years of the most important period of his life. Then, we have contrasted a nation as a military camp with our own great republic, without a large standing army, but safe. And now, homeward bound to the freest land beneath the sun, America!

[Pg 215]


The purchase of the car at the Benz factory in Mannheim, Germany, plunged us at once into a maze of police regulations. It was necessary to secure a driving license. With us in the United States this is hardly more than a matter of routine. Not so in Germany, where the examination is really a formidable affair. It is especially difficult for a foreigner to secure a driving license. He may be able to give evidence proving that he has driven a car for years in his own country. This fact makes no difference. It is not even taken into consideration. Every possible opportunity is given the candidate to make mistakes, and thus to prove that he is not qualified to receive the desired certificate. No detail of motormanship is overlooked. There is an age requirement of eighteen years. First came the physical examination. Then it was necessary to spend two hours a day in the shop for five and a half weeks so as to become[Pg 216] thoroughly acquainted with the various parts of the motor car. The candidate is given an opportunity to see motor cars taken apart and put together. In this way he is made familiar with the use and purpose of every part of the car. The crucial test begins when he is called upon to show his skill as chauffeur. It is customary to drive one hundred miles in the city and surrounding country. The official police inspector who accompanies him is resourceful in his tests. Under his supervision the car is driven through crowded streets, and made to back up and turn around in difficult places,—in fact, to meet all the emergencies of motor travel. Even after the examination has been passed successfully, there is a delay of several days before the license is given the final stamp of official approval. The license for which we made application on February 22 was not secured until April 10. It cost one hundred marks (about twenty-five dollars). Of this amount, one half goes to the state and the balance to the shop giving the candidate his instruction in motor-car mechanics. The inspector receives ten dollars for his services.[Pg 217] There is also a customary charge of one dollar and a half for the number plate.

Americans who have lived for a considerable time in Germany are always impressed with the numerous occasions when the state interferes in the private life of the individual; the foreign motorist is no exception to this rule of coming at once into contact with the state. He no sooner crosses the frontier than the state compels him to pay a tax. Even though he remains in the country but a single day, he is forced to secure a tax license which costs three marks (about seventy-five cents). These tax licenses are issued to cover periods of from one to ninety days, the license good for three months costing fifty marks. If one remains longer than ninety days it is necessary to renew this license or Steuerkarte. The annual tax on motor cars varies according to the power of the car. A car of 13.9 horse power (German rating) would be taxed one hundred and twenty marks. The German tax net spreads everywhere. At the time of our sojourn in that country the city of Munich was considering the introduction of a tax on cats. Such a tax[Pg 218] would without doubt be the first of its kind in the world. In southern Germany the small towns still continue to exact imposts of ten pfennigs (three cents) from the motor cars passing over their roads. In spite of the complaint that this tax is a serious obstacle to trade and traffic, there is no immediate prospect of its being removed. France, in contrast to Germany, does not subject the foreign motorist to a tax unless his sojourn exceeds a period of four months.

The annual dues of the Rheinische Automobile Club amounted to forty marks. Membership in an organization of this kind is necessary to secure the triptyques which are so indispensable to the motorist whose itinerary includes several countries of Europe. The usefulness of this important document has been described so often that we do not feel called upon to make further comment here. Our international driving permit based upon the special license issued by the state was also secured for a small fee from the automobile club above mentioned.

Among the incidental expenses, the cost of repairs is apt to figure largely, particularly[Pg 219] when one is motoring along mountain highways. Such services are much cheaper in Europe than in the United States. In our case the item was so small as to be almost negligible. The car was so carefully overhauled and inspected before leaving the factory that we suffered little inconvenience or delay. Our tire troubles were limited to a single puncture. Continental tires in the rear and Excelsior in the front gave excellent service. Notwithstanding the wear and tear of mountain motoring, we found it necessary to use only one of the two reserve tires.

Gasoline was everywhere obtainable. In Germany and France the price is about thirty-seven cents a gallon, but in Austria and Spain it is much higher, generally approximating eighty cents a gallon. In Italy, where bargaining is necessary, the price usually dropped from eighty cents to less than forty-eight cents a gallon. A Bosch magneto greatly increased the speed and climbing ability of the car, and enabled us to average about twenty-one miles to every gallon of gasoline. In France the cost of this necessary article is not fixed.[Pg 220] Neighboring towns often showed a difference of several cents in the cost per gallon. But although the price is not uniform, the fine quality is, and always gave excellent results. As a part of our equipment we carried as reserve a five-gallon sealed can of gasoline and a similar quantity of oil. On these it was occasionally necessary to pay a duty of a couple of cents at the numerous octroi stations in France. The inconvenience of these imposts was usually more burdensome than the amount of the tax. For our oil, which would have cost about forty cents a gallon in the United States, we averaged one dollar and ten cents a gallon.

Our hotel bills were not high. We had expected to find them much higher. Two dollars or two dollars and a half was sufficient as a rule to cover dinner, chamber, and breakfast. For instance, our rooms at the Hôtel de France cost one dollar each, the dinner table d'hôte seventy-five cents each, and breakfast thirty cents, the usual prices which secured us satisfactory accommodations nearly everywhere in France. Every hotel had its garage, a fact which we did not always find to be true[Pg 221] of the hotels in Germany. The garage was often not much more than a shed or lean-to, but it always offered the shelter and protection necessary for our one-or two-night stops. Sometimes there was a garage charge of one franc (nineteen and one half cents) a day, but this was exceptional. If the car was washed we were expected to pay from thirty-five to fifty cents for this extra service. The scale of prices in Germany and Austria was possibly twenty per cent higher, but nowhere was there any attempt to take advantage of the fact that we were foreigners.

The motor tourist is such a familiar sight abroad that the stopping of a motor car before a provincial hotel does not excite unusual interest. It is rather an everyday occurrence, an accustomed detail of the day's routine. France especially, more than any other country in Europe, has become a land of motor tourists. The large well-to-do class turns naturally to motoring for recreation and diversion.

The Frenchman practices thrift in his hours of leisure and travel as well as in his business. This fact probably explains in great part the[Pg 222] comparatively low level of hotel charges to be found in that country. Contrary to the popular idea, there are not two sets of charges, one for the European and a higher one for the American. We were never expected to pay for services that were not rendered in more than ample measure. On the contrary, we had daily opportunities to observe the effort made to give us the best possible service for the prices charged. This was true not only of the hotels but of the restaurants as well. Of course, for a dollar a day we did not expect to have a chambre de luxe. It is really a constant surprise to see how much one can get in the way of clean, comfortable rooms and appetizing meals for a small outlay.

France is a country by itself in this respect. There is perhaps no country where the traveler can get so much for his money. In no other land of Europe can one motor so cheaply. It is always possible to avoid the big towns as sleeping places and at meal times, and yet run no risk of not enjoying the finest cooking and a comfortable night's lodging. Austria is the most expensive country for the motorist.[Pg 223] Spain and central and southern Italy are so little patronized by motor traffic that they do not need to be included in our comparison.

The consideration of incidental expenses brings us to the question of tipping, without doubt the most perplexing and the most misunderstood of all the problems that confront the foreign motorist in Europe. Long before his steamer touches the shore of the Old World, he has visions of an extended line of servants standing with outstretched hands to receive the expected shower of coins. For the majority of tourists it is almost an ordeal to leave a European hotel. How often we have heard the question, "What shall I give?" The average American has such an instinctive sense of fairness, of wanting to do the right thing, that a matter of this kind assumes an importance out of all proportion to the value of the tip. He is willing to be liberal; on the other hand, he is not eager to pose as a philanthropic and charitable institution created to satisfy the needs of every hotel employee who says "Guten Tag" or "Bon jour" to him when he enters the hotel. The trouble is that in borrowing this custom from Europe we have so[Pg 224] Americanized it that we find it difficult to get the European viewpoint and to adapt ourselves readily to the practice as it exists to-day across the water. The American voyageur is so accustomed to doing things in a large way that it is not easy for him to appreciate the European system of small percentages. His common mistake is to give larger tips than are expected and overlook the small tips which do not seem to be so important. He hesitates to give a small tip, and in such cases would prefer to give none at all.

We have read somewhere the story of a Frenchman who was visiting the United States for the first time. He ate a sixty-cent meal in a New York restaurant. Following the custom in Paris, he left five per cent of the bill, three cents, for the waiter. Many of us could probably confess to an equal uncertainty and helplessness in the presence of our first tipping experience in Europe. Baedeker's classic rule of ten per cent of the total amount of the bill seems strangely inadequate when a traveler has stayed only one night at a hotel and finds that his bill is about two dollars. The problem of[Pg 225] dividing twenty cents so that every one will be satisfied is a task that he would willingly turn over to somebody else. As a matter of fact, while there is no arbitrary rule, it does not take long to discover that the pourboire and Trinkgeld are fixed and permanent institutions, as solid in their reality as the Credit Lyonnais or the Reichsbank. One is expected to give at least something, even if the service rendered has been merely nominal. The French and German systems of coinage, with their 5-centime and 10-pfennig pieces, fit in so conveniently to the European standards of tipping. Judging from our experience, the tourist will be most quickly at ease who observes the custom as it is practiced by the inhabitants of the country, and then makes his own scale of tips slightly larger. Foreigners are expected to be a little more liberal. The quality of service received will ordinarily more than compensate for this slight increase. In Valence, where we stayed only one night, the bill, including chamber, dinner, and breakfast, amounted to twenty francs for two people. Our tips were itemized as follows:

[Pg 226]

Garçon 50
Femme de chambre 50
Valet de chambre 50
Garage 25

If there was an ascenseur in the hotel the elevator boy never looked insulted when we gave him ten or fifteen centimes. If extra service was rendered, we paid for it accordingly. This scale of tipping secured us good service in the small provincial towns. In the larger places the maître de l'hôtel (head waiter) plays a more important role and ranks in tipping dignity with the concierge. In Italy the equivalent of four cents per person would be considered liberal in most restaurants. In Germany, where the rise in cost of living is more noticeable than in France, the item of tipping was slightly larger. Austria gave us the most difficulty. Here the system is more complicated. The Speise-traeger who brings you food, the Piccolo who ministers to your thirst, the Zahl-kellner who receives payment for the bill, all expect their contribution of hellers. These dignitaries were ordinarily satisfied with tips of twenty,[Pg 227] ten, and forty hellers in the order named. The value of hellers and centimes is so nearly equal that it was not confusing to pass from the Austrian to the French system of coinage.

The largest single item of expense was of course the cost of transportation, which always depends on the size and weight of the car. The cost of ocean transportation for an ordinary four-seated touring car would run from one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and seventy-five dollars. To this amount must be added fifty dollars to cover cost of boxing. In our case, since the car was purchased abroad, it was necessary to pay a duty of thirty per cent on the original cost, minus the agent's commission of twenty-five per cent.


[1] From "The Alpine Road of France," by Sir Henry Norman, M. P., in Scribner's Magazine for February, 1914.

[2] From "The Alpine Road of France," by Sir Henry Norman, M. P., in Scribner's Magazine for February, 1914.

[3] From "French Roads and their Trees," by J. J. Conway, in Munsey's Magazine for October, 1913.

[4] Political History of Modern Europe, by Ferdinand Schwill, Ph.D.

[5] From "The Alpine Road of France," by Sir Henry Norman, M. P., in Scribner's Magazine, February, 1914.

[6] Old Touraine, by T. A. Cook.

[7] Sir Henry Norman, M. P., in "The Alpine Road of France," in Scribner's Magazine, February, 1914.

[8] From Motor Routes of France, Part I, by Gordon Home.

Transcriber's note:
The Illustration captions were printed without accents. This has been left as it was in the original.