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Title: The Automobilist Abroad
Author: M. F. (Milburg Francisco) Mansfield
Release Date: July 11, 2008 [eBook #26030]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE AUTOMOBILIST ABROAD***
The general plan of this book is not original. It tells of some experiences not altogether new, and contains observations and facts that have been noted by other writers; but the author hopes that, from the viewpoint of an automobilist at least, its novelty will serve as a recommendation. As a pastime automobile touring is still new and is not yet accomplished without some considerable annoyance and friction. The conventional guides are of little assistance; and the more descriptive works on travel fail too often to note the continually changing conditions which affect the tourist alike by road and rail.
|Part 1||General Information—The Grand Tour|
|Chapter 1||An Appreciation Of The Automobile|
|Chapter 2||Travel Talk|
|Chapter 3||Roads And Routes|
|Chapter 4||Hotels And Things|
|Chapter 5||The Grand Tour|
|Part 2||Touring In France|
|Chapter 1||Down Through Touraine: Paris To Bourdeaux|
|Chapter 2||A Little Tour In The Pyrenees|
|Chapter 3||In Languedoc And Old Provence|
|Chapter 4||By Rhône And Saône|
|Chapter 5||By Seine And Oise—A Cruise In A Canot-Automobile|
|Chapter 6||The Road To The North|
|Part 3||On Britain's Roads|
|Chapter 1||The Bath Road|
|Chapter 2||The South Coast|
|Chapter 3||Land's End To John O'Groats|
|Part 4||In Belgium, Holland, And Germany|
|Chapter 1||On The Road To Flanders|
|Chapter 2||By Dykes And Windmills|
|Chapter 3||On The Road By The Rhine|
|Appendice 1||Warning Road Signs|
|Appendice 2||A Short Account Of Some Famous European Road Races And Trials|
|Appendice 3||Route Maps Of Three Great European Events|
|Appendice 4||Increase In Average Speed In Automobile Events Of The Last Five Years|
|Appendice 5||Some Famous Hill Climbs Abroad|
|Appendice 7||The Automobike Industry In France|
|Appendice 8||Hours Of Moonlight|
|Appendice 9||The Length Of Days|
|Appendice 10||The Touring Club De France|
|Appendice 11||Motor Car Regulations And Customs Duties In Europe|
|Appendice 12||Some Notes On Map-Making|
|Appendice 13||A List Of European Map And Road Books|
We have progressed appreciably beyond the days of the old horseless carriage, which, it will be remembered, retained even the dashboard.
To-day the modern automobile somewhat resembles, in its outlines, across between a decapod locomotive and a steam fire-engine, or at least something concerning the artistic appearance of which the layman has very grave doubts.
The control of a restive horse, a cranky boat, or even a trolley-car on rails is difficult enough for the inexperienced, and there are many who would quail before making the attempt; but to the novice in charge of an automobile, some serious damage is likely enough to occur within an incredibly short space of time, particularly if he does not take into account the tremendous force and power which he controls merely by the moving of a tiny lever, or by the depressing of a pedal.
Any one interested in automobiles should know something of the literature of the subject, which, during the last decade, has already become formidable.
In English the literature of the automobile begins with Mr. Worby Beaumont's Cantor Lectures (1895), and the pamphlet by Mr. R. Jenkins on "Power Locomotion on the Highways," published in 1896.
In the library of the Patent Office in London the literature of motor road vehicles already fills many shelves. The catalogue is interesting as showing the early hopes that inventors had in connection with steam as a motive power for light road vehicles, and will be of value to all who are interested in the history of the movement or the progress made in motor-car design.
In France the Bibliothèque of the Touring Club de France contains a hundred entries under the caption "Automobiles," besides complete files of eleven leading journals devoted to that industry. With these two sources of information at hand, and aided by the records of the Automobile Club de France and the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, the present-day historian of the automobile will find the subject well within his grasp.
There are those who doubt the utility of the automobile, as there have been scoffers at most new things under the sun; and there have been critics who have derided it for its "seven deadly sins," as there have been others who have praised its "Christian graces." The parodist who wrote the following newspaper quatrain was no enemy of the automobile in spite of his cynicism.
"A look of anguish underneath the car,
Another start; a squeak, a grunt, a jar!
The Aspiration pipe is working loose!
The vapour can't get out! And there you are!"
"Strange is it not, that of the myriads who
Have Empty Tanks and know not what to do,
Not one will tell of it when he Returns.
As for Ourselves, why, we deny it, too."
The one perfectly happy man in an automobile is he who drives, steers, or "runs the thing," even though he be merely the hired chauffeur. For proof of this one has only to note how readily others volunteer to "spell him a bit," as the saying goes. Change of scene and the exhilaration of a swift rush through space are all very well for friends in the tonneau, but for real "pleasure" one must be the driver. Not even the manifold responsibilities of the post will mar one's enjoyment, and there is always a supreme satisfaction in keeping one's engine running smoothly.
"Nothing to watch but the road," is the general motto for the automobile manufacturer, but the enthusiastic automobilist goes farther, and, for his motto, takes "stick to your post," and, in case of danger, as one has put it, "pull everything you see, and put your foot on everything else."
The vocabulary of the automobile has produced an entirely new "jargon," which is Greek to the multitude, but, oh, so expressive and full of meaning to the initiated.
An automobile is masculine, or feminine, as one likes to think of it, for it has many of the vagaries of both sexes. The French Academy has finally come to the fore and declared the word to be masculine, and so, taking our clue once more from the French (as we have in most things in the automobile world), we must call it him, and speak of it as he, instead of her, or she.
That other much overworked word in automobilism, chauffeur, should be placed once for all. The driver of an automobile is not really a chauffeur, neither is he who minds and cares for the engine; he is a mécanicien and nothing else—in France and elsewhere. We needed a word for the individual who busies himself with, or drives an automobile, and so we have adapted the word chauffeur. Purists may cavil, but nevertheless the word is better than driver, or motor-man (which is the quintessence of snobbery), or conductor.
The word, chauffeur, the Paris Figaro tells us, was known long before the advent of automobiles or locomotives. History tells that about the year 1795, men strangely accoutred, their faces covered with soot and their eyes carefully disguised, entered, by night, farms and lonely habitations and committed all sorts of depredations. They garroted their victims, or dragged them before a great fire where they burned the soles of their feet, and demanded information as to the whereabouts of their money and jewels. Hence they were called chauffeurs, a name which frightened our grandfathers as much as the scorching chauffeur to-day frightens our grandchildren.
A motor-car is a fearsome thing,—when it goes, it goes; and when it doesn't, something, or many things, are wrong. A few years ago this uncertainty was to be expected, for, though the makers will not whisper it in Gath, we are only just getting out of the bone-shaker age of automobiles.
Every one remembers what a weirdly ungraceful thing was the first safety bicycle, and so was the gaudy painted-up early locomotive—and they are so yet on certain English lines where their early Victorian engines are like Kipling's ocean tramp, merely "puttied up with paint." So with the early automobiles, they jarred and jerked and stopped—that is, under all but exceptional conditions. Occasionally they did wonderful things,—they always did, in fact, when one took the word of their owners; but now they really do acquit themselves with credit, and so the public, little by little, is beginning to believe in them, even though the millennium has not arrived when every home possesses its own runabout.
All this proves that we are "getting there" by degrees, and meantime everybody that has to do with motor-cars has learned a great deal, generally at somebody else's expense.
To-day every one "motes," or wants to, and likewise a knowledge of many things mechanical, which had heretofore been between closed covers, is in the daily litany of many who had previously never known a clutch from a cam-shaft, or a sparking plug from a fly-wheel.
Most motor enthusiasts read all the important journals devoted to the game. The old-stager reads them for their hints and suggestions,—though these are bewildering in their multiplicity and their contradictions,—and the ladies of the household look at them for the sake of their pretty pictures of scenery and ladies and veils and furry garments pertaining to the sport.
Catalogues are another bane of the motorist's life. He may have just become possessed of the latest thing in a Mercédès (and paid an enhanced price for an early delivery), yet upon seeing some new make of car advertised, he will immediately send for a catalogue and prospectus, and make the most absurd inquiries as to what said car will or will not do.
Since the pleasures of motoring have found their champions in Kipling, Maeterlinck, and the late W. E. Henley, the delectable amusement has, besides entering the daily life of most of us, generously permeated literature—real literature as distinct from recent popular fiction; "The Lighting Conductor" and "The Princess Passes," by Mrs. Williamson, and more lately, "The Motor Pirate," by Mr. Paternoster. "A Motor Car Divorce" is the suggestive title of another work,—presumably fiction,—and one knows not where it may end, since "The Happy Motorist," a series of essays, is already announced.
A Drury Lane melodrama of a season or two ago gave us a "thrillin' hair-bre'dth 'scape," wherein an automobile plunged precipitately—with an all too-true realism, the first night—down a lath and canvas ravine, finally saving the heroine from the double-dyed villain who followed so closely in her wake.
The last entry into other spheres was during the autumn just past, when Paris's luxurious opera-house was given over to the fantastic revels of the ballet in an attempt to typify the apotheosis of the automobile. This was rather a rash venture in prognostication, for it may be easy enough to "apotheosize" the horse, but to what idyllic heights the automobile is destined to ultimately reach no one really knows.
The average scoffer at things automobilistic is not very sincerely a scoffer at heart. It is mostly a case of "sour grapes," and he only waits the propitious combination of circumstances which shall permit him to become a possessor of a motor-car himself. This is not a very difficult procedure. It simply means that he must give up some other fad or fancy and take up with this last, which, be it here reiterated, is no fad.
The great point in favour of the automobile is its sociability. Once one was content to potter about with a solitary companion in a buggy, with a comfortable old horse who knew his route well by reason of many journeys. To-day the automobile has driven thoughts of solitude to the winds. Two in the tonneau, and another on the seat beside you in front—a well-assorted couple of couples—and one may make the most ideal trips imaginable.
Every one looks straight ahead, there is no uncomfortable twisting and turning as there is on a boat or a railway train, and each can talk to the others, or all can talk at once, which is more often the case. It is most enjoyable, plenty to see, exhilarating motion, jolly company, absolute independence, and a wide radius of action. What mode of travel can combine all these joys unless it be ballooning—of which the writer confesses he knows nothing?
On the road one must ever have a regard for what may happen, and roadside repairs, however necessary, are seldom more than makeshifts which enable one to arrive at his destination.
If you break the bolt which fastens your cardan-shaft or a link of your side-chains, you and your friends will have a chance to harden your muscles a bit pushing the machine to the next village, unless you choose to wait, on perhaps a lonely road, for a passing cart whose driver willing, for a price, to detach his tired horse to haul your dead weight of a ton and a half over a few miles of hill and dale. This is readily enough accomplished in France, where the peasant looks upon the procedure as a sort of allied industry to farming, but in parts of England, in Holland, and frequently in Italy, where the little mountain donkey is the chief means of transportation, it is more difficult.
The question of road speed proves nothing with regard to the worth of an individual automobile, except that the times do move, and we are learning daily more and more of the facility of getting about with a motor-car. A locomotive, or a marine engine, moves regularly without a stop for far greater periods of time than does an automobile, but each and every time they finish a run they receive such an overhauling as seldom comes to an automobile.
In England the automobilist has had to suffer a great deal at the hands of ignorant and intolerant road builders and guardians. Police traps, on straight level stretches miles from any collection of dwellings, will not keep down speed so long as dangerous cobblestoned alleys, winding through suburban London towns, have no guardian to regulate the traffic or give the stranger a hint that he had best go slowly.
The milk and butchers' carts go on with their deadly work, but the police in England are too busy worrying the motorist to pay any attention.
Some county boroughs have applied a ten-mile speed limit, even though the great bulk of their area is open country; but twenty miles an hour for an automobile is far safer for the public than is most other traffic, regardless of the rate at which it moves.
Speed, so far as the bystander is concerned, is a very difficult thing to judge, and the automobilist seldom, if ever, gets fair treatment if he meets with the slightest accident.
Most people judge the speed of an automobile by the noise that it makes. This, up to within a few years, put most automobiles going at a slow speed at a great disadvantage, for the slower they went the noisier they were; but matters of design and control have changed this somewhat, and the public now protests because "a great death-dealing monster crept up silently behind—coming at a terrific rate." You cannot please every one, and you cannot educate a non-participating public all at once.
As for speed on the road, it is a variable thing, and a thing difficult to estimate correctly. Electric cars run at a speed of from ten to twenty-two miles an hour in England, even in the towns, and no one says them nay. Hansoms, on the Thames Embankment in London, do their regular fifteen miles an hour, but automobiles are still held down to ten.
The official timekeeper of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland took the following times (in 1905) in Piccadilly, one of the busiest, if not the most congested thoroughfare in London.
|Holloway horse-drawn 'bus||11.30||miles per hour|
|Cyclist||15.85||" " "|
|Private trap||13.08||" " "|
|Private buggy||13.55||" " "|
|Private brougham||14.80||" " "|
When one considers how difficult to control, particularly amid crowded traffic, a horse-drawn vehicle is, and how very easy it is to control an up-to-date automobile, one cannot but feel that a little more consideration should be shown the automobilist by those in authority.
The road obstructions, slow-going traffic which will not get out of one's way, carts left unattended and the like, make most of the real and fancied dangers which are laid to the door of the very mobile motor-car.
In Holland and Belgium dogs seem to be the chief road obstructions, or at least dangers, not always willingly perhaps, but still ever-present. In England it is mostly children.
In France not all the difficulties one meets with en route are willful obstructors of one's progress. In La Beauce the geese and ducks are prudent, in the Nivernais the oxen are placid, and in Provence the donkeys are philosophical; but in Brittany the horses and mules and their drivers take fright immediately they suspect the coming of an automobile, and in the Vendée the market-wagons, and those laden with the product of the vine, career madly at the extremities of exceedingly lusty examples of horse flesh to the pending disaster of every one who does not get out of the road.
Sheep and hens are everywhere that they ought not to be, and there seems no way of escaping them. One can but use all his ingenuity and slip through somehow. Dogs are bad enough and ought to be exterminated. They are the silliest beasts which one finds uncontrolled on the roadways. Children, of course, one defers to, but they are outrageously careless and very foolish at times, and in short are the greatest responsibility for the driver in the small towns of England and France. In France some effort is being made in the schools to teach them something about a proper regard for automobile traffic, and with good results; but no one has heard of anything of the sort being attempted in England.
Touring abroad is nothing new, but, as an amusement for the masses, it has reached gigantic proportions. The introduction of the railroad gave it its greatest impetus, and then came the bicycle and the automobile.
With the railway as the sole means of getting about one was more or less confined to the beaten track of travel in Continental Europe, but the automobile has changed all this.
To-day, the Cote d'Azur, from St. Raphael to Menton, as well as the strip of Norman coast-line around Trouville, in summer, is scarcely more than a boulevard where the automobile tourist strolls for an hour as he does in the Bois. The country lying back and between these two widely separated points is becoming known, and even modern taste prefers the idyllic countryside to a round of the same dizzy conventions that one gets in season at Paris, London, or New York.
France is the land par excellence for automobile touring, not only from its splendid roads, but from the wide diversity of its sights and scenes, and manners and customs, and, last but not least, its most excellent hotels strung along its highways and byways like pearls in a collarette.
This is not saying that travel by automobile is not delightful elsewhere; certainly it is equally so in many places along the Rhine, in Northern Italy, and in England, where the chief drawback is the really incompetent catering of the English country hotel-keeper to the demands of the traveller who would dine off of something more attractive than a cut from a cold joint of ham, and eggs washed down with stodgy, bitter beer.
The bibliography of travel books is long, and includes many famous names in literature. Marco Polo, Froissart, Mme. de Sévigné, Taine, Bayard Taylor, Willis, Stevenson, and Sterne, all had opportunities for observation and made the most of them. If they had lived in the days of the automobile they might have sung a song of speed which would have been the most melodious chord in the whole gamut.
A modern writer must be more modest, however. He can hardly hope to attract attention to himself or his work by describing the usual sights and scenes. The most he can do is to set down his method of travel, his approach, and his departure, and, for example, to tell those who may come after that the great double spires of Notre Dame de Chartres are a beacon by land for nearly twenty kilometers in any direction, as he approaches them by road across the great plain of La Beauce, the granary of France, rather than give a repetition of the well-worn guidebook facts concerning them.
|A. Front seat cushions||I. Luggage platform||S. Shield from hood|
|B. Rear seat cushions||J. Trunk||T. Filling pipe for petrol tank|
|C. Pockets on doors||K. Trunk on steps||U. Filling pipe for water tank|
|D. Cape hood||L. Side lamps||W. Lamp covers|
|E. Glass shield||M. Head lights||X. Portable electric light|
|F. Chest under seat||N. Tail lights|
|G. Tank||O. Extra tire with cover|
|H. Chest inside of Car||P. Leather extension top|
Chartres is taken as an example because it is one of those "stock" sights, before mentioned, which any itinerary coming within the scope of the grand tour is bound to include.
Almost the same phenomenon is true of Antwerp's lacelike spire, the great Gothic wonder of Cologne and, to a lesser extent, that of Canterbury in England; thus the automobilist en route has his beacons and landmarks as has the sailor on the seas.
Man is an animal essentially mobile. He moves readily from place to place and is not tied down by anything but ways and means and, perhaps, confinement at laborious affairs. Even in the latter case he occasionally breaks away for a more or less extended period, and either goes fishing in Canada, shooting in Scotland, or automobiling in France, with perhaps a rush over a Swiss pass or two, and a dash around the Italian lakes, and back down the Rhine for a little tour in Great Britain.
This is as delightful a holiday as one could imagine, and the foreign tour—which has often been made merely as a succession of nights of travel in stuffy sleeping-cars or a round of overfeeding orgies at Parisian hotels and restaurants—has added charms of which the generation before the advent of automobiles knew nought.
The question of comfortable travel is a never-ending one. The palanquin, the sedan-chair, the rickshaw, even the humble horse-drawn buggy have had their devotees, but the modern touring automobile has left them all far behind, whether for long-distance travel or promenades at Fontainebleau, in the New Forest or the Ardennes.
There is no question but that, when touring in an automobile, one has an affection for his steel-and-iron horse that he never felt for any other conveyance. The horse had some endearing qualities, no doubt, and we were bound to regard his every want; but he was only a part of the show, whereas the automobile, although it is nought but an inanimate combination of wheels and things, has to be humoured and talked to, and even cursed at times, in order to keep it going. But it works faithfully nevertheless, and never balks, at least not with the same crankiness as the horse, and always runs better toward night (this is curious, but it is a fact), which a horse seldom does. All the same an automobile is like David Balfour's Scotch advocate: hard at times to ken rightly—most of the time, one may say without undue exaggeration. Often an automobile is as fickle as a stage fairy, or appears to be, but it may be that only your own blind stupidity accounts for the lack of efficiency. Once in awhile an automobile gets uproariously full of spirits and runs away with itself, and almost runs away with you, too, simply for the reason that the carburetion is good and everything is pulling well. Again it is as silent and immovable as a sphinx and gives no hint of its present or expected ailments. It is most curious, but an automobile invents some new real or fancied complaint with each fresh internal upheaval, and requires, in each and every instance, an entirely new and original diagnosis.
With all its caprices, however, the automobile is the most efficient and satisfactory contrivance for getting about from place to place, for business or pleasure, that was ever devised.
Comparatively speaking, the railway is not to be thought of for a moment. It has all the disadvantages of the automobile (for indeed there are a few, such as dust and more or less cramped quarters, and, if one chooses, a nerve-racking speed) and none of its advantages, and, whether you are a mere man or a millionaire, you are tied down to rails and a strict itinerary, whereas you may turn the bonnet of your automobile down any by-road that pleases your fancy, and arrive ultimately at your destination, having made an enjoyable detour which would not otherwise have been possible.
Too great a speed undoubtedly detracts from the joy of travel, but a hundred and fifty, two hundred and fifty, or three hundred kilometres a day on the fine roads of France, or a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles on the leafy lanes of England's southern counties will give the stranger more varied impressions and a clearer understanding of men and matters than the touring of a country from end to end in express-trains which serve your meals en route, and whisk you from London to Torquay between tea and dinner, or from Paris to the Cote d'Azur between breakfast and nightfall.
Just how much pleasure and edification one can absorb during an automobile tour depends largely upon the individual—and the mood. Once the craving for speed is felt, not all the historic monuments in the world would induce one to stop a sweetly running motor; but again the other mood comes on, and one lingers a full day among the charms of the lower Seine from Caudebec to Rouen, scarce thirty miles.
Les Andelys-sur-Seine, your guide-book tells you, is noted for its magnificent ruins of Richard Cœur de Lion's Château Gaillard, and for the culture of the sugar-beet, and so, often, merely on account of the banal mention of beet-roots, you ignore the attractions of Richard's castle and make the best time you can Parisward by the great Route Nationale on the other side of the Seine. This is wrong, of course, but the mood was on, and the song of speed was ringing in your ears and nothing would drive it out.
Our fathers and grandfathers made the grand tour, in a twelvemonth, as a sort of topping-off to their early education, before they settled down to a business or professional life.
They checked off in their guide-books Melrose Abbey, the Tower of London, the Cathedral of Canterbury, and those of Antwerp, Cologne, Rome, Venice, and Paris, as they did the Cheshire Cheese, Mont Blanc, and the ruins of Carnac. It was all a part of the general scheme of travel, to cover a lot of ground and see all they could, for it was likely that they would pass that way but once. Why, then, should one blame the automobilist—who really travels very leisurely in that he sees a lot of the countryside manners and customs off the beaten track—if he rushes over an intermediate stretch of country in order to arrive at one more to his liking?
One sees the thing every day on any of the great highroads in France leading from the Channel ports. One's destination may be the Pyrenees, the Cote d'Azur, Italy, or even Austria, and he does the intermediate steps at full speed. The same is true if he goes to Switzerland by the Rhine valley, or to Homburg by passing through Belgium or Holland. He might be just as well pleased with a fortnight in the Ardennes, or even in Holland or in Touraine, but, if his destination is Monte Carlo or Biarritz, he is not likely to linger longer by the way than the exigencies of food, drink, and lodging, and the care of his automobile demand.
When he has no objective point he loiters by the way and no doubt enjoys it the more, but it is not fair to put the automobilist down as a scorcher simply because he is pushing on. The best guide-books are caprice and fantasy, if you are hot pressed for time.
Mile-stones, or rather bornes kilométriques, line the roadways of Continental military Europe mercilessly, and it's a bad sign when the chauffeur begins to count them off. All the same, he knows his destination a great deal better than does some plodding tourist by rail who scorns him for rushing off again immediately after lunch.
One of the charms of travel, to the tried traveller, is, just as in the time of the Abbé Prévost, the ability to exchange remarks on one's itinerary with one's fellow travellers. In France it does not matter much whether they are automobilists or not. The commis-voyageur is a more numerous class here, apparently, than in any other country on the globe, and the detailed information which he can give one about the towns and hotels and sights and scenes en route, albeit he is more familiar with travel by rail than by road, is marvellous in quantity and valuable as to quality.
The automobile tourist, who may be an Englishman or an American, has hitherto been catered to with automobile novels, or love stories, or whatever one chooses to call them, or with more or less scrappy, incomplete, and badly edited accounts of tours made by some millionaire possessor of a motor-car, or the means to hire one. Some of the articles in the press, and an occasional book, have the merit of having been "good stuff," but often they have gone wrong in the making.
The writer of this book does not aspire to be classed with either of the above classes of able writers; the most he would like to claim is that he should be able to write a really good handbook on the subject, wherein such topographical, historical, and economic information as was presented should have the stamp of correctness. Perhaps four years of pretty constant automobile touring in Europe ought to count for something in the way of accumulated pertinent information concerning hotels and highways and by-ways.
Not all automobilists are millionaires. The man of moderate means is the real giver of impetus to the wheels of automobile progress. The manufacturers of motor-cars have not wholly waked up to this fact as yet, but the increasing number of tourists in small cars, both in England and in France, points to the fact that something besides the forty, sixty, or hundred horse-power monsters are being manufactured.
Efficiency and reliability is the great requisite of the touring automobile, and, for that matter, should be of any other. Efficiency and reliability cover ninety-nine per cent. of the requirements of the automobilist. Chance will step in at the most inopportune moments and upset all calculations, but, with due regard given to these two great and fundamental principles, the rest does not much matter.
It is a curious fact that the great mass of town folk, in France and probably elsewhere, still have a fear and dread of the mechanism of the automobile. "C'est beau la mécanique, mais c'est tout de même un peu compliqué," they say, as they regard your labours in posing a new valve or tightening up a joint here and there.
The development of the automobile has brought about a whole new development of kindred things, as did the development of the battle-ship. First there was the battle-ship, then the cruiser, and then the torpedo-boat, and then another class of boats, the destroyers (destined to catch torpedo-boats), and finally the submarine. With the automobile the evolution was much the same; first it was a sort of horseless carriage, for town use, then something a little more powerful that would climb hills, so that one might journey afield, and then the "touring-car," and then the racing machine, and now we have automobile omnibuses, and even automobile ambulances to pick up any frightened persons possessed of less agility than a kangaroo or a jack-rabbit might inadvertently have been bowled over. These disasters are seldom the automobilist's fault, and, happily, they are becoming fewer and fewer; but the indecision that overcame the passer-by, in the early days of the bicycle, still exists with many whenever an automobile comes in sight, and they back, and fill, and worry the automobilist into such a bad case of nerves that, in spite of himself, something of the nature of an accident, for which he is in no way responsible, really does happen.
Once the writer made eleven hundred kilometres straight across France, from the Manche to the Mediterranean, and not so much as a puncture occurred. On another occasion a little journey of half the length resulted in the general smashing up, four times in succession, of a little bolt (no great disaster in itself), within the interior arrangements of the motor, which necessitated a half a day's work on each occasion in taking down the cylinder and setting it up again, and each time in a small town far away from any properly equipped machine-shop, and with the assistance only of the local locksmith. It's astonishing how good a job a locksmith in France can do, even on an automobile, the mechanism of which he perhaps has never seen before. Officially the locksmith in France is known as a serrurier, but in the slang of the land he is the cambrioleur du pays, a name which is expressive, but which means nothing wicked. He can put a thread on a bolt or make a new nut to replace one that has mysteriously unscrewed itself, which is more than many a mere bicycle repairer can do.
The automobilist touring France should make friends with the nearest cambrioleur if he is in trouble. In England this is risky, a "gas-pipe thread" being the average lay workman's idea of "fixing you up."
Away back in Chaucer's day folk were "longen to gon on pilgrimages," and it does not matter in the least what the ways and means may be, the motive is ever the same: a change of scene.
This book is no unbounded eulogy of the automobile, although its many good qualities are recognized. There are other methods of travel that, in their own ways, are certainly enjoyable, but none quite equal the automobile for independence of action, convenience, and efficiency. It is well for all motor-car users, however, to realize that they are not the only road users, and to have a due regard for others,—not only their rights, but their persons. This applies even more forcibly, if possible, to the automobilist en tour.
One must in duty bound regulate his pace and his actions by the vagaries of others, however little he may want to, or unfortunate consequences will many times follow. Always he must have a sharp look ahead and must not neglect a backward glance now and then. He must not dash through muddy roads and splash passers-by (a particularly heinous offence in England), and in France he must observe the rule of the road (always to the right in passing,—no great difficulty for an American, but very puzzling to an Englishman), or an accident may result which will bring him into court, and perhaps into jail, unless he can assuage the poor peasant's feelings for the damaged forelegs of his horse or donkey by a cash payment on the spot.
Maeterlinck's "wonderful, unknown beast" is still unknown (and feared) by the majority of outsiders, and the propaganda of education must go on for a long time yet. Maeterlinck's great tribute to the automobile is his regard for it as the conqueror of space. Never before has the individual man been able to accomplish what the soulless corporations have with railway trains. In steamboat or train we are but a part and parcel of the freight carried, but in the automobile we are stoker, driver, and passenger in one, and regard every road-turning and landmark with a new wonder and appreciation.
We are the aristocrats of tourists, and we are bound therefore to have a kindly regard for other road users or a revolution will spring up, as it did in feudal times.
Take Maeterlinck's wise sayings for your guide, and be tolerant of the rights of others. This will do automobilism more good than can be measured, for it has come to stay, and perhaps even advance. The days of the horse are numbered.
"In accord with the needs of our insatiable, exacting soul, which craves at once for the small and the mighty, the quick and the slow; here it is of us at last, it is ours, and offers at every turn glimpses of beauty that, in former days, we could only enjoy when the tedious journey was ended."
The "tour abroad" has ever been the lodestone which has drawn countless thousands of home-loving English and Americans to Continental Europe. Pleasure—mere pleasure—has accounted for many of these pilgrims, but by far the largest proportion have been those who seek education and edification combined.
One likes to be well cared for when he journeys, whether by road or rail, and demands accordingly, if not all the comforts of home, at least many things that the native knows or cares little of. A Frenchman does not desire a sitting-room, a reading-room, or a fire in his sleeping-room, and, according to his lights, he is quite right. He finds all this at a café, and prefers to go there for it. The steam-heated hotel, with running water everywhere, is a rarity in France, as indeed it is in England.
Outside Paris the writer has found this combination but seldom in France; at Lyons, Marseilles, Moulins in the Allier, and at Chatellerault in Poitou only. Modernity is making its way in France, but only in spots; its progress is steady, but as yet it has not penetrated into many outlying districts. Modern art nouveau ideas in France, which are banal enough, but which are an improvement over the Eastlake and horsehair horrors of the Victorian and Louis-Philippe periods, are tending to eliminate old-fashioned ideas for the benefit of the traveller who would rather eat his meals in a bright, airy apartment than in stuffy, dark hole known in England as a coffee-room.
In France, in particular, the contrast of the new and old that one occasionally meets with is staggering. It is all very well in its way, this blending of antiquity and modernity, and gives one something of the thrill of romance, which most of us have in our make-up to a greater or lesser extent; but, on the other hand, romance gets some hard knocks when one finds a Roman sarcophagus used as a watering-trough; or a chapel as an automobile garage, as he often will in the Midi.
One thing the American, and the Britisher to a lesser extent, be he automobilist or mere tourist, must fully realize, and that is that the tourist business is a more highly developed industry in Continental Europe than it is anywhere else. In Switzerland one may well say that it is a national industry, and in some parts of France (always omitting Paris, which is not France) it is practically the same thing; Holland and Belgium are not far behind, and neither is the Rhine country; so that the tourist in Europe finds that creature comforts are always near at hand. The automobilist does not much care whether they are near at hand or not. If he doesn't find the accommodations he is looking for on the borders of Dartmoor, he can keep on to Exmoor, and if Nevers won't suit his purpose for the night he can get to Moulins in an hour.
A hotel that is full and overflowing is no more a fear or a dread; the automobilist simply takes the road again and drops in on some market-town twenty, thirty, or fifty miles away and finds accommodations that are equally satisfactory, with the possibility—if he looks in at some little visited spot like Meung or Beaugency in Touraine, Ecloo in Holland, or Reichenberg on the Rhine—that he will be more pleased with his surroundings than he would be in the large towns which are marked in heavy-faced type in the railway guides, and whose hotels are starred by Baedeker.
In most countries the passport is no longer a necessary document in the traveller's pocketbook, though the Britisher still fondly arms himself with this "protection," and the American will, if it occurs to him, be only too glad to contribute his dollars to the fees of his consulate or embassy in order to possess himself of a gaudy thing in parchment and gold which he can wave in front of any one whom he thinks transgresses his rights as an American citizen: "from the land of liberty, and don't you forget it."
This is all very well and is no doubt the very essence of a proper patriotism, but the best pièce d'identité for the foreigner who takes up his residence in France for more than three months is a simple document which can be obtained from the commissaire de police. It will pass him anywhere in France that a passport will, is more readily understood and accepted by the banker or post-office clerk as a personal identification, and will save the automobile chauffeur many an annoyance, if he has erred through lack of familiarity with many little unwritten laws of the land.
The automobilist en tour always has the identification papers of his automobile; in England his "License," and in France his "Certificat de Capacité" and "Récépisse de Déclaration," which will accomplish pretty much all the passport of other days would do if one flourished it to-day before a stubborn octroi official or the caretaker of a historical monument.
The membership card of the Italian, Swiss, or French touring clubs will do much the same thing, and no one should be without them, since membership in either one or all is not difficult or costly. (See Appendix.)
France is the land par excellence for the tourist, whether by road or rail. The art of "le tourisme" has been perfected by the French to even a higher degree than in Switzerland. There are numerous societies, clubs, and associations, from the all-powerful Touring Club de France downward, which are attracting not only the French themselves to many hitherto little-known corners of "la belle France," but strangers from over the frontiers and beyond the seas. These are not the tourists of the conventional kind, but those who seek out the little-worn roads. It is possible to do this if one travels intelligently by rail, but it is a great deal more satisfactorily done if one goes by road.
Here and there, scattered all over France, in Dauphiné, in Savoie, and in the Pyrenees, one finds powerful "Syndicats d'Initiative," which not only care for the tourist, but bring pressure to bear on the hotel-keeper and local authorities to provide something in the way of improvements, where they are needed, to make a roadway safe, or to restore a historical site or monument.
In the Pyrenees, and in the Alps of Savoie and Dauphiné, one finds everywhere the insignia of the "Club-Alpin Français," which caters with information, etc., not only to the mountain-climber, but to the automobilist and the general tourist as well.
More powerful and effective than all—more so even than the famous Automobile Club de France—is the great Touring Club de France, which, with the patronage of the President of the Republic, and the influence of more than a hundred thousand members, is something more than a mere touring club.
In the fourteen years of its existence not only has the Touring Club de France helped the tourist find his way about, but also has taken a leading part in the clearing away of the debris in many a moss-grown ruin and making of it a historical monument as pleasing to view as Jumièges on the Seine, or world-famed Les Baux in Provence.
It has appointed itself the special guardian of roads and roadways, so far as the placing of signboards along the many important lines of communication is concerned; it has been the means of having dug up untold kilometres of Renaissance pavement; has made, almost at its own expense, a magnificent forty-kilometre road known as the Corniche de l'Esterel; and has given the backward innkeeper such a shock that he has at last waked up to the needs of the twentieth-century traveller. All this is something for a touring organization to have accomplished, and when one can become a part and parcel of this great organization, and a sharer in the special advantages which it has to offer to its members for the absurdly small sum of five francs per annum, the marvel is that it has not half a million members instead of a hundred thousand.
"Chacun suit dans ce monde une route incertaine,
Selon que son erreur le joue et le promene."—Boileau
The chief concern of the automobilist to-day, after his individual automobile, is the road question, the "Good Roads Question," as it has become generally known. In a new country, like America, it is to be expected that great connecting highways should be mostly in the making. It is to be regretted that the development should be so slow, but things have been improving in the last decade, and perhaps America will "beat the world" in this respect, as she has in many others, before many future generations have been born.
In the excellence and maintenance of her roads France stands emphatically at the head of all nations, but even here noticeable improvement is going on. The terrific "Louis Quatorze pavé," which one finds around Paris, is yearly growing less and less in quantity. The worst road-bed in France is that awful stretch from Bordeaux, via Bazas, to Pau in Navarre, originally due to the energy of Henri IV., and still in existence for a space of nearly a hundred kilometres. One avoids it by a détour of some twenty odd kilometres, and the writer humbly suggests that here is an important unaccomplished work for the usually energetic road authorities of France.
After France the "good roads" of Britain come next, though in some parts of the country they are woefully inadequate to accommodate the fast-growing traffic by road, notably in London suburbs, while some of the leafy lanes over which poets rhapsodize are so narrow that the local laws prevent any automobile traffic whatever. As one unfortunate individual expressed it, "since the local authorities forbid automobiles on roadways under sixteen feet in width, I am unable to get my motor-car within nine miles of my home!"
In England something has been done by late generations toward roads improvement. The first awakening came in 1820, and in 1832 the London-Oxford road had been so improved that the former time of the stage-coaches had been reduced from eight to six hours. Macadam in 1830, and Stevenson in 1847, were the real fathers of the "Roads Improvement Movement" in England. The great faults of English roads are that they are narrow and winding, almost without exception. There are 38,600 kilometres of highways (the figures are given on the metric scale for better comparison with Continental facts and figures) and 160,900 of by-roads. There are sixty-six kilometres of roads to the square kilometre (kilometre carré).
In Germany the roads system is very complex. In Baden, the Palatinate, and the Grand Duchy of Hesse they cede nothing to the best roads anywhere, but in the central and northern provinces they are, generally speaking, much poorer. There are fifty-four kilometres of roads of all grades to the kilometre carré.
In Belgium the roads are greatly inferior to those of France, and there are immeasurable stretches of the vilest pavement the world has known, not only near the large towns, but great interior stretches as well. There are 17,500 kilometres of Chemins Vicinaux and 6,990 kilometres of Chemins de Grands Communications. They average, taken together, eighty-three kilometres to the kilometre carré.
In Switzerland the roads are thoroughly good everywhere, but many, particularly mountain-roads, are entirely closed to automobile traffic, and the regulations in many of the towns are so onerous that it is anything but agreeable to make one's way through them. There are thirty-two kilometres to the kilometre carré. The Simplon Pass has only recently (1906) been opened to automobile traffic. No departure can be made from Brigue, on the Swiss side, or from Gondo, in Italy, after three P.M. Speed (vitesse) must not exceed ten kilometres on the stretches, or two kilometres around the corners. Fines for infringement of the law run from twenty to five hundred francs.
Italy, with a surface area one-half that of France, has but a quarter of the extent of the good roads. They are of variable quality, but good on the main lines of travel. In the ancient kingdom of Sardinia will be found the best, but they are poor and greatly neglected around Naples, and, as might be expected, in Sicily.
In Austria the roads are very variable as to surface and maintenance, and there are numerous culverts or canivaux across them. There are 21,112 kilometres of national roads, 66,747 kilometres of provincial roads, and 87,859 of local roads. They average fourteen kilometres to the kilometre carré.
The history of the development of the modern roadway is too big a subject to permit of its being treated here; suffice it to recall that in England and France, and along the Rhine, the lines of the twentieth-century main roads follow the Roman roads of classic times.
In France, Lyons, in the mid-Rhône valley, was a great centre for the radiating roadways of Gaul. Strategically it was important then as it is important now, and Roman soldiery of the past, as the automobilist of to-day, had here four great thoroughfares leading from the city. The first traversed the valleys of the Rhine and the Meuse; the second passed by Autun, Troyes, Chalons, Reims, Soissons, Noyon, and Amiens; the third branched in one direction toward Saintes, and in another to Bordeaux; while the fourth dropped down the Rhône valley direct to Marseilles.
More than thirty thousand kilometres of roadways were in use throughout Gaul during the Roman occupation, of which the four great routes (viæ publicæ) formed perhaps four thousand.
Of the great highways of France, the Grandes Routes Nationales, of which all travellers by road have the fondest and most vivid memories, it is well to recall that they were furthered, if not fathered, by none other than Napoleon, who, for all he laid waste, set up institutions anew which more than compensated for the destructions.
The great roadways of France, such as the Route de Bretagne, running due west from the capital, and those leading to Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and the Pays Bas, had their origin in the days of Philippe-Auguste. His predecessors had let the magnificently traced itineraries of the Romans languish and become covered with grass—if not actually timber-grown.
The arrangement and classification laid down by Philippe-Auguste have never been changed, simply modified and renamed; thus the Routes Royales—such as followed nearly a straight line from Paris by the right bank of the Loire to Amboise and to Nantes—became the Routes Nationales of to-day.
Soon wheeled traffic became a thing to be considered, and royal cortèges moved about the land with much the same freedom and stateliness of the state coaches which one sees to-day in pageants, as relics of a past monarchical splendour.
Louis XI. created the "Service des Postes" in France, which made new demands upon the now more numerous routes and roadways, and Louis XII., François I., Henri II., and Charles IX., all made numerous ordinances for the policing and maintenance of them.
Henri IV., and his minister Sully, built many more of these great lines of communication, and thus gave the first real and tangible aid to the commerce and agriculture of the kingdom. He was something of an aesthetic soul too, this Henri of Bearn, for he was the originator of the scheme to make the great roadways of France tree-shaded boulevards, which in truth is what many of them are to-day. This monarch of love, intrigues, religious reversion, and strange oaths passed the first (and only, for the present is simply a continuance thereof) ordonnance making the planting of trees along the national highroads compulsory on the local authorities.
Under Louis XIV., Colbert continued the good work and put up the first mile-stone, or whatever its equivalent was in that day, measuring from the Parvis de Notre Dame at Paris. Some of these Louis XIV. bornes, or stones, still exist, though they have, of course, been replaced throughout by kilometre stones.
The foregoing tells in brief of the natural development of the magnificent roads of France. Their history does not differ greatly from the development of the other great European lines of travel, across Northern Italy to Switzerland, down the Rhine valley and, branching into two forks, through Holland and through Belgium to the North Sea.
In England the main travel routes run north, east, south, and west from London as a radiating centre, and each took, in the later coaching days, such distinctive names as "The Portsmouth Road," "The Dover Road," "The Bath Road," and "The Great North Road." Their histories have been written in fascinating manner, so they are only referred to here.
It is in France, one may almost say, that automobile touring begins and ends, in that it is more practicable and enjoyable there; and so la belle France continually projects itself into one's horizon when viewing the subject of automobilism.
It may be that there are persons living to-day who regret the passing of the good old times when they travelled—most uncomfortably, be it remarked—by stage-coach and suffered all the inclemencies of bad weather en route without a word of protest but a genial grumble, which they sought to antidote by copious libations of anything liquid and strong. The automobile has changed all this. The traveller by automobile doesn't resort to alcoholic drinks to put, or keep, him in a good humour, and, when he sees a lumbering van or family cart making its way for many miles from one widely separated region to another, he accelerates his own motive power and leaves the good old ways of the good old days as far behind as he can, and recalls the words of Sidney Smith:
"The good of other times let others state,
I think it lucky I was born so late."
A certain picturesqueness of travel may be wanting when comparing the automobile with the whirling coach-and-four of other days, but there is vastly more comfort for all concerned, and no one will regret the march of progress when he considers that nothing but the means of transportation has been changed. The delightful prospects of hill and vale are still there, the long stretches of silent road and, in France and Germany, great forest routes which are as wild and unbroken, except for the magnificent surface of the roads, as they were when mediæval travelers startled the deer and wild boar. You may even do this to-day with an automobile in more than one forest tract of France, and that not far from the great centres of population either.
The invention of carriage-springs—the same which, with but little variation, we use on the automobile—by the wife of an apothecary in the Quartier de St. Antoine at Paris, in 1600, was the prime cause of the increased popularity of travel by road in France.
In 1776, the routes of France were divided into four categories:
- Those leading from Paris to the principal interior cities and seaports.
- Those communicating directly between the principal cities.
- Those communicating directly between the cities and towns of one province and those of another.
- Those serving the smaller towns and bourgs.
Those in the first class were to be 13.35 metres in width, the second 11.90, the third 10, the fourth 7.90. The road makers and menders of England and America could not get better models than these.
The advent of the automobile has brought a new factor into the matter of road making and mending, but certainly he would be an ignorant person indeed who would claim that the automobile does a tithe of the road damage that is done by horse-drawn traffic.
At a high rate of speed, however, the automobile does raise a fine sandy dust, and exposes the macadam. A French authority states that up to twenty to twenty-five kilometres an hour the automobile does little or no harm to the roads, but when they increase to over fifty kilometres an hour they do damage the surface somewhat. Just what the ultimate outcome of it will be remains to be seen, but France is unlikely to do anything which will work against the interests of the automobilist.
In consequence of this newer and faster mode of travelling, it is being found that on some parts of the roads the convexity of the surface is too great, and especially at curves, where fast motors frequently skid on the rounded surface. To obviate this a piece of road near the Croix d'Augas in the Orleannais has had the outer side of the curve raised eight centimetres above the centre of the road, in somewhat the same manner as on the curve of a railway. Since this innovation has proved highly successful and pleasing to the devotees of the new form of travel, it is likely to be further adopted.
In the early period of the construction of French roads the earth formation was made horizontal, but Trésaguet, a French engineer, introduced the rounded form, or camber, and this is the method now almost generally adopted, both in France and England. Only some 14,000 kilometres of the national routes have a hand-set foundation, the others being what are termed broken-stone roads—the stone used is broken in pieces and laid on promiscuously, after the system introduced by Macadam. Some of the second and third class, roads are constructed of gravel, and others, of earth.
From the official report of 1893 it appears that the cost of maintenance of roads in France was as follows:
|COST OF LABOUR AND MATERIALS||Annual Total Cost||Annual Cost per Kilometre (AV.)|
|Routes Nationales||22,570,300 fcs.||775 fcs.|
The above is for materials and labour on the roadways only, and something between 33 1/3 per cent, and 50 per cent. is added for the maintenance of watercourses and sidewalks, the planting of trees, and for general administrative expenses.
Excepting for twenty kilometres or so around Paris, the vehicular traffic on the country roads of France does not seem to be in any way excessive. The style of vehicles in France that carry into the cities farm and garden produce, wood, stone, etc., are large wagons with wheels six to seven feet in diameter. These wagons are more easily hauled and naturally do less damage to the roads than narrow-tired, low-wheeled trucks or drays. The horses in Paris, and in the country, are nearly all plain shod, with no heels or toes to act like a pick to break up the surface. Sometimes even one sees draught-horses with great flat, iron shoes extending out beyond the hoof in all directions.
The question of the speed of the automobile on the roads, in France and England, as indeed everywhere else, has been the moot point in all legislation that has been attempted.
The writer thinks the French custom the best. You may legally go at thirty kilometres an hour, and no more. If you exceed this you do it at your own risk. If an accident happens it may go hard with you, but if not, all is well, and you have the freedom of the road in all that the term implies. In the towns you are often held down to ten, eight, or even six kilometres an hour, but that is merely a local regulation, for your benefit as much as for the safety of the public, for many a French town has unthought-of possibilities of danger in its crooked streets and unsafe crossings.
Good roads have much to do with the pleasure of automobilism, and competent control and care of them will do much more. Where a picked bit of roadway has been chosen for automobile trials astonishing results have been obtained, as witness the Gordon-Bennett Cup records of the last six years, where the average speed per hour consistently increased from thirty-eight miles to nearly fifty-five, and this for long distances (three hundred and fifty miles or more).
To meet the new traffic conditions the authorities must widen the roads here and there, remove obstructions at corners, make encircling boulevards through narrowly laid out towns, and erect warning signs, like the following, a great deal more numerously than they have as yet.
They have very good automobile laws in France in spite of their anomalies. You agree to thirty-seven prescribed articles, and go through sundry formalities and take to the road with your automobile. In the name of the President of the Republic and the "peuple français," you are allowed thirty kilometres an hour in the open country, and twenty in the towns. You can do anything you like beyond this—at your own risk, and so long as no accident happens nothing will be said, but you must pull up when you come to a small town where M. le Maire, in the name of his forty-four electors, has decreed that his village is dangerously laid out for fast traffic,—and truth to tell it often is,—and accordingly you are limited to a modest ten or even less. It is annoying, of course, but if you are on a strange itinerary you had best go slow until you know what trouble lies ahead.
In theory la vitesse is national in France, but in practice it is communal, and the barriers rise, in the way of staring warnings posted at each village-end, like the barriers across the roads in the times of Louis XI.
Except in Holland, where some "private roads" still exist, and in certain parts of England, the toll-gate keeper has become almost an historical curiosity. It is true, however, that in England one does meet with annoying toll-bridges and gates, and in France one has equally annoying octroi barriers.
One recognizes the vested proprietary rights, many of which, in England, are hereditary, of certain toll-gates and bridges, but it is hard in these days, when franchises for the conduct of public services are only granted for limited periods, that legislation, born of popular clamour, should not confiscate, or, better, purchase at a fair valuation, these "rights," and make all roads and bridges free to all.
In France there are no toll-gates or bridges, or at least not many (the writer recalls but one, a bridge at La Roche-Guyou on the Seine, just above Vernon), but there are various state ferries across the Seine, the Rhône, the Saône, and the Loire, where a small charge is made for crossing. These are particularly useful on the lower Seine, in delightful Normandy, as there are no bridges below Rouen.
In France one's chief delays on the road are caused by the octroi barriers at all large towns, though only at Paris and, for a time, at St. Germain do they tax the supplies of essence (gasoline) and oil, which the automobilist carries in his tanks.
The octroi taxes are onerous enough in all conscience, but it is a pity to annoy automobilists in the way the authorities do at the gates of Paris, and it's still worse for a touring automobile to be stopped at the barrier of a town like Evreux in Normandy, or Tarare in the Beaujolais. Whatever does the humble (and civil, too) guardian do it for, except to show his authority, and smile pleasantly, as he waves you off after having brought you to a full stop at the bottom of a twisting cobble-stoned, hilly street where you need all the energy and suppleness of your motor in order to reach the top.
There are not many of these abrupt stops, outside the large towns, and nowhere do they tax you on your oil or essence except at Paris—where you pay (alas!) nearly as much as the original cost.
At Rouen the guardian comes up, looks in your tonneau to see if you have a fish or a partridge hidden away, and sends you on your way with a bored look, as though he disliked the business as much as you do. At Tours, if you come to the barrier just as the official has finished a good lunch, he simply smiles, and doesn't even stop you. At Marseilles you get up from your seat and let the official poke a bamboo stick down among your chambres d'air, and say nothing—provided he does not puncture them; if he does, you say a good deal, but he replies by saying that he was merely doing his duty, and meant no harm.
At Nantes, at Rennes, at Orleans, and Bordeaux, all of them grandes villes, every one is civil and apologetic, but still the procedure goes on just the same.
At Lyons the octroi tax has been abolished. Real progress this!
In the old coaching days road speeds fell far behind what they are to-day in a well-constructed and capable automobile, but, as they put in long hours on the road, they certainly did get over the ground in a fairly satisfactory manner. Private conveyances, with private horses, could not hope to accomplish anything like it, simply because there is a limit to the working powers and hours of the individual horse. With the old mail-coaches, in England, and the malle-poste and the poste-chaise, in France, things were different, for at every poste, or section, was a new relay; and on the coach went at the same pace as before.
The London-Birmingham coaches in 1830 covered the 109 miles between the two points at an average speed of 15.13 miles per hour, the highest speed being eighteen, and the lowest eleven miles.
In France the speeds were a little better. From Lyons the old mail-coaches used to make the journey to Paris in four days by way of Auxerre, and in five by Moulins, though the distance is the same, one hundred and twenty leagues. To-day the automobile, which fears not hills, take invariably the Moulins road, and covers the distance between breakfast and dinner; that is, if the driver is a "scorcher;" and there are such in France.
In 1834 there were thirteen great lines of malle-postes in France as follows:
To Calais. By Clermont, Amiens, and Abbeville.
To Lille. By Senlis, Noyon, St. Quentin, Cambrai, and Douai.
To Mezières. By Soissons, Reims, and Rhetel.
To Strasbourg. By Chalons-sur-Marne, Metz, and Sarrebourg.
To Besançon. By Troyes and Dijon.
To Lyon. By Melun, Auxerre, Autun, and Macon.
To Clermont-Ferrand. By Fontainebleau, Briare, Nevers, and Moulins.
To Toulouse. By Orleans, Chateauroux, Limoges, and Cahors.
To Bordeaux. By Orleans, Blois, Tours, Poitiers, and Angoulême.
To Nantes. By Chartres, Le Mans, La Fleche, and Angers.
To Brest. By Alençon, Laval, Rennes, and St. Brieuc.
To Caen. By Bonnières, Evreux, and Lisieux.
To Rouen. By Neuilly-sur-Seine, Pontoise, Gisors, Ecouis, and Fleury-sur-Andelle.
Besides the malle-poste there was another organization in France even more rapid. The following is copied from an old advertisement:
AVIS AU PUBLIC
"Messageries Royales—Nouvelles Diligences
"Le Public est averti:
"Il partira de Paris toutes les semaines, pour Dunkerque, passant par Senlis, Compiègne, et Noyon, une diligence le lundi à 6 heures du matin. Elle repartira de Dunkerque à Paris, le mercredi à 6 heures du matin. Il partira aussi dans chaque sens une voiture pour les gros bagages et objets fragiles, le jeudi de chaque semaine.
"Les bureaux de ces diligences sont établis à Paris, rue St. Denis, vis-à-vis les Filles-Dieu."
From Paris to Bordeaux, 157 leagues, the Messageries Royales made the going at an easy pace in five days. To-day the express-trains do it in six and one-half hours, and the ever-ready automobile has knocked a half an hour off that, just for a record. "Tempus fugit."
The subject of roads and roadmaking is one that to-day more than ever is a matter of deep concern to those responsible for a nation's welfare.
It might seem, in these progressive days, that it was in reality a matter which might take care of itself, at least so far as originally well-planned or well-built roads were concerned. This, however, is not the case; the railway has very nearly reached the limit of its efficiency (at any rate in thickly settled parts), and the electric roads have merely stepped in and completed its functions.
It is certain that an improved system of road administration or control is needed. The turnpike or the highroad served its purpose well enough in coaching days as the most direct and quickest way between important towns. To-day, in many respects, conditions are changed. Certain centres of population and commercial activity have progressed at the expense of less fortunate communities, and the one-time direct highroads now deviate considerably, with the result that there is often an unnecessary prolongation of distance and expenditure of time.
Examples of this sort are to be found all over Britain, but a great deal less frequently in France, where the communication is by a more direct line between important centres, often leaving the small and unimportant towns out of the itinerary altogether.
In England, centralization or nationalization of the road-building authority should remedy all this. Cuts and deviations from existing lines, for the general good, would then be made without local jealousy or misapplied influence being brought to bear, and the general details of width and surface be carried on throughout the land, under one supreme power, and not, as often now is the case, by various local district and urban councils and county surveyors.
"The Great North Road" and "The Famous Bath Road" vary greatly throughout their length as to width and excellence; and yet popular opinion in the south of England would seem to indicate that these roads, to single them out from among others, are idyllic, both in character of surface and skill of engineering, throughout their length. This is manifestly not so. The "Bath Road," for example, in parts, is as flat and well-formed a surface as one could hope to find, even in France itself, but at times it degenerates into a mere narrow, guttery alley, especially in its passage through some of the Thames-side towns, where the surface is never of that excellence that it should be; throughout its entire length of some hundred odd miles to Bath there are ever-recurring evidence of bad road-making and worse engineering.
One is bound to take into consideration that it is the automobile, and the general increase in automobile traffic, that, in all countries, is causing the wide-spread demand for improved roads.
To illustrate the growth of the use of the automobile on the public highway, and taking France as an example, the following statistics are given from the Journal des Débats:
In 1900 there were taxed in France 1,399 voitures-automobiles of more than two places, and 955 of one or two places. In 1903 the figures had risen to 7,228 and 2,694 respectively. These figures may seem astonishingly small at first glance, but their percentage of growth is certainly abnormally large. These voitures-automobiles, be it recalled, are all pleasure carriages, and displaced in the same time (according to the same authority) 10,000 horse-drawn vehicles. At the same period Paris alone claimed 1,845 voitures-automobiles and 6,539 horse-drawn pleasure carriages.
Road reformers, wherever found, should agitate for two things: the efficient maintenance of existing roads and the laying out of new and improved thoroughfares where needed.
In England and America the roadways are under the care of so many controlling bodies that they have suffered greatly. In England, for example, there is one eighteen-mile strip of road which is under the control of twelve different highway authorities, while the "Great North Road" from London to Edinburgh, is, in England alone, subject to seventy-two separate authorities. Local jealousies, rivalry and factions, and the quarrels of various road authorities interfere everywhere with good roads. The greatest good of the greatest number is sacrificed to village squabbles and to the advice of the local squire, who "detests motor-cars," as he does most other signs of progress. The roads of the future must be under some general control. At present, affairs in England are pretty bad; let America take heed in her new provisions for road supervision and government.
There is at present an almost Chinese jumble in the distribution of authority over roads in England and Wales. There are in London alone twenty-nine highway authorities, and 1,855 throughout the rest of the country.
In view of the fact that through motor traffic of all kinds will increase every year, it has been suggested that new loop roads should be constructed round towns on the chief roads, private enterprise being enlisted by the expectation of improved land value. This certainly would be a move in the right direction.
|1.||Ancient Roman Mile-stone, France|
|2.||Privately Erected Signboard, England|
|3.||Old Parish Mile-stone, England|
Mile-stone reform is another thing which is occupying the serious attention of the road user. In Continental Europe this matter is pretty well arranged, though there is frequently a discrepancy of two, three, or even five kilometres between the national mile-stones (bornes kilométriques) and the sign-boards of the various local authorities and touring clubs.
France has the best system extant of sign-boards and mile-stones. One finds the great national, departmental, and communal signs and stones everywhere, and at every hundred metres along the road are the intermediate little white-numbered stones, from which you may take your bearings almost momentarily, with never a fear that you are off your track.
In addition to this the sign-boards of the Touring Club de France, the Automobile Club de France, and the Association Générale Automobile satisfy any further demands that may be made by the traveller by automobile who wants to read as he runs. No such legible signs and warnings are known elsewhere.
There is uniformity in all the kilometre and department boundary stones in France; but in England "mile-stones" of all shapes, sizes, materials, and degrees of legibility are found.
There are some curious relics in the form of ancient mile-stones still in use, which may please the antiquarian, but are of no value to the automobilist. There is the "eightieth mile-stone on the Holyhead Road" in England, which carries one back through two centuries of road travel; and there is a heavy old veteran of perhaps a thousand years, which at one time marked the "Voie Aurelian," as it crossed Southern Gaul. It is found in Provence, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, near Salon, and is a sight not to be missed by those curiously inclined.
The question of dust is one of the chief problems yet to be solved for the benefit of automobilists and the general public alike. A good deal of the "dust nuisance" is due to badly made and badly kept roads, but we must frankly admit that the automobile itself is often the cause. "La Ligue Contre la Poussière," in France, has made some interesting experiments, with the below enumerated results, as related to automobile traffic. Road-builders and manufacturers of automobiles alike have something here to make a note of.
- Sharp corners and excessive road cambers lead to slip, and, therefore, to dust.
- More dust is raised on a rough road than on an equally dusty smooth road.
- Watering the road moderately diminishes the dust.
- The spreading on the road of crude oil, or of oil emulsions in water, is an important palliative.
- Wood, asphalt, cobblestones, and square pavings are not dusty save after use by horse traffic.
- Cars with smooth, boat-shaped under surfaces are less dusty than others.
- Cars with large mud-guards and leather flaps near the road are more dusty.
- Cars on high wheels well away from the ground are less dusty.
- Cars with large tool-boxes at the back reaching low down between the back wheels are dusty.
- Large car bodies are often dustier than small ones.
- Blowing the exhaust near the ground increases the dust.
- Cars fitted with engines having an insufficient fly-wheel or a non-uniform turning effort from any cause are more dusty.
- A car mounted on very easy springs having a large up-and-down play will suck up the dust with each rise and fall of the body on rough roads.
- Front wheels—or rolling wheels—raise less dust than back wheels or driving wheels.
- Smooth pneumatic tires are dusty.
- Solid or pneumatic rubber tires are more dusty at higher speeds, and with high-powered engines.
- Non-skid devices, such as small steel studs, etc., do not increase the dust.
A writer on automobilism and roads cannot leave the latter subject without a reference to some of the obstructions and inconveniences to which the automobilist has to submit. If the automobilist proved himself a "road obstruction" like any of the following he would soon be banished and the industry would suffer.
A correspondent in the Auto, the chief Parisian daily devoted to automobilism, gave the following list of obstructions encountered in a journey of a thousand kilometres:
- Drivers having left their horses entirely unattended - 75
- Drivers who would not make way to allow one to pass - 86
- Drivers asleep - 8
- Drivers not holding the reins - 12
- Drivers in carriages, or carts, without lights at night - 81
- Drivers stopping their horses in the middle of the road or at dangerous turnings - 2
- Drivers allowing their horses to descend hills unattended while they walked behind - 18
- Dogs throwing themselves in front of one - 35
- Flocks of sheep met without guardians near by - 8
- Cattle straying unattended - 10
- Geese, hens and children in the middle of the road - 30
Instead of seven sins, any of which might be deadly, there are eleven. Legislation must sooner or later protect the automobilist better than it does to-day.
In all the literature of travel, that which is devoted to hotels has been conspicuously neglected. Certainly a most interesting work could be compiled.
Among the primitive peoples travellers were dependent upon the hospitality of those among whom they came. After this arose a species of hostelry, which catered for man and beast in a more or less crude and uncomfortable manner; but which, nevertheless, was a great deal better than depending upon the generosity and hospitality of strangers, and vastly more comfortable than sleeping and eating in the open.
In the middle ages there appeared in France the cabaret, the gargot, the taverne, and then the auberge, many of which, endowed with no more majestic name, exist even to-day.
ICI ON LOGE À PIED ET À CHEVAL
is a sign frequently seen along the roadways of France, and even in the villages and small towns. It costs usually ten sous a night for man, and five sous for his beast, though frequently there is a fluctuating price.
The aubergiste of other days, on the routes most frequented, was an enterprising individual, if reports are to be believed. Frequently he would stand at his door and cry out his prices to passers-by. "Au Cheval Blanc! On dine pour douze sous. Huit sous le cocher. Six liards l'écurie."
With the era of the diligences there came the Hôtels de la Poste, with vast paved courtyards, great stables, and meals at all hours, but the chambers still remained more or less primitive, and in truth have until a very recent date.
There is absolutely no question but that automobilism has brought about a great change in the hotel system of France. It may have had some slight effect elsewhere, but in France its influence has been enormous. The guide-books of a former generation did nothing but put an asterisk against the names of those hotels which struck the fancy of the compiler, and it was left to the great manufacturers of "pneumatiques" for automobiles to carry the scheme to a considerably more successful issue. Michelin, in preparing his excellent route-book, bombarded the hotel-keeper throughout the length and breadth of France with a series of questions, which he need not answer if he did not choose, but which, if he neglected, was most likely taken advantage of by his competitor.
Given a small chef-lieu, a market-town in France, with two competing establishments, the one which was marked by the compiler of this excellent road-book as having the latest sanitary arrangements, with perhaps a dark room for photographers, stood a much better chance of the patronage of the automobile traveller than he who had merely a blank against the name of his house. The following selection of this appalling array of questions, used in the preparation of the Guide-Michelin, will explain this to the full:
Is your hotel open all the year?
What is the price per day which the automobilist en tour may count on spending with you? (This is purposely noncommittal so far as an ironbound statement is concerned, being more particularly for classification, and is anyway a much better system of classification than by a detailed price-list of déjeuner, dīner, etc.)
What is the price of an average room, with service and lights? (Be it noted that only in avowed tourist resorts, or in the case of very new travellers, are the ridiculous items of "service et bougie"—service and lights—ever charged in France.)Is wine included in your regular charges? (And it generally is except in the two above-mentioned instances.)
Have you a sign denoting adherence or alliance to the A. G. A.?
Have you a sign denoting adherence or alliance to the A. C. F.?
Have you a sign denoting adherence or alliance to the T. C F.?
Have you an arrangement with the Touring Club de France allowing members a discount of ten per cent.? (Some four thousand country hotels of France have.)
Have you a bath-room?
Have you modernized hygienic bedrooms?
Have you water-closets with modern plumbing? (Most important this.)
Have you a dark room for photographers?
Have you a covered garage for automobiles? (This must be free of charge to travellers, for two days at least, or a mention of the hotel does not appear.)
How many automobiles can you care for?
Have you a telephone and what is its number?
What is your telegraphic address?
What are the chief curiosities and sights in your town?
What interesting excursions in the neighbourhood?
This information is afterwards compiled and most clearly set forth, with additional information as to population, railway facilities, etc.
The annual of the Automobile Club de France marks with a little silhouetted knife and fork those establishments which deserve mention for their cuisine, and even marks good beds in a similar fashion. Clearly the makers of old-time guide-books must wake up, or everybody will take to automobiling, if only to have the right to demand one of these excellent guides. To be sure the same information might to a very considerable extent be included in the recognized guide-books; indeed Joanne's excellent series has in one or two instances added something of the sort in recent editions of their "Normandie" and "Provence," but each volume deals only with some special locality, whereas the Guide-Michelin deals with the whole of France, and the house also issues another covering Belgium, Holland, and the Rhine country.
The chief concern of the touring automobilist, after the pleasures of the road, is the choice of a hotel. The days when the diligences of Europe drew up before an old-time inn, with the sign of a pewter plate, an écu d'or, a holly branch, or a prancing white horse, have long since disappeared. The classic good cheer of other days, a fowl and a bottle of Beaune, a baron of beef and porter, or a carp and good Rhine wine have gone, too. The automobile traveller requires, if not a stronger fare, at least a more varied menu, as he does a more ample supply of water for washing.
These quaint old inns of other days, with fine mullioned windows, galleried courtyards, and vine-trellised façades, still exist here and there, but they have been much modernized, else they would not exist at all. There is not much romance in the make-up of the modern traveller, at least so far as his own comfort is concerned, and the tired automobilist who has covered two hundred kilometres of road, between lunch and dinner, requires something more heroic in the way of a bath than can be had in a tiny porcelain basin, and a more comfortable place to sit in than the average bar-parlour, such as he finds in most country inns in England.
As Sterne said: "They do things better in France," and the accommodation supplied the automobilist is there far ahead of what one gets elsewhere.
The hotel demanded by the twentieth-century traveller need not necessarily be a palace, but it must be something which caters to the advancing needs of the time in a more efficient manner than the country inn of the eighteenth century, when the only one who travelled in comfort was he who thrust himself upon the hospitality of friends.
We are living in a hygienic age, and to-day we are particular about things that did not in the least concern our forefathers. In England there is no public-spirited body which takes upon itself the task of pointing out the virtuous path to the country Boniface. The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland has not succeeded very well with its task as yet and has not anything like the influence of its two sister organizations in France, or the very efficient Touring Club Italiano.
Hygiene does not necessarily go so far as to demand a doctor's certificate as to the health of the birds and animals which the chef presents so artistically in his celebrated plats du jour, and one need not take the journaux comiques too seriously, as once did a gouty milord, who insisted that his duckling Rouennais should, while alive, first be certificated as to the health of its bronches and poumons. All the same one likes to know that due regard is given to the proprieties and necessities of his bedroom, and to know that the kitchen is more or less a public apartment where one can see what is going on, which one can almost invariably do in France, in the country, at any rate. Therein lies one of the great charms of the French hotel.
One of the latest moves of the Automobile Club de France is to call attention to the mountainous districts of France, the Pyrenees, and the Jura, and to exploit them as rivals to Switzerland. Further, a competition among hotel-keepers has been started throughout France, and a prize of ten thousand francs is offered yearly to that hotel-keeper who has added most to the attractions of his house. The club authorities furnish expert advice and recommendations as to hotel reforms to any hotel-keeper who applies. In England the newly established "Road Club" might promote the interests of British motor tourists, and the large numbers of Americans and foreigners, by undertaking a similar work.
To a great extent the tourist, by whatever means of travel, must find his hotels out for himself. He cannot always follow a guide-book, and if he does he may find that the endorsement of an old edition is no longer merited.
By far the best hotel-guides for France, Belgium, and Holland, the Rhine, Switzerland, and Italy are the excellent annuaires of the Automobile Clubs and Touring Clubs, and the before-mentioned Guide-Michelin and "Guide-Routiere Continental," issued by the great pneumatic tire companies.
Hotel-finding abroad, for the stranger, is a more or less difficult process, or he makes it such. The crowded resorts do not give one a tithe of the character or local colour to be had from a stay in some little market-town inn of France or Germany. In the former, hotels are simply bad imitations of Parisian establishments, while the best are often off the beaten track in the small towns.
The question of tipping is an ever present one for the European traveller. It exists in Britain and Continental Europe to an increasing and exasperating extent, and the advent of the automobile has done nothing to lessen it.
There is no earthly, sensible logic which should induce a garçon in a hotel or restaurant to think that because one arrives in an automobile he wishes to dine in a special room off of rare viands and drink expensive wines, but this is his common conception of the automobile tourist. One fights up or down through the scale of hotel servants, and does his best to allay any false ideas they may have, including those of the hostler, who has done nothing for you, and expects his tip, too. It's an up-hill process, and the idea that every automobilist is a millionaire is everywhere dying hard.
The traveller demands not so much elegance as comfort, and, above all, fit accommodation for his automobile. Some sort of a light, airy, and clean closed garage is his right to demand, and the hotel that supplies this, as contrasted with the one that does not, gets the business, even if other things be not equal.
The requirements of an automobile en tour are almost as numerous and varied as those of its owner. Hence the hotel proprietor must, if he values this clientele, provide something a great deal better than a mere outhouse, an old untidy stable-yard, or a lean-to.
Small concern is it to mine host of the local inn, who is somewhat off the beaten track of motorcars, as to what really constitutes a garage. He usually does not even know what the word means. Any roofed-over shed or shack, with doors or not, is what one generally has to put up with to-day, for housing his resplendent brassy and varnishy automobile.
Once the writer remembers being turned into an old stable (in England), the floor of which was strewn with the broken bottles of a defunct local mineral water industry, and again into another, used as a carpenter's shop, the floor strewn with the paraphernalia and tools of the trade.
If the English hotel-keeper (again they do things better on the Continent) only would discriminate to the extent of believing that there is nothing harmful or indecent about an automobile, and let it live in the coach-house like a respectable dog-cart or the orthodox brougham, all would be well, and we should save our tempers and a vast lot of gray matter in attempting to show a conservative landlord how far he is behind the times.
One other very important demand the automobilist makes of the hotel, and that is the possibility of being supplied with his coffee at any time after five in the morning. The automobile tourist, not of the butterfly order, is almost invariably an early bird.
Without question the Continental hotel of all ranks is vastly superior to similar establishments in Britain. The inferiority of the British inns may be due to tardiness and slothfulness on the part of the landlords, or long suffering and non-complaining on the part of their guests. It is either one or the other, or both, of these reasons, but the fact is the hotel-keeper, and his establishment as well, are each far inferior to those of Continental Europe.
Perhaps the real reason of the conservatism of the British hotel-keeper is yet to be fathomed, but it probably starts from the fact that he does not travel to learn. The young Swiss serves his apprenticeship, and learns French, as a waiter at Nice, just as he learns Italian at San Remo. Ten years later you may find him as the manager of a big hotel at home. He has learned his business by hard, disagreeable work. How many English hotel-keepers have imitated him? Another cause of backwardness in England is the "license" system, with its artificial augmentation of the value of all premises where alcoholic refreshment is provided. This tends to make the landlord look upon it as his chief, if not his sole, source of profit. Even if he serves meals at a fair price, he looks to the accompanying, or casual, drinks to pay him best. This results in indifferent and slovenly food-catering. The public bar, with its foul-mouthed loafers,—there seems to be an idea that one can talk in an English tavern as one would not in an English street,—is often within ear-shot of the dining-room. This is one of the great defects of the English hotel system, in all but the largest towns, and even there it is not wholly absent.
This is how the facts strike a foreigner, the Frenchman, the Dutchman, the Belgian, and the German, whose hotels and restaurants are, first of all, for quiet, ordinary guests, and only secondarily as places where liquid refreshment—alcoholic or otherwise—is served with equal alacrity, but without invidious distinction.
The old-time inns of England, and their very names, have a peculiar fascination for the stranger. Some of us who know them intimately, and who how what discomfort and inefficient catering may lurk behind such a picturesque nomenclature as the "Rose and Crown" or the "Hawthorne Inn," have a certain disregard for the romance of it all. If one is an automobilist he has all the more reason to take cognizance of their deficiencies.
All the same the mere mention of the old-time posting-houses of the "Bath Road," the "Great North Road" (particularly that portion between London and Cambridge along which Dick Turpin took his famous ride) have a glamour for us that even the automobile will not wholly extinguish. According to story it was at one of the many inns along the "Great North Road" that Turpin procured a bottle of wine, which once having passed down the throat of his famous "Black Bess" enabled the rascal to escape his pursuers. The automobilist will be fortunate if he can find gasoline along here to-day as easily as he can that peculiarly vile brand of beer known as "bitter."
Buntingford on the "North Road" has an inn, which, in a way, is trying to cope with the new conditions. The landlord of the "George and the Dragon" has come to a full realization that the motor-car has well-nigh suppressed all other forms of road traffic for pleasure, and, more or less incompletely, he is catering for the wants of motorists, as did his predecessors for the traveller by posting-carriage or stage-coach. This particular landlord, though he looks like one of the old school, should be congratulated on a perspicuity which few of his confreres in England possess.
There are two other inns which travellers on the "North Road" will recognize as they fly past in their automobiles, or stop for tea or a bite to eat, for, in spite of their devotion to the traffic in beer, these "North Road" inns, within a radius of seventy-five or a hundred miles of London, seem more willing to furnish solid or non-alcoholic refreshment than most of their brethren elsewhere. The "Bell Inn" and the "Red, White, and Blue" (and the George and the Dragon) of the North Road in England deserve to linger in the memory of the automobilist, almost to the exclusion of any other English inns of their class.
With regard to hotel charges for all classes of travellers, as well in England as on the Continent, there is an undoubted upward tendency which the automobile has done absolutely nothing to allay. One good is coming to pass, however, and that is uniformity of price for the class of accommodation offered, and (in France and most other Continental countries) the absolute abolition of the charge for "lights and service," an abominable and outrageous practice which still lingers in England—and for that matter Scotland and Ireland.
The discussion of the subject has been worn threadbare, and it is useless to enter further into it here, save to remark that since the automobile is bringing about so many reforms and improvements perhaps the abolition of this species of swindling on the part of the British hotel-keeper will disappear along with antiquated sanitary arrangements and uncomfortable closed-in beds.
In France—thanks again to the indefatigable Touring Club de France—they have eliminated this charge for service and lights entirely, and one generally finds hanging behind the door the little card advocated by the Touring Club, stating clearly the charge for that particular room and the price of the various things offered in the way of accommodation. This ought to be demanded, by law, of every hotel-keeper. Not every hotel in France has fallen in line, but those that have are reaping the benefit. The automobilist is a good advertiser of what he finds en route that pleases him, and scores pitilessly—to other automobilists—everything in the nature of a swindle that he meets with, and they are not few, for in many places the automobilist is still considered fair game for robbery.
As to the fare offered in English inns, as compared with that of the Continental hotel, the least said the better; the subject has been gone over again and again, so it shall not be reiterated here, save to quote Pierre Loti on what one eats for an English dinner.
"We were assembled round a horrible bill of fare, which would not be good enough for one of our humblest cook-shops. But the English are extraordinary folk. When I saw the reappearance, for the fourth time, of the fatal dish of three compartments, for badly boiled potatoes, for peas looking poisonously green, and for cauliflower drenched with a glue-like substance, I declined, and sighed for Poledor, who nourished my studious youth on a dainty repast at a shilling per day."
The modern tourist, and especially the tourist by automobile, has done more for the improved conduct of the wayside hotel, and even those of the large towns, than whole generations of travellers of a former day.
Once the hotel drew its income from the hiring-out of posting-horses, and the sale of a little food and much wine. As the old saying goes: "Four horses and four bottles of port went together in the account of every gentleman." Travellers of those days, if comparatively few, were presumably wealthy. To-day no one, save the vulgar few, ever cares that the innkeeper, or the servants, should suspect him of being wealthy.
It's a failing of the Anglo-Saxon race, however, to want to be taken for bigger personages than they really are, and often enough they pay for the privilege. This is only natural, seeing that even an innkeeper is human. Charges suitable for a milord or a millionaire have been inflicted on Browns, Joneses, and Robinsons simply because they demanded such treatment—for fear they would not be taken for "gentlemen." Such people are not numerous among real traveling automobilists; they are mostly found among that class who spend the week-end at Brighton, or dine at Versailles or St. Germain or "make the fête" at Trouville. They are known instinctively by all, and are only tolerated by the hotel landlord for the money they spend.
The French cook's "batterie de cuisine" is a thing which is fearfully and wonderfully displayed in all the splendour of polished steel and copper; that is, it is frequently so displayed in the rather limited acquaintance which the general public has with the cuisine of a great hotel or restaurant, whether it be in Paris, London, or New York.
In provincial France it is quite another thing. The chef-patron of a small hotel in a small town may be possessed of an imposing battery of pots and pans, but often, since he buys his pātisserie and sweetmeats of the local pastry-cook, and since his guests may frequently not number a dozen at a time, he has no immediate use for all of his casseroles and marmites and plats ronds and sauteuses at one time, and accordingly, instead of being picturesquely hung about the wall in all their polished brilliancy, they are frequently covered with a coating of dull wax or, more banal yet, enveloped in an ancient newspaper with only their handles protruding. It's a pity to spoil the romantically picturesque idea which many have of the French batterie de cuisine, but the before-mentioned fact is more often the case than not.
Occasionally, on the tourist-track, there is a "show hotel," like the Hôtel du Grand Cerf at Louviers (its catering in this case is none the worse for its being a "show-place," it may be mentioned) where all the theatrical picturesqueness of the imagination may be seen. There is the timbered sixteenth-century house-front, the heavily beamed, low ceiling of the cuisine, the great open-fire chimney with its broche, and all the brave showing of pots and pans, brilliant with many scrubbings of eau de cuivre, to present quite the ideal picture of its kind to be seen in France—without leaving the highroads and searching out the "real thing" in the byways.
On the other hand, in the same bustling town, is the Mouton d'Argent, equally as excellent in its catering (perhaps more so), where the kitchen is about the most up-to-date thing imaginable, with a modern range, mechanical egg-beaters, etc. This last is nothing very wonderful to an American, but is remarkable in France, where the average cook usually does the work quite as efficiently with a two-tined fork, or something which greatly resembles a chop-stick.
In the cuisine electric lights are everywhere, but the up-to-dateness here stops abruptly; the salle à manger is bare and uninviting, and the rooms above equally so, and the electric light has not penetrated beyond the ground floor. Instead one finds ranged on the mantel, above the cook-stove in the kitchen, a regiment of candlesticks, in strange contrast to the rest of the furnishings. Electric bells, too, are wanting, and there is still found the row of jangling grelots, their numbers half-obliterated, hanging above the great doorway leading to the courtyard.
The European waiter is never possessed of that familiarity of speech with those he serves, which the American negro waiter takes for granted is his birthright. It's all very well to have a cheerful-countenanced waiter bobbing about behind one's chair, indeed it's infinitely more inspiring than such of the old brigade of mutton-chopped English waiters as still linger in some of London's City eating-houses, but the disposition of the coffee-coloured or coal-black negro to talk to you when you do not want to be talked to should be suppressed.
The genuine French, German, or Swiss waiter of hotel, restaurant, or café is neither too cringingly servile, nor too familiar, though always keen and agile, and possessed of a foresight and initiative which anticipates your every want, or at any rate meets it promptly, even if you ask for it in boarding-school French or German.
There is a keen supervision of food products in France, by governmental inspection and control, and one is certain of what he is getting when he buys his filet at the butcher's, and if he patronizes hotels and restaurants of an approved class he is equally sure that he is eating beef in his bouille and mutton in his ragoût.
Horse-meat is sold largely, and perhaps certain substitutes for rabbit, but you only buy horsemeat at a horse butcher's, so there is no deception here. You buy horse-meat as horse-meat, and not as beef, in the same way that you buy oleomargarine as oleomargarine, and not as butter, and the French law deals hardly with the fraudulent seller of either.
The law does not interfere with one's private likes and dislikes, and if you choose to make your breakfast off of oysters and Crême Chantilly—as more than one American has been known to do on the Paris boulevards—there is no law to stop you, as there is in Germany, if you want beer and fruit together. Doubtless this is a good law; it sounds reasonable; but the individual should have sense enough to be able to select a menu from non-antagonistic ingredients.
Foreigners, by which English and Americans mean people of Continental Europe, know vastly more of the art of catering to the traveller than do Anglo-Saxons. This is the first, last, and intermediate verse of the litany of good cheer. We may catch up with our Latin and Teuton brothers, or we may not. Time will tell, if we don't expire from the over-eating of pie and muffins before that time arrives.
The advantages of touring by automobile are many: to see the country, to travel agreeably, to be independent of railways, and to be an opportunist—that is to say to be able to fly off at a tangent of fifty or a hundred kilometres at a moment's notice, in order to take in some fête or fair, or celebration or pilgrimage.
"Le tourisme en automobile" is growing all over the world, but after all it is generally only in or near the great cities and towns that one meets an automobile on the road. They hug the great towns and their neighbouring resorts with astonishing persistency. Of the one thousand automobiles at Nice in the season it is certain that nine-tenths of the number that leave their garages during the day will be found sooner or later on the famous "Corniche," going or coming from Monte Carlo, instead of discovering new tracks for themselves in the charming background of the foot-hills of the Maritime Alps.
In England, too, the case is not so very different. There are a thousand "week-enders" in automobiles on the way to Brighton, Southsea, Bournemouth, Scarborough, or Blackpool to ten genuine tourists, and this even though England and Wales and Scotland form a snug little touring-grounds with roads nearly, if not always, excellent, and with accommodations—of a sort—always close at hand.
In Germany there seems to be more genuine touring, in proportion to the number of automobiles in use, than elsewhere. This may not prove to be wholly the case, as the author judges only from his observations made on well-worn roads.
Switzerland is either all touring, or not at all; it is difficult to decide which. At any rate most of the strangers within its frontiers are tourists, and most of the tourists are strangers, and many of them take their automobiles with them in spite of the "feeling" lately exhibited there against stranger automobilists.
Belgium and Holland, as touring-grounds for automobilists, do not figure to any extent. This is principally from the fact that they are usually, so far as foreign automobilists are concerned, included in more comprehensive itineraries. They might be known more intimately, to the profit of all who pass through them. They are distinctly countries for leisurely travel, for their areas are so restricted that the automobilist who covers two or three hundred kilometres in the day will hardly remember that he has passed through them.
Northern Italy forms very nearly as good a touring-ground as France, and the Italian engineers have so refined the automobile of native make, and have so fostered automobilism, that accommodations are everywhere good, and the tourist to-day will not lack for supplies of benzina and olio as he did a few years ago.
The bulk of the automobile traffic between France and Italy enters through the gateway of the Riviera, and, taken all in all, this is by far the easiest, and perhaps the most picturesque, of routes. Alternatives are through Gap and Cuneo, Briançon and Susa, Moutiers and Aosta, or by the Swiss passes, the latter perhaps the most romantic of routes in spite of their difficulties and other objections.
Automobiling in Spain is a thing of the future, and it will be a big undertaking to make the highroads, to say nothing of the by-roads, suitable for automobile traffic. The present monarchs' enthusiasm for the sport may be expected, however, to do wonders. The most that the average tourist into Spain by automobile will want to undertake is perhaps the run to Madrid, which is easily accomplished, or to Barcelona, which is still easier, or to just step over the border to Feuntarabia or San Sebastian, if he does not think overrefined Biarritz will answer his purpose.
More than one hardy traveller, before the age of automobiles, and even before the age of steam, has made "the grand tour," and then come home and written a book about it until there seems hardly any need that a modern traveller should attempt to set down his impressions of the craggy, castled Rhine, the splendid desolation of Pompeii, or the romantic reminders still left in old Provence to tell the story of the days of the troubadours and the "Courts of Love."
It is conceivable that one can see and enjoy all these classic splendours from an automobile, but automobilists from overseas have been known to rush across France in an attempt to break the record between some Channel port and Monte Carlo, or dash down the Rhine and into Switzerland for a few days, and so on to Rome, and ultimately Naples, where ship is taken for home in the western world.
This is, at any rate, the itinerary of many a self-made millionaire who thinks to enjoy himself between strenuous intervals of international business affairs. It is a pity he does not go slower and see more.
The real grand tour, or, as the French call it, the "Circuit Européen," may well begin at Paris, and descend through Poitou to Biarritz, along the French slope of the Pyrenees, finally skirting the Mediterranean coast by Marseilles and Monte Carlo, thence to Genoa, in Italy, and north to Milan, finally reaching Vienna. This city is generally considered the outpost of comfortable automobile touring, and rightly so, for the difficulty of getting gasoline and oil, along the route, and such small necessities as an automobile requires, continually oppresses one, and dampens his enthusiasm for the beauties of nature, the fascination of historic shrines, or the worship of art, the three chief things for which the most of us travel, unless we be mere vagabonds, and journey about for the sheer love of being on the move. From Vienna to Prague, to Breslau, to Berlin, Hanover, and Cologne, and finally to Paris via Reims finishes the "circuit," which for variety and excellence of the roads cannot elsewhere be equalled.
This, or something very near to it, would be the very best possible course for a series of reliability trials, and certainly nothing quite so suitable or enjoyable for the participants could otherwise be found. It is much better than a mere pegging away round and round a two hundred and fifty kilometre circuit, as some trials and races have been run. In all the distance is something like five thousand kilometres, which easily divides itself into stages of two hundred kilometres daily, and gives one an enjoyable twenty-five days or a month of travel, which, in all its illuminating variety, is far and away ahead of the benefits our forefathers derived from the box seat of a diligence or a post-chaise.
On this trip one runs the whole gamut of the European climate, and eats the food of Paris, of the Midi, of Italy, Austria, and Germany, and wonders why it is that he likes the last one partaken of the best. Given a faultlessly running automobile (and there are many today which can do the work under these conditions) and no tire troubles, and one could hardly improve upon the poetry of motion which enables one to eat up the long silent stretches of roadway in La Beauce or the Landes, to climb the gentle slopes skirting the Pyrenees, or the ruder ones of Northern Italy, until finally he makes that bee-line across half of Europe, from Berlin to Paris. One's impressions of places when touring en automobile are apt to be hazy; like those of the energetic American who, when asked if he had been to Rome, replied, "Why, yes; that's where I bought my panama (sic) hat!"
Such a "grand tour" as outlined by the "Circuit Européen" presents a variety which it is impossible to equal. It is a tour which embraces country widely differing in characteristics—one which takes in both the long, broad, ribbon-like roads of Central France, flanked by meadows, orchards, and farmsteads, and lofty mountains from the peaks of which other peaks capped with glistening snow may be gazed upon, sunlit valleys and sparkling lakes. It is a tour which no man could possibly make without a good machine, and yet it is a tour which, with a good machine, can be considered easy and comparatively inexpensive.
One does not require a car with excessive horsepower for the trip, though he does need a machine which has been carefully constructed and adjusted, and above all he must guard carefully that his motor does not overheat, for the hills are stiff for the most part.
When touring on an itinerary as varied as that here indicated one should have anti-skidding tires on the rear wheels, take descents with care, and, if you be the owner of a powerful machine, do not make that an excuse for rushing up the tortuous, twisting, and frightfully dangerous roads, banked by a cliff on one hand, and by a precipice on the other, which abound in all mountainous regions.
In taking turnings on such roads also always keep to the right, even if this necessitates slowing down at the bends. One never knows what is descending, and in such parts slow-moving carts drawn by cattle are numerous, and generally keep the middle of the road. Most of the automobile accidents which take place on mountain roads are due to this swishing round bends, heedless of what may be on the other side, and in allowing one's machine to gather too much speed on the long descents. This is gospel! There is both sport and pleasure to be had from such an itinerary as this, but it is a serious affair, for one has to have a lookout for many things that are unthought of in a two hours' afternoon suburban promenade. The chauffeur, be he professional or amateur, who brings his automobile back from the Circuit Européen under its own power is entitled to be called expert.
As for the value to automobilism of this great trial one can hardly overestimate it. There is no place here for the freak machine or scorching chauffeur, such as one has found in many great events of the past. A great touring contest over such a course would be bound to have important results in many ways. The ordinary class of circuit is a very close approach to a racing-track, with gasoline and tire stations established at many points of the course. On the European Circuit such advantages would be out of the question, everything would have to be taken as it exists naturally. In a sense, such a competition would be a return to the contests organized in the early days of the automobile, the Paris-Bordeaux and Paris-Berlin races, when the driver had ever to be on the alert for unforeseen difficulties unknown on the racing-circuit as understood in recent years.
To follow the Circuit Européen one traverses France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Belgium; and one may readily enough, if time and inclination permit, get also a glimpse of Spain, Switzerland, and Holland. Generally the automobile tourist has confined his trip to France, as properly he might, but, if he would go further afield, the European Circuit, as it has become classically known, is an itinerary vouched for as to its practicability and interest by the allied automobile and touring clubs of many lands.
France is still far in the lead in the accommodation which it offers to the automobilist, but Germany has made great strides of late, and the other frontier boundary states have naturally followed suit. Roads improvement in Germany has gone on at a wonderful rate of late, due, it is said, to the interest of the German emperor in the automobile industry, both from a sportive and a very practical side.
From Paris to the Italian frontier one finds the roads uniformly excellent; but, as one enters Italy, they deteriorate somewhat, except along the frontiers, where, curiously enough, nations seem to vie with each other in a careful maintenance of the highroads, which is, of course, laudable. This is probably due to strategic military reasons, but so long as it benefits the automobilist he will not cry out for disarmament.
The Austrian roads are fair—near Vienna and Prague they are quite good; but they are dangerous with deep ditches and gullies which the French know as canivaux, the Austrians by some unpronounceable name, and the Anglo-Saxon as "thank-you-marms." From Prague to Breslau the roads are twisting and turning, and large stones jut here and there above the actual road level. This is a real danger, a very considerable annoyance. From Breslau to Potsdam one gets as dusty a bit of road travelling as he will find in all Europe. One side of the road only is stone-rolled, the other apparently being merely loose sand, or some variety of dust which whirls up in clouds and even penetrates one's tightly closed bags and boxes. Hanover, the home of Continental tires, is surrounded in every direction with execrable cobblestones, or whatever the German equivalent is—"pflaster," the writer thinks. Probably the makers of the excellent tires for automobiles have nothing to do with the existence of this awful pavé, and perhaps if you accused them of it they would repair your tires without charge! The writer does not know.
From Hanover to Minden the roads improve, and when one actually strikes the trail of Napoleon he finds the roads better and better. Napoleon nearly broke up Europe, or saved it—the critics do not agree, but he was the greatest road-builder since the Romans.
Finally, crossing the Rhine at Cologne and passing through Belgium, one enters France by the valley of the Meuse.
One of the most remarkable tours was that undertaken in 1904 by Georges Cormier, in a tiny six horse-power De Dion Populaire. He left the Automobile Club de France in mid-October for Sens, his first stop, 101 kilometres from Paris. His route thenceforth was by Dijon, Les Rousses, and the Col de la Faucille, whence he reached Geneva, after crossing the Swiss frontier, in a torrential rain.
From Geneva he reentered France by the Pont de la Caille, then to Aiguebelle and St. Jeanne de Maurienne, where the women wear the most theatrical picturesque costumes to be seen in France.
After passing Modane and Lanslebourg he followed the ascent of Mont Cenis for ten kilometres before he reached the summit of the pass. Within three kilometres he struck the snow-line, and the falling snow continued to the summit. Here he found two douaniers and two gendarmes, who appeared glad enough to have the monotony of their lonely vigil relieved by the advent of an automobile, quite unlooked for at this season of the year.
The descent to Susa and the great plain of the Po was long and dangerous. It is sixty-two kilometres from Modane to Susa, either up-hill or down-hill, with the descent by far the longest. It is one of the most enjoyable routes between France and Italy. Once on the Italian side the whole climatic aspect of things changes. The towns are highly interesting whenever met with, and the panoramas superb, but there is a marked absence of that active life of the fields, of cattle and human labourers that one remarks in France.
From Turin the route of this energetic little car passed Plaisance, crossed the Appenines between Bologna and Florence, and so to Venice, or rather to Mestre, where the car was put in a garage while the conductor paid his respects to the Queen of the Adriatic.
From Mestre the route lay by Udine, Pontebba, Pontafel, Villac Judenburg, and Murzzuschlag, through Styria to Vienna, with the roadways continually falling off in excellence. Here are M. Cormier's own words: "Mais, par exemple, comme routes, Dieu que c'est mauvais! Malgré cela, j'y retournerai; le pays vaut la peine que l'on affronte les cailloux, les ornières, les dos d'âne at les dérapages sur le sol mouillé, comme je l'ai trop trouvé, hélas!"
Of the road from Vienna, through Moravia and Bohemia, the tourist wrote also feelingly. "May I never see those miserable countries again," he said. Things must have improved in the last two or three years, but the cause of the little De Dion's troubles was the frequent recurrence of culverts or canivaux across the road. Five hundred in one day nearly did for the little De Dion, or would have done so had not it been carefully driven.
From Prague the German frontier was crossed at Zinnwalo, a tiny hamlet well hidden on a mountain-top, beyond which is a descent of fifty kilometres to Dresden. From Dresden to Berlin the way lay over delightful forest roads, little given to traffic, and most enjoyable at any season of the year, unless there be snow upon the ground.
From Berlin the route was by Magdebourg, Hanover, Munster, and Wesel, and Holland was entered at Beek, a little village ten kilometres from Nymegen. At Nymegen the Waal was crossed by a steam ferry-boat, and at Arnhem the Rhine was passed by a bridge of boats, a surviving relic in Continental Europe still frequently to be found, as at Wesel and Dusseldorf in Germany, and even in Italy, near Ferrara on the Po.
Utrecht came next, then Amsterdam—"a little tour of Holland," as the De Dion's conductor put it. In the suburbs of the large Dutch towns, notably Utrecht, one makes his way through miles and miles of garden walls, half-hiding coquettish villas. The surface of the roads here is formed of a peculiar variety of paving that makes them beloved of automobilists, it being of small brick placed edgewise, and very agreeable to ride and drive upon.
From Utrecht the route was more or less direct to Antwerp. At the Belgian frontier acquaintance was made with that horrible granite-block road-bed, for which Belgium is notorious. After Antwerp, Brussels, then forty-five kilometres of road even worse—if possible—than that which had gone before. (The Belgian chauffeurs call that portion of the route between Brussels and Gemblout a disgrace to Belgium.) The French frontier was gained, through Namur, at Rocroi, and Paris reached, via Meaux, thirty-nine days after the capital had previously been quitted.
This was probably the most remarkable "grand tour" which had been made up to that time, and it was done with a little six horse-power car, which suffered no accidents save those that one is likely to meet with in an afternoon's promenade. The automobile itself weighed, with its baggage and accessories, practically six hundred kilos, and with its two passengers 760 kilos. The distance covered was 4,496 kilometres.
As old residents of Paris we, like other automobilists, had come to dread the twenty-five or thirty kilometres which lead from town out through Choisy-le-Roi and Villeneuve St. Georges, at which point the road begins to improve, and the execrable suburban Paris pavement, second to nothing for real vileness, except that of Belgium, is practically left behind, all but occasional bits through the towns.
At any rate, since our automobile horse was eating his head off in the garage at St. Germain, we decided on one bright May morning to conduct him forthwith by as comfortable a road as might be found from St. Germain around to Choisy-le-Roi.
Getting across Paris is one of the dreaded things of life. For the traveller by train who, fleeing from the fogs of London, as he periodically does in droves from November to February of each year, desires to make the south-bound connection at the Gare de Lyon, it is something of a problem. He may board the "Ceinture" with a distrust the whole while that his train may not make it in time, or he may go by cab, provided he will run the risk of some of his numerous impedimenta being left behind, for—speak it lightly—the Englishman is still found who travels with his bath-tub, though, if he is at all progressive, it may be a collapsible india-rubber affair which you blow up like the tires of an automobile.
For the automobilist there is the same dread and fear. To avoid this one has simply to make his way carefully from St. Germain, via Port Marly, or Marly-Bailly, to St. Cyr (where is the great military school), to Versailles, thence to Choisy-le-Roi via the Route Nationale which passes to the south of Sceaux. The route is not, perhaps, the shortest, and it takes something of the skill of the old pathfinders to worry it out, but it absolutely avoids the pavements between St. Germain and Versailles and equally avoids the drive through Paris with its attendant responsibilities.
The automobilist, once clear of Paris, has only to think of the open road. There will be little to bother him now, save care in negotiating the oft-times narrow, awkward turnings of an occasional small town where, if it is market-day, untold disaster may await him if he does not look sharp.
On the occasion of our flight south, nothing on the whole journey happened to give us any concern, save at Pithiviers, where a market-wagon with a staid old farm-horse—who did not mean any harm—charged us and lifted off the right mud-guard, necessitating an hour's work or more at the blacksmith's to straighten it out again.
At any rate, we had covered a trifle over a hundred kilometres from Paris, and that was something. We lunched well at the Hôtel de la Poste, and sent off to city-bound friends in the capital samples of the lark patties for which the town is famous.
Nearly every town in France has its specialty; Pithiviers its pâté des allouettes; Montélimar its nougat; Axat its mousserons; Perigueux its truffes, and Tours its rillettes. When one buys them away from the land of their birth he often buys dross, hence it is a real kindness to send back eatable souvenirs of one's round, much more kind than would be the tawdry jugs and plates emblazoned in lurid colours, or white wood napkin-rings and card-cases, usually gathered in as souvenirs.
It is forty-two kilometres to Orleans, one of the most historic and, at the same time, one of the most uninteresting cities in France, a place wholly without local dignity and distinction. Its hotels, cafés, and shops are only second-rate for a place of its rank, and the manners and customs of its people but weak imitations of those of Paris. You can get anything you may need in the automobile line most capably attended to, and you can be housed and fed comfortably enough in either of the two leading hotels, but there is nothing inspiring or even satisfying about it, as we knew from a half-dozen previous occasions.
We slept that night beneath the frowning donjon walls of Beaugency's L'Ecu de Bretagne, for something less than six francs apiece for dinner, lodging, and morning coffee, and did not regret in the least the twenty-five kilometres we had put between us and Orleans.
At one time it was undecided whether we should come on to Beaugency, or put in at Meung, the attraction of the latter place being, for the sentimentalist, that it is the scene of the opening pages of Dumas's "Trois Mousquetaires," and, in an earlier day, the cradle of Jehan de Meung, the author of the "Roman de la Rose." No evidences of Dumas's "Franc Meunier" remained, and, as there was no inn with as romantic a name as that at Beaugency, we kept on another seven kilometres.
We had made it a rule, while on the trip, not to sleep in a large town when we could do otherwise, and that is why Orleans and Blois and Bordeaux are mere guide-posts in our itinerary.
From Beaugency to Blois is thirty odd kilometres only, along the flat, national highway, with glimpses of the broad, shining ribbon of the Loire here and there gleaming through the trees.
Blois is the gateway of the châteaux country; a score of them are within a day's compass by road or rail; but their delights are worthy of a volume, so they are only suggested here.
The châteaux of Blois, Chambord, Cheverny, Amboise, Chaumont, Chenonceaux, Loches, Azay le Rideau, Luynes, and Langeais, at any rate, must be included in even a hurried itinerary, and so we paid a hasty visit to them all in the order named, and renewed our acquaintance with their artistic charms and their historical memories of the days of François and the Renaissance. For the tourist the châteaux country of the Loire has no beginning and no end. It is a sort of circular track encompassing both banks of the Loire, and is, moreover, a thing apart from any other topographical division of France.
Its luxuriant life, its splendidly picturesque historical monuments, and the appealing interest of its sunny landscape, throughout the length and breadth of old Touraine, are unique pages from a volume of historical and romantic lore which is unequalled elsewhere in all the world.
The climate, too, combines most of the gentle influences of the southland, with a certain briskness and clearness of atmosphere usually found in the north.
By road the Loire valley forms a magnificent promenade; by rail, even, one can keep in close and constant touch with its whole length; while, if one has not the time or inclination to traverse its entire course, there is always the delightful "tour from town," by which one can leave the Quai d'Orsay by the Orleans line at a comfortable morning hour and, before lunch-time, be in the midst of the splendour and plenty of Touraine and its châteaux.
We made our headquarters at Blois, and again at Tours, for three days each, and we explored the châteaux country, and some other more humble outlying regions, to our hearts' content.
Blois is tourist-ridden; its hotels are partly of the tourist orders, and its shopkeepers will sell you "American form" shoes and "best English" hats. It is really too bad, for the overpowering splendours of the château, the quaint old Renaissance house-fronts, the streets of stairs, and the exceedingly picturesque and lively congregation of countryside peasants on a market-day would make it a delightful artists' sketching-ground were one not crowded out by "bounders" in bowler hats and others of the genus tripper.
The Hôtel d'Angleterre et de Chambord is good, well-conducted, and well-placed, but it is as unsympathetically disposed an hostelry as one is likely to find. Just why this is so is inexplicable, unless it be that it is a frankly tourist hotel.
At Tours we did much better. The praises of the Hôtel de l'Univers are many; they have been sung by most latter-day travellers from Henry James down; and the Automobile Club de France has bestowed its recommendation upon it—which it deserves. For all this one is not wholly at his ease here. We remembered that on one occasion, when we had descended before its hospitable doors, travel-worn and weary, we had been pained to find a sort of full-dress dinner going on where we expected to find an ordinary table d'hôte. For this reason alone we passed the hotel by, and hunted out the quaintly named Hotel du Croissant, in a dimly lighted little back street, indicated by a flaring crescent of electric lights over its porte-cochère.
We drove our automobile more or less noisily inside the little flagged courtyard, woke up two dozing cats, who were lying full-length before us, and disturbed a round dozen of sleek French commercial travellers at their evening meal.
They treated us remarkably well at Tours's Hôtel du Croissant. "Follow the commis-voyageur in France and dine well (and cheaply)" might readily be the motto of all travellers in France. The bountiful fare, the local colour, the hearty greeting, and equally hearty farewell of the patronne, and the geniality of the whole personnel gave us an exceedingly good impression of the contrast between the tourist hotel of Blois and the maison bourgeois of Tours, always to the advantage of the latter.
The banks of the Loire immediately below Tours grow the only grape in France—perhaps in all the world—which is able to produce a satisfactory substitute for champagne.
Vineyard after vineyard line the banks for miles on either side and give great crops of the celebrated vin mosseaux, the most of which finds its way to Paris, to be sold by second-rate dealers as the "vrai vin de champagne." There's no reason why it shouldn't be sold on its own merits; it is quite good enough; but commerce bows down to American millionaires, English dukes, and the German emperor, and the king of wines of to-day must be labelled champagne.
From Tours to Niort is 170 kilometres, and we stopped not on the way except to admire some particularly entrancing view, to buy gasoline for the automobile, and for lunch at Poitiers.
The whole aspect of things was changing; there was a breath of the south already in the air; and there was an unspeakable tendency on the part of everybody to go to sleep after the midday meal.
We passed Chatellerault and its quaint old turreted and bastioned bridge at just the hour of noon, and were tempted to stop, for we had just heard of the latest thing in the way of a hotel which was brand-new, with steam heat, and hot and cold water, electric lights, baths, etc. Nothing was said about the bill of fare, though no doubt it was equally excellent. The combination didn't appeal, however; we were out after novelty and local colour, and so we rolled on and into Poitiers's Hôtel de l'Europe and lunched well in the most charmingly cool garden-environed dining-room that it were possible to conceive. We had made a wise choice, though on a hit-or-miss formula, and we were content.
Here at least the dim echo of the rustle and bustle of Paris, which drifts down the valley of the Loire from Orleans to the sea, was left behind; a whole new chromatic scale was being built up. No one hurried or rushed about, and one drank a "tilleuil" after déjeuner, instead of coffee, with the result that he got sleepy forthwith.
There are five magnificent churches at Poitiers, dating from Roman and mediæval times, but we saw not one of them as we passed through the town. Again we had decided we were out after local manners and customs, and, for the moment, churches were not in the category of our demands.
We had only faint glimmerings as to where Niort was, or what it stood for, but we were bound thither for the night. We left Poitiers in mid-afternoon, gaily enough, but within five kilometres we had stopped dead. The sparking of course; nothing else would diagnose the case! It took three hours of almost constant cranking of the unruly iron monster before the automobile could be made to start again.
Once started, the automobile ran but fitfully the seventy-five kilometres to Niort, the whole party, with fear and trembling, scarcely daring to turn sidewise to regard the landscape, or take an extra breath. There was no assistance to be had this side of Niort, and should the sparking arrangements go back on us again, and we were not able to start, there was no hope of being towed in at the back of a sturdy farm-horse; the distance was too great. Once we thought we had nearly lost it again, but before we had actually lost our momentum the thing recovered itself, and we ran fearingly down the broad avenue into Niort, and asked anxiously as to whether there might be a grand maison des automobiles in the town.
Indeed there was, and in the twinkling of an eye we had shunted our poor lame duck into the courtyard of a workshop which gave employment to something like seventy-five hands, all engaged in the manufacture of automobiles which were exported to the ends of the earth.
Here was help surely. Nothing could be too great or too small for an establishment like this to undertake, and so we left the machine with an easy heart and hunted out the excellent Hôtel de France—the best hotel of its class between Paris and Bordeaux. We dined sumptuously on all the good things of the north and the south, to say nothing of fresh sardines from La Rochelle, not far distant, and we gave not a thought to the automobile again that night, but strolled on the quay by the little river Sêvre-Niortaise, and watched the moon rise over the old château donjon, and heard the rooks caw, and saw them circle and swing around its battlement in a final night-call before they went to rest. It was all very idyllic and peaceful, although Niort is, as may be inferred, an important centre for many things.
We had planned to be on the road again by eight the next morning, but, on arrival at the garage, or more correctly stated, the usine, where we had left the automobile the night before, we found it the centre of a curious group who were speculating—and had been since six o'clock that morning—as to what might be the particular new variety of disease that had attacked its vital parts so seriously that it still refused to go.
It was twelve o'clock, high noon, before it was discovered—with the aid of the electrician from the electric light works—that two tiny ends of copper wire, inside the coil (which a Frenchman calls a bobine), had become unsoldered, and only when by chance they rattled into contact would the sparking arrangements work as they ought.
This was something new for all concerned. None of us will be likely to be caught that way again. The cost was most moderate. It was not the automobile owner who paid for the experience this time, a thing which absolutely could not have happened outside of France. Pretty much the whole establishment had had a hand in the job, and, if the service had been paid for according to the time spent, it might have cost anything the establishment might have chosen to charge.
Ten francs paid the bill, and we went on our way rejoicing, after having partaken of a lunch, as excellent as the dinner we had eaten the night before, at the Hôtel de France.
La Rochelle, the city of the Huguenots, and later of Richelieu, was reached just as the setting sun was slanting its red and gold over the picturesque old port and the Tour de Richelieu. If one really wants to know what it looked like, let him hunt up Petitjean's "Port de la Rochelle" in the Musée de Luxembourg at Paris. Words fail utterly to describe the beauty and magnifycence of this hitherto unoverworked artists' sketching-ground.
We threaded our way easily enough through the old sentinel gateway spanning the main street, lined with quaint old arcaded, Spanish-looking houses, and drew up abreast of the somewhat humble-looking Hôtel du Commerce, on the Place d'Armes, opposite the ugly little squat cathedral, once wedded to the haughty Richelieu himself.
The Hôtel du Commerce at La Rochelle is the equal of the Hôtel de France at Niort, and has the added attraction of a glass-covered courtyard, where you may take your coffee and watch the household cats amusing themselves with the goldfish in the pool of the fountain which plays coolingly in the centre.
La Rochelle and its Hôtel du Commerce are too good to be treated lightly or abruptly by any writer; but, for fear they may both become spoiled, no more shall be said here except to reiterate that they are both unapproachable in quaintness, comfort, and charm by anything yet found by the writer in four years of almost constant wanderings by road and rail up and down France.
Offshore four kilometres is the Ile de Ré, an isle thirty kilometres long, where the inhabitants wear the picturesque coiffe and costume which have not become contaminated with Paris fashions. The one thing to criticize is the backwardness of the lives of the good folk of the isle and their enormous pieds plats.
Northward from La Rochelle is a region, almost within sight of the Ile de Ré, where the women wear the most highly theatrical costumes to be seen anywhere in modern France, not even excepting the peasants of Brittany. The chief distinction of the costume is a sort of tiny twisted bandanna over the head, a tight-fitting or folded fichu, a short ballet sort of a skirt, black stockings, and a gaily bordered apron and dainty, high-heeled, tiny shoes—in strong contrast in size and form to the ungainly feet of the women of the Ile de Ré.
We left La Rochelle with real regret, passed the fortified town of Rochefort without a stop, and, in something over two hours, reeled off some sixty-eight kilometres of sandy, marshy roadway to Saintes.
Saintes is noted for many things: its antiquity, its religious history, its Roman remains, and the geniality of its toddling old dealer in sewing-machines (of American make, of course), who, as a "side" line, sells gasoline and oil at considerably under the prevailing rates elsewhere. Truly we were in the ideal touring-ground for automobilists.
To Cognac is sixty-seven kilometres. If we had ever known that Cognac was the name of a town we had forgotten it, for we had, for the moment, at any rate, thought it the name of the region where were gathered the grapes from which cognac was made.
Cognac is famous for the subtle spirit which is sold the world over under that name, and from the fact that it was the birthplace of the art-loving monarch, François Premier.
For these two reasons, and for the bountiful lunch of the Hôtel d'Orleans, and incidentally for the very bad cognac which we got at a café whose name is really and truly forgotten, Cognac is writ large in our note-books.
The house where was born François Premier is easily found, sitting by the river's bank. To-day it is the counting-house of one of the great brandy shippers whose name is current the world over. Its associations have changed considerably, and where once the new art instincts were born, in the person of the gallant François, is now the cradle of commercialism.
The question as to what constitutes good brandy has ever been a favourite one among possessors of a little knowledge. The same class has also been known to state that there is no good brandy nowadays, no vrai cognac. This is a mistake, but perhaps a natural one, as the cognac district in the Charente was almost wholly devastated in the phylloxera ravages of half a century ago.
Things have changed, however, and there is as good cognac to-day as there ever was, though there is undoubtedly much more poor stuff being sold.
Down through the heart of the cognac region we sped, through Blaye to Bordeaux and all the busy traffic of its port.
Bordeaux is attractive to the automobilist in that one enters, from any direction, by wide, broad avenues. It is one of the great provincial capitals of France, a great gateway through which much of the intercourse with the outside world goes on.
It is not so cosmopolitan as Marseilles, nor so historically or architecturally interesting as Rouen, but it is the very ideal of an opulent and well-conducted city, where one does not need to await the arrival of the daily papers from Paris in order to know what has happened during the last round of the clock.
Hotels? The town is full of them! You may put up your automobile in the garage of the Hôtel du Chapon-Fin, along with forty others, and you yourself will be well cared for, according to city standards, for twelve or fifteen francs a day,—which is not dear. On the other hand, Bordeaux possesses second-class hotels where, all found, you may sleep and eat for the modest sum of seven francs a day. One of these is the Hôtel Français, a somewhat extensive establishment in a tiny back street. It is the cheapest city hotel the writer has found in France. There was no garage at the Hotel Français, and we were forced to house our machine a block or two away, where, for the moderate sum of two francs, you might leave it twenty-four hours, and get it back washed and rubbed down, while for another fifty centimes they would clean the brass work,—a nasty job well worth the price. Yes! Bordeaux is pleasant for the automobilist!
Two things the stranger, who does not want to go too far back into antiquity, will remark upon at Bordeaux, the exceeding ampleness, up-to-date-ness, and cleanliness of the great open space in front of the Opera, and the imposing and beautifully laid out Place des Quinconces, with its sentinel pillars and its waterside traffic of railway and shipping, blending into a whole which inspired one of the world's greatest pictures of the feverish life of modern activity, the painting by Eugene Boudin, known as the "Port de Bordeaux," in the Luxembourg.
You may find a good low-priced hotel at Bordeaux, but you pay inflated prices for your refreshments in the cafés; a café-glacê cost fifteen sous and a glace à café twenty-five on the terrace of the magnificent establishment opposite the Opera.
We had been touring France en automobile for many months—for business purposes, one might say, and hence had followed no schedule or itinerary, but had lingered by the way and made notes, and the artist made sketches, and in general we acquired a knowledge of France and things French that otherwise might not have been our lot.
The mere name of the Pyrenees had long had a magic sound for us. We had seen them at a distance, from Carcassonne and Toulouse and Pau, when we had made the conventional tour years ago, and had admired them greatly, to the disparagement of the Swiss Alps. This may be just, or unjust, but it is recorded here as a fact.
To climb mountains in an automobile appealed to us as a sport not yet banal or overdone, and since Switzerland—so hospitable to most classes of tourists—was treating automobilists badly just at the time, we thought we would begin by making the itinerary of the "Coupe des Pyrénées;" then, if we liked it, we could try the French Alps in Dauphiné and Savoie, delightful and little-known French provinces which have all the advantages of Switzerland and few of its disadvantages, inasmuch as the inhabitants of the valley hamlets and mountain towns have not become so commerçant as their Swiss brothers.
In August, 1905, was organized, by La Vie en Grand Air and La Dépêche de Toulouse, a great contest for touring automobiles, for an award to be known as the "Coupe des Pyrénées."
As a work of art the "Coupe des Pyrénées" is far and away ahead of most "cups" of the sort. It was the work of the sculptor, Ducuing, and the illustration herewith will show some of its charm. The "coupe" itself has disappeared from mortal view, it having been stolen from an automobile exposition in London.
The trials was intended to develop that type of vehicle best suited to touring, and in every way the event was a great success. The itinerary covered the lovely mountain roads from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and was the immediate inspiration for the author of this book to follow along the same trail. It is one of the most delightful excursions to be made in all France, which is saying that it is one of the most delightful in all the world.
We took our departure from Toulouse, as did the participants in this famous trial of the year before. Toulouse, the gay capital of the gay province of old Languedoc, has abounding attractions for the tourist of all tastes, though it is seldom visited by those who, with the first swallows of spring-time, wing their way from the resorts of the Riviera to Biarritz.
Toulouse has many historic sights and monuments, and a cuisine which is well worth a trip across France. What with truffles and the famous cassoulet and the chapons fins de Toulouse one forgets to speak of anything else on the menu, though the rest will be sufficiently marvellous.
There are three "leading" hotels in Toulouse catering for the automobile tourist. According to report they are all equally good. We chose the Capoul, on the Square Lafayette, and had no cause to regret it. We dined sumptuously, slept in a great ducal sort of an apartment with a hygiénique bedstead (a thing of brass openwork and iron springs) tucked away in one corner, full fifteen paces from the door by which one entered—"Un bon kilomètre encore," said the garçon de chambre, facetiously, as he showed us up. It promised airiness, at any rate, and if we were awakened at four in the morning by the extraordinarily early traffic of the city what did it matter, since automobiles invariably take early to the road.
It's worth stating here that the café au lait at six A. M. at the Hôtel Capoul was excellent. Frequently hotel coffee in the morning in France (at no matter what hour) is abominable. Usually it is warmed over from the night before. No wonder it is bad!
Toulouse delayed us not on this occasion. We had known it of old; so we started a little before seven on a brilliant September morning, just as the sun was rising over the cathedral towers and strengthening the shadows on the tree-lined boulevard which leads eastward via Castlemaudry to the walled city of Carcassonne, ninety-six kilometres away. The road-books say of this route;
"Pl. Roul. puis Ond Tr. Pitt." This freely translated means that the road is at first flat, then rolling and hilly, but very picturesque throughout. Castlemaudry delayed us not a moment, except to extricate ourselves from a troop of unbridled, unhaltered little donkeys being driven to the market-place, where there was a great sale of these gentle little beasts of burden. Pas méchant, these little donkeys, but stubborn, like their brethren elsewhere, and it was exceedingly difficult to force our way through two hundred of them, all of whom wiggled their ears at us and stood their ground until their guardians actually came and pushed them to one side. "You can often push a donkey when you can't pull him," they told us, a fact which was most apparent, though unknown to us previously. We arrived at Carcassonne in time for lunch, which we had always supposed was called déjeuner in France, but which we learned was here called dîner, the evening meal (at the fashionable hour of eight) being known as souper, though in reality it is a five-course dinner.
Carcassonne was a disappointment. Imagine a puffed-up little metropolis of twenty-five thousand souls with all the dignity that half a dozen pretentious hotels and gaudy cafés can give it; not very clean, nor very well laid out, nor very ancient-looking, nor very picturesque. Where was the Carcassonne of the frowning ramparts, of the gem of a Gothic church, and of the romance and history of which all school-books are filled?
"Oh! You mean la Cité," said the buxom hostess of our hotel. (They are always buxom hostesses in books, but this was one in reality.) Well, yes, we did mean la Cité, if by that name the referred to the old walled town of Carcasonne, la ville la plus curieuse de France, un monument unique au mond.
It is but a short kilometre to reach la Cité from the Ville Basse, as the modern city of Carcassonne is known. Once within the double row of walls, flanked by more than fifty towers, any preconceived ideas that one may have had of what it might be like will be dispelled in air. It is the most stupendously theatrical thing yet on top of earth, unless it be the sad and dismal Pompeii or poor rent Les Baux, in Provence.
The history of this wonder-work cannot be compressed into a few lines. One can merely emphasize its marvellous attractions, so that those who are in the neighbourhood may go and study it all out for themselves. It will be worth whole volumes on history and architecture for the earnest student to see these things. Among all the authorities who have proclaimed the magnificent attractions of Carcassonne the words of Viollet-le-Duc are as convincing as any. He says: "In no part of Europe is there anything so formidable, nor at the same time so complete, as the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth century fortifications of Carcassonne."
We stayed a full day at Carcassonne, and reached the frowning battlements of the Eglise St. Nazaire, at Béziers, at just two by the clock. This is the hour when all the commis-voyageurs, who may have taken lunch at the Hôtel du Nord, are dozing over their café and petites verres, and the patron and patronne of the hotel are making preparations for their early afternoon siesta, an attribute of all the Midi of France, as it is of Spain.
Nothing loath, the kitchen staff, spurred on by the patron (all thoughts of his siesta having vanished), turned out a most excellent lunch, hors d'œuvres, fresh sardines, omelette, cotelette d'agneau with pommes paille, delicious grapes, and all you wish of the red or white vin du pays. All for the absurd sum (considering the trouble they were put to) of three francs each. No "doing" the automobilist here; let other travellers make a note of the name!
Béziers is altogether one of the most remarkably disposed large towns of the south of France. Its storied past is lurid enough to please the most bloodthirsty, as is recalled by the history of its fortress-church of St. Nazaire, now the cathedral. For the rest the reader must hunt it out in his guide-book. We were doing no lightning tour, but we were of a mind to sleep that night at Perpignan, approximately a hundred kilometres farther on.
Southward our road turned again, through Narbonne, which, both from its history and from its present-day importance, stands out as one of the well-remembered spots in one's itinerary of France. It is full of local colour; its bridge of houses over its river is the delight of the artistic; its Hôtel de Ville and its cathedral are wonders of architectural art; and, altogether, as the ancient capital of an ancient province, one wonders that a seventeenth-century traveller had the right to call it "cette vilaine ville de Narbonne."
All the way to Perpignan the roads were terrifically bad, being cut up into great dusty ruts by many great carts and drays hauling wine-pipes to the railway stations. The traffic is enormous, for it is the wines of Roussillon that are shipped all over France for blending with and fortifying the weaker vintages, even those of the Gironde.
Dusty in dry weather, and chalky mud in wet, are the characteristic faults of this hundred kilometres or more of Herault roadway which one must cross to gain the shadow of the Pyrenees. There seems to be no help for it unless cobblestones were to be put down, which would be a cure worse than the disease.
Perpignan is the most entrancing city between Marseilles and Barcelona. It has many of the characteristics of both, though of only thirty thousand inhabitants. The old fortifications, which once gave it an aspect of mediævalism, are now (by decree of 1903) being torn down, and only the quaintly picturesque Castillet remains. The rest are—at the present writing—a mere mass of crumbled bricks and mortar, and a real blemish to an otherwise exceedingly attractive, gay little city. The automobile garages are all side by side on a new-made street, on the site of one line of the old fortifications, and are suitable enough when found, but no directions which were given us enabled us to house our machine inside of half an hour's time after we had entered the town. Our hotel, unfortunately, was one of the few that did not have a garage as an adjunct of the establishment. In other respects the Hôtel de la Poste was a marvel of up-to-dateness. The sleeping-rooms were of that distinction known in France as hygiénique, and the stairways and walls were fire-proof, or looked it. One dined in a great first-floor apartment with a marble floor, and dined well, and there was ice for those who wanted it. (The Americans did, you may be sure.)
Perpignan is possessed of much history, much character, and much local colour of the tone which artists love, and above all a certain gaiety and brilliancy which one usually associates only with Spain.
There is what might be called a street of cafés at Perpignan, not far from the Castillet. They are great, splendid establishments, with wide, overhung, awninged terraces, and potted plants and electric lights and gold and tinsel, and mixed drinks and ices and sorbets, and all the epicurean cold things which one may find in the best establishment in Paris. These cafés are side by side and opposite each other, and are as typical of the life of the town as is the Rambla typical of Barcelona, or the Cannebière of Marseilles. They are dull enough places in the daytime, but with the hour of the apéritif, which may be anywhere between five and eight in the afternoon, they wake up a bit, then slumber until nine or nine-thirty, when gaiety descends with all its forces until any hour you like in the morning. They won't think of such a thing as turning the lights out on you in the cafés of Perpignan.
From Perpignan we turned boldly into the cleft road through the valley of the Têt, via Prades and Mont Louis to Bourg-Madame, the frontier town toward Spain, and the only decent route for entering Spain by automobile via the Mediterranean gateway.
Bourg-Madame is marked on most maps, but it is all but unknown of itself; no one thinks of going there unless he be touring the Pyrenees, or visiting Andorra, one of the unspoiled corners of Europe, as quaint and unworldly to-day as it ever was; a tiny republic of very, very few square kilometres, whose largest city or town, or whatever you choose to call it, has but five hundred inhabitants.
If one is swinging round the Pyrenean circle he goes on to Porte, where, at the Auberge Michette, he will learn all that is needful for penetrating into the unknown darkest spot in Europe. We thought to do the journey "en auto," but on arrival at Porte learned it was not to be thought of. A sure-footed little Pyrenean donkey or mule was the only pathfinder used to the twistings and turnings and blind paths of this little mountain republic, where the people speak Spanish, and religion and law are administrated by the French and Spanish authorities in turn.
It's a week's travel properly to visit Andorra and view all its wild unworldliness, so the trip is here only suggested.
We took up our route again, crossing the Col de Puymorans (1,781 metres), and dropped down on Hospitalet, which also is printed in large black letters on the maps, but which contains only 148 inhabitants, unless there have been some births and no deaths since this was written.
From Hospitalet we were going down, down, down all of the time, the valley road of the Ariége, dropping with remarkable precipitation.
In eighteen kilometres we were at Aix-les-Thermes. The guide-books call it "une jolie petite ville," and no one will dispute it, though it had no charms for us; we were more interested in routes and roads than in mere watering-places, and so, beyond a stop for gasoline for the motor, not having been able to get any for the last fifty kilometres, still following the valley of the Ariége, we arrived at Foix for lunch, at the most excellent Hôtel Benoit, just as the ice was being brought on the table and the hors d'œuvres were being portioned out.
Taken all in all, Foix was one of the most delightful towns we found in all the Pyrenean itinerary. It is quite the most daintily and picturesquely environed town imaginable, its triple-towered château and its rocher looming high above all, and sounding a dominant note which carries one back to the days when Gaston Phoebus was the seigneur of Foix.
We planned to spend the night at the Hôtel de France at St. Girons, for it was marked down in the Guide-Michelin as being fitted with those modern refinements of travel which most of us appreciate, and there was furthermore a garage and a fosse, or inspection pit. We had need of the latter, for something was going wrong beneath the body of our machine which manifestly require being attended to without delay.
We took the long way around, twenty kilometres more out of our direct road, for novelty of driving our automobile through the Grotto of Mas D'Azil. We had been through grottoes before, the Grotte de Han in the north of France, the caves where they ripen Rochefort cheeses, the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky, and some others, but we had never expected to drive an automobile through one. The Grotte de Mas-D'Azil is much like other dark, damp holes elsewhere, and the only novelty is the magnificent road which pierces it. The sensation of travelling over this road is most weird, and it was well worth the trouble of making the experiment.
From St. Girons to St. Gaudens and Montrejeau is sixty odd kilometres. Nothing happened on the way except that the road was literally thronged with great slow-moving ox-teams transporting great logs down the mountainside to the sawmills in the lower valley.
Montrejeau was a surprise and a disappointment. It was a surprise that we should find such a winsome little hill-town, and such a very excellent hotel as was the Grand Hôtel du Parc, which takes its name from a tiny hanging garden at the rear; but we were disappointed in that for a mortal half-hour we tried to make our usually willing automobile climb up on to the plateau upon which the town sits. Three separate roads we tried, each three separate times, but climb the machine would not. No one knew why, the writer least of all, and he had been chauffeur and driver of that automobile for many long months, and had never found a hill, great or small, that it would not climb. Automobiles are capricious things, like women, and sometimes they will and sometimes they will not. At last, after the natives had had sufficient amusement, and had told us that they had seen many an automobile party go without lunch because they could not get up that steep little kilometre, we found a sort of back-door entrance which looked easy, and we went up like the proverbial bird. It was not the main road into town, and it took some finding. The writer hopes that others who pass this way will be as successful. Montrejeau, with its three steep streets, its excellent hotel (when you finally got in touch with it), its old-world market-house, and its trim little café-bordered square, will be long remembered.
We debated long as to whether we should drop down to Luchon, and come around by Bagnerres-de-Bigorre or not, but since they were likely to be full of "five-o'-clockers" at this season we thought the better of it, and left them entirely out of our itinerary. When one wants it he can get the same sort of conventionality at Ermenonville, and need not go so far afield to find it.
We arrived at Tarbes, at the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs, late on Sunday afternoon. The name of the hotel augured well for good cheer, and on the whole we found it satisfactory enough. One of its most appealing features is the fact that the kitchens and the garage were once a convent. It has undergone a considerable change since then, but it lent a sort of glamour to things to know that you were stabling your automobile in such a place.
Tarbes is a great busy, overgrown, unlovely big town, which flounders under the questionable dignities of being a station of an army corps and a préfecture: Bureaucracy and Officialdom are writ large all over everything, and a poor mortal without a handle to his name, or a ribbon in his buttonhole, is looked upon as a sort of outcast when he enters a café, and accordingly he waits a long time to be served.
We got out of Tarbes at a très bonne heure the next morning without a regret, headed for Pau. All of us had always had an affection for Pau, because, in a way, we admired old Henri Quatre, even his rascality.
We found Pau, too, a great, overgrown, fussy town, a bit more delightfully environed than Tarbes, but still not at all what we had pictured it. We knew it to be a tourist resort, but we were hardly prepared for the tea-shops and the "bars" and the papers—in English and "American," as a local newsdealer told us when we went to him to buy the inevitable picture postcards.
We found out, too, that Pau has long held a unique position as the leading hunting centre on the Continent. It costs sixty francs a day for the hire of a saddle-horse, and from 350 francs to four hundred francs for the month—certainly rather dear. There are, as a rule, from thirty to forty hunters available for hire each year, but many of them are reserved by old stagers. Of privately owned horses following the hunt, the number would usually somewhat exceed two hundred. The hounds meet three times a week, and the municipality of Pau shows its appreciation of the good that hunting does for the Pyrenees resort by voting a subsidy of five thousand francs.
What history and romance there is about Pau is pretty well blotted out by twentieth-century snobbism, it would seem.
One learns that Pau was the seat of a château of the princes of Béarn as early as the tenth century. Its great splendour and importance only came with the establishment here of the residence of Gaston IV., Comte de Foix, the usurper of the throne of Navarre in 1464. In his train came a parliament, a university, an academy, and a mint. Finally came the birth of Henri Quatre, and one may yet see the great turtle-shell used by the afterwards gay monarch for a cradle. These were gay times for Pau, and the same gaiety, though of a forced nature, exists to-day with the throngs of English and Americans who are trying hard to make of it a social resort. May they not succeed. One thing they have done is to raise prices for everything to everybody. This is bad enough to begin with, and so with this parting observation Pau is crossed off the list.
There are eight highroads which cross the frontier passes from France into Spain, and two lines of railway, one along the border of the Atlantic and Hendaye, and the other following the Mediterranean coast to Barcelona.
"Il n'y a plus de Pyrénées," we were told as we were leaving Pau. It seemed that news had just been received that in fourteen hours a Spanish aeronaut had covered the 730 kilometres from Pau to Grenada "comme les oiseaux." Truly, after this, there are no more frontiers.
After Pau our route led to Mauléon (seventy-two kilometres) via Oloron, straight across Béarn, where the peasants are still of that picturesque mien which one so seldom sees out of the comic-opera chorus. One reads that the Béarnais are "irascible, jealous, and spirituel."
This is some one's opinion of times long passed, but certainly we found nothing of the kind; nothing indeed different from all the folk of the South who dawdle at their work and spend most of their leisure energetically dancing or eating.
Mauléon, known locally as Mauléon-Licharre to distinguish it from Mauléon-Barousse, is the douane station for entering France from Spain (Pampelune) via St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and St. Beat, neither of the routes much used, and not at all by automobiles.
A typical little mountain town, Mauléon is the chef-lieu of the Arrondissement, and the ancient capital of the Vicomté de Soule. It has an excellent hotel, allied to the Touring Club de France (Hôtel Saubidet), where one dines well off the fare of the country with no imitation Parisian dishes. There is a sort of a historical monument here, the Château de Mauléon (Malo-Leone—Mauvais Lion—Wicked Lion: the reader may take his choice) of the fifteenth century, which surrounds itself accommodatingly with a legend which the native will tell you, if asked.
There is no great accommodation for automobiles at Mauléon, and one can only buy oil and gasoline by going to a man named Etcheberrigary for it. His address is not given, but any one will tell you where he lives. They may not recognize your pronunciation, but they will recognize your dilemma at once and point the way forthwith.
It was forty-one kilometres to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, over an "all-up-and-down-hill" road, if there ever was one—up out of one river valley and down into another all the way until we struck the road by the banks of the Nive and approached the town.
St. Jean-Pied-de-Port takes its name from its proximity to one of the Franco-Spanish gateways through the Pyrenees.
It is in danger of becoming a resort, since the guide-books already announce it as a station climatique. Its Basque name of Donajouana, or Don Ilban-Garici, ought, however, to stop any great throng from coming.
It lies directly at the foot of the Col de Roncevalles leading into Spain (1,057 metres). The pass has ever been celebrated in the annals of war, from the days of the Paladin Roland to those of Maréchal Soult's attack on the English at Pampelune.
Considering that St. Jean-Pied-de-Port boasts of only fourteen hundred inhabitants, and is almost hidden in the Pyrenean fastness, one does very well within its walls. There is a railway to Bayonne, the post, telegraph, a pharmacy, and a Red Cross station, and the wants of the automobilist are attended to sufficiently well by the local locksmith. The Hôtel Central, on the Place du Marché, is vouched for by the Touring Club. It has a salle des bains and other useful accessories often wanting in more pretentious establishments, a dark room for camera fiends, a pit for automobiles, and electric lights. For all this you pay six franc a day. "Pas cher!"
Bayonne, through the Basque country, is fifty odd kilometres distant, a gentle descent all the way, down the valley of the Nive.
The Basques are a picturesque and lovable people, and they have kept their characteristics and customs bright and shining through many centuries of change round about them.
They love the dance, all kinds of agile games like the jeu de paume and pelota, and will dance for three days at a fête with a passion which does not tire. Even to-day the Basque thinks more of a local fête than he does of anything else, and will journey fifteen or twenty kilometres afoot—if he can't get a ride—to form a part of some religious procession or a tournée de paume.
Cambo, midway between St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and Bayonne, is a tiny spring and bath resort trying hard to be fashionable. There are many villas near-by of wealthy "Basques-Americains," from the Argentine.
The Basques, at least the Basques-Français, are a disappearing factor in the population of Europe. It is said there are more Basques in the Argentine Republic than in the Republic of France, and all because of the alienation of the Basques by Louis XIV. when he married Marie-Thérèse and her 500,000 écus of dot. Since 1659 the real Basque, he or she of the fine teeth, has been growing beautifully less in numbers, both in France and in Spain.
A certain fillip was given to Cambo by the retreat here of Edward Rostand, the author of "Cyrano" and "L'Aiglon." In his wake followed litterateurs and journalists, and the fame of the hitherto unworldly little spot—sheltered from all the winds that blow—was bruited abroad, and the Touring Club de France erected a pavilion; thus all at once Cambo became a "resort," in all that the name implies.
A mécanicien has not yet come to care for the automobilist in trouble, but the locksmith (serrurier) will do what he can and charge you little for it. Gasoline is high-priced, fifty sous a bidon.
Bayonne, with its tradition, its present-day prosperity, and its altogether charming situation, awaited us twenty odd kilometres away, and we descended upon its excellent, but badly named, Grand Hotel just at nightfall. There's another more picturesquely named near by, and no doubt as excellent, called the Panier-Fleuri. We would much rather have stopped at the latter,—if only on account of its name,—but there was no accommodation for the automobile. M. Landlord, brace up!
Bayonne is a fortress of the first class, and commands the western gateway into Spain. Its brilliant aspect, its cosmopolitanism, and its storied past appealed to us more than did the attractions of its more fastidious neighbour, Biarritz. One can see a better bull-fight at Bayonne than he can at Biarritz, where his sport must consist principally of those varieties of gambling games announced by European hotel-keepers as having "all the diversions of Monte Carlo." Bull-fighting is forbidden in France, but more or less mysteriously it comes off now and then. We did not see anything of the sort at Bayonne, but we had many times at Arles, and Nimes, and knew well that when the southern Frenchman sets about to provide a gory spectacle he can give it quite as rosy a hue as his Spanish brother.
Biarritz called us the next day, and, not wishing to be taken for dukes, or millionaires, or chauffeurs and their friends out on a holiday, we left the automobile en garage, and covered the seven kilometres by the humble tramway. Be wise, and don't take your automobile to a resort like Biarritz unless you want to pay.
It's a long way from the Pont Saint-Esprit at Bayonne to the plage at Biarritz, in manners and customs, at any rate, and the seeker after real local colour will find more of it at Bayonne than he will at its seaside neighbour, where all is tinged with Paris, St. Petersburg, and London.
The Empress Eugénie, or perhaps Napoleon III., "made" Biarritz when he built the first villa in the little Basque fishing-village, which had hitherto known neither courts nor coronets. There's no doubt about it; Biarritz is a fine resort of its class, as are Monte Carlo and Ostende. One can study human nature at all three, if that is what he is out for; so, too, he can—the same sort—on Paris's boulevards.
|Icemen||Gorges du Pierre Lys|
|On the Road in the Pyrenees|
The month of October is time for the gathering of the fashionables and elegants of all capitals at Biarritz. All the world bathes together in the warm waters of the Plage des Basques, and the sublime contrast of the Pyrenees on one hand, and the open sea and sky on the other, give a panorama of grandeur that few of its competitors have.
The visitors to Biarritz daily augment in numbers, and, since it had been a sort of neutral trysting-ground for the King and Queen of Spain before their marriage, and since the seal of his approval has been given to it by Edward VII. of England (to the great disconcern of the Riviera hotel-keepers), it bids fair to become even more popular.
From Bayonne to the Spanish frontier it is thirty kilometres by the road which runs through the Basque country and through St. Jean-de-Luz, a delightful little seaside town which has long been a "resort" of the mildly homeopathic kind, and which, let us all hope, will never degenerate into another Nice, or Cannes, or Menton. The great event of its historic past was the marriage here of Louis XIV. with the Infanta Marie-Thérès on the sixth of June, 1660, but to-day everything (in the minds of the inhabitants) dates from the arrival of the increasing shoals of visitor from "brumeuse Angleterre" in the first days of November, with the added hope that this year's visitors will exceed in numbers those of the last—which they probably will.
Those who know not St. Jean-de-Luz and its charms had best hurry up before they entirely disappear. The Automobile Club de France endorses the Hôtel d'Angleterre of St. Jean as to its beds and its table, and also notes the fact that you may count on spending anything you like from thirteen francs a day upward for your accommodation. The Touring Club de France swears by the Hôtel Terminus-Plage (equally unfortunately named), and here you will get off for ten francs or so per day, and probably be cared for quite as well as at the other. In any case they both possess a salle des bains and a shelter for your automobile.
We stopped only for lunch, and found it excellent, at the Hôtel de la Poste, with vin compris—which is not the case at the great hotels. En passant, let the writer say that the average "tourist" (not the genuine vagabond traveller) will not drink the vin de table, but prefers the same thing—at a supplementary price—for the pleasure of seeing the cork drawn before his eyes. The "grands hôtels" of the resorts recognize this and cater for the tourist accordingly.
We were bound for Fontarabia that night, just over the Spanish border. The Spanish know it as Feuntarabia, and the Basques as Ondarriba. For this reason one's pronunciation is likely to be understood, because no two persons pronounce it exactly alike, and the natives' comprehensions have been trained in a good school.
Fontarabia is gay, is ancient, and is very foreign to anything in France, even bordering upon the Spanish frontier. We left the automobile at Hendaye, not wishing to put up with the customs duties of eighteen francs a hundred kilos for the motor, and a thousand francs for the carrosserie, for the privilege of riding twenty kilometres out and back over a sandy, dreary road.
We dined and slept that night at a little Spanish hotel half built out over the sea, Concha by name, and left the Grand Hôtel de Palais Miramar to those who like grand hotels. We lingered a fortnight at Fontarabia, and did much that many tourists did not. One should see Fontarabia and find out its delights for oneself. There is a quaintness and unworldliness about its old streets and wharves, which is indescribable in print; there is a wonderfully impressive expanse of sea and sky on the Bay of Bidassoa, a couple of kilometres away, and all sorts and conditions of men may find an occupation here for any passing mood they may have.
We just missed the great fête of the eighth of September, when processions, and bull-fights, and all the movement of the sacred and profane rejoicings of the Latins yearly astonish the more phlegmatic northerner.
Another great fête is that of Vendredi-Saint (Good Friday). Either one or the other should be seen by all who may be in these parts at these times.
Near by, in the middle of the swift-flowing current of the Bidassoa, is the historically celebrated Ile des Faisans, on which the conferences were held between the French minister Mazarin and the Spanish Don Louis de Haro, which led to the famous Treaty of the Pyrenees, 1659, and the marriage of Louis XIV. with the daughter of Philip IV. The representative of each sovereign advanced from his own territory, by a temporary bridge, to this bit of neutral ground, which then reached nearly up to the present bridge. The piles which supported the cardinal's pavilion were visible not many years ago. The death of Velasquez, the painter, was caused by his exertions in superintending these constructions; duties more fitting to an upholsterer than a painter.
We finished our tour of the Pyrenees at Fontarabia, having followed along the shadow of these great frontier mountains their entire length; not wholly unknown ground, perhaps, but for the most part entirely unspoiled, and, as a touring-ground for the automobilist, without a peer.
The dim purple curtain of the Pyrenees had been drawn behind, us, and we were passing from the patois of Languedoc to the patois of Provence, where the peasants say pardie in place of pardou when an exclamation of surprise comes from their lips.
Cast your eyes over the map of ancient France, and you will distinguish plainly the lines of demarcation between the old political divisions which, in truth, the traveller by road may find to exist even to-day, in the manners and customs of the people at least.
Unconsciously we drew away from the sleepy indolence of Perpignan and Roussillon, and before we knew it had passed Narbonne, and on through Béziers to Agde, where we proposed stopping for the night.
Quite as Spanish-looking as Perpignan, Agde was the very antithesis of the gay and frivolous Catalan city. The aspect of its purple-brown architecture, the bridge-piers crossing the Herault, and the very pavements themselves were a colour-scheme quite unlike anything we had seen elsewhere. Brilliant and warm as a painting of Velasquez, there was nothing gaudy, and one could only dream of the time when the Renaissance house-fronts sheltered lords and ladies of high degree instead of itinerant automobilists and travelling salesmen.
The Hôtel du Cheval Blanc was one of these. It is not a particularly up-to-date hostelry, and there is a scant accommodation for automobiles, but for all that it is good of its kind, and one dines and sleeps well to the accompaniment of the rushing waters of the river, at its very dooryard, on its way to the sea.
From Agde to Montpellier is fifty odd kilometres over the worst stretch of roadway of the same length to be found in France, save perhaps that awful paved road of Navarre across the Landes.
Montpellier is one of the most luxurious and well-kept small cities of France. It is the seat of the préfecture, the assizes, and a university—whose college of medicine was famous in the days of Rabelais. It has the modern attributes of steam-heated, electric-lighted hotels and restaurants, a tramway system that is appalling and dangerous to all other traffic by reason of its complexity, and an Opera House and a Hôtel de Ville that would do credit to a city ten times its size.
We merely took Montpellier en route, just as we had many other places, and were really bound for Aigues-Mortes, where we proposed to lunch: one would not willingly sleep in a place with a name like that.
Of Aigues-Mortes Ch. Lentherie wrote, a quarter of a century ago:
"The country round about is incomparably melancholy, the sun scorches, and the sandy soil gives no nourishment to plants, flowers, vines, or grain. Cultivated land does not exist, it is a desert: ugly, melancholy, and abandoned. But Aigues-Mortes cannot, nay, must not perish, and will always remain the old city of St. Louis, a magnificent architectural diadem, with its deserted plage an aureole most radiant, a glorious yet touching reminder."
One other imaginative description is the poem of Charles Bigot on La Tour de Constance, in which the Huguenot women were many long years imprisoned. It is written in the charming Nimois patois, and runs thus in its first few lines:
"Tour de la simple et forte,
Simbol de glorie et de piété,
Tour de pauvres femmes mortes
Pour leur Dieu et la liberté."
These few introductory lines will recall to the memory of all who know the history of the Crusades and of St. Louis the part played by this old walled city of Aigues-Mortes.
More complete, and more frowning and grim, than Carcassonne, it has not a tithe of its interest, but, for all that, it is the most satisfying example of a walled stronghold of mediæval times yet extant.
With all its gloom, its bareness, and the few hundreds of shaking pallid mortals which make up its present-day population, the marsh city of Aigues-Mortes is a lively memory to all who have seen it.
One comes by road and drives his automobile in through the battlemented gateway over the cobbled main street, or struggles up on foot from the station of the puny and important little railway which brings people down from Arles in something over an hour's time. Ultimately, one and all arrive at the excellent Hôtel St. Louis, and eat bountifully of fresh fish of the Mediterranean, well cooked by the patron-chef, and well served by a dainty Arlésienne maiden of fifteen summers, who looks as though she might be twenty-two.
"C'est un chose à voir" every one tells you in the Bouches-du-Rhône when you mention Aigues-Mortes; and truly it is. As before suggested, you will not want to sleep within its dreary walls, but "it's a thing to see" without question, and to get away from as soon as possible, before a peculiarly vicious breed of mosquito inoculates you with the toxic poison of the marshes.
Now we are approaching the land of the poet Mistral, the most romantic region in all modern France, where the inhabitant in his repose and his pleasure still lives in mediæval times and chants and dances himself (and herself) into a sort of semi-indifference to the march of time.
The Crau and the Camargue, lying south of Arles between Aigues-Mortes and the Etang de Berre, is the greatest fête-making pays, one might think, in all the world.
How many times, from January to January, the Provençal "makes the fête" it would be difficult to state—on every occasion possible, at any rate.
The great fête of Provence is the day of the ferrande, a sort of a cattle round-up held on the Camargue plain, something like what goes on in "le Far West," as the French call it, only on not so grand a scale.
Mistral describes it of course:
"On a great branding-day came this throng,
A help for the mighty herd-mustering,
Li Santo, Aigo Marto, Albaron,
And from Faraman, a hundred horses strong
Came out into the desert."
Here we were in the midst of the land of fêtes, and if we could not see a ferrande in all its savage, unspoiled glory, we would see what we could.
We were in luck, as we learned when we put into St. Gilles for the night, and comfortably enough housed our auto in the remise of the company, or individual, which has the concession for the stage line across the Camargue, which links up the two loose ends of a toy railway, one of which ends at Aigues-Mortes, and the other at Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer.
Our particular piece of luck was the opportunity to be present at the pilgrimage to the shrine of the three Marys of Judea, which took place on the morrow.
The poet Mistral sets it all out in romantic verse in his epic "Mirèio," and one and all were indeed glad to embrace so fortunate an opportunity of participating in one of the most nearly unique pilgrimages and festivals in all the world.
We entered the little waterside town the next morning soon after sunrise, en auto. Others came by rail, on foot, on horseback, or by the slow-going roulotte, or caravan; pilgrims from all corners of the earth, the peasant folk of Provence, the Arlésiens and Arlésiennes, and the dwellers of the great Camargue plain.
The picture is quite as "Mirèio" saw it in the poem: the vision of the lone sentinel church by the sea, which rises above the dunes of the Camargue to-day, as it did in the olden time.
"'It looms at last in the distance dim,
She sees it grow on the horizon's rim,
The Saintes' white tower across the billowy plain,
Like vessel homeward bound upon the main."
On the dunes of the Camargue, between the blue of the sky and the blue of the Mediterranean waves, sits the gaunt, grim bourg of fisherfolk and herders of the cattle and sheep of the neighbouring plain. The lone fortress-church rises tall and severe in its outlines, and the whole may be likened to nothing as much as a desert mirage that one sees in his imagination.
At the foot of the crenelated, battlemented walls of the church are the white, pink, and blue walled houses of the huddling population, and the dory-like boats of the fishers.
Officially the town is known as Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer, but the reliques of the three Marys, who fled from Judea in company with Sts. Lazare, Maxim, and Trophime, and other followers, including their servant Sara, have given it the popular name of "Les Saintes."
The exiles, barely escaping death by drowning, came to shore here, and, thankful for being saved from death, thereupon celebrated the first mass to be said in France, the saints Maxim and Lazare officiating.
Maxim, Lazare, Sidoine, Marthe, and Madeleine immediately set out to spread the Word throughout Provence in the true missionary spirit, but the others, the three Marys, St. Trophime, and Sara, remained behind to do what good they might among the fishers.
The pilgrimage to this basilique of "Les Saintes" has ever been one of great devotion. In 1347 the Bishops of Paris and of Coutances, in Normandy, accorded their communicants many and varied indulgences for having made "la feste S. Mari Cléophée qui est le XXVe Mai, et la feste S. Marie Salomé, XXIIe Octobre, festeront, O l'histoire d'elles prescherent, liront ou escouteront attentilment et devotement."
In the fourteenth century three thousand or more souls drew a livelihood from the industries of "Les Saintes" and the neighbourhood, and its civic affairs were administered by three consuls, who were assisted in their duties by three classes of citizen office-holders—divities, mediocres, and paupers, the latter doubtless the "povres gens" mentioned in the testament of Louis I. of Provence, he who bequeathed the guardianship of his soul to "Saintes Maries Jacobé et Salomé, Catherine, Madeleine et Marthe."
The first day's celebration was devoted to the further gathering of the throng and the "Grand Mess." At the first note of the "Magnificat" the reliques were brought forth from the upper chapel and the crowd from within and without broke into a thunderous "Vivent les Saintes Maries!" Then was sung the "Cantique des Saintes:"
"O grandes Saintes Maries
De notre divin Sauveur," etc.
On the second day a procession formed outside the church for the descent to the historic sands, upon which the holy exiles first made their landing, the men bearing on their shoulders a representation of the barque which brought the saints thither. There were prelates and plebeians and tourists and vagabond gipsies in line, and one and all they entered into the ceremony with an enthusiasm—in spite of the sweltering sun—which made up for any apparent lack of devoutness, for, alas! most holy pilgrimages are anything but holy when taken in their entirety.
The church at "Les Saintes" is a wonder-work. As at Assisi, in Italy, there are three superimposed churches, a symbol of the three states of religion; the crypt, called the catacombs, and suggestive of persecution; the fortified nave, a symbol of the body which prays, but is not afraid to fight; and the chapelle supérieure, the holy place of the saints of heaven, the Christian counsellors in whose care man has been confided. This, at any rate, is the professional description of the symbolism, and whether one be churchman or not he is bound to see the logic of it all.
Deep down in the darkened crypt are the reliques of the dusky Sara, the servant of the holy Marys. She herself has been elevated to sainthood as the patronne of the vagabond gipsies of all the world. On the occasion of the Fête of Les Saintes Maries the nomads, Bohemians, and Gitanos from all corners of the globe, who have been able to make the pilgrimage thither, pass the night before the shrine of their sainted patronne, as a preliminary act to the election of their queen for the coming year.
The gipsy of tradition is supposed to be a miserly, wealthy, sacrilegious fellow who goes about stealing children and dogs and anything else he can lay his hands upon. He may have his faults, but to see him kneeling before the shrine of his "patronne reine Sara," ragged and travel-worn and yet burning costly candles and saying his Aves as piously and incessantly as a praying-machine of the East, one can hardly question but that they have as much devoutness as most others.
The hotels of "Les Saintes" offer practically nothing in the way of accommodation, and what there is, which costs usually thirty sous a night, has, during the fête, an inflated value of thirty or even fifty francs, and, if you are an automobilist, driving the most decrepit out-of-date old crock that ever was, they will want to charge you a hundred. You will, of course, refuse to pay it, for you can eat up the roadway at almost any speed you like,—there is no one to say you nay on these lonesome roads,—and so, after paying fifty centimes a pailful for some rather muddy water to refresh the water circulation of your automobile, you pull out for some other place—at least we did. One must either do this, or become a real nomad and sleep in the open, with the stars for candles, and a bunch of beach-grass for a pillow. If you were a Romany cheil you would sleep in, or under, your own roulotte, on a mattress, which, in the daytime, is neatly folded away in the rear of your wagon, or hung in full view, temptingly spread with a lace coverlet. This in the hope that some passing pilgrim will take a fancy to the lace spread and want to buy it; when will come a trading and bargaining which will put horse-selling quite in the shade, for it is here that the woman of the establishment comes in, and the gipsy woman on a trade is a Tartar.
Finally, on the last day, came the "Grande Entrée des Tauraux," which, it would seem, was the chief event which drew the Camargue population thither. They came in couples, a man and a woman on the back of a single Camargue pony, whole families in a Provençal cart, on foot, on bicycles, and in automobiles.
Six Spanish-crossed bulls, were brought up in a great closed van and loosed in an improvised bull-ring, of which the church wall formed one side, and the roof a sort of a tribune. What the curé thought of all this is not clear, but as the alms-coffers of the church were already full to the lids, and the parish depends largely upon the contributions of visitors to replenish its funds, any seeming sacrilege was winked at.
For three days we had "made the fête" and saw it all, and did most of the things that the others did, except that we always slept at St. Gilles, far away by the long flat road which winds in and out among the marshes, flamingo nests, and rice-fields of the Camargue.
The "bull-fight," so called, was nothing so very bloodthirsty or terrifying; merely the worrying by the "amateurs" of a short-legged, little black bull, about the size of a well-formed Newfoundland dog, or perhaps a little larger—appearances are often deceptive when one receives a disappointment.
Truly, as Mistral says, Provence is a land of joy and, laughter, and fêtes followed close on one another, it seemed.
We had seen the announcements in the local journals of a "Mis à Mort" at Nîmes, and a "Corrida de Meurte"—borrowing the phrase from the Spanish—at Arles, each to take place in the great Roman arenas, which had not seen bloodshed for centuries; not since the days when the Romans matched men against each other in gladiatorial combat, and turned tigers loose upon captive slaves.
The "to-the-death" affairs of Arles and Nîmes appealed to us only that we might contrast the modern throngs that crowd the benches with those which history tells us viewed the combats of old. Doubtless there is little resemblance, but all the same there is a certain gory tradition hanging about the old walls and arches of those great arenas which is utterly lacking in the cricket-field, tawdry plazas of some of the Spanish towns. The grim arcades of these great Roman arenas are still full of suggestion.
We did not see either the "Mis à Mort" at Arles, or the "Corrida de Meurte" at Nîmes; the automobile got stalled for a day in the midst of the stony Crau, with a rear tire which blew itself into pieces, and necessitated a journey by train into Arles in order to get another to replace it. Owing to the slowness of this apology for a railway train, and the awkwardness of the timetable, the great "Mis à Mort" at Arles was long over ere we had set out over the moonlit Crau for Martigues on the shores of the Etang de Berre.
|St. Blaise||Les Saintes||St. Mitre|
We knew Martigues of old, its bouillabaisse, the Père Chabas and all the cronies of the Café du Commerce where you kept your own special bottle, of whatever apéritif poison you fancied, in order that you might be sure of getting it unadulterated.
"La Venise de Provence," Martigues, is known by artists far and wide. Chabas and his rather grimy little hotel, which he calls the Grand Hotel something or other, has catered for countless hundreds of artist folk who have made the name and fame of Martigues as an artist's sketching-ground. After a three weeks' pretty steady automobile run the artist of the party craved peace and rest and an opportunity of putting Martigues's glorious sunsets on canvas, and so we camped out with Chabas, and ate bouillabaisse and the beurre de Provence and langouste and Chabas's famous straw potatoes and rum omelette for ten days, and were sorry when it was all over.
It is the dream of the Marseillais that some day the turgid Rhône may be made to empty itself at the foot of the famous Cannebière, and so add to the already great prosperity of the most cosmopolitan and picturesque of Mediterranean ports.
The idea has been thought of since Roman times, and Napoleon himself nearly undertook the work. In later days radical and vehement candidates for senatorships and deputyships have promised their Marseilles and Bouches-du-Rhône constituencies much more, with regard to the same thing, than the hand of man is ever likely to be able to accomplish.
The Rhône still pushes its way through the Crau and the Camargue and comes to the sea many kilometres west of the Planier light and Château d'If, which guard the entrance to Marseilles's Old Port.
We had backed and filled many times between Martigues and Marseilles during the interval which we so enjoyably spent chez Chabas, and we had come to know this unknown little corner of old Provence intimately, and to love it.
Marseilles was our great dissipation, its hotels, its cafés and restaurants, its cosmopolitan life and movement, its gaiety and the picturesqueness of its old streets and wharves. Marseilles is a neglected tourist point; it should be better known; but it is no place for automobilists, unless they are prepared for ten kilometres, in any direction, of the most villainous suburban roadway in France. The roadways themselves are good enough; it is the abnormal and the peculiar nature of the traffic that makes them so disagreeable; great hooting tramways, charettes loaded with all the products of the earth and the hands of man, and drawn by long tandem lines, three, four, five, and even six horses to a single cart. Added to this, the exits and entrances are all up and down hill, and, accordingly, the roadways of suburban Marseilles are a terror to stranger automobilists and an eternal regret to those who live near-by.
We went up the Rhône in a howling mistral, against it, mark you, for it pleases the Ruler of the universe to have that cyclonic breeze of the Rhône valley, one of the three plagues of Provence, blow always from the north.
We left Martigues in an extraordinary and unusual fog, reminiscent of London, except that it was not black and sooty. It was dense, however; dense as if it were enshrouding the Grand Banks, and of the same impenetrable, milky consistency. To be sure the morning sun had not had an opportunity as yet to burn it off—automobilists on tour are early birds, and the autumn sun rises late.
Up around the eastern shore of the Etang de Berre we went, and, crossing the Tête Noire, passed Salon just as a pale yellow light struggled through the rifts just topping the Maritime Alps off to the eastward. We could not see the mountains, but we knew they were there, for we still had lingering memories of a long pull we once made off in that direction, with an old crock of an automobile of primitive make in the early days of the sport, or the art, whichever one chooses to call it, though it unquestionably was an art then to keep an automobile going at all.
By the time Arles was reached the sun was burning with a midsummer glare, as it does here for three hundred or more days in the year.
At Arles one is in the very cauldron of the atmosphere of things Provençal, art, letters, history, and romance, all of which are kept alive by the Félibres and their fellows.
Mistral, the poet, is the master-singer of them all, and whether he chants of his "Own glad Kingdom of Provence," at Maillane among the olive-trees, far inland, or of:
"The peace which descends upon the troubled ocean
And he his wrath forgets,
Flock from Martigues the boats with wing-like motion,
And fishes fill their nets,"
it is all the same; the subtle, penetrating atmosphere and sentiment of Provence is over all.
Arles is the head centre. It is a city of monumental and celebrated art, and one may spend a day, a week, or a month, wandering in and out and about its old Roman arena (still so well preserved that it presents its occasional bull-fight for the delectation of the bloodthirsty), its antique theatre, its museums, its cathedral and its cloister, or among the tombs of the Aliscamps.
We did all these things, indeed we had done them before, but they were ever marvellous just the same, and in the museum we were always running on Mistral himself, who, in his waning years, finds his greatest delight in arranging and rearranging the exhibits of his newly founded Musée Arletan.
The hotels of Arles are a disappointment. The Hôtel du Nord, with a portico of the old Forum built into its walls, and the Hôtel du Forum, on the Place du Forum, are well enough in their way,—they are certainly well conducted,—but they lack "atmosphere," and instead of the cuisine du pays, you get ham and eggs and bifteck served to you. This is wrong and bad business, if the otherwise capable proprietors only knew it.
One does better in the environs. At St. Rémy, at the Grand Hôtel de Provence, you will get quite another sort of fare: hors d'œuvres of a peculiarly pungent variety, not forgetting the dark purple, over-ripe olives, a ragoût en casserole, a filet d'agneau with a sauce Provençale, and a poulet and a salad which will make one dream of the all but lost art of Brillat-Savarin. They are good cooks, the chefs of Provence, of the small cities and large towns like St. Rémy, Cavaillon, Salon, and Carpentras, but everybody will not like their liberal douches of oil any more than they will the penetrating garlic flavour in everything.
We took a turn backward on our route from Arles and went to Les Baux, the now dismal ruin of a once proud feudal city whose seigneurs held sway over some sixty cities of Provence.
To-day it is a Pompeii, except it is a hill town worthy to rank with those picturesque peaks of Italy and Dalmatia. Its château walls have crumbled, but its subterranean galleries, cut three stories down into the rock itself, are much as they always were. Everywhere are grim, doleful evidences of a glory that is past and a population that is dead or moved away. The sixteen thousand souls of mediæval times have shrunk to something like two hundred to-day—most of them shepherds, apparently, and the others picture post-card sellers.
It is a very satisfactory little mountain climb from the surrounding plain up to the little plateau just below the peak at Les Baux, though the entire distance from Arles is scarcely more than fifteen kilometres, and the actual climb hardly more than four. The razor-back mountain chain, upon one peak of which Les Baux sits, is known as the Alpilles.
All of the immediate neighbourhood (scarce a dozen kilometres from where the beaten track passes through Arles) is a veritable museum of relics of the glory of the heroic age. Caius Marius entrenched himself within these walls of rock and two thousand years ago planted the foundations of the Mausoleum and Arc de Triomphe which are the pride of the inhabitant of St. Rémy and the marvel of what few strangers ever come. They are veritable antiques—"Les Antiquités," as the people of St. Rémy familiarly call them, and rise to-day as monuments of the past, gilded by the Southern sun and framed with all the brilliancy of a Provençal landscape.
We slept at St. Rémy, and made the next morning for Tarascon, with memories of Dumas and Daudet and Tartarin and the Tarasque pushing us on.
Tarascon has a real appeal for the stranger; at every step he will picture the locale of Daudet's whimsical tale, and will well understand how it was that the prisoners' view from the narrow-barred window of the Château at Tarascon was so limited.
There is a fine group of Renaissance architectural monuments at Tarascon, and a street of arcaded house-fronts which will make the artist of the party want to settle down to work.
Across the river is Beaucaire, famous for its great fair of ages past, the greatest trading fair of mediæval times, when merchants and their goods came from Persia, India, and Turkey, and all corners of the earth. The Château of Beaucaire is a fine ruin, but no more; it is not worth the climbing of the height to examine it.
A little farther on is Bellegarde, where Dumas placed Caderousse's little inn, the unworthy Caderousse and his still more unworthy wife, who finished the career of Edmond Dantès while he was masquerading as the Abbé. There is no inn here to-day which can be identified as that of the romance, but Dumas's description of its sun-burnt surroundings, the canal, the scanty herbage, and the white, parched roadway, is much the same as what one sees today, and there is a tiny auberge beside the canal, which might satisfy the imaginative.
Avignon, the city of the seven French popes, who reigned seventy years, was the next stopping-place on our itinerary.
We put up at the Hôtel Crillon and fared much as one fares in any provincial large town. We were served with imitation Parisian repasts, and were asked if we would like to read the London Times. Why the London Times no one knew: why not the New Orleans Picayune and be done with it?
We did not want to do anything of the sort, we merely wanted to "do" the town, to see the tomb of Pope Jean XXII. in the cathedral, to walk, if possible, upon the part left standing of St. Benezet's old Pont d'Avignon, a memory which was burned into our minds since our schooldays, when we played and sang the French version of "London Bridge is falling down"—"Sur le pont d'Avignon."
The greatest monument of all is the magnificent Palais des Papes, its crenelated walls and battlements vying with the city walls and ramparts as a splendid example of mediæval architecture. We saw all these things and the museum with its excellent collections, and the library of thirty thousand volumes and four thousand manuscripts.
One thing we nearly missed was Villeneuve-les-Avignon, a ruined wall-circled town on the opposite bank of the Rhône. Its machicolated crests glistened in the brilliant Southern sunlight like an exotic of the Saharan country. It is quite the most foreign and African-looking jumble of architectural forms to be seen in France. It took us three hours to cross the river and stroll about its debris-encumbered streets and get back again and start on our way northward, but it was worth the time and trouble.
From St. Rémy to Orange, perhaps sixty kilometres, was not a long daily run by any means, and we would not have stopped at Orange for the night except that it was imperative that we should see the fine antique theatre, the most magnificent, the largest, and the best preserved of all existing Roman theatres.
We saw it, and seeing it wondered, though, when one tries to project the mind back into the past and picture the scenes which once went on upon its boards, the task were seemingly impossible.
The Roman Arc de Triomphe, too, at Orange, which spans the roadway to the North—the same great natural road which all its length froth Paris to Antibes is known as the Route d'Italie—is a monument more splendid, as to its preservation, than anything of the kind outside Italy itself.
There is ample and excellent accommodation for the automobilist at Orange, at the Hôtel des Princes, which sounds good and is good. They have even a writing-room in the hotel, a silly, stuffy little room which no one with any sense ever enters. One simply follows a well-fed commis-voyageur to the nearest popular café and writes his letters there, as a well-habituated traveller should do.
Once on the road again we passed Montelimar—"le pays du nougât et de M. l'ex-President Loubet," we were told by the octroi official who held us up at the barrier of this self-sufficient, dead-and-alive, pompous little town. We didn't know M. Loubet and we didn't like nougât, so we did not stop, but pushed on for Tournon. There, at the little Hôtel de la Poste, beneath the donjon tower of the old château, we ate the most marvellously concocted déjeuner we had struck for a long time. There's no use describing it; it won't be the same the next time; though no doubt it will be as excellent. It cost but two francs fifty centimes, including vin du St. Peray, the rich red wine of the Rhône, a rival to the wines of Burgundy.
We might have done a good deal worse had we stopped at progressive, up-to-date Valence, where automobile tourists usually do stop, but we took the offering of the small town instead of the large one, and found it, as usual, very good.
We had passed La Voute-sur-Rhône, that classic height which has been pictured many times in old books of travel. It, and Tournon, and Valence, and Viviers, and Pont St. Esprit were once riverside stations for the coches d'eau which did a sort of omnibus service with passengers on the Rhône, between Lyons and Avignon. There is a steamboat service to-day which also carries passengers, but it is not to be recommended if one has the means of getting about by road.
This town, too, and Valence, were directly on the route of the malle-poste from Lyons to Marseilles. The different postes or relays were marked on the maps of the day by little twisted hunting-horns. For the most part an old-time route map of the great trunk lines of the malle-poste and the messageries would, serve the automobilist of to-day equally as well as a modern road map.
The malle-poste, and the hiring out of post-horses, in France was an institution more highly developed than elsewhere.
Post-horses were only delivered one in France upon the presentation of a passport and payment, in advance, according to the following tariff. The price was fixed by law, being the same throughout all France.
|1||Poste (about 15 miles)||1 franc 50||centimes|
The postilion usually got one franc fifty per poste, but could only demand seventy-five centimes.
Certain carriages (chaises and cabriolets) would carry only portmanteaux (vaches), but voitures fermées, calèches, and the like might carry also a trunk (malle).
As one goes north, sunburnt Provence, its olive groves and its oil and garlic-seasoned viands are left behind, until little by little one draws upon the Burgundian opulence of the Côte d'Or, a land where the native's manner of eating and drinking makes a full life and a merry one.
We were not there yet; we had many kilometres yet to go, always by the banks of the Rhône until Lyons was reached.
Near Givors, at eight o'clock at night, within twenty kilometres of Lyons, the motor gave a weak asthmatic gasp, and stopped short. Like the foolish virgins, we had no oil in our lamps, and dusk had already fallen, and no amount of coaxing after the habitual manner would induce the thing to move a yard.
There was nothing for it but to get out the tow-ropes and wait—for a remorqueur, as the French call any four-footed beast strong enough to tow an automobile at the end of a line. (They also call a tug-boat the same thing, but as an automobile is not an amphibious animal it was a land remorqueur that we awaited.)
We did not get to Lyons that night. There are always uncalled for "possibilities" rising up in automobiling that will upset the best thought-out schedule. This was one of them.
What had happened to the machine no one yet really knows, but we had to be ignominiously towed, to the great amusement of the natives, at the end of a long rope by the power of a diminutive donkey which finally came along. The beast did not look as though he could draw a perambulator, but he buckled down to it with a will, and brought us safely through the half-kilometre or so of crooked streets which led to the centre of Givors.
Finally, we, or the car rather, was pushed into an old wash-house, once a part of an ancient château, the remise of the hotel itself, a dependance of the château of other days, having been preempted by an itinerant magic-lantern exhibittion ("La Cinémetographe Americaine," it was called on the bills), which proposed to show the good people of Givors—"for one night only, and at ten sous each"—moving pictures of Coney Island, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, Niagara Falls, New York's "Flat Iron" building, and other exotics from the New World.
We dined and slept well at Givors in spite of our accident, and were "up bright and early," as Pepys might have said (Londoners to-day do not get up bright and early, however!), to find out, if possible, what was the matter with the digestive apparatus of the automobile. Nothing was the matter! The human, obstinate thing started off at the first trial, and probably would have done the same thing last night had we given the starting-crank one more turn. Such is automobiling!
We made our entrance into Lyons en pleine vitesse, stopping not until we got to the centre of the city. The octroi regulations had just been revised, and the gates were open to passing traffic without the obligation of having to declare one's possessions. Progressive Lyons!
Lyons is truly progressive. It is beautifully laid out and kept. It is nothing like as filthy as a large city usually is, on the outskirts, and its island faubourg, between the Saône and the Rhône, is the ideal of a well-organized and planned centre of affairs.
Lyons has, moreover, two up-to-date hotels, the very latest things, one might say, in the hotel line: the Terminus Hotel, which well serves travelers by rail, and the Hôtel de l'Univers et de l'Automobilisme—rather a clumsy name, but that of a good, well-meaning hotel. Its progressiveness consists in having abolished the pourboire. You have ten per cent. added on to your bill, however. This looks large when it comes to figures,—paying something for nothing,—but at least one knows where he stands, and he fears no black looks from chambermaid or boots. The thing is announced, by a little placard placed in every room, as an "innovation." It remains to be seen if it will prove successful.
From Lyons to Dijon, 197 kilometres between breakfast and lunch, was not bad. Now, at last, we were in that opulent land of good living and good drinking, where the food and wine are alike both rich.
He's a contented, fat, sleek-looking type, the native son of the Côte d'Or, and he looks with contempt on the cider-nourished Norman and Breton, and does not for a moment think that cognac is to be compared with the eau de vie de marc of his own vineyards.
The Côte d'Or is the richest wine-growing region of all the world. Every direction-post and sign-board is like a review of the names on a wine card,—Beaune, Chambertin, St. Georges, Clos Vougeot,—and of these the Clos Vougeot wines are the most renowned.
A line drawn across France, just north of the confines of ancient Burgundy, divides the region of the vins ordinaires—the light wines of the tables d'hote—and that of those vintages which have no price. This, at least, is the way the native puts it, and to some extent the simile is correct enough.
The Côte begins and the plain ends; the hillsides rise and the river-bottoms dwindle away in the distance: such is the feeling that one experiences as he climbs these vine-clad slopes from either the Rhône, the Loire, or the Seine valleys, and here it is that the imaginary line is drawn between the vins ordinaires and the vins sans prix.
Since there is no possibility of increasing the quantity of these rich, red Burgundian wines, the highly cultured area being of but small extent, and because their quality depends upon the peculiar nature of the soil of this restricted tract, there is no question but that the monopoly of Burgundian wines will remain for ever with the gold coast of France, whatever Australian and Californian patriots may claim for their own imitations.
The phylloxera here, as elsewhere in France, caused a setback to the commerce in wines, as serious in money figures as the losses sustained during the Franco-Prussian War, but the time has now passed and the famous Côte d'Or has once more attained its time-honoured opulence and prosperity.
"Le vin de Bourgogne
Met la bonne humeur
Still northward, across the plateau of Langres, we set a roundabout course for Paris. There is one great pleasure about automobiling that is considerably curtailed if one sets out to follow precisely a preconceived itinerary, and for that reason we were, in a measure, going where fancy willed.
We might have turned westward, via Moulins, Nevers, and Montargis, from Lyons, and followed the old coaching road into Paris, entering by the same gateway through which we set out, but we had heard of the charms of the valley of the Marne, and we wanted to see them for ourselves.
Our first acquaintance with it was at Bar le Duc, which is not on the Marne at all, but on a little confluent some twenty or thirty miles from its junction.
For a day we had been riding over corkscrew roads with little peace and comfort for the driver, and considerable hard work for the motor. The hills were numerous, but the surface was good and the scenery delightful, so, since most of us require variety as a component of our daily lives, we were getting what we wanted and no one complained.
It was easy going by Château Thierry and the episcopal city of Meaux, retracing almost the itinerary of the fleeing Louis XVI., and, as we entered Paris by the Porte de Vincennes,—always by villainous roadways, this getting in and out of Paris,—we red-inked another twelve hundred kilometre stretch of roadway on our record map of France.
If automobiling on land in France is a pleasure, a voyage up a picturesque and historic French river in a canot-automobile is a dream, so at least we thought, four of us—and a boy to clean the engine, run errands, and to climb overboard and push us off when we got stuck in the mud.
Our "home port" was Les Andelys on the Seine, and we meet in the courtyard of the Hôtel Bellevue at five o'clock one misty, gray September morning for a fortnight's voyage up the Oise, which joins the Seine midway between Les Andelys and Paris.
There is nothing mysterious about an automobile boat any more than there is about the land automobile. It has its moods and vagaries, its good points and some bad ones. It is not as speedy as an automobile on shore, but it is more comfortable, a great deal more fun to steer, and less dangerous, and there is an utter absence of those chief causes of trouble to the automobile, punctures and what not happening to your tires. Then again there is, generally speaking, no crowd of traffic to run you into danger, and there is an absence of dust, to make up for which, when you are lying by waiting to go through a lock, you have mosquitoes of a fierce bloodthirsty kind which even the smoke from the vile tobacco of French cigarettes will not keep at a distance.
Our facile little automobile boat was called the "Cà et Là." Rightly enough named it was, too. The French give singularly pert and appropriate names to their boats. "Va t'on," "Quand même," and "Cà et Là" certainly tell the stories of their missions in their very names.
The boat itself, and its motor, too, was purely a French production, and, though of modest force and dimensions, would do its dozen miles an hour all day long.
We got away from the landing-stage of the Touring Club de France at Les Andelys in good time, our provisions, our gasoline and oil, our river charts, our wraps and ourselves all stowed comfortably away in the eight metres of length of our little boat. Our siren gave a hoot which startled the rooks circling about the donjon walls of Château Gaillard over our heads, and we passed under the brick arches of the bridge for a twelve-mile run to the first lock at Courcelles.
The process of going through a river lock in France is not far different from the same process elsewhere, except that the all-powerful Touring Club de France has secured precedence for all pleasure boats over any other waiting craft. It really costs nothing, but you give a franc to the éclusier, and the way is thereby made the easier for the next arrival. The objection to river-locks is their frequency in some parts. There is one stretch of thirty or forty kilometres on the Marne with thirty-three locks. That costs something, truly.
We knew the Seine valley intimately, by road along both its banks, at any rate, and we were hopeful of reaching Triel that night, near the junction of the Seine and Oise.
We passed our first lock at Courcelles, just before seven o'clock, and had a good stretch of straight water ahead of us before Vernon was reached.
You cannot miss your way, of course, when travelling by river, but you can be at a considerable loss to know how far you have come since your last stopping-place, or rather you would be if the French government had not placed little white kilometre stones all along the banks of the "navigable" and "flottable" rivers, as they have along the great national roads on land. Blessed be the paternal French government; the traveller in la belle France has much for which to be grateful to it: its excellent roadways, its sign-boards, and its kilometre stones most of all. The motor-boat is highly developed in France from the simple fact that you can tour on it. You can go all over France by a magnificent system of inland waterways; from the Seine to the Marne; from the Oise to the Sambre—and so to Antwerp and Ghent; from the Loire to the Rhône; and even from the Marne to the Rhine; and from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. France is the touring-ground par excellence for the automobile boat.
Here's a new project of travel for those who want to do what others have not done to any great extent. Africa and the Antartic continent have been explored, and the North Pole bids fair to be discovered by means of a flying-machine ere long, so, with no new worlds to conquer, one might do worse in the way of pleasurable travel than to explore the waterways of France.
Maistre wrote his "Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre" and Karr his "Voyage Autour de Mon Jardin," hence any one who really wants to do something similar might well make the tour of the Ile de France by water. It can be done, and would be a revelation of novelty, if one would do it and write it down.
For the moment we were bound up the Oise; we had passed Vernon and Giverny, sitting snug on the hillside by the mouth of the Ept, where we knew there were countless Americans, artists and others, sitting in Gaston's garden or playing tennis on a sunburnt field beside the road. Foolish business that, with a river like the Seine so near at hand, and because it was the custom at Giverny, a custom grown to be a habit, which is worse, we liked not the place, in spite of its other undeniable charms.
We put in for lunch at La Roche-Guyon, a trim little town lying close beneath the Renaissance château of the La Rochefoucauld's. There are two waterside hotels at La Roche-Guyon, beside the ugly wire-rope bridge, but we knew them of old, and knew they were likely to be full of an unspeakable class of Parisian merrymakers. There may be others who patronize these delightfully situated riverside inns, but the former predominate in the season. Out of season it may be quite different.
We hunted out a little café in the town, whose patron we knew, and prevailed upon his good wife to give us our lunch en famille, which she did and did well.
It was très bourgeois, but that was what we wanted, and, after a couple of hours eating and lolling about and playing with the cats and talking to the parrot,—a Martinique parrot who knew some English,—we took to the river again, and, after passing the locks at Bonnières, arrived at Mantes at five o'clock.
The nights draw in quickly, even in the early days of September, and we were bound to push on, if we were to reach Triel that night. We could have reached it, but were delayed at a lock, while it emptied itself and half a score of downriver barges, and, spying a gem of a riverside restaurant at Meulan, overhanging the very water itself, and hung with great golden orange globes of light (so-called Japanese lanterns, and nothing more), we were sentimentally enough inclined to want to dine with such Claude Melnotte accessories. This we did, and hunted up lodgings in the town for the night, vowing to get an extra early start in the morning to make up for lost time.
The Seine at Meulan takes on a certain luxuryous aspect so far as river-boating goes. There is even a "Cercle à la Voile," with yachts which, in the narrow confines of the river, look like the real thing, but which after all are very diminutive members of the family.
From this point the course of the Seine is a complicated winding among iles and ilots, which gives it that elongation which makes necessary hours of journeying by boat as against a quarter of the time by the road—as the crow flies—to the lower fortifications of Paris.
On either side, however, are chemins vicinales, which continually produce unthought-of vistas which automobilists who are making a record from Trouville to Paris know nothing of.
Triel possesses an imposing thirteenth-century Gothic church and an abominably ugly suspension-bridge of wire rope. It is a good place to buy a boat or a cargo of gypsum, which we know as "plaster of Paris;" otherwise the town is not remarkable, though charmingly situated.
The Oise is the first really great commercial tributary of the Seine. There is a mighty flow of commerce which ascends and descends the bosom of the Oise, extending even to the Low Countries and the German Ocean, through the Sambre to Antwerp and the Scheldt.
The Oise is classed as flottable from Beautor to Chauny, a distance of twenty kilometres, and navigable from Chauny to the Seine. Mostly it runs through the great plain of Picardie and forms the natural northern boundary to the ancient Ile de France. The navigable portion forms two sections. One, of fifty-five kilometres, extends between Chauny and Janville, and has been generally abandoned by water-craft because of the opening of the Canal Lateral à la Oise; the other section, of one hundred and four kilometres, is canalized in that it has been straightened here and there at sharp corners, dredged and endowed with seven locks.
The barge traffic of the Oise is mostly towed in convoys of six, but there is a chemin de halage, a tow-path, throughout the river's length. In general, the boats are of moderate size, the péniches being perhaps a hundred and twenty feet in length, the bateaux picards somewhat longer, and the chalands approximating one hundred and sixty to one hundred and seventy-five feet.
While, as stated above, the traction is generally by steam towboat, the more picturesque, if slower and more humble, tow-horse is more largely in evidence here than elsewhere in France.
The environs of Conflans-fin-d'Oise are of a marvellous charm, but the immediate surroundings, great garages of coal boats and barges, coal-yards where towboats are filling up, and all the grime of an enormous water-borne traffic which here divides, part to go Parisward and part down-river, make it unlovely enough.
Three kilometres up-river is a little riverside inn called the "Goujon de l'Oise." It is a pleasant place to lunch, but otherwise "fishy," as might be supposed.
Back toward Meulan and on the heights above Triel are nestled a half-dozen picturesque little red-roofed villages which are not known at all to travellers from Paris by road or rail. It is curious how many sylvan spots one can find almost within plain sight of Paris. There are wheat-fields within sight of Montmartre and haystacks almost under the shadow of Mont Valerian.
At Evequemont, just back of Conflans, some eight hundred souls eke out an existence on their small farms and live the lives of their grandfathers before them, with never so much as a thought as to what may be happening at the capital twenty kilometres away.
Boisemont is another tiny village, with an eighteenth-century château which would form an idyllic retreat from the cares of city ways. Courdimanche, a few miles farther on, is unknown and unspoiled. It crowns a hilltop, with its diminutive and unusual red-roofed church overtopping all and visible from the river, or from the rolling country round about, for many miles. Here the Oise makes a long parallelogram-like turn from Maurecourt around to Eragny, perhaps two miles in a bee-line, but seemingly twenty by the river's course.
The land automobile has a distinct advantage here in speed over the canot, but one's point of view is not so lovely. It is only twelve kilometres to Pontoise, where one passes the barrage just below the town and saunters on shore for a spell, just to get acquainted with the place that Parisians know so well by name, and yet so little in reality.
Pontoise is the metropolis of the Oise, though it, too, is a veritable French country town, such as one would hardly expect to find within twenty kilometres of Paris. The islands of the river are dotted with trees and petit maisons de campagne, and the right bank is bordered with great chalky cliffs, as is the Seine in Normandy.
The general appearance of Pontoise is most pleasing. At first glance it looks like a mediæval Gothic city, and again even Oriental. At any rate, it is an exceedingly unworldly sort of a place, with here and there remains of its bold ramparts and its zigzag and tortuous streets, but with no very great grandeur anywhere to be remarked, except in the Eglise St. Maclou.
The history of Pontoise is long and lurid, beginning with the times of the Gauls when it was known as Briva Isaroe. It is a long time since the ramparts protected the old Château of the Counts of Vexin—literally the land dedicated to Vulcan (pagus Vulcanis)—where many French kings often resided. Many religious establishments flourished here, too, all more or less under royal patronage, including the Abbeys of St. Mellon and St. Martin, and the Couvent des Cordeliers, in whose splendid refectory the exiled Parlement held its sessions in 1652, 1720, and 1753. Out of this circumstance grew the proverb or popular saying, "Avoir l'air de revenir de Pontoise." The domain of Pontoise belonged in turn to many seigneurs, but up to the Revolution it was still practically une ville monastique.
As one comes to the lower streets of the town, near the station, and between it and the river, the resemblance to a little corner of the Pays Bas is remarkable, and therein lies its picturesqueness, if not grandeur. Artists would love the narrow Rue des Attanets, with its curious flanking houses of wood and stone, and the Rue de Rouen, which partakes of much the same characteristics. Along the river are great flour-mills, with wash-houses and red-armed, blue-bloused women eternally washing and rinsing. All this would furnish studies innumerable to those who are able to fabricate mouldy walls and tumble-down picturesqueness out of little tubes of colour and gray canvas. Here, too, at Pontoise, in its little port, none too cleanly because of the refuse and grime of ashes and coal soot, one sees the first of the heavy chalands loaded with iron ore from the Ardennes, or coal from Belgium, making their way to the wharves of Paris via the Canal St. Denis.
More distant, and more pleasing to many, is that variety of landscape made famous, and even popular, by Dupré and Daubigny. So, on the whole, Pontoise, and the country round about, should properly be classed among the things to which few have ever given more than a passing glance, but which have a vast reserve fund of attractions hidden behind them, needing only to be sought out to be admired.
St. Ouen l'Aumône, a tiny little town of a couple of thousand souls, opposite Pontoise, has two remarkable attractions which even a bird of passage might well take the time to view. One is the very celebrated Abbaye de Maubisson, indeed it might be called notorious, if one believed the chronicles relating to the proceedings which took place there under Angelique d'Estrees, sister of the none too saintly Gabrielle.
It was founded in 1236 by Blanche of Castile, for the former religieuses of Citeaux, and was justly celebrated in the middle ages for the luxuriousness of its appointments and the excellence of its design.
The other feature of St. Ouen l'Aumône, which got its name, by the way, from a former Archbishop of Rouen, is a remarkable example of one of those great walled farmyards in which the north of France, Normandy in particular, formerly abounded. It is all attached to what was known as the Parc de Maubisson, which itself is closed by a high, ancient wall with two turrets at the corners. This wall is supposed to date from the fourteenth century, and within are the remains of a vast storehouse or grange of the same century. The only building at all approaching this great storehouse is the Halle au Blé at Rouen, which it greatly resembles as to size. It is now in the hands of a grain merchant who must deal on a large scale, as he claims to have one hundred thousand gerbes (sheaves) in storage at one time. The interior is divided into three naves by two files of monocylindrical columns, though the eastern aisle has practically been demolished.
At Auvers, just above Pontoise, which is bound to Méry by an ugly iron bridge across the Oise, is a fine church of the best of twelfth and thirteenth century Gothic, with a series of Romanesque windows in the apse. Here, too, the country immediately environing Auvers and Méry is of the order made familiar by Daubigny and his school. French farmyards, stubble-thatched cottages, and all the rusticity which is so charming in nature draws continually group after group of artists from Paris to this particular spot at all seasons of the year. The homely side of country life has ever had a charm for city dwellers. Auvers is somewhat doubtfully stated as being the birthplace of François Villon—that prince of vagabonds. Usually Paris has been given this distinction.
Mêry is an elevated little place of something less than fifteen hundred souls. It has a church of the thirteenth, sixteenth, and eighteenth centuries, and a château which was constructed at the end of the fourteenth century by the Seigneur de Méry, Pierre d'Orgemont, grand chancellor of France. The domain was created a marquisat in 1665. The famous banker, Samuel Bernard, it seems, became the occupant, of the château in the reign of Louis XIV., and there received king and court.
On a certain occasion, as the season had advanced toward the chill of winter, the opulent seigneur made great fires of acacia wood. The king, who was present, said courteously to his host: "Know you well, Samuel, it is not possible for me to do this in my palace;" from which we may infer that it was a luxury which even kings appreciated.
There were no river obstructions to the free passage of our little craft between Pontoise and L'Isle-Adam, above Auvers. We were going by easy stages now, even the long tows of grain and coal-laden barges were gaining on us, for we were straggling disgracefully and stopping at almost every kilometre stone.
We tied up at Auvers, "Daubigny's Country," as we called it, and stayed for the night at the Hostellerie du Nord, a not very splendid establishment, but one with a character all its own. Auvers, and its neighbour Méry, together form one of the most delightful settlements in which to pass a summer, near to Paris, that could be possibly imagined, but with this proviso, that on Sunday one could take a day in town, for then tout le monde, the proprietor of the Hostellerie du Nord tells you, comes out to breathe the artistic atmosphere of Daubigny. How much they really care for Daubigny or his artistic atmosphere is a question.
At such times the tiny garden and the dining-room of the Hostellerie attempt to expand themselves to accommodate a hundred and fifty guests, whereas their capacity is perhaps forty. Something very akin to pandemonium takes place; it is amusing, no doubt, but it is not comfortable. Nothing ever goes particularly awry here, however; M. T—, the patron, is too good a manager for that, and a popular one, too, to judge from his Salon d'Exposition, which is hung about with a couple of hundred pictures presented by his admiring painter guests from time to time. The viands are bountiful and splendidly garnished and the consommations au premier choix. Then there are the occupants of "les petits ménages" to swoop down on your table for crumbs,—pigeons only,—and in cages a score or more of canary-birds, and, as a sort of contrast, dogs and cats and fowls of all varieties of breed.
It sounds rather uncomfortable, but we did not find it so at all, and, speaking from experience, it is one of the most enticing of the various "artists' resorts" known.
It is but a short six kilometres to L'Isle-Adam, and it was ten the next morning before we embarked. It is a small town mostly given over to suburban houses of Paris brokers and merchants. It is an attractive enough town as a place of residence, but of works of artistic worth it has practically none, if we except the not very splendid fifteenth-century church.
The largest of the islands here, just above the lock, was formerly occupied by the château of the Prince de Conti. It was destroyed at the Revolution but its place has been taken by a modern villa whose gardens are kept up with remarkable skill and care, albeit it is nothing but a villa coquette on a large scale. L'Isle-Adam received its name from the Connetable Adam who first built a château here in 1069.
The Forêt de l'Isle-Adam is one of those noble woods in which the north of France abounds. Like the Forêt de Ermenonville, Compiègne, and Chantilly it is beautifully kept, with great roads running straight and silent through avenues of oaks.
The Château de Cassan, but a short distance into the Forêt, has a wonderful formal garden, laid out after the English manner and ranking with the parks of the Trianon and Ermenonville.
After L'Isle-Adam we did not stop, except for the lock at Rougemont, till the smoke-stacks and factory-belchings of Creil loomed up before us thirty kilometres beyond.
Creil is commercial, very commercial, and is a railway junction like Clapham Junction or South Chicago,—no, not quite; nowhere else, on top of the green earth, are there quite such atrocious monuments to man's lack of artistic taste. It is a pity Creil is so banal on close acquaintance, for it is bejewelled with emerald hills and a tiny belt of silvery water which, in the savage days of long ago, must have given it preeminence among similar spots in the neighbourhood.
Just above is Pont St. Maxence, delightfully named and delightfully placed, with a picture church of the best of Renaissance architecture and an atmosphere which made one want to linger within the confines of the town long after his allotted time. We stayed nearly half a day; we ate lunch in a little restaurant in the shadow of the bridge; we bought and sent off picture postcards, and we took snap-shots and strolled about and gazed at the little gem of a place until all the gamins in town were following in our wake.
Compiègne was next in our itinerary. We knew Compiègne, from the shore, as one might say, having passed and repassed it many times, and we knew all its charms and attractions, or thought we did, but we were not prepared for the effect of the rays of the setting sun on the quaintly serrated sky-line of the roof-tops of the city, as we saw it from the river.
It was bloody red, and the willows along the river's bank were a dim purply mélange of all the refuse of an artist's palette. Compiègne has many sides, but its picturesque sunset side is the most theatrical grouping of houses and landscape we had seen for many a long day.
Here at Compiègne the vigour of the Oise ends. Above it is a weakly, purling stream, the greater part of the traffic going by the Canal Lateral, while below it broadens out into a workable, industrial sort of a waterway which is doing its best to contribute its share to the prosperity of France.
We learn here, as elsewhere, where it has been attempted, that the hand of man cannot irretrievably make or reclaim the course of a river. Deprived of its natural bed and windings, it will always form new ones of its own making in conformity to the law of nature. The attempt was made to straighten the course of the Oise, but in a very short time the latent energies of the stream, more forceful than were supposed, made fresh windings and turnings, the ultimate development of which was found to very nearly approximate those which had previously been done away with, and so the Canal Lateral, which commences at Compiègne, was built.
Compiègne's attractions are many, its generally well-kept and prosperous air, its most excellent hôtels (two of them, though we bestowed our august patronage on the Hôtel de France), its château of royal days of Louis XV., and its Hôtel de Ville.
Stevenson, in his "Inland Voyage," has said that what charmed him most at Compiègne was the Hôtel de Ville. Truly this will be so with any who have a soul above electric trams and the art nouveau; it is the most dainty and lovable of Renaissance Hôtels de Ville anywhere to be seen, with pignons, and gables, and niches with figures in them jutting out all over it.
Then there is the novel and energetic little jaquemart, the little bronze figures of which strike the hours and even the halves and quarters. There is not a detail of this charming building, inside or out, which will not be admired by all. It is far and away more interesting in its appeal than the château itself.
Our next day's journey was to Noyon. We were travelling by boat, to be sure, but a good part of the personnel of the hôtel, including the hostler, and the bus-driver, whose business was at the station, came down to see us off. Like a bird in a cage he gazed at us with longing eyes, and once let fall the remark that he wished he had nothing else to do but sit in the bow of a boat and "twiddle a few things" to make it go faster. He overlooked entirely the things that might happen, such as having to pull your boat up on shore and pull out the weeds and rubbish which were stopping your intake pipe, or climb overboard yourself and disentangle water-plants from your propeller, if indeed it had not lost a blade and you were forced to be ignominiously towed into the next large town.
It looks all very delightful travelling about in a dainty and facile little canot-automobile, and for our part we were immensely pleased with this, our first, experience of so long a voyage. Nothing had happened to disturb the tranquillity of our journey, not a single mishap had delayed us, and we had not a quarrel with a bargeman or an éclusier, we had been told we should have. We were in luck, and though we only averaged from fifty to sixty kilometres a day, we were all day doing it, and it seemed two hundred.
We lunched at Ribecourt and struck the most ponderously named hotel we had seen in all our travels, and it was good in spite of its weight. "Le Courrier des Pays et des Trois Jambons," or something very like it, was its name, and its patronne was glad to see us, and killed a fowl especially on our account, culled some fresh lettuce in the garden, and made a dream of a rum omelette, which she said was the national dish of America. It isn't, as most of us know, but it was a mighty good omelette, nevertheless, and the rum was sufficiently fiery to give it a zest.
We spent that night at Noyon of blessed memory. Noyon is not down in the itineraries of many guide-book tourists, which is a pity for them. It is altogether the most unspoiled old-world town between the Ile de France and the Channel ports of Boulogne and Calais through which so many Anglo-Saxon travellers enter. It is off the beaten track, though, and that accounts for it. Blessed be the tourist agencies which know nothing beyond their regular routes, and thus leave some forgotten and neglected tourist-points yet to be developed.
The majesty of Noyon's cathedral of Notre Dame is unequalled in all the world. The grim towers rise boldly without ornament or decoration of any kind, and are cowled by a peculiarly strange roofing. The triple porch is denuded of its decorative statues, and there is a rank Renaissance excrescence in the rear which is unseemly, but for all that, as a mediæval religious monument of rank, it appeals to all quite as forcibly as the brilliantly florid cathedral at Beauvais, or the richly proud Amiens, its nearest neighbours of episcopal rank.
We did not sit in front of the Hôtel du Nord at Noyon, as did Stevenson, and hear the "sweet groaning of the organ" from the cathedral doorway, but we experienced all the emotions of which he wrote in his "Inland Voyage," and we were glad we came.
The Hôtel de France and the Hôtel du Nord share the custom of the ever-shifting traffic of voyageurs at Noyon. The latter is the "automobile" hotel, and accordingly possesses many little accessories which the other establishment lacks. Otherwise they are of about the same value, and in either you will, unless you are a very heavy sleeper, think that the cathedral-bells were made to wake the dead, so reverberant are their tones and so frequent their ringing.
It was Stevenson's wish that, if he ever embraced Catholicism, he should be made Bishop of Noyon. Whether it was the simple magnitude of its quaint, straight-lined cathedral, or the generally charming and riant aspect of the town, one does not know, but the sentiment was worthy of both the man and the place.
"Les affaires sont les affaires," as the French say, and business called us to Paris; so, after a happy ten days on the Seine and Oise, we cut our voyage short with the avowed intention of some day continuing it.
We left Paris by the ghastly route leading out through the plain of Gennevilliers, where Paris empties her sewage and grows asparagus, passing St. Denis and its royal catacombs of the ancient abbey, and so on to Pontoise, all over as vile a stretch of road as one will find in the north of France, always excepting the suburbs of St. Germain.
Pontoise is all very well in its way, and is by no means a dull, uninteresting town, but we had no thoughts for it at the moment; indeed, we had no thoughts of anything but to put the horrible suburban Paris pavé as far behind us as we could before we settled down to enjoyment.
At Pontoise we suddenly discovered that we were on the wrong road. So much for not knowing our way out of town—twenty-five kilometres of axle-breaking cobblestones!
We had some consolation in knowing that it was equally as bad by any northern road out of Paris, so we only had the trouble of making a twenty-kilometre detour through the valley of the Oise, by our old haunts of Auvers and L'Isle-Adam to Chantilly and Senlis.
We got our clue to the itinerary of the road to the north from a view of an old poster issued by the "Messageries Royales" just previous to the Revolution (a copy of which is given elsewhere in this book).
Many were the times we, and all well-habituated travellers in France, had swung from Calais to Paris by train, with little thought indeed as to what lay between. True, we had, more than once, "stopped off" at Amiens and Abbeville to see their magnificent churches, and we had spent a long summer at Etaples and Montreuil-sur-Mer, two "artists' haunts" but little known to the general traveller; but we never really knew the lay of the land north of Paris, except as we had got it from the reading of Dumas, Stevenson's "Inland Voyage," and the sentimental journeyings of the always delightful Sterne.
We made Chantilly our stop for lunch, en route to Senlis. We ought not to have done this, for what with the loafing horse-jockeys in the cafés, and the trainers and "cheap sports" hanging about the hotels, Chantilly does not impress one as the historical shrine that it really is.
Chantilly is sporty, très sportive, as the French call it, as is inevitable of France's most popular race-track, and there is an odour of America, Ireland, and England over all. How many jockeys of these nationalities one really finds at Chantilly the writer does not know, but, judging from the alacrity with which the hotels serve you ham and eggs and the café waiters respond to a demand for whiskey (Scotch, Irish, or American), it may be assumed that the alien population is very large.
We had our lunch at the Hôtel du Grand Condé, which is marked with three stars in the automobile route-books. This means that it is expensive,—and so we found it. It was a good enough hotel of its kind, but there was nothing of local colour about it. It might have been at Paris, Biarritz, or Monte Carlo.
The great attractions of Chantilly are the château and park and the collections of the Duc d'Aumale, famed alike in the annals of history and art. We were properly appreciative, and only barely escaped being carried off by our guide to see the stables—as if we had not suffered enough from the horse craze ever since we had struck the town.
The most we would do was to admire the park and the ramifications of its paths and alleys which dwindled imperceptibly into the great Forêt de Chantilly itself. The forest is one of those vast tracts of wildwood which are so plentifully besprinkled all over France. Their equals are not known elsewhere, for they are crossed and recrossed in all directions by well-kept carriage roads where automobilists will be troubled neither by dust nor glaring sunlight. They are the very ideals of roads, the forest roads of France, and their length is many thousands of kilometres.
Senlis is but eight kilometres from Chantilly. We had no reason for going there at all, except to have a look at its little-known, but very beautiful, cathedral, and to get on the real road to the north.
We spent the night at Senlis, for we had become fatigued with the horrible pavé of the early morning, the sightseeing of the tourist order which we had done at Chantilly, and the eternal dodging of race-horses being exercised all through the streets of the town and the roads of the forest.
"Monsieur descend-il à l'Hôtel du Grand Monarque?" asked a butcher's boy of us, as we stopped the automobile beneath the cathedral tower to get our bearings. He was probably looking for a little commission on our hotel-bill for showing us the way; but, after all, this is a legitimate enough proposition. We told him frankly no; that we were looking for the Hôtel des Arènes; but that he knew nothing of. Another, more enterprising, did, and we drove our automobile into the court of a tiny little commercial-looking hotel, and were soon strolling about the town free from further care for the day. The hotel was ordinary enough, neither good nor bad, comme 'ci, comme ça, the French would call it,—but they made no objection to getting up at six o'clock the next morning and making us fresh coffee which was a dream of excellence. This is a good deal in its favour, for the coffee of the ordinary French country hotel—in the north, in particular—is fearfully and wonderfully made, principally of chicory.
Sentiment would be served, and from Senlis we struck across forty kilometres to what may be called the Dumas Country, Crépy-en-Valois and Villers-Cotterets. Here was a little-trodden haunt which all lovers of romance and history would naturally fall in love with.
Crépy is a snug, conservative little town where life goes on in much the same way that it did in the days when Alexandre Dumas was a clerk here in a notary's office, before he descended upon the Parisian world of letters. His "Mémoires" tell the story of his early experiences here in his beloved Valois country. It is a charming biographical work, Dumas's "Mémoires," and it is a pity it is not better known to English readers. Dumas tells of his journey by road, from the town of his birth, Villers-Cotterets, to Crépy, with his world's belongings done up in a handkerchief on a stick, "in bulk not more grand than the luggage of a Savoyard when he leaves his native mountain home."
Crépy has a delightfully named and equally excellent hotel in the "Trois Pigeons," and one may eat of real country fare and be happy and forget all about the ham and eggs and bad whiskey of Chantilly in the contemplation of omelettes and chickens and fresh, green salads, such as only the country innkeeper in France knows how to serve. Crépy has a château, too, a relic of the days when the town was the capital of a petit gouvernement belonging to a younger branch of the royal family of France in the fourteenth century. The château is not quite one's ideal of what a great mediæval château should be, but it is sufficiently imposing to give a distinction to the landscape and is in every way a very representative example of the construction of the time.
The great Route Nationale to the north runs through Crépy to-day, as did the Route Royale of the days of the Valois. It is eighteen kilometres from Crépy to Villers-Cotterets, Dumas's birthplace. The great romancer describes it with much charm and correctness in the early pages of "The Taking of the Bastile." He calls it "a little city buried in the shade of a vast park planted by François I. and Henri II." It is a place ever associated with romance and history, and, to add further to its reputation, it is but a few kilometres away from La Ferte-Milon, where Racine was born, and only eight leagues from Château-Thierry, the birthplace of La Fontaine.
We had made up our minds to breathe as much of the spirit and atmosphere of Villers-Cotterets as was possible in a short time, and accordingly we settled down for the night at the Hôtel Alexandre Dumas. The name of the hotel is unusual. There may be others similar, but the writer does not recall them at this moment. It was not bad, and, though entitled to be called a grand establishment, it was not given to pomposity or pretence, and we parted with regret, for we had been treated most genially by the proprietor and his wife, and served by a charming young maid, who, we learned, was the daughter of the house. It was all in the family, and because of that everything was excellently done.
There are fragments of a royal château here, begun by François I. in one of his building manias. His salamanders and the three crescents of Diane de Poitiers still decorate its walls, and accordingly it is a historical shrine of the first rank, though descended in these later days to use as a poorhouse.
The château and forest of Villers-Cotterets were settled upon Monsieur le Grand by Louis XIV., after they had sheltered many previous royal loves, but in the days of the later monarchy, that of Philippe Egalité, the place was used merely as a hunting rendezvous.
The Dumas birthplace is an ordinary enough and dismal-looking building from the street. As usual in France, there is another structure in the rear, the real birthplace, no doubt, but one gets only a glimpse through the open door or gate. Carrier-Belleus's fine statue of Dumas, erected here in 1885, is all that a monument of its class should be, and is the pride of the local inhabitant, who, when passing, never tires of stopping and gazing at its outlines. This may be a little exaggeration, but there is a remarkable amount of veneration bestowed upon it by all dwellers in the town.
We went from Villers-Cotterets direct to Soissons, the home of the beans of that name. We do not know these medium-sized flat beans as soissons in America and England; to us they are merely beans; but to soissons they are known all over France, and in the mind and taste of the epicure there is no other bean just like them. This may be so or not, but there is no possible doubt whatever but that "soissons au beurre" is a ravishing dish which one meets with too infrequently, even in France, and this in spite of the millions of kilos of them which reach the markets through the gateway of the town of Soissons.
Soissons undoubtedly has a good hotel. How could it be otherwise in such a food-producing centre? We were directed, however, by a commis-voyageur whom we had met at Villers-Cotterets, not to think of a hotel at Soissons, if we were only to stop for lunch, but to go to the railway restaurant. Of all things this would be the most strange for an automobilist, but we took his advice, for he said he knew what he was talking about.
The "Buffet" at the railway station at Soissons is not the only example of a good railway eating-house in France, but truly it is one of the best. It is a marvellously conducted establishment, and you eat your meals in a beautifully designed, well-kept apartment, with the viands of the country of the best and of great variety. Soissons au beurre was the pièce de résistance, and there was poulet au casserole, an omelette au rhum, a crisp, cold lettuce salad, and fruits and "biscuits" galore to top off, with wine and bread à discrétion and good coffee and cognac for ten sous additional, the whole totalling three francs fifty centimes. We were probably the first automobilists on tour who had taken lunch at the railway restaurant at Soissons. Perhaps we may not be the last.
It was but a short detour of a dozen or fifteen kilometres to visit the romantic Château de Coucy, one of the few relics of mediævalism which still look warlike. It is more or less of a ruin, but it has been restored in part, and, taken all in all, is the most formidable thing of its kind in existence. It rises above the old walled town of Coucy-le-Château in quite the fashion that one expects, and, from the platform of the donjon, there spreads out a wonderful view over two deep and smiling valleys which, as much as the thickness of the château walls, effectually protected the occupants from a surprise attack.
The thirteenth century saw the birth of this, perhaps the finest example still remaining of France's feudal châteaux, and, barring the effects of an earthquake in 1692, and an attempt by Richelieu to blow it up, the symmetrical outlines of its walls and roofs are much as they always were.
Its founder was Enguerrand III. de Coucy, who took for his motto these boastful words—which, however, he and his descendants justified whenever occasion offered:
"Roi je ne suis,
Prince, ni Comte aussi,
Je suis le Sire de Coucy."
We left Coucy rejoicing, happy and content, expecting to reach Laon that night. We had double-starred Laon in our itinerary, because it was one of those neglected tourist-points that we always made a point of visiting when in the neighbourhood.
Laon possesses one of the most remarkable cathedrals of Northern France, but its hotels are bad. We tried two and regretted we ever came, except for the opportunity of marvelling at the commanding site of the town and its cathedral. The long zigzag road winding up the hill offers little inducement to one to run his automobile up to the plateau upon which sits the town proper. It were wiser not to attempt to negotiate it if there were any way to avoid it. We solved the problem by putting up at a little hotel opposite the railway station (its name is a blank, being utterly forgotten) where the commis-voyageur goes when he wants a meal while waiting for the next train. He seems to like it, and you do certainly get a good dinner, but, not being commis-voyageurs, merely automobilists, we were charged three prices for everything, and accordingly every one is advised to risk the dangerous and precipitous road to the upper town rather than be blackmailed in this way.
Laon's cathedral, had it ever been carried out according to the original plans, would have been the most stupendously imposing ecclesiastical monument in Northern France. Possibly the task was too great for accomplishment, for its stones and timbers were laboriously carried up the same zigzag that one sees to-day, and it never grew beyond its present half-finished condition. The year 1200 probably saw its commencement, and it is as thoroughly representative of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic as any other existing example of church building.
On the great massive towers of Laon's cathedral is to be seen a most curious and unchurchly symbolism in the shape of great stone effigies of oxen, pointing north, east, south, and west. There is no religious significance, we are told, but they are a tribute to the faithful services of the oxen who drew the heavy loads of building material from the plain to the hilltop.
We had taken a roundabout road to the north, via Laon, merely to see the oxen of the cathedral and to get swindled for our lunch at that unspeakable little hotel. The one was worth the time and trouble, the other was not. We left town the same night headed north, in the direction of Arras, via St. Quentin, anciently one of the famous walled towns of France, but now a queer, if picturesque, conglomeration of relics of a historical past and modern business affairs.
It was Sunday, and well into the afternoon, when we got away from Laon, but the peasant, profiting by the fair harvest days, was working in the fields as if he never had or would have a holiday. Unquestionably the peasant and labouring class in France is hard-working at his daily task and at his play, for when he plays he also plays hard. This, the eternal activity of the peasant or labourer, whatever his trade, and the worked-over little farm-holdings, with their varied crops, all planted in little bedquilt patches, are the chief characteristics of the French countryside for the observant stranger.
We crossed the Oise at La Fere, La Fere of wicked memory, as readers of Stevenson will recall. Nothing went very badly with us, but all the same the memory of Stevenson's misadventure at his hotel made us glad we were not stopping there.
We passed now innumerable little towns and villages clinging to red, brown, and green hillsides, with here and there a thatched cottage of other days, for, in the agglomérations, as the French government knows the hamlets and towns, it is now forbidden to thatch or rethatch a roof; you must renew it with tiles or slates when the original thatch wears out.
Soon after passing La Fere one sees three hilltop forts, for we are now in more or less strategic ground, and militarism is rampant.
St. Quentin has been the very centre of a warlike maelstrom for ages, and the memory of blood and fire lies over all its history, though to-day, as we entered its encumbered, crooked streets, things looked far from warlike.
We had our choice of the Hôtel du Cygne or the Hôtel du Commerce at St. Quentin, and chose the latter as being nearer the soil, whereas the former establishment is blessed with electric lights, a calorifère, and a "bar"—importing the word and the institution from England or America.
We found nothing remarkable in the catering of the Hôtel du Commerce. It was good enough of its kind, but not distinctive, and we got beer served with our dinner, instead of wine or cider. If you want either of the latter you must pay extra. We were in the beer region, not the cider country or the wine belt. It was the custom, and was not being "sprung" on us because we were automobilists. This we were glad to know after our experience at Laon.
St. Quentin possesses a famous Gothic church, known to all students of Continental architecture, and there is a monument of the siege of 1557, which is counted another "sight," though strictly a modern work.
At St. Quentin one remarks the Canal de St. Quentin, another of those inland waterways of France which are the marvel of the stranger and the profit of the inhabitant. This particular canal connects France with the extraterritorial commerce of the Pays Bas, and runs from the Somme to the Scheldt, burrowing through hillsides with tunnels, and bridging gaps and valleys with viaducts. One of these canal-tunnels, at Riqueval, has a length of nearly four miles.
We worried our way out through the crooked streets of St. Quentin at an early hour the next morning, en route for Arras, via Cambrai. Forty-two kilometres of "ond. dure.," but otherwise excellent roadway, brought us to Cambrai. (For those who do not read readily the French route-book directions the above expression is translated as "rolling and difficult.")
It matters little whether the roadways of France are marked rolling and serpentine, or hilly and winding, the surfaces are almost invariably excellent, and there is nothing met with which will annoy the modern automobile or its driver in the least, always excepting foolish people, dogs, and children. For the last we sometimes feel sorry and take extra precautions, but the others are too intolerant to command much sympathy.
Cambrai was burned into our memories by the recollection that Fénélon was one-time bishop of the episcopal see, and because it was the city of the birth and manufacture of cambric, most of which, since its discovery, has gone into the making of bargain-store handkerchiefs.
Cambrai possessed twelve churches previous to the Revolution, but only two remain at the present day, and they are unlovely enough to belong to Liverpool or Sioux City.
We had some difficulty in finding a hotel at Cambrai. Our excellent "Guide-Michelin" had for the moment gone astray in the tool-box, and there was nothing else we could trust. We left the automobile at the shop of a mécanicien for a trifling repair while we hunted up lunch. (Cost fifteen sous, with no charge for housing the machine. Happy, happy automobilists of France; how much you have to be thankful for!)
The Mouton Blanc, opposite the railway station at Cambrai, gave us a very good lunch, in a strictly bourgeois fashion, including the sticky, bitter bière du Nord. We paid two francs fifty centimes for our repast and went away with a good opinion of Cambrai, though its offerings for the tourist in the way of remarkable sights are few.
Cambrai to Arras was a short thirty kilometres. We covered them in an hour and found Arras all that Cambrai was not, though both places are printed in the same size type in the railway timetables and guide-books.
Arras has a combined Hôtel de Ville and belfry which puts the market-house and belfry of Bruges quite in the shade from an impressive architectural point of view. There is not the quiet, splendid severity of its more famous compeer at Bruges, but there is far more luxuriance in its architectural form, and, at any rate, it was a surprise and a pleasure to find that any such splendid monument were here.
The Spanish invasion of other days has left its mark all through Flanders, and here at Arras the florid Renaissance architecture of the Hôtel de Ville and the vaults and roofs of the market-square are manifestly exotics from a land strange to French architectural ways.
Arras, with its quaint old arcaded market-place, is a great distributing-point for cereals. A million of francs' worth in value changes hands here in a year, and the sale, in small lots, out in the open, is a survival of the moyen âge when the abbés of a neighbouring monastery levied toll for the privilege of selling on the market-place. Today the toll-gatherer, he who collects the small fee from the stall-owners, is still known as the Abbé.
Arras is quaint and interesting, and withal a lively, progressive town, where all manner of merchandizing is conducted along very businesslike lines. You can buy sewing-machines and agricultural machinery from America at Arras, and felt hats and orange marmalade (which the Frenchman calls, mysteriously, simply, "Dundee") from Britain.
To Douai, from Cambrai, was another hour's run. Douai has a Hôtel de Ville and belfry, too, which were entirely unlooked for. Quaint, remarkable, and the pet and pride of the inhabitant, the bells of the belfry of Bible-making Douai ring out rag-time dances and Sousa marches. Such is the rage for up-to-dateness!
There is a goodly bit to see at Douai in the way of ecclesiastical monuments, but the chief attraction, that which draws strangers to the place, is the July "Fête de Gayant," at which M. and Mme. Gayant (giant), made of wickerwork and dressed more or less à la mode, are promenaded up and down the streets to the tune of the "Air de Gayante." All this is in commemoration of an unsuccessful attempt to capture the city by Louis XI. in 1479. The fête has been going on yearly ever since, and shows no signs of dying out, as does the Guy Fawkes celebration in England.
We were now going through France's "black country," the coal-fields of the north, and the gaunt scaffolds of the mine-pits dotted the landscape here and there, as they do in Pennsylvania or the Midlands of England. They did not especially disfigure the landscape, but gave a modern note of industry and prosperity which was as marked as that of the farmyards of the peasants and high-farmers of Normandy or La Beance. France is an exceedingly wealthy, and, what is more, a "self-contained" nation; and this fact should not be forgotten by the critics of what they like to call effete Europe.
Bethune is in the heart of the coal country, and is not a particularly lovely town. It has a dream of an old-world hotel, though, and one may go a great deal farther and fare a great deal worse than at Bethune's Hôtel du Nord, a great rambling, stone Renaissance building, with heavy decorated window-frames, queer rambling staircases, and ponderous, beamed ceilings.
It sits on a little Place, opposite an isolated belfry, from whose upper window there twinkles, at night, a little star of light, like a mariner's beacon. What it is all supposed to represent no ones seems to know, but it is an institution which dies hard, and some one pays the expense of keeping it alight. A belfry is a very useful adjunct to a town. If the writer ever plans a modern city he will plant a belfry in the very centre, with four clock-faces on it, a sun-dial, a thermometer, and a peal of bells. You find all these things on the belfry of Bethune, and altogether it is the most picturesque, satisfying, and useful belfry the writer has ever seen.
The food and lodging of the Hôtel du Nord at Bethune are as satisfactory as its location, and we were content indeed to remain the following day in the dull little town, because of a torrential downpour which kept us house-bound till four in the afternoon. If one really wants to step back into the dark ages, just let him linger thirty-six hours as we did at Bethune. More would probably drive him crazy with ennui, but this is just enough.
The road to the north ended for us at Calais. How many know Calais as they really ought? To most travellers Calais is a mere guide-post on the route from England or France.
Of less interest to-day, to the London tripper, than Boulogne and its debatable pleasures, Calais is a very cradle of history and romance.
It was in October, 1775, that Sterne set out on his immortal "sentimental journey." He put up, as the tale goes, at Dessein's Hôtel at Calais (now pulled down), and gave it such a reputation among English-speaking people that its proprietor suddenly grew rich beyond his wildest hopes. So much for the publicity of literature, which, since Sterne's days, has boomed soap, cigars, and automobiles.
Sterne's familiarity with France was born of experience. He had fallen ill in London while supervising the publication of some of his literary works and was ordered to the south of France by his physicians. He obtained a year's absence from his curacy, and borrowed twenty pounds from his friend Garrick (which history, or rumour, says he never repaid) and left for—of all places—Paris, where a plunge into the whirl of social dissipation nearly carried him off his feet.
Sterne and Stevenson have written more charmingly of France and things French than any others in the English tongue, and if any one would like to make three little pilgrimages off the beaten track, by road or rail, by bicycle or automobile, let him follow the trail of Sterne in his "Sentimental Journey," or Stevenson in his "Inland Voyage" and his "Travels with a Donkey." They do not follow the "personally conducted" tourist routes, but they give a much better idea of France to one who wants to see things for himself.
Charles Dibdin, too, "muddled away five months at Calais," to quote his own words. He arrived from England after a thirteen-hours' passage in a gale of wind, in which he composed his most famous sea-song, "Blow High, Blow Low." Travellers across the channel have been known to occupy thirteen hours on the passage since Dibdin's time, and seemingly, in the experience of the writer, there is not a time when the words of the song might not apply.
We had come to Calais for the purpose of crossing the Channel for a little tour awheel amid the natural beauties and historic shrines of Merry England.
It takes fifty-five minutes, according to the Railway-Steamship time-cards, to make the passage from Calais to Dover, but the writer has never been able to make one of these lightning passages.
Automobiles are transported by the mail-boats only upon "special arrangements," information upon which point is given so vaguely that one suspects bribery and craft.
We did not bite, but went over by the night cargo-boat, at least the automobile did, at a cost of a hundred francs. This is cheap or dear, according to the way you look at it. For the service rendered it is dear, for the accommodation to you it is, perhaps, cheap enough. At any rate, it is cheap enough when you want to get away from England again, its grasping hotel-keepers, and its persecuting police.
Why do so many English automobilists tour abroad, Mr. British Hotel-keeper and Mr. Police Sergeant? One wonders if you really suspect.
The Bath Road is in many ways the most famed main road out of London. Visions as varied as those of highwaymen on Hounslow Heath, boating at Maidenhead, the days of the "dandies" at Bath, and of John Cabot at Bristol flashed through our minds whenever we heard the Bath road mentioned, so we set out with a good-will on the hundred and eighteen mile journey to Bath.
To-day the road's designation is the same as of yore, though Palmer's coaches, that in 1784 left London at eight in the morning and arrived at Bristol at eleven at night, have given way to automobiles which make the trip in three hours. You can be three hours or thirty, as you please. We figured it out for thirty-six and lunched, dined, slept, and breakfasted en route, and felt the better for it.
The real popularity of the Bath road and its supremacy in coaching circles a century and a quarter ago—a legacy which has been handed down to automobilists of to-day—was due to the initiative of one John Palmer, a gentleman of property, who had opened a theatre at Bath, and was sorely annoyed at the delays he had to submit to in obtaining star actors from London to appear on particular nights. Palmer was a man with a grievance, but he was also a man with ability and purpose. He travelled about, and made notes and observations, and organized a scheme by which coaching might be brought into a complete system; he memorialized the government, was opposed by the post-office authorities, abused, sneered at, laughed at, but not beaten; finally he gained the ear of William Pitt, who saw that there was more in the proposed plan than a mere experiment. On the 8th of August, 1784, Palmer ran his first mail-coach from London to Bristol, and made the journey in fifteen hours. That was the turning-point. The old lumbering coaches, the abominable roads, the irresponsible drivers, the wretched delay, misery, and uncertainty rapidly gave place to lighter, stronger, and more commodious vehicles, better horses, more experienced drivers, careful guards, regular stages, marked by decent inns and comfortable hostelries, and improved roads. The post-office made a contract with the coaching speculator—a very safe contract indeed—by which he was to have two and one-half per cent of the money saved in the conveyance of letters. This would have yielded twenty thousand pounds a year; so the government broke its agreement, refused to vote the payment, and compromised with Mr. Palmer and its own conscience, after the fashion of politicians of all time, by a grant of fifty thousand pounds.
The Bath road traverses a section of England that is hardly as varied as would be a longer route from north to south, but, on the whole, it is characteristically English throughout, and is as good an itinerary as any by which to make one's first acquaintance with English days and English ways.
Via Hammersmith, Kew Bridge, Brentford, and Hounslow was our way out of town, and a more awful, brain-racking, and discouraging start it would have been impossible to make. London streets are ever difficult to thread with an automobile, and when the operation is undertaken on a misty, moisty morning with what the Londoner knows as grease thick under foot and wheel, the process is fraught with the possibility of adventure.
Out through Piccadilly and Knightsbridge was bad enough, but, by the time Hammersmith Broadway, its trams and tram-lines and its butchers' and bakers' and milk carts, was reached and passed, it was as if one had been trying to claw off a lee shore in a gale, and driver and passengers alike felt exceeding limp and sticky. The Londoner who drives an automobile thinks nothing of it, and covers the intervening miles with a cool clear-headedness that is marvellous. We were new to automobiling in England, but we were fast becoming acclimated.
On through Chiswick there were still the awful tram-lines, but the roadway improved and was wider and free from abrupt turns and twists. We congratulated ourselves that at last we had got clear of town, but we had reckoned beyond our better judgment, for we had forgotten that we had been told that Brentford was the most awful death-trap that the world has known for automobilists, cyclists, and indeed foot-passers as well. We should have kept a little of our nerve by us, for we needed it when we got shut in between a brewer's dray, an omnibus, and an electric tram-car in Brentford's sixteen-foot "main road." It was like an interminable canyon, gloomy, damp, and dangerous for all living things which passed its portals, this main street of Brentford. For some miles, apparently, this same congestion of traffic continued, a tram-car ahead and behind you, drays, trucks, and carts all around you, and fool butchers' cart and milk cart drivers turning unexpected corners to the likely death of you and themselves. Here is an automobile reform which might well attract the attention of the authorities in England. The automobile has as much right to be a road user as any other form of traffic, and, if the automobile is to be regulated as to its speed and progress, it is about time that the same regulations were applied also to other classes of traffic.
We finally got out of Brentford and came to Low, where suburban improvement has gone to widen the roadway and put the two lines of tramway in the middle, allowing a free passage on either side. The wood pavement, which we had followed almost constantly since leaving London, soon disappeared, and, finally, so did the tramway. After perhaps fifteen miles we were at last approaching open country; at least Suburbia and perambulators had been left behind; and truck-gardens and market-wagons, often with sleepy drivers, had entered on the scene. Here was a new danger, but not so terrible as those we had left behind, and the poor, docile horse usually had sense enough to draw aside and let us pass, even if the beer-drowsy driver had not.
We soon reached the top of Hounslow Heath, but there was scarcely a suggestion of the former romantic aspect which we had always connected with it.
We made inquiries and learned that there was one old neighbouring inn, the "Green Man," lying between the Bath and Exeter roads, which was a true relic of the past, and musty with the traditions of turnpike travellers and highwaymen of old. We found the "Green Man" readily enough, with a country yokel to point the way, for which he expected the price of a beer. In the palmy days of the robbing and murdering traffic of Hounslow Heath it was a convenient refuge for the Duvals and Turpins, and they made for it with a rush on occasion, secreting themselves in a hiding-place which can still be seen.
This is in a little room on the left of the front door, and the entrance lies at the back of an old-fashioned fireplace. A hole leads to a passage which opens into a cavernous recess beneath, to which there is ample room for anybody to descend. The local wiseacres declare that there is, or was, a communication between this secret chamber and another famous highwayman's inn, the old "Magpie" directly on the Bath road, and that those who preyed on travellers used to bolt from one house to the other like hunted rabbits. No one seemingly has himself ever explored this mysterious subterranean passage. Beyond Hounslow, on the Bath road, one passes through Slough, leaving Windsor, Runnymede, and Datchet on the left, as properly belonging to the routine tours which one makes from London and calls simply excursions.
The Thames is reached at Maidenhead, where up-river society plays a part which reminds one of the stage melodramas, except that there is real water and real boat-races. It is a pretty enough aspect up and down the river from the bridge at Maidenhead, but it is stagey and artificial.
The hotels and restaurants of Maidenhead make some pretence of catering to automobilists, and do it fairly well, after a suburban fashion, but there is nothing of the flavour or sentiment of the old inn-keeping days, neither are any of the establishments at all what the touring automobilist (as distinct from the promenading, or half-day excursion variety) expects and demands.
The Bath road runs straight on through Twyford to Reading, but we made a detour via Great Marlow and Henley, merely for the satisfaction of lunching at the "Red Lion Inn" at the latter place. The great social and sporting attractions of the Thames, the annual Henley regatta, had drawn us thither years ago, and we had enjoyed ourselves in the conventional manner, shouting ourselves hoarse over rival crews, lunching, picnic fashion, from baskets under the trees, and making our way back to town by the railway, amid a terrifying crush late at night. It was all very enjoyable, but once in a lifetime was quite enough. Now we were taking things easier.
The traditions hanging around the old "Red Lion Inn," beside the bridge, probably account for its popularity, for certainly its present-day accommodations and catering are nothing remarkable, and the automobilist is looked upon with disfavour. Why? This is hard to state. He is a good spender, the automobilist, and he comes frequently. All the same, the "Red Lion Inn" at Henley is one of those establishments marked down in the guide-books as "comfortable," and if its luncheon is a bit slow and stodgy, it is wholesome enough, and automobilists are generally blessed with good appetites.
The Shenstone legend and the window-pane verses about finding "one's warmest welcome at an inn" were originally supposed to apply to this inn at Henley. Later authorities say that they referred to an inn at Henley-in-Arden. Perhaps an automobilist, even, would find the latter more to his liking. The writer does not know.
To Reading from Henley is perhaps a dozen miles, by a pretty river road which shows all the characteristic loveliness of the Thames valley about which poets have raved. By Shiplake Mill, Sonning, and Caversham Bridge one finally enters Reading. Reading is famous for the remains of an old abbey and for its biscuits, but neither at the time had any attractions for us.
We made another detour from our path and followed the river-road to Abingdon. Pangborne (better described as Villadom) was passed, as was also Mapledurham, which Dick of William Morris's "Utopia" thought "a very pretty place." In fine it is a very pretty place, and the river hereabouts is quite at its prettiest.
Since we had actually left towns and trams behind us we found the roadways good, but abominably circuitous and narrow, not to say dangerous because of it.
Soon Streatley Hill rose up before us. Streatley is one of those villages which have been pictured times innumerable. One often sees its winding streets, its picturesque cottages, its one shop, its old mill, "The Bull Inn," or its notorious bridge over the river to Goring.
To cross this bridge costs six pence per wheel, be your conveyance a cart, carriage, bicycle, or motor-car, so that if an automobile requires any slight attention from the machinist, who quarters himself at Goring boat-house, it is appreciably cheaper to bargain with him to come to Streatley. Thus one may defeat the object of the grasping institution which, the lady toll-taker tells you, is responsible for the outrage, and not she herself. You may well believe her; she hardly looks as though she approved of the means which serve to keep her in her modest position.
Streatley Hill, or rather the view from it, like the village itself, is famed alike by poet and painter. The following quatrain should be eulogy enough to warrant one's taking a rather stiff climb in the hope of experiencing, to a greater or a lesser degree, the same emotions:
"When you're here, I'm told that you
Should mount the Hill and see the view;
And gaze and wonder, if you'd do
Its merits most completely."
The poetry is bad, but the sentiment is sound.
Goring is more of a metropolis than Streatley, but we did not visit the former town because of the atrocious toll-bridge charge. We were willing enough to make martyrs of ourselves in the good cause of the suppression of all such excessive charges to automobilists.
On through Abingdon, and still following the valley of the Thames, we kept to Faringdon and Lechlade, where, at the latter place, at the subtly named "Trout Inn," we proposed passing the night.
We did pass the night at the "Trout Inn," which has no accommodation for automobiles, except a populated hen-house, the general sleeping-place of most of the live stock of the landlord, dogs, cats, ducks, and geese; to say nothing of the original occupants—the hens. How much better they do things in France!
At any rate there is no pretence about the "Trout Inn" at Lechlade. We slept in a stuffy, diamond-paned little room with chintz curtains to windows, bed, and mantelpiece. We dined off of trout, beefsteak, and cauliflower, and drank bitter beer until midnight in the bar-parlour with a half-dozen old residents who told strange tales of fish and fishing. Here at least was the real thing, though the appointments of the inn were in no sense picturesque, and the landlord, instead of being a rotund, red-faced person, was a tall, thin reed of a man with a white beard who, in spite of his eighty odd years, is about as lively a proposition as one will find in the business in England.
Mine host of "The Trout," silvered as the aspen, but straight as the pine, bears his eighty-two years lightly, and will tell you that he is still able to protect his fishing rights, which he owns in absolute fee on four miles of river-bank, against trespassers—and they are many. He sleeps, he says, with one eye open, and his gun by his side, and thinks nothing of a sally forth in the dark hours of night and exploding a charge in the direction of a marauder. He and his cronies of the tap-room, of an evening, before a glowing fire of logs, above which is the significant gun-rack (quite in old picture-book fashion), will give a deal of copy to an able writer who seeks atmosphere and local colour.
Kelmscott, so identified with William Morris, is even less of the world of to-day than is its neighbour, Lechlade, and was one of the reasons for our coming here at all.
The topographical surveys and books of reference will tell on that it is a "chapelry, in the parish of Broadwell, Union of Faringdon, hundred of Bampton, county of Oxford;" that it is "two miles east of Lechlade and contains 179 inhabitants;" and that "by measurement it contains 1,020 acres, of which 876 are arable and 153 meadow and pasture." It is unlikely that the population has increased since the above description; the best authority claims that it has actually decreased, like so many of the small towns and villages of the countryside in England.
Kelmscott Manor House was advertised for sale in 1871, a fact which Morris discovered quite by accident. Writing to his friend Faulkner he says:
"I have been looking about for a house... my eye is turned now to Kelmscott, a little village two miles above Radcott Bridge—a Heaven on earth."
The house is thirty miles or more from Oxford, by water, approached by a lane which leads from Lechlade just over St. John's Bridge, by the "Trout Inn." The railway now reaches Lechlade but this was not the case when Morris first found this "Heaven." Most likely he reached it by carriage from Faringdon, "by the grand approach over the hills of Berkshire."
We regained the Bath road at Marlborough, after our excursion into the realms of Utopia, intending to reach Bath for lunch. The best laid plans of mice and mere motor-men ofttimes go awry, and we did not get to Bath until well on into the night. There was really no reason for this except an obstinate bougie (beg pardon, sparking-plug in English) which sparked beautyfully in the open air, but which refused positively to give a glimmer when put in its proper place. We did not know this, or even suspect it at first, but this was what delayed us four hours, just before we reached Chippenham, where we stopped and lunched, through no choice of our own, for it was a bad lunch in every particular, and cost three shillings and sixpence a head. To add to the indignity, the local policemen came along and said we were making an obstruction, and insisted that we push the machine into the stable-yard, as if we were committing a breach of the law, when really it was only an opportunity for a "bobby" to show his authority. Happy England!
All the morning we had been running over typical English roads and running well. There is absolutely no question but that the countryside of England is unequalled for that unique variety of picturesqueness which is characteristic of the land, but it lacks the grandeur that one finds in France, or indeed in most countries of Continental Europe.
Crossing England thus, one gets the full force of Rider Haggard's remarks about the small farmer; how, because he cannot get a small holding, that can be farmed profitably, for his very own, he becomes a tenant, or remains always a labourer, never rising in the social scale.
The peasant of Continental Europe may be poor and impoverished, may eat largely of bread instead of meat, and be forced to drink "thin wine" instead of body-building beer,—as the economists in England put it,—but he has much to be thankful for, nevertheless.
We stopped just before Beckhampton, at a puzzling crossroads, and asked a labourer of the fields if we were "right" for Chippenham. He stared blankly, doffed his hat with humility, but for a time answered never a word. He knew Calne, a town half a dozen miles away, for he occasionally, walked in there for a drinking-bout on a heavier brand of beer than he could buy locally, but, though he had always heard of Chippenham, he did not know whether it lay north, east, south, or west. This is deplorable, of course, for it was within a twenty-mile radius, but it is astonishing the frequency with which one meets this blankness in England when looking for information. There are tens of thousands like this poor fellow, and one may well defy Rider Haggard to make a "landed proprietor" out of such poor stuff.
You do not always get what you ask for in France, but the peasant at least knows enough to tell you, "Oh! that's down in the Eure" or "Plus loin, par là," and at any rate, you feel that he is a broad-gauge Frenchman through and through, whereas the English labourer of the fields is a very "little Englander" indeed.
It is hard to believe on a bright May morning that here, in this blossoming, picturesque little village of Chippenham, on one bitterly cold morning in the month of April, 1812, when the Bath coach reached its posting-house (the same, perhaps, Mr. Up-to-Date Automobilist, at which you have slept the night—worse luck), two of its outside passengers were found frozen to death, and a third all but dead. The old lithographs which pictured the "Royal Mail" stuck in a snow-drift, and the unhappy passengers helping to dig it out, are no longer apocryphal in your mind after you have heard this bit of "real history," which happened, too, in one of England's southern counties. The romance of other days was often stern and uncomfortable reality of a most bitter kind.
We left Chippenham, finally, very late in the day, lost our way at unsign-boarded and puzzling crossroads, had two punctures in a half a dozen miles, and ultimately reached the centre of Bath, over the North Parade Bridge—for which privilege we paid three pence, another imposition, which, however, we could have avoided had we known the devious turnings of the main road into town.
In two days we had covered something like two hundred and fifty miles in and out of highways and byways, had followed the Thames for its entire boatable length, and had crossed England,—not a very great undertaking as automobile tours go, but a varied and enjoyable one in spite of the restrictions put upon the free passage of automobiles by the various governing bodies and the indifferent hotel-keepers.
Bath and its attractions for visitors are quite the best things of their kind in all England, in spite of the fact that the attractions, the teas, the concerts, and the lectures—to say nothing of drinking and bathing in the waters—lack individuality.
We stayed the round of the clock at Bath, two rounds and a half, in fact, in that we did not leave until the second morning after our arrival, and absorbed as much of the spirit and association of the place as was possible, including sundry gallons of the bubbling spring-water.
Bath has pleased many critical souls, James McNeill Whistler for one, who had no patience with other English resorts. It pleased us, too. It was so different.
From Bath to Bristol is a dozen miles only, and the topographical characteristics change entirely, following the banks of the little river Avon. Bristol was a great seaport in days gone by, but today only coasters and colliers make use of its wharves. The town is charmingly situated, but it is unlovely, and, for the tourist, is only a stepping-stone to somewhere else. The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland directs one to the suburb of Clifton, or rather to Clifton Down, for hotel accommodation, but you can do much better than that by stopping at the Half Moon Hotel in the main street, a frankly commercial house, but with ample garage accommodation and good plain fare, of which roast little pig, boiled mutton, cauliflower, and mashed potatoes, with the ever recurring apple tart, form the principal items.
The south coast of England is ever dear to the Londoner who spends his week's end out of town. Here he finds the nearest whiff of salt-water breeze that he can call his own. He may go down the Thames on a Palace steamer to Southend, and he will have to content himself most of the way with a succession of mud-flats and eat winkles with a brassy pin when he gets there; he may even go on to Margate and find a fresh east wind which will blow the London fog out of his brain; but, until he rounds the Foreland, he will find nothing that will remind him in the least of his beloved Eastbourne, Brighton, and Worthing.
The most popular south coast automobile run from London is to Brighton, fifty-two miles, via Croyden, Redhill, and Crawley. Many "weekenders" make this trip nearly every Saturday to Monday in the year, and get to know every rut and stone in the roadway and every degenerate policeman of the rapacious crew who hide in hedges and lie in wait for poor unfortunate automobilists who may have slipped down a sloping bit of clear roadway at a speed of twenty and one-tenth miles per hour (instead of nineteen and nine-tenths), all figured out by rule of thumb and with the aid of a thirty-shilling stop-watch.
"Ils sont terribles, ces bétes des gendarmes on trouve en Angleterre," said a terror-stricken French friend of ours who had been held up beyond Crawley for a "technical offence." Nothing was said against a drunken drayman who backed his wagon up against our friend's mudguard ten miles back, and smashed it beyond repair. Justice, thy name is not in the vocabulary of the English policeman sent out by his sergeant to keep watch on automobilists!
Our road to the sea was by Rochester, Canterbury, and Dover, in the first instance, following much the itinerary of Chaucer's pilgrims.
Southwark's Tabard Inn exists to-day, in name if not in spirit, and it was easy enough to take it for our starting-point. Getting out of London to the southeast is not as bad as by the northwest, but in all conscience it is bad enough, through Deptford and its docks, and Greenwich and Woolwich, and over the Plumstead marshes. There are variants of this itinerary, we were told, but all are equally smelly and sooty, and it was only well after we had passed Gravesend that we felt that we had really left town behind, and even then we could see the vermilion stacks of great steamships making their way up London's river to the left, and the mouse-brown sails of the barges going round the coast to Ipswich and Yarmouth.
At last a stretch of green unsmoked and unspoiled country, that via Stroud to Rochester, came into view.
Rochester on the Medway, with its memories of Mr. Pickwick and the Bull Inn (still remaining), the cathedral and Gad's Hill, Dickens's home near by, is a literary shrine of the first importance. We stopped en route and did our duty, but were soon on our way again through the encumbered main street of Chatham and up the long hill to Sittingbourne, itself a dull, respectable market-town with a boiled mutton and grilled kipper inn which offers no inducements to a gormand to stop for lunch.
We kept on to Canterbury and didn't do much better at a hotel which shall be nameless. The hotels are all bad at Canterbury, according to Continental standards, and there is little choice between them.
It is said that the oldest inn in England is "The Fountain" at Canterbury. "The Fountain" claims to have housed the wife of Earl Godwin when she came to meet her husband on his return from Denmark in the year 1029, and to have been the temporary residence of Archbishop Lanfranc whilst his palace was being rebuilt in 1070. There is a legend, too, that the four knights who murdered Thomas à Becket made this house their rendezvous. Moreover, "The Fountain" can boast of a testimonial to its excellence as an inn written six hundred years ago, for, when the marriage of Edward the First to his second queen, Margaret of France, was solemnized at Canterbury Cathedral on September 12, 1299, the ambassador of the Emperor of Germany, who was among the distinguished guests, wrote thus to his master: "The inns in England are the best in Europe, those of Canterbury are the best in England, and 'The Fountain,' wherein I am now lodged as handsomely as I were in the king's palace, the best in Canterbury." Times have changed since the days of Edward I.!
Canterbury is a very dangerous town to drive through. Its streets are narrow and badly paved, and there are unexpected turnings which bring up a lump in one's throat when he is driving at his most careful gait and is suddenly confronted with a governess's cart full of children, a perambulator, and a bath-chair, all in the middle of the road, where, surely, the two latter have no right to be.
The grand old shrine of Thomas à Becket, the choir built by Lanfranc's monks, and the general ensemble of the cathedral close are worth all the risk one goes through to get to them. The cathedral impresses one as the most thoroughly French of all the Gothic churches of Britain, and because of this its rank is high among the ecclesiastical architectural treasures of the world. Its history is known to all who know that of England, of the church, and of architecture, and the edifice tells the story well.
The distant view from the road, as one approaches the city, is one that can only be described as grand. The fabric of the great cathedral, the rooftops of the houses, the sloping hills rising from the water's edge, and again falling lightly down to the town, form a grandly imposing view, the equal of which one seldom sees on the main travelled roads of England.
Between Canterbury and Winchester ran one of the oldest roads in England, the "Pilgrim's Way." Many parts of it still exist, and it is believed by many to be the oldest monument of human work in these islands. About two-thirds of the length of the road is known with certainty, and to some extent the old itinerary forms the modern highway. Its earliest route seems to have been from Stonehenge to Canterbury, but later the part from Stonehenge to Alton was abandoned in favour of that from Winchester to Alton. Guildford and Dorking were places that it touched, though it was impossible to say with certainty where it crossed the Medway.
Margate, Ramsgate, and the Isle of Thanet lay to the left of us, but we struck boldly across the downs to Dover's Bay, under the shadow of the Shakespeare Cliff, made famous in the scenic accessories of The Tempest.
Dover, seventy-two miles by road from London, has a good hotel, almost reaching the Continental standard, though it is not an automobile hotel and you must house your machine elsewhere. It is called the Lord Warden Hotel, and is just off the admiralty pier head. It suited us very well in spite of the fact that the old-school Englishman contemptuously refers to it as a place for brides and for seasick Frenchmen waiting the prospect of a fair crossing by the Calais packet.
The descent into Dover's lower town from the downs above is fraught with considerable danger for the automobilist. It is steep, winding, and narrow, and one climbs out of it again the next morning by an equally steep, though less narrow, road up over the Shakespeare Cliff and down again abruptly into Folkestone.
Dover is not fashionable as a resort, and its one pretentious sea-front hotel is not a lovely thing—most sea-front hotels are not. In spite of this there is vastly more of interest going on, with the coming and going of the great liners and the cross-channel boats of the harbour, than is to be found in a mere watering-place, where band concerts, parade-walks, "nigger minstrels," tea fights, and excursions in the neighbourhood are the chief attractions which are advertised, and are fondly believed by the authorities to be sufficient to draw the money-spending crowds.
Dover is a very interesting place; the Shakespeare Cliff dominates it on one side and the old castle ruin on the other, to-day as they did when the first of the Cinq-Ports held England's destiny in the hollow of her hand. Sir Walter Raleigh prayed his patron Elizabeth to strengthen her fortifications here and formulate plans for a great port. Much was done by her, but a fitting realization of Dover's importance as a deep-water port has only just come to pass, and then only because of a significant hint from the German emperor.
Shakespeare's, or Lear's, Cliff at Dover is one of the first things to which the transatlantic up-channel traveller's attention is called. Blind old Gloster has thus described it:
"There is a cliff whose high and bending head
Looks fearfully into the confined deep."
The English War Department of today, it is rumoured, would erase this landmark, because the cliff obstructs the range of heavy guns, thus jeopardizing the defence of Dover; but there are those who, knowing that chalk is valuable, suggest that commercialism is at the foundation of the scheme for destroying the cliff. The Dover corporation has accordingly passed a resolution of remonstrance against the destruction of what they claim "would rob the English port of one of its most thrilling attractions."
Folkestone is more sadly respectable than Dover; more homeopathic, one might say. The town is equally difficult for an automobile to make its way through, but as one approaches the water's edge things somewhat improve. Wampach's Hotel at Folkestone is not bad, but B. B. B., as the "Automobile Club's Hand Book" puts it (bed, bath, and breakfast), costs eight shillings and sixpence a day. This is too much for what you get.
We followed the shore road to Hythe, Dymchurch, New Romney, and Rye, perhaps thirteen miles all told, along a pebble-strewn roadway with here and there a glimpse of the shining sea and the smoke from a passing steamer.
To our right was Romney Marsh, calling up memories of the smuggling days of old, when pipes of port and bales of tobacco mysteriously found their way inland without paying import duties.
Rye is by no means a resort; it is simply a dull, sleepy, red-roofed little seaside town, with, at sunset, a riot of blazing colour reflected from the limpid pools left by the retreating waters of the Channel, which now lies five miles away across a mud-flat plain, although coastwise shipping once came to Rye's very door-step.
The entrance to the town, by an old mediæval gateway, is easily enough made by a careful driver, but an abrupt turn near the top of the slight rise cost us a mud-guard, it having been ripped off by an unexpected and most dangerous hitching-post. This may be now removed; it certainly is if the local policeman did his duty and reported our really atrocious language to the authorities. Of all imbecilic and unneedful obstructions to traffic, Rye's half-hidden hitching-post is one of the most notable seen in an automobile tour comprising seven countries and several hundreds, perhaps thousands, of large and small towns.
The chief curiosities of Rye are its quaint hilltop church, the town walls, and the Ypres tower, all quite foreign in motive and aspect from anything else in England.
Those interested in literary shrines may well bow their heads before the door of the dignified Georgian house near the church, in which resides the enigmatic Henry James. There may be other literary lights who shed a glow over Rye, but we did not learn of them, and surely none could be more worthy of the attention of literary lion-hunters than the American who has become "more English" than the English themselves.
We left Rye by a toll-gate road over the marshes, bound for Winchelsea, and, passing through the ivy-clad tower which spans the roadway, stopped abruptly, like all hero or heroine worshippers, before the dainty home of Ellen Terry. The creeper-clung little brick cottage is a reminiscence of old-world peace and quiet which must be quite refreshing after an active life on the stage.
Hastings saw us for the night. Hastings and St. Leonards, twin sea-front towns, are what, for a better description, might be called snug and smug. They are simply the most depressing, unlovely resorts of sea-front and villas that one will see in a round of all the English resorts.
As a pompous, bustling, self-sufficient little city, Hastings, with its fisher men and women, its fish-market and the ruined castle-crowned height, has some quaintness and character; but as a resort where the chief amusements are scrappy, tuneless hurdy-gurdies, blatant brass bands, living picture shows, or third-rate repetitious of a last year's London theatrical successes, it is about the rankest boring proposition which ever drew the unwary visitor.
We had our "B. B. B." that night at the Queen's Hotel, a vast barracks of a place near the end of the Parade. The best thing about it was the view from the windows of our sleeping-rooms, and the fact that we could stable our automobile under the same roof.
We made a little run inland from Hastings the next morning to view old Battle Abbey. The battlement-crowned gateway is still one of the architectural marvels of England. It took us a dozen miles out of our way, but always among the rolling downs which dip down to the sea, chalk-faced and grass-grown in a manner characteristic only of the south coast of England.
We came to Eastbourne through Pevensey, famed for its old ruined castle and much history. A low-lying marsh-grown fishing-port of olden times, Pevensey was the landing-place of the Conqueror when he came to lay the foundation-stones of England's greatness. It is a shrine that Britons should bow down before, and reverently.
Eastbourne is a vast improvement, as a resort, over any south coast town we had yet seen. It is not gay, it is rather sedate, and certainly eminently respectable and dignified. Giant wheels, hurdy-gurdies, and quack photographers are banished from its beach and esplanade, and one may stroll undisturbed by anything but perambulators and bath-chairs. Its sea-front walk of a couple of miles or more is as fine as any that can be found from the Foreland to the Lizard.
Most energetically we climbed to the top of Beachy Head, gossiped with the coast-guard, stole a peep through the telescope by which Lloyd's observer at the signal-station picks out passing ships, and got down the great hill again in time for lunch at the Burlington Hotel. We lunched in more or less stately fashion, well, if not luxuriously, in a great dining-room whose sole occupant, besides ourselves, was England's laureate.
He is herein endorsed as possessing a good taste in seaside hotels, whatever one may think of the qualities of his verse. The Burlington seemed to us the best conducted and most satisfactory hotel on all the south coast, except perhaps the Lord Warden at Dover.
It was a more or less rugged climb, by a badly made road, up over the downs from Eastbourne, only to drop down again as quickly through Eastdean to Newhaven, a short ten miles, but a trying one.
Newhaven is a sickly burg sheltered well to the west of Beachy Head. Its only excitements are the comings and goings of the Dieppe steamers and a few fishing-boats. It is one of the best ports for shipping one's automobile to France, and one of the cheapest. In no other respect is Newhaven worth a glance of the eye, and English travelers themselves have no good word for the abominable tea and coffee served to limp, half-famished travellers as they get off the Dieppe boat. This well-worn and well-deserved reputation was no inducement for us to stop, so we made speed for Brighton via Rottingdean.
Rottingdean will be famous in most minds as being the rival of Brattleboro, Vt., as the home of Rudyard Kipling. Sightseers came from Brighton in droves and stared the author out of countenance, as they did at Brattleboro, and he removed to the still less known, and a great deal less accessible, village of Burwash in Kent. Thus passed the fame of Rottingdean.
Brighton has been called London-on-Sea, and with some truth, but as the sun shines here with frequency it differs from London in that respect.
Brighton is a brick and iron built town, exceedingly unlovely, but habitable. Its two great towering sea-front hotels look American, but they are a great deal more substantially built. There are two rivals for popular favour, the Grand and the Metropole. They are much alike in all their appointments, but there are fewer tea-drinkers and after-dinner sleepers (and snorers) at the Metropole. There is also a famous old coaching house, the Ship Hotel (most curiously named), which caters particularly for automobilists.
Brighton is the typical seaside resort of Britain. It is like nothing on the Continent; it is not even as attractive a place as most Continental resorts; but it is the best thing in Britain.
Brighton and Hove have a sea-front of perhaps three miles. Houses and hotels line the promenade on one side, a pebbly beach and the sea on the other.
The attractions of Brighton are conventional and an imitation of those in London. In addition one bathes, in summer, in the lapping waves, and in winter sits in a glass shelter which breaks the wind, and gazes seaward.
There are theatrical attractions and operas in the theatre, and vocal and instrumental concerts on the pier, all through the year. There are also various sorts of functions which go on in the turnip-topped Royal Pavilion of the Georges, which once seen will ever afterward be avoided.
It is not always bright and sunny at Brighton. We were storm-bound at the Metropole for two days, and the Channel waves dashed up over the pier and promenade and drowned out the strollers who sought to take their constitutional abroad.
We sat tight in the hotel and listened to Sousa marches, "Hiawatha," and "The Belle of New York" strummed out by a none too competent band. A genial fat-faced old lady of uncertain age tried to inveigle us into a game of bridge, but that was not what we came for, so we strenuously refused.
The flood-tide of holiday trippers at Brighton is in August. This is the month when, at certain periods of the day, the mile length of roadway from railway station to sea is a closely packed crowd of excursionists; when the long expanse of sea-front and sand presents its most animated spectacle of holiday-keeping people; when the steamers plying along the Sussex coast, or to France, the white-sailed yachts, the rowing-boats, and motor-boats are the most numerous; and when the hundred and one entertainers and providers of all kinds do their busiest trade.
There is a public bathing-station at the eastern end of the sea-front. A large marquee is provided, and a worthy lady, the incarnation of the British matron, sees to it that the curtains are properly drawn and that inquisitive small boys keep their distance. But it is rather a long walk from the marquee to the water when the tide is low, and one often hears the camera click on the irresistible charms of some swan-like creature ambling down to deep water. The authorities have promised to put a stop to such liberties. Can they?
We left Brighton with a very good idea indeed of what it was like. It has a place to fill and it fills it very well, but the marvel is that the Britisher submits to it, when he can spend his weekends, or his holiday, at Boulogne or Dieppe for practically the same expenditure of time and money, and get real genuine relaxation and a gaiety which is not forced. So much for Brighton.
The Brighton police authorities have heeded the words of admonition of the tradesmen and hotel-keepers, and the automobilist has an easy time of it. It is an example which it is to be hoped will be far-reaching in its effects.
The road by the coast runs along by New Shoreham to Worthing, where the automobilist is catered for in really satisfactory fashion at Warne's Hotel, which possesses what is called a motor dépôt, a name which describes its functions in an obvious manner. It is a good place to lunch and a good place to obtain gasoline and oil. What more does the touring automobilist want? Not much but good roads and ever varying scenery.
Worthing has a population of twenty-five thousand conservative souls, and a mild climate. Its popularity is only beginning, but it boasts 1,748 hours of sunshine, an exceedingly liberal allowance for an English resort. It has also a "school of cookery;" this may account for the fare being as excellent as it is at "Warne's," though the proprietors are silent on this point.
Littlehampton came next in our itinerary. It almost equals Rye as one of the picture spots of England's south coast. It may develop some day into an artist's sketching ground which will rival the Cornish coast. It has a tidal river with old boats and barges lying picturesquely about, and it permits "mixed bathing," a rarity in England. In spite of this there appears to be no falling off in morals, and when other English seaside resorts adopt the same procedure they will be falling out of the conservatism which is keeping many of them from developing at the rate of Littlehampton.
We left the coast here to visit Arundel and its castle, the seat of the Duke of Norfolk. It was a Friday and the keep and park were open to the public.
Arundel is an ancient town which sleeps its life away and lives up to the traditions of mediævalism in truly conservative fashion. The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland makes no recommendation as to the hotels of Arundel, and presumably the Norfolk Arms cares nothing for the automobile traffic. We did not stop at any hotel, but left our machine outside the castle gate, enjoyed the conventional stroll about inside the walls and in an hour were on the way to Chichester.
Sussex is a county which, according to some traditions possesses four particular delicacies. Izaak Walton, in 1653, named them as follows: a Selsea cockle, a Chichester lobster, an Arundel mullet, and an Amberley trout. Another authority, Ray, adds to these three more: a Pulborough eel, a Rye herring, and a Bourn wheatear, which, he says, "are the best in their kind, understand it, of those that are taken in this country."
Chichester is a cathedral town not usually included in the itinerary of stranger-tourists. Its proud old cathedral and its detached bell-tower are remarkable for many things, but the strangeness of the belfry, entirely unconnected with the church fabric itself, will strike the natives of the land of skyscrapers most of all.
Chichester is conservative in all things, and social affairs, said a public-house habitué, are entirely dominated by the cathedral clique. He may have been a bad authority, this doddering old septuagenarian, mouthing his pint of beer, but he entertained us during the half-hour of a passing shower with many plain-spoken opinions about many things, including subjects as wide apart as clericalism and submarines.
Our route from Chichester was to Portsmouth and Southsea, neither of which interested us to any extent. The former is warlike in every turn of its crooked streets and the latter is full of retired colonels and majors, who keep always to the middle of the footpath across Southsea Common, and will not turn the least bit to one side, for courtesy or any other reason. Too much curry on their rice or port after dinner probably accounts for it.
We stopped at the George at Portsmouth. It offers no accommodation for automobiles, but a garage is near by. The halo of sentiment and romance hung over the more or less dingy old hotel, dingy but clean, and possessed of a parlour filled with a collection of old furniture which would make the connoisseur want to carry it all away with him.
This was the terminus of old-time travel from London to Portsmouth. The Portsmouth road, in coaching days as in automobile days, ran through England's fairest counties down to her emporium of ships. Its beginnings go back to the foundations of England's naval power.
Edward IV. made Portsmouth a strong place of defence, but the road from town only became well travelled in later centuries.
Along the old Portsmouth road were, and are still, any number of nautically named inns. At Liphook is the Anchor—where Pepys put up when on his way to England's chief naval town—and the Ship; there is another Anchor at Ripley; at Petersfield stands the Dolphin, and near Guildford is the Jovial Sailor. All these, and other signs of a like nature, suffice to tell the observant wayfarer that he is on the road which hordes of seamen have trod on their way to and from London, and that it was formerly deemed well worth while to hang out invitations to them.
In 1703 Prince George of Denmark made nine miles in six hours on this road, an indication that the good roads movement had not begun. In 1751 Doctor Burton suggested that all the animals in Sussex, including the women, were long-legged because of "the difficulty of pulling their feet out of the mud which covers the roads hereabouts."
A hundred or more years ago Nelson came by post by this road to Portsmouth to hoist his flag upon the Victory. He arrived at the George, the same which was sheltering our humble selves, at six in the morning, as the records tell, having travelled all night. The rest is history, but the old Victory still swings at her moorings in Portsmouth harbour, a shrine before which all lovers of the sea and its tales may worship. Portsmouth is the great storehouse of Britain's battleships, and the Solent from Spithead to Stokes Bay is a vast pool where float all manner of warlike craft.
Isle of Wight
Royal Yacht Squadron
The Isle of Wight was the immediate attraction for us at Portsmouth. One makes the passage by boat in thirty minutes, and when one gets there he finds leafy lanes and well-kept roads that will put many mainland counties to shame. The writer does not know the length of the roadways of the Isle of Wight, but there are enough to give one a good three days of excursions and promenades.
We made our headquarters at Ryde and sallied out after breakfast and after lunch each day, invariably returning for the night.
The beauties of the Isle of Wight are many and varied, with all the charms of sea and shore. For a literary shrine it has Tennyson's Freshwater and the Tennyson Beacon high up on the crest of the downs overlooking the Needles, Freshwater Bay, and the busy traffic of the English Channel, where the ships make landward to signal the observers at St. Catherine's Point.
Cowes and "Cowes week" are preeminent annual events in society's periodical swing around the circle.
The real development of Cowes, the home of the Royal Yacht Squadron, has been the evolution of week-end yachting in the summer months. City men, and jaded legislators, held to town by the Parliamentary duties of a long summer session, rush down to Southampton every Saturday and each steps off his train or motor-car on to the deck of his yacht, and then, after a spin westward to the Needles or eastward to the Nab or Warner Lightship, soothed by the lapping of the waters, and refreshed by the pure sea air, returns on the Monday to face again the terrors of London heat and "fag."
Taken all in all, we found the Isle of Wight the most enjoyable region of its area in all England. It is quite worth the trouble of crossing from the mainland with one's automobile in order to do it thoroughly; for what one wants is green fields and pastures new and a breadth of sea and sky.
We had already done a bit of conventional touring in England, and we thought we knew quite all of the charms and fascinations of the idyllic countryside of most of Britain, not omitting even Ireland.
The cathedral towns had appealed to us in our youthful days, and we had rediscovered a good portion of Dickens's England on another occasion, had lived for a fortnight on a house-boat on the Thames, and had cruised for ten days on the Norfolk Broads, and besides had played golf in Scotland, and attempted to shoot grouse on a Scottish moor. All this had furnished at least variety, and, when it came to automobiling through Britain, it was merely going over well-worn ground that we had known in our cycling days, and usually we went merely where fancy willed.
Conditions had changed considerably, in fact all things had changed, we ourselves no less than certain aspects of the country which we had pictured as always being (in England) of that idyllic tenor of which the poet sings. This comes of living too much in London, and with too frequent week-ends at Brighton, Bournemouth, or Cromer.
For years, ever since we had first set foot in England in the days when cycling en tandem (and even touring in the same manner) was in vogue, if not the fashion, we had heard of John O'Groat's house, and we had seen Land's End many a time coming up Channel. We knew, too, that among scorching cyclists "Land's End to John O'Groat's" was a classic itinerary for those who would boast of their prowess and their grit.
All this passed and then came the automobile. "Land's End to John O'Groat's" is nothing for an automobile, though it is the longest straightaway bit of road in all Britain, 888 miles, to be exact. If you are out for a record on an automobile you do it as a "non-stop" run. It's dull, foolhardy business that, and it proves nothing except your ability to keep awake for anything between thirty-six and forty-eight hours, which you can do just as well sitting up with a sick friend.
In spite of the banal sound that the very words had for us, "Land's End to John O'Groat's" had a perennial fascination, and so we set out with our automobile to cover this much, talked of itinerary, with all its varied charms and deficiencies, for, taking it all in all, it is probably one of the hilliest roads in Britain, rising as it does over eight distinct ranges of what are locally called mountains, and mountains they virtually are when it comes to crossing them by road.
There is nothing very exciting to be had from a tour such as this, though it is nearly a nine hundred mile straight-away promenade. For the most part one's road lies through populous centres, far more so than any American itinerary for a reliability trial for automobiles that was ever conceived. Many are the "events" which have been run over this "Land's End—John O'Groat's" course, and the journey has proved the worth or worthlessness of many a new idea in automobilism.
The modern automobile is getting complicated, but it is also becoming efficient, if not exactly approaching perfection as yet. The early days of automobiling were not fraught with so many technicalities as to-day, when the last new thing may be a benzine bus or a turbine trailer; formerly everything was simple and crude,—and more or less inefficient. To-day many cars are as complicated as a chronometer and require the education of an expert who has lived among their intricacies for many months in order to control their vagaries and doctor their ills, which, if not chronic, are as varied as those of an old maid of sixty.
Four of us started on our road to the north as fit as possible, and we were courageous enough to think our automobile was likewise, as it was a tried and trusty friend with some twenty thousand miles to its credit, and with never a breakage so far as its mechanism was concerned.
We had stayed a few days at Penzance and got to knew something of Cornwall and things Cornish. Unquestionably Cornwall is the least spoiled section of Southern Britain; its coastline is rocky and serrated, and its tors and hills and rills are about as wild and unspoiled by the hand of man as can be imagined. There is a vast literature on the subject if one cares to read it, and the modern fictionists (like the painter-men) have even developed a "Cornish school." However, there need be no discussion of its merits or demerits here.
In Mount's Bay is the Cornish counterpart of Normandy's St. Michel's Mount. It is by no means so great or imposing, or endowed with such a wealth of architectural charm as the cross-channel Mont St. Michel, but the English St. Michael's Mount, a granite rock rising from the sea two hundred and fifty or more feet, was sufficient of an attraction to draw us to Penzance for our headquarters and to keep us till we had visited its castle of the days of Charles II. There is no question of the age of St. Michael's Mount, for Ptolemy charted it in Roman days, and the Roman warriors, who battled with the Britons, made spear-heads and hatchets of the tin and iron which they dug from its rocky defences.
The grim, unlovely little hotel at Land's End sheltered us the night before the commencement of our journey north, and the Longships Lighthouse flashed its warning in through our open bedroom window all the night long and made us dream of wicked and unworldly monster automobiles bearing down upon us with a great blazing phare which blotted out all else.
The nightmare passed, we got ourselves together at five in the morning, drank tepid tea, and ate the inevitable bacon and eggs furnished one for breakfast in England, and, before lunch, had passed Bodmin, crossed Bodmin moor (a little Exmoor), and skirted Dartmoor, just north of Great Links Tor, arriving at Exeter at high noon.
Pople's New London Hotel at Exeter is the headquarters of the Automobile Club, is patronized by Royalty (so the advertisements say), and is a very satisfactory-looking old-century inn which has not wholly succumbed to modern improvement, nor yet is it wholly backward. It is "fair to middling" only, so far as the requirements of the automobilist go (what Royalty may think of it the writer does not know), but its proprietor ought to take a trip abroad and find out what his house lacks.
The wonder of Exeter for us was the carved west porch of its cathedral, not very good carving, we were told, but undeniably effective, peopled as it was with a whole regiment of sculptured effigies.
Exeter has a ruined castle, too, called Rougement, a name which preserves the identity of its Norman origin. Exeter's High Street is a curious stagy affair, with great jutting house gables, pillars, and pignons, undeniably effective, but a terror to automobilists because of its narrowness and the congestion of its traffic.
The road turns north after leaving Exeter and passes Taunton, "one of the nicest towns in the west of England," as we were told by the landlord's daughter on leaving Exeter. Not knowing what her standard was for judgment, but suspecting it was tea and buns, we delved away into the county of Somerset and reached Wells, on the edge of the Mendip Hills, before dinner.
Somerset is reputed to be one of the loveliest counties in the west of England and one of the most countrified of all Britain. It is a region of farming lands, of big and little estates, with the big ones predominating, which the land reformers, and all others who give it a thought, claim must some day be divided among the people. When that millennium comes Somerset will be a paradise for the people. In spite of its productiveness and its suitability for farming, the great estates of the wealthy are used for the purposes of pleasure and not of profit, for the hunting of foxes and for the shooting of pheasants.
Wells is an episcopal city with a bishop who presides also over Bath. Wells is essentially ecclesiastical; never had it a momentous or warlike history; it is bare of romance; it has no manufactures and no great families. Wells Cathedral takes high rank for the originality of its architecture, its general constructive excellence, and its sculptures.
There are three picturesquely named hotels, the Swan, the Mitre, and the Star. They are all equally dull, respectable, and conservative, and they stick to tradition and conventional English fare. You will probably arrive on boiled-mutton night; we did, and suspect that it recurs about three times a week, but it was good mutton, though it would have been a great deal better roasted, instead of boiled.
Via Cheddar, where the cheeses come from, we made our way to Bristol. Bristol is one of the most progressive automobile towns in England. You may see all sorts and conditions of automobiles at Bristol, even American automobiles, which are more or less of a rarity in Europe, even in England.
From Bristol to Gloucester, another cathedral town, we passed over good roads and pleasant ones, rounding meanwhile the Cotswolds and passing direct to Worcester, where we lunched.
It is useless to attempt to describe a complete trip in pages such as these, and, beyond commenting on changing conditions and novel scenes, it is not attempted. Generally speaking the road surfaces were excellent throughout, but the grades of the hills were ofttimes abnormal, and the narrowness of main roads, and the hedge-hidden byroads which crossed them, made travelling more or less of a danger for the stranger, particularly if he was not habituated to England's custom of "meeting on the left and passing on the right."
Following the valley of the Severn, by Shrewsbury and Whitechurch, we crossed the great Holyhead Road, "the king's highway," from London to Holyhead.
From Ogilby's Road Book, an old book-stall find of one of our party at Shrewsbury, we learned that in days gone by the coach "Wonder" left the Bull and Mouth, at St. Martin's-le-Grand in London, at 6.30 A. M., and was at Shrewsbury at 10.30 the same night. Good going indeed for those days!
At Shrewsbury one is within easy reach of the Welsh border, but, in spite of the novelty promised us, we kept on our way north. This was not because we feared the "evil character" of the Welsh (as an old writer put it), but because we feared their language.
We left Liverpool and its docks, and Manchester and its cotton factories, to the left, and, passing through Warrington and Preston, arrived at Lancaster for the night. It was the longest day's driving we had done in England, something over two hundred miles. All the ordinary characteristics of the southern counties had been left far behind. The prettiness of conventional English scenery had made way for something more of character and severity of outline. For the morrow we had to look forward to the climb over Shap Fell, one of England's genuine mountain roads, or as near like one as the country has.
Lancaster was perhaps not the best place we could have chosen for the night, but everything had been running well and we had pushed on simply for the joy of the running. The County Hotel at Lancaster was like other county hotels in England. Verb. sap. They had the audacity to charge two shillings for housing our automobile for the night, and pointed out the fact that this was the special rate given members of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland.
Well! It was the most awful "roast" we found in England! They must have some grudge against the Club! "B. B. B." cost seven shillings and sixpence, and dinner four shillings more, a bottle of Bordeaux five shillings, etc. Four of us for the night (including a hot bath for each—which cost the hotel practically nothing) paid something like £3 for our accommodation. It wasn't worth it!
We passed the "Lake District" to the left the next morning, where it always rains, we are told. Perhaps it always does rain in some parts of Westmoreland, but it was bright and sunny when we crossed Shap Fell, at a height of something like twelve hundred feet above sea-level. The railway station of Shap Summit is itself at an elevation of a thousand feet. We had crossed nothing like this previously in England, although it is not so very high after all, nor is it so very terrifying in the ascent or descent. The Castle of Comfort Inn in the Mendip Hills was only seven hundred feet, but here we were five hundred feet above it, and the neighbouring Fells, Helvellyn and Scafell in particular, raised their regular, rounded peaks to something over thirty-two hundred feet in the air.
Carlisle is commonly called the border town between England and Scotland; at any rate it was a vantage-ground in days gone by that was of a great value to one faction and a thorn in the side to the other. The conquering and unconquered Scots are the back-bone of Britain, there's no denying that; and Carlisle is near enough to the border to be intimately acquainted with their virtues.
We inspected Carlisle's cathedral, its ugly castle, and the County Hotel,—and preferred the two former. One thing in Carlisle struck us as more remarkable than all else, and that was that the mean annual temperature was stated to be 48° F. It was just that, when we were there, though cloudy and unpromising as to weather. In our opinion Carlisle is an unlovely, disagreeable place.
Gretna Green, with its famous, or infamous, career as a marriage mart, had little to offer a passing tourist beyond some silly, vulgar postcards on sale at a newsdealer's.
Across the border topographical characteristics did not greatly change, at least not at once, from what had gone immediately before, and it was not until Lockerbie was reached that we fully realized that we were in Scotland.
It was a long, long pull, and a hard, hard pull of seventy miles from Lockerbie to Edinburgh, via Moffat, Biggar, and Penicuik, skirting the Fells of Peebleshire and running close beneath the Pentland Hills, with memories of Stevenson's tales ever uppermost in our minds.
Via Dalkeith the entrance into Edinburgh is delightful, but via Rosslyn it is unbeautiful enough until one actually drops down into world-famed Princes' Street.
Romantic Edinburgh is known by European travellers as one of the sights never omitted from a comprehensive itinerary. It is quaint, picturesque, grand, squalid, and luxurious all rolled into one. Its castle crowns the height above the town on one side, and Arthur's Seat does the same on the other, with gloomy old Holyrood in the gulf between, the whole softened and punctuated with many evidences of modern life, the smoke and noise of railways, trams, and factories. There are many guide-books to Edinburgh, but there are none so satisfactory as Stevenson's tales dealing with the town. In "Kidnapped," "The Master of Ballantrae," and "Catriona," he pictures its old streets and "stairs," its historic spots, its very stones and flags, and the charming countryside around in incomparable fashion.
The Carlton Hotel at Edinburgh is the automobile hotel of Britain. There is nothing quite so good either in England or Scotland. The proof of this is that the Automobile Club de France have given it distinctive marks in its "Annuaire de l'Etranger." There is the tiny silhouette of a knife and fork, and four-poster bed, indicating that the tables and beds are of an agreeable excellence. This is a great deal more satisfying as a recommendation than Baedeker's.
We crossed the Firth of Forth via the Granton Ferry, from Granton to Burntisland,—pronounced Burnt Island—a fact that none of us knew previously.
Via Kinross and Loch Leven we arrived at Perth for lunch. We went to the Salutation Hotel, because of its celebrated "Prince Charlie Room," and had no reason to regret the lunch that was given us, or the price paid for it. Scottish hotels have had a reputation of not being as good as those of England and much more costly. We were finding things just the reverse. Automobilism is an industry in Scotland, not a fad, and the automobilist is catered for accordingly, at least so it seemed to us, and, since the leading British automobile is a Scotch production, who can deny that the Scot has grasped the salient points of the whole scheme of affairs in a far better manner than the Sassenach.
From Perth, through the very heart of the Scotch Highlands, we passed through Glen Garry and the Valley of the Spey. Cairn Gorm rose something over four thousand feet immediately on our right, when, turning abruptly northwest, we came into Inverness just at nightfall. It had been another long, hard day, and, since Perth, over indifferent roads.
The capital of the Highlands, Inverness, treated us very well at the Alexandra Hotel. As a summer or autumn resort Inverness has scarcely its equal in Britain. It is a lively, interesting, and picturesque town, and day lingers far on into the night by reason of its northern situation. Its temperature, moreover, for the most part of the year, is by no means as low as in many parts farther south.
From Inverness, via Dingwall, Tain, and Bonar Bridge, the roads improved, lying almost at sea-level. Here was a long sweep westward and then eastward again, around the Moray Firth, and it was not until we stopped at Helmsdale for lunch, 102 miles from Inverness, that we left the coastline road, and then only for a short distance.
Again at Berriedal we came to the coast, the surging, battering North Sea waves carving grimly every foot of the shore line. Lybster, Albster, and Thrumster were not even names that we had heard of previously, and we dashed through them at the legal limit, with only a glance of the eye at their quaintness and unworldliness.
Caithness is the most northern county of Scotland, and its metropolis is Wick, where one gets the nearest approach to the midnight sun that can be found with civilized, modern, and up-to-date surroundings.
The Scottish Automobile Club vouched for the accommodation of the Station Hotel, at Wick, and we had no occasion to question their judgment. (B. B. B., six shillings; which is cheap—though it costs you two shillings to stable your machine at a neighbouring garage.)
From Wick to John O'Groat's is thirty-six miles, out and back. We were all day doing it, loafing along over a heather-strewn plain and lunching at the Hotel Huna (the significance of which name we forgot to ask.)
This ended our run to the North, five days in all, not a very terrific speed or a very venturesome proceeding, but as good a test of one's knowledge of how to keep his machine running as can be got anywhere. It was a sort of rapid review of many things of which we had hitherto only a scrappy, fragmentary knowledge, and is a trip which should not be omitted from any one's grand European itinerary if one has the time and means of covering it.
There has been a noticeable falling off in touring in Belgium. There is no reason for this except the caprice of fashion, and the automobile and its popularizing influence will soon change all this, in spite of the abominable stretches of paved highroads, which here and there and everywhere, and most unexpectedly, crop up and shake one almost to pieces, besides working dire disaster to the mechanical parts of one's automobile. The authorities are improving things, but it will be some time yet before Belgium is as free from pavé as is France.
The good roads of Belgium are as good as those anywhere to be found, and it is only the unlooked for and distressingly frequent stretches of paved highway which need give any concern.
The natives speak French—of a sort—here and there in Belgium, but they also speak Flemish and Walloon.
We left Paris by the Route de Belgique, crossed the frontier at Givet, and made our first stop at Rethel, 193 kilometres away, where we passed the night, at the Hôtel de France. For a town of less than six thousand people Bethel is quite a metropolis. It has a grand establishment known as the Société d'Automobiles Bauchet, which will cater for any and every want of the automobilist, and has a half-dozen sights of first rank, from the old Hôtel Dieu to the bizarre doubled-up Eglise St. Nicolas and the seventeenth-century, wood-roofed market-house.
Sorbon, four kilometres away, is the birthplace of Robert Sorbon, the founder of the Sorbonne at Paris, and is a classic excursion which is never omitted by true pilgrims who come to Rethel.
Fifty-three kilometres from Rethel is Rocroi, a name which means little to most strangers in France. It is near the Belgian frontier and saw bloody doings in the Franco-Prussian war.
Rocroi is a pompous little fortified place reached only by one road and a narrow-gauge railway—literally two streaks of iron rust—which penetrate up to the very doors of a pretentious Hôtel de Ville with a Doric façade, and not much else that is remarkable.
The town has a population of but two thousand, is surrounded by fortifications, contains a Caserne, a Sous-Préfecture, a Prison, and a Palais de Justice. All this officialdom weights things down considerably, and, what with the prospect of the custom-house arrangements at Givet, and the necessity of demonstrating to an over-zealous gendarme at Rocroi that we really had a "Certificat de Capacité," and that the photograph which it bore (which didn't look the least like us) was really ours, we were considerably angered and delayed on our departure the next morning, particularly as we had already been three days en route and the frontier was still thirty odd kilometres away.
As one passes Rocroi, Belgium and France blend themselves into an indistinguishable unit so far as characteristics go. Manners and customs here change but slowly, and the highroad must be followed many kilometres backward toward Paris before one gets out of the influence of Flemish characteristics.
We finally got across the Belgium frontier at Givet, at least we got our passavant here, though the Belgian customs formalities took place at Heer-Agimont, formalities which are delightfully simple, though evolving the payment of a fee of twelve per cent. of the declared value of your automobile. You get your receipt for money paid, which you present at the frontier station by which you leave and get it back again—if you have not lost your papers. If you have you might as well prepare to live in Belgium the rest of your life, as a friend of ours told us he had done, when we met him unexpectedly on a café terrace at Ostende a week later.
There be those who are content to grovel in dark alleys, among a sordid picturesqueness, surrounded by a throng of garlic-sodden natives, rather than while their time away on the open mountainside or wide-spread lake or plain. All such are advised to keep away from Southern Belgium, the Ardennes, and the valley of the Meuse at Dinant and Namur.
We lunched at the Hôtel des Postes at Dinant on the Meuse, and so lovely was the town and its environs, and the twenty-eight kilometres of valley road to Namur (no pavé here), that it took us eight hours of a long summer's day to get away from Dinant and get settled down again for the night in the Hôtel d'Harscamp at Namur.
The native declares there is nothing to equal the view from the fortress-height of the citadel of Namur, neither in Switzerland nor the Pyrenees; but though we climbed the three twisting kilometres to the fort, there was nothing more than a ravishing view of the charming river valley at our feet. The majesty of it all was in the imagination of the inhabitant, but all the same it was of a loveliness that few artists can describe in paint, few authors picture in words, and no kodakist reproduce satisfactorily in print. There is but one thing for the curious to do, and that is to go and see it for himself.
The rest of the journey across Belgium to Brussels the writer would like to forget. Oh, that terrible next day! Sixty kilometres of one of the worst and most destructive roads, for an automobile, in Europe, and through a most uninteresting country. Perhaps, if the road had been better, the landscape might not have had so oppressive an effect. As it was, an automobilist journeys along the road—which is practically across the kingdom—his eyes glued to it, his heart in his mouth, and he bumps and slides over the wearying kilometres until he all but forgets the beauties of the Meuse now so far behind. Kilometre after kilometre of this vile road is paved with blocks of stone as big as one's head, half of which are out of place. And when one's automobile sinks into the holes one can but shudder. One hears of a road that is paved with good intentions. It does not enjoy a good reputation, but it can't be worse than the road from Namur to Brussels!
We passed through what, for the want of a better and more distinctive name, may be called the Waterloo region; but, for the moment, we cared not a jot for battle-fields. Our battle with the ugly roads of Belgium was all-sufficient.
Southey's verses are so good, though, that they are here given in order that the writer may arrive the quicker at Brussels and take his well-earned rest:
"Southward from Brussels lies the field of blood,
Some three hours' journey for a well-girt man;
A horseman who in haste pursued his road
Would reach it as the second hour began.
The way is through a forest deep and wide,
Extending many a mile on either side."
"No cheerful woodland this of antique trees,
With thickets varied and with sunny glade;
Look where he will, the weary traveller sees
One gloomy, thick impenetrable shade
Of tall straight trunks, which move before his sight,
With interchange of lines of long green light."
"Here, where the woods receding from the road
Have left on either hand an open space
For fields and gardens, and for man's abode,
Stands Waterloo; a little lowly place,
Obscure till now, when it hath risen to fame,
And given the victory its English name."
Finally we reached Brussels, still over cobblestones, the road growing worse every minute, and stopped at the Grand Central Hotel, in the Place de la Bourse, the correspondent of the Touring Club de France, and the only hotel of its class which serves its table d'hôte "vin compris."
Brussels has ever been put down in the notebooks of conventional travellers as a little Paris; but this is by no means the case. It resembles Paris not at all, except that French francs pass current in its shops and the French tongue is the language of commerce and society.
What has less frequently been remarked is that Brussels has two contrasting elements of life, which, lying close, one upon the other, strongly exaggerate the French note of it all, and make the hotels, cafés, restaurants, etc., take on that boulevard aspect which we fondly think is Parisian.
French Brussels and Flemish Brussels are as distinct elements in the make-up of this doubleheaded city as are the ingredients of oil and water, and like the latter they do not mix.
When one descends from the hilltop on which is modern Brussels, past the cathedral of Ste. Gudule, he leaves the shops, the cafés, and the boulevards behind him and enters the past.
The small shopmen, and the men and women of the markets, all look and talk Flemish, and the environment is everywhere as distinctly Flemish as if one were standing on one of the little bridges which cross the waterways of Ghent or Bruges.
The men and women are broad-bodied and coarse-featured,—quite different from the Dutch, one remarks,—and they move slowly and with apparent difficulty in their clumsy sabots and heavy clothing. The houses round about are tall and slim, and mostly in that state of antiquity and decay which we like to think is artistic.
Such is Flemish Brussels. Even in the Flemish part, the city has none of that winsome sympathetic air which usually surrounds a quaint mediæval bourg. Rather it gives one the impression that old traditions are all but dead and that it is mere improvidence and laisser-aller that allows them to exist.
Flemish Brussels is picturesque enough, but it is squalid, except for the magnificent Hôtel de Ville, which stands to-day in all the glory that it did when Charles V. of Spain ruled the destinies of the country.
It was in the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville that Alva gloated over the flowing blood of his victims as it ran from the scaffold.
The churches of Brussels, as might be supposed from the historical importance of the city in the past, are numerous and celebrated, at least they are characteristically Flemish in much of their belongings, though the great cathedral of Ste. Gudule itself is Gothic of the unmistakable French variety.
Brussels, its cathedrals, its Hôtel de Ville, its Cloth Hall, and its Corporation or Guild Houses, and many more splendid architectural sites and scenes are all powerful attractions for sightseers.
We went from Brussels to Ghent, forty-eight kilometres, and still over pavé. The bicyclist is better catered for, he has cinder side-paths almost all over Belgium and accordingly he should enjoy his touring in occidental and oriental Flanders even more than the automobilist.
Ghent was one day a seaport of rank, much greater rank than that of to-day, for only a sort of sea-going canal-boat, a chaland or a caboteur, ever comes up the canals to the wharves.
Ghent is a great big town, but it does not seem in the least like a city in spite of its hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. Its churches, its belfry, its château, and its museum are the chief sights for tourists—automobilists and others. We visited them all after lunch, which was eaten (and paid for at Paris prices) at the Hôtel de la Poste, and covered another forty-six kilometres of pavé, before we turned in for the night at Bruges' Hôtel du Sablon. There are others, but the Hôtel du Sablon at Bruges was modest in its price, efficient in its service, and excellent in its catering. The chief delicacy of the menu here is the mossel. One eats mussels (mossels) in Belgium—if he will—and it's hard for one to escape them. They are moules in France, mossels in Belgium and Holland, and mussels in England. They are a sea food which has never tickled the American palate; but, after many refusals and much resentment, we ate them—and found them good.
Bruges' sights are similar to those of Ghent, except that its belfry is more splendid and more famous and the Memlings of the Hôpital St. Jean draw crowds of art lovers to Bruges who never even stop at Ghent.
Our little run around Belgium, a sort of willy-nilly blowing about by the North Sea winds, drew us next to Ostende. If there is one place more splendidly chic than Ostende it is Monte Carlo. The palm is still with Monte Carlo, but, for August at any rate, Ostende, with its Digue, its hotels and terrace cafés and restaurants, is the very glass of fashion and fashionables.
It was only on entering Ostende, over the last few kilometres of the road from Bruges, just where it borders the Slykens Canal, that we met anything deserving to be called a good road since leaving the neighbourhood of Namur. The roads of Belgium served a former generation very well, but tempus fugit, and the world advances, and really Belgium's highways are a disgrace to the country.
The chief attraction of Ostende—after the great hotels—is its Digue, or Dyke, a great longdrawn-out breakwater against whose cemented walls pound the furies of the North Sea with such a virulence and force as to make one seasick even on land. "See our Digue and die," say the fisherfolk of Ostende,—those that have not been crowded out by the palace hotels,—"See our Digue and eat our oysters."
Ostende is attractive, save on the August bank holiday, when the trippers come from London; then it looks like Margate or Southend so far as its crowds are concerned, and accordingly is frightful.
One should not leave Belgium without visiting Ypres, that is if he wants to know what a highly respectable and thriving small city of Belgium is like.
Ypres is typical of the best, though unfortunately, by whichever road you approach, you still make your way over granite blocks, none too well laid or cared for. The best and almost only way to avoid them is to take to the by-roads and trust to finding your way about. This is not difficult with the excellent map of the Automobile Club de Belgique, but it requires some ingenuity to understand the native who answers your inquiry in bad French and worse Walloon or Flemish.
At Ypres the Hôtel de la Chatellenie will care for you and your automobile very well, though its garage is nothing to boast of. Both meals and beds are good, and the rates are cheap, something less than nine francs a day for birds of passage. You must pay extra for wine, but beer is thrown in, thick, sticky, sugary beer, but it's better than England's "bitter," or the lager of Rotterdam.
Ypres is full of interesting buildings, but its Hôtel de Ville and its Cloth Hall, with its lacelike façade, are easily the best. Ypres has a museum which, like most provincial museums, has some good things and some bad ones, a stuffed elephant, some few good pictures, sea-shells, the instruments which beheaded the Comte d'Egmont, and some wooden sculptures; variety enough to suit the most catholic tastes.
From Ypres we continued our zigzag through Belgium, following most of the time dirt roads which, though not of superlative excellence, were an improvement on stone blocks. It took us practically all day to reach Antwerp, a hundred and thirty kilometres away.
Belgium is everywhere quaint and curious, a sort of a cross between Holland and France, but more like the former than the latter in its mode of life, its food and drink and its industries, except perhaps in the country between Tournai and Liège.
The country between Antwerp and Brussels affords a good general idea of Belgium. Its level surface presents, in rapid succession, rich meadows, luxuriant corn-fields, and green hedgerows, with occasional patches of woodland. The smallness of the fields tells amongst how many hands the land is divided, and prepares one for the knowledge that East Flanders is the most thickly peopled corner of Europe. The exception to this general character of the scenery is found in the valley of the Meuse, where the fruitful serenity of fertile meadows and pastoral hamlets is varied by bolder, more irregular, and move striking natural features. Hills and rocks, bluff headlands and winding valleys, with beautiful stretches of river scenery, give a charm to the landscape which Belgium in general does not display.
The geographical description of Antwerp is as follows:
Antwerp, in Flemish Antwerpen, the chief town of the province of that name, is situated in a plain 51° 13' 16" north latitude, and 2° 3' 55" east longitude, twenty leagues from the sea, on the right bank of the Scheldt.
The Hôtel du Grand-Laboureur was marked out for us as the automobile hotel of Antwerp. There was no doubt about this, when we saw the A. C. F., the A. C. B., and the M. C. B. signs on its façade. It is a very excellent establishment, but you pay extra for wine, or you drink beer instead.
The sights of Antwerp are too numerous to be covered in the short time that was at our disposal on this occasion, but we gave some time to the works and shrine of the master Rubens, and the wonderful cathedral spire, and the Hôtel de Ville and the Guild Houses and all the rest, not forgetting Quentin Matsys's well. We were, however, a practical party, and the shipping of the great port, the gay cafés, and the busy life of Antwerp's marts of trade also appealed to us.
Antwerp is a wonderful storehouse of many things. "It is in the streets of Antwerp and Brussels," said Sir Walter Scott, "that the eye still rests upon the forms of architecture which appear in pictures of the Flemish school."
"This rich intermixture of towers and battlements and projecting windows highly sculptured produces an effect as superior to the tame uniformity of a modern street as the casque of the warrior exhibits over the slouch-brimmed beaver of a Quaker." This was true of Sir Walter Scott's time, and it is true to-day.
Holland for automobilists is a land of one hill and miles and miles of brick-paved roads, so well laid with tiny bricks, and so straight and so level that it is almost an automobilist's paradise.
We had come from Belgium to Holland, from Antwerp to Breda, a little short of fifty kilometres, to make a round of Dutch towns by automobile, as we had done in the old days by the humble bicycle.
Custom-house regulations are not onerous in Holland. The law says you must pay five per cent. duty on entering the country, or at the discretion of the authorities, bona-fide tourists will be given a temporary permit to "circulate" free. There are no speed limits in Holland, but you must not drive to the common danger. The first we were glad to know, the second we did not propose to do.
As we passed the frontier the douaniers returned to their fishing opposite the little cabaret where we had some needed refreshment. It is curious what satisfaction middle-class officialdom in Continental Europe gets out of fishing. It is their one passion, apparently, if their work lies near a well-stocked stream. The chef de bureau goes fishing, the commissionnaire goes fishing, and everybody goes fishing. A peaceful and innocent exercise for those who like it, but one which is inexplicable to an outsider.
Soon we are stopped at a toll-gate. The toll-gate keeper still exists in Holland, chiefly on private bridges. He loses a good deal of his monetary return, however, as he has a lazy habit of putting out a great wooden sabot to collect the fees, he, meanwhile, fishing or dozing some distance away.
If you are a bad shot your coin sometimes goes overboard, or being an automobilist, and therefore down on all impositions, you simply do not put any more coins in the sabots and think to depend on your speed to take you out of any brewing trouble. This old relic of the middle ages is sure to decrease in Holland with the progress of the automobile.
Holland is a beautiful country, one of Nature's daintiest creations, where the sun and the moon and the sky seem to take the greatest delight in revealing their manifold charms, where the green fields and the clear-cut trees and the rushing rivers and the sluggish canals all seem to have been put in their place to conform to an artistic landscape design—for, truly, Holland is a vast picture. Its cattle are picture cattle, its myriad windmills seem to stand as alluring models to attract the artist, its sunsets, the haze that rests over its fields, its farms, its spick and span houses, its costumes—all seem to belong to the paraphernalia of pictorial art. It is a paradise for motorists who behave themselves, and do not rouse the ire of the Dutchman. The regulations are exceedingly lenient, but the laws against fast speeding must not be disregarded, and the loud blowing of horns, on deserted streets in the middle of the night, is entirely forbidden.
When tourists have scaled every peak and trodden every pass, let them descend once again to the lowlands and see if they cannot find pleasurable profit in a land whose very proximity to the borders of the sea gives it a character all its own. This is Holland, and this is the attitude with which a party of four faced it, at Breda and planned the tour outlined in the following pages.
We stopped at Breda to take breath and to reconnoitre a little. Breda has a population of twenty thousand, and a good hotel, "Der Kroon," which knows well how to care for automobilists. Breda to Dordrecht is perhaps twenty-five kilometres in a straight line, but by the highroad, via Gorinchem it is sixty-eight. Since there are no amphibious automobiles as yet, and there are no facile means of crossing the Hollandsch Diep, the détour must be made.
A stroll round Breda, to brush up our history of the siege, a view of the château inside and out, including the reminders of Count Henry of Nassau and William III. of England, and we were on the road again by three in the afternoon.
Dordrecht and its Hôtel Belle-Vue, on the Boomstraat saw us for dinner that night. The trip had been without incident, save for the eternal crossing of canals by high-peaked donkeytack bridges which demanded careful driving till you found out what was on the other side of the crest, and the continual dodging from one side of the road to the other to avoid running over children at play. Clearly Holland, in this respect, was not far different from other countries.
Dordrecht is delightful and is as nearly canal-surrounded as Amsterdam or Venice, only it is not so large, and automobilists, must look out or they will tumble overboard when taking a sharp corner.
You may eat, if you like, on the balcony of the Hôtel Belle-Vue, and you may watch the throng of passers-by strolling through the courtyard of the hotel, from one street to another, as if it were a public thoroughfare. The only objection to it is that you fear for the safety of the loose things which you left in your automobile, but as you pay a franc for housing it the responsibility falls on the proprietor. No one ever heard of anything going astray, which argues well for the honesty of the people of Dordrecht.
The distant view of Dordrecht, with a few spotted cattle in the foreground, might well pass for a tableau of Cuyps, but as all Dutch landscapes look more or less alike, at least they all look Dutch, this description of Dordrecht perhaps does not define it very precisely.
Of course Dordrecht itself is typically Dutch; one would not expect anything else of a place with a name like that. The tree-covered wharves and the typical Dutch crowds, the dog-drawn little carts and the "morning waker," are all there. Above all, almost in Venetian splendour, looms the great lone tower of the church of St. Mary, the Groote Kerk of the town. For six hundred years it has been a faithful guardian of the spiritual welfare of the people, and the ruggedness of its fabric has well stood the test of time, built of brick though it is.
Dordrecht is vulgarly and colloquially known as Dordt, or Dort, and, as such, is referred to in history and literature in a manner, which often puzzles the stranger. It is one of the most ancient cities of Holland, and, in the middle ages, the most busy in its intercourse with the outside world.
We left Dordrecht in the early morning, expecting to cover quickly the twenty-seven kilometres to Rotterdam. Ever and ever the thin wisps of black smoke streaked into the sky from the flat directly ahead, but not until we had almost plumped down on the Boompjes itself did things take material shapes and forms.
There are many things to do and see at Rotterdam, but the great, ceaseless commerce of the great world-port is one of the marvels which is often sniffed at and ignored; yet nowhere in any port in Europe or America, unless it be at Antwerp, is there to be seen such a ship-filled river as at Rotterdam on the Maas.
The Hotel Weimar on the Spanishkade, and the Maas Hotel on the Boompjes, cater for the automobilist at rather high prices, but in an intelligent fashion, except that they charge a franc for garaging your machine overnight. We found the same thing at Dordrecht; and in general this is the custom all over Holland.
We left the automobile to rest a day at Rotterdam while we took a little trip by water, to Gouda, famed for its cheeses. It is an unworldly sleepy place, though its commerce in cheeses is enormous. Its population, when it does travel, goes mostly by boat on the Maas. You pay an astonishingly small sum, and you ride nearly half a day, from Rotterdam to Gouda, amid a mixed freight of lovable fat little Dutch women with gold spiral trinkets in their ears, little calves and cows, pigs, ducks, hens, and what not, and on the return trip amid a boat-load of pungent cheeses.
We got back to Rotterdam for the night, having spent a tranquil, enjoyable day on one of the chief waterways of Holland, a foretaste of a projected tour yet to come, to be made by automobile boat when the opportunity comes.
No one, not even the most naïve unsophisticated and gushing of travellers, has ever had the temerity to signalize Rotterdam as a city of celebrated art. But it is a fondly interesting place nevertheless, far more so indeed than many a less lively mart of trade.
As we slowly drifted our way into the city at dusk of a long June evening, on board that little slow-going canal and river-craft from Gouda—known by so few casual travellers, but which are practically water stage-coaches to the native—it was very beautiful.
The brilliant crimson sun-streaks latticed the western sky, the masts, spars, and sails of the quay-side shipping silhouetted themselves stereoscopically against this gleaming background, and the roar and grime of the city's wheels of trade blended themselves into a mélange which was as intoxicating to the artist and rhapsodist as would have been more hallowed ground.
We left Rotterdam at eight-thirty on a misty morning which augured that we should be deluged with rain forthwith; but all signs fail in Holland with regard to weather, for we hardly passed the Delftsche Poort, the great Renaissance gateway through which one passes to Delft, Schiedam, The Hague, and all the well-worn place names of Dutch history, before a rift of sunlight streaked through the clouds and framed a typical Holland landscape in as golden and yellow a light as one might see in Venice. It was remarkable, in every sense of the word, and we had good weather throughout a week of days when storm was all around and about us.
Schiedam, with its windmills, is well within sight of Rotterdam. We had all of us seen windmills before, but we never felt quite so intimately acquainted with any as with these. Don Quixote's was but a thing of the imagination, and Daudet's, in Provence, was but a dismantled, unlovely, and unromantic ruin. These windmills of Schiedam were very sturdy and practical things, broad of base and long of arm, and would work even in a fog, an ancient mariner-looking Dutchman with sabots and peg-top trousers told us.
The windmills of Holland pump water, grind corn, make cheese and butter, and have recently been adopted in some instances to the making of electricity. It has been found that with a four-winged mill, and the wind at a velocity of from twelve to thirty feet a second, four to five horsepower can be obtained with the loss of only fourteen per cent., caused by friction.
A plant has been constructed in Holland which lights 450 lamps, earning about twelve per cent. interest on the capital invested. Of course it is necessary to keep an oil-motor to provide for windless days or nights and also to keep a reserve of electrical power on hand, but this is but another evidence of the practicality and the extreme cleverness of the Dutch. The cows that browse around the windmills of Schiedam are of the same spotted black and white variety that one sees on the canvasses of the Dutch painters. If you are not fortunate enough to see Paul Potter's great Dutch bull in the gallery at The Hague, you may see the same sort of thing hereabouts at any glance of the eye—the real living thing.
From Rotterdam to Delft, all the way by the canal, allowing for the détour via Schiedam, is less than twenty kilometres, and the journey is short for any sort of an automobile that will go beyond a snail's pace.
Visions of blue and white delftware passed through our minds as we entered the old town, which hardly looks as though worldly automobilists would be well received. Delftware there is, in abundance, for the delectation of the tourist and the profit of the curio merchant, who will sell it unblushingly as a rare old piece, when it was made but a year ago. If you know delftware you will know from the delicate colouring of the blues and whites which is old and which is not.
Delft and Delftshaven, near Schiedam, in South Holland, have a sentimental interest for all descendants of the Puritans who fled to America in 1620. Delftshaven is an unattractive place enough to-day, but Delft itself is more dignified, and, in a way, takes on many of the attributes of a metropolis. Nearly destroyed by a fire in 1526, the present city has almost entirely been built up since the sixteenth century.
The old Gothic church of the fifteenth century, one of the few remains of so early a date, shelters the tomb of the redoubtable Van Tromp, the vanquisher of the English.
It was easy going along the road out of Delft and we reached The Hague in time for lunch at the Hôtel des Indes, where, although it is the leading hotel of the Dutch capital, everything is as French as it would be in Lyons, or at any rate in Brussels. You pay the astonishingly outrageous sum of five francs for housing your machine over night, but nothing for the time you are eating lunch. We got away from the gay little capital, one of the daintiest of all the courts of Europe, as soon as we had made a round of the stock sights of which the guide-books tell, not omitting, of course, the paintings of the Hague Gallery, the Rubens, the Van Dycks and the Holbeins.
The Binnenhof drew the romanticist of our party to it by reason of the memories of the brothers De Witt. It is an irregular collection of buildings of all ages, most of them remodeled, but once the conglomerate residence of the Counts of Holland and the Stadtholders.
The Binnenhof will interest all readers of Dumas. It was here that there took place the culminating scenes in the lives of the brothers De Witt, Cornelius and John. Dumas unquestionably manufactured much of his historical detail, but in the "Black Tulip" there was no exaggeration of the bloody incidents of the murder of these two noble men, who really had the welfare of Holland so much at heart.
We headed down the road to the sea, by the Huis-ten-Bosch (the House in the Wood), the summer palace of Dutch royalty, for the Monte Carlo of Holland, Scheveningen. It has all the conventional marks of a Continental watering-place, a plage, a kursaale, bath houses, terraces, esplanades, chic hotels and restaurants, and a whole regiment of mushroom chairs and windshields dotting its wide expanse of North Sea sand.
In the season the inhabitants live off of the visitors, and out of season live on their fat like the ground-hog, and do a little fishing for profitable amusement. It is a thing to see, Scheveningen, but it is no place for a prolonged stay unless you are a gambler or a blasé boulevardier who needs bracing up with sea air.
There are good hotels, if you want to linger and can stand the prices, the best of which is called the Palace Hotel, but we had another little black coffee on the gayest-looking terrace café we could find, and made wheel-tracks for Leyden, twenty kilometres distant.
The distances in Holland are mere bagatelles, but there is so much that is strange to see, and the towns of historical interest are so near together, that the automobilist who covers his hundred kilometres a day must be a scorcher indeed.
We passed the night at the Gouden-Leuw, which a Frenchman would call the Lion d'Or, and an Anglo-Saxon the Golden Lion. It was a most excellent hotel in the Breestraat, and it possessed what was called a garage, in reality a cubby-hole which, on a pinch, might accommodate two automobiles, if they were small ones.
Leyden is a city of something like fifty-five thousand people. It has grown since the days when they chained down Bibles in its churches, and books in the library of its university. The chief facts that stand out in Leyden's history, for the visitor, are those referring to the exile of the Puritans here, fleeing from persecution in England, and before they descended upon the New World.
The famous university was founded by the government as a reward for the splendid defence made by the city against the Spaniards in 1574. It was a question as to whether the city should be exempted from future taxation or should be endowed with a university. The citizens themselves chose the latter dignity.
Leaving Leyden and following the flat roadway by the glimmering canals, which chop the polders, and tulip gardens off into checker-board squares, one reaches Haarlem, less than thirty kilometres away.
The country was becoming more and more like what one imagines Holland ought to be; the whole country practically a vast, sandy, sea-girt land of dykes and canals, and dunes and sunken gardens.
Holland has an area of about twenty thousand square miles, and something over five million inhabitants, with the greatest density of population on the coast between Amsterdam, in the north, and Rotterdam, in the south, and the fewest in numbers in the region immediately to the northward of the Zuyder-Zee.
Wherever in Holland one strikes the brick roads, made from little red bricks standing on end, he is happy. There is no dust and there are no depressions in the surface which will upset the carburation and jar the bolts off your machine. It is an expensive way of road-building, one thinks, but it is highly satisfactory. Near Haarlem these brick roadways extend for miles into the open country in every direction.
Haarlem is the centre of the bulb country, the gardens where are grown the best varieties of tulips and hyacinths known over all the world as "Dutch bulbs." The tulip beds of the polders and sunken gardens of the neighbourhood of Haarlem are one of the great sights of Holland.
Besides bulbs, Haarlem is noted for its shiphung church, and the pictures by Franz Hals in the local gallery. There are other good Hals elsewhere, but the portraits of rotund, jolly men and women of his day, in the Haarlem Town Hall, are unapproached by those of any of his contemporaries. Fat, laughing burghers, roystering, knickerbockered Dutchmen and vrous gossiping, smoking, laughing, or drinking, are human documents of the time more graphic than whole volumes of fine writing or mere repetitions of historical fact. All these attributes has Haarlem's collection of paintings by Franz Hals.
There are all sorts of ways of getting from Haarlem to Amsterdam, by train, by boat, by electric tram, or by automobile over an idyllic road, tree-shaded, canal-bordered, and dustless. It is sixteen kilometres only, and it is like running over a causeway laid out between villas and gardens. Nothing quite like it exists elsewhere, in Holland or out of it. An automobile can be very high-geared, for there are no hills except the donkey-back bridges over the canals.
Amsterdam may properly enough be called the Venice of the North, and the automobilist will speedily find that an automobile boat will do him much better service in town than anything that runs on land.
There are half a million souls in Amsterdam, and hotels of all ranks and prices. The Bible Hotel is as good as any, but they have no garage, nor indeed have any of the others. There are half a dozen "Grands Garages" in the city (with their signs written in French—the universal language of automobilism), and the hotel porter will jump up on the seat beside you and pilot you on your way, around sharp corners, over bridges, and through arcades until finally you plump down in as up-to-date and conveniently arranged an establishment for housing your machine as you will find in any land.
Amsterdam's sights will occupy the visitor for a couple of days, and its art gallery for a day longer. We were taking only a bird's-eye view, or review, and stayed only over one night, not making even the classic excursion to those artists' haunts of Volendam, Monnikendam, and Marken, of which no book on Holland should fail to make mention.
These old Dutch towns of the Zuyder-Zee are unique in all the world, and Amsterdam is the gateway to them. An automobile is useless for reaching them. The best means are those offered by existing boat and tram lines.
For Utrecht one leaves Amsterdam via the Amstel Dyke and the Utrechtsche Zyde, and after forty kilometres of roadway, mostly brick-paved like that between Haarlem and Amsterdam, he reaches suburban Utrecht. Utrecht, with but a hundred thousand inhabitants, has suburbs, reaching out in every direction, that would do justice to a city five times it size. Most of Utrecht's population is apparently suburban, and is housed in little brick houses and villas with white trimmings and door-steps, a bulb garden, an iron fence, and a miniature canal flowing through the back yard. This is the formula for laying out a Utrecht suburban villa.
The Het Kasteel van Antwerpen, on the Oude Gracht, is a hotel which treats you very well for five or six florins a day, and allows you also to put your automobile under roof, charging nothing for the service. This is worth making a note of in a country where it usually costs from one to five francs a night for your automobile.
The chief sight of Utrecht is its cathedral, with a fine Gothic tower over a hundred metres in height. It is the proper thing to mount to its highest landing, whence one gets one of the most remarkable bird's-eye views imaginable. In a flat country like Holland, the wide-spread panoramas, taken from any artificial height, embrace an extent of the world's surface not elsewhere to be taken in by a glance of the eye. The Zuyder-Zee and the lowlands of the north stretch out to infinity on one side; to the east the silver-spreading streaks of the Waal and the Oude Rijn (later making the Rhine) lead off toward Germany. To the south are the green-grown prairies and windmill-outlined horizons of South Holland; and westward are the polders and dunes of the region between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and even a glimpse, on a clear day, of the North Sea itself.
Our one long ride in Holland was from Utrecht to Nymegen, seventy-two kilometres. We left Utrecht after lunch and slowly made our way along the picture landscapes of the Holland countryside, through Hobbema avenues, and under the shadow of quaint Dutch church spires.
One does not go to a foreign land to enjoy only the things one sees in cities. Hotels, restaurants, and cafés are very similar all over Europe, and the great shops do not vary greatly in Rotterdam from those in Liverpool. It is with the small things of life, the doings of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker that the change comes in. In Holland the housekeeper buys her milk from a little dog-drawn cart and can be waked at three in the morning, without fail, by leaving an order the night before with the "morning waker." If you do not have a fire going all the time, and want just enough to cook your dinner with, you go out and buy a few lumps of blazing coals. If it is boiling water you want for your coffee, you go out and buy it too. Holland must be a housekeeper's paradise.
Nymegen, on the Waal, cared for us for the night. On the morrow we were to cross the frontier and enter Germany and the road by the Rhine.
Nymegen and its Hotel Keizer Karel, on the Keizer Karel Plain, was a vivid memory of what a stopping-place for the night between two objective points should be.
The city was delightful, its tree-grown boulevards, its attractive cafés, the music playing in the park, and all the rest was an agreeable interlude, and the catering—if an echo of things Parisian—was good and bountiful. There was no fuss and feathers when we arrived or when we left, and not all the personnel of the hotel, from the boots to the manager, were hanging around for tips. The head waiter and the chambermaid were in evidence; that was all. The rest were discreetly in the background.
We had followed along the lower reaches of the Rhine, through the little land of dykes and windmills, when the idea occurred to us: why not make the Rhine tour en automobile? This, perhaps, was no new and unheard-of thing, but the Rhine tour is classic and should not be left out of any one's travelling education, even if it is old-fashioned.
At Nymegen we saw the last of Holland and soon crossed the frontier. There were no restrictions then in force against the entrance of foreign automobiles, though we were threatened with new and stringent regulations soon to be put in force. (1906. A full résumé of these new regulations will be found in the appendix.) Legally Germany could demand eight marks a hundred kilos for the weight of our machine, but in practice all tourists were admitted free, provided one could convince the official that he intended to return across the frontier within a reasonable time.
As we crossed the railway line we made our obeisance to the German customs authorities, saluted the black and white barber's-pole stripes of the frontier post, and filled up our tanks with gasoline, which had now assumed the name of benzin, instead of benzine, as in Holland.
Emmerich, Cleves, Wesel, and Xanten are not tourist points, and in spite of the wealth of history and romance which surrounds their very names, they had little attraction for us. For once were going to make a tour of convention.
It is a fairly long step from Nymegen to Düsseldorf, one hundred and one kilometres, but we did it between breakfast and lunch, in spite of the difficulty of finding our way about by roads and regulations which were new to us.
The low, flat banks of the Rhine below Düsseldorf have much the same characteristics that they have in Holland, and, if the roadways are sometimes bad as to surface—and they are terrible in the neighbourhood of Crefield—they are at least flat and otherwise suited to speed, though legally you are held down to thirty kilometres an hour.
You may find anything you like in the way of hotel accommodation at Düsseldorf, from the Park Hotel on the Cornelius Platz, at Waldorf prices, to the modest and characteristic little German inn by the name of Prince Alexanders Hof, which is as cheap as a French hotel of its class, and about as good.
It is at Düsseldorf that one comes first into touch with the German institutions in all their completeness. Immediately one comes to the borders of the Rhine he comes into the sphere of world politics. The peace of Europe lies buried at the mouth of the Scheldt where the Rhine enters the sea, and not on the Bosphorus. "The Rhine is the King of Rivers," said a German politician, "and it is our fault if its mouth remains in the hands of foreigners." This is warlike talk, if you like, but if a German prince some day rises on the throne of Holland, there may be a new-made map of Europe which will upset all existing treaties and conventions.
Düsseldorf is a veritable big town, for, though it shelters two hundred and twenty-five thousand inhabitants, it is not "citified." It is one of the most lovely of Rhine towns, and is the headquarters of the Rhenish Westphalian Automobile Club.
To Cologne is thirty-seven kilometres, with the roads still bad,—shockingly so we found them, though we were assured that this is unusual and that even then they were in a state of repair. This was evident, and in truth they needed it.
The twin Gothic splendours of Cologne's cathedral rise high in air long before one reaches the confines of the city. Cologne is the metropolis of the Rhine country, and besides its four hundred thousand inhabitants possesses many institutions and industries which other Rhine cities lack.
Of hotels for automobilists at Cologne there are five, all of which will treat you in the real tourist fashion, and charge you accordingly,—overcharge you in fact. We did not have time to hunt up what the sentimentalist of the party always called "a quaint little inn," and so we put into one almost under the shadow of the cathedral (purposely nameless).
The sights of Cologne are legion. "Numerous churches, all very ancient" describes them well enough for an itinerary such as this; the guide-books must do the rest. The Kolner Automobile Club will supply the touring automobilist graciously and gratuitously with information. A good thing to know!
The beer and concert gardens of Cologne's waterside are famous, almost as famous as the relics of the "three kings" in the cathedral.
At Cologne the pictured, storied Rhine begins. A skeleton itinerary is given at the end of this chapter which allows some digression here for observations of a pertinent kind.
Let the traveller not be disappointed with the first glance at the river as he sees it at Cologne. He is yet a few miles below the banks which have gained for the stream its fame for surpassing beauty, but higher up it justifies the rhapsodies of the poet.
"A blending of all beauties; streams and dells,
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, corn-field, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells
From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells.
"And there they stand, as stands a lofty mind,
Worn, but unstooping to the baser crowd,
All tenantless, save to the crannying wind,
Or holding dark communion with the cloud.
There was a day when they were young and proud,
Banners on high, and battles passed below:
But they who fought are in a bloody shroud,
And those which wav'd are shredless dust ere now,
And the bleak battlements shall bear no future blow.
"Beneath battlements, within those walls,
Power dwelt amidst her passions: in proud state,
Each robber chief upheld his armed halls,
Doing his evil will, nor less elate
Than mightier heroes of a longer date.
What want these outlaws conquerors should have?
But History's purchas'd page to call them great?
A wider space, an ornamented grave?
Their hopes were not less warm, their souls were full as brave."
The scenery, the history and legend, and the wines of the Rhine make up the complete list of the charms of the river for the enthusiastic voyager on its bosom or on its banks.
It is enjoyable enough when one is on the deck of a Rhine steamboat, or would be if one were not so fearfully crowded, but it is doubly so when one is travelling along its banks by roadways which, from here on, improve greatly.
The history and legend of the Rhine are too big a subject to handle here, but some facts about Rhine wine, picked up on the spot, may be of interest.
The true German is not only eloquent when speaking of the quality of the Rhine wines, but he claims for them also the honours of antiquity. One may be content to date their history back merely to the days of Probus, but others declare that Bacchus only could be the parent of such admirable liquor, and point to Bacharach as the resting-place of the deity when he came to taste the Rhine grapes, and set an example to all future tipplers. It would not have been out of place to call the Rhine the country of Bacchus. The Rhine, Moselle, Neckar, and Main are gardens of the vine; but the Germans have not been content with cultivating the banks of rivers alone, for the higher lands are planted as well. From Bonn to Coblenz, and from the latter city to Mayence, the country is covered with vineyards. The Johannisberger of "father" Rhine, the Gruenhauser or the Brauneberger of the Moselle, and the Hochheimer of the Main, each distinguish and hallow their respective rivers in the eyes of the connoisseur in wine.
The vineyards of the Rhine are a scene of surpassing beauty; Erbach, enthroned among its vines; Johannisberg, seated on a crescent hill of red soil, adorned with cheering vegetation; Mittelheim, Geisenheim, and Rüdesheim with its strong, fine-bodied wine, the grapes from which bask on their promontory of rock, in the summer sun, and imbibe its generous heat from dawn to setting; then again, on the other side, Bingen, delightful, sober, majestic, with its terraces of vines, topped by the château of Klopp. The river and its riches, the corn and fruit which the vicinity produces, all remind the stranger of a second Canaan. The Bingerloch, the ruins, and the never-failing vines scattered among them, like verdant youth revelling amid age and decay, give a picture nowhere else exhibited, uniting to the joyousness of wine the sober tinge of meditative feeling. The hills back the picture, covered with feudal relics or monastic remains, mingled with the purple grape. Landscapes of greater beauty, joined to the luxuriance of fruitful vine culture, can nowhere be seen.
The glorious season of fruition—the Vintage—is the time for the visit of a wine-lover to the Rhine. It does not take place until the grapes are perfectly mature; they are then carefully gathered, and the bad fruit picked out, and, with the stalks, put aside. The wine of the pressing is separated, most vom ersten druck, vom nachdruck. The more celebrated of the wines are all fermented in casks; and then, after being repeatedly racked, suffered to remain for years in large fudders of 250 gallons, to acquire perfection by time. The wines mellow best in large vessels; hence the celebrated Heidelberg tun, thirty-one feet long by twenty-one high, and holding one hundred and fifty fudders, or six hundred hogsheads. Tübingen, Grüningen, and Königstein (the last 3,709 hogsheads) could all boast of their enormous tuns, in which the white wines of the country were thought to mellow better than in casks of less dimensions. These tuns were once kept carefully filled. The Germans always had the reputation of being good drinkers, and of taking care of the "liquor they loved." Misson says in his "Travels," that he formerly saw at Nuremberg the public cellar, two hundred and fifty paces long, and containing twenty thousand ahms of wine.
The names and birthplaces of the different German wines are interesting. The Liebfrauenmilch is a well-bodied wine, grown at Worms, and generally commands a good price. The same may be said of the wines of Koesterick, near Mayence; and those from Mount Scharlachberg are equally full-bodied and well-flavoured. Nierstein, Oppenheim, Laubenheim, and Gaubischeim are considered to yield first growths, but that of Deidesheim is held to be the best.
The river Main runs up to Frankfort close to Mayence; and on its banks the little town of Hochheim, once the property of General Kellerman, stands upon an elevated spot of ground, in the full blaze of the sun. From Hochheim is derived the name of Hock, too often applied by the unknowing to all German wines. There are no trees to obstruct the genial fire from the sky, which the Germans deem so needful to render their vintages propitious. The town stands in the midst of vineyards.
The vineyard which produces the Hochheimer of the first growth is about eight acres in extent, and situated on a spot well sheltered from the north winds. The other growths of this wine come from the surrounding vineyards. The whole eastern bank of the Rhine to Lorich, called the Rheingau, has been remarkable centuries past for its wines. It was once the property of the Church. Near this favoured spot grows the Schloss-Johannisberger, once the property of the Church, and also of the Prince of Orange. Johannisberg is a town, with its castle (schloss) on the right bank of the Rhine below Mentz. The Johannisberger takes the lead in the wines of the Rhine. The vines are grown over the vaults of the castle, and were very near being destroyed by General Hoche. The quantity is not large.
Rüdesheim produces wines of the first Rhine growths; but the Steinberger, belonging to the Duke of Nassau, takes rank after the Schloss Johannisberger among these wines. It has the greatest strength, and yet is one of the most delicate, and even sweetly flavoured. That called the "Cabinet" is the best. The quantity made is small, of the first growth. Graefenberg, which was once the property of the Church, produces very choice wines which carries a price equal to the Rüdesheim.
Marcobrunner is an excellent wine, of a fine flavour, especially when the vintage has taken place in a warm year. The vineyards of Roth and Königsbach grow excellent wines. The wine of Bacharach was formerly celebrated, but time produces revolutions in the history of wines, as well as in that of empires.
On the whole the wines of Bischeim, Asmannshäusen, and Laubenheim are very pleasant wines; those of the most strength are Marcobrunner, Rüdesheimer, and Niersteiner, while those of Johannisberg, Geisenheim, and Hochheim give the most perfect delicacy and aroma. The Germans themselves say, "Rhein-wein, fein wein; Necker-wein, lecker wein; Franken-wein tranken wein; Mosel-wein, unnosel wein" (Rhine wine is good; Neckar pleasant; Frankfort bad; Moselle innocent).
The red wines of the Rhine are not of extraordinary quality. The Asmannshäuser is the best, and resembles some of the growths of France. Near Lintz, at Neuwied, a good wine, called Blischert, is made. Keinigsbach, on the left bank of the Rhine, Altenahr, Rech, and Kesseling, yield ordinary red growths.
The Moselle wines are secondary to those of the Rhine and Main. The most celebrated is the Brauneberger. The varieties grown near Treves are numerous. A Dutch merchant is said to have paid the Abbey of Maximinus for a variety called Gruenhauser in 1793, no less than eleven hundred and forty-four florins for two hundred and ninety English gallons in the vat. This wine was formerly styled the "Nectar of the Moselle."
These wines are light, with a good flavour. They will not keep so long as the Rhine wines, but they are abundant and wholesome. Near Treves are grown the wines of Brauneberg, Wehlen, Graach, Zeitingen, and Piesport. The wines of Rinsport and Becherbach are considered of secondary rank. The wines of Cusel and Valdrach, near Treves, are thought to be possessed of diuretic properties. In about five years these wines reach the utmost point of perfection for drinking. They will not keep more than ten or twelve in prime condition.
The wines called "wines of the Ahr" resemble those of the Moselle, except that they will keep longer.
The "wines of the Neckar" are made from the best French, Hungarian, and even Cyprus vines. The most celebrated are those of Bessingheim. They are of a light red colour, not deep, and of tolerable flavour and bouquet.
Wiesbaden grows some good wines at Schierstein, and Epstein, near Frankfort. The best wines of Baden are produced in the seigniory of Badenweiler, near Fribourg. At Heidelberg, the great tun used to be filled with the wine of that neighbourhood, boasted to be a hundred and twenty years old, but it gave the wine no advantage over other Neckar growths. Some good wines are produced near Baden. The red wines of Wangen are much esteemed in the country of Bavaria, but they are very ordinary. Würzburg grows the Stein and Liesten wines. The first is produced upon a mountain so called, and is called "wine of the Holy Spirit" by the Hospital of Würzburg, to which it belongs. The Liesten wines are produced upon Mount St. Nicholas. Straw wines are made in Franconia. A vin de liqueur, called Calmus, like the sweet wines of Hungary, is made in the territory of Frankfort, at Aschaffenburg. The best vineyards are those of Bischofsheim. Some wines are made in Saxony, but they are of little worth. Meissen, near Dresden, and Guben, produce the best. Naumberg makes some small wines, like the inferior Burgundies.
With these pages as a general guide the touring automobilist must make his own itinerary. He will not always want to put up for the night in a large town, and will often prefer the quietness and the romantic picturesqueness of some little half-mountain-hidden townlet and its simple fare to a table d'hôte meal, such as he gets at Cologne or Coblenz, which is simply a poor imitation of its Parisian namesake.
The following skeleton gives the leading points.
|Cologne||to Bonn||(Hotel Rheinfeck)||27||Kilometres|
|Bonn||to Godesberg||(Hotel Blinzer)||7||"|
|Godesberg||to Andernach||(Hotel Schafer)||28||"|
|Andernach||to Coblenz||(Hotel Metropole)||18||"|
|Coblenz||to St. Goar||(Hotel Rheinfels)||46||"|
|St. Goar||to Bingen||(Stakenburger Hof)||29||"|
|Bingen||to Mayence||(Pfalzer Hof)||27||"|
|Mayence||to Frankfort||(Savoy Hotel)||33||"|
|Frankfort||to Worms||(Europaischer Hof)||52||"|
|Worms||to Mannheim||(Pfalzer Hof)||41||"|
|Mannheim||to Heidelberg||(Hotel Schrieder)||22||"|
|Heidelberg||to Spire||(Pfalzer Hof)||28||"|
|Spire||to carlsruhe||(Hotel Erbprinz)||52||"|
|Carlsruhe||to Baden||(Hotel Stephanie)||26||"|
|Baden||to Strasburg||(Hôtel de l'Europe)||60||"|
Generally speaking, none of the hotels above mentioned include wine with meals. The trail of the tourist accounts for this. All have accommodation for the automobilist.
From Strasburg one may continue to Bagel, if he is bound Italyward through Switzerland, but the chief distinctive features of the Rhine tour end at Strasburg.
From Strasburg one may enter France by St. Dié, in the Vosges, via the Col de Saales, the douane (custom-house) station for which is at Nouveau Saales.
The following are some of the signs and abbreviations met with in German hotels catering for stranger automobilists.
|Ohne Wein||Wine not included|
|A. C. B.||Automobile Club de Belgique|
|M. C. B.||Moto-Club de Belgique|
|T. C. B.||Touring Club de Belgique|
|T. C. N.||Touring Club Néerlandais|
|A. C. F.||Automobile Club de France|
|T. C. F.||Touring Club de France|
|Grube||Fosse or Inspection Pit|
In December, 1893, Le Petit Journal of Paris proposed a trial of self-propelled road-vehicles, to end with a run from Paris to Rouen. The distance was 133 kilometres and the first car to arrive at Rouen was a steam-tractor built by De Dion, Bouton et Cie, to-day perhaps the largest manufacturers of the ordinary gasoline-motor. A Peugot carriage, fitted with a Daimler engine, followed next, and then a Panhard. There were something like a hundred entries for this trial, of which one was from England and three from Germany, but most of them did not survive the run.
On the 11th of June, 1895, was started the now historic Paris-Bordeaux race. Sixteen gasoline and half a dozen steam cars started from the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, for the journey to Bordeaux and back. It was a Panhard-Levassor that arrived back in Paris first, but the prize was given to a Peugot which carried four passengers, whereas the Panhard carried but two.
In the following year the new locomotion was evidently believed to have come to stay, for the first journal devoted to the industry and sport was founded in Paris, under the name of La Locomotion Automobile, soon to be followed by another called La France Automobile.
In 1896 was held the Paris-Marseilles race, divided into five stages for the outward journey, and five stages for the homeward. Twenty-four gasoline-cars started, and three propelled by steam, and there were five gasoline-tricycles. Bolée's tandem tricycle was the sensation during the first stage, averaging twenty miles an hour. The itinerary out and back, of something like sixteen hundred kilometres, was covered first by a Panhard-Levassor, in sixty-seven hours, forty-two minutes, and fifty-eight seconds. The average speed of the winner was something like twenty-two kilometres an hour.
In England a motor-car run was organized from London to Brighton in 1896, including many of the vehicles which had started in the Paris-Marseilles race in France. The first vehicles to arrive in Brighton were the two Bolée tricycles; a Duryea was third, and a Panhard fourth.
In 1897 there was a race in France, on a course laid out between Marseilles, Nice, and La Turbie. The struggle was principally between the Comte Chasseloup-Laubat in a steam-car, and M. Lemaitre in a Panhard, with a victory for the former, showing at least that there were possibilities in the steam-car which gasoline had not entirely surpassed.
Pneumatic tires were used on the Paris-Bordeaux race in 1895, but solid tires were used on the winning cars in 1894, 1895, and 1896.
Another affair which came off in 1897 was a race from Paris to Dieppe, organized by two Paris newspapers, the Figaro and Les Sports.
The event was won by a three-wheeled Bolée, with a De Dion second, and a six-horse-power Panhard third.
In 1898 there took place the Paris-Amsterdam race. It was won by a Panhard, driven by Charron, and the distance was approximately a thousand miles, something like sixteen hundred kilometres.
The "Tour de France" was organized by the Matin in 1898. The distance was practically two thousand kilometres. Panhards won the first, second, third, and fourth places, though they were severely pressed by Mors.
The first Gordon-Bennett cup race was held in 1900, between Paris and Lyons. The distance was not great, but the trial was in a measure under general road conditions, though it took on all the aspects of a race. It was won by Charron in a Panhard.
In 1901 the Gordon-Bennett race was run from Paris to Bordeaux, perhaps the most ideal course in all the world for such an event. It was won by Girardot in a forty-horse Panhard.
The Paris-Berlin race came in the same year, with Fournier as winner, in a Mors designed by Brazier.
In 1902 the Gordon-Bennett formed a part of the Paris-Vienna itinerary, the finish being at Innsbruck in the Tyrol. De Knyff in a Panhard had victory well within his grasp when, by a misfortune in the parting of his transmission gear, he was beaten by Edge in the English Napier. Luck had something to do with it, of course, but Edge was a capable and experienced driver and made the most of each and every opportunity.
Through to Vienna the race was won by Farman in a seventy-horse-power Panhard, though Marcel Renault in a Renault "Voiture Legere" was first to arrive.
It was in 1901 that the famous Mercédès first met with road victories. A thirty-five-horse power Mercédès won the Nice-Salon-Nice event in the south of France, and again in the following year the Nice-La Turbie event.
In the Circuit des Ardennes event in 1902, Jarrot, in a seventy-horse Panhard, and Gabriel in a Mors, were practically tied until the last round, when Jarrot finally won, having made the entire distance (approximately 450 kilometres) at an average speed of fifty-four and a half miles per hour. There were no controles.
In 1903 the Gordon-Bennett cup race was held in Ireland, over a course of 368 miles, twice around a figure-eight track. Germany won with a Mercédès with Jenatzy at the wheel, with De Knyff in a Panhard only ten minutes behind.
In 1903 was undertaken the disastrous Paris-Madrid road race. Between Versailles and Bordeaux the accidents were so numerous and terrible, due principally to reckless driving, that the affair was abandoned at Bordeaux. Gabriel in a Mors car made the astonishing average of sixty-two and a half miles per hour, hence may be considered the winner as far as Bordeaux.
In 1904 the Gordon-Bennett race was run over the Taunus course in Germany, with Thèry the winner in a Richard-Brazier car.
In 1905 Thèry again won on the Circuit d'Auvergne in the same make of car, making a sensational victory which—to the French at least—has apparently assured the automobile supremacy to France for all time.
The 1906 event was the Grand Prix of the Automobile Club de France on the Circuit de la Sarthe. The astonishing victories of the Renault car driven by Szisz, which made the round of 680 kilometres in two days at the average rate of speed of 108 kilometres an hour, has elated all connected with the French automobile industry. It was a victory for removable rims also, as had Szisz not been able to replace his tattered tires almost instanteously with others already blown up, he would certainly have been overtaken by one or more of the Brazier cars, which suffered greatly from tire troubles.
In 1906 another event was organized in France by the Matin. It was hardly in the nature of a race, but a trial of over six thousand kilometres, an extended tour de France.
Forty-two automobiles of all ranks left the Place de la Concorde at Paris on the 2d of August, and thirty-three arrived at Paris on the 28th of the same month, twenty of them without penalization of any sort. No such reliability trial was ever held previously, and it showed that the worth of the comparatively tiny eight and ten horse machines for the work was quite as great as that of the forty and sixty horse monsters.
The following tables show plainly the value of this great trial.
COUPE DU MATIN
LIST OF AUTOMOBILES ENGAGED
CLASS "ROUES" (SPRING WHEELS AND ANTI-SKIDS)
|2.||"||Vulcain I.||de Dion-Bouton|
|38.||"||Garchey I.||de Dion-Bouton|
Motocyclettes, vitesse maxima, 25 kilomètres à l'heure
|64.||"||Albatross (Motor Buchet)|
Tri-cars, vitesse maxima, 25 kilomètres à l'heure
|4.||Mototri Contal I.|
|5.||Mototri Contal II.|
Voiturette 1 cylindre, alésage maximum 110 millimètres
|8.||De Dion-Bouton et Cie I.|
|9.||Darracq et Cie|
|12.||De Dion-Bouton et Cie II.|
|30.||Voiturette G. R. A. R.|
|34.||Voiturette Darracq II.|
|47.||Voiturette Lacoste & Battmann I.|
|48.||Voiturette Lacoste & Battmann II.|
|49.||Voiturette Lacoste & Battmann III.|
Voitures 2 cylindres, alésage maximum 130 millimètres, ou 4 cylindres, alésage maximum 85 millimètres
|13.||De Dion-Bouton et Cie III.|
|44.||Panhard et Levassor|
Voitures 4 cylindres, alésage maximum 105 millimètres
|7.||C. V. R. I.|
|16.||De Dion-Bouton et Cie IV.|
|17.||De Dion-Bouton et Cie V.|
|29.||C. I. A.|
|31.||C. V. R. II.|
|60.||De Dion-Bouton et Cie VI.|
|61.||Bayard Clèment I.|
Voitures 4 cylindres, alésage maximum 126 millimètres
|32.||C. V. R. III.|
|63.||C. V. R. IV.|
Voitures 4 cylindres, alésage maximum 140 millimètres
Birdlip Hill.—Near Gloucester. Length, 2 miles; average gradient, 1 in 8; steepest gradient, 1 in 7
Dashwood Hill.—Near High Wycombe. Length, 1,180 yards; average gradient, 1 in 16; steepest gradient, 1 in 10.9.
Hindhead.—Near Guildford. Length, 2 3/4 miles, rise, 520 feet; average gradient, 1 in 24.4 ; steepest gradient, 1 in 13.
Porlock Hill.—North Devon. Length, 3 miles; rise, 1,365 feet; gradient, 1 in 6 to 1 in 8.
Shap Fell.—Near Penrith. Rise, 1,886 feet, gradients, 1 in 11, 1 in 15, 1 in 16, and 1 in 20.
Snowdon.—Mountain in Wales. Steepest gradient, 1 in 7.
Westerham.—Length, 2,940 feet; average gradient, 1 in 9.4.
Château Thierry.—Near Meaux. Length, 1,098 yards.
Côte de Gaillon.—Near Rouen. The scene of the most famous hill climbs in France. Length, 3 kilometres, rise, 10 per cent. for the greater part of the distance.
Côte de Laffray.—Near Grenoble. Length, 4.13 miles; gradients, 1 in 15, 1 in 11, 1 in 10, and 1 in 8; average, 9.3 per cent; many bad turns.
La Turbie.—A rude foot-hill climb in the Maritime Alps just back of Monte Carlo.
Mont Ventoux.—Near Avignon. Length, 20 kilometres; rise 1,600 metres.
Mont Cenis.—Near Turin. The "climb" begins at Susa, on the Italian side of the mountain, at the 596 metre level, and continues for 22 kilometres to the 2,087 metre level, a 100 h.p. Fiat climbed this in 1905 in 19 minutes, 18 3/5 seconds.
|Year||Number of Cars Built||Value (Fcs)||Value Exported (Fcs)|
|Moon||5||days old shines till||11 PM (approx.)|
|Moon||15||days old rises at||6 PM (approx.)|
After the method of M. Carlier, Ingénieur des Arts et Manufactures.
Figured for the latitude of Paris, but applicable so far as the automobilist is concerned to most of continental Europe.
The deeply shaded portions represent night.
The lightly shaded portions twilight.
The white portions daylight.
Generally speaking, lamps must be lighted at the hour indicated by deeply shaded portions in the respective months.
The Touring Club de France is the largest and most active national association for the promotion of touring. It is under the direct patronage of the President of the French Republic, and the interests and wants of its members are protected and provided for in a full and practical manner by an excellent organization, whose influence is felt in every part of France and the adjacent countries.
The membership is over 100,000 and is steadily growing. It includes a very considerable body of foreign members, those from the United Kingdom and America alone numbering 5,000, a circumstance which may be accepted, perhaps, as the best possible proofs of the value of the advantages which the club offers to tourists from abroad visiting France.
The annual subscription is 6 francs (5s.) for foreign members. There is no entrance fee and the election of candidates generally follows within a few days after the receipt of the application at the offices of the club in Paris.
The club issues a number of publications specially compiled for cyclists, comprising: a Yearbook (Annuaire) for France divided in two parts (North and South) with a list of over three thousand selected club hotels, at which members enjoy a privileged position as to charges; an admirable volume of skeleton tours covering the whole of France, from each large centre, and by regions, and supplemented by some three hundred card itineraries with sketch maps; a specially drawn cyclist's map of France, and a monthly club gazette, all designed to facilitate the planning and carrying out of interesting tours with comfort and economy.
INSTRUCTIONS TO CANDIDATES
Fill in the application form and enclose it with the subscription (6 francs) to M. le Président du T. C. F., 65, Avenue de la Grande-Armée, Paris. The applications of lady candidates should be signed by a male relative—brother, father, husband—whether a member of the club or not.
Notice of resignation of membership must reach the Paris office of the club not later than November 30th, failing which the member is liable for the following year's subscription. Those who join after October 1st are entitled to the privileges of membership until the close of the following year for one subscription.
Post-office money orders should be made payable to M. le Trésorier du T. C. F., 65, Avenue de la Grande-Armée, Paris, France.
The addresses of the representatives of the Touring Club de France in England and America are as follows; further information concerning this admirable institution for all travellers whether by train, bicycle, or automobile will be gladly furnished. They can also supply forms for application for membership.
|New York City   ||Ch. Dien||38-40 West 33d St.|
|Boston||F. Hesseltine||10 Tremont St.|
|Washington||H. Lazard||1453 Massachusetts Ave.|
|London||C. F. Just||17 Victoria St. S. W.|
|Edinburgh||Dr. D. Turner   ||37 George Square.|
|Dublin||G. Fottereil||46 Fleet St.|
Certain regulations are compulsory even for tourists. You may obtain a license to drive a motor-car in Britain if you are over seventeen years of age (renewable every twelve months) at a cost of five shillings.
You must register your motor-car at the County or Borough Council offices where you reside, fee £1.0.0. You must pay a yearly "male servant" tax of fifteen shillings for your chauffeur. In case of accident, en route, you must stop and, if required, give your name and address, also name and address of the owner of the car and the car number.
Every car must bear two number plates (the number is assigned you on registration), one front and one rear. The latter must be lighted at night.
Speed limit is twenty miles an hour except where notice is posted to the effect that ten miles an hour only is allowed, or that some particular road is forbidden to automobiles.
In England one's car can be registered at any port on arrival, or, by letter addressed to any licensing authority, before arrival. The regulation as to driving licenses is as follows:
"If any person applies to the Council of a county or county borough for the grant of a license and the Council are satisfied that he has no residence in the United Kingdom, the Council shall, if the applicant is otherwise entitled, grant him a license, notwithstanding that he is not resident within their county or county borough."
As regards the Inland Revenue Carriage License, however, it may be noted that twenty-one days' grace is allowed—in other words, that licenses must be obtained within twenty-one days after first becoming liable to the duty.
There are no customs duties on automobiles entering Great Britain.
CERTIFICAT DE CAPACITÉ AND RÉCÉPISSÉ DE DÉCLARATION
Before taking an automobile upon the road in France all drivers must procure the Certificat de Capacité, commonly known as the "Carte Rouge."
The following letter should be addressed to the nearest préfecture, or sous-préfecture, written on stamped paper (papier timbré, 60 centimes) and accompanied by two miniature photographs.
"Monsieur:—J'ai l'honneur de vous demander de me faire convoquer pour subir l'examen nécessaire à l'obtention d'un certificat de capacité pour la conduite d'une voiture... (indiquer la marque) mue par un moteur à petrole.
"Veuillez agréer, etc."
At the same time another letter should be addressed to the same authority requesting a Récépissé de Déclaration. These applications must be quite separate and distinct; each on its own papier timbre, which you buy at any bureau de tabac.
"Monsieur Le Préfet:—Je soussigné ... (nom, prénom, domicile) propriétaire d'une voiture automobile actionnée par un moteur à pétrole système (type et numéro du type), ai l'honneur de vous demander un permis de circulation.
"Vous trouverez sons ce pli le procès-verbal de réception délivré par le constructeur.
"Veuillez agréer, etc."
NAMES OF ARRONDISSEMENTS AND DISTINGUISHING LETTERS BORNE BY AUTOMOBILES IN FRANCE
|Rouen||Y ou Z|
|Paris||E, G, I, U, X|
CUSTOMS DUTIES IN FRANCE.
Fifty francs per 100 kilos on all motor vehicles weighing more than 125 kilos. Automobiles (including motor-cycles) weighing less than 125 kilos pay a flat rate of 120 francs.
Members of most cycling touring clubs can arrange for the entry of motor-cycles free of duty.
All customs duties paid, in France may be reimbursed upon the exportation of the automobile. The formalities are very simple. Inquire at burèau of entry.
Customs Dues. 12 1/2 per cent. ad valorem (owners' declaration as to value), but the authorities reserve the right to purchase at owners valuation if they think it undervalued. This is supposed to prevent fraud, and no doubt it does.
A driving certificate is not required of tourists, but a registered number must be carried. Plates and a permit are supplied at the frontier station by which one enters, or they may be obtained at Brussels from the chef de police.
Speed limit: 30 kilometres per hour in the open country and 10 kilometres per hour in the towns, except, generally speaking, the larger cities hold down the speed to that of a trotting horse.
Customs Dues are five per cent, ad valorem, but in practice nothing is demanded of genuine tourists and a permit is now given (1906) for eight days with a right of extension for a similar period.
Foreign number plates, once recorded by the Dutch customs officials, will supplant the need of local number plates.
Customs Dues are 60 francs per 100 kilos. This amount, deposited on entering the country, will be refunded upon leaving and complying with the formalities.
Legally a driving and "circulation" permit may be demanded, but often this is waived.
In the Canton Valais only the main road from St. Maurice to Brigue is open for automobile traffic. Many other roads are entirely closed.
N.B. Traffic regulations in many parts are exceedingly onerous and often unfair to foreigners.
A recent conference of the different cantons has been held at Berne to consider the question of automobile traffic in the country. It was decided to fix a blue sign on the roads where motorists must slacken speed, and a yellow sign where motoring is not allowed. The Department of the Interior was deputed to draw up a uniform code of rules for the guidance of police deputed to take charge of the roads. No decision was arrived at as regards uniformity in fines for infraction of the regulations, but steps are to be taken to put an end to the abuses to which it is alleged the police have subjected motorists. A resolution was furthermore adopted to the effect that no road is to be closed to motor-cars without an agreement between the authorities of all the cantons concerned, and that all foreign motorists shall be given a copy of the regulations on entering the country.
The above information is given here that no one may be unduly frightened, but there is no question but that Switzerland has not been so hospitable to automobile tourists as to other classes.
The Simplon Pass, under certain restrictions has recently been opened to automobiles. Open from June 1st to October 15th, except on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but no departure can be made from either Brigue or Gondo after three P. M. Apply for pass at the Gendarmerie. Speed 10 kilometres on the open road, and 3 kilometres on curves and in tunnels.
Customs Dues are according to weight.
|500 kilos||200 fcs.|
|500-1000 kilos||400 fcs.|
|above 1000 kilos||600 fcs.|
|motor cycles||42 fcs.|
A certificate for importation temporaire is given by the customs officers on entering, and the same must be given up on leaving the country, when the sum deposited will be reimbursed.
Since January 8, 1905, a driving certificate is compulsory, but the authorities will issue same readily to tourists against foreign certificates or licenses.
Speed during the day must be limited to 40 kilometres an hour in the open country and 12 kilometres in the towns.
At night the speed (legally) may not exceed 15 kilometres an hour. Lamps white on the right, green on the left. There are special regulations for Florence.
Customs Dues.—One hundred and fifty marks per automobile. A pièce d'identité will be given the applicant on entering, and upon giving this up on leaving the duties will be reimbursed.
German, French, and Belgian coins all pass current (except bronze money).
Customs Dues.—Temporary importation by tourists 150 marks per auto. Oil and gasoline in the tanks also pay duty under certain rulings. A small matter, this, anyway.
According to recent regulations tourists are permitted to introduce motor-vehicles into Germany for a temporary visit, free of customs duty, but it has been left to the discretion of the official to give motorists the benefit of this arrangement, or to charge the ordinary duty, with the result that some have had to make a deposit, and others have succeeded in passing their cars into the country free.
Uniform driving or tax regulations are wanting in Germany, but something definite is evidently forthcoming from the authorities shortly (1906-7), with, the probability that even visitors will have to pay a revenue tax.
Rule of the road is keep to the right and pass on the left, as in most Continental countries.
Speed limits, during darkness, or in populous districts, vary from 9 to 15 kilometres per hour, but "driving to the common danger" is the only other cause which will prevent one making any speed he likes in the open country.
Foreigners should apply to the police authorities immediately on having entered the country for information as to new rules and regulations.
Customs Dues vary greatly on automobiles. The motor pays 18 francs, 50 centimes per hundred kilos., and the carrosserie according to its form or design. Ordinary tonneau type four places, 1,000 pesetas. For temporary importation receipts are given which will enable one to be reimbursed upon exportation of the vehicle. In general the road regulations of France apply to Spain.
Speed limit, 28 kilometres per hour in open country down to 12 kilometres in the towns.
A circulation permit and driving certificate should be obtained.
M. J. Lafitte, 8 Place de la Liberté, Biarritz, can "put one through" (at an appropriate fee), in a manner hardly possible for one to accomplish alone.
A special "free-entry" permit is sometimes given for short periods.
The most fascinating maps for tried traveller are the wonderful Cartes d'Etat Major and of Ministre de l'Intérieur in France. The Ordnance Survey maps in England are somewhat of an approach thereto, but they are in no way as interesting to study.
One must have a good eye for distances and the lay of the land, and a familiarity with the conventional signs of map-makers, in order to get full value from these excellent French maps, but the close contemplation of them will show many features which might well be incorporated into the ordinary maps of commerce.
The great national roads are distinctly marked with little dots beside the road, representing the tree-bordered "Routes Nationales," but often there is a cut-off of equally good road between two points on one's itinerary which of course is not indicated in any special manner. For this reason alone these excellent maps are not wholly to be recommended to the automobilist who is covering new ground. For him it is much better that he should stick to the maps issued by the Touring Club de France or the cheaper, more legible, and even more useful Cartes Taride.
In England, as an alternative to the Ordnance Survey maps, there are Bartholemew's coloured maps, two miles to the inch, and the Half Inch Map of England and Wales.
Belgium is well covered by the excellent "Carte de Belgique" of the Automobile Club de Belgique, Italy by the maps of the Italian Touring Club, and Germany by the ingenious profile map known as "Strassenprofilkarten," rather difficult to read by the uninitiated.
One of the great works of the omnific Touring Club de France is the preparation of what might be called pictorial inventories of the historical monuments and natural curiosities of France made on the large-scale maps of the Etat Major. Primarily these are intended to be filed away in their wonderful "Bibliothèque," that all and sundry who come may read, but it is also further planned that they shall be displayed locally in hotels, automobile clubs, and the like. The mode of procedure is astonishingly simple. These detailed maps of the War Department are simply cut into strips and mounted consecutively, and the "sights" marked on the margin (with appropriate notes) after the manner of the example here given.
There seems no reason why one could not make up his own maps beforehand in a similar fashion, of any particular region or itinerary that he proposed to "do" thoroughly. One misses a great deal en route that is not marked clearly on the map before his eyes.
The Contour Road Books
Vol. I. North England, including part of Wales.
Vol. II. West England
Vol. III. Southeastern England.
Very useful books, including about five hundred maps and plans, showing gradients and road profiles.
Bartholemew's Revised Map of England and Wales.—Complete in 87 sheets, 2 miles to the inch.
Half Inch Map of England, Wales, and Scotland.—Published by Gall and Inglis (Edinburgh). Complete in 47 sheets (England and Wales).
"Strip" Maps.—Published by Gall and Inglis (Edinburgh); 2 miles to the inch.
1. Edinburgh to Inverness.
2. Inverness to John O'Groat's.
3. "Brighton Road," London to Brighton; "Portsmouth Road," London to Portsmouth.
4. "Southampton Road," London to Bournemouth.
5. "Exeter Road," London to Exeter.
6. "Bath Road," London to Bristol.
10. "Great North Road," in two parts: London to York, Leeds, or Harrogate; York to Edinburgh.
15. "Land's End Road," Bristol to Land's End.
16. "Worcester Road," Bristol to Birmingham, Worcester to Lancashire.
18. The North Wales Road: Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham to Holyhead.
19. London to Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.
20. "Great North Road," Edinburgh to York.
21. "Carlisle Road," Edinburgh to Lancashire.
28. "Highland Road," Edinburgh to Inverness.
28. "John O'Groat's Road," Inverness to Caithness. Excellent for tours over a straightaway itinerary.
The Cyclist's Touring Club Road Books
Vol. I. deals with the Southern and Southwestern Counties south of the main road from London to Bath and Bristol.
Vol. II. embraces the Eastern and Midland Counties, including the whole of Wales.
Vol. III. covers the remainder of England to the Scottish Border.
Vol. IV. includes the whole of Scotland.
Vol. V. Southern Ireland, deals with the country south of the main road from Dublin to Galway.
Vol. VI., Northern Ireland, deals with the country north of the main road froth Dublin to Galway.
Ordnance Survey Map of England and Wales.—New series, complete in
354 sheets, 21 x 16 inches. One mile to the inch.
Bartholemew's Map of Scotland.—Complete in 29 sheets, 2 miles to the inch.
Mecredy's Road Maps
1. Dublin and Wicklow.
6. East Central Ireland.
Mecredy's Road Book
Vol. I. South of Dublin and Galway.
Vol. II. North of Dublin and Galway.
The Continental Road Book for Great Britain—Published by the
Continental Gutta-Percha Co. Excellent information on British roads,
distances, hotels, etc., with a general map.
The Automobile Hand Book.—The official year book Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. Contains all the "official" information concerning automobileism in Britain. Rules and regulations, statistics, a few routes and plans of the large towns, and a list of "official" hotels, repairers, etc.
Cartes Taride.—Excellent road maps of all France in 25 sheets can be
had everywhere, mounted on paper at 1 franc, cloth 2 fcs. 50
centimes. All good roads marked in red; dangerous hills are marked,
also railways. Kilometres are also given between towns en route. The
most useful and readable maps published of any country. A. Taride, 20
Boulevard St. Denis, Paris, also publishes The Rhine, North and South
Italy, and Switzerland, each at the same price.
Guide Taride (Les Routes de France).—4,000 itineraries throughout France and 150 itineraries from Paris to foreign cities and towns. Contains notes as to nature of roads, kilometric distances, etc.
L'Annuaire de Route.—The year book of the Automobile Club de France contains hotel, garage, and mècanicien list, charging-stations for electric apparatus and vendors of gasoline.
C. T. C. Road Book of France (in English).—Two volumes of road itineraries and notes.
Cartes de l'Etat Major.—Published by the Service Géographique de l'Armée and sold or furnished by all booksellers. Can best be procured through the Touring Club de France, 65 Ave. de la Grande Armée, Paris. Scale 1-80,000, 30 centimes per sheet. Another scale 1-50,000.
Carte de la Ministre d'Intérieur.—Scale 1-100,000 and 1-80,000.
Printed in three colours.
Carte de France au 200,000 cq.—Published by the Service Géographiqué and reproduced from the 1-80,000 carte by photolithography. Useful, but not so clear as the original.
Cartes du Touring Club de France.—Scale 1-400,000. Indicating all routes with remarks as to their surfaces, hills, culverts, railway crossings, etc. Printed in five colours. 15 sheets, 63 x 90 cm. These cartes lap over somewhat into Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, and are very good.
Le Guide-Michelin—Issued by Michelin et Cie, the tire manufacturers. The most handy and useful hotel and mécanicien list, with kilometric distances between French towns and cities. Many miniature plans of towns and large map of France.
Guide-Routiere Continental.—Issued by the manufacturers of Continental tires. Gives plans of towns and cities, detailed itineraries and hotel lists, etc., throughout France. Equally useful as the Guide-Michelin, but more bulky.
La Carte Bécherel.—Reproduced from that of the Etat Major 1-200,000. Price 2 fcs., 50c.
Cartes de Dion—Excellent four-colour maps of certain sections environing the great cities. Published and sold by De Dion, Bouton et Cie.
Sur Route (Atlas-Guide de Poche pour Cyclistes et Automobilists). —Published by Hatchette & Cie, 3 fcs., 50c. A most useful condensed and abbreviated gazetteer of France, with a series of handy four-colour maps showing main roads sufficiently clearly for real use as an automobile route-book.
Annuaire Général du Touring Club de France—Hotel list, mécaniciens, etc., and prices of same throughout France.
The Touring Club de France also issues an Annuaire pour l'Etranger, containing similar information of the neighbouring countries.
Guides-Joanne.—The most perfectly compiled series of guidebooks in any language. The late editions of Normandie, Bretagne, etc., have miniature profile road maps and much other information of interest and value to automobile tourists. Seventeen volumes, covering France, Algeria, and Corsica.
The Touring Club Italiano issues a series of five excellent maps covering the whole of Italy.
1. Lombardia, Piemonte, and Ligurie.
3. Central Italy.
4. Southern Italy.
5. Calabria and Sicily.
Strade di Grande-Comunicazione—Italia—(Main Roads of Italy). An
excellent profile road book of all of Italy; miniature plans of all
cities and large towns, with gradients of roads, population, etc.
Carte Taride—Italie, Section Nord.—Published by A. Taride, 20 Bvd. St. Denis, Paris. Comprises Aoste, Bologne, Come, Florence, Livourne, Milan, Nice, Padoua, Parma, Pise, Sienne, Trente, Turin, Venise. 1 fc. on paper, 2 fcs., 50c. cloth.
Carte Taride—Italie, Section Centrale.—Uniform with above.
Carte Routière.—Published by the Touring Club de Suisse; is issued
in four sheets.
L'Annuaire de Route.—Published by the Automobile Club de Suisse; contains a small-scale road map, hotel list, etc.
Cyclist's Touring Club (London) Road Book for South and Central Europe includes Switzerland.
Carte Taride pour la Suisse.—A continuation of the excellent series of Cartes Tarides (Paris, 30 Bvd. St. Denis) 1 fc., 50c. paper, 3 fcs. on cloth.
The Cartes Tarides (Paris, A. Taride, 20 Boulevard St. Denis) include
Belgium under the Nos. 1 and 1 Bis.
Cyclist's Touring Club (London) Road Book for Northern and Central Europe includes Belgium.
Carte de Belgique, issued by the Touring Club de Belgique, covers all of Belgium in one sheet.
Guide-Michelin pour la Belgique, Hollande, et aux Bords du Rhin contains Belgian hotel-list, plans of towns, etc.
Road Atlas—Published by the Touring Club of Holland, which also
issues many detailed road and route books for the Pays Bas.
Cyclists Touring Club (London) Road Book for North and Central Europe includes Holland.
Guide-Michelin pour La Belgique includes Holland, Luxembourg, and the Banks of the Rhine, with information after the same manner as in the "Guide-Michelin" for France.
Afstandskaart van Nederland.—An admirable road map of all Holland in two sheets, showing also all canals and waterway.
Ravenstein's Road Maps of Central Europe. Scale about 4 miles to the
Taride's Bord du Rhin.—Excellent maps in three colours, main routes in red, with kilometric distances, towns, and picturesque sites clearly marked.
Ravenstein's Road Book for Germany.—Two vols., North and South Germany.
Cyclist's Touring Club (London) Road Book for Germany.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE AUTOMOBILIST ABROAD***
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