- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
FAIR ITALY. THE RIVIERA AND MONTE CARLO
FAIR ITALY. THE RIVIERA AND MONTE CARLO
COMPRISING A TOUR THROUGH NORTH AND SOUTH ITALY AND SICILY WITH A SHORT ACCOUNT OF MALTA
W. COPE DEVEREUX, R.N., F.R.G.S.
"A CRUISE IN THE 'GORGON' IN THE SUPPRESSION OF THE SLAVE TRADE"
KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH & CO., 1, PATERNOSTER SQUARE
(The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved.)
MY DEAR WIFE
THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED,
IN REMEMBRANCE OF OUR HAPPY TOUR
Fair Italy, the land of song and cradle of the Arts, has been so often written about, and so well described both in prose and in verse, that I feel there is a presumption in my attempting to say anything fresh of that classic land, its art treasures, and its glorious past. But within the last few years a new Italy has sprung into existence—the dream of Cavour has been realized; and, contrary to all predictions, she has evinced a union and cohesiveness so complete as to surprise all, and possibly disappoint some who were jealous of her.
What was once a conglomeration of petty rival states is now one constitutionally governed kingdom. Italy has ceased to be only a geographical name; she is now a nation whose voice is listened to at the council tables of the Great Powers.
The old terms of Piedmontese, Tuscan, Lombard, and Neapolitan, have no longer aught but a local significance; from the Alps to Tarentum every one glories in the name of free united Italy, and feels proud of being an Italian.
Young Italy is so rapidly developing the resources of her gifted people and of her fruitful lands, that she daily becomes more interesting to all who sympathize with a free and vigorous country; more especially to the English, who have many interests in common with her, and few, if any, reasons to fear either antagonism or competition.
And the beautiful Riviera—
Where God's pure air, sweet flowers, blue sea and skies, Combine to make an earthly Paradise.
Yes! the Riviera is certainly one of the loveliest spots on this fair earth, and is visited by streams of human beings, lovers of nature and students of art; but is more especially dear to the thousands of sickly invalids, who—
Journeying there from lands of wintry clime, Find life and health 'midst scenery sublime.
But, to be truly candid, I must confess that, while humbly trusting I have succeeded in making this little book both interesting and instructive, one of the chief reasons for my putting pen to paper has been to make an effort, however feeble, to expose the deadly evils of the plague-spot of this paradise, Monte Carlo.
From this centre there circulates a gambling fever not only throughout the Riviera—from Cannes to Genoa—but everywhere its victims may carry it. After being stamped out from all the German watering-places, the demon "Play" has fixed his abode in this fair spot, in the very pathway of invalids and others, and, under the aegis of a corrupt prince and his subjects who share the proceeds of the gaming-tables, this valued health resort, which was surely designed by a beneficent Creator for the happiness of His creatures, is turned into a pandemonium.
"Base men to use it to so base effect."
Few can be wholly unaware of the sad effects resulting from this gambling mania, whereby the happiness of many homes is wrecked, and thousands of our fellow-creatures are brought to ruin and a shameful end.
During the past season the public papers have teemed with instances of Monte Carlo suicides,[A] the lifeless bodies of its victims frequently being found at early dawn in the charming gardens surrounding the Casino. The gen d'arme patrol is so accustomed to the occurrence, it is said, as to view the object with perfect sang froid, but, let us rather hope, with pitying eye.
It may possibly be said, Why all this virtuous indignation about Monte Carlo, when gambling, to a frightful extent, is carried on at our clubs and stock exchanges in England? I can only answer, two wrongs can never make one right; besides, Monte Carlo cannot be allowed to exist as an independent principality when conducted so dishonestly and detrimentally to the highest interests of humanity.
I am thankful to feel that the matter has now been brought before the Parliaments of England and Italy, and even France, and has been the subject of diplomatic remonstrance. This is hopeful, but I have the greater hope in the power of public opinion and sympathy against this monstrous evil; and also in the belief that one of the highest developments of this nineteenth century is the recognition of the truth that "I am my brother's keeper."
LONDON, March, 1884.
[A] See Appendix.
CHAPTER I. PAGE Introduction—Charing Cross—Dover—Submarine Channel Tunnel —Calais—Advantages of travelling second class—Superfluous examination of luggage—Paris—Dining a la carte versus table d'hote—Noel—An Officer's Funeral—Lyons—Scenery of the Rhone—Constant changes in the landscape—Want of proper accommodation at the railway stations—Defective lighting of railway carriages 1
Arrival at Marseilles—Change in climate—The mistral—Some account of Marseilles in the past—Marseillaise hymn—Docks and harbour—Hill-side scenery—Chateau d'If—La Dame de la Garde—Military practice—St. Nazaire—An ancient church—The Exchange—Courtiers of merchandise—Sunday at home and abroad 13
Leaving Marseilles—Toulon—Hyeres—Frejus—Coast scenery—The Hotel Windsor—An unexpected meeting, and a pleasant walk—Isles de Lerins—The Mediterranean—Defective drainage—Mosquitos and Nocturnal Pianos—Christmas Day—Cannes—The Pepper tree—The English Cemetery—Antibes—Miscalled Health Resorts—Grasse— Orange blossoms—Leaving Cannes 23
Nice—Its persistently Italian character—Its gaming propensities —Hints about luggage—Old and New Towns—Flower-shops—A river laundry—The harbours of Nice and Villafranca—Scenery and climate of Nice—A cowardly outrage—In the Cathedral—Hotel charges—Leaving Nice 37
The beauty-spot and plague-spot of the Riviera—Arrival at Mentone—Hotel des Isles Britanniques—English church—Her Majesty's Villa—Gardens of Dr. Bennett—Custom-house—Remarks on Mentone—A charming walk—A word about Brigands—An adventure —In the cemetery—A labour of love—A frog concert—Excursion to Monte Carlo—Sublime coast scenery—Castle of Monaco—The sombre Olive—The exodus of the Caterpillars 49
Monte Carlo—In the Concert-room—The Gambling saloons—The Tables—The moth and the candle—The true story of Monte Carlo—An International grievance and disgrace 62
Scenery en route—Bordighera—Pegli—Genoa—Its magnificent situation—The grandeur of its past—The Harbour—Streets—Palaces —Cathedral of San Lorenzo—Sacred Catina—Chapel of St. John the Baptist—Italian Beggars—Sudden change in the atmosphere—The Campo Santo—Shops of Genoa—Marble promenade—City of precipices —Climate of Genoa 72
Pisa—Hotel Victoria—Pisan weather—The poet Shelley—Historic Pisa—Lung 'Arno—San Stefano di Canalia—Cathedral—Baptistery —Leaning Tower—Campo Santo—The divine angels—The great chain of Pisa—Leghorn—Smollett's grave—Poste-restante—A sweet thing in Beggars—Ugolino's Tower—Departure for Rome 83
Arrival in Rome—Hotel de la Ville—The Corso—The Strangers' Quarter—Roman Guides—View from the Capitol—"How are the mighty fallen!"—The sculpture-gallery of the Capitol—The Dying Gladiator —The Venus—Hawthorne's Marble Faun—Bambino Santissimo—The Mamertine Prison—The Forum—Palaces—The Coliseum—Longfellow's "Michael Angelo" 92
Trajan's Gate—The Appian Way—The English Cemetery—Catacombs of St. Calixtus—Reflections on the Italian seat of government —Churches—S. Paolo Fuori le Mura—Santa Maria Maggiore—S. Pietro in Vincoli—"Was St. Peter ever in Rome?"—Fountains of Rome—Dell' Aqua Felice—Paulina—Trevi—Rome's famous Aqueducts —Beggars—Priests 106
Papal Rome—Narrow streets—St. Angelo—Benvenuto Cellini—St. Peter's—Pieta Chapel—The Dead Christ—Tomb of the Stuarts— Anniversary of St. Peter's—Grand ceremonial—Cardinal Howard —The Vatican—Pictures—Pauline and Sistine Chapels—"The Last Judgment"—Pinacoteca—Raphael's "Transfiguration"—"The Madonna"—Christian Martyrs—Sculptures—Tapestries—Leo XIII.—Italian Priesthood—St. John Lateran—Marvellous legends and relics—Native irreverence to sacred edifices 119
Excursion to Tivoli—Sulphur baths—Memories—Temple of the Sybil —River Anio—Lovely scenery—Back to Rome—Post-office—Careless officials—The everlasting "Weed"—Climate of Rome—Discomforts and disappointments—Young Italy—Leo XIII.—Italian Politics—Cessation of Brigandage—The new City—American church—Italian Times— Departure for Naples—Regrets—The Three Taverns—A picturesque route—Naples by night 137
Naples—Bristol Hotel—Via Roma—King Bomba's time—Deterioration of the Neapolitans—Museum—Churches—The Opera-house—English and Italian beauty—Aquarium—Vesuvius—Excursion to Pompeii— Portici—A novel mode of grooming—The entombed city—Its disinterment—Museum, streets, and buildings—Remarks—A cold drive 151
Unprecedented cold of 1883—Departure from Naples—Virgil's tomb—Journey to Messina—Italy's future—Scylla and Charybdis —Beautiful Messina—The "Electrico"—Malta—Knight Crusaders —Maltese Society—An uncommon fish—An earthquake at sea—Journey to Palermo—Picturesque scenery—Etna—Among the mountains—The lights of Palermo 168
Palermo—Oriental aspects—Historical facts—Royal Palace—Count Roger—The Piazzi Planet—The Palatine Chapel—Walk to Monreale —Beauty of the Peasantry—Prickly pears—"The Golden Shell"— Monreale Cathedral—Abbey and Cloisters—English church—Palermo Cathedral—Churches—Catacombs of the Capuchins—Gardens—Palermo aristocracy—The Bersaglieri—Sicilian life and characteristics —Climate and general features 191
Annexation of Nice and Savoy—Garibaldi's protest—A desperate venture—Calatafimi—Catania—Melazzo—Entry into Naples—Gaeta —The British Contingent—Departure from England—Desertion— Arrival in Naples—Colonel "Long Shot"—Major H——'s imaginary regiment—Dispersion of the British Contingent 204
Floods in France—London—Back to the South—Marseilles—Italian Emigrant passengers—A death on board—French impolitesse —Italian coast scenery at dawn—Unlimited palaver—Arrival in Leghorn—The "Lepanto"—Departure—"Fair Florence"—The Arno —Streets—Palaces—San Miniato—The grand Duomo—The Baptistery —Ghiberti's Bronze Gates 217
Santa Croce—San Lorenzo—Day and Night—Picture-galleries—The Tribune—Venus di Medicis—Excursion to Fiesole—Ancient Amphitheatre—Aurora Cafe—Climate of Florence—Heavy hotel charges—Departure—Bologna sausages—Venice 228
Arrival in Venice—The Water City—Gondola traffic—Past glories —Danieli's Royal Hotel—St. Mark's Piazza—The Sacred Pigeons —St. Mark's—Mosaics—The Holy Columns—Treasures—The Chian Steeds—The modern Goth 241
A water-excursion—The Bridge of Sighs—Doge's Palace—Archaeological Museum—The Rialto—The streets of Venice—Aids to disease—Venetian Immorality—The Arsenal—Nautical Museum—Trip to Lido—Glass works —Venetian evenings—The great Piazza—Scene on the Piazzetta— Farewell to Venice 253
Leaving Venice—Hervey's Lament—Scenery en route—Padua— Associations of the past—A brief history of Padua, and the House of Carrara—General appearance of the town—Giotto's Chapel—His beautiful frescoes—Character of Giotto's work—The Cathedral— Palazzo della Ragione—The Wooden Horse—St. Antonio—The Hermitage—The Fallen Angels—The University and its students —Ladies of Padua—Situation of the city—An old bridge—Climate 264
Journey from Padua—The great Quadrilateral—Historic Verona—Hotel due Torri—Recent inundations—Poetic Verona—House of the Capulets —Juliet's tomb—Streets and monuments—Cathedral—Roman Amphitheatre —Shops—Veronese ladies—Departure—Romantic journey—Lake Garda —Desenzano—Brescia 274
Arrival in Milan—Railway station—Tram carriages—History and present condition—The Cathedral—Irreverence of Italian Priests —The Ambrosian Liturgy—Sunday school—S. Carlo Borromeo—Relics —A frozen flower-garden—View from the tower 287
Milan—Social and charitable—How to relieve our Poor—Leonardo's "Last Supper"—Condition of churches in Italy—Santa Maria delle Grazie—La Scala—Picture-galleries—St. Ambrogio—Ambrosian library—Public gardens—Excursion to the Lakes—Monza—Como —Lake scenery—Bellagio—American rowdyism 300
Climate of Milan—Magenta—Arrival in Turin—Palazzo Madama— Chapel of the Holy Napkin—The lottery fever—View from the Alpine Club—Superga—Academia della Science—Departure—Mont Cenis railway—The great Tunnel—Modane—Farewell to Italy 315
From Modane to Paris—Lovely scenery—St. Michel—St. Jean de Maurienne—Epierre—Paris—Notre Dame—French immorality—La Manche—"Dear old foggy London"—Reflections and conclusion 330
FAIR ITALY. THE RIVIERA
AND MONTE CARLO.
Introduction—Charing Cross—Dover—Submarine Channel Tunnel—Calais —Advantages of travelling second class—Superfluous examination of luggage—Paris—Dining a la carte versus table d'hote—Noel—An Officer's Funeral—Lyons—Scenery of the Rhone—Constant changes in the landscape—Want of proper accommodation at the railway stations— Defective lighting of railway carriages
If any person is desirous of putting forward a good excuse for spending a few weeks on the continent, the climate of the British Isles at any time of the year, but more particularly between November and May, will always justify his so doing. To exchange the damp and fog that too frequently form the staple of the weather about the festive time of Christmas and the opening of the new year, for the bright clear skies and sunny days of the south of France and Italy, is so pleasant, and travelling is now so easy and so cheap, the only wonder is that more people do not take advantage of it to leave "the winter of their discontent" for a short time at this season.
In our case—that is, of myself and my wife—having not only this disposition for a trip of a month or so, but also the leisure time at our disposal, the only question was, in what particular direction was our Hegira to be?
Our object being purely that of pleasantly spending our time and seeing as many interesting places and objects as we possibly could, it really mattered little whither we steered our course, provided it was to climes where fogs are known to the natives only by hearsay, where Nature assumes a brighter aspect, and Art collects her treasures to reward the traveller for his pains.
We took down that most instructive though mysterious of all books, "Bradshaw," and spreading out the map showing various continental lines of railway, proceeded to study the network puzzle with a view of determining which should be the land of our pilgrimage.
Should we cross the Pyrenees and traverse Spain, visiting Madrid and the Escurial en route to Seville, and thence through Andalusia and Granada, and home by Valencia, Malaga, and Barcelona? Visions of Don Quixote, Gil Blas, the Great Cid, and the Holy (?) Inquisition passed before our mental eye in wondrous confusion.
"No, I don't think Spain will do," remarked my wife, slowly. "I fear Spanish hotels—posadas, don't they call them?—are not very comfortable."
"You are right," was my reply. "I have never heard Spain praised for her hotel accommodation; and as we are going for pleasure, and wish to be as comfortable as possible, we will leave Spain till posadas are things of the past. But what do you say to Italy? Beautiful climate, charming scenery, the choicest Art treasures in the world, every mile teeming with historic and poetic interest, good hotels, and generally comfortable travelling!"
"Yes, Italy will do," decided my wife; and we folded up the map and proceeded at once to examine the time-tables, lists of fares, calculate the costs of first and second class, and plan our route. The book of mystification was then almost ungratefully closed, and the serious business of packing commenced.
On the 20th of December, 1882, my wife and I,
"Fired with ideas of fair Italy,"
started on our travels in good spirits. Having secured our tickets, we put up at the Charing Cross Hotel for the night, so as to be ready to start the first thing in the morning.
Whatever vague feelings of regret we might secretly have nourished in leaving dear old England and our time-honoured, old-fashioned Christmas, were quickly dispelled the next morning, for as we sped away by the 7.40 train for Dover the weather assumed its most dismal aspect—cold, raw, damp, and foggy. So we started with easy consciences, resolved to obtain all possible benefit and enjoyment from the change.
Before reaching Dover, a little sunshine struggled forth to gladden us; but it was blowing rather hard when we arrived at our destination, and there was something of a sea to frighten the timorous. Being pretty fair sailors, however, and by the exercise of a little thoughtful physical preparation, we did not suffer from the voyage, and were able to render some assistance to others less fortunate.
After being at sea even for a few hours, there is much in the sound of "land ahead" to raise one's spirits, perhaps more especially when crossing the Channel. There is no one who does not hail with delight the first sight of the shore. It gladdens the hearts of the sickly ones, and soon their childlike helplessness disappears; hope and life return, sending the warm blood once more to the pallid cheek, and lighting the languid eye with fresh joy and anticipation. It is pleasant to see how quickly the sufferers shake off the evil spirit of the sea—the terrible mal de mer, pull themselves together, and step on shore, beaming with heroic smiles.
It is just at this time that the submarine Channel Tunnel scheme possesses peculiar interest for the thoughtful. All lovers of Old England feel proudly and justly that this little "silver streak," with its stormy waves and rock-bound shores, is, under the blessing of Providence, her natural and national strength and glory. It has made her sons daring and hardy, industrious, prosperous, and happy. It has enabled her to people more than half the world with the Anglo-Saxon race, and has extended her empire and influence beyond the setting sun. It has made her the arbiter of the world, her sword—nay, her very word, turning the scale against any power of wrong and might. It has protected the world against the lust and avarice of Spain, and the conquering tyranny of a Napoleon. It has made her the Bank and commercial depot of the whole globe, and the first of civilized and civilizing powers.
It is true that the more closely nations are connected by mutual interests, the more prosperous they become and the more friendly they are. And doubtless such a means of communication between Great Britain and the continent would materially increase that mutual interest—might even make sulky France more friendly towards us, and probably prove of benefit both commercially and socially; but only so long as the insular power of England is maintained. Although our army and navy are hardly as strong as they should be, we want no conscription here. What we do want is to preserve the peace and honour of our homes, our children in the colonies, and to increase rather than decrease the power of England for the good of the whole world.
Therefore, if a tunnel or tunnels be made, we must be sure beforehand that they can be perfectly protected against the means of surprise and invasion, that in no manner of way can they be made a weak point in our harness. As for destroying the tunnel, there would in all probability be a train or two in it when a surprise was intended, and what commander would blow up or destroy it under such circumstances? I fear the tunnel would prove a grand place for ruffians; and what hideous depredations and murderous attacks might not be committed in transit! Five minutes is in all conscience long enough to be under the depressing influence of a Hadean tunnel, but it would be an evil spirit who could tolerate it for the best part of an hour.
Arrived at Calais, the train was already waiting to carry us onward, but there was ample time for breakfast.
Calais station always seems to be undergoing a certain kind of metamorphosis; and with its sand-hills and generally unfinished condition, reminds the traveller of some remote part of the world, such as Panama, for instance. Some day it may possibly be able to digest the passenger traffic from England to the continent, but at present much time is lost there from its being so gorged. It is absolutely refreshing to catch a glimpse of the Calais fish women, with their gay costume, wonderfully frilled, spotless white caps, and healthy faces.
Soon we are spinning along towards Paris, the weather pretty fine so far, but the country sadly flooded; and, the lowlands being under water, the gaunt and leafless poplar trees are the most conspicuous objects of the landscape. Then for miles we travel along through a gloomy drizzling rain, the land looking most forlornly desolate. The arrival at Amiens, however, cheers us a little, and here we get a stretch and some refreshment. After leaving this place, always interesting for its beautiful Cathedral, the weather brightens up, and we reach Paris in good time for dinner.
Thus far we have found travelling second class very agreeable, for when the trains are fast there are advantages in so doing—more room and less expense than by first class.
At Paris the examination of luggage is a perfect nuisance. An Englishman, and still more an English woman, very reluctantly hands over her keys to a French gen d'arme, who, be your presence never so imposing, ruthlessly capsizes your careful and thoughtful stowage, whilst you angrily or impatiently watch your travelling sanctum pried into by dirty-handed, over-zealous officials. The one examination at Calais, when there was plenty of time, should surely have sufficed; but at the end of a journey, when one is tired and anxious to get to one's hotel and dinner, it is aggravating beyond measure.
On this occasion the ladies' baggage was particularly selected for inspection, much to the annoyance of my wife, who most unwillingly gave up her keys, and declared her opinion that "it was because gentlemen put their cigars into the ladies' trunks." Of course this fully explained it!
There is some difficulty in claiming one's possessions after their examination, as there are legions of voracious hotel touters ready to pounce upon not only "somebody's," but everybody's luggage, and the owners too, if possible, and carry all off to the omnibuses attached to their several hotels.
However, we at last arrive at the St. James Hotel, in the Rue St. Honore, where, as usual, there is quite an army of waiters to welcome the "coming guest." To an inexperienced traveller, and indeed to my pleased wife, this is gratefully accepted as a warm welcome, but those who have had some little experience know better, or rather worse. Fortunately, we secure a room on the third floor, and therefore so far carry out our resolutions of economy! and now, in preference to the sumptuous table d'hote, we decide to dine a la carte, which means a little table to yourself, where you may select what you wish to eat, have it at any hour you please, and pay for just what you order. This is not only less expensive, but far more quiet and comfortable after the fatigue of a journey, than the crowded and imposing table d'hote, with its never-ceasing clatter and chatter, where you will be lucky if you find a dish that will prove agreeable to your palate. Sometimes, however, the change is enjoyable, as you cannot fail to be amused at the eccentricities of your neighbours; perhaps finding your own weaknesses reflected in them. Often you will find a dozen nationalities represented, and a perfect Babel-like talk, each little exclusive party, like crows, intent only upon covering its own nest.
Paris is beautifully brilliant at the festive seasons, the shops filled with lovely and costly presents, arranged with that exquisite taste so natural to the French artiste. I think they have some very pretty sentiments about their "Noel." For instance, at early morn on Christmas Day, whilst still in the land of dreams, a light tap comes at your chamber door, and on rising you find it is a messenger bearing a bouquet of choice and lovely flowers, with some dear friend's greeting.
Unfortunately the weather continued wet and cold; still, under cover of the colonnades and on the fine boulevards there is always so light-hearted and gay a throng, and so much to interest one, that it is impossible to feel dull. Things here, however, quickly change from gay to grave. A general officer's funeral passed through the boulevards where we were standing, followed by a procession in which nearly every branch of the army was represented. The open hearse, with coffin, was covered with beautiful wreaths of flowers, among which lay the deceased officer's sword, honours, etc. The touching expression of regret in the faces of his comrades, and the respectful reverence evinced by the people, making it altogether a very impressive sight.
The weather being still so wet, we decided not to remain after the second day, and on the following morning left Paris by the 9.40 train for Marseilles. The long journey, occupying some fourteen or fifteen hours, is exceedingly tedious, and should be broken at Lyons, especially in the summer-time.
Lyons is one of the largest and most important cities in France, very interesting in its manufactures, and well worth a day or two's visit. Unfortunately, like its sister Marseilles, with its huge working population, it is extremely democratic, and only quite lately has been the scene of a kind of communistic outbreak. The neighbouring scenery is very striking and beautiful, in some places grand. We were reminded somewhat of the Thames at Charing Cross when passing over the noble bridge, with the great city stretching far and wide, and the numerous bridges spanning the river. At night the illumination is a pretty and brilliant sight.
In the summer the journey from Lyons to Marseilles in one of the many flat-bottomed steamers would be very enjoyable, and a pleasant break to the pent-up, wearisome railroad.
The scenery much resembles the Rhine, with its high cliffs, richly wooded promontories, historic and baronial castles, and picturesque chateaux. The turbulent river in some places dashing wildly by, and separating two beautiful shores.
"Now, where the swift Rhone cleaves his way between Heights which appear, as lovers who have parted In hate, whose mining depths so intervene, That they can meet no more, though broken-hearted. Love was the very root of the fond rage Itself expired, but leaving them an age Of years all winters,—war within themselves to wage."
How grand and sublime that part of the Rhone must appear, with its great forest-clad cliffs, and the rushing foaming waters during a thunderstorm!
The land is full of ancient interests, especially near Marseilles, at Avignon and Arles. Here we meet with many old Roman settlements and ruins.
Passing thus swiftly through France, we obtain a wonderfully comprehensive idea of the country, and note the different products of the soil springing into view in ever-varying profusion, making a continuous change in the appearance of the landscape—a change which would perhaps be less noticeable were the journey performed in a more leisurely manner. Thus we pass from the wheat-growing country to the land of the vine, and thence to that of the olive. And one cannot help being struck by the wonderful industry of the people, women taking almost more than their fair share of out-door work, in the fields, etc. Up to the very summit of the hills and rocky knolls, terrace upon terrace, every inch of ground, seems to be well cultivated.
I could not but think that in some places women are employed out of their proper sphere, more particularly at the railway stations, where one is shocked to find a woman where none but a man should be. And while on this subject, it may be well to remark how exceedingly disgusting some of the retiring places are at these stations—at all events, to English men and women, who do not like being treated as cattle. At some places it is really shocking, and the Lyons and Mediterranean railway officials should certainly rectify this evil without loss of time; for if the unpleasantness is so great in winter, what must it be during the hot months?
The officials are most exemplary in providing fresh foot-warmers, but not so particular in a more important matter—that of lighting the carriages, even the first-class compartments being dull and gloomy in the extreme. The kind of oil burnt has probably something to do with it.
Arrival at Marseilles—Change in climate—The mistral—Some account of Marseilles in the past—Marseillaise hymn—Docks and harbour—Hill-side scenery—Chateau d'If—La Dame de la Garde—Military practice—St. Nazaire—An ancient church—The Exchange—Courtiers of merchandize —Sunday at home and abroad.
Having left Paris at 9.40 a.m., we reached Marseilles at nearly midnight, feeling very tired, and were glad to get to the Terminus Hotel, which is comfortably close to the station. What a charming station it is, with its courtyard and garden, orange trees and flowering myrtles!
Here is indeed a change of climate; one begins to realize at last the fact of being in the "sunny south." Although it is mid-winter, and but a few hours before we were shivering in Paris, here the heat of the sun is as great as an English June. Overhead a sky of such a blue as we seldom see in our island home, and which is only matched by the azure waters of the glorious Mediterranean. The vegetation is almost semi-tropical; palm trees waving their graceful feathery heads; cacti, aloes, and other strange-looking plants meeting the eye at every turn. Orange and olive trees abundant everywhere, the former loading the air with the luscious fragrance of its blossoms.
But unfortunately, on the Sunday morning following our arrival, there was a disagreeable dry parching wind blowing from the north-west called mistral; the Italians call it maestro, meaning "the masterful." It is very prevalent along the south coast of Europe at certain times of the year, drying up the soil, and doing much damage to the fruit trees. The dust, like sand in the desert, is almost blinding; on one side you have a cold cutting wind, on the other perhaps scorching heat—altogether very far from pleasant. This wind sometimes raises a tumult in the Mediterranean Sea, which is much dreaded by the French and Italian sailors.
Marseilles, the third city of la belle France, enclosed by a succession of rocky hills, and magnificently situated on the sea, is almost the greatest port of the Mediterranean. It is a very ancient town, having been founded in 600 B.C. by the Phoceans, under the name of Massilia. When ultimately conquered by the Romans, it was for its refinement and culture treated with considerable respect, and allowed to retain its original aristocratic constitution. After the fall of Rome, it fell into the hands of the Franks and other wild northern tribes; and was subsequently destroyed by the Saracens, but was restored in the tenth century. In 1481 it was united to France, to which it has ever since been subject. In 1720 it was ravaged by the plague, which was memorable not only on account of its wide-wasting devastation, but also for the heroism of Xavier de Belzunce, Bishop of Marseilles, whose zeal and charity for the poor sufferers commands our respect and admiration. Pope, in his "Essay on Man," says—
"Why drew Marseilles' good bishop purer breath, When Nature sicken'd, and each gale was death?"
In 1792, hordes of galley-slaves were sent hence to Paris. It was about this time that the celebrated revolutionary song, "Allons enfans de la Patrie," with its thrilling and fiery chorus, "Aux armes! Aux armes!" was introduced, and it has ever since been known as the Marseillaise Hymn; but it was in reality written by an officer of engineers, Rouget de Lisle, to celebrate the departure of a band of volunteers from Strasburg. Both verse and music were composed in one night.
Marseilles is often called the Liverpool of France, but its importance has been somewhat lessened since the opening of the Mont Cenis tunnel. The great docks, wonderfully constructed and sheltered, were much improved and enlarged by Napoleon III.: some of the finest basins are cut out of the solid rock. The harbour is very extensive, and capable of containing over 1700 vessels; but the entrance is very narrow.
Here we stand and view the crowds of shipping, from the magnificent Orient liner, to the saucy, piratical-looking, Sicilian fruit felucca; the latter closely packed, with their sterns to the wharves, their enormous sails and masts telling of many a speedy voyage made, and their swarthy red-capped crews having much the appearance of what we suppose pirates might be, if piracy were now a paying instead of a dangerous game. As it is, their mission is to carry cargoes of oranges and other fruit to the Marseilles market.
We next ascend the Cordiere Gardens, commanding beautiful views of the city as we wind round and upwards. The sea, running eastward into the heart of the town, forms the harbour; the older part of the town, with somewhat narrow streets and massive but irregular houses, occupies a triangular point to the north; while the new town—much the largest, consists of wide, handsome streets and many fine public buildings and institutions. It is, I think, an excellent plan, when visiting a place, to ascend some commanding height as soon as possible. You will comprehend much at a glance, and, with the typographical knowledge thus attained can afterwards find your way about much more easily and quickly. The fine harbour and docks, with the shimmering blue sea below, and the grand amphitheatre of sun-bleached hills rearing their rocky summits to the skies as a noble background, form a truly magnificent and impressive bird's-eye view.
On gaining the summit of these windy heights, we stand charmed with the pure beauty of the blue sky and sea. Away some few miles to the southeast are several small islands of a deeper blue than the waters that surround them. On one of these islands is the celebrated Chateau d'If, immortalized by Alexandre Dumas the elder, in his extraordinary romance of "Monte Christo."
After gazing for some time at the lovely view, we turn our attention to the very interesting church of Notre Dame de la Garde. On the highest pinnacle is a colossal gilt figure of the Virgin Mary, looking over the seas, and, as it were, guarding her poor sailor devotees engaged thereon.
This ancient beacon-like church has, I believe, been a votive shrine for sailors for some centuries; and was rebuilt from designs by Esperandieu. It is prettily decorated inside by delicately stained windows, and has a small but fine organ. It is full of pathetic relics of poor lost mariners, and when the wind is howling on stormy nights, one can realize and understand the sentiments which prompted the building of this votive temple, and the numerous mementoes, literally covering its walls, placed there by loving hands in remembrance of dear ones lost—wrecked perchance in sight of home. Yes, the walls are covered with these tablets and touching mementoes, and with pictures illustrating the many terrible shipwrecks which have occurred.
Below is a crypt where the last offerings and prayers are made by sailors departing on a voyage; and, alas! it is filled with the saddest relics of those who have never returned. Those, however, who reach their homes in safety, make it a religious duty to offer up their grateful thanks.
The purposes of this sea-rock church struck me as a fine and beautiful expression of affection. I fear we lack much of this kind of sentiment in England—daily blessings are taken too much as a matter of course, while reverses are loudly mourned over as afflictions.
Whilst lingering in sympathetic thought, I saw an aged, white-haired woman, who, poor soul! having toiled all the way up these great heights, was now on her knees in sorrowful prayer. I saw also several younger women and maidens in deep mourning, some of them sobbing bitterly over their prayers. Alas! who could rightly enter into the depths of their individual sorrow?—perchance a tender husband, a loving son, or devoted sweetheart, lost in the angry waves below!
On descending, my attention was attracted by a sham military attack made by a regiment or two of French soldiers. It was interesting to see how they attempted to carry these well-defended, Gibraltar-like heights.
After passing through the public gardens, and crossing the dock basin in a small ferry-boat, we walked to the church of St. Nazaire, which stands on high ground almost immediately opposite to Notre Dame de la Garde.
It is a finely restored Byzantine church, a copy on a large scale of the little mosque-like temple at its side, which latter was once the Cathedral church of the town. It is built of alternate blocks of black and white marble, and the interior is something after the style of Notre Dame at Paris. Fortunately, we caught the workmen just leaving the building, and so obtained permission to view it.
But the little Moorish temple under its lee, as a sailor would say, interested me far more than its imposing and grand-looking child alongside. It has a low dome, square facade with small cupolas, and circular chancel. We ascended some steps to its low doorway, almost stooping as we entered. It was dimly lit by a few oil-lamps; its quaint arched dome, little galleries, altar, crypts, and organ all within the compact compass of a circle, or rather, as it seemed to me, of a Maltese cross—tiny aisles forming the sides of the cross, where there were shrines and tombs, though scarcely distinguishable in the gloom. The dome and aisles are supported by wonderfully strong Byzantine arches and arcades. It struck me that the Maltese cross may have been the shape of the most ancient Christian temples, the more orthodox Latin cross shape being afterwards developed by the lengthening of the nave. The date of this unique little church is said to be very ancient, and probably stands on the site of the temples of Diana.
Perhaps the place was made even more interesting to me, by the fact of my thoughts being brought back from the dark ages by observing a christening going on in one of the dimly lighted aisles; after which a number of little Sunday school children went through an examination of the catechism.
* * * * *
In the early part of the evening we sallied forth to visit the Exchange and Bourse at the end of the principal street near the harbour, receiving yet another impression as to the commercial greatness of Marseilles by a careful survey of this building, which is well worthy of a great city. I can now better understand why these large towns are so republican, and show so strong a dislike to imperialism. They complain that while they make the money, the imperialists squander it.
We were much amused to see nearly all the merchants on 'Change, wearing white neckties and generally black coats—a very respectable and ancient custom, which has come down from the time when Marseilles was in the zenith of her prosperity. I believe even now these merchants are called "courtiers of merchandize."
The main streets and boulevards are very handsome, with elegant fountains which relieve the somewhat monotonous regularity. Some of the squares are of immense size. There is a very large lazaretto, which is said to be one of the best managed in the world. The cafes are like small palaces, and the shops rival the finest in Paris.
Here, as in most French cities, no expense is spared in making the streets gay and brilliant at night. In some of them the electric light is used.
The French people dearly love their cafes, spending many of their evening hours there instead of chez eux. I am not quite sure whether the Frenchman may honestly be termed a domestic animal; I should rather say he was intensely gregarious. At all events, I do not think he understands the full value of home as we do.
It was Sunday when we were there, and the town teemed with holiday life. Up to noon it was comparatively quiet, with some appearance of sabbath rest, but after that what a change! The whole place was like a great fair, every one bent on fun and pleasure: hucksters' stalls, marionettes, bazaars, rifle-galleries, concerts, theatres, and crowded cafes, the latter resounding with the click of dominoes and billiard balls; the more quiet folk reading their beloved Figaro.
We felt this was indeed very different to our English way of enjoying Sunday. Even our museums, picture galleries, and such-like comparatively quiet and innocent places of recreative amusement are not yet declared open. And thankful we should be that on at least one day in the week there is peace and rest for both man and beast; and that simply in obedience to a natural and Divine law, made by the great Creator who so well knew our human wants and requirements. The more one sees of this sabbath unrest abroad, the more content one feels for the sweet and peaceful Sunday rest at home. I do not really believe in the happiness, health, and prosperity of any people who disregard the sabbath as a holy day, dedicated to God for bodily rest and spiritual refreshment.
"Then I turned away in sadness, from these gay and thoughtless lays, Longing for my own dear country, and the voice of prayer and praise."
Leaving Marseilles—Toulon—Hyeres—Frejus—Coast scenery—The Hotel Windsor—An unexpected meeting, and a pleasant walk—Isles de Lerins —The Mediterranean—Defective drainage—Mosquitos and Nocturnal Pianos —Christmas Day—Cannes—The Pepper tree—The English cemetery—Antibes —Miscalled Health Resorts—Grasse—Orange blossoms—Leaving Cannes.
The mistral blew us away from Marseilles, which we left on the afternoon of the 25th by the two o'clock train for Cannes. The route lay through rocky defiles, with numerous tunnels, for we were cutting through the promontories on the sea coast, of which we occasionally caught magnificent glimpses.
Of Toulon, the great naval arsenal of France, we saw but little as we passed quickly through its suburbs. Here it was that Napoleon, then a young lieutenant-colonel of artillery, first made his mark in the capture of the place by storm from the English in 1793. Englishmen, however, do not forget that it was accomplished only after a long and stubborn defence of its garrison, consisting of only a tenth of the storming party.
The little islands off Hyeres look like gems in the clear dark sea. They were known in ancient times as the Stoechades, signifying "the arranged" islands, a name indicative of their position in a line from east to west. The town of Hyeres seems tempting enough as a place of quiet residence, but the air is very unhealthy from the marshes in the vicinity.
So far our journey has been pretty close to the sea, but now we quitted the coast for a time, winding through the Montagnes des Maures, with an endless succession of tunnels, yet still obtaining frequent peeps at the coast scenery.
At Frejus we were greatly pleased at the beautiful ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre, quite close to the station: the railway being on a viaduct here enabled us to get a good view, looking downwards. This amphitheatre, though not nearly so large as the coliseum at Rome, is far more perfect. This was the port where, in 1799, Napoleon landed on his return from Egypt; and from whence, fifteen years later, he embarked when banished to Elba. Frejus was the ancient Forum Julii established by Augustus Caesar as a naval station.
At Les Arcs we again approached the coast. The country as we drew nearer Cannes is very interesting and romantic—great rocky glens and chasms, with here and there glimpses of the beautiful Mediterranean. It was about here that we first caught sight of the snow-crested Alps, forming a grand and sublime background to the lovely scenery.
Many of the little towns en route are finely and picturesquely situated on the hill-side, overlooking great ravines. Their churches perched on the highest pinnacle, the wonder being how their congregations get to them! But probably many of them are only convents.
What very different lives people lead on this fair earth! What a contrast between the inhabitants of a great city, with its wearing cares and its exciting pleasures, and the dweller in these isolated, peaceful, silent mountain homes! To some the latter life would be intolerable while strength and human passion last; but these poor yet happy people, being nearer to Nature, are often nearer also to Nature's God.
We now pass through groves of olive trees, whose sombre and silver tinted foliage, and wonderfully gnarled and twisted trunks, give quite a foreign tone to the landscape. Also the orange trees, with their green and golden fruit and enchantingly fragrant white blossoms; and the lordly palm, with its graceful outline clearly defined against the blue sky.
It has frequently been a question with me which tree is the most useful to man, especially in the east—the olive, bamboo, palm, or cocoa-nut. The first carries my mind back to pleasant memories of the Holy Land and Mount Olivet, where a single tree is said to bear fruit for more than a thousand years. We know the fine and wholesome oil it yields. Its fruit is used as food, and its beautifully grained wood is highly valued for cabinet purposes. Then the bamboo, which, growing by the water-side, is so refreshing to hear whispering in the breeze, is used for very many purposes, being at once so light and strong; for carrying great burdens, for aqueducts, house-building, musical instruments, and for numerous other purposes and articles useful and ornamental; while the graceful palm, or cocoa-nut, provides food, drink, clothing, and building material. Each doubtless in its region and sphere is equally prized. But the more we examine and understand the bountiful gifts of God for our use and happiness, harmonizing so well with our needs, the greater wonder we feel that there is such an ungrateful animal as an Atheist.
At some of the little railway stations we passed, the Gloire de Dijon and other lovely roses were clustering the walls, and growing almost wild in the hedges, loading the air with their sweet perfume. The days were gradually lengthening, and we felt as if fast approaching a warmer latitude, where—
"The green hills Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills Of summer birds sing welcome as ye pass; Flowers, fresh in hue, and many in their class, Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass; The sweetness of the violet's deep blue eyes, Kiss'd by the breath of heaven, seems colour'd by its skies."
We reached Cannes in the last glow of the setting sun, the crimson, purple, green and orange contrasting, harmonizing, blending, and slowly settling into the neutral tints of evening. By six o'clock we were at the Hotel Windsor, and fortunately secured a bedroom on the fourth floor, from the windows of which we had a splendid view of the sea.
The "Windsor" is beautifully situated on the hillside, some ten minutes' walk from the shore. It is surrounded by very pretty and tasteful gardens, well stocked with flowers of all kinds, roses being most conspicuous, while the perfume of the orange trees ascends from the valley below. I should think this hotel was much more healthy than those situate lower down and close to the sea, catching the upper drainage.
The interior is well appointed in every way, with a comfortable, homely air about it. The landlord, a man of some refinement, is not above personally looking after the welfare of his visitors. But he is evidently a little too indulgent, for he allows pianofortes in the bedrooms, and the young ladies in the room next to ours strummed away till a very late hour at night, when we wished to sleep, tired with the day's travel, and anxious to rise early the next morning. We thought two good pianos in the drawing-room below quite sufficient for the musical exercise of young ladies, and for the comfort of all at an hotel. We supposed, however, that its being Christmas-time was probably the cause of the nocturnal music, of which we were the somewhat reluctant and suffering listeners.
After engaging our room, we sauntered out on a voyage of discovery and as an appetizer for dinner, and were so fortunate as to meet an old friend, who was staying at the same hotel. Under his kind pilotage we had a very pleasant walk on the sea-shore, listening to the waves dashing and tumbling against the sea-wall.
At Cannes there is neither harbour nor roadstead, but only a small bay or cove, appropriately called Gulfe de la Napoul; and it is indeed worthy of its name, being a miniature Bay of Naples,—but without its Vesuvius. It is, however, so shallow that the coasting vessels that use it are obliged to anchor at some distance from the shore, exposed to the full action of the swell. Yet in spite of this disadvantage, Cannes is for its size a busy and populous little town.
Immediately opposite are the Isles de Lerins, St. Honorat and St. Marguerite. On the latter is Fort Montuy, where the "man with the iron mask" was confined from 1686 to 1698, and which has more recently been the prison of Marshal Bazaine. St. Honorat has its name from a monastery founded in the fifth century by St. Honoratius, Bishop of Arles. These islands abound in rabbits and partridges.
Until modern scientists discovered it to be otherwise, the Mediterranean was supposed to have no tide, and was called by poets "the tideless sea." It has but a very slight ebb and flow, and this in most places is scarcely perceptible. The greatest rise and fall of tide in any part of this great inland sea does not exceed about six feet. Here it appears always high water; the long stretches of sand, shingle, and rock that provide such delightful strolls to those visiting the shores of our own dear island home at low tide, are nowhere to be found in this part of the world, and thus on coming to the Mediterranean we lose one of the usual charms of a visit to the sea coast.
We found it necessary to walk briskly, as the fall in temperature is very great in one short hour after sunset. Indeed, those who come here essentially for health generally contrive to get housed about four p.m.
Our olfactory nerves had already told us that in this lovely little seaside paradise there are such prosaic things as defective drains. This is more detectable in the evening on the beach, than elsewhere, in the daytime; but is being rectified as the town grows.
It was Christmas Day, and on returning to the Hotel Windsor we found the large dining-room tastefully decorated with evergreens and flowers, and, by the kind and thoughtful attention of the landlord, we felt the absence from dear home at this joyous time less than we might otherwise have done. We had our tete-a-tete dinner, and toasted our friends in Old England, who probably included us in their "absent friends and dear ones abroad."
My wife admired the handsome net mosquito curtains around our bed, but I rather shuddered at the memories they awakened, having had some experience of tropical climates—the river Zambezi, for instance, where a single tiny insect of the Zebra species nearly drove me out of my senses when suffering from fever. Probably, however, the mosquito only visits Cannes in the summer, though my wife declared she heard a buzz, and experienced a bite. It was certainly consolatory to think that I was no longer considered tempting enough, by these insatiable torments.
The next morning we realized something of the beauty of Cannes. It was so pleasant to dress by the open French windows, and enjoy the freshness of the morning air, the warmth of the sun, and the delicious perfume of the roses and orange blossoms rising from the gardens beneath. The birds flitting about, with joyous song; the lovely blue sea in the distance; and above, the cloudless sky. We felt in no hurry for breakfast, and in imagination pictured to ourselves dear foggy London, cold and wet as we had left it. This was indeed a grateful contrast!
When we did descend, however, our tea and toast were thoroughly enjoyed, thanks to the appetizing air; and it was a pleasure to see our fellow-guests sunning themselves in the gardens, and making plans for the day's excursion and pleasure.
Cannes is essentially the beautiful and peaceful abode of the invalid, whose desire is health. A few years since, it was a very small place indeed, but can now boast of its sixty large hotels; and new roads and boulevards are being opened in all directions. The Count de Chambord,[B] and other lucky owners of property here, must feel highly gratified at the rise in the value of land.
Cannes stretches along the sea-shore from north to south, and is protected from the mistral and other cold winds by the fine Esterel mountain range. There is one long main street running parallel to the beach, which contains many good shops and cafes. Some of the houses are built in a line facing the sea, and divided from it by gardens and promenades; others are clustered on the slope of the hill, which is surmounted by a picturesque old castle. At the north end, high up at the back of Cannes, is the charming little village of Le Cainet: a new boulevard is now opened connecting the two. This is the warmest part, and the most suitable for patients. There are many exceedingly pretty and luxuriously appointed villas nestled amidst the trees and gardens, looking refreshingly cool with their green jalousie verandahs. Handsome carriages roll along, and one is reminded of some of the most fashionable of our own watering-places. The stabling for the horses is beautifully clean and neat; roses, jessamine, and flowers of every kind climbing over and around the walls and trellis-work, affording a pleasant shade from the scorching heat of the December sun.
Among other fine trees, such as the blue gum and eucalyptus, the pepper tree, with its graceful acacia-like leaf and pendant clusters of red berries, is to be seen overhanging the roads. After sunset its pepper may distinctly be smelt, almost sufficiently so to make one sneeze. This prolific and beautiful tree seems to be indigenous to Cannes, Nice, and Mentone.
We determined, first of all, to visit the English cemetery. Our kind friend whom we had met the evening before accompanied us as cicerone. We set off in a northerly direction. It was a warm walk up the hill, but we were soon at the gates of the cemetery, and, passing through, were both astonished and gratified at the natural beauty of the position, and the cultivated loveliness, of this truly peaceful resting-place of those of our dear country who had come to this little paradise on earth, alas! to die. But, then, what a beautiful spot to die in! and how very much loving hearts have done to render their last resting-place even more lovely than Nature has made it! The very flowers, roses, honeysuckle, and jessamine, planted by loving hands, seemed to cling fondly and sympathetically to the spotless marble monuments.
Then we crossed over rivulet and ravine, up to the forest-clad hill overlooking the cemetery, and who can describe the truly magnificent and extensive views before us? There lay the lovely valley beneath, the grand semicircle of Esterel hills and the snow-capped Alps outlining the azure sky; and behind us the broad, blue sea, rippling its white-crested wavelets upon the warm, sandy shores, while further away to the left, the little town of Cannes lay peacefully reposing on the mountain slopes towards the sea.
This delightful excursion occupied us until nearly one o'clock, and we had only just time to catch the train leaving for Antibes. Not, however, without first making a successful forage at the station, to provide luncheon, our tall friend cramming half a yard of bread into each of his tunic pockets, which caused him to cut rather a comical figure, especially as he wore knickerbockers; and he was consequently a source of great amusement to people we met, who laughed good naturedly enough, setting us down in their own minds, I doubt not, as mad English people, in whom any amount of eccentricity was allowable.
The journey to Antibes, accomplished in a short half-hour, was very interesting, different views and aspects of the snow-clad Maritime Alps giving us from time to time ever-varying features of sublime beauty, and moving our heartfelt admiration.
Antibes, the ancient Antipolis, a colony of the Massilians, was once a Roman arsenal; there still remain two towers to mark this period. The present fortifications were erected about the time of the first Francis, and of Henry of Navarre, and afterwards greatly improved by Vauban under Louis le Grand. Their erection had the salutary effect of draining the marshy ground, and rendering the air healthy; but the sanitary arrangements both here and elsewhere are still very defective. Before Nice was annexed by France, this was her frontier line, which accounts for its being still so strongly fortified. The remains of a theatre and other ancient buildings attest to its former importance.
On reaching our destination, we strolled along the road leading to the ramparts, and from these heights enjoyed a most glorious sea view. The snowy Alps rising majestically on the opposite shore, and a fine old Genoese fort, with wedge-shaped bastions, boldly standing at the end of a peninsula, stretching out into the sea and agreeably breaking the distance.
Antibes is almost surrounded by the sea, and, from the beauty of its position and the natural purity of its air, is fast becoming a favoured health resort, in spite of the dirtiness of the town and the inadequacy of hotel accommodation. Nowadays doctors call all kinds of places "health resorts," but they should first of all make sure that the sanitary condition of the place justifies their recommendation. The sublime and lovely views in this neighbourhood cannot fail to make a lasting impression on any lover of fine scenery.
Catching our train back, we arrived at our hotel in time to make up for our meagre lunch and rectify the danger of neglecting the inner man, as travellers are sometimes prone to do when so deeply interested in the objects around them. Later, in the cool of the evening, we had a deliciously pleasant walk through the town towards the beautiful gardens of Hesperides, and along the beach.
On the road from Cannes towards Frejus is the villa of the late Lord Brougham, whose eccentricities were as remarkable as his almost universal talents. At the time of the formation of the second French Republic in 1848, when the cry of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity!" was in every one's mouth, Lord Brougham somewhat astonished the world by enrolling himself as a citizen of the Republic, resting his qualification upon the fact of his being a land-owner—proprietaire—at Cannes.
Our excursion on the morrow was to have been to Grasse, but unfortunately we had to go on to Nice early in the day. At Grasse flowers are largely cultivated, especially roses, jessamine, heliotrope, and orange and lemon blossoms, from which are manufactured most of our delicious scents and essences—this being one of the principal places where the culture of the lemon is most successful. Eugene Rimmel, and also Dr. Piesse, of Piesse and Lubin, have large flower farms near Cannes and Nice, from which their perfumes are produced. This to some extent accounts for the neglect of the fruit itself, which frequently lies scattered unheeded on the ground. Whilst returning from the expedition to the cemetery, we had passed whole terraces of orange and lemon trees covered with white blossom, their exquisite fragrance filling the evening air. It was a pure pleasure to me to stretch out my hand and pluck a beautiful spray from an orange tree, and, placing it on my wife's shoulder, remind her of the "day of days"—especially as she had scarcely seen the blossoms au naturel, but only their skilful imitation daintily modelled in wax for the adornment of some fair bride.
That day's excursion will ever be remembered, both for our visit to the charming little English cemetery and the trip to Antibes. We were indeed sorry to leave beautiful Cannes, containing so much of the loveliness and grandeur of Nature.
We found the Hotel Windsor very quiet, comfortable, and moderate in charge, and hope some day to renew our agreeable impressions of it.
I think, to comprehend in full the beauty of Cannes and other parts of the coast, they should be seen from the sea from the deck of a yacht or packet some three or four miles off.
On the 27th we left by train for Nice, arriving there towards evening.
[B] Since writing the above, one more hope of unfortunate France, the head of the Legitimist party, faithful to the last of his "divine right," has passed away.
Nice—Its persistently Italian character—Its gaming propensities—Hints about luggage—Old and New Towns—Flower-shops—A river laundry—The harbours of Nice and Villafranca—Scenery and climate of Nice—A cowardly outrage—In the Cathedral—Hotel charges—Leaving Nice.
From Cannes to Nice, or Nizza, is but a short run by rail, but on reaching the latter we see at once that we have entered another country—as one of the natives epigrammatically remarked, "The Emperor Napoleon made Nice France, but God made it Italy." In spite of the French flags, French soldiers, and French gens d'armes, it is soon perceptible that we have entered Italy, more especially on going into the old part of the town, out of the way of the large hotels built for the English, who flock here in such numbers.
Nice, the birthplace of Garibaldi, the great liberator of Italy, will some day be Italian again. In 1870-71, the debt of gratitude to France for her assistance in wresting Lombardy and Venice from the Austrians, was of too recent a date to admit of the Italians taking advantage of her weakness to resume possession of the provinces of Nice and Savoy, and they were, besides, intent at the time on seizing upon the city of Rome; but there is no doubt that, sooner or later—in fact, on the very first opportunity that offers, the old boundary between the two countries will be resumed, and both Savoy and Nice will be re-occupied by their natural owners, the Italians. There was a bitter and fateful irony in the fact that no place could be found to barter to a foreign power but the very birthplace of the champion of Italy's liberty; and the best friend of this fair country cannot but acknowledge this act on the part of Victor Emmanuel to have been unjust to her devoted people, and a blot on her ancient honour and glory; but at the same time, France will share in the condemnation of the world, for exacting so great and unnatural a sacrifice. It is equally iniquitous for a sovereign to barter away the birthright of his subjects as for any foreign power to require it, but how much more so when that power is an ally!
If France continues on the same course she has pursued for the last year or two, the opportunity Italy waits for will not be far distant, as evidently her present rulers are bent on estranging her from the rest of Europe, and are doing all they can to provoke another war. If that day should unhappily come, Italy will naturally look for the sympathy of England, which, with her own magnificent seaboard and England's maritime and naval power in the Mediterranean, would prove the most powerful alliance. But meanwhile Italy has only to be patient, develop her industries, mature her strength, and pursue the upright tenor of her way.
Immediately on arriving at the station, you see what a gay and busy place this is. The society is far more doubtful and mixed than at Cannes, where you feel pretty sure of every one. But Nice being so close to Monaco and Monte Carlo, there is a constant stream of—well, I might almost say adventurers, passing through the town, hoping to return with their expenses liberally recouped from the "tables"—of course, in most cases a delusion and a snare. It is said that Nice itself is a little Monte Carlo, and unquestionably there is a great deal of card-playing going on openly in the cafes, while the stationers' shop-windows literally teem with books professing to teach the secrets of roulette, how to win at Monte Carlo, and all the other gambling paraphernalia. This being the case, it is small wonder that private gambling is also carried on to a great extent, besides the races, etc., which are fostered and supported by the owners of the gambling saloons at Monte Carlo, and the crowd one meets at the Nice station much resembles such as we unfortunately meet at a London suburban station during a race week. These are the lovers of sport, who demoralize and spoil the peace and beauty of a place both at home and abroad.
We put up at the St. Jullien, a quiet, pleasant hotel; but our comfort was somewhat disturbed by the fact of our luggage having most vexatiously miscarried, and not making its appearance for forty-eight hours after our arrival. In France, after having seen your luggage registered and labelled, you are generally content to trouble no more about it till it reaches its destination; but it is really very necessary to see it put into the train, for, despite the otherwise good system, the porters are carelessly content to get their fee without properly completing the service for which they are paid. And I may here remark that there is far too much "black mail" levied altogether, one man simply transferring his duty to another, who expects similar fee. To avoid loss of time and other unpleasantness, travellers will always find it best to make the first man fully understand that he alone is responsible for the luggage placed in his care, and that he is expected to see to its safety, no payment being forthcoming till this is done.
In the present case, our luggage had been sent on to Mentone by mistake, although properly labelled for Nice, and when we regained possession, one of the trunks was so knocked about that it cost fifteen francs to have it repaired, and in reply to my application to the railway authorities to recoup me, I was simply told, with the usual French shrug of the shoulders as if to get rid of a disagreeable burthen, that it could not be entertained.
One of the great secrets of comfortable travel consists in carrying as little luggage with you as possible, and as there is no difficulty in procuring the services of a laundress at a few hours' notice, this rule may be readily complied with. It is always well, however, to be provided with a good-sized hand-bag, containing all the necessaries you require for one or two days, and this you should never lose sight of.
Nice is a charming town, with its beautiful promenades facing the sea, its palatial hotels, fine streets, and gardens. The Promenade des Anglais, and the graceful, waving palm trees planted along the streets, give it quite a different character to the French towns we had visited. We were much struck, and again reminded of the Italian nature of the place, by the elaborate way in which the houses and villas are decorated on the outside with paintings, giving the flat surface all the effect of being embellished with beautiful frescoes and works of statuary. Some of the villas, which are on the hill overlooking the town and sea, and surrounded by their gardens full of orange and lemon trees, are most delightful residences. Among other places of interest, we were pointed out the villa where the young Czarowitch, the elder brother of the present Emperor of Russia, died, attended in his last moments by his mother, and his betrothed wife Princess Dagmar, who afterwards married the brother of her first fiance. The house is in no wise remarkable, save for the lovely views it commands, and the large and beautiful gardens which surround it, where almost every variety of orange and lemon trees grow to perfection. Before the Czarowitch's death visitors were allowed the privilege of viewing the grounds, but this is now refused.
Nice is divided into two distinct parts, known as the Old and New Town. The latter is well laid out—there are two very fine squares, one being surrounded by very handsome porticoes; while the other is supplemented by a raised terrace, which serves both as a sea-wall and public promenade. Part of this promenade is on the flat roofs of a row of low houses, which at harvest-time are utilized as drying-floors for wheat and other grain, which are spread in the hot sun. This is, of course, before the season for visitors sets in, and while there are but few strangers in the town.
The shops are remarkably good, the confectioners' windows being very tempting with their array of airy-looking pastry, which is as nice as it is novel to us, accustomed to the more substantial and perhaps slightly heavy preparations of the kind in our own country. Especially to be noticed, too, are the displays of corals in all its most exquisite varieties, which may be purchased at a very reasonable rate, as also various kinds of lace. Indeed, this modern part of Nice is quite a little seaside Paris: the tramcars pass smoothly up and down, and the fashionable equipages, sometimes with bells attached to the horses' heads, dash gaily along.
The Old Town consists of narrow, dirty-smelling labyrinths, unworthy the name of streets, with blocks of shops of every kind. It is, however, interesting, as one here sees the working population "at home." In a large market-square we saw one of the lumbering old-fashioned diligences arrive, which recalled all that we had read of the days of continental travel before railways. There can be no doubt that the smart stage-coaches of England were very superior conveyances to the cumbersome, cobwebby diligence, which seems better adapted for night than for day travelling.
The flower-shops are one of the most interesting features of Nice, especially to ladies. Bouquets composed of the most exquisite flowers, of every size and description, from tiny button-hole sprays to masses of blossoms two feet in diameter, surround you on every side. Yet, after all, I believe no people arrange flowers so tastefully as the English. Our bouquets are not so large or so closely packed, and the flowers may be less rare, though scarcely less beautiful, yet they are grouped with more discernment and harmonious taste than elsewhere. The great business in these little "floral arsenals" is to pack the fragrant blossoms carefully in cotton-wool, for transmission to all parts of the world, especially to Covent Garden. Some are stowed in large round boxes like cheese-tubs, with a hole for the stalks to come through. I could have bought a bouquet here for seven francs which in London would have cost almost as many guineas. There are also small boxes, which you can get addressed and sent, post-free, for three or four francs inclusive. In fact, almost the first thing visitors do on their arrival here, is to send off one or more of these tiny boxes of dainty flowers to dear friends in England. You simply pay for them and give the address, and they are at once despatched. So large a trade is done that there is a special Flower Post, and at the station a warehouse is set apart which is generally filled with these flower-boxes, ready to send off by the night train.
The culture of flowers in this part of the world is a very profitable and important industry, and, remembering all the distilleries—such as at Grasse—for making perfume, we can well understand the numerous beautiful flower-gardens in Italy, particularly along the shores of the Mediterranean. Italy may truly be called the "Garden of Europe," but it is rather difficult to imagine that she sends her vegetables away as far as St. Petersburg!
The river Var passes though the town, and falls into the Mediterranean. Its valley, or bed, being spanned by a number of bridges, adds not a little to its picturesqueness. At this season the river is almost dry; a few slender streams wind in and out of the rough stones which form the river-bed, and at these streams are to be seen hosts of women and children, most busily engaged in washing, and the whole valley by the river is white with the clothes of the numerous visitors, hanging out to bleach and dry in the hot sun. At times, when the snow on the Maritime Alps melts, this dry bed suddenly becomes a foaming, roaring torrent, and signals are given from the upper stream to warn people of the approaching rush of water. Instances of women engaged at their washing being carried away by the torrent have frequently occurred.
The harbour of Nice is but a small affair, and only capable of accommodating fishing-craft and small vessels; but at little Villafranca, a mile or so away to the eastward, is an excellent port, affording shelter to large ships; occasionally men-of-war are to be seen there. The harbour of Villafranca is very prettily situated, surrounded, as it is on the land side, by high hills rising from the water's edge, and beautifully timbered. The walk from Nice to Villafranca, either by way of the sea, along the face of the rocks, where the road is lined with aloes and cacti (which impart quite a semi-tropical aspect to the country); or by the higher road, over a steep hill and deeply shaded roads,—is very beautiful, and well rewards the wayfarer for his fatigue; for fatiguing it is in the broiling sun, along a dusty road. On approaching the port from the upper road, the first view obtained from the high ground, looking down into the land-locked basin of the harbour, is very charming.
Nice is so surrounded by beautiful walks and drives, that one fails in the attempt to describe the half of them. View after view breaks on the admiring gaze, till you cease to exclaim at the varying loveliness, and content yourself by drinking in the grandeur and beauty of nature in silent admiration.
It is colder and more bracing here than at Cannes, but on the whole the climate is more equable, there being no such sudden fall in the temperature after sunset; it is, however, I fear, less suited for invalids of a consumptive nature than other parts of the Riviera. It is dangerous to be out late, almost less on account of the heavy dews and chill atmosphere than for the very questionable people one meets, in every grade, from princes to pick-pockets. Nice is literally infested with doubtful characters, for, being so near the frontier, numbers of Italian vagabonds, who have been in prison and find it best to leave their country, assemble here, and tragedies are constantly occurring. There are also many wretched desperadoes from the gaming-tables.
On one occasion, two men attacked an old lady who was reading a placard on a wall. They were fortunately observed by a woman from a small shop near, who called her husband, and also summoned two gens d'armes. The men drew their knives, but the gens d'armes threatened to use their revolvers if the weapons were not instantly given up, and, being probably as deficient in pluck as most bullies, they finally succumbed, and were taken in charge—but, I have no doubt, got off with a day or two's imprisonment; while the poor old lady was confined to her bed for some time, and did not easily recover the shock she had received. The only uncommon feature in this occurrence was the fact of two gens d'armes being found within call at the same time.
With the exception of the splendid hotels, Nice can boast of few buildings of any importance, save the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is a fine-looking edifice, and has several objects of interest in the interior. A ludicrous and amusing incident was witnessed here one day by a friend.
Several country people had entered, and were engaged in offering up their orisons at the various altars. One woman, who had been in the market, making her purchases, entered the Cathedral, basket in hand, and, kneeling down on the steps in front of the high altar with her basket beside her, proceeded to tell her beads, and was soon deeply immersed in her prayers. A homeless cat was quietly prowling about, and, approaching the woman, began to smell at the contents of her basket. Evidently church mice are much the same all the world over and do not afford too bountiful provender for the hungry cats, for puss had all the appearance of being desirous of dining, and, after poking her nose into the basket several times, seized upon a sausage, and proceeded to pull it out. The poor woman cast a discomfited glance at the robber, but before the devout Catholic could finish her beads, sacrilegious pussy had carried off and finished her sausage.
The hotel charges here are much the same as at Cannes, and not unreasonable. Five francs for bedroom, three for luncheon, and five for table d'hote.
Most visitors fall into foreign habits, and have their coffee and rolls in their bedrooms, dejeuner or heavy luncheon at noon, and table d'hote at six; but we came down to our breakfast between eight and nine o'clock, a l'Anglais, and dined a la carte at any hour that suited our convenience. The day's expenses were generally from ten to twelve francs for each person. Carriage hire is also very reasonable, for you can go from one end of the town to the other for less than a franc.
The beauty-spot and plague-spot of the Riviera—Arrival at Mentone—Hotel des Isles Britanniques—English church—Her Majesty's Villa—Gardens of Dr. Bennett—Custom-house—Remarks on Mentone—A charming walk—A word about Brigands—An adventure—In the cemetery—A labour of love—A frog concert—Excursion to Monte Carlo—Lovely coast scenery—Castle of Monaco —The sombre Olive—The exodus of the Caterpillars.
In travelling from Nice to Mentone you have to pass through some of the most lovely and enchanting scenery in the world.
The tiny principality of Monaco is indeed a little Paradise; but, alas! Paradise after the fall, for does it not include that awful gaming pandemonium, Monte Carlo? It is sad to think that the choicest spot on this fair earth should be selected by sinful men for their evil purposes. Here, amid all that is beautiful and captivating in nature, is a pit dug for the unwary, the innocent, and the weak; and, alas! too many succumb to the fatal allurements prepared for their ruin and destruction.
As we passed Monte Carlo, we saw some of the shady fraternity I mentioned as having observed at the Nice station, on one of the heights above the town, overlooking a grassy enclosure. They were characteristically engaged in slaughtering tame pigeons, by way of a manly recreation and noble sport!
We arrived at Mentone in the evening, about seven o'clock. It is a quiet, pretty little town something like Cannes. As usual, there were a legion of hotel omnibuses, with their liveried porters, the name of the hotel they belonged to on their cap, and each accurately measuring the length of your purse. Fortunate the traveller who has already determined on the hotel he intends to patronize! We had selected the Hotel des Isles Britanniques. Here we had a small but handsomely furnished apartment on the third floor, commanding a charming view of the sea from its French windows, and we were soon sitting down to our quiet little dinner.
Everything at this hotel was comfortable and satisfactory. Cleanliness and courtesy were predominant, and I should think altogether it was one of the best conducted hotels on the Riviera. Only one little drawback lay in the fact that the reading-room opened into the ladies' drawing-room, and the almost incessant pianoforte-playing made it impossible to read with any real enjoyment. Indeed, who could sit down selfishly to reading, even one's favourite newspaper, with the momentary expectation of a loving wife or daughter strolling in from her music, for a little chat?
A more serious defect, however, in these Riviera hotels, perfect as they are otherwise in all their appointments, lies in the fact that there is very inadequate provision for extinguishing fire—a terrible consideration at all times, but disarmed of much of its terror when properly provided against. One evening, when descending the main staircase of our hotel, there was an evident smell of fire, and soon a painful sensation in my eyes told me of smoke also. On reaching the hall, I found the smoke issuing from the warming shaft in the floor. I returned, quietly warned my wife and others of the danger, and soon the master of the hotel and all the servants were on the spot. In their excitement to subdue it, before the numerous visitors should be alarmed, they opened the aperture still more, so as to give free vent to the smoke. I at once told them their mistake, and, seizing the nearest door-mat, put it over the aperture; my example was followed, and other exits closed, the servants meanwhile carrying buckets of water below, where the fire had originated. Fortunately, the fire was soon extinguished, little harm being done; but the event showed me that there was no systematic preparation or appliances in case of fire, which I thought a very serious omission in the comfort and safety of the visitors.[C]
The day after our arrival was Sunday, and we attended the English church, and were greatly pleased with the reverent, home-reminding way in which the service was conducted. We then took a pleasant walk by the sea, listening to a good band of music in the gardens; then into the one long main street of the town, calling at the post-office for letters, and leaving our address, that all others might be sent on to our hotel. We had a peep, too, into the numerous little shops, especially those for the sale of flowers, as at Cannes, and the cheerful little market-place. Finally, turning the promontory at the end of the street, and emerging on the road by the sea, we found a delightful promenade; and further on, in the eastern portion of Mentone, another English church, "Christ Church," and several finely situated hotels and pretty villas standing in groves of orange trees, facing the sea, and under the shelter of the almost precipitous mountain ranges in the background.
The natives here are evidently of very dirty habits, and the residents must be sadly wanting in nasal sensibility, for, on attempting to advance through one of the narrow side streets dividing the pretty villas, we were obliged to beat a hasty retreat; and this was not the only pretty lane so vilely misused, much to the reproach of the municipal authorities.
On the hill-side, almost buried amid the trees, is the little villa where her Majesty the Queen so quietly resided last autumn; while at the large hotel just below, Mr. Spurgeon rested from his Tabernacle labours, and, it is to be hoped, got rid of his painful rheumatism.
Straight up this road, on the slope of the hill, is an ancient aqueduct, and a milestone denoting where the French and Italian territories meet. My wife was much interested in this precise point of division, and I laughingly assisted her to place a foot on each territory, thereby establishing her as the queenly Colossus of two great countries; but she was greatly relieved by a very short reign. A little higher up on the left are the beautiful mountain gardens of Dr. Bennett. By his kind courtesy, all visitors are welcome to roam about therein, though, of course, within certain hours. It is indeed a wonderful example of botanical skill combined with excellent taste. Every inch of ground, right up to the rocky mountain-side, is turned to advantage, for the production both of the most lovely flowers and ferns and also for miniature aqueducts and water-courses to refresh them. I have never before seen a collection of flowers, ferns, and trees brought to so great a perfection under such difficulties. All are most systematically named and classified.
A little further on is the Italian custom-house, picturesquely situated on a promontory, and commanding a very fine view of the sea and surrounding country. Every person and vehicle has here to undergo the usual delightful examination by the custom-house officials. This is the high-road to Ventimiglia and Genoa, and a high road indeed it is, running right along the edge of the cliff, forming a most magnificent drive, and commanding grand views.
Not far from here is the residence, with its superb gardens, of Mr. Hanbury. Some friends who have visited these gardens assure me they even surpass those of Dr. Bennett. It is said that next time the Queen visits Mentone, she will take up her abode at this house. Mr. Hanbury is equally courteous in welcoming visitors to his beautifully cultivated grounds and gardens.
Mentone is more sheltered than either Cannes or Nice, the mountains encircling the town more closely; there is consequently more hill-climbing, and fewer extended walks and excursions for invalids. It was occasionally bleak and cold after sunset during this early part of the year, and invalids were all obliged to gain the shelter of their dwellings by about four p.m. These cold, biting winds generally blew from north or east, the main streets being like drafty narrow gorges.
We had one exceedingly pretty walk up the valley to the right of our hotel. The river, now almost dry, flowing silently along on one side; on the other, hills and orange groves, and a little church or monastery perched among the trees in the far distance—it resembled a Swiss mountain valley. It was a very romantic road, and I incidentally remarked to my wife that it was just the kind of place where, a few years ago, we might have heard a shrill whistle from the hills, then an answering echo, and by-and-by a band of brigands suddenly swooping down upon us to carry us off to their lair upon the mountains. This was quite enough to make her nervous, and, despite my pacifying assurances that in these days of enlightened progress no such thrilling adventure would be likely to befall us, she begged that we might return at once; and, as our walk had already been a somewhat extended one into the still recesses of the mountain valley, I thought it just as well to follow her prudent advice and retrace our steps. For although I laughed at my wife's fears, they were really not so utterly without foundation as might at first appear, for we had recently heard of a most daring case of brigandage in the neighbourhood. As I have before remarked, there are a great many very questionable characters loitering between Nice and Genoa.
Two ladies at an hotel here met with a small adventure that might have ended in something more serious but for one fortunate circumstance. They were a mother and daughter, staying at Nice about the same time as ourselves, and related that having started one fine afternoon to walk to Villafranca, on getting out of sight of all signs of habitation, they were much alarmed to find they were being followed by two ill-looking Italians. The men passed them, and disappeared round the promontory which shuts Nice out of sight, and forms one side of the natural harbour of Villafranca. The ladies, wishing to give them a wide berth, walked very slowly, hoping to be left far in their wake; but soon after, on reaching a particularly dull part of the road, they came on the men again, who were evidently waiting for them. Still hoping they might be mistaken, the two ladies stopped likewise, as if to admire the scenery and consult their guide-books, but the men held their ground, and presently walked towards them. Just as they were approaching, a carriage containing a gentleman came in sight, and they thereupon walked on for a short distance, as if they were only returning the way they had come; but as soon as the carriage had fairly passed, they once more turned. The ladies were now thoroughly alarmed, and the younger one flew down the dusty road after the carriage, in hopes of overtaking it and soliciting protection. She was fortunately observed by the occupant, who at once stopped the horses, and very kindly invited them to continue their journey in his carriage, remarking that many of the roads along the Riviera were decidedly unsafe for foot-passengers, and that he had been surprised at two ladies undertaking such a risk alone. They gratefully accepted his offer, and proceeded to the Villafranca station without meeting a single human being—a fact which they noted with a shudder and a deep sense of thankfulness at their narrow escape.