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is not one of them....

The picturesque "Plage des Basques" lies to the south of the town,
bordered with high cliffs, which in turn are surmounted with terraces
of villas. The charm of it all is incomparable. To the northwest
stretches the limpid horizon of the Bay of Biscay, and to the
south the snowy summits of the Pyrenees, and the adorable bays of
Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Fontarabie, while behind, and to the eastward,
lies the quaint country of the Basques, and the mountain trails into
Spain in all their savage hardiness.

The off-shore translucent waters of the Gulf of Gascony were the
"Sinus Aquitanicus" of the ancients. A colossal rampart of rocks and
sand dunes stretches all the way from the Gironde to the
Bidassoa, without a harbor worthy of the name save at Bayonne and
Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Here the Atlantic waves pound, in time of storm,
with all the fury with which they break upon the rocky coasts of
Brittany further north. Perhaps this would not be so, but for the fact
that the Iberian coast to the southward runs almost at right angles
with that of Gascony. As it is, while the climate is mild, Biarritz
and the other cities on the coasts of the Gulf of Gascony have a fair
proportion of what sailors, the world over, call "rough weather."

The waters of the Gascon Gulf are not always angry; most frequently
they are calm and blue, vivid with a translucence worthy of those of
Capri, and it is this that makes the beach at Biarritz one of the most
popular sea-bathing resorts in France to-day. It is a fashionable
watering-place, but it is also, perhaps, the most beautifully disposed
city to be found in all the round of the European coast line, its
slightly curving slope dominated by a background terrace,
decorative in itself, but delightfully set off with its fringe of
dwelling-houses, hotels, and casinos. Ostend is superbly laid out,
but it is dreary; Monte Carlo is beautiful, but it is ultra; while
Trouville is constrained and affected. Biarritz has the best features
of all these.... Saint-Jean-de-Luz had a population of ten thousand
two centuries ago; to-day it has three thousand, and most of these
take in boarders, or in one way or another cater to the hordes of
visitors who have made it - or would, if they could have supprest its
quiet Basque charm of coloring and character - a little Brighton.

Not all is lost, but four hundred houses were razed in the
mid-eighteenth century by a tempest, and the stable population began
to creep away; only with recent years an influx of strangers has
arrived for a week's or a month's stay to take their places - if idling
butterflies of fashion or imaginary invalids can really take the place
of a hardworking, industrious colony of fishermen, who thought no more
of sailing away to the South Antarctic or the banks of Newfoundland in
an eighty-ton whaler than they did of seining sardines from a shallop
in the Gulf of Gascony at their doors.


[Footnote A: From "Pencillings by the Way." Published by Charles
Scribner, 1852.]


The Saone is about the size of the Mohawk, but not half so beautiful;
at least for the greater part of its course. Indeed, you can hardly
compare American with European rivers, for the charm is of another
description, quite. With us it is nature only, here it is almost
all art. Our rivers are lovely, because the outline of the shore is
graceful, and particularly because the vegetation is luxuriant. The
hills are green, the foliage deep and lavish, the rocks grown over
with vines or moss, the mountains in the distance covered with pines
and other forest-trees; everything is wild, and nothing looks bare or
sterile. The rivers of France are crowned on every height with ruins,
and in the bosom of every valley lies a cluster of picturesque stone
cottages; but the fields are naked, and there are no trees; the
mountains are barren and brown, and everything looks as if the
dwellings had been deserted by the people, and nature had at the same
time gone to decay.

I can conceive nothing more melancholy than the views upon the Saone,
seen, as I saw them, tho vegetation is out everywhere, and the banks
should be beautiful if ever. As we approached Lyons the river narrowed
and grew bolder, and the last ten miles were enchanting. Naturally the
shores at this part of the Saone are exceedingly like the highlands of
the Hudson above West Point. Abrupt hills rise from the river's edge,
and the windings are sharp and constant. But imagine the highlands of
the Hudson crowned with antique chateaux, and covered to the very top
with terraces and summer-houses and hanging-gardens, gravel-walks and
beds of flowers, instead of wild pines and precipices, and you may get
a very correct idea of the Saone above Lyons.

You emerge from one of the dark passes of the river by a sudden turn,
and there before you lies this large city, built on both banks, at
the foot and on the sides of mountains. The bridges are fine, and
the broad, crowded quays, all along the edges of the river, have a
beautiful effect. There is a great deal of magnificence at Lyons, in
the way of quays, promenades, and buildings.... I was glad to escape
from the lower streets, and climb up the long staircases to the
observatory that overhangs the town. From the base of this elevation
the descent of the river is almost a precipice. The houses hang on the
side of the steep hill, and their doors enter from the long alleys of
stone staircases by which you ascend....

It was holy-week, and the church of Notre Dame de Fourvières, which
stands on the summit of the hill, was crowded with people. We went
in for a moment, and sat down on a bench to rest. My companion was a
Swiss captain of artillery, who was a passenger in the boat, a very
splendid fellow, with a mustache that he might have tied behind his
ears. He had addrest me at the hotel, and proposed that we should
visit the curiosities of the town together. He was a model of a manly
figure, athletic, and soldier-like, and standing near him was to get
the focus of all the dark eyes in the congregation.

The new square tower stands at the side of the church, and rises to
the height of perhaps sixty feet. The view from it is said to be one
of the finest in the world. I have seen more extensive ones, but never
one that comprehended more beauty and interest. Lyons lies at the
foot, with the Saone winding through its bosom in abrupt curves; the
Rhone comes down from the north on the other side of the range of
mountains, and meeting the Saone in a broad stream below the town,
they stretch off to the south, through a diversified landscape; the
Alps rise from the east like the edges of a thunder-cloud, and the
mountains of Savoy fill up the interval to the Rhone.

All about the foot of the monument lie gardens, of exquisite
cultivation; and above and below the city the villas of the rich;
giving you altogether as delicious a nucleus for a broad circle of
scenery as art and nature could create, and one sufficiently in
contrast with the barrenness of the rocky circumference to enhance the
charm, and content you with your position. Half way down the hill lies
an old monastery, with a lovely garden walled in from the world.

The river was covered with boats, the bells were ringing to church,
the glorious old cathedral, so famous for its splendor, stood piled
up, with its arches and gray towers, in the square below; the day was
soft, sunny, and warm, and existence was a blessing. I leaned over the
balustrade, I know not how long, looking down upon the scene about me;
and I shall ever remember it as one of those few unalloyed moments,
when the press of care was taken off my mind, and the chain of
circumstances was strong enough to set aside both the past and the
future, and leave me to the quiet enjoyment of the present. I have
found such hours "few and far between."


[Footnote A: From a letter to his friend West.]


I take this opportunity to tell you that we are at the ancient and
celebrated Lugdunum, a city situated upon the confluence of the
Rhone and Saône (Arar, I should say) two people, who tho of tempers
extremely unlike, think fit to join hands here, and make a little
party to travel to the Mediterranean in company; the lady comes
gliding along through the fruitful plains of Burgundy.... the
gentleman runs all rough and roaring down from the mountains of
Switzerland to meet her; and with all her soft airs she likes him
never the worse; she goes through the middle of the city in state, and
he passes incog, without the walls, but waits for her a little below.

The houses here are so high, and the streets so narrow, as would be
sufficient to render Lyons the dismalest place in the world, but the
number of people, and the face of commerce diffused about it, are,
at least, as sufficient to make it the liveliest: between these two
sufficiencies, you will be in doubt what to think of it; so we shall
leave the city, and proceed to its environs, which are beautiful
beyond expression; it is surrounded with mountains, and those
mountains all bedropped and bespeckled with houses, gardens, and
plantations of the rich bourgeois, who have from thence a prospect of
the city in the vale below on one hand, on the other the rich plains
of the Lyonnois, with the rivers winding among them, and the Alps,
with the mountains of Dauphiné, to bound the view.

All yesterday morning we were busied in climbing up Mount Fourvière,
where the ancient city stood perched at such a height, that nothing
but the hopes of gain could certainly ever persuade their neighbors to
pay them a visit. Here are the ruins of the emperors' palaces, that
resided here, that is to say, Augustus and Severus; they consist in
nothing but great masses of old wall, that have only their quality
to make them respected. In a vineyard of the Minims are remains of a
theater; the Fathers, whom they belong to, hold them in no esteem at
all, and would have showed us their sacristy and chapel instead of
them. The Ursuline Nuns have in their garden some Roman baths, but we
having the misfortune to be men, they did not think proper to admit

Hard by are eight arches of a most magnificent aqueduct, said to be
erected by Antony, when his legions were quartered here. There are
many other parts of it dispersed up and down the country, for it
brought the water from a river many leagues off in La Forez. Here are
remains too of Agrippa's seven great roads which met at Lyons; in some
places they lie twelve feet deep in the ground.


[Footnote A: From "Pictures from Italy," written in 1844]


So we went on, until eleven at night, when we halted at the town of
Aix (within two stages of Marseilles) to sleep. The hotel, with all
the blinds and shutters closed to keep the light and heat out, was
comfortable and airy next morning, and the town was very clean; but
so hot, and so intensely light, that when I walked out at noon it was
like coming suddenly from the darkened room into crisp blue fire. The
air was so very clear, that distant hills and rocky points appeared
within an hour's walk; while the town immediately at hand - with a kind
of blue wind between me and it - seemed to be white hot, and to be
throwing off a fiery air from its surface.

We left this town toward evening, and took the road to Marseilles. A
dusty road it was; the houses shut up close; and the vines powdered
white. At nearly all the cottage doors, women were peeling and slicing
onions into earthen bowls for supper. So they had been doing last
night all the way from Avignon. We passed one or two shady dark
châteaux, surrounded by trees, and embellished with cool basins of
water: which were the more refreshing to behold, from the great
scarcity of such residences on the road we had traveled.

As we approached Marseilles, the road began to be covered with holiday
people. Outside the public-houses were parties smoking, drinking,
playing draughts and cards, and (once) dancing. But dust, dust, dust,
everywhere. We went on, through a long, straggling, dirty suburb,
thronged with people; having on our left a dreary slope of land, on
which the country-houses of the Marseilles merchants, always staring
white, are jumbled and heaped without the slightest order; backs,
fronts, sides, and gables toward all points of the compass; until, at
last, we entered the town.

I was there, twice, or thrice afterward, in fair weather and foul;
and I am afraid there is no doubt that it is a dirty and disagreeable
place. But the prospect, from the fortified heights, of the beautiful
Mediterranean, with, its lovely rocks and islands, is most delightful.
These heights are a desirable retreat, for less picturesque
reasons - as an escape from a compound of vile smells perpetually
arising from a great harbor full of stagnant water, and befouled by
the refuse of innumerable ships with all sorts of cargoes, which, in
hot weather, is dreadful in the last degree.

There were foreign sailors, of all nations, in the streets; with red
shirts, blue shirts, buff shirts, tawny shirts, and shirts of orange
color; with red caps, blue caps, green caps, great beards, and no
beards; in Turkish turbans, glazed English hats, and Neapolitan
headdresses. There were the townspeople sitting in clusters on the
pavement, or airing themselves on the tops of their houses, or walking
up and down the closest and least airy of boulevards; and there were
crowds of fierce-looking people of the lower sort, blocking up the
way, constantly.

In the very heart of all this stir and uproar, was the common
madhouse; a low, contracted, miserable building, looking straight upon
the street, without the smallest screen or courtyard; where chattering
madmen and mad-women were peeping out, through rusty bars, at the
staring faces below, while the sun, darting fiercely aslant into their
little cells, seemed to dry up their brains, and worry them, as if
they were baited by a pack of dogs.

We were pretty well accommodated at the Hôtel du Paradis, situated
in a narrow street of very high houses, with a hairdresser's shop
opposite, exhibiting in one of its windows two full-length waxen
ladies, twirling around and around: which so enchanted the hairdresser
himself, that he and his family sat in armchairs, and in cool
undresses, on the pavement outside, enjoying the gratification of the
passers-by, with lazy dignity. The family had retired to rest when we
went to bed, at midnight; but the hairdresser (a corpulent man, in
drab slippers) was still sitting there, with his legs stretched out
before him, and evidently couldn't bear to have the shutters put up.

Next day we went down to the harbor, where the sailors of all nations
were discharging and taking in cargoes of all kinds: fruits, wines,
oils, silks, stuffs, velvets, and every manner of merchandise. Taking
one of a great number of lively little boats with gay-striped awnings,
we rowed away, under the sterns of great ships, under tow-ropes and
cables, against and among other boats, and very much too near
the sides of vessels that were faint with oranges, to the "Marie
Antoinette," a handsome steamer bound for Genoa, lying near the mouth
of the harbor.

By and by, the carriage, that unwieldy "trifle from the Pantechnicon,"
on a flat barge, bumping against everything, and giving occasion for
a prodigious quantity of oaths and grimaces, came stupidly alongside;
and by five o'clock we were steaming out in the open sea. The vessel
was beautifully clean; the meals were served under an awning on deck;
the night was calm and clear; the quiet beauty of the sea and sky


[Footnote A: From "Castles and Châteaux of Old Navarre." By special
arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, L.C. Page &
Co. Copyright, 1907.]


The little republic of Andorra, hidden away in the fastnesses of the
Pyrenees between France and Spain, its allegiance divided between the
bishop of Urgel in Spain and the French government, is a relic of
medievalism which will probably never fall before the swift advance of
twentieth century ideas of progress. At least it will never be overrun
by automobiles.

From French or Spanish territory this little unknown land is to be
reached by what is called a "wagon-way," but the road is so bad that
the sure-footed little donkeys of the Pyrenees are by far the best
means of locomotion, unless one would go up on foot, a matter of
twenty kilometers or more from Hospitalet in Spanish or Porté in
French territory.

The political status of Andorra is most peculiar, but since it has
endured without interruption (and this in spite of wars and rumors of
wars), for six centuries, it seems to be all that is necessary.

A relic of the Middle Ages, Andorra-Viella, the city, and its six
thousand inhabitants live in their lonesome retirement much as they
did in feudal times, except for the fact that an occasional newspaper
smuggled in from France or Spain gives a new topic of conversation.

This paternal governmental arrangement which cares for the welfare of
the people of Andorra, the city and the province, is the outcome of a
treaty signed by Pierre d'Urg and Roger-Bernhard, the third Comte
de Foix, giving each other reciprocal rights. There's nothing very
strange about this; it was common custom in the Middle Ages for lay
and ecclesiastical seigneurs to make such compacts, but the marvel is
that it has endured so well with governments rising and falling
all about, and grafters and pretenders and dictators ruling every
bailiwick in which they can get a foot-hold. Feudal government
may have had some bad features, but certainly the republics and
democracies of to-day, to say nothing of absolute monarchies, have
some, too.

The ways of access between France and Andorra are numerous enough;
but of the eight only two - and those not all the way - are really
practicable for wheeled traffic. The others are mere trails, or

The people of Andorra, as might be inferred, are all ardent Catholics;
and for a tiny country like this to have a religious seminary, as that
at Urgel, is remarkable of itself.

Public instruction is of late making headway, but half a century ago
the shepherd and laboring population - perhaps nine-tenths of the
whole - had little learning or indeed need for it. Their manners and
customs are simple and severe and little has changed in modern life
from that of their great-great-great-grandfathers. Each family has a
sort of a chief or official head, and the eldest son always looks for
a wife among the families of his own class. Seldom, if ever, does the
married son quit the paternal roof, so large households are the rule.
In a family where there are only girls, the eldest is the heir, and
she may only marry with a cadet of another family by his joining his
name with hers. Perhaps it is this that originally set the fashion for
hyphenated names.

The Andorrans are generally robust and well built; the maladies of
more populous regions are practically unknown among them. This speaks
much for the simple life! Costumes and dress are rough and simple and
of heavy woolens, clipt from the sheep and woven on the spot. Public
officers, the few representatives of officialdom who exist, alone
make any pretense at following the fashions. The women occupy a very
subordinate position in public affairs. They may not be present at
receptions and functions and not even at mass when it is said by the
bishop. Crime is infrequent, and simple, light punishments alone are
inflicted. Things are not so uncivilized in Andorra as one might

In need all men may be called upon to serve as soldiers, and each head
of a family must have a rifle and ball at hand at all times. In other
words, he must be able to protect himself against marauders. This does
away with the necessity of a large standing police force.

Commerce and industry are free of all taxation in Andorra, and customs
dues apply on but few articles. For this reason there is not a very
heavy tax on a people who are mostly cultivators and graziers. There
is little manufacturing industry, as might be supposed, and what is
made - save by hand and in single examples - is of the most simple
character. "Made in Germany" or "Tabriqué en Belgique" are the marks
one sees on most of the common manufactured articles.

The Andorrans are a simple, proud, gullible people, who live to-day in
the past, of the past and for the past; "Les vallées et souverainetés
de l'Andorre" are to them to-day just what they always were - a little
world of their own.


[Footnote A: From "A Tour Through the Pyrenees." By special
arrangement with, and by permission of, the publishers, Henry Holt &
Co. Copyright, 1873.]


From Luz to Gavarnie is eighteen miles.

It is enjoined upon every living creature able to mount a horse, a
mule, or any quadruped whatever, to visit Gavarnie; in default of
other beasts, he should, putting aside all shame, bestride an ass.
Ladies and convalescents are there in sedan-chairs.

Otherwise, think what a figure you will make on your return.

"You come from the Pyrenees; you've seen Gavarnie?"


What then did you go to the Pyrenees for?

You hang your head, and your friend triumphs, especially if he was
bored at Gavarnie.

You undergo a description of Gavarnie after the last edition of the
guide-book. Gavarnie is a sublime sight; tourists go sixty miles out
of their way to see it; the Duchess d'Angouléme had herself carried
to the furthest rocks. Lord Bute, when he saw it for the first time,
cried: "If I were now at the extremity of India, and suspected the
existence of what I see at this moment, I should immediately leave in
order to enjoy and admire it!" You are overwhelmed with quotations
and supercilious smiles; you are convinced of laziness, of dulness
of mind, and, as certain English travelers say, of unesthetic

There are but two resources: to learn a description by heart, or to
make the journey. I have made the journey, and am going to give the

We leave at six o'clock in the morning, by the road to Scia, in the
fog, without seeing at first anything beyond confused forms of trees
and rocks. At the end of a quarter of an hour, we hear along the
pathway a noise of sharp cries drawing near; it was a funeral
procession coming from Scia. Two men bore a small coffin under a white
shroud; behind came four herdsmen in long cloaks and brown capuchons,
silent, with bent heads; four women followed in black mantles. It was
they who uttered those monotonous and piercing lamentations; one knew
not if they were wailing or praying. They walked with long steps
through the cold mist, without stopping or looking at any one, and
were going to bury the poor body in the cemetery at Luz.

At Scia the road passes over a small bridge very high up, which
commands another bridge, gray and abandoned. The double tier of arches
bends gracefully over the blue torrent; meanwhile a pale light already
floats in the diaphanous mist; a golden gauze undulates above the
Gave; the aërial veil grows thin and will soon vanish.

Nothing can convey the idea of this light, so youthful, timid, and
smiling, which glitters like the bluish wings of a dragon-fly that is
pursued and is taken captive in a net of fog.

Beneath, the boiling water is engulfed in a narrow conduit and leaps
like a mill-race. The column of foam, thirty feet high, falls with
a furious din, and its glaucous waves, heaped together in the deep
ravine, dash against each other and are broken upon a line of fallen
rocks. Other enormous rocks, débris of the same mountain, hang above
the road, their squared heads crowned with brambles for hair; ranged
in impregnable line, they seem to watch the torments of the Gave,
which their brothers hold beneath themselves crusht and subdued.

We turn a second bridge and enter the plain of Gèdrés, verdant and
cultivated, where the hay is in cocks; they are harvesting; our horses
walk between two hedges of hazel; we go along by orchards; but the
mountain is ever near; the guide shows us a rock three times the
height of a man, which, two years ago, rolled down and demolished a

We encounter several singular caravans: a band of young priests in
black hats, black gloves, black cassocks tucked up, black stockings,
very apparent, novices in horsemanship who bound at every step, like

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Online LibraryVariousSeeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 4 France and the Netherlands, Part 2 → online text (page 6 of 13)