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Travel stories > London

On the 20th of December, my wife and I started on our travel 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-honored, 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.

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.

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 traveler of some remote part of the world, such as Panama, for instance Soon we are spinning along towards Paris, the weather pretty fine so far. Then for miles we travel along through a gloomy drizzling rain. 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. We at last arrive at the St. James Hotel, in the Rue St. Honoree; 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’hôte, 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’hôte, with its never-ceasing clatter and chatter.

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”. 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.

The following morning we left Paris by the 9.40 train for Marseilles stopping at Lyon. Lyon 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. The neighboring 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 Lyon to Marseilles in one of the many flat-bottomed steamers would be very enjoyable. 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.
The land is full of ancient interests, especially near Marseille, at Avignon and Arles. Here we meet with many old Roman settlements and ruins.


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