Hotel de l'Europe, June 1st. - I remember nothing very special to record about Marseilles; though it was really like passing from death into life, to find ourselves in busy, cheerful, effervescing France, after living so long between asleep and awake in sluggish Italy. Marseilles is a very interesting and entertaining town, with its bold surrounding heights, its wide streets, - so they seemed to us after the Roman alleys, - its squares, shady with trees, its diversified population of sailors, citizens, Orientals, and what not; but I have no spirit for description any longer; being tired of seeing things, and still more of telling myself about them. Only a young traveller can have patience to write his travels. The newest things, nowadays, have a familiarity to my eyes; whereas in their lost sense of novelty lies the charm and power of description.
On Monday (30th May), though it began with heavy rain, we set early about our preparations for departure, . . . . and, at about three, we left the Hotel des Colonies. It is a very comfortable hotel, though expensive. The Restaurant connected with it occupies the enclosed court-yard and the arcades around it; and it was a good amusement to look down from the surrounding gallery, communicating with our apartments, and see the fashion and manner of French eating, all the time going forward. In sunny weather a great awning is spread over the whole court, across from the upper stories of the house. There is a grass-plat in the middle, and a very spacious and airy dining-saloon is thus formed.
Our railroad carriage was comfortable, and we found in it, besides two other Frenchwomen, two nuns. They were very devout, and sedulously read their little books of devotion, repeated prayers under their breath, kissed the crucifixes which hung at their girdles, and told a string of beads, which they passed from one to the other. So much were they occupied with these duties, that they scarcely looked at the scenery along the road, though, probably, it is very rare for them to see anything outside of their convent walls. They never failed to mutter a prayer and kiss the crucifix whenever we plunged into a tunnel. If they glanced at their fellow-passengers, it was shyly and askance, with their lips in motion all the time, like children afraid to let their eyes wander from their lesson-book. One of them, however, took occasion to pull down R - - -'s dress, which, in her frisky movements about the carriage, had got out of place, too high for the nun's sense of decorum. Neither of them was at all pretty, nor was the black stuff dress and white muslin cap in the least becoming, neither were their features of an intelligent or high-bred stamp. Their manners, however, or such little glimpses as I could get of them, were unexceptionable; and when I drew a curtain to protect one of them from the sun, she made me a very courteous gesture of thanks.
We had some very good views both of sea and hills; and a part of our way lay along the banks of the Rhone. . . . . By the by, at the station at Marseilles I bought the two volumes of the "Livre des Merveilles," by a certain author of my acquaintance, translated into French, and printed and illustrated in very pretty style. Miss S - - - also bought them, and, in answer to her inquiry for other works by the same author, the bookseller observed that "she did not think Monsieur Nathaniel had published anything else." The Christian name deems to be the most important one in France, and still more especially in Italy.
We arrived at Avignon, Hotel de l'Europe, in the dusk of the evening. . . . . The lassitude of Rome still clings to us, and I, at least, feel no spring of life or activity, whether at morn or eve. In the morning we found ourselves very pleasantly situated as regards lodgings. The gallery of our suite of rooms looks down as usual into an enclosed court, three sides of which are formed by the stone house and its two wings, and the third by a high wall, with a gateway of iron between two lofty stone pillars, which, for their capitals, have great stone vases, with grass growing in them, and hanging over the brim. There is a large plane-tree in one corner of the court, and creeping plants clamber up trellises; and there are pots of flowers and bird-cages, all of which give a very fresh and cheerful aspect to the enclosure. The court is paved with small round stones; the omnibus belonging to the hotel, and all the carriages of guests drive into it; and the wide arch of the stable-door opens under the central part of the house. Nevertheless, the scene is not in all respects that of a stable-yard; for gentlemen and ladies come from the salle a manger and other rooms, and stand talking in the court, or occupy chairs and seats there; children play about; the hostess or her daughter often appears and talks with her guests or servants; dogs lounge, and, in short, the court might well enough be taken for the one scene of a classic play. The hotel seems to be of the first class, though such would not be indicated, either in England or America, by thus mixing up the stable with the lodgings. I have taken two or three rambles about the town, and have climbed a high rock which dominates over it, and gives a most extensive view from the broad table-land of its summit. The old church of Avignon - as old as the times of its popes, and older - stands close beside this mighty and massive crag. We went into it, and found it a dark old place, with broad, interior arches, and a singularly shaped dome; a venerable Gothic and Grecian porch, with ancient frescos in its arched spaces; some dusky pictures within; an ancient chair of stone, formerly occupied by the popes, and much else that would have been exceedingly interesting before I went to Rome. But Rome takes the charm out of an inferior antiquity, as well as the life out of human beings.