Hotel d'Angleterre, June 11th. - We left Avignon on Tuesday, 7th, and took the rail to Valence, where we arrived between four and five, and put up at the Hotel de la Poste, an ancient house, with dirty floors and dirt generally, but otherwise comfortable enough. . . . . Valence is a stately old town, full of tall houses and irregular streets. We found a cathedral there, not very large, but with a high and venerable interior, a nave supported by tall pillars, from the height of which spring arches. This loftiness is characteristic of French churches, as distinguished from those of Italy. . . . . We likewise saw, close by the cathedral, a large monument with four arched entrances meeting beneath a vaulted roof; but, on inquiry of an old priest and other persons, we could get no account of it, except that it was a tomb, and of unknown antiquity. The architecture seemed classic, and yet it had some Gothic peculiarities, and it was a reverend and beautiful object. Had I written up my journal while the town was fresh in my remembrance, I might have found much to describe; but a succession of other objects have obliterated most of the impressions I have received here. Our railway ride to Valence was intolerably hot. I have felt nothing like it since leaving America, and that is so long ago that the terrible discomfort was just as good as new. . . . .
We left Valence at four, and came that afternoon to Lyons, still along the Rhone. Either the waters of this river assume a transparency in winter which they lose in summer, or I was mistaken in thinking them transparent on our former journey. They are now turbid; but the hue does not suggest the idea of a running mud-puddle, as the water of the Tiber does. No streams, however, are so beautiful in the quality of their waters as the clear, brown rivers of New England. The scenery along this part of the Rhone, as we have found all the way from Marseilles, is very fine and impressive; old villages, rocky cliffs, castellated steeps, quaint chateaux, and a thousand other interesting objects.
We arrived at Lyons at five o'clock, and went to the Hotel de l'Univers, to which we had been recommended by our good hostess at Avignon. The day had become showery, but J - - -and I strolled about a little before nightfall, and saw the general characteristics of the place. Lyons is a city of very stately aspect, hardly inferior to Paris; for it has regular streets of lofty houses, and immense squares planted with trees, and adorned with statues and fountains. New edifices of great splendor are in process of erection; and on the opposite side of the Rhone, where the site rises steep and high, there are structures of older date, that have an exceedingly picturesque effect, looking down upon the narrow town.
The next morning I went out with J - - -in quest of my bankers, and of the American Consul; and as I had forgotten the directions of the waiter of the hotel, I of course went astray, and saw a good deal more of Lyons than I intended. In my wanderings I crossed the Rhone, and found myself in a portion of the city evidently much older than that with which I had previously made acquaintance; narrow, crooked, irregular, and rudely paved streets, full of dingy business and bustle, - the city, in short, as it existed a century ago, and how much earlier I know not. Above rises that lofty elevation of ground which I before noticed; and the glimpses of its stately old buildings through the openings of the street were very picturesque. Unless it be Edinburgh, I have not seen any other city that has such striking features. Altogether unawares, immediately after crossing the bridge, we came upon the cathedral; and the grand, time-blackened Gothic front, with its deeply arched entrances, seemed to me as good as anything I ever saw, - unexpectedly more impressive than all the ruins of Rome. I could but merely glance at its interior; so that its noble height and venerable space, filled with the dim, consecrated light of pictured windows, recur to me as a vision. And it did me good to enjoy the awfulness and sanctity of Gothic architecture again, after so long shivering in classic porticos. . . . .
We now recrossed the river. . . . . The Frank methods and arrangements in matters of business seem to be excellent, so far as effecting the proposed object is concerned; but there is such an inexorable succession of steel-wrought forms, that life is not long enough for so much accuracy. The stranger, too, goes blindfold through all these processes, not knowing what is to turn up next, till, when quite in despair, he suddenly finds his business mysteriously accomplished. . . . .