Chapter VII. London to Paris.

On Wednesday, July 21st, the eight day of my stay in London, I went to Charing Cross Station and procured a ticket for Paris. Before leaving however, I exchanged my English currency for French money. The rate of Exchange is 25 francs for one sovereign. The exchange clerk explained to me the relative values of the French coins which I found to be much easier to understand than English money.

The table runs thus: 100 centimes equal one franc; and 20 francs, one napoleon. The coins are: napoleons, (20L), 10 franc and 5 franc pieces in gold; francs and half-franc coins in silver; and 10 centime, 5 centime, (the sou), and 1 centime copper and nickle coins, though the centime is not in general circulation now, being equal to but one fifth of a cent in our money. It was a great consolation to me to know that I would understand the French money perfectly, especially as I expected not to be able to speak with anybody in Paris, except, now and then, with a stray German or Englishman. Soon after entering the train at Charing Cross I met a Frenchman (Prof. P. Simond who could speak English fluently, having occupied his time in England in teaching French, and was on his way to Paris to spend his vacation there. He offered at once, very kindly, to assist me in Paris, and I felt from that moment that I should be ten-fold luckier in making my entry into Paris than I had thus far had reason to expect. The train left London at 6:35 p.m., and was to make connection with a steamer for Calais, (pron. K[)a]l'[)i]), thence by rail to Paris, reaching the latter place the next afternoon. The "through ticket" 3rd Class, from London to Paris, cost 21 shillings. Distance 262 miles.

Soon after leaving London, I discovered that I was surrounded by the family of an English merchant, who, having retired from business, had taken his wife and daughters to make a trip to the Continent, with a view to see France and Germany. The mother expressed great delight on learning that I was an American, remarking that "Americans are not so stiff in their intercourse." It was lot long before I felt that I was in a fair position to spend the day and night en route from London to Paris pleasantly, even if we were to be confined to the cars and the boat with the exception of a few hours.

We crossed the Strait of Dover at about midnight, though not unawares!

As I had no fears of getting sea-sick upon the Strait of Dover, I took my seat on the deck in confidence of a pleasant voyage. Mrs. L. soon asked me whether I did not expect to get sick, stating that she was in great fear of it. I replied that I hoped our passage was too short for getting sick, as the waves were not apt to rise very high in such a narrow strait. But I was mistaken; the sick were soon moaning in every direction. My gay companions all disappeared except the old gentleman and his younger daughter. A large steamship of 3,000 tons burden would probably show more dignity, but the little steamer upon which we had taken passage, was as fiercely knocked about by the waves, and made fully as much ado about it, as the old "Manhattan" ever did in the middle of the Atlantic. The young lady was keeping close to her father and had already ceased to laugh, when I asked him the last time about their health. He was well, but the young lady was also becoming dizzy from the rocking, and turning pale at the terrors of the sea. I hastened to the cabin below and sought relief in lying down. Being both weary and giddy I soon fell into a sleep, from which I did not wake until we reached Calais.

The train for Paris was not to leave until the next morning, so I tried to find rest and sleep in the Waiting Room, but without success. By and by a gentleman came round and offered to conduct us to lodging places. I followed him into the city, through strange streets into a strange house, and was shown to retire in a strange room. Everything seemed in its place, however, so that I had no occasion for feeling uneasy. The next morning I rose at break of day and took a long walk through the city of Calais, to look about and see as much, as possible before I had to leave. This was my first walk on the Continent of Europe.

I looked about where I might get breakfast, but as most of the business houses were not yet open, I stood a poor chance. Into the saloons I would not go, as I could not have asked for what I wanted on account of my inability to speak French; my only hope, therefore, was to find a shop or store that displayed in the window what I wanted, so that I could make my purchase by gestures. I had provided myself with a Conversational Guide Book, in London, containing the French, Italian and German equivalents of English words and phrases, most necessary to the tourist; but the French pronunciation is so difficult that I could after all not make myself understood except by pointing out these French words to the shop-keepers. To give the reader an idea of what mistakes an American is apt to make in pronouncing French, I offer the names of two of the most common articles of food. They are pain (bread) pronounced pae, and lait (milk) pronounced l[=a]. I succeeded, however, later in the morning, when the shops were generally open, to procure a breakfast, whereupon, after having visited a very antique church and examined the strong fortifications of the city, I started for the railway station.

On my way thither I passed the open door of a saloon in which Mr. and Mrs. L., whose friendship I had formed the previous day, sat at coffee. It was a pleasant surprise, and I took my seat with them, drinking coffee for the benefit of the milk (du lait) which I poured into it. This done, Mr. L. invited me to accompany him to their hotel to "see what a nice place they had found last night!" It was a excellant hotel, and as we approached the beautiful flower-beds which lined the path leading to the entrance, their daughter came down the walk, and greeted us, the old gentleman remarking that they had been inquiring last night what had become of me. It is very pleasant and agreeable to fall into such society, and to behold the cloth spread and the China and glass ware set with an excellent breakfast (a regular home-fashion scene) after one has spent several hours in lingual conflicts for a breakfast, and seen nothing but the outside of old weather-beaten houses.

I took my seat with the English party and my French friend (Prof. P.S.) in the same car, and left Calais at 7:20 a.m. Everything looked strange again; even more so than when I first came to England. Everybody, except our English company, spoke French, and the cars, the buildings, and the tickets and conductors, seemed all different from what I was accustomed to in England. The houses which we saw from the train, were small and covered with tiles like those which I had seen in northwestern England. We soon passed burial grounds in which the graves were headed with crosses, in place of marble slabs, for tombstones. Large quantities of peat and the white stone quarries in the chalk formations, next arrested our attention. Though it was the 22nd of July, haying was not yet finished. Some of the farmers were, however, engaged in reaping both their wheat and barley. At 8:34 a.m., the English Channel came again into view. Thus we passed along enjoying the scenery of "belle France," (beautiful France), but by and by we became tired of watching landscapes.

To see odd styles of architecture, and watch the strange ways about a people, may afford a pleasant diversion for a time; but the eyes, too, become tired of looking. A striking feature about the agriculture is the smallness of many of the fields; there being no fences, the fields are distinguished by their crops. Some of them are but several rods in extent. The various colors which the different kinds of vegetables assume in their progress of growth and ripening, make the landscape look like an immense expanse of checkered carpet, exceedingly beautiful to behold.

When these scenes seemed no longer to be charming, or we had become too fatigued to appreciate them, we commenced to amuse ourselves in games, joking and tricks, of which the traveler sees and enjoys his fill.

Gambling; which is such a wide-spread social evil in America, is prohibited or restricted to certain fixed days of the year, in some countries of Europe; but games of various kinds are played, by the best society, almost everywhere. Notwithstanding all the arguments that may be advanced in favor of games at chess and back-gammon, as exercises in mental gymnastics, and of playing cards as affording pleasant diversion for mixed parties, the diligent tourist, like the industrious student, should not squander much of his time at it.