It’s been a year since I’ve posted on my blog! Elizabeth Bisland, the author of “The Art of Travel” found in The Woman’s Book, might characterize me as an “indolent” blogger.
Lately, I’ve had
Bisland was a writer and Nellie Bly’s competitor in the famous Journey Around The World in 1889, a race to beat Jules Verne’s fictional 80-day jaunt around the globe. Ultimately, Bly defeated Bisland, making the journey in 72 days, while Bisland came in at 76. Bummer. Luckily for us, Bisland imparted her traveling wisdom in her chapter in The Woman’s Book.
You can find more of her writings and books including In Seven Stages: A Flying Trip Around the World at Online Books.
I hope you enjoy this fabulous information.
My own opinion and experience
This new box has a hinged top, which, being lifted, exposes a series of drawers both large and small, so that instead of struggling with refractory trays and breaking one’s back in search of some object that has, in a spirit of pure wantonness, descended into the depths at the instant when most needed, one
A medium-sized bag, convenient for a woman’s handling, will have space as well for a night-dress, a pair of soft, heel less dressing slippers, and a light dressing gown—China silk in summer time, or soft wool for winter. A gray Chudda shawl of large size can be cut into such a dressing gown, and is so soft and compressible that it occupies but little space.
The shawl-strap should contain an ulster, traveling-rug, overshoes, and umbrella. Another matter to be considered in preparing for comfort in travel is the possession of a definite place for everything, so that everything may be found in its place the instant it is wanted. Therefore cases for handkerchiefs, gloves, and veils, bags for shoes and for soiled linen, should all be provided, and every article being carefully laid away in its proper receptacle after using, not only insures against losses that cannot be repaired at critical moments, and frantic searches for strayed belongings, but keeps one’s boxes and clothes dainty and fresh.
By natural sequence the next point to be considered is that of toilets. There is no need, in addressing American women, to inveigh against frowsy unkemptness in traveling—their tendency as a rule is toward ” over-smartness ;” but where a question of the quantity and weight of luggage is to be dealt with, it may be worth while to plan how an immaculate appearance and comfort are to be maintained out of trunks of small compass.
The many women who wear silk or wool tricot undergarments find them easily carried in small compass. Those who do not like this form of dress will discover that for long journeys there is nothing so satisfactory for underwear as silk. The original cost is rather large, but it proves an economy in the end, as clothes of the soft India (not China) silk are so easily laundered— requiring no starch — shed, instead of gathering, dust; do not conduct changes of temperature; and, keeping the body at an even temperature, are the greatest safeguards against colds. Nothing can be a greater luxury, in sickness, or after a hot day in the cars, than to slip for the night into a silky garment which neither heats nor chills the
The ideal traveling down is undoubtedly a very plain tailor skirt and coat of some neutral-tinted serge or tweed, with a silk bodice, is it can stand the stress of weather, sea-damps, and railway dust, is easy of fit, and can be adapted to the tropics by removing the coat, or adjusted to the Arctic zone by the addition of furs. A simple and satisfactory adjunct is a black silk dress with two bodices—one adopted for evening. The best form of this convenience, if intended for hard usage, is a bengaline silk, which does not crumble, and, like Mrs. Primrose wedding gown, has stamina enough to carry it over into another generation. With a pièce de résistance of this sort, a few of the prettiest accessories of ribbon, velvet, and lace that the shops furnish ready-made, will supply all the variety of costume needed and travel.
Most of the traveling done within our borders is, of necessity, on the railway, and despite our persistence of self-glorification in this very matter, we have— in many things— much to learn from Europe. The continental wagonslits, and the English sleeping cars are in several respects improvements upon our own. For one thing they avoid that promiscuously which is so greatly shocks the foreigner traveling in America.
In Germany one may secure a first-class carriage for one’s self at an expense no greater than that of a whole section in a sleeping-car, and attached to this is a private dressing room with all conveniences. Here one is as secluded as in one’s own bedroom, and instead of futile wrestlings in the curtained pigeon-hole provided in American cars, one dresses and undresses at one’s ease, with plenty of space and no possibility of intrusion. All the through-trains leaving Paris for Constantinople, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, and Nice are provided with wagons-lits, cars which have a narrow passage-way upon one side, upon which opens a series of small bedrooms, securing the privacy for many that American cars only offer to the one party rich enough or lucky enough to secure the single ” state-room ” at the end of the sleeper.
While few of the Continental trains have a dining-car attached, those without one are provided with a small kitchen at the end of the wagon-lit, where the guard concocts pleasant little meals, largely made of fruit, salads, cheese, and good crusty loaves, and serves them in each room upon movable tables.
The trains de luxe between Calais and Paris, between London and Dover, and London and Edinburgh, have beautiful dining arrangements, and the saloon carriages are spacious and luxurious beyond any comparison with the best we have to offer. Another point deserving mention in the European trains is the studied simplicity of the decorations. Smooth, handsome blue broadcloth takes the place of stuffy plush, and the tempest of gilded ornamentations is conspicuous by its delightful absence.
In making long trips in England or on the Continent it is as well that the woman traveling alone should go to the expense of taking first-class tickets to secure the advantages of the added luxury and privacy; but for all journeys of moderate length—and very few are as long as twelve hours—second class is quite good enough and a great deal cheaper. For journeys of an hour or two many English people go third class, since the carriages in this class are perfectly clean and fairly comfortable, and one is not likely to suffer any inconvenience from the manners of one’s fellow-travelers, which are almost without exception quiet and decent. On the Continent a woman unaccompanied had better content herself with the economy of second class, as her experiences might not be agreeable in the third.
Wherever one may be fated to spend any length of time in land travel it is best to follow certain rules. One of these is to be sure of plenty of fresh air. In our own country this is sometimes made difficult by the over-heating of cars, the double windows, and the lack of proper ventilation; while in Europe the loosely fitting sashes and lack of artificial warmth gives one at times too much of even that good thing. An excellent practice is to get out wherever a stop of more than a few minutes is made and walk briskly, filling the lungs and stirring the blood. In almost all cases where a traveler finds herself unable to sleep in the cars the difficulty maybe corrected by a supply of fresh air.
A good plan is to undress entirely, as at home, slipping over the nightgown the loose silk or wool dressing gown, that’s protecting one’s self against
There are now but few parts of this country in which every convenience is not supplied by the public conveyances. Some of the remote or parts of Florida, where journeys must be made by boat, drive want to good humor and philosophy as one’s only resource; and to Mexico one must go provided with many of the comforts ordinarily supplied in the United States. One of these comforts is a portable bath-tub, since hotels in the obscure parts do not afford toilet appliances.
Of late years the travel to Alaska has grown to such an extent that the tourist may look for perfect comfort by train and steamer, since were ever the demand for convenience is great supply meets it.
To take, for instance, what is called “The Square Tour” — which unfortunately is less frequently made by Americans than by visiting foreigners —will prove the universal comfort of travel in this country, and the possibility of being absent for months with the limited luggage specified. Leaving New York on the Florida train the first of March, it is possible to see—with a stop-over ticket—all the towns of importance along the Southern Atlantic coast within a week, and in all will be found good hotels, and the climate will vary so little that the removal or addition of a coat will be all that is required. Florida is dotted with admirable hostelries with an easy journeys of one another, and every point of interest is reached by fairly comfortable means. Here one will be obliged to add the coat mornings and evenings while near the sea-coast, but will perfectly abandon it while in land or by the waters of the Gulf.
New Orleans may be reached by rail, but a charming route is across the Gulf by steamer, and up through the mouth of the Mississippi. Here one takes the Southern Pacific to California, seeing Texas en passant, and slowly climbs the Western coast by local lines, seeing the beautiful fruit ranches of the South, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Puget Sound, and finally takes the steamer to Alaska, reaching there about June 1st. Returning, a landing is made at Victoria, and thence by Canadian Pacific through the wildest and most beautiful railway route in the world to Montreal. From there more railroading brings one to the Lakes, to Chicago, to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and New York by July1st. By this process there has been no exposure either to extreme heat or cold, nor any rough methods of travel in a journey of four months, that gives one a most comprehensive knowledge of the North American continent.
The green spectre of sea-sickness looms up for most women at the very mention of “the oceans of say” to be faced when they venture off of their own continent and the whole art of travelling by water is, for eight out of ten, simply a question of evading or assuaging those insufferable pangs. Long and severe experience has proved to most sufferers that the advice to struggle against those painful and surging emotions is but the brutal egoism and lack of sympathy of those who know not such sufferings because of their own internal arrangements being set on an even keel, There is on earth perhaps no anguish so bitter, and none which meets with so little true tenderness and comprehension as sea sickness. To escape without ribald mockery is more than most can hope It is useless to suggest a remedy for the cure of one is the doubled agony of another, and only precautions and palliations are worth suggesting, since the cure for sea sickness is like salvation each must find it for himself.
One important precaution is to see that the system is clear and the liver active, at least a week before sailing. Then, if it be possible a voyage should not be begun in a state of nervous fatigue. Perhaps the most important advice is to go to bed at once before, the “jobbling of the ocean” awakes a single qualm. Arrange all one’s be longings snugly and handily. Undress completely and get into bed with a book near by in case of ennui and some clean faint flavored toilet water ready for use. It is better not to read but to go to sleep at once generally an easy task after the fatigues of preparation and farewell. With no compression of garments stretched at full length with the body warm and as much fresh air as is attainable it is just possible one may escape the tendency to nausea which once set up is so hard to conquer. For the first twenty-four hours all soups and hot drinks, wines, lemonades, and the like, should be avoided; the diet being confined to cold, dry meats, and dry biscuits. By strict observance of these rules I myself, who have descended all the seven rounds of the hell of seasickness, am enabled to make a voyage with only moderate discomfort and even to enjoy life by the third or fourth day. Should the sorrows of the sea overtake one in spite of all precautions cracked ice and bromides are the most simple and effective palliatives. A cold salt bath is an excellent aid to recovery when the worst of the nausea has passed and the interval of excessive languor and depression supervenes. It requires courage to undertake it, but the result is worth the effort–the best way being to step into a warm bath and sponge freely with cold water as it runs from the cock. This shortens by many hours that period of reaction which is almost as painful as the more active illness.
These remedies or necessary only upon such wicked seas as are to be found in the North Atlantic and Pacific, or in the stormy channels surrounding England. The beautiful tropical waters about the East and West Indies are–in the winter at least, when travelers for pleasure make their acquaintance–smooth lakes without even the long heave and pulse of our summer seas. The Peninsular and Oriental steamships, from the moment they enter the Suez Canal until they finish their voyage Hong Kong, a whole month later, might carry a glass full of water without even spilling a drop. Consequently, for one of the Eastern journeys, which are every day becoming more popular, the preparations are quite dissimilar from those undertaking for a trip to Europe. As there is no steerage travel to the East, the whole vessel vessel is given up to the comfort of the first-cabin passengers. Decks are wide and steady enough for very agreeable moonlit dances and strolls. Little afternoon tea-tables make their appearance among the clusters of Bombay lounging-chairs, where young women in muslins and straw hats pour tea for young men in white duck, with silk sashes replacing their waistcoats. The saloons are adorned with growing palms, and occasionally a blooming orchid plant or two hang among the canaries’ cages. The state-rooms are large, comfortable bed chambers, with iron bedsteads, and a long divan on the seaside, where a great section of the ship opens outward, forming and awning from the sun but letting in all the coolness of the sea. The bathrooms are spacious, and the great marble tubs, filled with cold salt water, offer the most irresistible temptation in the hot atmosphere.
At half-past six in the morning a white-capped maid comes with tea or coffee, a biscuit and fruit. It may be against all one’s good American habits to eat at that hour and in bed, but a little further knowledge will prove here, as elsewhere, it is best to follow the example of those who have had long knowledge of the needs of a climate. If one refuses to adapt one’s self to this custom, and insists upon doing in Rome as the Americans do, the result will be a feeling of great exhaustion after dressing that robs one of appetite for breakfast and spoils the day. In the tropics less nourishment is needed than in temperate zones, but it must be taken at much more frequent intervals; and after the heavy relaxed sleep of those moist, warm nights, the body requires the stimulus of food before undertaking any exertion. The same advice applies to the afternoon siesta. One may have had a most vigorous scorn of the indolence implied by sleep in the daytime, yet between three and four o’clock an almost irresistible drowsiness will overtake one, and the wise voyager succumbs to Nature’s hint of her needs.
It cannot be too much urged upon the traveler by land or by water, in temperate or tropic zone, that there should be no chance for exercise neglected. The change of air induces, as a rule, a more vigorous appetite, and the enforced sluggishness of long days on board vessel and car makes it difficult for the digestion to cope with its added task, the result being disorders which are apt to rob one of all pleasure and predispose one to colds and infection.
These suggestions apply to the case of the woman journeying under the escort of what is known as her natural protector, and treat principally of her physical comfort and well – being; but for the woman who sets forth into the world alone there are many matters still to be considered.
To the indolent, the timid, and the inexperienced among women there is something extremely terrifying in the thought of lonely wanderings, unaccompanied by some man to save trouble and bear the blame of mishaps; but there is, in reality, nothing to prevent a woman from seeing every civilized, and even semi-civilized, country in the world without other protection than her own modesty and good sense. There is a vast amount of chivalry and tenderness distributed in the hearts of men, and while the woman who goes guarded may be quite unaware of it, because nothing in her case calls it forth, the chivalry is there, and ready for almost unlimited draughts upon its patience, devotion, and sympathy. In all accidents by land or water the first thought of those in authority is the safety of the women, and while all yet goes smoothly the very defencelessness of a lonely woman appears to put every man upon his honor, and make him feel, in a certain sense, responsible for her comfort and enjoyment. That women travelling alone have at times painful experiences cannot be denied, but I boldly assert that in nine cases out of ten it is due wholly and solely to their own fault. A few have been so warned against the wiles of a wicked world that they are unable to discriminate between an honest desire to be of use and mere vulgar effrontery, and reward courteous attentions with suspicious rudeness. A still greater number look upon their own needs and discomforts as matters of cosmical importance, before which the affairs of the universe—notably the affairs of the masculine half—should give way; and their petulance, peevishness, and aggressive assumptions drive even the meekest of their fellow-travelers into open revolt. Still another cause of difficulty is an embarrassed timidity in cases where instant repression is needed; and a lack of courageous dignity in the face of insolence.
The woman who is cool – headed, courteous, and self-reliant, can travel around the world in every direction and find no word or look to daunt or distress her. Indeed if her manners be sweetly gracious and dignified she will find all lands full of brave cavaliers who will spring to gratify her smallest request, who will see and meet her needs before they are put into words, and who cheerfully will imperil and even yield up their lives in her defence and to insure her safety.
The garment of modest purity is as magic a defence to-day as when Una wore it, and the sight of a good woman who needs their aid wakens in even bad men some part of the spirit of a Bayard. The woman who knows how to accept a favor frankly and without tiresome protest, and is at the same time gratefully aware that the service is a favor and not a duty, makes every travelling man her faithful servitor.
A cool and nimble wit is generally the best defence against vulgar aggression and achieves its end more neatly than would angry protest.
A very young girl was once making a long railway journey alone, and to amuse her solitude dabbled a little in an attempt at literature. She was aware that a man in the opposite section of the sleeping-car was endeavoring to attract her attention, but she kept her head bent over her manuscript and gave no sign of being aware of his existence. Finally, all his efforts failing, he crossed the aisle between them and laid his visiting card on the adjustable table before her.
“That’s my name, miss,” he said, and added with insinuating familiarity, “I guess we’re two of a kind.”
The girl regarded the card distantly and raising her eyes to his face coolly, contemplated it during several minutes of silence.
”Really!” she replied at last, “you flatter me. In what respect may I hope to resemble you?”
“Oh,” stammered the small cad, getting red and embarrassed beneath her calm gaze, “you seem to be a writer and I am one myself; I’m a reporter. Guess we’re a pair of Bohemians, ain’t we?”
“You mean that?” she answered politely, glancing at the thirty or forty pages of manuscript she had covered. “I fear it has misled you. That is a letter to my husband. Good morning!” And she quietly dotted an i, and went on with her work. The car heard her and understood, and the car smiled satirically at the unmatched Bohemian, who sneaked away to the smoker and was seen no more by daylight in his seat.
Impertinence is not the only matter with which the solitary woman must deal; she must be alert, accurate, and quick-witted, and while she is sure to find assistance she must act as if she did not count upon it, and take all possible precautions for herself.
It is well to secure one’s seats, sleeping-berth, or state-room well in advance, and trust nothing to luck. Beginning early and having, therefore, the power of choice, select, if possible, for a day’s journey, seats in the centre of the car, or if for the night, a berth near the ladies’ toilet-room. Take an outside state-room; the air to be had through the port-hole, whenever the sea is calm enough to admit of opening it, is worth much in moments of fatigue or nausea.
Take enough hand – luggage to be quite comfortable. Someone can always be found to carry it for a very small tip. Do not sit down and wait to be told when things happen and where all conveniences are situated. A few judicious inquiries will ascertain the hours of meals, the locality of the bath-room, what rules and regulations must be observed, and what privileges are to be had. Be ready to take prompt advantage of any opportunity for amusement, and be profoundly versed in the gentle science of Baedeker and Murray.
Perhaps this is a point at which the whole question of tips might be appropriately dealt with. All through Europe they are expected, but a regular tariff is fixed, and it is not necessary to give more than is the custom. Some few independent souls refuse to recognize the demand at all, but they are always badly served. In very many cases those who serve them are not liberally paid by their employers because of the extra fund supposed to be contributed by the traveller, and she who refuses to tip is in reality receiving services gratuitously from the poor employee. On long sea-voyages it is customary to give one’s own stewardess five dollars when special services are asked, or two and a half dollars when no particular demands are made on her time. About the same is given the table steward, and one dollar to the deck steward— but this proportion may alter according to the amount of service rendered. It is a wise precaution and insures more care and consideration if the tipper gives the stewardess a small installment of the whole fee during the first day out, intimating that more is to follow on reaching port.
In England the cabmen expect a gratuity of two pence, in France two big sous. Six pence are ample for the transportation of luggage or any small services from the guard on railway trains in England; half a franc in France. In the expensive restaurants a shilling in London and a franc in Paris is sufficiently munificent, while in such places as the Maison Duval, or the A. B. C. restaurants, two sous, or two pence, are quite enough.
There are, for the solitary woman traveler, a number of tourists’ agencies —such as Cook’s, Gaze’s, and Low’s,—, whose branches reach to over beyond Jordan, and are established among even the dwellers in Mesopotamia. These for a very small percentage will buy tickets, check and transfer luggage, furnish all useful and useless information, and do one’s banking, besides supplying valuable aid in finding satisfactory lodgings.
It is at the offices of these agencies that one may change bank-notes most conveniently and secure fresh currency of the different countries in which one is sojourning. In carrying large sums it is better to rely upon the letter of credit on some prominent and trustworthy bank ; but where the sum to be used in travelling is moderate, as convenient a way as any is to carry a few Bank of England notes, and deposit these as an account at one of the tourist agencies, or at a bank, and draw checks against it. Say that one means to go abroad for two months or three, and means to limit one’s expenses to a few modest hundreds; then the simplest and least troublesome fashion of arranging the matter is to procure Bank of England notes for that sum. Get a letter from a trustworthy tourist agency to its office in London or Paris containing an introduction. On arriving one has only to present the letter and the money, deposit the latter, and get a sheaf of checks in return, and. a needed supply of foreign gold and silver. In moving from one large city to another, it is necessary only to carry a letter from the agency to its bureau in the new capital, and there, the office having been privately notified of the original deposit, the checks are again honored. For short tours from the base of supply a small amount of gold is the most convenient form of provision.
It is well that the woman travelling alone should always deposit her valuables in the safe of the hotel, being sure to take a receipt for them. In the daytime, and while on the cars at night, a soft silk bag about the neck is the best receptacle for large sums. It is now so easy to change one’s money, and so many conveniences are provided for travellers in this respect that it requires but little effort to obtain the current coin of the realm where one may happen to be, and in all countries English gold and bank-notes are honored, as they evidently stand high in the estimation of the whole world.
There is much diversity of opinion and experience in the matter of guides and couriers, but a good rule seems to be that in countries where one understands the language they are unnecessary, while in localities where the language is absolutely unknown, what is apt to miss many pleasures for lack of an interpreter. In England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the routes are so well-known and so constantly traveled, that an energetic, enterprising traveler can’t see all that is to be seen without aid; but in Norway and Sweden, Russia, Holland, and turkey, in Egypt, and in Japan, where the languages are so difficult that even the few phrases needed by the traveler are more troublesome to acquire then the result is worth, a guide and an interpreter or quite necessary. In India English is so generally spoken that an American woman does not find herself at a disadvantage.
It is the gentleman who sits at the receipt of custom who fills with vague alarm many a gentle female soul, but experience usually robs him of all terrors. Strangely enough, England, which is supposedly free from any protective measures, is a most troublesome port to enter. Brandy, cologne, silver plate, tobacco, and the Tauchnitz novels are not permitted to enter the tight little island, and it is generally some well-behaved, eminently conventional matron who is most sharply questioned as to the presence of tobacco and brandy in her trunks, and has her stockings, underlinen, and bonnets tossed madly about in the search for contraband means of dissipation. On the Continent more discrimination is shown, and for the most part the officers of the douane discern at a glance whether one is likely to have diamonds concealed in one’s boot-heels, or owes the rich contours of one’s figure to tightly rolled consignments of lace. The slightest reluctance to have one’s belongings searched, however, at once arouses suspicion, and only the cheerful and prompt handing over of keys achieves the much-to-be-desired mere lifting and closing of the lid. My own experience leads me to believe that the most courteous and kindly of customs officials are those in the port of New York—and that even under the McKinley tariff regulations; but memory preserves in the amber of gratitude one gentle-hearted Gaul, who, looking into the weary eyes of a lonely woman newly arrived in Paris at eight o’clock in the evening, was moved to real compassion and chalked with his mystic sign four large boxes without word or question.
Here we have the lonely female well on her journey’s way at last. She having read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested the luminous wisdom, and didactic advice of the foregoing lines, has travelled by land and sea in great comfort, luxury, and safety, and now— triumphantly vindicating the innocence of her luggage from accusations of brandy and chewing tobacco—stands inside the customs barrier of a foreign land. For the sake of extreme probability we shall call this port Liverpool.
It is explained to her at the railway station how a merciful English company has attached, for the convenience of desperately homesick Yankees, a Pullman car to the train, and that, finding themselves only recovered from mal de mer to fall victims to mal du pays —passing from naupathia to nostalgia —these expatriated Americans welcome this token of home with tears of joy. She may have a place there—if she wishes.
No, indeed! Had she been so irresistibly enamoured of things at home she would have stayed there. She has come away for change, and means to see life entirely from a foreign point of view. She will go first class in one of the little English carriages, though she knows that “only dukes, fools, and Americans go first class.“ This is a small single luxury she is treating herself to.
“Here’s half a crown, guard, and I hope I sha’t be disturbed. And please wireto Lincoln that I want a hot luncheon, with a wine.”
“Yes, mem. Thanky, mem. It shall be attended to.” he locks the door, and the wiley woman is alone and a large clean blue boudoir, with perfect privacy and plenty of space. No one can enter and no one can see the bit of toilet she sets about making. The steamer arrived early, and she has been Worrying about on the wind docks since breakfast. She removes her hat, recoifs her hair, and sponges her face with cologne. Doubling up the arms that divide the long divan into chairs, be heaps for rugs into a semblance of sofa cushions by the window and reclines at length, with her book, the lovely English scenery, and an occasional nap to help her through the hours. Here is Lincoln. A man comes to the carriage-window and hands in a little luncheon hamper, for which he is paid another half crown. The train slides out of the station and the traveler leisurely prepares for her meal. The little hamper contains a half pint of table claret with a cork half drawn a hot English chop with and potatoes and some green vegetables, a salad, a piece of cheese, bread and fruit, besides a knife, fork, glass, napkin, pepper, and salt. She eats at her ease, and when done closes all the remains into the basket and slips it under the seat. It is no further concern of hers. The company has its agents to attend to the matter of returned empties.
“It may be soothing to one’s homesickness to come to London in a Pullman,” she says to herself, “but it certainly is not so comfortable nor so novel.”
Arrived at Charing Cross she waits to see her trunks come out of the luggage-van. All the heavier pieces are left in the luggage office to be called for, and the things very necessary for the moment are heaped on the roof of a hansom. She is too wise to go to one of the great caravansaries affected by the average travelling American. The huge hotels are costly everywhere, and she drives to Trafalgar Square to see the tourists’ agent, bank her letter of credit, and get the address of some of the smaller hotels. They can recommend some dignified hostelries of the simpler sort near to Piccadilly, or if she wishes to be very economical there are pleasant small hotels on the Embankment, close to Charing Cross, where she may have bed, breakfast, and bath for six shillings and make her other meals cost what she chooses.
She decides upon the latter, since she means only to spend the night there, and finds it clean, simple, and very comfortable. Once installed she immediately sets off for Bond Street, to shop, to put herself in touch with all the delicious novelty of a foreign world, and to drink a cup of tea in one of the small tea-shops. To-morrow, armed with a list of advertisements cut from The Times, she sets out early to look for lodgings, and wanders South Kensingtonwards in her search. In a tiny street opening upon a garden square full of trees and flowers she comes upon the very thing she needs– a bright, fresh, little drawing room, hung and upholstered chintz, and equally pleasant dining room, a bedroom fitted with brass bedstead and every appointment for comfort, and a tidy, well arranged bath. This is to be had at four pounds a week, including lights and all attendance. She could have found cheaper accommodations if she had been content with merely sitting room and bedroom, but meaning to present letters of introduction she wishes to have agreeable quarters in which to receive. She is careful to make an exact bargain with her shrewd landlady, who would add in, if she were not checked, all the endless “extras” over which the Briton so loves to potter and over which the American grows so impatient.
“There’s the light over the hall-door, a shilling a week; and the kitchen fire, half a crown; and there’s six shillings for coal and three for lights and ten shillings for attendance, and six pence for the use of the cruets, and tuppence for–” “I’ll give you four pounds a week for everything included,” interposes the lodger, having made a rapid calculation and deducted a small amount from the total. There is a little more haggling and then the bargain is struck. The lodging house keeper’s husband is a retired butler, who will serve the lodger in the same capacity; she will cook, and her trig little niece act as housemaid. So the lodger finds herself mistress of a pretty little house, with butler, cook., and housemaid, all for the sum of twenty dollars a week. Her meals she orders every morning, and with a little care and simple living they should come to mot much more than another ten dollars.
Behold her installed and her letters presented. She is a wise woman, this traveler. She realizes that people in a great capital are always very much occupied and not particularly anxious to add more acquaintances to their list; that they are likely to think it a bore to have to hunt her up, and she does not expect too much. A hasty card is dropped at the door, a line is scribbled perhaps asking her to come in to afternoon tea. The traveler goes meekly, and makes herself agreeable. Will not the Englishwoman fix a day to come and have tea with her?
Meantime this wise woman has, for what seems to her an infinitesimal sum, had boxes affixed to her windows overflowing with lovely blossoms, and has palms and ferns and blooming plants scattered about the apartment. All her small belongings and pretty purchases are gracefully disposed, and a warm welcome awaits the visitor. She is careful to avoid complaining of any inconveniences she may suffer, and when she cannot warmly praise English things and methods has the discretion to keep silence. Without intrusion or apparent intention she offers small pleasures and courtesies herself, without waiting to have them come first to her. One person whom she has obliged takes her to drive in the Park. Another asks her to luncheon; she repays each civility promptly by some equal courtesy, and before many weeks are passed she is full of charming engagements and is booked for some country-house visiting later — which is the reward of common-sense and good-nature.
In almost every part of the British Isles she finds this lodging-house system the best and cheapest method of living, and she has discretion enough in each country to find out the most characteristic feature of the life there and adopt it, and to do in Rome as Romans do—up to a certain point.
Should the traveller in England be desirous of still further economy—as many are — it is extremely easy to achieve it. Those who have gone abroad for study, and many who merely go for relaxation, must, to achieve their purpose, count rigidly every penny. For these there are in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome—all the great capitals—furnished chambers for rent at sums varying from two dollars to ten dollars a week, according to accommodations, and meals may be had at most reasonable rates in these foreign towns if one knows where to look for them. London is full of such aids to the light purse. The pastry-cooks’ shops are the refuge of the economical; the A. B. C. (under which abbreviation the restaurants of the Aerated Bread Company are known), the British TeaTable, the Alliance, the Express, Pearce’s, Lockhart’s, all furnish food at the most moderate rates, and are clean and comfortable. The woman who is a frequenter of the British Museum—that infinite treasure-house of knowledge—will also be familiar with the well-known restaurant provided for the army of daily students there, and will know how to feed herself comfortably at small cost while pursuing her studies. She can reckon her living by pennies rather than by quarters. If she is content with a European breakfast, a cup of coffee, an egg, and buttered rolls will cost her at any one of these places about eight pence—or sixteen cents. A luncheon of bouillon, a meat patty, bread and butter, and jam will cost her eight pence again, and she can dine comfortably for a shilling— her whole day’s nourishment not costing her more than sixty cents a day, or in round terms about four dollars and a half a week. In the country towns of England, such as Oxford, Leamington, and the like, one can find, with a little effort, good clean lodgings with board for a little over two pounds a week. These things are not attainable by the mere bird of passage. The rolling stone not only does not gather moss, but loses it in its swift career; but in small European countries it is far wiser to study the map and pick out a town lying centrally to many places of interest, take up one’s lodging there, and circle about in pursuit of sightseeing. It is far cheaper and more comfortable, more satisfactory in every way; though not until it has been tried, does the American realize how close all the visitable places lie together in those small kingdoms. In this way, too, an interesting district can be fully studied, and no guide-book can ever reveal all the points of real attraction as will personal investigation. Take Oxford as an example. Within an hour of that town there are—outside of its own inexhaustible attractions—a sufficient number of artistic and historic pilgrimages to occupy many weeks of steady sight-seeing. No more perfect illustration of the point I wish to make can be found than in a conversation overheard in an Oxford hotel. “Why, girls!” said an American traveler looking up from her guide-book, “just listen at this book !—it says you couldn’t see all there is to see in this town if you was to stay a month—well, I guess there ain’t no use of our staying, then. We’ll take that 2.40 train to Warwick—” and she did.
In England an American woman is permitted a thousand liberties that are denied to the natives. “That’s American, you know,” covers a multitude of infringements of the code, and almost the same feeling exists in France and Germany. They are not very clear as to just what is “American, you know,” and what is not, but they are convinced that it allows the transatlantic visitor a vast deal of liberty, and they rather resent than not too much conventionality and propriety of demeanor. One kindly hostess offered cigars to an American woman lunching with her.
“Oh, but do take one !” she cried. “Of course we are all very liberal about such things, and though we don’t smoke ourselves we know you are from the South, and that all South American ladies do. We should really enjoy seeing you smoke it “—and was rather hurt than otherwise at her guest’s continued refusal.
Another hostess took an American woman aside just before dinner and said, apologetically: “There is claret, and sherry, and champagne for dinner. I hope you like some one of them; I asked the butler, but he said he didn’t in the least know how to make a ‘mixed drink.'” And to this day she does not quite understand why the guest was so convulsed with amusement.
Now imagine the traveler transferred to the Continent. She has struck her lodging-tent in London, and has set up her gods in a hotel in Paris. For France is not familiar with the lodgings system of accommodation. The pension flourishes in its stead, almost as rankly as does its prototype, the boarding-house in America. But, except in the need of extreme economy, it is not to be sought after, for it is usually filled with Britons and Americans, and one gets none of the flavor of the French life, which one is there to see; and the French folk who inhabit pensions are, as a rule, not the sort one wishes to meet, and are rather to be avoided. There are hundreds of pleasant, gay, clean apartment hotels where accommodation can be had most reasonably. The traveller picks out a quiet dwelling-place near the Rue Rivoli, and but a stone’s throw from the Place Vendome and the Avenue de l’Opera. Here she climbs quite up to the top, but since there is an ascenseur, what matter of that. She gets a tiny bedroom and sitting-room which looks into a court, where there is a fountain and flowers, and an elderly parrot, once the property of an opera singer, who practises his piercing and raucous scales every forenoon with a fidelity learned from his lately deceased master, and spends the rest of the time administering profane, spiteful rebukes to a noisy small dog, his companion.
Still faithful to the fashions of the country she may happen to inhabit for the moment, the traveler has brought to her bedside, at eight o’clock, a pot of steaming tea or coffee, a plate of crusty rolls, and a pat of butter. After café complet she rises, has her bath (a source of unending surprise to the French servants, who cannot understand the meaning of daily ablutions, and attribute it to a sort of American madness), and lingers reading and writing until twelve, when she goes to breakfast. If it be early spring, with some east still in the wind, the traveler will doubtless seek the nearest Maison Duval, of which there are fully a score distributed about the city. These restaurants are perfectly clean, well served, and cheap, and they are one of the institutions of the city. Unlucky is the economical visitor to Paris who misses them.
. . . A little marble table; a neat woman in a black gown and crisp linen Normandy cap. She spreads a napkin, brings a little basket full of rolls, and a pat of butter. Here is the list to choose from: All sorts of omelettes and cheap dishes, perhaps the most expensive is Chateaubriand, a tiny filet of beefsteak, which costs a whole franc, and is very good. This traveller is economical and chooses an omelette au jambon, full of chopped ham, and served deliciously hot. Next comes a cream cheese, cool and sweet, and served with a spoonful of jellied white currants. A cup of café noir, and now the bill. Omelette, ten cents; cream cheese, ten cents; napkin, two cents; bread, two cents; butter, two cents; two cents for the ” cover,” and a tip of two cents —two big sous—is all that is expected by the smiling friendly woman in the Normandy bonnet. Thirty cents for a breakfast well-cooked, pleasantly served, and eaten at one’s leisure near a window looking out on all the inimitable, inexhaustible charm of a Parisian street!
After breakfast is over behold this well content female pacing placidly toward the Tuileries garden, to sit in the sun and watch the fountains play, and the funny French school-children in black baize aprons disport themselves among the statues—to read her newspaper or book; perhaps to scribble a letter upon a writing pad on her knee. All the treasures of the Louvre are at her left hand, all the charms of the Bois at her right, to vie in offering pleasures for her afternoon!
It is plain to see what a sensible woman this is—so she lingers till all the horse – chestnuts in the Champs-Élysées are in bloom, like glorified Christmas-trees full of pink and white candles — till the grass is green, the flowers out, and all the French world comes, after its pleasant fashion, out-of-doors for its meals and amusements.
Ignoring the Maisons Duval now, she goes to a Champs-Élysées cafe and sits on the gravel path under an awning, and eats. The green grass and blossoming trees are about her; so are the scarlet geraniums and pinks. A big fountain splashes near by. Here she ends her meal with a bowl of wild strawberries over which is emptied a pot of Norman clotted cream—and all this in the very heart of a great city, too.
Here as in London she inquires as to possible excursions, and finds she can go every day for a month to some new place of interest and be back by night. If she is tired with an afternoon’s hard work in the picture galleries or museums, she goes to Columbin’s, in the Rue Cambon, and has tea, and is amused to see the smart French folk come in to do the same thing, and to meet unexpected American friends. She dines in her own sitting-room at her hotel.
Twice a week she goes to the Marché aux Fleurs, on the steps of the church of the Madeleine, and strolls along a lane of flowers. Here are valley-lilies, forget-me-nots, and cornflowers which she has bought at home at great expense from the florist, gathered by children from the fields and sold in big bunches for a few cents. Here are plants of every description in pots, a tall rose covered with unfolding buds for one franc fifty centimes; a blooming hydrangea for two francs. She plunges into furious extravagance and goes all the length of a dollar, and for the rest of the week her little sitting-room is a bower of perfume. . . .
At the end of the week she sits down to reckon up her spendings. Her rooms, lights, attendance, baths, dinners, and morning coffee and rolls have cost her ninety francs—that is to say eighteen dollars. Then she has spent one dollar upon flowers; her dejeuners (breakfasts) have cost on an average two francs a day—two dollars and eighty cents for the week. Total twenty-three dollars and eighty cents. Her list of pleasures and self-indulgences may be as light or heavy as she chooses to make them.
Should more space be needed, or should she desire to entertain, the traveler will find a wide choice of appartements meublés (furnished apartments). These “flats,” as we should term them, are often deliciously pretty and convenient—the homes of Parisians who wish for some reason to sublet for a time. These can be had in good neighborhoods most cheaply— that is to say, for prices ranging from forty dollars to one hundred dollars. One servant in a small family will be quite sufficient, provided the occupant of the flat will conform herself to French ways—take her quickly prepared tray of coffee before rising, and make rather a practice of lunching at the restaurants. This French servant will be quite content with ostensible wages of twelve dollars a month—ostensible, because she recoups herself after another fashion. Many Americans come home and rail violently at the dishonesty and knavishness of the French servant, but after all the matter is financially as broad as it is long. Here one would have to pay a neat clever creature who could get one up delightful little dinners, brush one’s frocks, mend, clean, act as lady’s maid, and housemaid, and butler — all with equal competence — three times the wages the Parisian asks, and would look upon her as a rare blessing sent straight from heaven. She would probably be quite honest, and would not exact tradesmen’s commissions, but neither would she rise at daylight, tramp half a mile, perhaps, to market, and carry her heavy basket of purchases up half a dozen flights on her return. It is the custom of French servants to ask small wages for a great deal of cheerful, competent service, and then make up part of the difference by a little juggling with the market books. Then why not accept the French way when one is in France? It certainly avoids much friction and wear and tear. The experienced traveler will, however, by a little experiment in the markets herself, get a general idea of the prices of things, and thereby be enabled to check any attempt at really gross overcharging. The French woman will respect her the more, for she dearly loves a bargain, and admires the shrewd bargainer — when she is not pushed too close.
In travel through France this same system of bargaining is always to be observed. The whole country is dotted with little inns of excellent quality, where one had best put up during mere transient excursions of a few days or a week; but it is a wise precaution to ascertain all about prices at once, and have a clear understanding what they are to be.
Very much the same advice given as to France, serves in Italy and Spain— only that in the last two mentioned countries they are even sharper bargainers, and must be dealt with firmly. There are pensions, but the same rule holds good here as in France. A sitting-room, bed-room, and dressing room cost, roundly, about a hundred francs a month. Service and meals, lights and fires, are all extra, and are more or less according to one’s needs. The trattoria system is in vogue in Venice and Rome, and one Italian servant—of which there are many good ones—is quite sufficient here, for as a rule she serves only as house-maid, and makes the morning coffee; it being so widely the fashion to lunch and dine at the restaurants. Another way is to take part of an Italian house, which is even cheaper than an apartment—since there are so many people of good birth and education living upon extremely narrow means in Italy, and with more space in their homes than they need. They furnish all service except the furnishing of meals—which they would be quite willing to add if the American lodger.
In Rome, Madrid, and in Paris, of course, there are excellent dressmakers to be had at most reasonable rates. They will come to one’s house and do all the fitting at such hours as are most convenient, and in Paris some of them will dress their tiny mannikins in models of such gowns as may be desired, to give the purchaser a chance to see how the combination of colors and materials she has chosen will look when finished. In all the Latin countries the shop-keepers are such keen traders that it is considered no trouble to bring goods of any sort to one’s house to choose from.
In London the dressmakers—with the exception of a few famous and expensive couturieres—are generally incompetent and unsatisfactory. Their prices are high, they will not use the customer’s own goods, and their cut and finish are quite “impossible.” Here the better way to shop is in the great haberdasheries, where excellent readymade and partly-made things are to be found at most reasonable rates. Very many Americans borrow an English friend’s ticket to the enormous Army and Navy Stores, and make there admirable bargains.
London is the best place to shop for old silver-ware, and for Sheffield plate, which make such beautiful souvenirs of travel. Paris is the place for old lace, the dainty and inexpensive jewelry of the moment’s fashion, and all toilet articles; but this is a subject too profound and expansive to be lightly touched in a single paper. All travelers will soon discover for themselves the characteristic souvenir.
A similar story is true of every country, and every capital thereof. A little ingenuity and patience, a little study and forethought, achieve for the traveler all delights, and smooth all her paths. In Berlin she lives in a pension, for that is the best mode of life there. In St. Petersburg she takes a furnished apartment. In India or Japan she rents a whole house, furnishes it, and hires a corps of servants. If only passing through on a flying trip, she goes to the hotels and finds life fairly comfortable in all of them. But wherever she goes she carries her talisman; she frankly and pleasantly accepts the ways of the country she is in and adapts herself to them, and is amiable, grateful for courtesies, self-reliant, and thoughtful in making plans for the future, as well as quick to grasp the demands of any situation.
All directions and suggestions to travelers must of necessity be vague and general; each voyage, like each life, is individual and unique; but common sense and cheerful good temper are the two safest guides and most agreeable traveling companions.
4 Replies to “A Victorian Girlfriend’s Guide to Traveling”
Wow, What a wonderful article/story. Thanks so much for sharing .
So glad you enjoyed it.
Every time I reread this, I love it. And want to go on such a journey. Also, I totally covet that trunk.
You totally need that trunk, long pearls, a luxury ship sailing to beautiful places.