French Tour 1898
by S. Fowler Wright
Please wait data file loading.
'CTC' is the Cyclists� Touring Club
E.O.W. is Sydney's companion Mr. E. O. Warne
Started from 8. Lanham Rd., Gipsy Hill for Oxted where was to pick up Warne. Wind favourable and weather fine - roads somewhat dusty. Took luggage in the shape of a small bag on handles containing machintosh and knee pieces. Small field glasses, sketch books, colour box & water bottle, pencils etc. - Two maps, small books on what to say & small French English dictionary. Also took a waterproof bag to fit in diamond frame of machine and containing one flannel shirt, spare stockings, handkerchiefs, silk scarf, Pair flannel trousers which left at Warne's, Box of Keating's powder, CTC Foreign handbook, Soap in celluloid box, Shaving tackle & sponge, hair brush tooth ditto & comb. In tool bag, repairs outfit - spanners etc., copper wire, luggage cable. Carried also tobacco, pipe matches as also the sinews of war in gold & notes. Arrived at Warne's place about 5 o'clock. Had tea & went for stroll in fields after same.
Machine equipped for the road.
Started form Oxted about 9.30. Dead head wind and sun very hot. Stopped at East Grinstead for some ginger beers, thence on through Forest now to Wytch Cross where had some more ginger beers and several rock cakes & biscuits at a cottage by the roadside and on again to Lewes. At Lewes we put up our machines at the White Hart and strolled off to discover a swimming bath (open air) in the lower part of the town. After a bathe we had some tea and then visited the castle where we inspected the museum and the other curiosities in the gardens. In the evening we walked round the town and hearing music in a large church we lit our pipes and sat down outside to listen to some. The music was only the ordinary choir practice and the gentleman who was acting as choirmaster amused us by giving out the hymn thus. 'Now then O Lord Blow Distance Up' this latter to the organist but it from start sounded as one sentence.
Distance from start 50m.
Gateway Lewes Castle
July 13 th.
After a somewhat bad night after breakfast we went out to get our machines and I discovered a large nail with a square shaped head imbedded in my front tyre which was flat as the proverbial pancake. As the tyre seemed alright the night before this seemed somewhat curious. As I was not absolutely sure about the nail not being there at that time there was nothing to be done but mend the puncture; but moral always examine your tyres when leaving machine after arrival at an Inn. With the aid of a bucket of water the puncture was located, and a patch put on and by the time that we got to the station the air had again escaped and with the aid of some more water I found that the nail had transfixed both sides of the inner tube and I had only mended one side.
The Offending Nail
The location and mending of the two punctures had taken a little time and it was necessary to hurry the pace in others to catch our boat at Newhaven. Fortunately the tyre behaved all right and we duly took our tickets and embarked on the French Company's boat 'Le Manche'. The passage across was a calm one and we had lunch on the boat. On arrival at Dieppe we had no trouble with the customs who merely required our CTC tickets and I came across a gentleman who proved to be a Paddy and the head of the English Detective force at Dieppe by name Powers. Who directed us to the Rouen road which we found without much trouble.
Leaving Dieppe we pushed up a long hill by the side of which we obtained a welcome glass of cider. The road then wound about in a series of zig zags beautifully engineered into a pretty valley shaded with trees but soon gave place to an unshaded road where the sun was simply roasting. As we were wearing caps the heat on our heads and necks became unbearable and at the first village we stopped at a hat shop and with some very bad French completed the purchase of two serviceable straws, the cloth caps being packed away in our bags. At Totes we stopped and got some milk and a sort of table water which was served in bowls and drunk with a spoon. Along the road at every village we noticed the national flag and we passed under a large triumphal Arch made of evergreens and ornamented with flags.
Triumphal Arch near Totes.
And this was for the Fete National which had taken place on the previous day. About 6 kilometres from Rouen we descended a very steep hill the surface of which was very rough in places and from the bottom of this our route lay along a road for the most part covered with cobble stones and bordered with shabby looking houses & shops. After some miles of this we arrived at the entrance of a boulevard or avenue lined with trees and an obliging Gendarme directed us to the hotel d'Angleterre which we found on the quay.
Total distance for day 45 miles - (since start 95 miles)
After dinner we strolled up the principal street. The Rue Jeanne d'Arc and after a smoke retired to bed. Rest was almost impossible for an electric tram which was worked partly by overhead wires ran just outside the hotel and a steam ship unloading timbers. Which work continued all night, lay just opposite. At 5 a.m. in broad daylight our partial sleep was utterly routed by the bugles of a complete French regiment which marched past in their working uniforms. The men though dirty in appearance had a very workmanlike look but the officers looked somewhat weedy and slovenly to English eyes.
As sleep was out of the question we got up and descended and after some cafe au lait and an omelette were presented, by the waiters, with an official form to fill up, stating our age, occupation, whence we had come from, & where we were going to, with dates of arrival and departure.
After filling in this paper we visited the streets of Rouen and also the churches of St. Muclon, St. Owen and the cathedral; in which latter, the heart of Richard 1st of England, is said to have been buried. The spire of the Cathedral is remarkable in as much as that it is modern and made of iron. The interiors of these churches are very magnificent but somewhat marred by some modern gilt and other work. After the Churches we went off to an island in the Seine where we were told there was a swimming bath. We found the island & also the bath which was not inviting. So we returned to the hotel where we had dejeuner. After dejeuner we took a tram to the tower of Jeanne d'Arc which is said to be a part of the castle in which the heroine was confined, but beyond a statue of Jeanne in the basement there is nothing particularly interesting.
There is no statue - merely record in pavement of market.
After leaving the tower we visited the museum and picture gallery as also the spot where the maid was burnt. After dinner we sat out in a public garden facing the museum and shortly afterwards retired to bed.
Rue de la Grosse Norloge Rouen
The next morning we left Rouen for Lisieux by the bridge over the Seine and through a number of streets covered with pave. At Petit Couronne we ascended a very long and steep hill from the top of which a splendid view over the valley of the Seine was obtained. The colouring of which defies description.
The Seine near Petit Couronne.
We had a rest on this hill but the road from here to Bourgtheroude had little of interest. At Bourgtheroude a little hamlet we stopped for some cider and biscuits and then on again by a road with splendid surface towards Brionne we descended a steep hill and crossed a railway at the bottom then up another hill and along under the welcome shade of the trees.
About 4 o'clock we had another halt but could get nothing better to drink than some raspberry syrup & water and the heat was intense. Then along miles of straight roads with nothing to break the monotony and down another hill where a nun in charge of a party of school children thanked us for not running into the same, and then on into Lisieux.
At Lisieux we had some difficulty in finding the hotel de Normandie where we put up. Our bedroom was a somewhat strange apartment. It was a large room with a big window overlooking some curious roofs and gables. The floor was composed of red bricks most scrupulously clean and the two beds which the room contained were in recesses in the wall. Each recess being divided from the room by a gorgeous red silk curtain. The beds & other furniture were of mahogany and of cushion construction. After dinner we had a look at the church of St Jacques and I purchased a pair of shoes as mine had given out on the road; then to the red curtained recesses.
Day's ride 54 miles. Total 149.
The next morning we had a look at the old houses with which Lisieux abounds, also at the cathedral which was under going repairs. The house of Sulumandre is a fine example of ancient wood carving, and an old house in the Grande Rue shows some weird gables.
Lisieux - Vieilles Maisons de la Grande Rue.
Lisieux - la Cathedral.
Lisieux is an excessive quaint old town and at the time of our visit was not overrun by tourists. The hotel was comfortable and the people most attentive.
We left Lisieux after dejeuner and started for Caen. On the road my tyre (of back wheel) punctured and we had much difficulty in explaining our requirements: of a bucket of water, to a couple of country folk at a roadside cottage. The puncture was located and patched,but a few miles further on another escape of air developed, and with the aid of a roadside stream and the able workmanship of E.O.W. the tyre was repaired and gave no further trouble during our ride. The road between Lisieux and Caen is in places very pretty, crossing several small streams and through numerous little villages. As the mending of punctures had delayed us somewhat it was dusk when we arrived at Caen and for the only time on the trip we lit our lamps. We stopped at the hotel de France near the railway. A French touring club house to which we were recommended from Lisieux. After dinner we went for a stroll along the river but, it was too dark to see any of the sights of the town.
Caen - Les Fleches de l'Eglise St. Etienne
In the morning we saw the monument on the quay to the officers and men from Caen who had perished in the war of 1870 as also the church of St. Peter. Then on to St Stephen's Abbey where the ashes of The Conquerors were deposited but which have been scattered since. From St. Stephen's Abbey I walked across by the race course to the river, where I had a most refreshing bathe, even enjoying the luxury of a spring board.
French direction post.
After dejeuner I went up to see the abbey of the Trinity where Queen Matilda is buried. And also round the castle which is used as a barracks but has a quaint old drawbridge with two towers and conical shaped roofs.
We left Caen about 4 o'clock and soon after riding up the hill out of the town fell in with a French rider who talked a certain amount of English. He rode with us to the outskirts of Bayeux where we parted. The road between Caen and Bayeux is studded with numerous villages and there are one or two steep hills. Bayeux was decorated for a fete and looked very pretty with flags and fir trees planted along the side of the streets, with some little difficulty we found the hotel de Luxembourg. Where we put up.
Day's ride 19 miles Total 199 miles
At dinner we made the acquaintance of two English ladies also on tour on their machines. And we compared notes in the garden of the hotel.
Corner at Bayeux
The next morning we had some very heavy rain but with our capes got to the cathedral and also to the Musee where the famous tapestry is kept. The tapestry is well worth seeing and is in excellent preservation, it is about 60 to 80 yards or perhaps more in length and is exhibited in a large room where it is stretched on wooden frames under glass. Each visitor is supplied with a printed description which is taken away on leaving. A small piece of the tapestry was stolen when it was on exhibition in London but was recovered and the piece with the history of the theft is fastened to the frame. The tapestry is worked in various shades of wool on a white ground, and tells its own story: perhaps some of it too well.
Bayeux - L'Abside de la Cathedral.
We left Bayeux after dejeuner and rode through the forest of Biurds along a very straight road with the trees on each side. The surface being splendid and for the most part flat. Our English friends left us at Bayeux en route for Caen.
After about a couple of hours riding we arrived at St. Lo which is a fair sized place and possesses a cathedral. One of the features of this is an open air pulpit which projects from the side of the church.
Corner St. Lo - open air pulpit.
There was a very steep side lane leading from St Lo down which we rode to the indignation of the inhabitants. Between St. Lo and Coutance the road is hilly but we were fortunate in obtaining some excellent milk at some wayside cottages. We stopped the night at Coutance which beyond the cathedral has little of interest - and started the next morning en route to Granville.
Day's ride 41 miles Total 240.
The road to Granville lay up and downhill with occasional glimpses of the sea to the right. At Granville we had a bathe in the sea followed by an excellent dejeuner at an hotel close to the beach.
From Granville the road ran close to the sea through the village of St. Pierre, and a magnificent view over the bay of St. Michel declared itself before we turned off to Avranches. There is a steep hill leading to Avranches where we readily found the hotel.
Day's ride 41 miles. Total 281
After dinner we went to a public garden with a splendid view of the river Ban, with Mount St. Michel in the distance.
View from Avranches
With the assistance of the waiter of the hotel and several matches we examined the only remaining pillars of the ancient abbey where Henry II did penance for the murder of Becket. There is also a new cathedral in the course of erection which is a fine piece of work. We left Avranches the next morning and proceeding by sundry narrow and crooked lanes, arrived at the causeway leading to Mount Michel.
Here we were mobbed by Hotel touts but took up our quarters in one of the houses belonging to Madame Poulard Aine. Up on the side of the hill, we paid a long visit to the wonderful fortress abbey with its dungeons, in one of which a prisoner stepping in a certain part was projected on the rocks & thence into the sea. In another dungeon the unfortunate was shut in an iron cage & starved to death etc. etc. There is a wax work museum with representations of victims in several gruesome conditions on the rocks. After dejeuner we walked round the base of the rock which it is possible to do at low tide, minus shoes and stockings.
Isle of Tombelaine from Mont St. Michel.
The way the tide comes in over the miles of sand in a regular wave is one of the sights of the rock. After tackling two helpings of the famous omelette for which Madame Poulard is renowned, we retired to our quarters where we could see the other visitors retiring to their houses, carrying paper lanterns which had a very pretty effect when seen from above.
La Rue de l'Horloge (Dinard?)
We left Mont St. Michel in company with the Vice Principal of Maynooth College, also on a cycle and parted with him at Pontorson. The road to Dol is for the most part hilly and going up one of the hills I saw a large green lizard the only specimen of the reptile class we met with. At Dol a market was in progress, and we much admired the quaint Brittany caps worn by the women. Each village has a different kind of cap worn in a particular way. The cap of Dol being a very pretty one. These caps are made of white linen with edgings and of lace, and some are merely tube like strips tied in fancy knots. The centre of the little town was given up to stalls and booths. We had dejeuner at Dol, and then fell in with an American and his wife, who told us to go and see a famous Druidical stone about a mile from the town.
This stone had a crucifix on the top which had been added to wean the superstitious Bretons from the Ancient Druidical worship. Such tokens according to our Yankee friend are far from uncommon in Brittany. We saw at Dol also a beautiful collection of antique furniture, laces etc. in company with the American who left Dol in advance of us. When we left it was about two o'clock and we caught the Yankees engaged in repairing a puncture of a tubeless tyre at the roadside. As we were unable to be of any assistance we pushed on along a hilly road towards Dinan. Near this place I missed Warne who had lagged behind a bit and after waiting some time rode back towards meeting him fearing an accident. I met the Americans and explained matters to them and as they considered that W. must have taken another road we pushed on into Dinan where we found this had been the case. Between Dol & Dinan we had passed through one or two small villages but otherwise the road is not particularly interesting.
Days ride 45. Total 343.
Viaduct over river entering Dinan.
Warne had taken rooms at an hotel and the rest of the evening and following morning we devoted to the exploration of Dinan -
Between Dinan & Jugon passed seven stone crosses by the roadside erected to seven brothers killed in the revolution and buried beneath.
At Dinan there is another Cathedral and some very quaint streets. There are also some ancient walls and the towers of the Duchess Anne used now as a prison.
Piece of water at Jugon.
From Dinan we got to Jugon which is a pretty little village situated among high hills prettily wooded. Here we had dejeuner at a very comfortable little inn and after a rest proceeded to Jamballe which looks imposing with the cathedral perched on the side of a hill. There were preparations being made for a fete and dance near this church - which is not so imposing when near. We met a French rider further on with a puncture and offered him assistance but he was making for the railway which was not far off. There is a very long and steep hill into St. Brieuc where we arrived in time for dinner.
Day's ride 40. Total 383.
Contours map of the ascent to St. Brieuc.
At St Brieuc we had electric light in our bedroom as also a telephone. The electric light flashed up when the door was opened but went out when it was shut.
We left St. Brieuc in the morning and parted with the Americans who arrived some hours after us.
At the hotel was a young Englishman & his wife who were of the butterfly cyclist order. They tried to make out that the Brittany roads were absolutely unrideable, but we sized them up correctly. At St. Brieuc there is a fine monument to the native soldiers who fell in the German war. The churches are comparatively insignificant. There was another long hill to get up a short way out of St. Brieuc and more than one quaint little village. We almost ran full tilt into the midst of a crowded market place at Chatelaudren. There is little of interest on the road to Guingamp which we reached in time for dejeuner. There were two sentries at the gate of the hotel where we stopped as one of the French generals was stopping there. In a church at the upper part of the town there were some fine windows and also a model ship slung from the roof; a common sight in Brittany churches. From Guingamp to Belle Isle en Terre the road was somewhat monotonous. Here we stopped and had some coffee.
Great Viaduct At Morlaix.
From Belle Isle en Terre to Morlaix road was the worst we had as yet experienced and I think we must have gone a bit astray.
Eglise Notre-Dame de Croaz-Baz.
The surface was rough and covered with large stones with grass growing in patches and throughout of the switchback character. To add to our enjoyment the weather was very hot and it was with feelings of the liveliest satisfaction that we got to the hotel at Morlaix after a very tiring day.
Day's ride 56 Total 439.
St. Col Le Clachet a jour Facade de la Cathedral.
After a good nights rest we had a look at several of the old houses in Morlaix two of which had wonderful staircases of carved wood running from the top to the bottom of the house circular in shape. We also saw the museum and picture gallery and then set out again on the road to Brest at St. Thégonec there is a wonderful stone Calvary with nearly life-sized stone figures representing the various incidents of the Passion. An excessively quaint piece of work.
Viaduct and quayside.
At Landivisia, where we stopped for dejeuner, there was a magnificent piece of carved oak in the shape of a cathedral chair. Here we met a French doctor on a cycle who rode with us to Brest. Near Landerneau we passed the ruin of an old castle on a hill beside the river. This position of the road was very pretty, but after leaving Landerneau it rapidly assumed the busy look which showed we were getting near Brest.
Brest - Vue Panoramique du Port de Guerre.
Brest - Descente au Port de Commerce.
We parted with the Frenchman at Brest after standing him a drink in a cafe crowded with French sailors. We had some difficulty in finding the hotel but thanks to the courtesy of a French soldier at length got there. After dinner we took a tram to explore the town, these trams are electric and are like those at Rouen. They go at a great pace and after traversing various streets we got to an outlying suburb about 4 miles from the town Brest; here the tram stopped and not being able to get another we had the pleasure of walking back to the hotel which we reached about 10.30.
Day's ride 41 miles. Total 480.
The next morning we had to be up early so as to catch the boat to Le Fret which lies at the other side of the harbour. This we did lifting our machines down the steps shown on the preceding page. As the boat only crosses every second and third day our stay in Brest was naturally short. The harbour is magnificent, deep water close to the shore, and beautifully clear. At Sanniol we stopped for some coffee & bread as our morning meal had been somewhat a scanty one.
Quimper - La Rue Keneon.
Quimper - La Passenelle du 8.
Thence the road was hilly but pretty in the extreme with a lovely view over Douarnenez bay. Our difficulties here began for the roads not being so well supplied with sign posts we lost our way and found ourselves at St Nic. Here I missed Warne - who turned off by another road. The heat was terrific and I was quite baked when I got to Locronan at the top of a steep hill, with absolutely no shade. All this district is among the mountains of Assée which, though as mountains are not high for cycling purposes, are quite sufficient, especially under a grilling sun.
Quimper - Le Champ de Bataille et la Prefecture
At Locronan I got some dejeuner consisting of sardines omelette some doubtful stew, fruit cheese & coffee, which latter, you always get fairly good; then a rest and I pushed on to Quimper, at the side of the road I fastened two missives to sign posts to let Warne know the hotel, in case he happened to be behind, and then pushed on to Quimper. Where I arrived about 4 o'clock at the cathedral while waiting for Warne and was getting very anxious on his account, when to my relief he turned up having broken his chain on the road, which he fortunately was able to men - he never got my missives.
Day's ride 38. Total 518.
Quimper is a delightful pretty spot and we spent the rest of the day and the next morning to exploring its streets and left after dejeuner for Quimperlé.
Quimper - Le Port.
From Quimper there is a long hill about 4 kilometres to get up and then a very fine piece of road nearly dead level to Quimperlé. We passed several Breton men, with large black hats with long black ribbons blue coats ornamented with black velvet, and either yellow or gold lace en route and made a short stop at Rosporden, an interesting village, for some cider.
At Quimperlé we had a slight shower, but the place itself was dirty and uninteresting. The door of the church on the hill is about all there was to see of an antique character, and the scenery round was nothing out of the ordinary.
Day's ride 31. Total 549.
We left Quimperlé the next morning and leaving Lorient on our right proceeded by Pont Scorff to Hennebont. Here we had our dejeuner for the most part composed of various kinds of delicious fresh fish some of which we saw being carried up alive by the market women.
We had a look at the Cathedral and the remains of the old walls with which the old town was surrounded and then went on leisurely to Auray which we reached about 5 o'clock. Here we put up at an hotel and after a stroll to the top of a tower, from which there is a fine view, returned for dinner, then out to see what is called the chapel of the Expiation, about a mile from Auray.
Quimperlé to Auray 33m. Total 582m.
Bai De Quiberon.
The next day leaving our bags at the hotel we started from Auray towards Plouharnel, but turned off to the left about a mile or two from that place, and with the aid of the filed glass, I described one of the large groups or avenues of stones which we soon reached. These stones are arrayed in parallel lines of about 10 to 12 stones or more in breadth, and are divided into three principal groups. Each stone is at least 5 feet high, some being double that height, and there are some thousand or so of them. There is a large mound near Carnac with an ancient church.
Tower at Auray.
The mound is said to be the site of one of Caesar's camps and is also said to have four subterranean chambers in which beads etc. have been found, but these chambers are not open to the public. From this church (St. Michel) you can see Belle Isle. Quiberon, the island of Honat and other islets. An Englishman, who I met, amused me much with his pomposity but was glad to avail himself of my more than indifferent French. From the church I went to the museum, where I saw various flint implements pottery etc. which had been found in the neighbourhood.
40m. Total 622m.
Cromlech Kergavat near Carnac.
After lunch I rode round to see the Cromlech, and saw all the large ones, and then went down to beach where I had a bathe. After the bathe, along towards La Trinité - where crossed a fair sized estuary in a rowing boat. At Lochmariaquer there are some enormous stones and a very fine Cromlechs covered over by an immense flat stone which must have weighed several tons. All these Cromlechs are looked after by the state and properly labelled. In the one at Lochmariaquer there are some tracings on the stone walls of what looks like a sword cut in the floor though the meaning of the spiral like tracing has not been deciphered. A solitary stone is called a Menhir, and there was an immense one at Lochmariaquer - but unfortunately it had fallen and separated into three pieces. There are one or two other Cromlechs on the road between Lochmariaquer and Auray, but they do not compare with the table of the 'Table of the Merchants', as they call the one covered with the large flat stone already mentioned.
Le Grand Menhir Lochmariaquer.
As time was pressing the next day we left Auray by train and travelling by Redon & Rennes arrived at St. Malo that evening. Here we spent the night and the next day, for the boat did not leave till the evening. We visited the tomb of Chateaubriand on an island accessible at low tide, and had a bathe.
Le Tombeau de Chateaubriand au Grand-Bey.
We met three Scotchmen like ourselves on tour at St. Malo and they left the hotel with us. We left St. Malo about 6.30 pm and arrived at Southampton about 8 in the morning. I mended a puncture in Southampton, bade adieu to Warne - and rode to Winchester thence trained to Clapham Junction from which station rode to Norwood. The number of miles ridden in France being 564 as measured by cyclometer and the expenses about 8 to 10 francs a day. Number of days taken being - 19 altogether and 15 riding days in France.
Saint-Malo - la Grande Porte.
The Amiens Run.
Leaving Bernéval on Sept. 2 1898 after a very frugal meal on a glorious sunny day. Thence via Argues with its castle on the hill and along the valley to Neufchatel passing several small French villages of the usual type. Dejeuner at Neufchatel and thence via Paix along straight uninteresting roads with one splendid piece of coasting to Amiens where arrived about 5 o'clock.
;Miles - 68.
Went round cathedral - very splendid. Then dinner, at which there was nearly a fracas among some Frenchmen, apparently about the Dreyfus case. Had a stroll round the town after dinner. Left Amiens the next morning and it took some miles to get clear of the town. Then along the valley of the Soane with splendid views to the right of hill & an occasional old building surrounded by trees with the river in the foreground.
About midday arrived at Abbéville where had dejeuner. Had a look at Cathedral which is very short but high. From Abbéville along straight roads to Eu thence without incident to Bernéval - where arrived in time for dinner.
Miles 63. Total for two days 131.
Met Warne at Godstone 1 o'clock. Had lunch. Strong head wind. Started with brown paper over knees and mackintosh as the rain was coming down heavily & being blown into one by the wind. Stopped at Cuckfield 'Maiden's Head'. Had games of billiards. Wind as bad as worse - next morning regular gale with more rain & roads heavy. Rode to Eastbourne. Where stopped at 'Anchor' had to watch the last mile as the wind was so strong. After lunch walked as far as cliff along the front. Waves very high. Trained to Croydon.
Feb. 18. 99
Met Warne at Sennocke Arms - Seven Oakes. 19 miles which took 1 hour & ¾ to reach. After lunch via Ightham, Borough Green to West Malling where went over old ruins of Abbey - shown same by a clergyman who asked me to stop & have tea.
Before reaching Leybourne got enveloped in dense fog out of which rushed three scorchers one of whom I collided with. With result that both the upper & lower tubes of my machine were bent and the other fellow was badly hurt about the head. With the aid of Warne & the two undamaged scorchers got wheel into shape & rode gingerly on through Snodland & Cuxton to Cobham. Within half a mile of which got a puncture. Stopped night at Leather Bottle Cobham.
The next day went over Alms Houses, formerly old college opposite the inn, and just before leaving found one of the cork handles of machine eaten away by a tame monkey belonging to the house. Rode from Cobham by bye roads to Farmingham thence via Eynesford & Orpington, Hayes & Anerley home without further incident.
April 15. 1899
Left Norwood about 12 o'clock, weather fine but inclined to be showery, in company with Warne. Roads very heavy and greasy. Met with a bit of a shower near Rayner Park. Rode along tow path from Kingston to Hampton Court and stopped at Staines for lunch. Warne had a peg, as owing to the weight he carried he was a bit done. He also smashed a saddle spring which had to be repaired with copper wire. From Staines through Windsor to Maidenhead where had dinner, a couple of games at billiards & bed.
Sunday. Fine at starting - rode to Henley where met Nightingale, who was with us at same hotel at Bernéval, on the bridge. From Henley we rode on to Benson or Bensington. Where had lunch - very cold wind. Stopped at Dorchester and saw the abbey, then through heavy rain to Oxford where we put up at the 'King's Arms'; got a pair of bedroom slippers from the waiter - put on a pair of dry stockings and India-rubber thigh pieces, which were too thin to keep out wet, and dried before fire. Rained for rest of evening so went early to bed.
After breakfast went to see Shedonian theatre. Where sat in the president's chair - good view from gallery. Thence to Magdalen College where saw Chapel & thence to St. Mary's Church in high St. where Cranmer was brought up before Bonner. Also saw where he was burnt - Martyr's memorial Christ Church Cathedral and Quad, and the exterior of various colleges. Left Oxford after lunch and rode to Banbury along an undulating road. Nearing Banbury another heavy shower, had tea & some Banbury cakes, had a look at the Cross and an old house called the Globe house now Reindeer Inn, where Cromwell is said to have held a council of war. Put up at George & Dragon and after chat with landlord went to bed. Raining.
Fine for a change. Rode to Edgehill where went up a tower of a sort of ruined castle erected to commemorate the battle. Splendid view Warne rode down the hill. As my brake was rather worn, did not attempt it. Arrived at Stratford on Avon about 1.30 where had an excellent cold lunch, then took a boat on the Avon. Saw the church which is magnificent, but the begging carried on by the clergy infamous. Also saw Shakespeare's house where the charge of 1/- for seeing two or three ordinary rooms is extortionate. Went out to Shottery to Anne Hathway's cottage and then by a quiet road to avoid crowd from races to Warwick. Country very pretty. Stopped at Warwick Arms and after dinner had a walk round the town and saw the castle from the Bridge by moonlight, then had a smoke and saw some of mine hosts, Sheffield ware & Old Worcester china, & then to bed.
Saw the church which has a drive for carriages beneath the central towers, with the Beauchamp chapel & crypt, in-which is an old ducking stool. One of the old town gates, with a small church built on top then the castle with wonderful old weapons, and some splendid Vandykes & Holbeins, then on to Guys Cliff, where we sat beside an old mill in the sun on some stones overhanging the Avon and smoked the pipe of peace. On the hill just outside Guys Cliff we saw the monument to Piers Gaveston, but could not get near it as the grounds had been damaged by Coventry roughs & the owners had stopped access. We stopped at Kenilworth for lunch and after seeing the castle, which is disappointing, rode into Coventry where saw the figure of Peeping Tom, and after a ride down a few streets and some tea, we caught the North Western to Willesden & on via Victoria home.
Belgium & French Tour 1899.
Left Anersley station in evening, in company with Warne, & trained direct to Liverpool St. thence changed to main line and took train to Harwich - where crossed to Antwerp by steamer 'Norwich' - fine passage. Train from Antwerp to Brussels and after a change there to Namur. Luggage taken - bag on Turner's carrier behind saddle and bag in frame. Contents two spare shirts, stockings, handkerchiefs, half dozen linen & two celluloid collars, pyjamas, soap, shaving tackle etc. 2 small dictionaries CTC & TCF handbooks, maps, mackintosh.
We arrived at Namur in afternoon and rode down through the town to the Meuse, where we had a bathe in river, which flows very strongly. Were about to swim across but were pursued by bathing man in boat so gave up the attempt. A little way out of Namur stopped for some bread & butter, coffee & strawberries, 90 centimes - and along the river towards Dinant. The scenery along the Meuse is very fine as the river winds about, and has high hills covered with trees. There were numerous crosses marking the sites of fatal accidents presumably - driving along road the surface of which improved towards Dinant there were also a number of very pretty little villages on the route.
At Dinant we stopped at the hotel des Ardennes and there we fell in with the Wild Bore of the Ardennes, in the shape of a stuffy Englishman who knew everything, and more than everything, about the country round. After dinner we ascended the hill near the fort through the gardens of a café in which there was a band playing, and from the top of this hill there is a fine view over the valley of the Meuse, but the view inland is cut off by other hills. The next day, after coffee and rolls, we started for Rochefort and in going out of town passed between an isolated rock like a needle separated from the cliff. In Dinant the bread was made in some very peculiar shapes in some of the shops.
After leaving Dinant we had a hill of about 4 to 5 kilometres to push up, and the country between Dinant & Rochefort was of an undulating type with some fine views at times. At Rochefort we stopped for dejeuner. Rochefort itself is an uninteresting little place, but possesses some grottos of caves somewhat similar to those at Han but smaller. After Dejeuner we left Rochefort, and after a pretty ride of 4 or 5 miles arrived at the village of Han where we put up the machines and took a seat in a car to go to the caves. We had a great conversation with a Belgian & his lady who were also bent on seeing the caves.
The caverns at Han are situated beneath a high limestone hill and have no doubt been formed by the action of the water as the river Lesse flows through them, & in winter as after heavy rain, the caves are impassable. The length is about a mile passing through narrow passages with stalactites of great length and marvellous shapes and opening out into great chambers.
The guides show the extent of these by lighting strips of wick steeped in paraffin or magnesium light. One of the caves is very large and has quite a Dante aspect. The stalactites take various shapes and are spoiled by being blackened by the torches. The exit from the cave is made by boat and the first glimpse of daylight has a wonderful effect, somewhat like moonlight; on getting into the boat we heard a great noise of chirping and twittering far up in the dark roof overhead, this was caused by multitudes of bats disturbed by the noise of the boat.
Just as the boat got near the entrance and was still beneath the massive roof of the cavern, a cannon was fired and the noise made by it was terrific - the rocks round the boat seemed to be flying to pieces by some volcanic phenomenon. From the exit we walked to the hotel where we had left our machines, and retracing our wheels to Rochefort, arrived at Jemelle some 3 or 4 miles from that place where we decided to stop for the night. The price for admission to the caves at Han is rather high being 7 francs for each person.
After dinner at Jemelle we went for a stroll and here we discovered a number of flies with a luminous appearance, which when caught exhibited all the appearance of a glow-worm with wings added.
The night at Jemelle was somewhat a noisy one, as in the 1st place the railway being at the back & the trains continually whistling - then some people with an accordion at about 2 a.m., then more walking about overhead. Add to these cats, dogs, cocks & hens and try to go to sleep in a similar situation.
We left Jemelle fairly early and after a time got on a very pretty road with a good surface running by the side of a river, this after a bit gave rise to more hilly country but well wooded & pretty 'till we found ourselves on the top of a high hill with a notice board of the Belgian Touring Club advising caution. Down this we ran and about half way my cyclometer went flying like a rocket through the air - after a search found the pieces and with the assistance of Warne fixed it up with copper wire at La Roche, where we had arrived, we stopped for Dejeuner.
La Roche is a very pretty place lying as it does at the bottom of a valley through which the river Ourthe flows and having a ruined castle on a mound in the centre of the town. There were a great number of people at the Dejeuner and a few cyclists, we also saw a couple of men on motor bicycles, which did not seem strong enough for the weight on them.
We had a stroll through the town & bought some cigars at a shy, the proprietor of which, being somewhat in his cups wanted to reduce us to a similar condition as a mark of friendship. There were signs of thunderstorms with some bright lightening & thunders and we decided to push on, which we did riding along the valley of the Ourthe, we had to take shelter for a little time and were joined by two Belgium cyclists who were going the same way.
Grand Duché de Luxembourg.
One of these was an elderly man of somewhat a Jewish type and as we had a long hill of nearly 4 miles to push up, we engaged in conversation. The other man was younger and the Jewish gent described him as a sprinter. The scenery, pushing up this hill, was very fine high hills covered with trees and a branch of the Ourthe tumbling over boulders, away to our left. Near the top the strangers pointed out what is said to be the highest hill in Belgium, and which lay about a mile or so away. I was greatly amused with the Jewish representative, who allowed a country man to push his machine up the long hill for one cigar, worth about 1 d. at the most.
At the top of the hill there was a small village, of an Irish type where a number of men were playing bowls, here the Belgians insisted on standing drinks. After this we had some grand pieces of downhill where Warne & I left our late companions. The road now lay along the banks of the river and was very pretty. We got to Houffalize which has a somewhat Swiss appearance, and after waiting about 20 minutes for the others we made for the Hotel des Postes, where we put up.
After a good dinner we had a stroll upon one of the hills and then went across to the annex of the hotel where we met a party of Belgian ladies & gentlemen who asked us to join in their games. These we found to be somewhat amusing. Warne scored by playing an animated game of 'blind man's bluff'. I bonnetted an old french lady while blindfold at the instigation of a younger one, but I had my revenge on the latter, in a game of forfeits, amidst cries of Vive L'Angletérre!
We broke up about 11 p.m. and the next morning were en route once more we had an undulating road, not particularly picturesque to Bastogne where we got some smokes, thence by more undulating roads and a long downhill descent to Ettlebruck, which is picturesque. Before arriving at Wiltz we passed the frontier and had to exhibit our bicycle permit before the officials allowed us to pass.
At Wiltz after Dejeuner and a stroll round the town we got some more smokes and then pushed on over undulating country, with some long hills (one very long - about 4 miles) to Ettlebruck and from thence along a flat road to Diekirch. Where we put up at the Hotel des Ardennes, here we met a Ms. Galet, secretary of the Cosmos Society, which is apparently a mutual aid society of an International character. The next morning leaving all our luggage at the hotel, we rode to Brandenbourg which is very picturesque with an old castle & old houses overhanging the river, thence we retraced our steps and pushed on for Vianden, up a long and steep hill.
Warne had enough of it and turned back, but I pushed on and after another mile or so was rewarded with a splendid view of the castle at Vianden perched on an isolated spur with the town & river at its base, the colouring being splendid and the view being the best on the trip. I descended the hill and bought some photos & post cards at the house of Victor Hugo, who was an exile here in 1870-71, close to the bridge.
After some of the beer of the country, I toiled back over the hill and arrived at the hotel just at the hour for dejeuner. In spite of this I got some towels from the proprietor and went down to the hotel baths in the river where I discovered Warne. The baths consisted of a wooden raft arrangement with a sort of well with a ladder in the centre but totally distaining this we plunged into the river, where after a refreshing twenty minutes we made havoc with the dejeuner.
After this meal we left Diekirch, and then Warne had a puncture which he mended by the side of road. From Ettlebruck we had a fairly flat run to Luxembourg where we arrived in time for dinner and put up close to the Grand Ducial palace. Luxembourg is rather pretty, most of the town standing high and having isolated spurs of rock and some remains of the old fortification.
The shuffling of the sentry, with other noises, made the night anything but quiet. After a look round the town we pushed on to Arlon where we had Dejeuner and witnessed the march past of a large part of the Luxembourg infantry. When Dejeuner was over Warne & I pushed out of the town - he, rushing down over the cobblestones with his feet on the rests. We stopped about 3 or 4 miles for a rest & smoke.
Warne saying that the head of his machine had tightened up a bit. Not thinking this anything out of the ordinary, I pushed on - Warne stopping to continue his smoke and to take things easy. After a few miles I saw that we were in for a big thing in thunderstorms and pushed on so as to get to Florenville where we had arranged to stop before the roads got soaked.
I got within about 3 miles of Florenville but had to take shelter in a café where I had some coffee while it rained and lightened pretty briskily. I then pushed on to Florenville - where I arrived about 4.30.
Waited about near entrance to village for Warne, and had talk with village blacksmith, then about 6 rode back a little way, and waited by roadside, then had dinner, and after explaining the position to an Englishman at the hotel, who advised me to stay where I was, I went to the only other hotel in place and enquired there - but no sign of Warne.
After dinner, walked back along road then kept watch outside hotel till about 11 p.m. but no sign of the missing one. After an anxious night I sent a telegram to the hotel at Arlon with a prepaid reply - to know if Warne had gone back there, and when the reply arrived, to say that he had not - I got on machine, leaving luggage at Florenville, & sought information at the small villages on the road.
At the first two or three there was no news, but at a small hamlet about 8 or 9 miles from Florenville I gathered from a man that a cyclist answering to Warne's description, and with a bag in the frame of his machine, had passed there the evening before about 5 o'clock pushing his machine and with a grand perspiration, but that he was not hurt.
I then tried some of the villages a little off the route but could get no news. All this time a drizzling rain was falling - so decided to go back to Florenville. Just entering that place, I was passing a cart, when I caught sight of a broken bicycle in the back - looked up and discovered Warne and all was joy. It appeared that just before reaching the village, where I got news of him, that the tube, in connection with the forks of his front wheel, had snapped across
and that it was only by putting in a piece of wood that he could push it to the village where he stopped the night. Jamoigne by name. After dejeuner we took the machine to the local repairer. But Warne being unwilling to trust his neck to a local repairer decided to return to England via Ostend. An old Frenchman at Florenville earned my gratitude, by his kindly sympathy, during an anxious period.
I left Warne at Florenville and started for Orval where there are remains of an extensive abbey. These I saw, and then had my passport signed and sealed at the Belgian frontier. On the French frontier I had to pay about 5 d. for a permit for bicycle, and then rode along a slightly undulating road through Carignan and some smaller places, to Sedan where arrived about 5 o'clock and put up at the Hotel d'Europe.
After dinner saw a torchlight procession, with bands by the soldiers horse & foot though the town and then went to bed. The next morning after the Café au lait, cycled out to Bazeilles taking a wrong road and having to push over a hill covered with cornfields etc. to get back on the main road. At Bazeilles saw the house made famous by De Neuville in the picture Ses dernieres Cartouches. There is a museum in the lower room containing bullets, shells, shakos, portraits of the French & German leaders at the time of the battle, and various other relics. Amongst other things I noticed a Union Jack on the wall and on asking the woman who was showing the various curiosities where it had come from was told that it was the flag of the English Ambulance, who had come to the assistance of the French.
I bought a couple of photos of the house at Bazeilles and was taken upstairs by the proprietor to see the room made famous by De Neuville's picture. This is said to be in the same state as it was on the day of the battle and the hole made by a shell in the ceiling, together with the marks made by the bullets on a cabinet in the room, are faithfully reproduced in the picture. After leaving the house of the Last Cartouche, I went to the cemetery at Bazeille, in the centre of which is a monument, beneath which 2,000 dead are stated to be interned.
The upper part of this monument is a sort of promenade, in the centre of which is a stone obelisk with four stone sarcophagi, at the angles below there is a large vault with an iron gate, just infront of which was a stone with an inscription to say that it was erected over the dead slain in the war of 1870. On entering the vault on the right hand side was a notice bearing the word 'Francais' and on the left the word 'Allemands'. The shape of the vault was as shown below
Stone with inscription
On the French side of the central hall or passage were numerous wreaths decorated with the tri-coloured ribbon from various regiments & patriotic societies, but on the German side there were no wreaths. The skulls were arranged in long rows inside each cell, as shown in the diagram, and behind there were bones, boots, fragments of dress, the crosses put up on the field immediately after the battle and other mangled remnants of the fight, all these could be plainly seen through the barred gate at the entrance of each little cell, and I have stated there are said to be over 2,000 dead buried here.
In the square at Bazeilles is a monument erected to the inhabitants of that village who fell in the battle and there is a similar though more pretentious kind of monument in Sedan itself. I had dejeuner in Sedan and then started for Hirson. As this was the 14 th. of July and the day of the 'Fete National' all the streets in the town and villages were decorated with flags & triumphal arches while fireworks of the signal and maroon order were being let off in the streets. French flag at main & Blue Ensign at stern order of day.
The road from Sedan to Hirson is not very picturesque, passed through Mezieres & Charleville met a postman on a bicycle going the same way as I was and was almost run down by same while riding together. Found that the poor fellow had lost his hand,hence his difficulty in steering. Noticed several gendarmes with dogs and revolvers along this road evidently patrolling.
Arrived at Hirson about 8. The square opposite hotel decorated with lanterns and a bandstand gaily decorated just opposite. After dinner the band arrived and the people began to dance polkas and a sort of square dance. On the outskirts were numerous stalls & booths with sweets etc. and the merry go-around with the steam organ. The dancing was kept up till nearly 2 am. but had got quite oblivious before then.
Left Hirson the next morning and rode along an undulating country to La Capelle, nearing which my saddle spring in front broke. Went to the local repairer and got a new one somewhat rough in appearance but strong. Also got a watch glass on my watch. I had dejeuner at La Capelle which is a quiet little country town. Had a chat with some decent sort of Frenchmen at the Hotel. The people at Hirson being rather of a surly disposition and not easy to get on with.
After leaving La Capelle had some miles of good road through a forest for part of the way and then came to a wide stretch of pave with here and there rough pieces of McAdam by the side along which it was possible to ride this continued to Cateau Cambresis where I lost my way and was taking the road to Valenciennes when a kindly labourer, who informed me that he was a Belgian, showed me the way back to the main road.
Here I was again on the cobbles all the way to Cambrai where I ppoposed stopping. I found the Hotel de Jambon given in the CTC book, but was not impressed with its outside aspect, however I went in and found that they had a room and that I could have dinner. After this I had a walk round some of the town which is of fair size. I sent off a postcard from the post office and then after a small glass of Benedictine went to bed.
I fastened my door, and about 12 o'clock the handle was violently turned. I call out 'Who's there - what do you want?' and heard a voice in French say something about making a mistake. This proved to be the occupant of the next room who judging by his twisting and turning which I could plainly hear though the thin wall had had just as bad a night with the heat as I had. The next morning started fairly early but had the blazing sun at my back and cobble stones all the way on an undulating road to Arras, about 20 miles distant.
Reached Arras in time for dejeuner and then pushed on at once for St Pol more cobble stones for a few miles and then at last a decent McAdamised road over an undulating country, with fields full of white poppies along the sides. At St. Pol there was a fete, for the old Veterans, in progress and banners & music in the square in the centre of the town. I found the hotel near the railway station and as a commencement, had a citron & seltzer water, while removing the dust etc. from my clothes. Had a stroll round the town which is a small one and not very interesting.
Before leaving St Pol discovered a puncture in back tyre of small size made by a small piece of flint. Mended same and pushed on over a somewhat pretty road to Hesdin - where had a capital dejeuner, after which went on through Montreuil by the side of a river, to Etaples which is quite a small place.
Here crossed the river by a bridge and by some small country roads through some little villages. Where met a French cyclist who showed me a path through the woods (of young trees) to Paris Plage. I stopped at the Hotel de Plage and first took my front mud-guard to the local repairer - the iron piece holding it to forks having broken and being held up with a shoe lace.
After leaving this, went down for a bathe, and on getting out to barely swimming distance was pursued by a boat and requested to return. Paris Plage is a new holiday resort with numbers of houses or chalets in process of building and there seemed to be quite a number of very smartly attired French people there for the bathing, which consists of getting into two feet of water and jumping up & down.
The next morning I left Paris Plage, but taking a wrong turn, went some way wrong in getting to Etaples. Here met an American artist who directed me to the road for Boulogne. After a few miles the road forked and there being no sign post took the larger of the two this gradually dwindled and got smaller till it ended in a cart track. On a hill near by discovered some harvesters and their master who directed me to take a rough track across the fields which he said would lead to the Boulogne road.
Took the track, but got lost among the corn & other crops, and after pushing about a couple of miles or so over hills & tracks at length got to road. Ran along this to a village where, being baked with sun and hardly able to talk, got a couple of bowls of milk which eased matters a bit. From this village got on main road which was somewhat hilly and arrived at Boulogne for dejeuner.
At the hotel they had a notice that here they speak English, but on asking a question in that language they asked me to speak in French. Boulogne did not impress me, though a large place. The caps of the French fish women are very picturesque. Pushed up a hill out of Boulogne and along an undulating road with fine views of the sea to Ambleteuse.
It was here that the one piece of metal supporting my saddle broke and made it very awkward riding, with the chance of the other side or one of the springs going also. Fixed it up temporarily with string. It was most uncomfortable riding through Wissant & Sangatte with a head wind and hills, & not a grand surface on the roads. The scenery by Cape Gris Nez & Cape Blanc Nez was picturesque.
Put up at the Grand Hotel at Calais and had a hot bath at the hotel and walked through the town. The next day had an early dejeuner, preceded by a bathe, and then caught the boat to Dover. Had a calm passage, followed by a very hot & dirty run to Victoria,where caught the 5.35 home.
To Havre and Trouville (west, along coast)
Sept. 13 1899.
Left Bernéval after lunch about 2.30 with Doune, rode to Dieppe thence via a somewhat hilly road to St. Valery, a pretty little fishing town with a Casino. Here had a bathe, somewhat cold, after had dinner at hotel the proprietor being very like Bismark. After dinner bought some Chinese lanterns (we had left our lamps) and rode on through Cany, rather a pretty place lying in a valley, thence to Fécamp down a very long steep hill where we arrived at about 11 pm. Had some difficulty in getting a bed owing to the lateness of hour.
Raining hard went over the Benedictine Manufactory and about 11.30 started out of Fécamp. Had dejeuner at a small roadside cafe much better than expected. Small puncture - roads very hilly. Arrived Etretat pretty fishing village at bottom of long hill, thence after some flat uninteresting roads to Havre, where put up for night.
Went across by steamer (from Le Havre) to Trouville where had dejeuner. Trouville bright looking place with some fine houses, clubs, Casino etc.. After look round rode (east) o Honfleur. A less pretentious place with a fishing population, thence took boat to Le Havre.
Left Havre at 6.30 (and travelling up-river), after a very wet night and blowing strong, by steamer 'Mouth of Seine', very rough. Dejeuner on board - heavy showers arrived Rouen about 1.30. Left machines at railway. Crossed by the Transporter new bridge. It being the first day this was running. Afterwards pottered about Rouen. Left by train & arrived at Dieppe about 7. Dinner, Hotel de Commerce. Arrived Bernéval about 10 pm.