Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Victorian travel’

On fine Sunday afternoons, the outskirts of Paris offered cheaper refreshments and popular bals as this one painted by Renoir

On fine Sunday afternoons, the outskirts of Paris offered cheaper refreshments and popular balls like this one painted by Auguste Renoir

 

In his Innocents Abroad Mark Twain divided travelling Americans into the Pilgrims and the Sinners. The Sinners enjoyed all the world had to offer in terms of amusement while the Pilgrims experienced a serious culture shock on several levels. For rock-solid Puritans such as the man who requested that the trans-oceanic steamship engines be stopped to observe the Sabbath, the sight of a  fun-filled Sunday boulevard was a direct path to Hell.  (Not to speak of –horror of horrors!—the nude statues in public places and more ‘nudities’ in the Louvre.)

The following text was written by James Jackson Jarves (1818–1888). This American newspaper editor and art critic visited Paris in the early 1850’s and published his impressions in Parisian Sights and French Principles  (1852). On the subject of Sunday he stands in the middle.

On this day Paris disgorges its population upon the Boulevards, the Champs Elysees, Bois du Boulogne, public gardens, and museums. The throng is interminable, but a more orderly, happier looking and better dressed crowd is nowhere to be seen. The working faubourgs send their population outside the barrier. In fine weather the Champs Elysees present the appearance of a fair. Every species of jugglery, Punch and Judy, concerts and dog shows, booths, games, and mountebank tricks are in full blast, and each becomes the centre of a curious circle. The roll of carriages and pleasure vehicles is incessant. Paris dines ” en ville,” or in other words, as pleasure is a part of a Frenchman’s creed and he is fond of good eating, he dines on that day with his family or friends at a restaurant, takes his coffee and brandy in the open air or on the sidewalk in front, and passes the evening at some theatre or ball. However remiss he may be at mass, this part of his religion is never neglected. The government encourage this mode of its observance by selecting it for grand reviews, races, launches, and whatever can add to the already seemingly superabundant sources of amusement. The grand waters at St. Cloud and Versailles play on Sunday, and the throng of people on the excursion trains of the railways is immense. Sunday is taken literally in the sense of a day of rest from ordinary work; consequently a day of liberty from otherwise the necessary labours of the remaining six might derange.

A Frenchman is as conscientious in defending his manner of keeping the Sabbath as an American would be in condemning it, though there are some, even Catholics, who agree with the latter. Education makes the difference. As the highest authority has declared Sunday was made for man, the surest way to test the relative merits of the two systems is by the effects on national character. The balance of physical happiness, and the enjoyment of the senses in works of art, would seem to be in favor of France ; but in the acquisition of religious instruction and the strengthening of moral principles, the graver course of the United States stands out in strong relief. The former renders the individual more joyous because less thoughtful — the latter more thoughtful and less joyous. The first, like their own champagne, sparkles, exhilarates and is gone ; the last, a solid aliment for the soul, nourishes strength for the hour of trial. A happy combination of the two would temper the one and adorn the other.

Related post:

Americans in Paris and the Kissing Protocol

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

 Place de l’Opéra

Place de l’Opéra

Charles C. Fulton was one of the incomprehensibly rich American tourists who invaded Paris two years after the twin calamities of the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the Second Empire. In 1871, the city was ruined by Prussian bombardment and the Commune of Paris revolution, both responsible for destroying and damaging many public buildings. It is therefore surprising that Fulton never mentions the wounds Paris had sustained. In the two years that followed, Paris seems to have risen from the ashes to dazzle the foreigners as it did under the reign of Napoleon III.

Excerpt from Europe Viewed Through American Spectacles by Charles C. Fulton.

Paris, August 18, 1873

It is not an easy matter at this late day to write letters from Paris that will interest and instruct. It is a city which everybody is familiar with, it having been so often described, and its attractions and beauties so vividly spread before the general reader that it would almost seem like undertaking to write something new about Baltimore. We have visited it so often, and ridden and walked through its multifarious thoroughfares until all its crooks and turns are as familiar to us as those of any of our leading American cities. Still there is something about Paris that makes it always appear bright, gay, and sparkling to the visitor.

The Parisian does not worship the “dust of ages” or take pride in smoked and begrimed walls as the Londoner does. If he has anything that is handsome he tries to make it handsomer. He is always rubbing, scrubbing, and polishing old things, or tearing them down to make room for something new and more beautiful. The four handsome clusters of gas-lamps in the centre of the Place de l’Opéra are not only kept as bright and elegant as the day they were put up, but the elaborate bronze lamp-posts are polished with as much regularity as the glasses of the lamps. If the slightest defect is observed in one stone in the street, it is relaid or replaced by a new one; and if a flaw in the asphaltum as large as a man’s hand is discovered, a repairing party is at work in a few hours, and the defect removed. Every tenant is held responsible for the cleanliness of the street before his door, and neither dirt nor rubbish of any kind is permitted. As in public matters, so also is those of private concern. They never allow their houses or store fronts to become dull or dingy. They are always arranging and rearranging the goods in their windows and striving to make them more attractive. All these scores of miles of boulevards are planted with sycamore trees. When they plant trees they take good care that they shall have a fair chance to grow, and they are all flourishing beautifully. Around each tree an iron grating, extending three feet each way, is inserted in the pavement, in order that its roots may have breathing-room and water. There are hundreds of thousands of these trees all thus planted, and all tended and watered by the city authorities. If one should happen to die, a tree of similar size is brought to take its place, that the uniformity may be unbroken. These trees are the pride of Paris, and are yearly becoming more serviceable as a shade to the broad sidewalks as well as a grand ornament to the boulevards.

Thus it is that the attractions of Paris are always increasing. No rust or decay is permitted , and old things are swept away as having served their day and generation. Antiquity has no worshipers, and is made to yield to the spirit of improvement. New squares, gardens, and fountains are following the march of improvement in the suburbs, and even in those quarters of the city where the poorer classes mostly reside, these pleasure-grounds are being fitted up as elegantly as in the wealthiest sections. Paris is not beautiful in spots, but every portion of it abounds in attractions.

Related posts:

The Bloodbath of the Paris Commune

How Germany was born in France

Read Full Post »

“Impériale” omnibus, early 1850’s

Parisian transport was regulated since the early 1800s and no public vehicle could circulate in the city without a special permit. In 1853, the first double-decker buses called impériales appeared in the streets. The upper floor was uncovered and admitted only male passengers as the women’s voluminous crinolines were a dangerous obstacle in climbing the steep steps. The creation of the Compagnie Impériale des voitures de Paris in 1855 merged all existing public transport companies. Twenty-five public transport lines covered 150 km of Parisian streets.  In the 1860s there were thirty-one omnibus lines, which served the city’s main thoroughfares from 8 a.m. until midnight.  Private cabs, hailed on the street and marked with red numbers, cost 2 francs the hour. Small steamboats known as mouches (flies) or hirondelles (swallows) plied the Seine.

The omnibuses were uncomfortable, with the users exposed to all winds. In inclement weather, the ride was very unpleasant. At the back, there was at first a ladder that was later replaced by a more convenient spiral staircase. There were 500 omnibuses and the company stables housed 7000 horses.

 

Capture

 

Above:  In 1855 Paris saw faster and larger two-horse omnibuses with 24 seats. Inside seats cost 30 centimes and included a transfer. A seat on the impériale cost 15 centimes, but no transfer was possible.

The construction of the Paris metro was a revolution in the French capital. The first line opened with the 1900 World Exposition


\

Read Full Post »

 (From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

Jean -Louis Forrain “At the Public Garden”, 1884

Beware of the flower girls at the bals publics, cafés chantants, and outside the theatres, as well as the wily advances of well-dressed and spoken women. The uncouth boldness of the street-walker will strike the visitor with immediate amazement and distaste: but how could one expect that under a lady-like appearance and language the Parisian gay woman hides the evil designs of a fallen angel, and laughs inwardly at the gullibility of her victims?

In markets barter is the rule: let an inexperienced lady make her appearance, and she will at once be asked the double the price that would be expected from an obviously sharp-witted French cook. There are no fishmongers in Paris: all fish are sold at the market.

Jews selling lorgnettes, plated jewellery &c., who may also offer you licentious, forbidden literature and illustrations.

The concierge, or caretaker of apartment buildings. This person, if offended, has it in his or her power to give much annoyance, mislaying letters, misinforming callers, and speaking ill of you to tradespeople.

It is desirable to avoid the free discussion of politics. The police are ubiquitous and zealous, with wide powers of arrest and detention. The wiser course must certainly be to express yourself with great temperance in referring to the Emperor and government of France, and not to do or say anything that may serve to lessen the entente cordiale at present existing between our nations.

***

This  concludes the The Guide series. I hope you have enjoyed the trip to the Second Empire Paris. Let me know!

Next: How to succeed in Paris

 

Read Full Post »

(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

Paris, the City of Light, is a veritable charivari of pleasures after nightfall; the visitor must only beware of not regretting the effects of a too-eager readiness to yield to the siren calls of its temptations and intoxications.

Theatres,  cafés chantants and dancing halls

The Grand Opéra, rue Pelletier. Properly the French Opera, run up in a hurry in 1821(to replace a building in the rue de Richelieu, at the door of which the Duc de Berri was stabbed and which was pulled down in consequence). In front of the portico, three dastardly Italians tried to assassinate the Emperor and the Empress in 1858, and now this building is being replaced too, by a splendid edifice designed by M. Garnier, due to open in 1871. The government provides 900,000 francs of annual subsidy. Peformances on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and often Sunday.

The Opéra Comique, Place des Italiens. In this handsome hall are presented lighter works, by modern composers such as Aber, Halévy, etc.

The Théâtre Italien, Place Boildieu. Here a select audience listens to Italian Opera, in a season which lasts from November to April (after which the singers generally repair to London).

The Théâtre Français, rue Richelieu. The seat of the French regular drama – classic works and modern alike, with a government subsidy of 240,000 francs. Molière was once its manager; in later years it has been the scene of triumphs of Talma and Rachel. The manager is allowed to withdraw an actor from any other theatre to the Comédie-Française (as it is also known) on one year notice.

The Odéon, near the Luxembourg. A minor Théâtre Français, but not an inferior one. Here Beaumarchais’ play Le Mariage de Figaro was first produced in 1784; nine years later, the entire troop of actors was arrested by order of the Revolutionary tribunal. It has several times been burnt down.

Théâtre des Variétés, Boulevard Montmartre. A neat and much-frequented house, in which the amusing musical vaudevilles of M. Offenbach can be seen.

The infamous Boulevard du Temple, or ‘Boulevard du Crime’, on which the smaller theatres played the most lurid and distasteful melodrama, has now been destroyed to make way for the regime’s march of progress.

The Théâtre Gymnase-Dramatique, Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, is respectable. The plays are moral and the performers are all married.

Note Ladies do not patronize the pit, or parterre, of any theatre; gentlemen admitted here should in the interval ensure their places by tying a handkerchief around the banquette. Be also warned that at the Grand Opéra, the claque sit here. This disagreeable cohort, paid by the management in this and other theatres to respond favourably to the entertainment in question, should on no account be shushed or silenced in their mercenary activities. An attempt to abolish the claques in 1853 proved totally unsuccessful after a fortnight.

Tickets for all Parisian theatrical performances may be booked from a central office on the Boulevard des Italiens; avoid the profiteers who swarm outside the more popular theatres – their offers are always excessive in price, and frequently entirely bogus!

Cafés chantants.  Spectators sit and listen to music, sometimes of a coarse nature, executed by performers often outrageously overdressed. No charge is made for admission, but one will be expected to take refreshment, usually of inferior quality. The company is not aristocratic, but the visitor need not fear annoyance or impropriety. The most celebrated of these institutions is L’Alcazar, rue du Faubourg Poissonière. Here the fabulous Theresa, whose salary exceeds 20,000 fr. per annum, sings, twice a week in the winter season, ditties of a satirical and even saucy turn.

Balls publics. It is difficult to imagine scenes more curious or fantastic than those presented by these public dancing halls. At the most refined level, balls masqués are presented during the winter in the Grand Opéra – the pit being boarded over and joined to the stage. Gentlemen may be admitted (10 fr.) in plain evening clothes, but ladies should be masked or in costume. The gorgeous and glittering revelry of the polka, waltz, and mazurka reaches its climax at 1 a.m. Strict etiquette is by no means the predominating characteristic of the fair who resort to this pleasantest of pandemonia. It will be conceived that if a visitor should take the ladies of his family to witness this display, he must take them to a box as a mere spectators, for to mingle with any of these too vivacious groups, could be worse than indiscretion.

Elsewhere public dancing halls abound. Some of the smaller establishments in the suburbs are little more than dens of all the vices: official efforts to curb their activities and proliferation have not been altogether effective.

In the centre of the city, more commodious establishments may be found, among them the Salle Valentino, rue S. Honoré. The architecture is a medley of the Moorish and Greek; the columns are gaily painted, and the recess is backed by mirrors which greatly enhances the brilliancy of the scene. There are a billiard table, a shooting gallery, a dynamometer for amateurs of muscular strength, and tables where trifles may be raffled for. The visitor must expect to see every variety of embrace not excepting the ursine hug. Admission 2-3 fr.

Jardin Mabille, Avenue Montaigne. A large circular space, with a pavilion for the orchestra in the centre, is reserved for the dancers, and lighted by a profusion of gas-lights suspended from artificial palm trees. A snug corner is laid out for refreshment; here the votary of Terpsichore may treat his partner to a refreshing lemonade. An immense covered saloon affords the visitor a secure asylum from bad weather. The company of this elegant garden comes under the description of ‘the gayest of the gay’, but licence is not carried beyond propriety. Admission 2 fr.

Would that the same could be said of the Salon de Wauxhall,  rue de la Douane, which partakes of the character of the manufacturing arrondissement surrounding it, and is not much more respectably attended than the Holborn Casino! The police make forays on its bacchic excesses, and arrests are made.

A novel and hilarious diversion is provided by an American importation. In the Roller Skating Club, rue Jean Goujon, skating on shoes soled with rubberized wheels is demonstrated daily by ‘Professor’ Fuller, a master of the Art who claims to have been ‘decorated by every Sovereign in the world with ice in his dominions’. The first of such institutions in Europe.

Next: Sightseeing

Read Full Post »

(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

The Grand Magazins du Louvre

Purchases

The visitor should note that Paris is the most expensive city in Europe. English sovereigns and half-sovereigns are generally accepted in lieu of native currency.

Much to be marveled at are the grands magasins or magasins de nouveautés, huge emporia divided into several floors and departments. These stores offer a wide range of dry goods, drapery, haberdashery, clothing, and furnishing. They are rigorously managed and quite respectable. Among smaller shops, American citizens may like to note the pharmacist Swann, rue Castiglione, by appointment to the American Embassy and the American Cracker Manufactory, Boulevard Malesherbes. Novel gifts ‘for the folk back home’ may be found at the establishment of M. Paul Morin, Boulevard Poissonière, whose jewellery is forged in that wonderful new metal, aluminium, which so impressed the Emperor at the recent International Exhibition that he commanded a dinner service made of the same. The Maison Violet, newly opened on the rue Scribe, occupies a vast insular salon, ornamented with frescoes and a superb chandelier of one hundred jets. The tone is essentially aristocratic. Inner boudoirs sell the paraphernalia of the toilette, notably the house’s own exclusive ‘Reine des Abeilles’, or Queen Bee, cosmetic preparations, by appointment to the Empress.

More on shopping in Paris under the Shopping category (for some reason Wordpress does not allow me internal links):

Clever and bizarre local items

Paris by gas-light

Next: Entertainment

Read Full Post »

(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

Le Train Bleu restaurant, Paris. Typical 2nd Empire interior design.

Restaurants and Cafés

Dinner is served between 4.30 and 8 p.m. Very large portions are the rule, and the visitor will find that one French appetite is sufficient for two Anglo-Saxon appetites.

The carte: nothing can be more bewildering to the stranger than to have this printed list, of some hundred dishes, placed in his hand, and he soon begins to feel uncomfortable at the contempt that his ignorance must inspire in the waiter. We, therefore, recommend – for reasons of as much economy as of personal dignity – that the visitor favours the fixed price menu of the day, available at all but the very smartest establishments.

For those who do not wish to risk the possibility of digestive contretemps, plain, wholesome English fare is offered by Lucas, in the rue Madeleine (ham or roast beef, with boiled cabbage and mashed potatoes, 1 fr. 20 c. English cheeses; half portions available); also by the well-established Byron’s Tavern, rue Favart, Taverne Britannique, rue Richelieu, and His Lordship’s Larder, rue Royale. Beware signs in windows advertising ‘Veritable Warranted Cheddar’ or ‘Stakes from London, Day and Night’.

The stranger should not as a rule venture below third class, but he may safely patronize a new form of eating house, the cremerie or bouillon, in which simple dishes and collations are constantly ready for instant purchase and consumption. These places do not minister to the refinement or romance of dining out in Paris; no ceremony beyond eating and paying is attached to them; but they do have the advantage of the utmost convenience.

For those who wish to sample the full glory of Parisian cuisine, with expense no object, we would single out Café des Anglais, Boulevard des Italiens. Obtaining a table is not easy; there are times when those without réclame or a title seem to be tacitly excluded. The restaurant upstairs (in which smoking is not permitted) has long been the haunt of la jeunesse aristocratique – the Duc de Rivoli, Prince Paul Demidoff, the Marquis de Modena &c. A beefsteak costs 1 fr. 75c. The cellars, which contain over 200,000 bottles of wine, including some of the Château Lafitte dating from the previous century, make a faery dining hall. The ground-floor café is but plain and typique, and open all night. Beware cocottes. Véfour, Galerie Valois. Salmon mayonnaise (the receipt a closely guarded secret), 2fr. 50c. The 36-page menu here lists twenty hors d’oeuvres, thirty-three soups, forty-six dishes of beef, thirty-four of game, as well as forty-seven of vegetables and seventy-one fruits en compote. Trois Frères Provençaux,  Galerie Beaujolais (not to be confused with its pallid imitator, the  Deux Frères Provençaux, rue Dauphine), has four salons and eighteen private rooms; fine wine, cod with garlic a speciality.

Note Ordinary red table wine is usually drunk mixed with aerated water – this precaution is especially recommended in inferior restaurants.

 

Ilya Repin “Scene from a Parisian Café” 1875

Paris boasts at least twenty thousand cafés. The more salubrious of them present the visitor with a sprightly scene. Around are luxurious couches for your accommodation; mirrors, gilding, and tasteful adornments of decorative skill enrich the walls; whilst every art that can be used to attract and retain the visitor is brought into operation – the daily journals, draughts, chess, dominoes, cribbage, and billiards. Excellent coffee, chocolate, and liqueurs are supplied at reasonable prices. Ladies are at perfect liberty to frequent these saloons and are numerously found there. The utmost decorum prevails, and the freedom and ease of conversation carried on in a low tone, form an additional attraction to these popular places of resort. Smoking is generally prohibited until the evening.

Coffee is served either as a demi-tasse (strong, black), or as a mazagran (in a glass, with an accompanying carafe of water), or as capuchin, with milk. Never tip, even for a single cup of coffee, less than 10c. Should you give less, you risk the embarrassment of an ironic shout of ‘Un sou pour le garçon!’

            Tortoni, Boulevard des Italiens. Renowned for its ices and sorbets. Café du Helder, Boulevard des Italiens. Open after the theatre; food, at a price (half a chicken, 4 fr.!!) Well known for its absinthe, a spirituous liquor which, if taken in any quantity, can be ruinous to both moral and physical well-being. Café Leblond Favre, Passage de l’Opéra. Stockjobbers from the Bourse breakfast there. Sherry cobbler, mint julep, American grog, and other Yankee potations purveyed. Café de Suède, Boulevard Montmartre. After-theatre suppers of goose aux marrons, sauerkraut and potato salad, served in private cubicles. Literary and journalistic clientele, of a radical political nature. A famous habitué is Le Guillois, the eccentric editor of the newspaper Le Hanneton. To publicise this he adopted the ludicrous habit of taking out the copy in public places, pretending to read it, and gasping loudly: ‘This newspaper is remarkable! The critics are excellent, the drawings clever! And so much for a ridiculously low price! Truly, this Le Guillois the editor is an astonishing man who deserves to succeed!’

Next: The Guide to Gay Paree – Part 5: Shopping

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: