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A Tour Upon Wheels (Chapter X)

Chapter X The direct road to Verdun, taken in mistake by Leonard, the queen’s coiffeur, on that fatal evening, leads to the right from the hotel of the Grand Monarque. We had intended to follow it, but were told that it was declasse, and was no longer cyclable. We retraced our steps, and soon rejoined the road from Clermont, which is part of the great road from Paris to Metz. Verdun has left as pleasant a memory to us as any town we have passed through. A bright, lively little place, well watered, surrounded by considerable hills, and crowned with […]

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A Tour Upon Wheels in 1886 (chapter IX)

Chapter IX Valmy passed, we rode onward to Ste. Menehould. We crossed Orbeval, where Choiseul ought to have awaited the king, even though he had been forced to leave Pont-Sommevesle, and left Dampierre on the left, which recalled to us the unfortunate squire who came to pay his respects to Louis XVI. on his return from Varennes, and was massacred for his pains. “What is that disturbance?” asked the queen. “They are only killing a madman,” was the answer. Shortly after this we touched the pave of Ste. Menehould. St Menehould is famous for pigs’ feet, which are sent in […]

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A Tour upon Wheels in 1886 (chapter VIII)

Chapter VIII At Chalons one is already in the clutches of the destiny which closed with such fatal effect round the royal travellers to Varennes in 1791. The king thought if he could once pass Chalqns he would be safe. He was recognised, indeed, as he changed horses, but his prudent major advised that nothing should be said about the matter. The post-house at which the royal family stopped still exists, the residence of the general in command of the forces. The stone pave begins there to slope slightly upwards; and we can imagine how the leaders of the six […]

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A Tour Upon Wheels in 1886 (chapter VII)

Chapter VII There are other things to be seen at Rheims besides the cathedral. There is the archbishop’s palace, with its great banqueting hall used for coronations, far inferior to our own Hall at Westminster or to the Romer at Frankfurt. There are the suite of rooms in which the king resided during his coronation, and which still retain the decorations made for Charles X. He must have had strange recollections of his brother’s crowning fifty years before! There is the abbey of St Remi, in which the holy oil was always preserved till it was brought to the cathedral […]

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A Tour upon Wheels in 1886 (chapter VI)

Chapter VI The road from Laon to Rheims is all paved, so we were obliged to take the train. In the great champagne town we find broad streets and many cafes, while our hotel is exactly opposite the west portal of the cathedral. . To the modern traveller Rheims means champagne and biscuits; to the historian, it means the coronation of the kings of France. The cathedral, which is as interesting and as beautiful as any in France, recalls the coronation in every feature. For this great event Rheims woke up once in every generation or so, and then went […]

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A Tour Upon Wheels in 1886 (chapter V)

Chapter V A visit to Soissons would be incomplete without a visit to Coucyle Chateau. The name is well known from the proud device—”Roi ne suis, ne prince, ne due, ne comte aussi; je suis le sire de Coucy. This, in its simplest meaning, is nothing but the proud boast of a country gentleman of ancient lineage, who thinks himself as good as a peer. But the sight of the castle gives a new force to the words. They imply that the possessor of Coucy is a match for any king or prince in France; and he must, indeed have […]

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A Tour on Wheels in 1886 (chapter IV)

Chapter IV But all the glory has departed. The forest of Compiegne is let out in lots to sportsmen. The chalet of the Empress, from the tower of which she shot the stag, is silent and dismantled. The avenue planned by Napoleon I., which leads in a broad sweep from the chateau to Beaugency, no longer echoes the prancing hoofs or is resplendent with gorgeous liveries. The charity of the Empress is missed in the surrounding villages. The palace of Louis XV is turned into a museum, the flower-gardens are still kept up, the band plays on Sunday, but the […]

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A Tour Upon Wheels in 1886 (chapter III)

Chapter III There are other things to be seen at Beauvais besides the cathedral. There is the church of St Stephen, with its wealth of windows, the masterpieces of Engrand, le Prince and his followers: one of these has a field of blue, pure and limpid as the sky of Italy. A tree of Jesse bears on its upward branches the familiar figures of David, Solomon, the Virgin Mary, and Christ. The side branches, by a strange licence, carry kings of France—Louis XL, Louis XII., and Francis I.—while among them sits Engrand le Prince himself, now called, in proud veneration […]

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