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AS THE ITALIAN HOTEL PROPRIETOR SEES HER
ONEROUS PROFESSION OF TOURIST
THROUGH THE FOREIGN CUSTOM HOUSE
LIFE IN LODGINGS
ENGLISH PRIVATE HOTEL
AMUSEMENTS IN AN ANCIENT CHATEAU
ENGLISH RAILWAY STATIONS
RAILWAY TRAVEL IN THE BRITISH ISLES
PENSIONS VS. HOTELS
BOARDING IN A FRENCH FAMILY
IN A "HOTEL-MEUBLÉ"
OMINOUS SIGN OF THE HORSE'S HEAD
WOMAN TRAVELLER AND THE EUROPEAN HOTEL
THE CASE OF THE FRENCHMAN
BERLIN COMPETES WITH PARIS
THE LONE WOMAN TRAVELLER
THE proprietor of a well-known tourist hotel in one of the large Italian cities, whose clientele is largely composed of the independent woman traveller, unburdened himself in an expansive moment, of his impressions of this large class of Americans abroad. He had been fifty years in the business and had seen the American woman come into her own in his country, and was in a position to form an opinion as to the success with which she had managed this particular end of her European tour.
"Ah, they are wonderful women, these American women," he said contemplatively. "They are wonderful; I watch them come and go; they are very interesting; so calm; so composed; they know just what they want; but the most wonderful thing about them is, the ease with which they can put anything from them which they do not like. They do not take it to heart, they do not worry over it, they simply put it to one side and go their way."
It is this quality, the ignoring of what is not wanted, the disagreeable, and going about their' business, that makes for the security and confidence which are the characteristics which mark the American woman abroad, married or single, young or old.
When the lone woman traveller leaves her steamer and stands before some doorway to Europe for the first time, she sometimes finds herself in the midst of a confusion of ideas as well as a confusion of tongues.
She has left home with a clear-cut idea of what she wants to do and see, but about twenty different people on shipboard have given her as many different kinds of advice. If she can but realise it, every porter, cabby and hotel waiter is waiting for her coming, and if she will but put herself in the hands of the great army of those who cater to the wants and needs of the tourist, she will be passed along as expeditiously and safely as a bale of merchandise.
Her type has become as well recognised, and she is catered for equally as well as the large party who orders a suite of rooms in advance, usually at advanced prices.
The profession of tourist means a lot of hard work. It's not raptures and roses all along the way. If the average tour abroad was made compulsory what a howl would go up from many a wanderer. Most people take more exercise in a few months of travel than they do in years at home. They reverse their way of living, crowd their stomachs with strange food, and their bags grow steadily heavier with foolish souvenirs, and in the multiplying of new brain cells, in the tussle with several samples of languages, that poor organ gets as sore as a set of unused muscles. The lone woman has all sorts of fears. She is as nervous as a cat trying to get across a street. Will she be lonely; who will she have to talk to?
For a fact, if she can get out of the sound of an American voice she will be lucky. The sights of Europe are obscured by her compatriots. It is also easy to attach oneself to a party. The American likes nothing better than to travel in bunches, through sociability and, perhaps, a certain lack of confidence. Anyway, they are to be seen all over the country in parties, that, like a snowball rolling along, grows in size at every pension and hotel it comes to, until it finally becomes too unwieldy to be housed and moved about.
Here is just where there occurs much loss of time and not a little friction: It is impossible not to be so in a crowd of a dozen or more women with an easy-going man or two in the background. The American man rather regards the trip abroad, as he does religion and society, as the particular province of his womankind, and is usually quite willing that she should lead the attacking force against the foreigner and his language, which attitude still further mystifies that perplexed individual in his efforts to understand his American clientele.
There is a first loneliness and strangeness which clutches the lone woman traveller, a sort of land-sickness which must be gone through with as is seasickness, but once the crisis is passed she will be in a fairer way to enjoy herself than if she was tagged to any group of people, no matter how agreeable they might appear.
Even in linking up the most desirable of companions en voyage, one should be in a position to throw off the line readily and be able to part conveniently, pleasantly and easily.
Once the ship arrives on the other side the steward carries her hand-baggage off the steamer onto the dock, or to the tender which takes the passengers ashore. He has become as an old friend, and she almost clings to him when she gives the parting tip. The native porter is at the landing stage and seizes her bags to carry into the nearby custom house, where eventually her trunks arrive by some mysterious means.
Customs examinations are perfunctory in most cases, and as a rule merely amount to the trouble of unlocking a single trunk or bag. An official, in some cases with gloved hands (we are behind in this thing at home), ruffles up a corner of a tray and asks the conventional question, which is composed on about the same formula in every country--whether you have cigarettes, cigars, matches, perfumery or spirituous liquors, the articles customs officials seem most keen about. In an equally perfunctory way he chalks your luggage, and the waiting porter (he will wait, if he is not tipped, until the end of the world) gathers up everything and shows the way to the ticket-office. The woman traveller follows to where her trunks must be registered (checked), and any excess over the usual sixty pounds or thereabouts must be paid for, as well as a small fee for registration.
She takes the receipt and the porter now takes her and the hand-luggage to the train (or into the cab or taxi that is to carry her to a hotel), which is waiting to meet the steamer, finds her a seat, puts the bags in the rack above her head – and then awaits his reward. If he has done all this – as he should have done – a tip of the value of twenty-five to fifty cents should be given him. The point is to make one's porter stay by and do the business. He will never lose you or your baggage as long as the tip is still ahead of him.
Usually the lone woman traveller comes by way of England, where she can talk in a language approximating her own. Her destination is usually a boarding house in Bloomsbury or Kensington. Around Bloomsbury, with the British Museum as a nucleus, has sprung up, in the last fifteen years, a rank and file of boarding houses which are filled from May to September with unattached American women, and a few scattering, subdued men.
The Bloomsbury boarding house is like most things in older London – just a little dingy; but the proprietor – who is generally a woman of the severe British matron type – usually knows her business and tries to her utmost to please Americans, even giving them as nearly an American breakfast as she can concoct.
The London boarding house is supposedly cheap, and can actually be made fairly so if one arranges for room and breakfast only, and shops around for meals in connection with sight-seeing. Such accommodation can often be had from a guinea to thirty shillings a week. As the American has usually nothing but praise for the London boarding house, this speaks well for its attempt to cater for this special class of customers.
The English themselves still cling to the habit of lodgings. Life in lodgings, it must be confessed, is a singularly lonely existence, but if one wants to get an insight into one phase of life in the British Isles, such as they will not find elsewhere, it can be made quite an amusing and instructive experience. More especially is this so when one "goes into lodgings,'' as they say, in some small country town.
One is not risking anything to go on a hunt for "lodgings" and trust to luck to find what is wanted. Any attractive typical small English house, with a little garden and a neat appearance that puts out the sign "Lodgers Wanted," will, in nine cases out of ten, prove to be an attractive place for a sojourn.
Life in lodgings is peculiar; you make arrangements for your rooms, say a bedroom and a sitting-room, for so much a week, which includes having your meals cooked and served to you in your own sitting-room. But you must do the marketing yourself, unless you shirk this and throw the responsibility upon the landlady, though as an experience it is well worth doing oneself. You can get acquainted with the local butcher and have a struggle to keep him from cutting off a third more steak than you order (it is never less), and you will soon get acquainted with the limitations of the greengrocer. Marketing in a foreign country has educational advantages, and when you are looking up your food each day, just for fun, it has nothing in common with the monotony of ordinary housekeeping.
There is something very Dickensesque about "lodgings,'' but they are not half bad, and give the advantages of a home with the omissions of a few of the shortcomings. If there are other lodgers in the same house one is not brought in contact with them in any way, but it is a constant source of wonder to the practical-minded American – this unpractical and labour-making method of catering to people. "Lodgings" can be made as expensive or cheap as one wishes, but their virtue usually lies in their usefulness for small incomes.
The private hotel is another British institution, and is really a glorified lodging house on hotel lines, except, of course, one does not have to buy their provisions; meals are served to you alone in a private dining-room at any hour you wish, or privately in the public dining-room, all of which makes for the exclusiveness so dear to the Britisher at home or abroad. The private hotel is apt to be very good indeed, and it should be, for it is quite as expensive as any average type of hotel. This would naturally be the case, where one pays for special service and special privileges, and there is no question about the protection it affords to the timid woman traveller; any unpleasant experiences that could break through the barriers of life in one of these hotels, usually occupied by the most orthodox family parties, would have to be engineered by a very bold, bad and determined person.
A more intimate alternative is to become a paying guest in an English family. Their advertisements are to be found in all the weekly journals for women readers. From some points of view these advertisements are often quaint.
"A clergyman's family would be glad to take as a paying guest a lady fond of country sports, of a sociable disposition, who would lend herself to being a pleasant companion – a good tennis player"; or, "One who is musical is preferred – and to do her part in the entertainment; prices to be mutually agreed upon, or terms arranged by letter."
One is really treated as a guest and is only reminded of her true position by the weekly or monthly bill rendered. All of this – if you avail yourself of such an opportunity – places one in the difficult position of self-analysis. Are you social? Are you entertaining? What would happen if you did not fill the bill? Would your money be refunded? These arrangements seem to work in England in a way that does not seem possible elsewhere.
The French have caught the fever, and "paying guest," like many English words, is incorporated in every-day usage.
You can be invited to become a paying guest in an ancient chateau in the veritable Chateau Country, where there are boar and stag hunts bi-weekly. This may be a little strong for the ladies, to be sure, but another chatelaine of a chateau will receive one and give lessons in the language as well as social advantages in addition to board and lodging. That is milder!
The small English country railway station, with its neat garden, is a model of its kind in outward looks at least, but the big stations of the cities are particularly unattractive. Each class has its waiting-room, all equally dingy and that of the first none too good to make use of even if one's ticket is second class. One penny is charged for use of the lavatory – a universal custom in Europe at any public toilet.
The train-guard can usually be bribed with a shilling or half a crown to slap a "reserved" label on the window of one's compartment and thus keep out others, though the lone woman does not want too much exclusiveness – a crowd is safer. Without a tip the guard can be made to put on a "ladies only" sign on the window if there is no compartment so labelled already, but it is just as well to take travelling conditions as one finds them. At one's destination you go with the porter to the van to sort out the trunks. It looks easy to go off with anybody's baggage, but it is seldom that baggage is lost or goes astray.
On the through express trains there are imitation, or miniature, Pullman cars, satisfactory enough – as imitations – but not at all to be compared in comfort with the real thing. There are also first- and third-class dining-cars. The best trains on which to travel third class in Great Britain are the Scotch expresses, second class having been abolished and the third considerably improved.
You keep warm with a primitive zinc foot-warmer filled with hot water, and even so, you frequently have to tip to get one. If you wish to convey the impression that you know your way about, you put your feet on this foot-warmer, wrap a rug about your knees and sit with the window wide open. In summer the process is reversed, and the windows are tightly shut to keep out dust.
When the woman traveller leaves England and crosses over to the lands of strange speech, her next stopping place is likely enough Paris and the Paris pension.
The most common delusion under which the lone woman traveller labours is the ancient idea that a pension, the European boarding house, is safer than a hotel. Just what she means by safer is not quite easy to define. If what is meant is that it gives her more the protection of a home, she is wrong, for it simply increases the danger that a young girl at least would be exposed to. Life in this case is far more intimate than that of the hotel, and she is brought in daily contact, in a way that cannot be avoided, with the other inmates who might or might not be desirable, though she rarely has any opportunity for knowing before she is entangled in acquaintances and friendships that ofttimes result in tiresome or compromising situations. The least of the objections of the pensions is that they are worthless as time-savers, while even the best, from the very intimate nature of their arrangements, are breeding places for the most pernicious gossip, for which the average woman away from home makes the easiest of targets.
The thing that commends the pension more than anything else to the economically minded, and this is a phase of interest to the lone woman traveller who often has to study her finances carefully, is that it is cheaper than a hotel. It is cheaper than some hotels, it is true, but a really first-class pension costs at least two dollars to two dollars and a half a day, and there are plenty of excellent small hotels where one can live for this sum or even less. Many even of the large purely tourist hotels make pension rates, that is, rates by the week or month, at a great reduction on those for transients. The cheapest pension that could possibly pass muster would be seven francs a day, and against this is the small country inn, not too far from town, where pension can be got not only for this amount, but very often for as little as five or six francs, provided one does some bargaining, and has an understanding and appreciation of local conditions. There is no question as to the superiority of the accommodation offered as between the two, and one should remember that the very publicity of a hotel is certainly safer than the promiscuous intimacy of the boarding-house table, where your next neighbour may be a pseudo nobleman (or what is worse, a real one) who wants no better sport than acquaintance with one of these charming Americans for whom he spreads the net of his fascinations, a net into which she has often so readily fallen.
The foreign man plays the game very differently from what the girl has been accustomed to at home.
The Paris pension is an institution of its class which may fill a want, but in most cases it is an unfortunate frame to choose through which to look at the foreign picture. Many of them are conducted with considerable genius by their proprietors and a certain respectability is presumed, whatever the significance that vague term may have for the twentieth-century American woman who is quite able to take care of herself, and has been since she left short dresses and the grammar school.
Travel means something else besides churches, ruins and shops. It means the life of big and little hotels, dinner at a Paris boulevard restaurant or at some little dining place that has a world-wide reputation for its homely dish of sausages, or again in some little artists' resort. Then one goes to the café afterwards for a filtre, and this makes up the round which is more enjoyable than that which is the lot of the woman who lives in a pension and has it on her mind most of the time that she must hurry back for lunch or dinner or she won't get any soup; she often loses sight of the fact, too, that she has wasted hours of her time finding the way home, and the carfare which she has expended has more than made up for any difference in price which there might have been had she made different arrangements.
A pension is an uneconomical and inconvenient thing. It is not for eating three meals a day with one's own compatriots in a stuffy salle à manger in a Paris back-flat that one has come across to spend maybe hard-earned wealth and gone through the mental anguish of learning new monetary systems and struggling with several languages. Oh, those long tables, or even small tables, to which one comes with tired brain and feet after the strenuous duty of having looked up everything mentioned in the guide-book! Oh, the tales that one must listen to from one's fellow-pensionnaires! What dull exchanges of stale impressions, as lacking often in character as the food!
The purely French pension (not the international kind) is cheap, cheaper usually than those run by English-speaking persons in Paris, but to tell the truth they are usually conducted on lines far too parsimonious to suit the prodigal American. The problem of food supply is worked out a little too mathematically, and one may possibly rebel at a meat stew, a scrimpy salad, a bit of cheese and one indifferent pear for the midday meal. Then, too, the independent movements of the American woman are often not understood by her French fellows, and that makes a perhaps not too pleasant gossip.
It is far better for a young girl to go into a French family than to attempt the life of any pension in Paris, however well recommended. Just think of the good French families who would be pleased to take as a paying guest an American girl or two. At the not exorbitant price of ten francs a day she will have board and lodging en famille, be given lessons in French (real practical lessons), be chaperoned to the lectures at the Sorbonne, to such amusements as are deemed suitable, etc. This may appear a rather mild régime for the enterprising American girl, but depend upon it the family will take as much pains to please as if she were a real guest. They will take her shopping and see that she gets good value for her money, as few lone American women ever do; they will not take advantage of her but may even attempt to curb her extravagances and, if they are the right sort, the rigidness and simplicity of French home-life will not prove an ineffectual antidote against precociousness.
It seems rather adventuresome to send the lone woman out on a quest for rooms in a hotel-meublé, but Paris is peculiarly a city of small hotels that do not furnish meals, where rooms can be had for three or four francs a day, and such, when found of a desired and approved quality, will give the woman old enough to take care of herself a freedom of movement that she should appreciate. Especially might this prove to be the case if she were obliged to "do" Paris in a few days.
The usual French breakfast would be served by the hotel, and for her other meals she could patronise any of the restaurants which she might come across in her sight-seeing. She can, in fact, do anything that she wishes in Paris if she behaves herself. She will feel most comfortable in one of the numerous Duval establishments which are so conveniently planted around the city. Here the quality of the food is of the best, and a good, if not a bounteous meal, can be had for two or three francs and a five-cent tip. Don't forget that at all French restaurants the diner pays for the couvert – table linen, knives and forks-a matter of four or six cents or more.
Across the Seine, over in the Latin Quarter, there are numbers of cheap restaurants, fairly good and moderate in price, many of them patronised largely by English-speaking students of both sexes. The air is thick with art talk, and the tables are usually crowded for a brief hour or two twice a day, sometimes even overflowing on to the sidewalk. Other restaurants there are in this quarter where manners are more free and had best be ignored.
No prix fixe meal in Paris (usually referred to by the unknowing as table d'hôte) at a less price than three francs is to be considered for a moment. Anything less than this must be looked upon with suspicion, and those establishments that advertise a dinner of eight courses for one franc fifty, or one franc seventy-five centimes, wine included; or three francs with a quarter of a bottle of champagne, should most certainly be shunned. At such establishments it is likely that the roast beef will come from that little shop around the corner that has a gilded horse's head over its doorway; the real roast beef comes from a butcher whose sign is a gilded steer's head. The sign language sometimes speaks louder than words.
The hostile attitude of the American hotel towards the woman who travels alone has tinged her attitude and prejudiced her against the foreign hotel, but she need have no fear of her reception in any class of European hotel. There is scarcely any class which is not perfectly proper for her to go to, whether she drives up to the great tourist Grand Hotel in an automobile, by the common bus to the hotel of the country town, or walks in to the little village inn, with her bag in her hand. She will never be looked at askance, or even suspiciously, but will meet with the same courtesy and attention as if she was most conventionally chaperoned.
If she is stared at it will most likely be out of simple curiosity and rarely as an impertinence, for the spectacle of the unchaperoned young woman is still a source of amazement to the foreigner, although along the main lines of travel he has been trained to accept her presence with a good grace.
Paris is as safe for the average woman as a New England village, but Berlin, in her endeavour to become a competitor of Paris in the affections of the tourist, is trying hard to get up a reputation for gaiety and wickedness, seeing that Paris has been so successful in attracting trade along these lines, and life and amusements in Berlin are being modelled more and more after those of Paris. The German may be more sincerely aggressive than the Frenchman, but in the case of the Frenchman it is often a mischievous schoolboy desire to tease the foreign "Miss" and see if he can give her a start, rather than any real deviltry; her mixture of what he considers boldness and prudery is very amusing to him.
The safety of any woman lies in her own hands, and there is no reason why she can't tour Europe with only slight annoyances of a personal nature which fade away if ignored.
Railway travel anywhere in Europe is disagreeable, but especially so in France. The construction of the carriages, whether of the old type with the door at either side, or the corridor train, where the movements of one person disturb every one else, is largely responsible for this, but the travellers so having the habit of making themselves "at home" en voyage accounts for a great deal more.
The American woman often says, "How rude," while in reality it is simply thoughtlessness and a lack of knowledge of the ethics of travel.
The foreigner eats most of the time while travelling, often removes many of his or her garments and tries to shut out every breath of fresh air. He, or she, or the pair of them, overload the rack over one's head with curious, knobby packages which they spend most of their time taking down and putting up. They smuggle small dogs in under the seat, for which they should have bought a ticket and had carried in the baggage car. Of course one can object to the little beast and have it put out, but as one American girl harshly put it – she preferred the animal to the people who owned it. But the Englishwoman in her own land is the real offender with the travelling dog, for it is usually a large one.
The European express train with sleeping- and dining-car accommodations, rather cynically named "train de luxe," is really de luxe only in price and could not be made to pay a profit on even the most indifferent and roundabout American trunk lines.
Besides the Wagon-lit, or sleeping-car, there is an abomination known as the fauteuil-lit, which is simply a stuffed chair pulled out lengthwise, three to a compartment, with a promiscuity that is horrible even if one is travelling en famille. The lavatory does not usually deserve to be mentioned and were better not even entered.
Some of the more important of the International Sleeping Car Co.'s trains are a bit in advance of this, but they are generally very crowded, expensive, inadequate and being usually so light are most uncomfortable at high speed.
Usually the best express trains on the Continent, for which no extra fares are charged, run by night, and their capacity is almost invariably overcharged. The corridor is usually full of standing passengers, and the lone woman may have to spend the night sitting on her bag in everybody's path. Day travel is preferable, and the circumstances are rarely so pressing that a night journey cannot be avoided by a stop-over.
Of course some of these annoyances and the quality of one's travelling companions can be improved if one invariably travels first class on the ordinary train, but the price is double that of the popular second class. Third-class travel is really not more objectionable than the second that the traveller usually patronises, and not any more crowded; it is at least amusing to see the people of the country, and wooden benches or a leather-covered seat is preferable on all counts to a stuffy cloth covering. There are objections, it is true, but the herded masses of humanity one now sees on European express trains to and from the great seaports are not far different in physiognomy.
Railway journeys in Spain lead in inconvenience and tedium and give the traveller the impression of spending most of the time at way stations, but the carriages are cleaner than many of those of France and Italy, and in many respects the reserved Spaniard is a less objectionable travelling companion. One buys drinking water at the stations in cool, moist earthen jugs, an improvement on the rasping mineral waters that are the only liquids beside wine that can be got mostly in Europe.
The woman who does not like to be stared at should not go to Spain. The expected form of expressing admiration by the Spanish man is to stare into a woman's face and make audible remarks, it is to be hoped of a flattering tenor. It is a new experience to walk along the streets and be greeted with laughter and lively personal comments.
The Italians are almost embarrassing with their attentions, though they take the less objectionable form of a childish curiosity, but in both cases it is a relief to go across the Mediterranean into north Africa. Even to the most untamed outer post of tourism – Tangiers. Yes, Tangiers, too, is all right for the lone woman, who can live in a tourist hotel there for ten francs a day or a more modest French one for seven or eight and engage a "guide" to chaperon her on her wanderings in the markets and bazaars for a small sum.
The same thing is true of Algiers and Tunis. Most north African hotels have a corps of native guides, one of whom can be hired for something like three to five francs a day and who for the time being will be yours to command. While by no means a necessity, such a guide will be invaluable as a cicerone and in preventing the natives from annoying one.
The Englishwoman first made Continental Europe acquainted with the lone woman traveller. There are so many Englishwomen with small incomes that one meets them alone and unattached all over Europe. She is in quite a different class from the restless-minded American who no sooner gets into a place than she wants to know "what there is to do." This phase does not bother the Englishwoman. To tell the truth, she has a clearer idea of what it is that she wants. She is either sketching in water colours, learning a language Or busy occupying herself by studying the people, their literature or their mode of life.