Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

Lost in Elbeuf

This Elbeuf hotel, though, is anything but an elegant establishment, and le proprietaire, though seemingly intelligent enough, brings me out a bottle of the inevitable vin ordinaire (common red wine) at breakfast-time, instead of the coffee for which my opportune interpreter said he had given the order yester-eve. If a Frenchman only sits down to a bite of bread and cheese he usually consumes a pint bottle of vin ordinaire with it. The loaves of bread here are rolls three and four feet long, and frequently one of these is laid across - or rather along, for it is oftentimes longer than the table is wide - the table for you to hack away at during your meal, according to your bread-eating capacity or inclination.

Monsieur, the accomplished, come down to see his Anglais friend and protege next morning, a few minutes after his Anglais friend and protege, has started off toward a distant street called Rue Poussen, which le garcon had unwittingly directed him to when he inquired the way to the bureau de poste; the natural result, I suppose, of the difference between Elbeuf pronunciation and mine. Discovering my mistake upon arriving at the Rue Poussen, I am more fortunate in my attack upon the interpreting abilities of a passing citizen, who sends an Elbeuf gamin to guide me to the post-office.

Post office clerks are proverbially intelligent people in any country, consequently it doesn't take me long to transact my business at the bureau de poste; but now - shades of Caesar! - I have thoughtlessly neglected to take down either the name of the hotel or the street in which it is located, and for the next half-hour go wandering about as helplessly as the "babes in the wood" Once, twice I fancy recognizing the location; but the ordinary Elbeuf house is not easily recognized from its neighbors, and I am standing looking around me in the bewildered attitude of one uncertain of his bearings, when, lo! the landlady, who has doubtless been wondering whatever has become of me, appears at the door of a building which I should certainly never have recognized as my hotel, besom in hand, and her pleasant, "Oui, monsieur," sounds cheery and welcome enough, under the circumstances, as one may readily suppose.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 12th May 1885 (14:00 +0200) | Add a comment | Permalink

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