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.


The market-women are arraying their varied wares all along the main street of Mantes as I wheel down toward the banks of the Seine this morning. I stop to procure a draught of new milk, and, while drinking it, point to sundry long rows of light, flaky-looking cakes strung on strings, and motion that I am desirous of sampling a few at current rates; but the good dame smiles and shakes her head vigorously, as well enough she might, for I learn afterward that the cakes are nothing less than dried yeast-cakes, a breakfast off which would probably have produced spontaneous combustion. Getting on to the wrong road out of Mantes, I find myself at the river's edge down among the Seine watermen. I am shown the right way, but from Mantes to Paris they are not Normandy roads; from Mantes southward they gradually deteriorate until they are little or no better than the "sand-papered roads of Boston." Having determined to taboo vin ordinaire altogether I astonish the restaurateur of a village where I take lunch by motioning away the bottle of red wine and calling for " de I'eau," and the glances cast in my direction by the other customers indicate plainly enough that they consider the proceeding as something quite extraordinary. Rolling through Saint Germain, Chalon Pavey, and Nanterre, the magnificent Arc de Triomphe looms up in the distance ahead, and at about two o'clock, Wednesday, May 13th, I wheel into the gay capital through the Porte Maillot. Asphalt pavement now takes the place of macadam, and but a short distance inside the city limits I notice the 'cycle depot of Renard Ferres. Knowing instinctively that the fraternal feelings engendered by the magic wheel reaches to wherever a wheelman lives, I hesitate not to dismount and present my card. Yes, Jean Glinka, apparently an employe there, comprehends Anglais; they have all heard of my tour, and wish me bon voyage, and Jean and his bicycle is forthwith produced and delegated to accompany me into the interior of the city and find me a suitable hotel. The streets of Paris, like the streets of other large cities, are paved with various compositions, and they have just been sprinkled. French-like, the luckless Jean is desirous of displaying his accomplishments on the wheel to a visitor so distingue; he circles around on the slippery pavement in a manner most unnecessary, and in so doing upsets himself while crossing a car-track, rips his pantaloons, and injures his wheel. At the Hotel du Louvre they won't accept bicycles, having no place to put them; but a short distance from there we find a less pretentious establishment, where, after requiring me to fill up a formidable-looking blank, stating my name, residence, age, occupation, birthplace, the last place I lodged at, etc., they finally assign me quarters. From Paul Devilliers, to whom I bring an introduction, I learn that by waiting here till Friday evening, and repairing to the rooms of the Societe Velocipedique Metropolitaine, the president of that club can give me the best bicycle route between Paris and Vienna; accordingly I domicile myself at the hotel for a couple of days. Many of the lions of Paris are within easy distance of my hotel. The reader, however, probably knows more about the sights of Paris than one can possibly find out in two days; therefore I refrain from any attempt at describing them; but my hotel is worthy of remark.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 13th May 1885 (23:00 +0200) | Add a comment | Permalink

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