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.

Marne and Rhine Canal

Vitry le François is a charming old town in the beautiful valley of the Marne; in the middle ages it was a strongly fortified city; the moats and earth-works are still perfect. The only entrance to the town, even now, is over the old draw-bridges, the massive gates, iron wheels, chains,etc., still being intact, so that the gates can yet be drawn up and entrance denied to foes, as of yore; but the moats are now utilized for the boats of the Marne and Rhine Canal, and it is presumable that the old draw-bridges are nowadays always left open. To-day is Sunday - and Sunday in France is equivalent to a holiday - consequently Vitry le François, being quite an important town, and one of the business centres of the prosperous and populous Marne Valley, presents all the appearance of circus-day in an American agricultural community. Several booths are erected in the market square, the proprietors and attaches of two peregrinating theatres, several peep-shows, and a dozen various games of chance, are vying with each other in the noisiness of their demonstrations to attract the attention and small change of the crowd to their respective enterprises. Like every other highway in this part of France the Marne and Rhine Canal is fringed with an avenue of poplars, that from neighboring elevations can be seen winding along the beautiful valley for miles, presenting a most pleasing effect.

East of Vitry le François the roads deteriorate, and from thence to Bar-le-Duc they are inferior to any hitherto encountered in France; nevertheless, from the American standpoint they are very good roads, and when, at five o'clock, I wheel into Bar-le-Duc and come to sum up the aggregate of the day's journey I find that, without any undue exertion, I have covered very nearly one hundred and sixty kilometres, or about one hundred English miles, since 8.30 A.M., notwithstanding a good hour's halt at Vitry le François for dinner.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 17th May 1885 (20:00 +0200) | Add a comment | Permalink

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