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Wintering in the Riviera By William Miller Characters: 30251

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

I happen to have kept the billet of a Parisian cabman, on which I find the number is 8973. I believe I have seen voitures in Paris bearing a number higher than 10,000. In all probability, however, there is not a licensed carriage to represent each unit of this apparent grand total. When, after many adventures and a long struggle, old age overtakes the voiture, and a sudden jolt sends it to smash, a pious regard may preserve the number to its shade; while the new vehicle, its successor, may just be added on to the tail of the list. But be this as it may, there is no lack of carriages of all sorts in all Continental towns.

Elegant private equipages are to be seen in Paris and other parts of France. These are often jobbed by English people. At Nice the charge for a carriage, horses, and man is £30 per month. But Nice is a notoriously expensive place, and I doubt not that in other towns of France the charge is greatly less. Dr. Johnson (p. 67) states that carriages in Pau were to be had, with pair of horses and driver, at £10 to £12 per month. His book, however, was written in 1857, and possibly the charge since that time has been raised.

But it is among the Italians, I think, that the desire appears more manifested for a good turn-out. In such large towns as Genoa, Rome, or Naples, one sees hundreds of beautiful carriages and fine horses. In fact, it would appear that in Italy every woman aspiring to be considered a lady must, at whatever sacrifice of other comforts, drive her carriage and pair with liveried coachman and man-servant. The Italians seem to consider that it is not comme il faut for a lady to be seen walking,-for which, indeed, the climate is not much suited,-and they are rather surprised at observing English ladies going so much about on their own feet. The public vehicles are also of so inferior a description, that one can scarcely wonder at a resident lady being ashamed to be seen in them. I fancy, too, that the expense is not so great as with ourselves. Men-servants' wages must certainly be considerably less, and crops of hay are so abundant, while agricultural labour is so miserably recompensed that the expense of feeding is, no doubt, also much less than at home. Moreover, horse flesh would appear to be greatly cheaper in Italy than with ourselves. At Rome I asked the driver of the carriage in which we went to Tivoli what might be the cost of such a pair of horses as he was driving. They were poor hacks, although they went well. He said about 400 francs, or about £16. I pointed to a handsome pair of horses standing in a private carriage upon one of the streets of Rome, and asked him what they would cost. He said from 1000 to 2000 francs, or from £40 to £80. If this information can be relied on, horse flesh must be cheap enough in Italy. I am not sufficiently skilled in the subject to say whether the breeds are equal to our own, though I doubt it; but they look very handsome animals, and the Italians are careful to allow their tails to grow so as often even to sweep the ground; and in this way the natural grace and beauty of the horse is preserved, while it retains the protection it has received from nature against the attacks of flies, which are a great source of torment in some places.

The cart horses in France are sometimes fine, strong-looking beasts, but are scarcely equal to the more powerful breeds of Britain, although I think they are made to draw heavier loads; and these poor horses do discharge their duty most heroically in spite of the brutal treatment they often receive.

But present observation has rather to do with cabs or carriages which ply for hire.

In France, great variety of carriage is to be had. In such places as Biarritz, Nice, or Mentone, there are many elegant landaus having nearly all the appearance of private carriages, and, no doubt, most of them have been quite recently in private occupation. They are kept in good order and freshly painted, and are the best class. From them there is a descent to various kinds of smaller and inferior voitures. The close kind is generally of a very shaky, antiquated construction; although in some places, such as Lyons and Cannes, there is a kind of brougham plying for hire of a better quality, narrow and confined, holding two only, and even two with a squeeze, although some of them (to be seen in Paris) have also a folding down seat for a child. Other carriages have a hood. In Paris, where people are exposed to sudden showers of rain, the one-horse open carriages have an extraordinary huge kind of hood which can be promptly raised, but when turned over, falls so low as almost to extinguish the occupant and to exclude his view; but even then, and with a leathern apron drawn up over the knees, I have found in a storm that adequate protection against rain is not secured. One of the nicest of light vehicles in use is a kind of basket carriage, seated for four, or for two with a vis-à-vis folding down seat for one or for two more behind the box, the box seat sometimes holding a fifth, and occasionally there is a light miniature rumble behind holding another. These are drawn for the most part by a pair of smart horses, remarkably small, akin to the active little Exmoor ponies.

The horses always go most willingly, and the drivers delight in urging them at top speed. Regardless of consequences, they dash down a hill in a way which would make an English coachy's hair stand on end, and like a cannon ball through a crowd, without halting or swerving from their course, expecting the crowd to scatter right and left to make way for them. This is all done to the noise of a horrid ear-splitting cracking of the whip. The driver cracks his whip, and considers that having done so, he is discharged of responsibility, and that it is the pedestrian's own fault if he be run over; just as a golfer considers that when he has cried 'faar' before striking his ball, it is the fault of the person struck that he has not got promptly enough out of the way. This cracking of the whip goes on incessantly while the man is with his horse, and even when without, and seems indulged in most frequently from a boyish love of making the odious noise.

There is great variety in these cracks. The crack of the heavy carter's whip differs from that of the coachman's lighter one. There is the single crack, the double or back and fore crack, and the multiple crack, this last being like the dancing noise produced by those alarming crackers placed by mischievous urchins on a Queen's Birthday night under the garments of terrified young women. There is the encouraging crack, supposed to cheer the horse on his way; the crack direct, when the driver applies the lash; the practising crack, when he practises for perfection in this ravishing art; the thoughtless crack, when done in vacancy from mere force of habit; the warning crack, when he wishes pedestrians to yield the smooth part of the road, that he may avoid the rough, or simply that he, the dominant power, may maintain majestically his straight undeviating course; the angry crack, when the supposed humble pedestrian, being an Englishman, disregards the warning crack, thinking that he has as good a right or a better to pursue his way, there being room enough to pass by making a slight deviation from the straight; the annunciating crack, particularly affected by town omnibuses to intimate their approach; and the crack jubilant, employed by the hotel omnibuses when, having bagged a man, the driver thus expends all his bottled-up rapture and announces the joyful event on nearing the door of his hotel. The crack may indicate a cracked driver or a crack one, according as it is the passers-by or the driver himself who forms the opinion, and it is an obviously enviable accomplishment which many can manage with their left hand. The poor horses are expected to disregard all cracks but the crack direct, and to appearance do so; but I can't help thinking that the horrid din is to the animal very much what the buzz of the mosquito is to man, not a malum in se, but a sound which proclaims the existence of a torment which at any moment may descend upon its hide. The singular thing, too, is that this noise does not seem to disturb the equanimity either of the driver's own horse or of the other passing horses. With our own high-spirited horses, the mere wag of the whip will make them frantic, and I believe there would be no holding in English horses in a Continental town. Whether it be that the foreign horses are not so high metalled, or get used to the noise, as horses do to passing trains, I do not know, but to the walkers along the streets it is an intolerable nuisance; nor is it altogether without its dangers, as on one occasion a lady of our party all but got her eye struck by a flying lash. The same sort of cracking goes on in Italy; but I noticed that in Florence and Rome, and particularly the latter city, the drivers did it very seldom. Probably to do so was against some police regulation, as from the large number of vehicles with which the streets of Rome are filled, the noise would be deafening, and might even be dangerous.

I was at first inclined to think that the Italian coachmen are kinder to their horses than the French or Swiss. It was long ere I saw an Italian behaving savagely to his horse; but I have observed it, and been informed by others of the cruel treatment they have seen practised by Italians. I have seen men behaving most savagely to their horses in France and Switzerland. For example, I have frequently seen a carter, or man in charge of a horse or donkey, when he wished it to move on, instead of quietly speaking to it, as even an English carter would, take the butt end of his heavy whip and lay heavily on the poor animal's back, or even give it a violent kick. The carters lade their carts very heavily, and often-I might even say always-beyond the strength of the horse. I have observed a poor horse struggling with all his might to pull the improper load up a hill, the carter encouraging it by the whip all the time. Several times I could not resist speaking to the men about their conduct. On one occasion, at Cannes, I saw a horse, after having struggled to the utmost of his strength with a load twice as heavy as it ought to have been (the bystanders only looking on and giving it no aid), and remaining willing but helpless to do more, when the carter took the narrow end of his heavy whip, and came down twice with his whole force with the heavy-loaded butt end on his horse's head. Ere he could repeat the villanous stroke, I rushed forward, arrested his hand, and told him, in the best French I could muster, what a brute I thought him to be. But it is not easy to give vent to one's indignation in a foreign tongue. The fellow ought to have been prosecuted, and there does exist in France a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; but policemen as well as others, I suspect, are as callous to such offences as our own policemen are to the destruction by boys of our meadow or park trees. Cruelty to a horse, however, often consists in little aggravating acts which a prosecution might fail to reach. I have often seen a coachman waiting at a stand, or at a door, and, having idle hands, mischievously proceed to touch up his horses for doing nothing-in short, to vent his own irritation at his idleness upon the poor dumb animals; and then, when they began to caper because of the whip, the whip was again applied because of the caper. However, I am afraid this is an evil habit which is not seldom to be witnessed in our own country. Another method abroad of torturing the horse is by the use of a bearing rein strapped up to the high and heavy saddle or collar borne by the cart horses, which from its weight is also of itself an infliction. But so long as Liverpool dray horses are so tortured, we cannot reasonably complain of bearing reins as a foreign peculiarity. A more extraordinary and hardly credible kind of torture a lady told me she had witnessed was in the passing of a strap or rope through the skin of the horse, compelling him to move on to avoid or lessen the pain so produced. I would fain believe she had been mistaken, but she was one on whose relation I could rely, and whose capacity for observing could scarcely be questioned.

The Italian carriages for hire are very inferior to the French. At Naples they are of the roughest possible kind-open little phaetons made of coarse wood, at some remote period having enjoyed a coat of paint, and exhibiting a barely decent seat for two, and a little folding seat for a third. The Roman carriages are similarly constructed, but a shade better. The drivers in Naples and its vicinity are, as regards person and clothes, the dirtiest-looking ragamuffins. One shrinks to come in contact with them. In Rome, on the other hand, the drivers are generally a respectable-looking class, and they wear a black glazed hat and red cloth waistcoat. The most stylish of coachmen we have seen are those at Biarritz, where they frequently mount a grand blue broidered jacket with scarlet facings; but this grandeur has to be paid for.

At Castellamare and the district round about in the Bay of Naples, and elsewhere in the south of Italy, the horses' heads are decorated with long pheasant feathers, which give them a jaunty look; while in most places the generality of horses have fastened to their collars a string of small bells which keep a continual lively jingle,-genial, doubtless, to the animals,-and are as pleasant as the cracking of whips is odious. About Sorrento, the carriages are often drawn by three horses abreast, three being charged the same as for two. It seems a waste of power, the only explanation given for which was that the horses are not strong. Whatever may be the case in this respect, the horses in Italy always go with the greatest spirit, never seeming to require the lash. I fancy that the jingle of the bells operates as a stimulant. It was very cheery, sitting in our parlour at Sorrento, to hear every now and then the jingle of the bells announcing an arrival or a departure.

Carriage fares for drives about town are moderate almost everywhere. They are more in France than in Italy. B?deker generally states in his guide-books what the fares are at each town. Although on the whole correct, they are not always to be relied on, probably because of alterations on the tariffs. Sometimes a board or bill of the tariffs is hung up in the carriage, and in some places, such as Paris, the driver is obliged to give the hirer his number on a ticket which specifies the fares. In Paris a one-horse carriage is charged 1·85 per course and 2·50 per hour during the day, and 2·50 and 3 francs respectively during nuit, or the hours of darkness. A little more is charged if the voiture be taken from the remise, that is, the stables. There do not appear to be two-horse carriages plying for hire upon the streets of Paris. When one is wanted, it must be sent for to the stables, and I believe that the charge is heavy. Fa

res in Paris, however, are higher than in the provinces. At Lyons the fare per course is 1·25; if taken by the hour, it is only 1? francs per hour in the city, and the same at Pau, but at Mentone and elsewhere fares are rather more. A large carriage with two horses is at Mentone 1·75 per course and 3·50 per hour during the day, and 2 francs and 3·75 respectively during nuit. A one-horse carriage is 1·25 per course and 2·50 per hour during the day, and 25 centimes more after dark. If, however, one has to ascend a height in a town, he is sure to have to pay extra. For example, we were charged extra for ascending Fourvières at Lyons, and the Chateau at Nice, although driving per hour. If there be more than a single place to go to, it is always cheaper to take the carriage by the hour. If when driving by the course a stoppage be made by the way, it is not unusual to charge as for two courses. At the same time, Continental drivers are quite up to the trick of English coachmen, when put upon hour-driving, of crawling along. We were somewhat amused at Sorrento (where the horses are invariably put upon full speed), upon taking a carriage by the hour to Massa, a few miles off, to see how the man leisurely walked his horse the whole way. Nor, in this instance, did we grudge it; because the scenery was so lovely that we had full time to enjoy it, and the rapid whisking through it, which otherwise would have taken place, would have given us but a passing glimpse.

In Italy the cab fares are exceedingly moderate. For instance, at Genoa, Florence, and Rome, the drive per course is only 80 centessimi (8d.). At Rome, for every person beyond two, 20 centimes (2d.) additional is payable. The charge per hour is 1·50. At Naples, fares are even more moderate. The course, according to B?deker, is 60 centimes per hour, 1·40 the first hour and 50 centimes every half-hour after; but we found the actual tariff was slightly more.

One requires to be careful, especially in Italy, about driving per hour in a town, not to go unnecessarily beyond its bounds, as when this is done the tariff is no longer binding, and the fare may be completely at the mercy of the driver. Thus, at Florence, we had on one occasion taken a carriage by the hour, and after driving about for some time, went to Fiesole, which lies beyond the bounds. When we came to settle with our driver, he charged us three or four francs additional on this account. At Naples, where one may very easily exceed the bounds, I was amused at the pertinacity of a driver in suggesting to go to places just beyond the city; but as I had made myself acquainted with its limits, and had no wish at that time to go to the places he named, I declined. The way to adopt when designing to go beyond the bounds is, as we arranged always at Rome, to make an express bargain that the charge by time should cover wherever we went.

It is a custom on the part of the drivers, notwithstanding their fares are fixed or agreed upon, to expect over and above what they call in France and Switzerland a pour boire, and in Italy buono manu. This is a provoking addition to a regulated fare. No doubt it is left in the discretion of the traveller, and he may give as much as he pleases, although it is said that in Italy the giving of too much is often regarded as symptomatic that the giver is soft and may fairly be asked for more. But the giving of too little will at once meet with a remonstrance. It is frequently a difficulty to know exactly what it should be. It is expected as a matter of right by the French coachman; it is begged for by the Italians. The best course is always to arrange, in the case of a special drive, that the charge bargained for shall include everything, as the French express it tout compris; and if you are pleased with the man's attention, any gratuity over and above will be unexpected. But in Italy, even although you have arranged upon the footing of tutti compressi, the driver will sometimes beg for a buono manu. So accustomed are they to this description of beggary, that I have seen a coachman, before he even knew what I had put into his hand (which was a half franc more than his fare upon a short ride upon the footing of tutti compressi), beg for a buono manu.

The fares which are charged for going to given places beyond a town, are often out of all proportion to the fares within town-i.e., if charged according to the time occupied, they would be greatly in excess of a time charge. It is difficult to understand a good reason for this, as in town they might be standing long idle for chance fares; while going to a given place, occupying so many hours, is just so much constant employment. Nor is it constant driving, because nobody goes to see a place without stopping at it for some time, and perhaps even making other stoppages by the way. It is just a custom to expect a 'fat job' out of such a drive. One owes it no less to oneself than to those who come after, not to give too much, and really sometimes the fares asked are exorbitant. For instance, when we wanted a carriage to go from Interlachen to Chateau d'?x (which we accomplished in twelve hours, stopping by the way from two to three hours for dinner, and with several other stoppages of same duration, and going at a rate seldom exceeding five miles per hour), one man wanted 150 francs, or £6; others, 100 francs. I ultimately arranged with a man for 90 francs, with a pour boire, which came to 5 francs more. So little fatigued were his horses, that they were driven back to Interlachen next morning, and in all probability a return fare was obtained for at all events part of the way. The sum charged for these journeys includes the feeding of man and horses, and all hotel charges in connection with the vehicle, which are borne by the owner of the carriage, and cost him little, although, were they paid by the traveller, a large addition would be made to the expense-a method of arrangement which ought to be universal. The fares are computed by distance on some odd and unequal principle. I was told afterwards that if we had taken the boat on Lake Thun to Spiez, or about an hour's distance from Interlachen, I could have had a carriage from Spiez to Chateau d'?x for about one-half what I paid from Interlachen.

It is principally at the Swiss Passes, however, that the exorbitant fares are demanded. For example, at Bellagio, the hotel charge for a carriage and pair from Colico to Coire, where there is a railway to Zürich, is 200 francs; 300 francs for three horses, without which it is hardly possible to ascend the mountains; and 380 francs for four horses. The journey involves-the first day, about three hours' travelling by coach from Colico to Chiavenna, where we slept; ten hours the second day, ascending by zig-zags to the top of the mountain, and then down to Splugen, and halting two or three hours out of the ten at Campo Dolcino for rest and lunch; and the third day, starting from Splugen at 8 A.M., getting by a gentle descent through the Via Mala, and stopping two or three hours at Thusis for lunch, we reached Coire about 4 o'clock, or eight hours altogether. As I knew that the fares asked were excessive, I went by steamboat to Colico a day previous to our leaving, and readily arranged, after some bargaining, for an excellent carriage and good pair of horses, with a third for the mountains (we actually had four part of the way) for 150 francs, with the inevitable buono manu. When we reached Splugen, finding that a gentleman who accompanied us was going to Ragatz, I proposed we should go there too, instead of proceeding from Coire to Zürich by railway. Our friend unfortunately spoke about it to the landlord, who immediately impressed on our coachman, who was also the proprietor of the carriage, that the proper fare for the additional distance was 35 francs, a distance which I afterwards found took us less than two hours to accomplish (it was down hill most of the way). I refused to give such a figure for the addition to our drive, as we could have gone by rail for a few francs; but on nearing Coire, I spoke to the driver and arranged to give him 30 francs additional, inclusive of the buono manu, for the whole journey, which we thought would require to be from 12 to 15 francs. It was too much, but it saved stopping an hour at Coire for a train and shifting our luggage. So confirmed, however, is the habit of asking a buono manu, that, in the face of my express arrangement after paying the man his 180 francs, he had the assurance to ask me for it.

It is always best, on going a long drive, to make a very express and explicit arrangement, and in Italy to make it in writing, so that there may be no room for mistake or dispute; and it is also well to see the carriage and horses you are to have, and to make sure the horses are properly shod. Generally, it is better to arrange for a carriage oneself. For instance, the landlord of our hotel at Castellamare said the charge for a carriage to Pompeii would be 12 or 15 francs. I arranged for one for 8 francs. At the same place, his charge was 10 francs to Sorrento, exclusive of buono manu, which would be 2 francs more. As I knew I could easily get a carriage for less, I told him I would not give more than 8 francs, with buono manu, and the carriage was at once sent for; but even this was more than the fare mentioned in B?deker (6 francs). On return from Sorrento, we paid only 8 francs altogether, the regular charge, the landlady of the Tramontano, a clever and attentive Irishwoman, telling us that she made it an express arrangement with the coachman, adding, 'What was the sense of paying more, when we had arranged for a given sum?' In going any distance, it is always well to make inquiry of those who may know something on the subject as to what the fares ought to be, and as to the route.

Sometimes hotelkeepers make such excessive demands as practically to be prohibitive. Thus at Baveno we found the charge for a carriage and pair for a simple drive to be 8 francs the first hour and 5 francs for each hour thereafter. At Chateau d'?x, in other respects one of the cheapest places we have visited, we were told by some of the young people at the hotel, that, wishing to go one evening to have a dance at a neighbouring pension in the village, not an eighth of a mile distant, but on an acclivity, the hotelkeeper asked for the double drive no less than 20 francs. They therefore gave up the idea of going. The only possible excuse for this exorbitant demand might be, that the road was rough for night driving, but carrying a couple of lamps would have put that all right.

Fares everywhere have, however, been increased of late years. Speaking from recollection, I think that at Interlachen, for a drive which is now charged 25 francs, we were charged fifteen years previously only 15 to 18 francs, and other charges in proportion.

It used to be considered that for four persons it was at least as cheap to take a carriage as to pay for four places in a diligence. If this was so formerly, it is no longer so, as it is less expensive to go by diligence. I imagine that the fares by diligence either have not been increased, or have been only slightly raised. We paid for the journey from Lucerne to Interlachen, inclusive of steamboats on the lakes of Lucerne and Brienz, 13 francs 90 centimes each for inside places and cabin, the journey taking 10 hours; from Chateau d'?x to Aigle, occupying about 4? hours of mountain travelling, 8 francs 25 centimes. In either case it would have cost us considerably more to have hired. B?deker mentions the diligence fares from Coire to Colico to be for coupé 27 francs 90 centimes, and for intérieur 24·50; so that for four passengers travelling by diligence, the fare would not exceed 112 francs; for six passengers, 168 francs, instead of the 300 or 380 francs demanded by the hotels, which no doubt affords them a heavy profit. Travelling by diligence is, however, not always desirable, as often part of the journey may have to be performed during night, or at uncomfortable hours. Diligences are now nearly driven off the field by the railways, except in such countries as Switzerland. The Swiss Indicateur contains a long list of the diligence routes and their time bills, and Continental Bradshaw furnishes a still longer list under the head, 'Diligences, Post and Mail Coaches, Germany, Switzerland, and North Italy,' with, in most cases, the fare payable.

I do not think that steamboat travelling is cheap-e.g., we paid 7 francs each on the Lake of Geneva from Montreux to Geneva, taking three hours. On Lake Como the fare from Bellagio to Como, about two hours, was 2 francs 80 centimes, or about 5s. there and back. From Sorrento to Capri and back was 5 francs. I received a curious answer from the captain of the steamboat to Capri to my question what would be the fare to go from Sorrento to Naples; he replied, 'Whatever you please.' We were informed at Sorrento that if one of the two rival boats which usually go from Naples to Capri do not sail, the passengers are in the power of the boat which does sail, and may be asked for what the captain pleases, which is sure to be something different from what pleases the passenger.

The sailings of the steamboats are to be found in the Indicateurs. On Lake Como a convenient little flyleaf guide for the lake sailings is sold on board at the price of 5 centessimi (one halfpenny).

Most towns have their town omnibuses. In Paris there is a system of 'correspondence,' by which the passenger leaves his omnibus at certain stations and gets (with the same ticket) into another to prosecute his route. But this correspondence is puzzling to a stranger, who will always find it better to take a cab and drive direct to his destination.

Tramways are beginning to be introduced, with carriages similar to our own, but are generally placed in streets where they will as little as possible interfere with other traffic.

In some towns of Italy, such as Milan, there are laid stone-ways, being two parallel courses of flat stones, each course perhaps about a foot broad, embedded in the causeway and on the same level, on which the wheels of carts and carriages run smoothly. It has sometimes struck me that such a system of stone tramways without grooves, on which all carriages could run, and which would not catch their wheels, would be preferable for the streets of hilly cities at home, for which tram rails, especially in its busy thoroughfares, are entirely unsuitable. All the smoothness of the tramway would be obtained without its danger to life, its injury to carriages, and its interference with ordinary traffic; while the huge, clumsy, box-looking, road-filling cars would give place to a set of light omnibuses of sufficient number. The luxury of travelling a mile in a larger car could not be placed in the balance.

There are other means of conveyance, such as donkeys and gondolas, which will be more appropriately referred to when I come to speak of the places where they are used.

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