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LETTERS FROM EUROPE.
ROUTE TO TOULON-SKETCH OF THE TOWN AND HARBOUR--NAVYYARD-ARSENAL.
Ar 6 o'clock on the morning of the 13th, we took seats in the Diligence at Marseilles for Toulon, a distance of about forty miles, in a south-easterly direction. Our own party consisted of five Americans, who had the same objects in view as ourselves. Among the other passengers was a German Countess, whom we had met in a circle of agreeable ladies and gentlemen at the table d'hote of the Hotel BeauShe was going to Toulon, there to embark on board of a French ship of war, which was to land her at Civita Vecchia, on her way to Rome-an odd expedition for a lady to undertake alone. Her conversation respecting the country, whither we were hastening and in which she had long resided, was highly instructive; while her hospitality led her to impart a share of the provisions she had taken for her journey, consisting among other things of a kind of portable chocolate, made into little wafers and eaten with bread.
The tract of country between Marseilles and Toulon is extremely picturesque. For the whole distance an excellent road winds among calcareous hills, the white, craggy tops of which appear at a distance as if snow-clad. Their steep sides are covered with vineyards and olives, hanging upon terraces, and rising stage above stage; while between the ranges on either hand, fertile and sunny vales of moderate breadth, and cultivated with the utmost neatness, open successively to relieve the eye of the traveller. Villages, hamlets, and chateaux, sometimes occupying the bosom of the valleys and at others seated far up the acclivities of the mountains, are scattered along the way and con
tribute much to the romantic character of the scenery. Passing the old town of Aubagne, which is the birth-place of the celebrated Abbé Barthelemy, author of the Travels of Anacharsis the Younger, we reached Cujes in season for a bad breakfast, and remained long enough to look at the few curiosities it contains. The hotels on this road are small, dirty, and execrable; and in some of the villages containing several thousands of inhabitants, taverns of no description are to be found.
Beyond the town of Beausset, and about midway between Marseilles and Toulon, is a celebrated pass in the mountains, called Ollioules, which in wild and savage grandeur will sustain a comparison with any of those found about the Irish, English, and Scottish lakes, described in some of my former letters. The broken and rude masses of rock, shooting up in fantastic crags, to the height of 800 or 1000 feet, and impending over the path, here approach so near to one another, as to leave only room for the channel of a headlong torrent, which fills the defile with its murmurs. For a mile or two, the road is a continued terrace hanging over the stream, and winding through a region of perfect desolation, once filled with banditti. All at once, the traveller emerges from these dreary solitudes, and descends into a beautiful glen, watered by clear brooks and fountains, smiling with tillage, and blooming with flowers. The transition is sudden, and the contrast peculiarly striking. Here I saw for the first time in my life groves of oranges, growing naturally in the open air, and laden with golden fruit. The scenery was brightened by serene skies, and our senses were regaled with all the charms of spring.
From the pass of Ollioules, we were whirled onward by a rapid descent, over a smooth road, through the beautiful environs of Toulon, scarcely inferior to those of Marseilles, and presenting another charming view of the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The hills recede on either hand, stretching along the coast, and embosoming between their bases and the sea a broad, fertile plain, richly embellished by nature and art. Crossing two draw-bridges over the double moat by which the town is surrounded, and passing under the massive arched portals, which form the barrier, we rode through several of the principal streets, to the Hotel of the Golden Cross, where excellent accommodations were obtained. Here for the first time since landing at Calais, we found the windows of our rooms open, and comfortable without a fire. The climate, so far as our experience goes, is delightful, the air being soft and delicious, subject to few of the sudden changes which are felt at Marseilles. From the representations of others, as well as from my own observations, I have no doubt, that
this is by far the most eligible winter residence for invalids, in the South of France.*
On the morning after our arrival, we visited the Cathedral, and ascended to the top of its tower, for the purpose of obtaining a bird'seye view of Toulon and its environs, which from this central and elevated point are seen to the best advantage. The natural situation of the town is admirably fitted for a great military and naval depot; and men less skilled in war than Louis XIV. or Napoleon might have selected it as the bulwark of the southern frontier of France. It is surrounded towards the north by an amphitheatre of naked, impassable mountains, between two or three thousand feet in height, extending to the sea-shore on either side, and leaving only two narrow defiles, one leading from Marseilles, and the other from Nice, both easy of defence. In the centre of this semicircular basin, at the distance of perhaps a mile from the bases of the hills, and about as far from the entrance of the harbour, is the port, winding up between two promontories, completely land-locked, and alike secure from the winds and waves. To these natural advantages the most expensive works of art have been added, till the town seems inaccessible and impregnable both by land and sea. From the age of Louis XII. to the present time, millions have been appropriated, in constructing moles, fortresses, batteries, citadels, arsenals, walls, and military defences of all descriptions, which surround the harbour, and every where meet the eye. These fortifications are filled with troops, and as rigidly guarded as in time of war. The streets, quays, and public squares, swarm with military and naval officers, cadets, marines, soldiers, and sailors, who ap
* A distinguished officer of the United States Navy informed me, that during a residence of a month or two at Toulon in the coldest part of the winter of 1826, when the Rhone was choked with ice, and while even the plains of Languedoc were swept by snow-storms, he here found the weather so mild as to render a fire unnecessary to comfort. The situation of the town, encircled by mountains which intercept the winds from the north, and open to the sun as well as to temperate breezes from the south, furnishes a ready explanation of the remarkable difference of climate, in the distance of only a few miles. As Montpellier is the usual place, to which invalids from the United States as well as from Great-Britain have been recommended for the benefit of their health, I beg leave to add, in confirmation of my own opinion expressed in a former letter, the remark of Sir James Edward Smith, a physician of great eminence, whose Tour on the Continent I have perused with a high degree of satisfaction, since my return to the United States: "I do not," says he in his observations on Montpellier, " much approve of this place for invalids. Very cold and boisterous winds are not unfrequent; and the air of the neighbourhood is often infected by the marshes lying between the town and the sea."