On the 20th of December, my wife and I started on our travel in good spirits. Having secured our tickets, we put up at the Charing Cross Hotel for the night, so as to be ready to start the first thing in the morning.
Whatever vague feelings of regret we might secretly have nourished in leaving dear old England and our time-honored, old-fashioned Christmas, were quickly dispelled the next morning, for as we sped away by the 7.40 train for Dover the weather assumed its most dismal aspect—cold, raw, damp, and foggy. So we started with easy consciences, resolved to obtain all possible benefit and enjoyment from the change.
We were on our way to Italy through France and we spent some days at Menton.
We had a pleasant excursion to Monte Carlo, by the Corniche road, starting one brilliant morning soon after breakfast. Leaving Mentone behind us, we commenced the circuit of the cliff road, which gradually got higher and sometimes passing sharp curves in the road, and from thence had a most entrancing outlook. On the extreme left, a lovely view of charming Mentone; the towns and little villages on the distant shore as far as Bordighera; and before us, the long stretch of inimitable blue sea, with just a feathery ripple on the golden sandy shores below, winding in and out in a series of tiny bays and creeks; while beyond us, like a realized dream of Paradise, lay the beautiful plague-spot of the Riviera—the town of Monte Carlo, nested amid luxuriant gardens of semi-tropical foliage, the mosque-like minarets and cupolas of the casino standing boldly out on the heights and glittering in the sun.
Beyond this, another fine bay and promontory, on the summit of which stands the Castle of Monaco; and below, surrounded by groves and gardens, the town and principality of Monaco. I had seen Constantinople, Madeira, and many other parts of this fair earth, but I do not remember anything that compares with this coast scenery, which I think is surely the loveliest in the world.