PILGRIMAGE TO VAUCLUSE AND JOURNEY UP THE RHONE.
We left Marseilles about nine o’clock, on a dull, rainy morning, for Avignon and the Rhone, intending to take in our way the glen of Vaucluse. The dirty faubourgs stretch out along the road for a great distance, and we trudged through them, past foundries, furnaces and manufactories, considerably disheartened with the prospect. We wound among the bleak stony hills, continually ascending, for nearly three hours. Great numbers of cabarets, frequented by the common people, lined the roads, and we met continually trains of heavy laden wagons, drawn by large mules. The country is very wild and barren, and would have been tiresome, except for the pine groves with their beautiful green foliage. We got something to eat with difficulty at an inn, for the people spoke nothing but the Provencal dialect, and the place was so cold and cheerless we were glad to go out again into the storm. It mattered little to us, that we heard the language in which the gay troubadours of king Rene sung their songs of love. We thought more of our dripping clothes and numb, cold limbs, and would have been glad to hear instead, the strong, hearty German tongue, full of warmth and kindly sympathy for the stranger. The wind swept drearily among the hills; black, gusty clouds covered the sky, and the incessant rain filled the road with muddy pools. We looked at the country chateaux, so comfortable in the midst of their sheltering poplars, with a sigh, and thought of homes afar off, whose doors were never closed to us.
This was all forgotten, when we reached Aix, and the hostess of the Cafe d’Afrique filled her little stove with fresh coal, and hung our wet garments around it, while her daughter, a pale-faced, crippled child, smiled kindly on us and tried to talk with us in French. Putting on our damp, heavy coats again, B—— and I rambled through the streets, while our frugal supper was preparing. We saw the statue of the Bon Roi Rene, who held at Aix his court of shepherds and troubadours—the dark Cathedral of St. Saveur—the ancient walls and battlements, and gazed down the valley at the dark, precipitous mass of Mont St. Victor, at whose base Marius obtained a splendid victory over the barbarians.
After leaving next morning, we saw at some distance to the south, the enormous aqueduct now being erected for the canal from the Rhone to Marseilles. The shallow, elevated valleys we passed in the forenoon’s walk were stony and barren, but covered with large orchards of almond trees, the fruit of which forms a considerable article of export. This district borders on the desert of the Crau, a vast plain of stones, reaching to the mouth of the Rhone and almost entirely uninhabited. We caught occasional glimpses of its sea-like waste, between the summits of the hills. At length, after threading a high ascent, we saw the valley of the Durance suddenly below us. The sun, breaking through the clouds, shone on the mountain wall, which stood on the opposite side, touching with his glow the bare and rocky precipices that frowned far above the stream. Descending to the valley, we followed its course towards the Rhone, with the ruins of feudal bourgs crowning the crags above us.