It is hardly a village; the collection of villas, small houses, shops, and two enormous hotels surrounding the etablissement seems to have sprung up quite suddenly and casually in the midst of the green fields and woods, shut in on all sides almost by the Forest of Ardennes, which makes a beautiful curtain of verdure. There are villas dotted about everywhere, of every possible style; Norman chalets, white and gray, with the black crossbeams that one is so familiar with all over this part of the country; English cottages with verandas and bow-windows; three or four rather pretentious looking buildings with high perrons and one or two terraces; gardens with no very pretty flowers, principally red geraniums, some standing back in a nice little green wood, some directly on the road with benches along the fence so that the inhabitants can see the passers-by (and get all the dust of the roads). But there isn’t much passing even in these days of automobiles. There are two trains from Paris, arriving at two in the afternoon and at eleven at night. The run down from Paris, especially after Dreux, is charming, almost like driving through a park. The meadows are beautifully green and the trees very fine—the whole country very like England in appearance, recalling it all the time, particularly when we saw pretty gray old farmhouses in the distance—and every now and then a fine Norman steeple.
There are two rival hotels and various small pensions and family houses. We are staying at the Grand, which is very comfortable. There is a splendid terrace overlooking the lake; rather an ambitious name for the big pond, which does, however, add to the picturesqueness of the place, particularly at night, when all the lights are reflected in the water. The whole hotel adjourns there after dinner, and people walk up and down and listen to the music until ten o’clock. After that there is a decided falling off of the beau monde. Many people take their bath at half past five in the morning and are quite ready to go to bed early. The walk down in the early morning is charming, through a broad, shaded alley—Allee de Dante. I wonder why it is called that. I don’t suppose the poet ever took warm baths or douches in any description of etablissement. I remember the tale we were always told when we were children, and rebelled against the perpetual cleansing and washing that went on in the nursery, of the Italian countess who said she would be ashamed, if she couldn’t do all her washing in a glass of water. It is rather amusing to see all the types. I don’t think there are many foreigners. I hear very little English spoken, though they tell me there are some English here. We certainly don’t look our best in the early morning, but the women stand the test better than the men. With big hats, veils, and the long cloaks they wear now, they pass muster very well and don’t really look any worse than when they are attired for a spin in an open auto; but the men, with no waistcoats, a foulard around their throats, and a very dejected air, don’t have at all the conquering-hero appearance that one likes to see in the stronger sex.