Robert Louis Stevenson around France

On this page you will find information about the other places in France that RLS visited: Amiens, Avignon, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Cannes, Cernay-la-Ville, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Dieppe, Le Havre, Lille, Lyons, Orange, Royat, Sens, Strasbourg, Toulon, Troyes, RLS’s Walking Tour of the Valley of the Loing, and Vichy.

Amiens

“We have come to a place called Amiens (7 p.m.). How strange and foreign everything looks! The houses are so funny inside. No sitting-room in this Hotel!”
(Alison Cunningham, Cummy’s Diary [London: Chatto and Windus, 1926], p. 5)

When RLS was 12, he, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863.

They stayed in Amiens on 6 January 1863 at the Hotel du Rhin. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

Avignon

“The whole air was filled with sunset and the sound of bells; and I wish I could give you the least notion of the southernness and Provencality of all that I saw”
(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, 10 November 1873, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 359)

On 10 November 1873 RLS was in Avignon. He stopped here on the way to Mentone, where he had been “ordered south” for his health. Stevenson’s health was strained as a result of arguments with his father (they quarreled over RLS’s disbelief in the Christian faith) and Dr Andrew Clark recommended that he convalesce in Mentone.

The journey he took to Mentone was as follows – he travelled there via London, Dover, Paris, Sens, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon and Marseille.

Boulogne-sur-Mer

“Blame me not that this epistle
Is the first you have from me.
Idleness has held me fettered;
But at last the times are bettered
And once more I wet my whistle
Here, in France beside the sea.”

(Letter from RLS to Charles Baxter, 4 September 1872, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 251)

After spending a week with his parents in Baden Baden, the Stevensons returned to Edinburgh via Boulogne-sur-Mer, Strasbourg, Paris and London. RLS was in Boulogne-sur-Mer on 4 September 1872.

Calais

“We have got the length of Calais, but the weather is so stormy that Mr. Stevenson will not attempt to cross to-day. Perhaps we may be detained here for some time. That we are never really sure of anything in this world, has been verified in our experiences to-day, for I thought we were sure to be in London to-night. However, in a clear day, though we are on the French shores, yet we can see over to the other side of the river and behold our own land. It only makes the yearning for home all the more intense”
(Alison Cunningham, Cummy’s Diary [London: Chatto and Windus, 1926], pp. 186-87)

RLS, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863.

They stayed the night in Calais on 19 May 1863 en route to returning home to Edinburgh, passing first through Lille. They had intended to cross the channel on the 19th, but the weather was so rough that they had to wait until the following day to make the journey. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

Cannes

“We are still resting at Cannes. Mrs. Stevenson was rather poorly yesterday, and coughing a great deal to-day. I am most thankful to say she is much better again, though I fear the cough is not”
(Alison Cunningham, Cummy’s Diary [London: Chatto and Windus, 1926], p. 18)

RLS his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863.

They stayed in Cannes on 12-14 January 1863 at the Hotel du Nord (from Toulon they took a rail to les Arcs and then a carriage to Cannes. They also passed through Frejus). Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

Cernay-la-Ville

“O the weather here is atrocious. One day, we are dining in the arbour with linen clothes; the next, cold, wind, rain – like Scotland upon my word; I could fancy myself at Swanston”
(Letter from RLS to his mother, 19 June 1879, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 324)

After his walking tour of the Cevennes that RLS would later write about in Travels with a Donkey (1879), RLS travelled to Lyons, Autun and Paris in October 1878.

On 18 October he visited Cernay-la-Ville (he returned to London in late October). According to RLS’s biographer and cousin Graham Balfour, “Cernay-la-Ville was a favourite of [RLS’s] cousin Bob” (The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson [London: Elibron Classics, 2005] p. 96). Like Grez, and Barbizon, Cernay-la-Ville was a thriving artistic community, and RLS would visit here with his cousin.

RLS was at Cernay-la-Ville again from around 9 – 20 June 1879. During this visit, he stayed at Chez Leopold, Cernay-la-Ville, Seine et Oise. He tried to get some writing done while there, but found it difficult: “I am having such up-hill work. I sit and sit, and scribe and scribe, but cannot get my back into it; my long idleness hangs upon me like lead” (Letter from RLS to his mother, 19 June 1879, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 324).

Clermont-Ferrand

“I smote a whole banking house hip and thigh – arranged their papers for them – and was conducted to the streets by louting managers and sec.s[.] It took place at Clermont-Ferrand”
(Letter from RLS to Charles Baxter, 3 October 1883 from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol iv (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), p. 173)

From late February 1883 until early June 1884, RLS was settled at Hyeres. In the summer of 1883, however, he visited Vichy, Clemont-Ferrand, Royat and Lyons. On 5 July 1883 RLS arrived in Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dome) from Vichy. He stayed in the Hotel de la Poste. After a few days here he moved to Royat, then travelled to Lyons before returning to Hyeres.

Dijon

RLS, his mother, father and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863.

According to Cummy’s diary, the family lunched at Dijon on 8 January 1863 before travelling to Lyons. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

Stevenson passed through Dijon when he was travelling to Mentone for health reasons in November 1873. The journey he took to Mentone was as follows – he travelled there via London, Dover, Paris, Sens, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon and Marseille.

Dieppe

“God grant Paul may take [Inland Voyage]; I want coin so badly, and besides it would be something done – something put outside of me and off my conscience; and I should not feel such a muff as I do, if once I saw the damned things in boards with a ticket on its behind”
(Letter from RLS to Sidney Colvin, 1 January 1879, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 233)

In January and February 1878 RLS was in Dieppe and Paris, staying with Fanny Osbourne. In Dieppe he stayed at the Hotels des Etrangers.

Le Havre

“It is a fine James, and a very fine Henry James, and a remarkably fine wine; and as for the boat, it is a dam bad boat, and we are all very rough mariners”
(Letter from RLS to Henry James, 23 August 1887, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol vi [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 3)

On 22 August 1887 RLS, his wife, his mother, Lloyd and a maid, Valentine Roch, left the Albert Docks on board the Ludgate Hill. They were bound for New York, but stopped first in Le Havre on the 23rd. According to RLS’s mother, the Stevenson party had lunch in Le Havre, at the Grand Hotel & Bains Frascati. It was from here that RLS wrote to Henry James (quotation above) to thank him for the case of champagne he gifted to Stevenson for the journey.

Lille

“This is another wet day, and bitterly cold. We left Ghent this morning. We have been an hour in the waiting-room at Lille, and are in the train again, bound for Calais, France”
(Alison Cunningham, Cummy’s Diary [London: Chatto and Windus, 1926], p. 186)

RLS, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863.

They stayed the night in Calais on 19 May 1863 en route to returning home, passing first through Lille. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

Lyons

“Lyons [. . . ] is one of the most lovely towns in the world”
(Letter from RLS to his mother, 9 November 1873, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 359)

RLS was in Lyons several times in the course of his travels.

When RLS was 12, he, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863.

They stayed in Lyons on 8 and 9 January 1863 at the Grand-Hotel Collet. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

RLS was in Lyons again on 8 November 1873 on his way to Mentone. He had been “ordered south” to Mentone for his health. The journey he took to get there was as follows – he travelled via London, Dover, Paris, Sens, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon and Marseille.

Stevenson was also in Lyons in early October 1878. After his walking tour of the Cevennes (which he would later write about in Travels with a Donkey [1879]), he stopped here as well as Autun, Paris and Cernay-la-Ville en route to London.

Stevenson was settled at Hyeres from late February to early June 1884, but he travelled to Vichy, Clermont-Ferrand, Royat, and Lyons in July and August 1883. He arrived in Lyons on 30 August and stayed at the Hotel de l’Univers. He returned to Hyeres in early September (RLS’s letters show he was installed at the hotel in Lyons on 2 September, so he must have left for Hyeres shortly after that).

Orange (Provence)

“Here I am in Provence and in very early autumn, or rather late summer”
(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, 9 November 1873, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 358)

RLS stayed at Orange on 9 November 1873 en route to Mentone. He had been “ordered south” to Mentone for health reasons. The journey he took to Mentone was as follows – he travelled there via London, Dover, Paris, Sens, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon and Marseille.

Royat

“My dear people, considerable success but great cold at Royat. However the Hill air has strung me up. We have rooms, and were charmingly received by Brandt”
(Letter from RLS to his parents, June 1884, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol iv [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 302)

RLS was settled at Hyeres from late February 1883 to early June 1884. In July and August 1883 he travelled to Vichy, Clermont-Ferrand, Royat and Lyons before returning to Hyeres.

Around mid-July 1883, RLS left Clermont-Ferrand and arrived in Royat, where he stayed in the Hotel de Lyon. His parents visited him there from 14-16 July 1883. RLS left Royat around 30 August, when he travelled to Lyons.

In early June 1884, RLS was forced to leave Hyeres because of a cholera outbreak. He went to Royat (via Marseille), where he stayed at Hotel Chabassiere until the end of the month. Afterwards, he and Fanny returned to Bournemouth, stopping briefly in London.

Sens

“I am delighted. I have been wickedly wandering about this charming town by moonlight. The cathedral dominates everything; and I saw, I think, one of the most curious moonlight effects that I have ever seen – a whole carved front lit by a sidelong glimpse so that only one side of the reliefs was whitened and the gargoyles were left little jets of projecting blackness”
(Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, writing Sens, 7 November 1873, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol i [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 358)

RLS was in Sens on 7 November 1873 on his way to Mentone. He had been “ordered south” to Mentone for health reasons. The journey he took to Mentone was as follows – he travelled there via London, Dover, Paris, Sens, Dijon, Lyons, Orange, Avignon and Marseille.

Strasbourg

After spending a week together in Baden Baden, RLS and his parents travelled home via Strasbourg, Paris, Boulogne-Sur-Mer and London. They reached Edinburgh on 11 September 1872.

Toulon

“We left Marseilles to-day, and came here, I think it is called Toulon. I have just been out with the rest, getting a drive through the City. I think very little of it”
(Alison Cunningham, Cummy’s Diary [London: Chatto and Windus, 1926], p. 15)

RLS, his mother, father, cousin Elizabeth (Bessie) Stevenson and nurse Cummy (Alison Cunningham) travelled through Europe from 2 January – 20 May 1863.

They stayed in Toulon on 11 January 1863 at the Hotel de l’Amiraute. Read more information on RLS’s travels through Europe in 1863.

Troyes

“This is a stunning place; it consists pretty considerably of churches, but not (strange to say for a French place) of soldiers. I eat main well; wherefore, I believe I shall continue to inhabit the spacious firmament yet a while”
(Letter from RLS to Charles Baxter, 28 October 1880, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol iii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 111)

From 19 0ctober – 3 November 1880 RLS travelled via London, Paris and Troyes to Davos. He wintered in Davos for his health both in the winters of 1880-1881 and 1881-1882. While in Troyes RLS stayed at the Hotel du Commerce. His health was poor (poor enough that he called a doctor to examine him) and he was also worried about his finances.

Walking Tour of the Valley of the Loing

“The country where they journeyed, that green, breezy valley of the Loing, is one very attractive to cheerful and solitary people. The weather was superb; all night it thundered and lightened, and the rain fell in sheets; by day, the heavens were cloudless, the sun fervent, the air vigorous and pure”
(RLS, “Epilogue to An Inland Voyage in Across the Plains [London: Chatto and Windus, 1892], p.143)

At the end of August 1875, RLS and Walter Simpson took a walking tour of the Valley of the Loing. RLS later described the walk in “Epilogue to an Inland Voyage” (1888). This piece is sometimes included in editions of An Inland Voyage (1878) and was published in Across the Plains (1892).

RLS and Simpson left for their walk from Barbizon in late August:

“The Arethusa [RLS] was unwisely dressed. He is no precisian in attire; but by all accounts, he was never so ill-inspired as on that tramp; having set forth indeed, upon a moment’s notice, from the most unfashionable spot in Europe, Barbizon” (RLS, “Epilogue to An Inland Voyage in Across the Plains [London: Chatto and Windus, 1892], p.144).

On this walking tour, as in An Inland Voyage, RLS was often mistaken for a pedlar. He also carried all of the works of Charles of Orleans in his knapsack, making his walk somewhat uncomfortable.

RLS and Simpson passed through Nemours, where Stevenson wrote to his mother:

“Nemours is a beautiful little town, watered by a great canal and a little river. The river is crossed by an infinity of little bridges, and the houses have courts and gardens, and come down in stairs to the very brim; and the washerwomen sit everywhere in curious little penthouses and sheds. A sort of reminiscence of Amsterdam” (Letter from RLS to his mother, Late August 1875, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 157).

RLS was settled at Hyeres from late February 1883 to early June 1884. In July and August 1883 he travelled to Vichy, Clermont-Ferrand, Royat and Lyons before returning to Hyeres.

“Today we arrive at Vichy, and one glance – Tomorrow we leave”
(Letter from RLS to his mother, 1 July 1883 from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol iv [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 138)

Vichy

After the walking tour, RLS was briefly in Paris before traveling with his parents in Germany from 2 – 6 September 1875. He was back in Paris on 6 September, and returned home to Edinburgh on the 25th.

“I have been walking these last days from place to place; and it does make hot for walking with a sack in this weather. I am burned in horrid patches of red, my nose I fear is going to take the lead in colour; Simpson is all flushed, as if he were seen by a sunset” (Letter from RLS to Fanny Sitwell, Late August 1875, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 158).

In a letter to Fanny Sitwell, RLS described his feelings about the walking tour:

The travelers ended their tour in Chatillon-sur-Loire (RLS refers to is as Chatillon-sur-Loing), where Stevenson was arrested and put in a cell (17, rue de Gien; “Gendarmerie Nationale” sign still visible), on suspicion of being a Germany spy: he describes this humorous incident in detail in his “Epilogue”. He also wrote about the arrest to Sidney Colvin: “My walking tour ended in a fashion which shall make Europe ring sir – Europe ring” (Letter from RLS to Sidney Colvin, The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 159).

“Here I am at Chateau Renard, which I daresay you never heard of in your life, any more than I did. It is a lovely little place for all that, lying low in a green valley with a lot of trees about it, the ruins of a castle and a church with a melodious bell on a hilltop at one side, and at the other a jolly old decaying chateau in a wider moat, with arcaded stables, dome roofs and flower pots run to waste” (Letter from RLS to his mother, Late August 1875, from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], p. 157).

From Nemours, RLS and Simpson proceeded to Chateau-Renard, Loiret. He wrote:

In Nemours, he saw the old castle, which at the time had been turned into a ballroom and cheap theatre – it is now a museum.

RLS arrived in Vichy on 1 July 1883, staying for a couple of days before leaving for Clermont-Ferrand. Stevenson was largely unimpressed by Vichy, and wrote disparaging letters about the place to his parents from the Grand Café Riche there.