National Geographic : 1923 Jul
VOL. XLIV, No. 1 WASHINGTON JULY, 1923 NATIONAL MAGAZ TNE COPYRIGHT1923. BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY.WASHINGTON.D. C.. IN THE UNITED STATESAND GREAT BRITAIN THROUGH THE BACK DOORS OF FRANCE A Seven Weeks' Voyage in a Canadian Canoe from Malo, Through Brittany and the Chateau Country, to Paris* St. BY MELVILLE CHATER AUTHOR OF "THE LAND OF THE STALKING DEATHII AND "EAST OF CONSTANTINOPLE," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE T IERE are two ways of seeing Europe-through its front doors and through its back doors. The first includes trains de luxe, bus tling capitals, big hotels, and personally conducting guides ; and the national front door steps are scrubbed to a whiteness for your anticipated arrival. The second leads you, by unfrequented paths, past the back doors of family life and native customs. Nobody knows you're coming, so you get the potluck and warm welcome accorded to an unexpected guest. The back-doors voyager, whose patron saint is Robert Louis Stevenson, has a confirmed preference for doing it afoot or astride a donkey or a bicycle; but my companion and I, who wanted to see the back doors of Brittany and Touraine, de cided against these time-honored modes of travel. We ordered a Canadian canoe through a London firm and wrote the French ministry for permission to navi gate the rivers and canals of western France. When we turned up at London, three months later, the canoe had arrived, but not the permit. "Your application," explained the rep resentative of a French touring bureau, "is doubtless reposing under the elbow of an official at Paris. It will be my pleasure to remove that elbow." And after another month of letters, telegrams, and kindred humerus-stirring methods, we received a perinis de circu lation authorizing the free passage of "le canoe canadien, Nagconma," drawing so many centimeters of water and so many "of air," across French inland waterways. "W\e don't know much about French rivers," we told the touring-bureau gen tleman. "\Vhich point of departure would you advise ?" He pondered for a moment. "La Rance !" he exclaimed with a sunny smile, "an inlet leading from St. Malo to the canal, you know. It's very simple. You just launch your canoe at the avant port, turn to the left, and there you are!" LANDING AT ST. MALO, IN BRITTANY It sounded like A, B. C. That night we took the Channel boat from Southampton, and the following afternoon we sighted the coastline of Brittany. Wide, wet sands where red-capped fish ermen mend their nets, a tangle of nar row streets atop a fortified rock whose * See also "Through the Heart of England in a Canadian Canoe," by R. J. Evans, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for May, 1922.