Travelers to France in the Regency Era: 21 Interesting Facts

Travelers to France in the Regency Era were plentiful partly because of Napoleon Bonaparte‘s defeat by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo on Sunday, 18 June 1815. In fact, one French newspaper published the number of English visitors to their country between the years 1815 and 1821. The London Magazine then reprinted the information in 1822 as follows:

“In 1815, 13,822; in 1816, 15,512; in 1817, 16,618; in 1818, 19,838; in 1819, 18,720; in 1820, 19,040; in 1821, 20,184!”

Entrance to the Théâtre de l’Ambigu-Comique on the day of a free show. Painted by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1819). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

There were many sites for travelers to France to see and many places to visit that included public baths, palaces and hotels, hospitals, museums, literary societies, public libraries, manufacturing sites, theatres, halls and markets, squares, prisons, cemeteries, parks, gardens, cafes, triumphal arches, exhibitions and assembly rooms, eating establishments, and promenades and public walks. There were also at least 21 interesting facts that travelers to France might want to keep in mind during their visit.

  1. Houses of every kind in France were called hotels.
  2. For travelers to France the word “faubourg” did not simply signify a suburb in Paris but indicated the portion of the city that was situated between the boulevards of the interior and the boulevards of the exterior.
  3. When arriving in Paris, advice was given to always inquire of the conductor as to whether the porter that took possession of the visitor’s parcels was an honest man.
  4. Shops were everywhere in Paris, and in some places and on some streets, many of the same type of shops or trades were located.
  5. One place that visitors might want to visit was a flea exhibition located near the Italian boulevard. The fleas drew a coach, dragged an elephant, and jumped over a cannonball. They also ate their dinner every day at twelve o’clock on the arm of their valet de chambre.
  6. Bread was readily available wherever an English visitor traveled because Frenchmen supposedly consumed three times as much bread as an Englishman.
  7. The floors of most rooms in Paris, including the bedrooms, were almost always created from tiles and cleaned daily by men wearing brushes affixed to their feet.
  8. Paris policeman were said to be highly appreciated by all visitors because they allowed visitors to “perambulate the streets” at night in safety, everywhere except for the Champs-Elysées.
  9. Paris was filled with circulating libraries because the late 18th century was when novels became commonplace and demand was high, but the cost made them inaccessible for many. Travelers to France could find these libraries on almost every street with the words “Abonnement de Lecture.”
  10. Travelers were told to carry their own knife and fork for eating as most French inn-keepers seldom cleaned them between diners at mealtime.
  11. French breakfasts did not include tea, coffee, or butter. In fact, one visitor claimed that beer and meat was the principal diet of a Frenchman throughout the day, as vegetables were considered secondary objects.
  12. When invited to dinner at a wealthy person’s house, dinner was served at seven and announced by a butler saying, “Madame is served.”
  13. There was a bridge later called “Petit Point” behind Notre Dame that was said to be the only spot in Paris where the footpath was identical to the streets in London.
  14. At a festival, concert, or any other type of public event, pushing, crowding and other offensive behavior was not permitted.
  15. Travelers to France could find a wide variety of attractions and entertainments in Paris that included: blind people playing at picquet and whist; girls selling toothpicks; lotteries and raffles; jugglers; and mountebanks offering health in little boxes.
  16. A letter of credit was said to be more advantageous than bank notes or cash and the most safe and comfortable way to pay for things while traveling in France.
  17. Travelers to France did not understand the difference between “Hopital” and “Hospice.” A Hopital was for the sick and Hospice for the poor.
  18. The Hopital des Enfans Trouvés was the foundling hospital in Paris. The first floor had 150 iron cradles complete with dazzling white linens. The number of children taken in annually ranged from as low as 5 to as high as 6,000. Moreover, part of the Hopital was also used as a lying-in for pregnant women.
  19. Visitors were advised to keep their passports always in their pocket.
  20. Three primary modes of travel in France were the Diligence, a hired chaise, and a person’s own private carriage.
  21. Rules for traveling in France were also fairly simple. It was an established principle that a person paid for as many horses as there were persons. This is shown in the following chart:

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