"" Writer's Wanderings: Cruising 1860's Style

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cruising 1860's Style

I love making new discoveries. Recently I discovered that Mark Twain had written several travel books. I downloaded two of them from the E-book store at Sony and started reading reading Innocents Abroad, a collection of stories he wrote and sent to a newspaper back home as he traveled to the Holy Land aboard a recommissioned ship named the Quaker City.

The Quaker City was a side-wheeler. My first thought was "this has got to be fiction." Who would take a side-wheeler transatlantic? But no, Twain really did make the trip aboard this ship as did a group of others who signed on for an adventure that was quite an ambitious travel plan. It was to leave from New York going transatlantic to the Azores (in 10 days) and then on to Gibraltor. From there they would explore the coasts of Spain and France with optional side trips to Paris and the Alps. The ship would continue on to Genoa again with side trips to points of interest in Italy. Continuing down the coast of Italy to Sicily and then on to Athens, the ship would eventually reach the Black Sea and then explore the countries of the Holy Land. On its return trip, the Quaker City was scheduled to make a stop in Bermuda. Quite an itinerary. I am looking forward to reading his impressions of it all.

Here's a little of his description of his stateroom which was shared with another passenger:

We selected a stateroom forward of the wheel, on the starboard side, 'below decks.' It had two berths in it, a dismal dead-light, a sink with a washbowl in it, and a long, sumptuously cushioned locker, which was to do service as a sofa--partly--and partly as a hiding place for our things. Notwithstanding all this furniture, there was still room to turn around in, but not to swing a cat in, at least with entire security to the cat. However, the room was large, for a ship's stateroom, and was in every way satisfactory.

Can you imagine what he would say about the staterooms of today's ships? Certainly there is a lot more room to "swing a cat in."

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