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Portrait by Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Portrait by Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine via Wikimedia // Public Domain

10 Travel Tips From the Age of Napoleon

Portrait by Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Portrait by Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Born in 1746, Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin was a French author and harpist who tutored young members of the French royalty. Known as Madame de Genlis, she wrote historical and romance novels as well as plays intended to teach morals to children.

Pulling on her travel experience—she trekked to Britain, Switzerland, and Germany while fleeing the French Revolution—she wrote a language book called Manuel Du Voyageur, Or, The Traveller’s Pocket Companion in the last years of the 18th century. In a series of sample dialogs, Genlis gave both advice and language scripts to help travelers find good accommodations, ask for directions, order food, and arrange for long-term stays in a foreign country. After the French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte helped support her literary contributions by paying Genlis 500 francs per month.

Manuel Du Voyageur was so popular that it was reprinted in additional languages such as English, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Although it's more than two centuries old, the book contains some surprisingly relatable and relevant advice for modern travelers. Take a look at some of Genlis’s tips:

1. ASK AROUND TO ASCERTAIN THE BEST ROADS. 

“Pray, what sort of road is it?” Inquiring about the roads around you will let you know whether they’re sandy, rocky, well paved, narrow, or full of treacherous precipices. You might ask: “Is the road very dreadful?” Ask the locals or your driver if the roads are safe, and avoid the forests when it gets dark outside.

If you have to choose between two different roads, be clear about what your goal is: “I know there are two distinct roads to go from hence to … Which is the best of them? I don’t mean by the best the shortest, but that which is in the best condition.” And if part of your journey requires mules, don’t forget to ask how many mules you'll need to safely make the trek.

2. GET A GOOD PAIR OF SHOES. 

Because some roads require walking, you’ll have to say goodbye to your mules and carriage at some point. “As you will perform a great part of this journey on foot, I advise you to get a pair of good, stout, and easy shoes made, and to take with you an umbrella, parasol, and some sheets and eatables," she writes.

3. IT’S OKAY TO BOSS YOUR DRIVER AROUND. 

According to Genlis, being a backseat driver is the way to go. Depending on the quality of the road, you should order your driver to go faster or more gently. If your driver pressures you to take a shortcut off the beaten path, hold your ground: “Driver, do not turn into any bye-road. I insist upon it; I will not leave the high-road … I will not turn into any bye-road, short as it may be.” And if you lose your shoes in the carriage, don’t be afraid to promptly instruct your driver to look for them.

4. DRUG YOURSELF TO DEAL WITH SEASICKNESS.

Before setting sail, it’s important to ask a bunch of questions about your maritime voyage: “If we have favorable weather, how long shall we be on our passage? What would be the expense of a whole gondola, or vessel, for myself? ... Are the pilots and vessels good? ... How much must I pay for the small cabin, for myself? ... How many passengers have you? Are there any ladies amongst the number? ... When shall we set sail, if the wind permits?”

After drilling down on the logistical details, know what to do when you get seasick. “I advise you to take a few drops of ether, or of Hofmann’s drops, which are a sovereign remedy against the sea-sickness. How am I to take these ethereal drops? You must pour out from fifteen to twenty-two drops into a spoon, on a small lump of sugar.” (In the 1800s, ether was used as a medical anesthetic, recreational drug, and alcohol alternative for women who didn’t drink; Hoffmann’s Drops consisted of 3 parts alcohol to 1 part ether.) 

And if you get a toothache, which “happens frequently at sea,” stay inside during the morning and evening, chew on cochlearia (a plant in the cabbage family) and sage leaves, and wash your mouth with brandy.

5. CAREFULLY EXAMINE THE BEDDING IN YOUR INN.

After the innkeeper has shown you a suitable room, make sure your room isn’t on the ground floor, doesn’t face the street (the carriages are noisy), has the number of beds you desire, and has window shutters. Then inspect the bed. Tell the innkeeper that you won’t accept rumpled sheets, and if you have a baby, check that the cradle is clean and bug-free. Some questions and instructions for the innkeeper:

“The beds must be made. Can you provide us with a mattress, instead of this feather-bed? Bring us another pillow. I should prefer a bolster to this pillow. This coverlid is dirty. It is too heavy. It is too light. Give me another. Bring us some good clean sheets. I must tell you that I shall examine them very carefully. These sheets have certainly been used already. They are damp, I will not have them, I must have some others. I have my own sheets; but I always have sheets from the inn, in order to spread them over the mattress, afterwards I spread my own over them.” 

6. WHEN YOU ORDER FOOD, BE SPECIFIC ABOUT YOUR PREFERENCES.

Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean that you should have to give up your dietary preferences. Whether you’re asked how strong you like your coffee, if you prefer eggs poached or boiled, or how you want your meat cooked, don’t be afraid to answer truthfully. Speak up about your culinary preferences for white versus brown bread, fowl leg or wing, and sugar and cream for your tea. “I beg you will not put butter in the soup or gravy … I neither like cinnamon, nutmeg, nor cloves. Put none in the ragouts, and very little salt. I will have no mushrooms in any of the dishes.” Just make sure to thank your host or chef for their trouble.

7. IF YOU’RE SHOCKED BY SOMETHING YOU SEE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, DON’T SHOW IT. 

Table manners are important, and politeness will take you far, especially when you’re in a foreign country. Have respect for the culture you’re visiting, even if it’s not your favorite. If you prefer the Germans’ food and way of life to the English, don’t show your disdain: “In traveling, we must accustom ourselves to the different usages of the countries through which we pass, not appear astonished at any thing, and above all, not to despise any thing.” 

8. ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH A FIRST AID KIT.

Accidents happen on the road, so be prepared. If one of your horses falls down and your driver gets hurt, first tend to the injured, then whip out your first aid kit. According to Genlis, you might say: “I always carry with me every thing that is requisite in such accidents. Reach me my small casket. In this casket are bandages of linen, good plasters, Cologne water, fine parchment, brandy, two viols…” And show compassion to anyone who’s injured: “Take courage, my friend! Your fall does not appear to be dangerous. Poor man! I sympathize greatly with your sufferings, I assure you.”

Treating a bruise, a hole in someone’s head, or gushing blood requires different tools. “He has a hole in his head. We must first wash the wound well with fresh water, and afterwards apply a rag to it dipped in Cologne water mixed with fresh water … Afterwards, if the bleeding continues with the same violence, we must apply sugar well pounded to the wound. I have some in my box.” 

9. STAND FIRM WHEN YOUR SERVANT HAGGLES FOR A BIGGER TIP. 

Traveling can be expensive, and it’s easy to overpay when you’re in a new place and don’t know the going rates. Negotiation takes practice, so whether your driver tries to shake you down for a bigger tip or your servant tells you that your heavy carriage will incur an extra fee, consider these sample dialogs: 

“How! are you not satisfied? You drove me well, certainly, but I have paid you handsomely. If you had driven us better, I should have given you more. I generally give to a coachman who drives well ...”

“I ought to pay no more than the regular charge…I assure that it is not heavy, neither has it much weight to carry. In short, I have hitherto done very well with two or four horses, and I shall certainly take no more.” 

10. ASK YOUR DOCTOR TO HELP YOU FIND A BATHTUB.

Getting sick when you’re away from home is tough. But Genlis has you covered, whether you come down with gout, rheumatism, a fever, a pain in your neck, jingling in the ears, nose bleeding, diarrhea, or a dullness and confusion in your head. Ask the physician who comes to treat you at your inn about the healing powers of bathing: 

“Do you think, sir, that bathing would be beneficial to me? ... But what shall I do for a bathing-tub? It is very difficult to procure one, even if we pay dear for the loan of it. Would you oblige me so far as to procure me one? ... Pray tell the maid to procure a tub large enough for me to bath in. When will you have the tub? ... How long must I stay in the water? ... How often am I to bathe?” 

And even if you’re not sick, ask your innkeeper to bring you a pail or bucket of lukewarm water (with soap mixed in) so you can dip your feet in. Warm water always feels nice on feet that are tired from traveling.

 [h/t Wonders & Marvels]

All images via iStock except where noted.

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12 Solid Facts About New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain
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iStock

On May 3, 2003, the craggy rock face known as New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain tumbled to the ground in spectacular fashion. For a landmark that had been in the state's DNA for generations, its collapse was like a death in the family to some. The day after it fell, people left flowers at the base of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park as a sort of funeral tribute, and plans were immediately launched to create a longer-lasting memorial. So what was so great about the Old Man of the Mountain, pre- and post-crumble? Read on for the stone-cold facts.

1. THANKS TO NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, THE OLD MAN WAS ALSO KNOWN AS “THE GREAT STONE FACE.”

Although not explicitly named, it’s widely believed Hawthorne based his 1850 short story "The Great Stone Face"—which was set in an anonymous state that happens to look like New Hampshire—on the Old Man. At that time, the mountainous figure was already a tourist draw to the Granite State. Hawthorne described it as an “enormous giant, or a Titan,” with a “broad arch of the forehead,” a long-bridged nose, and having “vast lips.” Eventually Hawthorne’s nickname stuck, along with other loving titles like “Old Man” and “the Profile.”

2. THE "FACE" WAS ACTUALLY A SERIES OF LEDGES.

These granite cliff ledges, 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide, when viewed from the north at certain angles looked like a jagged face. Hawthorne corroborated this, writing in “The Great Stone Face”: “If the spectator approached too near, he lost the outline of the gigantic visage, and could discern only a heap of ponderous and gigantic rocks ... Retracing his steps, however, the wondrous features would again be seen; and the farther he withdrew from them, the more like a human face, with all its original divinity intact, did they appear."

3. HE COULD HAVE BEEN 12,000 YEARS OLD.

An 1856 postcard of The Old Man of the Mountain
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The Old Man was first discovered and recorded in 1805 by road surveyors Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks, which put the landmark at nearly 200 years old by the time it fell. But it likely first formed when water inside cracks in the granite bedrock froze and thawed following the retreat of glaciers about 12,000 years ago. (This freezing and thawing process was what hastened its eventual collapse.) According to geologist Brian Fowler in a research report by the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, the lower ledge—or chin—of the Old Man is assumed to have fallen first. Once that support was gone, the rest of the rock fell in formation.

4. CANNON MOUNTAIN WAS SO NAMED BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE ANTIQUE ARTILLERY.

The Old Man jutted from a cliff in Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, within Franconia Notch State Park. Originally named Profile Mountain, it took on a new name since its granite dome resembles a cannon from select vantage points. There are even three sub-peaks, nicknamed “The Cannon Balls.”

5. SOME OF THE STRONGEST SURFACE WINDS EVER IN THE U.S. WERE RECORDED ON TOP OF CANNON MOUNTAIN.

The gusts measured 199.5 mph on April 2, 1973. While impressive, they were likely even higher since 199.5 mph was the limit of what the researchers' instruments could record at the time. The highest surface wind gust in the U.S. still belongs in-state, though, with New Hampshire's Mount Washington recording 231 mph winds in 1934.

6. A SERIES OF TURNBUCKLES AND IRON TIES WERE PLACED WITHIN ITS FACE TO KEEP IT TOGETHER.

By 1916, as it became clear the Old Man might not live forever, the first efforts to protect the rock formation were made. By the 1920s, a crack in the Old Man’s "forehead" was clearly noticeable, and residents who were worried about its safety used chains, turnbuckles, and iron ties to keep the crack from separating. Many of those metal rods used to hold the Old Man together were still attached to the mountain years later.

7. THE STATE EVENTUALLY SPENT A SMALL FORTUNE TRYING TO SAVE IT.


Julius Hall, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1957, the New Hampshire state legislature passed a $25,000 appropriation for the necessary repairs to slow the Old Man's deterioration. These steps included quick-drying cement and steel rods meant to fill in and fortify cracks. The rocky Band-Aids were maintained every summer.

8. THE CARETAKERS’ MAINTENANCE ROUTINES WERE METICULOUS.

One longtime caretaker, Niels Nielsen, took great pains to keep the Old Man clean since 1965. Nielsen would spray bleach on the rock face and in its cracks, then carefully remove moss and lichen in an effort to prevent cracks from spreading further. He would even clean out the Old Man’s ear with a garden hoe. When Nielsen retired, he passed the job on to his son, David. The face continued to be groomed until its collapse.

9. NIELS NIELSEN SAW THE OLD MAN AS A GIFT FROM GOD.

According to Yankee Magazine, Nielsen was rather enchanted by the rock formation. “I had sailed around the world as a merchant seaman, yet I had never seen anything like the Old Man," he said. "I don’t believe anyone can be up there and not feel the presence of God."

10. BUT EVEN NIELSEN KNEW IT MIGHT FALL SOME DAY.

Nielsen was asked by Yankee what would happen if the Old Man ever fell. “The Lord put him here, and the Lord will take him down," Nielsen replied. Research concluded its collapse was natural—that the freezing-thawing process and subsequent erosion over time caused its downfall.

11. YOU CAN STILL "SEE" THE OLD MAN.


Rob Gallagher, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The image of the Old Man has lived on as a state emblem since 1945, appearing on highway signs, on the back of drivers licenses, and on the reverse of the state quarter. But residents weren’t done with honoring the now-deceased rock face. At Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza and Historic Site in Franconia, special viewfinders and steel “profilers” at vantage points near Profile Lake offer a glimpse of what the formation used to look like.

12. THERE’S EVEN AN OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN FLOWER.

Old-Man-of-the-Mountain, or tetraneuris grandiflora, is found in the Intermountain Regions and Rocky Mountains in states like Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho. It’s sometimes called an alpine sunflower and got its common name from the wooly hairs that cover its leaves.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Take a Closer Look at the $17 Billion 'Holy Grail of Shipwrecks'

Feast your eyes on these new images of the treasure among the wreckage of the Spanish ship San José, often called the "holy grail of shipwrecks." When it sank on June 8, 1708, it was carrying gold, silver, jewels, and other precious cargo worth roughly $17 billion today. Now, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is revealing the major role it played in the 2015 expedition to find the San José.

The three-masted, 62-gun Spanish galleon exploded and sank at the hands of the British during the War of the Spanish Succession. It was carrying its riches to the Colombian city of Cartegena to finance the war. Archaeologists had been trying to find the San José for decades before it was finally located on November 27, 2015, during an expedition organized by Colombia, Maritime Archaeology Consultants (MAC), and WHOI. The multibillion-dollar treasure, which still sits nearly 2000 feet below the surface of the ocean near Cartegena, is just now being revealed.

WHOI's autonomous underwater vehicle REMUS 6000 was responsible for finding the elusive wreck. REMUS has been with the project since the beginning: The machine created the first side-scan sonar images of the site. After that, REMUS journeyed to a point 30 feet above the site and captured high-resolution photos of the ship's distinctive bronze cannons, which are engraved with dolphins. REMUS's documentation of this defining feature allowed scientists to positively identify the wreck as the fabled San José. (Thanks to whoever had the idea to put dolphins on the cannon in the first place.)

WHOI also released REMUS's photos of the wreckage, which show details of the horde, including ceramics and those famous cannons. "This constitutes one of the greatest—if not the biggest, as some say—discoveries of submerged patrimony in the history of mankind,” Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said back when the treasure was discovered.

The San José's treasure is the subject of a legal battle for ownership between Colombia and U.S. salvage company Sea Search Armada, which helped look for the wreck. In 2011, four years before the San José was even found, the court ruled that the booty belongs to Colombia, but the dispute is ongoing. Because of the legal drama, the exact location of the wreck remains a government secret.

Below, check out the newly released pictures for a closer look at cannons, teacups, and other ceramics.

cannons from the San Jose
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

pots from the San Jose
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

teacups from the San Jose
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

REMUS 6000
REMUS 6000
Mike Purcell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


A mosaic of images taken by the REMUS 6000 depicts the whole site.
A mosaic of images taken by the REMUS 6000 depicts the whole site.
Jeff Kaeli, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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