I must for my own comfort express my abomination of English hotels."
Letter, Wednesday, July 21, 1875, London, England
Perhaps due to the excitement of setting off on her Grand Tour, Franklina had little to complain about in the American hotels she stayed in while crossing the country.
However, following her trip across the Atlantic Ocean, Franklina was shocked and disappointed by the British hospitality industry when they arrived in Liverpool.
Their first day in Europe was already off to a frustrating start with the misplacement of their luggage. Stopping for lunch at the Great Western Hotel in Liverpool after her luggage debacle, Franklina noted that they “had a poor meal badly served on soiled linen and coarse china."
Later, arriving in Chester for their first night in England, Franklina commented that she, “got very ordinary rooms to which is attached an exceedingly impertinent chambermaid."
At the Great Western Paddington hotel in London, she dismayed at the absence of an elevator, the 4 flights of stairs to her room, and the unaccommodating bellhops.
We go to the coffee room & order supper, among other things hot muffins. We wait twenty minutes. The coffee comes on cold; and on a plate is one muffin cut in two. "Is that muffin for two persons?" We ask in surprise. "Bring some more." "We 'ave no more" says the waiter. –- Such is hotel life in England!"
(Pictured: The Great Western Royal Hotel, Paddington, London, England, circa 1890. Library of Congress. This building still serves as a hotel today, now owned and operated by Hilton.)
Franklina's luck in lodging changed when she arrived in Germany. First at the Hotel Belle Vue in Bonn, where they "very gladly" arrived after a stay in Cologne:
Such a clean beautiful place with Castle windows overlooking the legendary Rhine."
Likewise, after arriving at the Hotel de l'Europe in Heidelberg, the company "forgot [their] annoyances" in the serenity of their lodgings:
Came home to sit on a little vine clad balcony at the Hotel de L'Europe and ate ices, while the fountain played below in a garden of flowers, and the moon crept tenderly down the blue sky."
Journal, Thursday, August 12, 1875, Heidelberg, Germany
(Pictured: The Hotel de l'Europe, Heidelberg, circa 1890. Library of Congress.)
Of other establishments along the way, Franklina had mixed reviews. From "stony pillows & braying donkeys" at the Hotel de la Croix Blanc on Lake Como, to smiling landladies and hot biscuits in the Swiss Alps, quality of accommodations varied considerably. Though guidebooks did their best to outline some of the better hotels of Europe, it seems that the Hewes party had higher expectations than many of their hosts could accommodate!
One spot that certainly caught their hearts was the French Riviera. Franklina and her family settled into the Grand Hotel d'Orient in Mentone in November of 1876 and did not check out until April 1877!
The fist night of their stay, they were surprised with a private ten-course meal surrounded by floral arrangements:
Bouquets of roses, camellia, and orange blossoms on every stand; a table set in the middle of the floor, with flowers at every plate, and great vases of gracefully arranged fruit. It was a surprise arranged by Mr. Hewes in his kind way... A dinner of ten courses with a change of wine for almost every course, and unlimited champagne to drink everyone's health in."
Letter, November 30, 1876, Mentone, France
(Pictured: The Gardens of Monte Carlo, circa 1890, Library of Congress.)
The French Riviera of 1876 and the French Riviera of today have much in common. With its attractive landscape, fresh sea air, and luxurious accommodations, Mentone and its neighboring Monte Carlo were popular destinations for the Victorian Grand Tourist.
Franklina frequented Monaco, deeming it "the most enchanting as well as the smallest of principalities." Ever the realist and concerned with money, Franklina found the casino at Monte Carlo difficult to swallow. In a very modern attitude towards gambling addictions she wrote:
These are the people upon whom the fatal passion is taking hold... It thrilled me with shame and pity. It seemed like a dream, this elegantly dressed, polite & silent company apparently so carefree but yet so full of care."
Letter, December 17, 1876, Mentone, France
That said, the Hewes party was not exactly frugal when it came to their stay in Mentone. She wrote:
Our expenses are very great here, our hotel bill alone being $3.50 apiece a day; and then the maid; & five dollars for each one of Dr. Bennett's frequent visits."
Letter, Sunday, March 4, 1877, Mentone, France
Adjusting for inflation, Franklina and her family spent nearly $40,000 on hotel fare alone! Dr. Bennett was a renowned physician who attempted to treat Matilda's mystery ailments (though there has been speculation at the truth and severity of Matilda's infirmity). He charged about $130 per visit and came multiple times a week.
(Pictured: The New Gambling Room at Monte Carlo, circa 1890, Library of Congress.)
Adding to their daily expenses, the Hewes party hired a maid for Franklina while in Mentone. The fair-haired, blue-eyed Italian woman was Assunta Barcsha.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her no-nonsense attitude when it came to fashion, Franklina found herself at a loss with how to employ her maid.
The woman's real use is to go out with me when Mr. H. is gone, but for the sake of giving her something to do we are forced to relapse into a very idle state of fine ladyness. I always feel rather ridiculous when someone else is fixing my hair & buttoning my boots."
Letter, Sunday, January 21, 1877, Mentone, France
One wonders how long it took Assunta to brush out and style such a head of hair!
(Picutred: Franklina C. Gray in a while muslin gown with her hair down, a photograph requested by her fiancé William Bartlett. 1877, Camron-Stanford House Collection, Gift of Tracey Bartlett, 2018.)
It was not uncommon for women like Franklina to travel with a maid. Indeed, guidebooks of the time sometimes noted best practices for traveling with hired help.
Famed etiquette writer, Eliza Leslie, wrote in her 1859 Behavior Book:
If you have a servant with you, see that she gets her meals, and has a comfortable sleeping-place, or in all probability she will be neglected and overlooked."
Luckily, Assunta and Franklina were close in age and therefore developed a cordial if not friendly relationship. Indeed, at the end of the Grand Tour, Assunta travelled back to Oakland and stayed on as Franklina's maid. The 1880 census shows her name listed in the Hewes family household.
(Pictured: "Before the Conquest," a woman with her maid, 1897, Library of Congress.)
Pleased as they were with the luxurious stay in Mentone, Mr. Hewes was determined to experience the exotic wonders of the East.
Among the most impactful and memorable experiences on Franklina's Grand Tour were the six weeks spent afloat on the Nile River. After a short stay in Cairo, they were ready to set sail:
Mr. Hewes has the best of it and is making arrangements to charter the handsomest boat on the river with twelve sailors, a mate, a captain, a cook and a dragoman."
Letter, Friday, February 3, 1876, Cairo, Egypt
Their ship, the Nitetis, was an eight-bedroom dahabeah style vessel similar to the one pictured here. Franklina and her family were joined by six passengers who paid Mr. Hewes for their spots on board. Among them was author Charles Warren Stoddard, who traveled with a companion, Augusta, The Baroness of Eichthal.
Above: Portrait of Augusta, the Baroness d'Eichthal, who traveled as companion to Charles Warren Stoddard aboard the Nitetis. Photograph from Franklina's photograph album which features photographs of many friends from her time abroad. Camron-Stanford House Collection. Gift of Tracey Bartlett, 2018
(Pictured: A Dahabeah on the Nile in Cairo, circa 1890. Library of Congress.)
Our charming little dahabeyah is the most comfortable home imaginable. The saloon in which I am writing is furnished with great cushioned chairs, a piano & pretty sideboards. Our books are on the bookshelves, our music on the piano. The little end saloon has been turned into a bedroom for Mamma. Rose & I have single rooms.
Letter, Sunday, February 13, 1876, Dahabeyah Nitetis off Gizah
So pleased was Franklina with the Nitetis, that she drew this map of the interior for William. At the top is a "saloon surrounded by divans" (likely the one Matilda had repurposed as her bedroom), two bathrooms and eight bedrooms along the passageway, an ammunition room, a pantry & china closet, and the dining saloon.
Fellow passenger, Charles Warren Stoddard described the Nitetis as having:
All the luxuries of first call hotel life."
Charles Stoddard, Mashallah! A Flight into Egypt, D. Appleton & Co. New York, 1881, p.129-132.
(Pictured: Hand drawn deck plan of the Nitetis, Franklina C. Gray, 1876. Camron-Stanford House Collection, Gift of Tracey Bartlett, 2018.)
"Our Teapot Tempest"
This kind of accommodation had issues of its own – notably, temperature control. In the days before air conditioning, the Nitetis could be "unbearably hot." Franklina recorded one day when "the heat soon become intense:"
Our boat was encased in canvas like an overcoat. The sailors lay around the decks & slept while we inside drank lemonade & feebly fanned."
Letter, Monday, March 22, 1876, Near Girgeh
Perhaps due to the heat, or simply that such close quarters afforded minimal privacy, some personalities on deck clashed. Both Stoddard and Franklina noted an "infernal row" between David Hewes and two passengers that sent the whole company into a state of frustration.
The whole is a disgraceful squabble which mortifies & annoys me beyond measure."
Letter, Tuesday, Feburary 29, 1876, Somewhere on the Nile
(Pictured: Interior of a Dahabiyeh, Frank Mason Good, circa 1868-1869. From the collection of the National Library of Israel, courtesy of the Lenkin Family Collection of Photography at the University of Pennsylvania Library.)
A Narrow Escape
One particularly disastrous evening, Franklina accidentally set fire to the mosquito net above her bed. Thankfully, she was able to escape the blaze but her clothing succumbed to the flames and her eyebrows and lashes were completely singed off!
It was only by the mercy of God that not only I, but the whole Dahabeyah was not burned. As it is my little room is in a sad state. The walls are charred; the curtains and bedding, my dress hats and underclothes... reduced to ashes."
Letter, Saturday, March 11, 1876, Assayan, Egypt
(Pictured: Sleeping quarters on the Imperial Yacht, Sultinaye, photographed by Abdullah Fréres, circa 1880-1893, Library of Congress.)
Camron Stanford House, 2021 www.cshouse.org