Volume 72: Macarthur family correspondence relating to wine, 1846-1900: No. 101
Bordeaux 9th Octr 1856
My dear James
I left Paris yesterday morning at 8hs. 10ms and arrived here in the evening at 8.50 distance something about 370 miles, the line being upon the whole remarkably level and with only a very few tunnels or deep cuttings. It passes through Orleans, Blois, Tours, Poitiers, Angouleme etc. If the Rail enables one to pass rapidly, and with little comparative fatigue, from one point to another, it must be admitted that it affords little means of observing upon the character & peculiarities of the country passed over. Several things nonetheless occurred to me as remarkable. First the immense extent of country right on end, without a single eminance as high as our "Stoney range" or nearly as remarkable. The banks of the Loire so abounding with ancient historical edifices, and so much spoken of for picturesque Country, are pretty but very tame. Chaumont, Amboise & other castellated piles of building renowned in story appear to be in good preservation, but the banks on or against which they rest are much the same in height and abruptness as the banks of the Parramatta River at Marsfield where Howells old mill dam abuts something more wooded, but not much. The river too is about as wide as the Parramatta River opposite Hauls old mill scarcely so wide, & [indecipherable] of Land banks. The first 180 to 200 miles of the road here are, as far as I could [indecipherable], continuously of fertile land. The district of Beauce very laid open, and very fertile naturally. A great quantity of lucerne in it and the Orleannois, which they seem to make into hay, much as we do.
Along the whole line, as long as it was light, we did not I think pass a [single?] acre uncultivated which was not marsh land. I think there are sometimes as many trees now in France particularly in the North, as there used to be in N.S.W. chiefly spreading poplars. South of the Loire you gradually get into a very poor dry stoney country (still all cultivated) except the narrow winding bottoms which appear to be very fertile. I should have judged much of it to be splendid vineyard soil, but it seems not, for the wine has no repute. We passed no just continuous tracts of vineyards although great extent and [indecipherable] but patchy, and intimately intermingled with other [indecipherable] of cultivation. The vines seemed to be presently healthy, and the vintage