The Nation: Gallic Grumbles

The inhabitants never walk if they can ride. Their conversation is boring. The food in their inns—mainly smoked or salted bear fat, corn bread and weak coffee—is "very mediocre." Worse, travelers must often sleep on the floor, surrounded by couples engaged in various sexual acts.

So complained Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans and a future King of France (1830-48), after a four-month swing through the U.S. in 1797. Four years earlier, the young aristocrat, whose father was guillotined by revolutionists, had begun a 21-year exile, spent mostly in Europe. Then 23 years old,...

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