This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
DECIDEDLY it is a pleasant tiling to leave the wintry North, and speed away to the land of the orange and the myrtle Man has just made himself wings, and, like the birds, he can change his climate at pleasure. In a week he may run through enough parallels of latitude to leave behind him the wintry snow, and enter upon a. perpetual summer; he walks from his conservatory, where a few plants are barely kept in health by fires and steam, and before he has taken half a dozen good naps, he wakes up in a region where the skies are the only glass, and where a greenhouse has never been thought of; from frozen grounds, untillable till May, he flies to a land where the pine-apple ripens as it grows neglected by the roadside, and where fruits hang upon the trees till long after they have put forth their flowers for another crop. The orange is in full bearing, with height and limbs almost comparable to our apple-tree; its delicious golden product tempts the eye till it is attracted to the glorious plume of the neighboring cocoa-nut, or the still more stately Royal Palm, whose height and ostrich-like feathers are a prominent ingredient of every scene.
Does arboriculture engage his mind, the visitor finds innumerable trees, bushes, and vines, loaded with leaves and flowers such as have never been noticed in his vocabulary. This is literally the condition of things "In that fam'd land, by daring Colon given To the admiring gaze of pleased mankind.. * * * *
But insulted freedom yet may rear her throne, And raise congenial altars there." - W. Elliott.
A short visit to Cuba enabled us to embody a few notes that may be acceptable to our readers, and possibly we may be the means of inducing others to make it a winter residence whose state of health requires an equable climate, for such this eminently is.
Climate, it is true, is not everything, but to many it is of great importance, both to the healthy and the invalid, and it is beginning to be discovered that our Northern winters are as much, if not more to be dreaded than our summers. Hundreds now go to Cuba where thousands will hereafter make the trip when the advantages are more generally known, the facilities more multiplied, and the local government more disposed to receive us than is even now the case. The restraints on the movements of Americans are considerably relaxed of late, and though some ridiculous regulations are still in force, there were none, the past season, which were not easily borne or laughed at. More travellers from the States have resided on or visited the island the past winter than was ever before known, and it may be supposed they have now and then left an impression, and made a mark, which gradually may prove an entering wedge for the Anglo-Saxon race. Indeed, many of our countrymen are settled there, and manage some of the most important interests.
They are engineers on the railroads and sugar plantations; they keep the only decent hotels, purchase land here and there, and, if facilities were given, would soon overrun the country with improvements; but the Spanish policy is one of a high tariff character, and discourages manufactures for the sake of an enormous revenue, of which the Government is cheated by its officials, of at least one-half to two-thirds.
The trip to Cuba is of easy accomplishment. The Quaker City, a very fine steam-vessel, runs with regularity from New York to Havana and Mobile; the Black Warrior, the Cahawba, and the Empire City, to the first-named port and New Orleans; though not equal to the "Quaker," as they call her, the three latter •are tolerably comfortable, but require overhauling in some of their arrangements.
Our own voyage was made from Philadelphia to Charleston, S. C, in the steamship State of Georgia; this connected with the very clever and clean steamer, - Isabel, running only to Key West and Havana, in which every desirable comfort is found. These two ships carried us safely to our destination in seven days, nearly one being lost by detention at Key West, in order that we should not arrive in the night, and be obliged to cast anchor outside the Moro Castle,* according to Spanish usage. After enjoying the novelties of this very novel city of Havana, by examining its peculiarities and institutions, visiting all that was attractive in its neighborhood, and botanizing as much as possible, we went into the interior, visited sugar and coffee estates in considerable numbers, resided some time on one of the latter, took a peep at Matanzas and its beautiful port and neighborhood, and returning to Havana, concluded some further researches, held long conversations with a most intelligent native botanist, who is doing the world a service by his labors, and took our departure, in the Empire City, for New Orleans.
At New Orleans, we enjoyed some advantages, and, visiting Natches under happy auspices, found there (before the middle of April) the climate and the roses of our middle of June. Thence, via New Orleans to Mobile (where we found, April 10, all the forest-trees in full leaf), we ascended, on the 11th, 12th, and 13th of April, the Alabama River, whose banks were clothed in full summer garb, all the forest-trees being in leaf, and azaleas and the dogwood in bloom. The weather during this river ascent of four hundred and fifty miles, was cold and very chilly, as it had been at Natches, though the roses were in full beauty. Landing at Montgomery, Alabama, in a northeast rain, twelve hours of railroad travel transformed the scene from an entire spring to the perfect desolation of winter. At Atlanta, there was no green leaf, the forest was silent, and the cold became overpowering to a system relaxed by the perpetual summer we had enjoyed in the tropics; this dreariness of nature continued all the way to Philadelphia, enlivened a little only in the lower land of Augusta. Frost every night had already injured the corn and sugar about New Orleans, and had done its work on the fruit of Georgia and other States. It was impossible to keep warm except in tight rooms or rail cars, and, after our return home on the 18th of April, our own neighborhood experienced a snow-storm of great severity; all of which seemed to afford an argument for Cuban winters, where we had left, a few days before, the fruits and flowers under the influence of the thermometer steadily pointing, in the morning at 76°, and at noon, at 81°; where, in short, reigns perpetual summer; and the porter of the hotel, whom we found shelling peas in early March, as he does all the year, was engaged in the same pleasing occupation when we left Peas were plentiful at New Orleans, and strawberries could be had for a consideration, but they possessed less flavor than our own.