Friday, 16 March 2012

Inspiration from an old diary (1931)

By way of a change, I'm reproducing here the contents of an old diary I picked up with a bundle of postcards at a car boot sale some time ago. I have retyped it in its entirety but there are a few gaps where the writer left a space, not knowing the name of a place they'd travelled through.

I don't know who the couple were, except that they came from Salisbury and travelled by the Riviera Express to Beaulieu-sur-mer on the Cote d'Azur in 1931.

One of my recent stamp collages is based on an image I found of Beaulieu -sur-mer and the whole project of retyping the diary, finding some photographs and advertsisements to illustrate it and then making the collage kept me totally absorbed for quite some time! Unfortunately it was not possible to include the photographs here, but hope the writer's descriptions conjure up the atmosphere of a 1931 trip to the South of France, coutesy of Mr Lunn, who I imagine was the originator of the Lunn Poly holiday company.

A Place of Beauty

Riviera Trip
September 4th 1931
Left Salisbury on Friday evening for London, where we arrived in time for dinner. Got rooms at the Royal Hotel, Woburn Place, for the night, not much of a hotel but all right for one night. Had dinner at the Florence Restaurant and then went to the Leicester Square Empire to see a film: Wallace Beery in The Secret Six.
Had morning tea at the Carlton Hotel then taxied to Victoria and had breakfast on the train. 9 a.m. train to Folkestone, then got on the boat to cross to Boulogne. Had to retire and lie down half way through, as the boat was swaying a good deal. In spite of that I was a little bit sick, but soon recovered.
One of Henry Lunn’s men saw us to the train, got our luggage through the Customs and got seats for us on the train to Paris. Arrived there 4 p.m. at the Gare du Nord. Got a taxi to take us to the Gare de Lyon and get the Riviera Express. Much amused at the antics of our taxi. All rather erratic drivers in Paris. Had a sleeper all to ourselves in the train and were very comfortable. Had a good dinner on the train and went to bed rather early. Leslie had top bunk and me bottom. Quite comfy. Woke at about 6.30 in the morning to glorious sunshine and marvellous scenery of the South. Every scrap of land seemed to be cultivated, mostly little bushes of bright blue grapes for wine. Lots of olive trees too. In the background were rocky mountains. Had breakfast in the dining car about seven carriages up, then went back to our sleeper. Passed through lovely coastal scenery on to Cannes, Juan les Pins, Nice, Villefranche and finally Beaulieu, our destination.

Were met at station by Mr Fox, friend of the Burnett Parkers who was very decent to us, and saw us to our rooms at the Pension Primerose by carriage.

Beaulieu was very pretty, full of glorious villas and big hotels, many of them high up in the hills which made a pretty background to the scenery. Many orange and lemon trees in the gardens also fig, all in fruit. First time I had seen oranges and lemons growing. Had lunch at the Pension. Food very good and well cooked. Sat in garden for a bit after, then had a walk round Beaulieu and tried to get a bathe, but there didn’t seem to be any beach, just a few rocks here and there so we put it off. Very disappointed at the sea front. Of course, it was beautiful but no good to us for bathing.
Decided to look at some other places next day in case we thought of leaving Beaulieu if we saw somewhere better. At 5 p.m. Mr Fox called for us and took us up to his flat, rather high up. Was introduced to his wife and sister and saw over their flat, a marvellous one with big rooms and a glorious view. They were very nice folk and we chatted quite a long time. Didn’t do anything after dinner in the evening were so tired after our journey, so went to bed early and read a little while.

Woke to a glorious sunny morning next day, so after having settled into our new bedroom at the Primerose, went down to the Plage to have a bathe. On our way, met Mr Fox, who came down with us. The Plage turned out to be much nicer than we thought so we managed to have a lovely bathe, then sunbathed on the verandah of the Plage, after having covered ourselves in oil, and had drinks. Sat there some time and had a lovely sun bathe, then went back to the Pension for lunch.
Took the bus to Nice where we had half an hour to wait to catch another bus (The P.L.M. buses) to take us up the mountains to the Gorge du Loup. Had a look round the shops. The Galeries Lafayette seemed to be the most important big shop open. Of course a lot of the shops and hotels etc everywhere were closed, not being in the season, but there were still some quite nice ones open, though not such high class ones. Noticed that clothes were very cheap, particularly fur coats, really nice ones too. Leslie found English cigarettes very expensive everywhere so had to buy French ones, which he didn’t much care for. At 3 p.m. caught our charabanc and started on a glorious tour in the mountains. The scenery got more lovely the higher we got. There were many vineyards and lots of olive and fig groves with here and there oranges and lemon trees. There didn’t seem to be any cows or even goats. I suppose because of the lack of grass due to dry weather. There were some very nasty bends on the way with not much room for down coming traffic. Passed some interesting villages, one being St Paul, a very old village built on top of a hill, and onto Terre sur Loup, a really ancient village built by the Moors and Saracens on a rocky hill. Up and up we went until we came to Pont du
Loup, where we stopped to look over a small factory where they were making perfume and soap etc, though it wasn’t the proper factory, that being in Grasse, one of many.
Next came the Gorge du Loup, a marvellous sight, with a rocky, rushing river down below and on and on up further still to Gourdon, which was the highest village of all right on a peak, 2,700 feet above sea level. Came back a different route to Grasse, quite a large town, where we stopped and had an English te, though the tea itself was very poor, like all French tea.
Arrived back at Nice about 7 p.m. Had a hectic time trying to find a W.C. and eventually made them understand in a dress shop what I wanted!
Back to the Pension rather late for dinner and up to bed early again. Both felt tired.
Next morning, Tuesday, there was no sunshine and it was rather dull, so didn’t bathe but went into Nice instead and had a look at the shops etc and home to lunch. Caught the bus after lunch to Monte Carlo and were fascinated with the place, even in the rain.
It was a glorious place and had a very wealthy air about it and was all beautifully kept and clean looking. Some gorgeous hotels, the most luxurious being the Hotel de Paris, just next to the Casino, which was also a marvellous building. Went into the Casino after getting tickets and showing our passports and entered the gambling rooms. They were playing roulette and we we chose roulette. Leslie tried his luck and found he got on quite well, and was fascinated with the game, likewise me, so we stayed there all the time, he playing and me watching, having tea in between. Stayed from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m and Leslie managed to make about £5 – not bad for first time and small stakes. Walked through the town after and found a splendid little restaurant (the Chatham )run by English people, where we had a jolly good supper, quite a number of English people dining there. Raining nearly all day but we managed to enjoy ourselves thoroughly, mostly at the gambling tables.
Another dullish day but looked like clearing. Went into Nice in the morning to Cooks etc and had a little while there. Back to lunch and back again to catch the bus for the tour of “La Grande Corniche”. Turned out a lovely afternoon in the end. Another beautiful run, all coastal scenery this time along the top of the mountains . Looking down, got marvellous views of Beaulieu, Cap Ferrat, Monaco etc etc. Stopped at the top of the Corniche and got some cards etc. Down into the town of Menton which we liked, though nearly all the hotels and good shops were closed. Went as far as the Italian frontier, where we got out and had to show our passports, if we crossed over, which we did, so that we could say we had been in Italy. Back again and into Monte Carlo, where we left the bus as we were staying the evening. Had tea at the Café de Paris opposite.
the Casino and watched the people for a long time. Interesting spot where one can see nearly every nationality in the world and all sorts of conditions of people.
Afterwards, went into the Casino for Leslie to try his luck while I walked round Monte and had a look at the shops etc. Leslie had bad luck this time, so he left and went to Chatham’s and had supper there again and home.
Had to go to Nice to Cooks office to book our sleepers, so missed another bathe. Pity, as it was a good morning for it . Had a good walk round Nice, and looked at all kinds of shops. Had the most wonderful Sundae I have ever tasted at a little café there. Home to lunch. Went down to the beach in afternoon but it was rough and rather windy so we didn’t bathe but had a bit of a sunbath. Tea at the Café Beaux Arts at Beaulieu and after supper went to Monte Carlo to the tables. Leslie had bad luck again and decided to give it up. Listened to the band for a while and came home. Felt rather rotten think I caught a chill at the Plage, so dosed myself and hopped quickly into bed.
Down to the beach in the morning but not nice enough to bathe. Mr Fox came down and had a chat, and came up with us to the Café to have a drink and nice chat. Went into Monaco in the afternoon and did a tour of the Oceanographic Museum. It was very interesting as practically everything there was in the collection of the Old Duke of Monaco. There was a marvellous aquarium which we also looked round. Some of the fish etc were rather repulsive especially the octopus which was horrible. Afterwards went on to the Café de Paris at Monte and had tea. Raining a good bit, and not a very nice afternoon so came back in time for dinner.

A glorious day and felt much better after dosing myself the night before, so we got up early and went down to the Plage to bathe and sunbathe. It was perfect down there and we started to get really brown in earnest. Leslie had an interesting conversation with a famous German doctor about his leg. He spoke to Leslie as he seemed interested in the case and seemed to think he could be cured or certainly improved a lot. Arranged to meet again next morning, when he would give Leslie his address and the address of his brother, who apparently is a big surgeon as goes in for paralysis etc. Back to lunch, and wrote to mother and Bungie (?) and sent off several P.C.s Down to the Plage again, not nice enough for bathing so just had a sunbathe. Tea at the Café Beaux Arts, and back there again after dinner. Lovely night, quite mild.
Letter from Mother. Fairly fine day – went down to the Plage for bathing. Very quiet day. Leslie slipt nearly all the afternoon while I read, then we went down to the English tea rooms at Beaulieu and had tea. Chat with Mr Fox up at the Café. Very lazy day.
A perfectly gorgeous day, so we went down very early to the Plage and had a bathe, and the best sunbath we have yet had. Did us both a world of good. Caught the early bus to nice and had half an hour or so to waste until we got the other bus for Juan-les-Pins and Cannes etc. Had ices and Leslie booked our train seat for Paris, ditto rooms in a Paris Hotel for Saturday and Sunday night. Had a beautiful run in the afternoon. Were very struck with the scenery just out of Antibes on Cap d’Antibes as far as Cannes. The coastal Antibes is too gorgeous. All the rocky coves dotted about with the most marvellous pensiones around the bay with a whole chain of mountains behind. The town of Antibes itself wasn’t up to much being rather untidy, but the moment you got out of it, it really was the prettiest place we had been so far and it was rather wild in parts with all the rocks etc.
Went right round the Cap itself to the other side where there was another beautiful view of another bay, with the Isle of St Honorat in the distance and a whole line of peaks behind. Quite close by was Juan les Pins the smartest and most crowded place we had seen. It was certainly very gay, and all the women were very smart in their beach pyjamas etc. It was actually a sandy beach as the others were nearly all shingle. Consequence was every square inch of room on the beach was taken up and the place fairly teemed with people. Seemed to be some very nice shops next through Golf Juan etc and finally reached Cannes, the most luxurious and popular spot on the Riviera. It certainly seemed a fine town with the most gorgeous shops and hotels, all catering for the wealthy. Spent a while in the port, and had a look at all the gorgeous yachts moored there, French, American and British ones. Leslie was of course extra thrilled at this sight. Saw a man catch a small octopus while fishing. They are revolting beasts. Back home a different way, not nearly so pretty and a beastly bad road. Saw mimosa trees in bloom for the first time in my life. Back to Nice and caught the bus home. Letters from Bunjie Read, Mr Parker and V. Mawdsley.
Very stormy morning quite a gale in the night. Sea much too rough for a swim. So our morning was rather wasted. I sat in the Pension garden and wrote a long letter to Audrey and cards to Grannie and Fluffie while Leslie met Mr Fox at the Café. After lunch took the bus into Nice and had a good look at the shops. Didn’t buy much as we were rather short of cash. Some things much cheaper than in England such as fur coats and most clothes. Home to dinner and up to the Café after with Mr Fox.
Lovely morning again. Went down to the Plage as usual. Stayed all morning. Sat in garden until it was time to go up to the Fox’s for tea. Were awfully nice and gave us jolly good English tea. They had two new canaries as well as Joe the Bulldog – the biggest and ugliest animal I had ever seen, but a darling, very affectionate. Stayed there quite a long time chatting and went with Mr Fox to the Café. Went to bed early and read.
A glorious morning so got up earlier than usual to go to the Plage. Had a marvellous bathe and sunbathe. Another letter from Bungie - the Babe in great form with another new tooth!
Our last day of Beaulieu and very sad we were at the thought of leaving it. Went to the Plage in the morning, but it really wasn’t nice enough for bathing. Met Mr Fox at the Café and talked to him until lunch time. Starting packing after lunch and got it all finished before going to the hairdressers. Had my hair very well done in a small shop, but with all the new ideas for hairdressers. Had tea at the Pension and said farewells to everyone. Gave Marie 50 francs tip including for weekly tip, so think she did quite well. She certainly was a great help to us and was such a nice cheery girl. Mr Fox met us at the station and helped us register our luggage etc, and saw us off on the train. Had the same sleeper as we had coming. I was feeling rather rotten. Had terrible pain, felt like acute indigestion, anyway Les got me a tiny bottle of Brandy on Nice station and I had tow lots of that. Likewise dosed myself before going to sleep. Were very comfortable and had a fairly good night. Arrived at Paris (Gare de Lyon) at exactly 12 a.m. Took a taxi to the Hotel de Noailles, Rue de and had lunch. Topping bedroom with private bathroom attached. Very nice and the hotel very central. After lunch had a look at a few shops and then went a very good

tour by Char-a-banc (George Lunn) all round the East side and Historical part of Paris. Spent some time at the Louvre and were very thrilled. It is supposed to be the best collection of statues , jewellery, paintings , furniture etc in the whole world and was the evidence of all the Kings of France until the Revolution. Passed various other interesting buildings and went through the Latin Quarter, where all the colleges etc are and on to the and on to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, where we saw inside. Also passed the Luxembourg gardens and Palace and various other parks. Were really rather disappointed in Paris. It all seemed so shoddy compared with London and as for the traffic, it astounded us, no method and not much control over it by the police. Went to a marvellous Baby Shop called “A la Ville du Puy” in the Boulevard Haussmann (No 48) bought Bobbie a dear little pair ………………………

The Franc worth 2d 123 Francs to the £


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