Sunday, 30 September 2012

Travelling Through France to Marseilles

January 25 1953    Land Mileage 0283
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we packed up and eventually got under way again at 10h00.   It was a very cold and chilly day; thank goodness we had a heater!  We drove on until we reached a small village where we had a quick stop over, and then onwards to Lyon and a hotel stop for the night.  The city is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière on the hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was a pretty uneventful day in all, the vehicle was going well and David and I loved every minute of it.   We found the pack of cards which kept everyone amused until dinner time.   I think that we used to play rummy, but not having played cards for many years, the skill has now been lost!!  Nowadays of course, I would have been out running around with the camera and blogging!!

January 26 1953        Land Mileage 0506

We woke up very early and ordered breakfast to be served in the bedrooms.   There would not be much luxury from here on, so we decided to spoil ourselves while we could.   We had eggs and bacon around 08h00; what could we have been thinking of?   English breakfast in France!   We packed up again and left Lyon around 09h30. 
I still had time to make a snowball - watch out!!
Snow and ice were the order of the day; this was exactly what we had been afraid of; so the progress south became even slower.  We sat in the Land Rover like four Eskimos, all huddled up in our coats, with the heater on full blast. Upon our arrival in Montélimar (famous for nougat and its lavender fields) we decided that we should try to find a shop and get some cheese and fruit.   Numerous shops sold nougat, but it took us quite some time to find our requirements.  Having done our shopping, we drove through the very picturesque town and stopped on the other side to have our snack.   We managed to find a spot by the edge of a field that had some shelter from the very icy wind, which was still bearing down on us.   It was very cold, but we felt that we really needed to stretch our legs, so we braved the elements to go for a short walk.    
Suspiciously it looks like both David and I have snowballs in hand...
After all the exercise, we huddled back into the Land Rover, heater on, and proceeded on to Marseilles where we arrived at around 16h30.  Marseilles is the oldest city in France and the second largest, after Paris.
The hunt was then on for an hotel which we found just off the square.   Routine took over and the usual, unpacking, a bath and a cleanup before strolling around the streets window shopping.   The weather was definitely warmer here, for which we were more than grateful.   We found ourselves a nice little cafe and dare I say it, had a very English dinner before retiring for the night.   That is, all but David, who was intrigued by the sights of Marseilles and he went off on his own to have a look around.

January 27 1953      Land Mileage 0716
After a good and restful night's sleep we decided to have a French breakfast, which was light and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us.  

We were not particularly hungry and I was not really feeling well.   We had planned to stay in Marseilles for a day or two, so we left the Hotel to go to the Maritime office to check to see if all the papers and tickets were in order for the Mediterranean crossing to Algiers.   This process indicated that all was exactly as it should be.   We had a look around the docks and by the time we decided that we should go back to the hotel, I was feeling really ill.   Mum insisted that I lie down on our return, which I was more than happy to do.  By now it was lunch time (our days seem to be made up of eating!) and Mum, Dad and David went off for a quick meal, leaving me to have a sleep.
Later the weather had improved and it was decided that perhaps fresh air would solve my problem.   We found a taxi and off we went to the Zoo.    Not the most exciting trip we had ever done, but the sun was shining and we were fascinated by a chimp who was smoking a cigarette.   Looking back it seems cruel that people could tempt a chimp into such bad habits, as I am sure that the end result would have been anything but good for him.   On our return to the hotel, I certainly seemed to have improved.   Dad went out with David to buy a chain and padlock to lock up some of the items in the Land Rover.   We were worried what might go missing while the vehicle was in transit to the North coast of Africa.
Mum wrote some post cards to let everyone know back home how we were getting on and then we played cards again until bedtime.   My mother slept in my room that night in case I took a turn for the worse, but I certainly seemed to be rapidly improving from whatever had set me back during the day.

January 28 1953
The weather had improved again, so after breakfast we went for a walk around the docks and the quay.  

It was quite an experience to watch the loading and unloading going on and it left us in little doubt as to what was going to happen next in our lives. 

In the early part of the afternoon, we had to take the vehicle to the Gare Maritime so we packed everything up that was necessary and then locked up as much as we could.   The port officials wanted to siphon out petrol from the tanks for safety reasons, but to their disappointment, we had worked out almost exactly what would be required and there was nothing to remove!   We then took the vehicle down to the boat and watched it being loaded.    It was put on by crane and this took some while, with much shouting, pushing and swinging (to us, somewhat precariously) around.    In the end it went up and over and was put down into the hold.    
I was obviously on portmanteau duty when Dad took this photo! 
We then celebrated this event with a bottle of cherry brandy, which we bought for six shillings; very expensive at the time!    Even I was allowed a very small glass! This went down well with some ham and fruit and we then went back to the hotel; there it was decided that I had better have an early night, although I seemed to have fully recovered from whatever had upset me the previous day.

To be continued :-) 

I have put this section of my life story on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. I'm thoroughly enjoying your trip, and your pictures. What an adventure, and how well you seem to remember all the details, including what you ate at each meal. Did you keep a diary?

    1. rosaria I would have no chance without the diary, this would have been an impossible task. Glad you are enjoying the trip. Diane

  2. Diane,

    Maybe it was a bit of stress with all of what was going on in your life at the time. A bit of excitement and anxiety...

    It amazes me that you have all of these photos. It's a good job that at the time you had envisaged to capture each step of your adventure by taking photos.

    Have you ever returned to Lyon and to Montélimart after your trek to Africa?

    Looking forward to the next chapter. Take care.

    1. Awena I am more than lucky to have all these photos and although black and white many are in reasonable condition.
      No sadly I have not returned to any of the French towns on our trip, it is something I hope to do when we have some time to spare.
      Have a good week. Diane

  3. It sounded an awfully cold trip but I guess that will change when you get to Africa. Getting sick must have been a bit of a worry for you and your parents. David sounds like he was having a whale of a time. Great photo collection and thank goodness for old diaries. Looking forward to the next instalment.

    1. diane b I am quite sure that my parents were very worried, being ill at that stage of the trip would have made life very difficult !! David was old enough to go off on his own I think he really enjoyed it, especially in France, he had just finished school so his school boy French was fairly fresh in his mind. Take care Diane

  4. I am very curious to know if you were able, at that time, to realize the change of dialects along the road from North to South of France.

    1. Pille you are a multi linguist so I am sure that you would have noticed. You have to remember I was only 9, I had missed a whole year of school when I was young and ill, and did not know one word in French. I have to admit, although I know more than one word now, (though not a lot), I do not think I would pick up the accent change even now. In the UK it is very obvious, some areas I do not even understand the English!!!! Have a great week Diane

  5. I shall look forward to catching up, each weekend, on the next chapter of your trip. I love the photo of you on the snowbank. As always your Mother is so elegant in each photo she is in. Did David keep a diary too, or was it just your Mother?

    Cherry brandy is a great way to celebrate and I am pleased you were included in the celebration with your tiny glass.

    I am so enjoying each and every word of this Diane! X

    1. Dolly that means I have to remember to write a weekly episode LOL!! My Mum was an elegant person and she generally always looked very smart. No only my Mum wrote a diary but David did take some photos.

      I love cherry brandy, it is not so easy to find on the shelves nowadays though :-(

      Take care an keep well, Diane xx

  6. Always so interesting...
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks |Andrea, I always enjoy hearing from you. Have a good Sunday. Diane

  7. Hi Diane,

    I just wanted to let you know that I did a special post for you on my blog (The heart of Lyon), as your story amazes me. On my post, I put some recent photos of Lyon, as I live close. I hope you don't mind (if you do, I can delete it or amend it - no problem). Just let me know.

    Take care.

    1. Awena thank you for mentioning me, I am more than happy to to have my name on your blog. I am also delighted to see more of Lyon. Thanks Diane

  8. January 27, 1953 is exactly the date my mother was born! Exciting!


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