“Cycling Honeymoon to France” is the headline of this newspaper cutting from the local Herald newspaper of 6th September 1952, from the start of the log book my parents kept of their first holidays together.
The log book contains photos, tickets, menus, postcards, maps and more ephemera from their honeymoon, along with descriptions of their experiences which they took turns to write. They spent their wedding night in Hythe, Kent, having travelled there “through hop country, and passed colonies of hop-pickers” in the guards’ van of a train with their bicycles and “sharing same with coffin, whether occupied or not we could not tell. Cockney fellow-passengers found in this inexhaustible source of wit”. The following morning they cycled to Lympne where they boarded a Silver City Airways “Air Ferry” with their bikes, landing at Le Touquet 20 minutes later. From there they spent 3 days cycling through the French countryside to Paris, staying in modest digs and noting “much war damage along route”.
James (Dad) also notes, inexplicably, when they stop at Abbeville for lunch: “Long climb on foot – disentangled a goat”. I presume this to be the disentangled goat in question:
On 3rd September they “Arrived in Paris, 1.40pm…and felt the old spell”. James has evidently been to Paris before, and they spend a significant part of their honeymoon attempting to find his old comrade “Albert”. They do all the usual romantic tourist stuff – Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Montmartre – but being my parents, they have not come to Paris just for the romance. They attempt to visit “Mur des Federes – where the last of the Communards were shot – but we were not allowed to enter ‘sans pantalones'”. I also doubt it was by chance that their carefully planned honeymoon coincided with the Fete de l’Humanite in Vincennes on 7th September 1952 (this Communist arts and politics festival is still going today – Joan Baez featured in 2011). Here, they finally meet up with “the elusive Albert” at the “Vie Ouvrière” stand – he had been busy working on preparations for the Fete, which is described in my mum’s hand as “a grand success, thousands of people were there. It was just a jolly thronging mass as far as the eye could see.”
James and Eleanor leave Paris after the Fete and begin their return journey via Louvres and Chantilly, where, James writes: “The rain came down really heavily. Just before, we were accompanied by a little bird of the swift family, who flew round us in circles and sometimes between us, and very close. Unexpectedly we came upon the Palace at Chantilly, seen through a drop curtain of driving rain, like a fairy landscape”. When the rain stops, they have “Tea at Clermont, by the war memorial, and off to more climbing, and dodging of apples dropping from the heavily laden trees which line the road for miles.” Two days later, on board the air ferry back to Lympne, “We felt very sad as France dropped beneath us.”
This log book is precious not only for the record of my parents’ honeymoon, but for the small everyday items and observations it contains: a snapshot of life in France and England in 1952. They kept a careful daily ledger of their budget, so I know that the entire trip cost them £50 and 16 shillings. The book also contains records of several subsequent holidays, including a return to Paris – by train and boat this time – with the Progressive Tours travel company in 1955.
Keeping a log book on holiday became a family tradition, and I have several more in the archives, some of which I even contributed to as a child. I also have log books kept by both of my parents in their youth: my Dad’s records of his cycling trips around Scotland with his brothers and friends in the 1930s, and a copy of the ship’s log kept by my Mum and her friend Joan when they sailed a skiff up the Thames during the war (the original was left to the Imperial War Museum when Joan died last year). The family tradition goes back even farther than that: I have the log books kept by Auntie of her road trips to Scotland and Cornwall in the 1930s; and the journeys to Jamaica and South Africa that she took with her mother, Hephzibah, almost 100 years ago. All of these treasures will be featured on this blog – the modern version of the log book – in due course.