Greg
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April 1957
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Groogle

In March 1957 my father's contract with the Malayan colonial government was drawing to a close (as, indeed, was British colonial presence). One of the terms of the contract was that the family could be repatriated; for the British, that meant England, though of course they would also have returned us to Australia, which was much cheaper. We had never been to Europe before, and the idea of a free one-way passage for the whole family was attractive. My parents decided to take up the offer, and then continue back to Australia by way of the USA.

I was eight years old at the time, and though my father did try to get me to keep a diary, I can't recall writing more than a single entry. I have a fairly good recollection of parts of the trip, though, and along with other evidence, I'm reconstructing what I can recall.

I started writing this recollection 50 years after the event; clearly there will be inaccuracies.


Monday, 1 April 1957 Karachi → Baghdad → Baghdad →
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Finally left Karachi and headed west, landing first at Baghdad. Bev had got some stomach upset in Karachi and wasn't feeling her best. About an hour after leaving Baghdad, she got a lot worse, and the pilot decided to return to Baghdad to get her some medical attention. That seems to have been successful, since we didn't stay in Baghdad, but continued to London via a couple of airports which I've forgotten. Based on later experience, they could have included Beirut, Istanbul and Rome.


Tuesday, 2 April 1957 → London
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Arrived in London and went to a little bed and breakfast place. London was nothing like I expected it—the road where the bed and breakfast was located was almost deserted, and there were only a couple of cars parked along its length.

I wish I recalled where this was. Even 5 years later things seemed completely different.

Wednesday, 3 April 1957 London
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Into the West End to do some shopping. To Foyles, which seemed like heaven to me, and bought a couple of interesting books on science.

Also to Leicester Square, where I was greatly impressed by a sweet shop with thick window panes which seemed to serve no useful purpose. Went in to buy some sweets, and after being told that a certain sweet (Mars Bar?) cost 6d, I started off by offering 3d for it. The sales person had probably never seen anybody try to bargain before, and my parents had to explain to me that people didn't do that in England.

My parents parked Bev and me in an hour cinema theatre on the north side of Leicester Square while they did other shopping. We got to know several of the cartoons off by heart.


Thursday, 4 April 1957 London → Cambridge → Melbourn → London
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Off in the new car, a Ford Consul, to Cambridge, which was surprisingly close. My recollections are of the bookshops, but also of the surroundings in the old University part of the town.

On the way back, went through a town with the surprising name “Melbourn”, which we found amusing because we come from Melbourne in Australia.

Even more amusing is that my sister Bev (present with us in the car, of course) moved to Melbourn in about 1983 after completing her studies in Cambridge. At the time of writing, 2007, she still lives in Meldreth, the next village.

Saturday, 6 April 1957 London → Dunquerque → Abbéville
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Today we set off for the real Europe trip, crossing the English Channel with our car to Dunquerque, where we picked up a caravan and then headed towards Paris. We didn't make it very far. I'm guessing that we spent the night in Abbéville.


Sunday, 7 April 1957 Abbéville → Paris
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Monday, 8 April 1957 Paris
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Tuesday, 9 April 1957 Paris → Tours
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Wednesday, 10 April 1957 Tours → Bordeaux
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Thursday, 11 April 1957 Bordeaux → Ax-les-thermes
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Friday, 12 April 1957 Ax-les-thermes → Barcelona
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Woke up this morning to find it very cold. It was my mother's birthday (33 years old), and she was less than impressed by the cold. “It's a good thing it's an axe-less Thermes, or I'd hack it up”.

We set off south across the Pyrénées on some little roads in poor condition and partially covered with ice. The car and caravan weren't really up to it, and in some areas, despite going at a snail's pace, the car started slithering dangerously close to the edge of the road, beyond which was a precipice. As if that wasn't worrying enough for my father, my sister and I started screaming “we're too young to die”.

I have a relatively good idea of our itinerary for the following few weeks, but it's difficult to guess the dates. This is a framework which I may revise.

Friday, 19 April 1957 Barcelona
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Monday, 22 April 1957 Barcelona → Monte Carlo
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Tuesday, 23 April 1957 Monte_Carlo → Pisa
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Leaving Monte Carlo, we had to crawl up a steep, twisty road, towing a caravan with our underpowered Ford Consul. Half way up, the caravan hit a kerb, causing considerable noise. My mother wanted to stop immediately and inspect the damage, and there was much argument when my father refused: he would never have got moving again.

On the freeway coming in to Pisa, the caravan had a flat tyre, presumably as a result of the incident in Monte Carlo. Getting a repair was complicated both by the location and by the language barrier.


Wednesday, 24 April 1957 Pisa → Rome
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Friday, 26 April 1957 Rome → Venice
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Sunday, 28 April 1957 Venice → Bad Ischl
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Tuesday, 30 April 1957 Bad Ischl → Inssbruck
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