The days of 20 years ago, (early 1930s) when the Riviera was crowded with British visitors for the whole winter, are apparently gone for ever. Hotels that once held hundreds of guests for four or five months continuously, are now glad to bestow their attentions on half-a-dozen visitors. But though deserted of this parade of fashion, yet this part of the world has not lost its natural beauty nor its elegance. A more beautiful stretch of coast than the Ligurian shore, washed by the blue Mediterranean and bedecked with palm groves, flower beds, orange and lemon trees, and sheltered by the lofty green Apennines, can hardly be imagined. Though we missed Mount Etna from last year's scene, we must admit that the more cultured aspect of the Ligurian shore made ample amends.
The Scouts indulged in sea bathing during a fortnight of hot sunshine in the first half of
April. The absence of the former crowds made possible to see and enjoy the real native Riviera. We were fervently welcomed by delegations of Italian Scout Commissioners who had come scores of miles to meet us at Genoa, and who conducted us through the interesting sights of that City and on to our first night's camp by the sea at Sori. Here we enjoyed an international camp-fire attended by local English families and the donor of the Scouts' hunting-lodge, the English Countess Dorothy Gigliucci.
We then returned westward and alighted at Ospedaletti, where we were met by the Mayor and installed ourselves in a most unusual camp site. It was the former flower-market, with concrete roof over half the area, alongside station and sea, with a background of terraces of flowers and palm-trees. We enjoyed the Corporation's electric light, water supply, drainage, and the daily services of Corporation dustmen to remove our ashes and rubbish. In addition we were daily regaled 'with nosegays of fresh flowers from the local gardens. The Mayor presented us with stamped picture post-cards on which to write home.
A most impressive event was the Church Parade in the English Church at San Remo. This 'large and beautiful building is the only survivor of three British churches which formerly served the numerous colony of winter residents and visitors. Now only about a dozen British residents remain, but this church is lovingly maintained, largely through the efforts of the honorary chaplain (Rev. Ruthven-Forbes) who lives at the Hanbury Palace and Gardens some 12 miles distant—itself one of the most beautiful sites on the Riviera, built by Sir Arthur Hanbury in Victorian days.
For the first time in 20 years, this English Church was filled with an English congregation for a Communion service. The Scouts provided choir and sidesmen for the occasion, out of their total of 50. The chaplain welcomed us on behalf of the residents, and expressed admiration for the way in which the Scouts showed 'themselves such excellent ambassadors for their country and an example to other visitors. On the return journey we made another brief visit to Milan Cathedral.
Much of the journey was over the same course as in 1949, but one great change was noticeable—the heartening reconstruction of Calais North, where the most devastated town in France is alive again after nine years of utter desolation.
tunnels to the summit of the line at Knockholt on the North Downs. We rush downhill through Polehill tunnel (1.5 miles) to Sevenoake, with a glimpse of the lovely Darnth valley (L) and perhaps Knowle Houses. Then through another 2 miles of Sevenoaks tunnel, and over the river Medway (navigable this far from the sea) and into Tonbridge. From here to Ashford the line is dead straight (passing through orchards and hopfields of the Weald of Kent. At Ashford are (R) the Eastern engine works of the Southern Railway. The line now climbs steeply past the racecourse and castle (R) at Westenhanger and then (falls rapidly to Folkestone. From the viaduct high above the town we see the harbour (R) and soon drop down to sea-level, through several long tunnels at the foot of 500 ft. high chalk cliffs. This is the famous Warren, a wild haunt of sea birds, choughs, snakes, lizards, and almost semi-tropical bush, inaccessible except by a few steep paths from the top. At Dover we pause at the Marine Station, and tunnel beneath the town to Priory Station. Buses take us through the ruins of the town - severely damaged by gunfire as well as aircraft, - to the Harbour, passing below the lofty Castle cliffs.
From the ship we see Dover Castle 400 ft. above, built in Henry VIII's days, and containing within its walls the 2 oldest buildings in England: the Roman Pharos, or lighthouse, and the Church (built in Roman days). Before long we see the cliffs of France and are entering the ruined port of Calais.
We land-on-the edge of a square mile of-wind-swept waste which once was the busy old town of Calais North. For anyone who knew the Calais of pre-war days, this is one of the most shocking sights he could have. The whole, town was, destroyed by the R.A.F. in 1940 to stop Hitler's intended invasion of England. Almost alone now stands the old watch-tower of Charlemagne's days (1000 years old) but when this Troop landed here in 1937, the building stood in the market place.
The Maritime station and hotel was also destroyed, and the present building is a temporary replacement of what was once a prominent landmark.
The train winds slowly along the harbour', past the magnificent new Town Hall (built 1914) in the Flemish style, where the Troop had a civic reception in 1937. After stopping at the pre-fab. Town station (the old one was destroyed in 1940), the train climbs into the chalk hills beyond, leaving the town of Guines in the distance (L) and the site of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, where Henry VIII met Francis 1 of France in the days when this territory was an English possession. Also (L) on the hill top is the Blanchard column, near which the Troop camped in 1937. It marks the landing place of the first balloonist to cross the Channel 150 years ago.
After the steep climb to Caffiers summit we run downhill to Boulogne, passing the column sot up by Napoleon commemorating in anticipation his intended invasion of England. After this the line crosses a sandy plain only a mile or two inland from the sea. We see the huge church at Abbeville and meet the river Somme, of most sanguinary memory, for it was a battlefield for years in the 1914-1918 war, and again the scene of fighting in 1940. Amiens popsesses one of the finest cathedrals in France, with a roof 156 feet high inside, and a spire rising to 400 ft. The line now crosses a ridge of hills to Creil. When the writer passed through hare in 1945 the scene of desolation wrought by the R.A.F. and U.S.A.F. was incredible - engines, coaches and signals lay strewn about, upside down, sideways, and in pieces, and the tracks looked like a huge knotting board. But now the rebuilding is so complete that you would scarcely believe this had ever happened.
As we approach Paris we see. (R) the white marble church of the sacred Heart standing high on the hill of Montmartre, just above the Terminus. We travel by bus to the Gale de Lyon. If there is time, we can walk along the Seine to the island on which stands the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Town Hall and the Sainte Chapelle. Electric trains cover the 199 miles to Dijon at high speed usually 3 hours or less. Ours is rather slower, taking 202 minutes with a stop at Laroche. The last 102 miles are covered in 98 minutes (63 miles an hour). By daylight we shall be toiling slowly through the Jura mountains, behind the biggest French steam locomotives, to the beautiful border country by Frasne, and through the 5-mile tunnel to Vallorbe, Switzerland. From here through to Arent. (180 miles) the scenery is magnificent, among the best in Europe. Do not miss a moment of it, especially along the lakes. Best side to look out in Switzerland is R, and in Italy L.
Vallorbe is the Customs post, 2658 ft. above sea-level, up in the wooded Jura hills. We run rapidly downhill, through two tunnels, for 10 miles, when the Alps, from. Mont Blanc (15,800 ft.) to the Jungfrau (13,500) first come into view. Past Sarraz, with its old castle, we see Cossonay (20 miles from Vallorbe) with its ancient church, located on a hill-top (R), up to which runs a "funicular" - the first of many we shall see on the journey. The Alps appear again, beyond the Lake of Geneva. We enter Lausanne, capital of Canton Vaud, a town of pleasant memories of 2 years ago. Lausanne is one of the country's largest cities (78,000 inhabitants) with a cathedral and a University. The English writers Byron, Gibbons and Dickens lived here. The station is 1476 ft. above the sea, and 250 ft. above the lake. Underneath is a funicular from the Lake to the Town Centre - it is, in fact, the Lausanne "Underground". L. of the station the business centre rises steeply, with streets of steps and viaducts, to the Cathedral, 400 ft. higher up. The topmost point in Lausanne is 2122 ft. above the sea, and 900 ft. above the Lake, the whole of this mountainside being a built-up area, constituting one of the most beautiful of the world's larger towns. As we leave here, we cross a ravine by a lofty stone viaduct, and see (L) another higher up, carrying the line to Bern. We skirt the vineyard-clad slopes of Lavaux, with magnificent views across the lake, which is here 6 miles wide. With luck, we may get a view of the whole length of this lake (50 miles) which bends SW at Lausanne. Somewhere, 12 miles away behind us, towards Geneva, is our 1949 camp site at Buchillon. The line falls gradually to the level of the lake and we reach Vevey, the home of Nestle's and Peters chocolate. This beautiful town is surrounded by vineyards and from here, and Montreux (next stop), cable and rack-railways ascend the Alps on the L. up to 6500 ft. Just past the station (R), above the line, are the onion-shaped copper domes of the Russian church. On the L. is the old Swiss church where are buried two of the Cromwellian M.P.s who signed Charles 1st death-warrant. They chose a very pleasant spot for exile Adjoining it is the British Military Cemetery of men who died in Switzerland in the 1914-1918 war.
Past the ruined castle of Tour de Peilz by the lakeside we pass Clarens and reach Montreux, where 3 railways, a hotel and the road are jammed tightly into a narrow space between the Alps and the Lake. This, in the opinion of one who has seen almost every part of Switzerland, is the most beautiful of all Swiss resorts, and the view of this corner, seen from the Lake, is universally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful in the world. On the R. we pass the famous castle of Chillon, 700 years old, the ancient fortress of the Dukes of Savoy, built on an island off the shore, but connected by a bridge. In its day it was the most dreaded stronghold in Europe; Byron describes it in his poem. At last we leave the lake and go up the Rhone valley. The Alps rise to 10,000 feet or more each side, the lower slopes to for vines. To R. is the Dent du Midi (10,700 ft.).
Aigle has an old church and castle. St. Diaurice is in a narrow pass formed by the Rhone, which here suddenly changes its course at a right angle, so that we now go N.E. instead of SW. The town is named after the saint who commanded the Theban legion and suffered martyrdom here in 302. The Augustinian abbey N. of the town is the oldest in Switzerland and contains gifts from Charlemagne; the church was founded 1600 years ago. The town church contains the tomb. of St. Sigismund, King, of Burgundy in 524.
4 miles beyond St. Maurice on R. is the Pissevache water-fall, 215 ft. high. At Vernayat, 6 miles, we see (R) a mountain railway ascending steeply the side of the ravine of the Gorge du Trient. This is the astonishing railway to Chamonix and Mont Blanc, one of the steepest in Europe. Further on is an electric power station using water power from the reservoirs thousands of foot up in the hills. Then comes the tower of La Attiaz, an old castle of the Bishops. We now come to Martigny, the Roman Octodurum mentioned in Cesar's "Civil War". Here also is the railway to Orsieres and the St. Bernard pass (11). At Riddes is a long aerial cableway to Iserables, a village high up in the mountains. Geography students will observe the occasional hillocks in the valley, caused by glacial action: the whole journey, in fact, is a senior geography lesson come to life.
Sion is the capital of Canton Valais, Roman Sedunum, seat of Bishops since the 6th century, with 2 ruined castles on separate hills, and a cathedral (L) 700 years old. More castles are passed on the way to Sierre. To the R. are 2 little lakes at the base of a hill crowned by an old monastery. We now enter the German speaking part of the Canton, passing Leuk with, another old church and castle, and then still more castles. Away L. of the line we see the narrow Lotschental high up the side of which is the railway from Bern and Kandersteg through the Lotsehberg tunnel. This line descends the hillside to meet our line at Brig. At Visp we see the railway to Zermatt on the R, taking travellers to the Matterhorn, while on L. the Bornoso Alps ascend up to 13000 ft. R. of Visp is the snow-covered Balfrin (12,500 ft. ). L. are Lonza chemical works. Brig is an old town commanding the Simplon pass. Now it is known as the junction for Bern, Zermatt and the amazing railway over the Furka and Oberalp passes to St. Moritz, past the sources of Rhine and Rhone. We glimpse this line L. just before plunging into tho Simplon tunnel, 12 miles long and longest in the world.
We emerge at Iselle, Italy, then enter a spiral tunnel, pass through more tunnels and reach Domodossola, the Custom station. Italian vegetation - chestnuts, figs, mulberries and maize appear. Running further downhill, we reach Verbania Pallanza and see Lake Maggiore, a magnificent lake 38 miles long, partly Swiss, partly Italian, and justly styled one of the most beautiful in Europe - only rivalled by Como and Garda, also in Italy. These lakes add to the Alpine scenery a richness of vegetation and woodland .(such as cypress and olive) which is not to be found north of the Alps.
The Italian' architecture is noticeably different and prevails oven in Switzerland south of the Alps.
We run along the shores of this lake far 20 miles past wealthy villas, palaces and plantations of palm trees, orange and lemon groves, vineyards and olives, oleander and magnolia in profusion; all the Mediterranean plants are here, the most northerly place in the world where olives and oranges and lemons grow. In the Lake opposite Bavono are the beautiful Borromean islands, planted with rich sub-tropical gardens. The nearest one, Isola Bella, was a barren rock until 1670, when Count Borromeo covered it with fertile earth, and built terraced gardens rising 100 ft. above the lake, and planted them with cedars, magnolias, orange & lemon, cork, eago-palm, locust-bean, camellias and so on, and topped it with a marble palace. Queen Victoria stayed at Bavono in 1869
Near Arona we see the statue of St. Carlo Borromeo, 75 ft. high on a pedestal 40 ft. high. He was Cardinal Arch-bishop of Milan in 1584, was born here, and was a prominent reformer at the Council of Trent. The statue is of bronze and copper. We leave the lake at last and follow the Ticino river towards Milan. This city rivals Rome itself for fame and splendour. The cathedral is third largest in the world, and possesses some 90 spires in addition to the main one, and 1000 statues. The famous Scala Opera House is here. Among its claims in history is that of being the scene of the proclamation of Christianity as the chief state religion by the Emperor Constantine in 313.
From Milan we traverse the plain of Lombady, with its rice-fields, and stop at the interesting old cathedral city of Pavia, the burial place of St. Augustine (5th century) and the philosopher Boetius (524). We then cross the river Ticino and later, the Po. At Novi-Liguro we find ourselves in the mountains and enter a 5-mile long tunnel. The slope on the southern side is very steep and we pass through many more tunnels until we enter Genoa (Piaiza Principe). The city is built very tightly into a narrow gap in the mountains; many of its streets are steps or tunnels or viaducts and there are numerous funiculars and lifts to reach the higher parts of the town. The most famous citizen in Genoa's history was Christopher Columbus, whose house still exists. For the first night's lodging we change trains and travel eastwards through a long tunnel under the city and out to the lemon groves of Nervi and Sari. The Italian Scouts Hunting Lodge is near Sori Station. From Genoa the railway keeps to the coast, through many tunnels, with the Alps towering above (R). Many woods and country villas are passed, with extensive plantations of olives, pines, figs, vines, citrons, orange, lemon, oleanders, myrtles and aloes.
At San Remo and Bordighera are groves of palms. Cogoloto (16 miles from Genoa) is the supposed birthplace of Columbus . Savona is a cathedral town, commanding a valley through the Alps towards Turin. Near Vado ( 31 miles) a very fine view towards Genoa is obtained. From here, the cliffs come in closer and steeper and many of them arc crowned with old castles. Albenga is an other cathedral with several castles. Alassio is a favourit winter resort for British visitors, set mid orange groves and palm trees. From here to Onoclia is an olive growing district, exporting olive oil. 85 mile s from Genoa is San Reno, sheltered by 4000 ft. hills. Trams connect it with Ospodaletti. Bordighera comes next and than Ventimiglia where are the famous Hanbury Palace and Botanical Gardens. Across the French frontier lies the "pearl of the French Riviera", the beautiful resort of Menton, and beyond that the independent principality of Monaco, in which is the great casino of Monte Carlo and the Maritime biological museum and its magnificent Palace of the Prince.