Going back in time on the Watercress Line!

With four stations of restored platforms and fabulous steam trains, The Watercress Line’s summer event ‘War on the Line’ has been one of our favourites so far!

 

On a fine June Saturday morning we arrived at Alton station which, from the outside, looks like any other modern South West Trains station (in fact, one could feel rather self-conscious crossing the car park in their 1940’s finest!).  However, cross the bridge and you are transported back in time to the Mid Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’.

Constructed in 1865, this railway played an important part during World War Two due to its location between the Army centre of Aldershot and the port of Southampton.  It now operates as a heritage railway and it provides the perfect setting for a 1940’s event.

Preparing for this event was great fun!  We wanted to be much more like re-enactors for this visit and so our outfits were carefully chosen (my new-to-me CC41 jacket got its first outing) and we bought baskets with newly acquired basket covers from Bygone Days to hide any ‘modern’ things we might need to carry.  We even made gas mask boxes (ordered from amazon) as well as wrapping our sandwiches (with wartime fillings) in paper tied with string!  This really helped us feel the part and it prepared us well for the variety of wartime characters and scenarios we were to encounter…

A nice touch is that on entry to the event you are issued with a replica Identity Card to fill in, and these are regularly checked by the Military Police throughout the day!

I am afraid to admit that the both of us fell foul of the military police (for taking unauthorised photographs!) and we found ourselves handcuffed and berated on our first train journey of the day!  Threatened with hard labour at the ash pit we managed to persuade them to release us by assuring them that we had learned our lesson (we may also have offered gin!) and we were genuinely apprehensive about taking anymore photos of them for the rest of the day!

 

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Emma finds a more friendly member of the MP on mention of gin! Photo by David Clarke

There was a lovely atmosphere at this event with characters like Sam the Smart Alec spiv and the washerwoman to encounter.  Each station had different displays, and one of our favourites was the Victory Store filled with wartime packaged goods (and rather too many mice!) –  but sadly we had forgotten our ration books!

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We were offered all kinds of dodgy stuff by this ‘smart Alec’  – we would never buy from the black market!! 

 

There were a variety of singers performing, as well as a Glenn Miller Tribute band and lots of dancers.  We also met the author Mike Hollow who has written a series of detective novels set in the Blitz.  We bought  a book each which he kindly signed ‘To the Vintage Tourists’ and we look forward to reading them (and perhaps reviewing them in a later blog).

This event was also attended by many lovely photographers who all seemed to appreciate the effort we had gone to.  It seems that quite a large number of visitors at this event don’t ‘dress up’ and so we found ourselves being photographed a lot throughout the day.  One rather surreal moment involved us taking a quick seat on a platform bench to have a mid-morning tea and eccles cake literally surrounded by photographers who took the opportunity to capture two 1940’s gals having a cuppa and a chat! (most disconcerting to try eating flaky pastry in a ‘photogenic’ way!)

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Photo by David Clarke

We had brought our own enamel mugs with us for our tea (or gin!) to give a more authentic look to our refreshment breaks!

Photos above taken by David Clarke

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Captured by Rob Shipway looking for the Spitfire… or was it the Military Police?!

Everyone that we met and spoke to were so lovely – we were often complimented on the effort we had made, and we had some fascinating conversations with visitors who shared their memories and stories of the war with us.

 

But perhaps what was most wonderful of all was climbing aboard these beautiful train carriages, hearing the hiss of steam and the whistle of the engine.  It was watching the country side roll by to the sound of the rhythmic chugging of these historic modes of transport. It was travelling in the way that people did 75 years ago in the era that we were recreating.

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At the end of the day we arrived back at Alton and reluctantly crossed back over the bridge into the 21st century – our day in the 1940’s had come to an end.

Until next time…

 

The VT’s xxx

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Link to the Watercress Line website

The next 1940’s event at the Watercress Line will be in December with their popular two day ‘Christmas Leave’ event.

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Bletchley Park – 1940’s Spring Weekend

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Hidden away in the town of Milton Keynes lies Bletchley Park. This beautiful mansion house with its 58 acres of land was bought by MI6 in 1938 to be used as the central site for British and Allied codebreakers during World War II.

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Within the grounds and adjacent to the Manor are the Huts and the Blocks (24 in total), each one was used for its own unique and highly secret purpose, where German ciphers were penetrated and teams of specially recruited personnel, including Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing, worked a six-day week, rotating through three shifts to produce such ‘Ultra’ intelligence, that it has been hailed as having shortened the war by two to four years.

 

In 1993 The park became a museum and is filled with the most fascinating artefacts and information on the sites significance and the people who worked there. We cannot recommend a visit to the museum enough. It deserves its own blog post, and we’ll be sure to deliver one in the future.  But in the meantime here are a few pics to whet your appetites…

On this occasion however, we were attending the 1940’s Spring Weekend. So our focus turns to that….

This is a 3 day annual event with something to offer all the family. Now of course you’re under no obligation to attend the event dressed in 1940’s attire, but we are The Vintage Tourists, so that really was a given!

As we passed through the main lobby and ticket hall, out into the grounds of the estate, we were greeted by the sounds of the ‘40’s and a rather gruff sergeant major manning the checkpoint.

Walking by the pond (which was often frozen in the winter months during the war and a great source of ice skating revelry), we chanced upon the dance tent where Swing Dance MK were just about to start a lesson.

This was an opportunity not to be missed!  So one of the tourists took to the floor to learn a fabulous little routine, while the other watched and took the photos (unfortunately, we don’t always have a professional photographer on hand – something we may need to address in the future 😉 )

If you live in the Milton Keynes area and fancy a go at Swing dancing, these guys were great!

Well, after all that excitement, we were in the mood for a little light refreshment, so we made our way over to Hut no: 4 which is now a bar and restaurant for the museum. However, en route to the café we were lured into the fabulous vintage  ‘shopping marquee’ and made some lovely new acquaintances  including Dawn and Peter of LK Vintage and Karen Black of The Heritage Milliner.  Monday, we were told, was the quieter of the 3 days, but the advantage of that, is the shopping is a little less crowded!

After shopping and a spot of lunch, we had a little wander through the house and some of the huts, then across the lawn to the original gated entrance of the estate. In its very unpretentious way it’s a quietly poignant and reflective spot.

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The lawn was filled with historical displays, vintage lawn games, and vehicles to browse, and when we fancied finishing off the day with a little tipple in the afternoon, they had a fabulous gin bar on site  (which, we of course, had to sample). Courtesy of  The Gin Nook! (@gin_lady)

All in all we think Bletchley Parks 1940’s Spring Weekend is a fabulous event, and admission is free when you purchase your ticket to the museum (which, we should add, gives you a whole 12 months of visits)

For more information on the museum go to: https://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/

Until next time

The Vintage Tourists

XXX

 

 

Brooklands – 1940’s Relived

Every year in May, Brooklands Museum hosts its 1940’s Relived event.  It is a popular event in the south and one of our favourite events to attend.  Here’s why we love it so much…

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There’s something very special about the Brooklands site that means the second you enter the museum, you are propelled back to the past.

Originally a racing circuit constructed in 1907, the site is full of original buildings, most notably the glorious clubhouse which remains almost unchanged since it was first built.  It oozes that Jazz-Age glamour and takes you right back to the glamorous racing days of the 1920’s and 30’s.

However, in the 1940’s Brooklands took on a very different, and very important role in the war – producing military aircraft.  Some of the most notable aeroplanes built here were the Vickers Wellington, Vickers Warwick and the Hawker Hurricane (a Hurricane is on display at the event).

And so it is this part of Brooklands history that is brought to life at the 1940’s Relived event.

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The Brooklands Hawker Hurricane 

 

Everything is provided to ensure a fun day out: dancing lessons, hair salon, vehicle displays and 1940’s singers.

But it is the shopping that is always our first priority here!

Every year there are a great selection of sellers offering fabulous 1940’s clothing and accessories, as well as a wide range of 1940’s ephemera (I’ve purchased vintage hair pins, pamphlets, magazines and even a 1940’s address book over the years).

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The Vintage Tourists shopping! Photo by Simon Burgess

 

There’s also a good range of repro stock as well for those looking for clothing that can be worn without the fuss and worry that accompanies the responsibility of wearing true vintage!

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Another of Simon Burgess’ great shots

It is also a great event to dress up for  – particularly if, like us, you favour the civilian look.  There’s an annual ‘Best Dressed’ line up (which I have been very grateful to have been chosen for on two occasions), and this gives you a chance to see all the wonderful outfits that have been put together.

 

One thing not to be missed is the fabulous Barbara Cartland room on the ground floor of the Clubhouse building.  Usually between 12.30-1.30, free portrait photographs are taken within this fabulous 1930’s setting.  It is such a beautiful room that transports you instantly back to the glamour of a bygone age.

 

(The above photos are from the free portrait shoot back in 2016 – when we both attended the event but hadn’t met each other yet!)

 

An added bonus of attending this event is that the London Bus Museum can also be found here.  Although we didn’t have time this year (as I was too busy prancing around in the marquee at ‘Best Dressed’),  there is a great ‘Blitz’ section in the museum and in previous years there has been the opportunity to take a bus ride around the local area in an old Routemaster, complete with its own vintage bus conductor!

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The quality of the visitors’ outfits, combined with the authentic back-drop of the museum makes it a favourite with photographers looking for a good vintage photograph.  This year, we were honoured to have our photographs taken by the fabulous Simon Burgess, having arranged the shoot after he caught a great moment on camera at the event last year (as my hat nearly blew off my head!).

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Simon’s first shot at Brooklands 2017
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Vintage Tourists snapped last year!

 

1940’s Relived is a great day out with quality stalls and top entertainment. Put it in your diary for next year and, if you’re there, make sure you come and say hello as this is an event we never miss!

 

Until next time…

The Vintage Tourists

xxx

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A life on the ocean wave…

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… And what a life it would have been!  The V&A’s wonderful exhibition of ‘Ocean Liners: Speed and Style’ had it all. Such a beautifully put together exhibit charting the rise of the golden age of travel. Where the Art Deco styling was stunning, and the craftmanship was impeccable.

Built in a time when health and safety didn’t exist and engineers wore flat caps instead of hard hats, the shear scale of building these stunning floating hotels was phenonmenal. The ships were beautiful to behold from the magnificent scale of the exterior to the attention to detail within.

If you were lucky enough to travel on an ocean liner in its heyday, you were certainly in for a treat. (As long as you were travelling first class of course).

Winding our way through the displays of opulent furnishings and magnificent murals, we got a real feel for the decadence of cruise liner travel. We Ooo’d and Ahh’d our way through the museum, taking in the on deck pool replete with swimmers, to the treats you could have bought in the on board shop (including a rather beautiful clutch bag in the design of an ocean liner) – divine!

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The Duke and Duchess of Windsor regularly crossed the Atlantic, along with a miriad of stars from the Silver Screen. Including none other than the magnificent Marlene Dietrich whose Dior suit is displayed alongside a film reel of the lady herself being photographed in it on her arrival to New York in 1950.

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Beautiful travel trunks and flapper dresses on display, gave you a real feel for the era’s heyday, when ladies swept their way down magnificent staircases in elegant gowns, to drink cocktails and fine dine in the exquisite on board restaurants.

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Even the children were catered for with on board nannies and first class playrooms.

This really was a very different time, when travel was not just a means to get from A to B, but a real adventure in itself, and an important part of the culture of social history.

When the Queen Elizabeth Liner  was re commissioned in 1967 as the QE2, everything changed. It had entered a new age of design. Although still a symbol of luxury, design preferences had modernised. Passengers wanted a more up to date  ‘space age’ look.  It had to evolve and move with the times, so out went the oppulence of the ‘past’ and in came a more sleek ‘ultra modern feel’

Lovers of mid century design can certainly appreciate this new era of style but for us, the decadence of the pre war cruise ships will always be our most favoured and coveted way to travel.

xxx

The V&A exhibition Ocean liners: Speed and Style runs until Sunday 17th June

Click here for the link to the V&A webpage:

V&A Speed and Style

 

Our first vintage getaway – 1920’s & ’30’s Berlin

Having enjoyed lots of interesting day trips to various events, museums and exhibitions we decided to plan our first weekend away…

 

Our Berlin plans really go back to October 2016 when Emma bought me a copy of Jane Thynne’s ‘Black Roses’ for my birthday. Centred around an Anglo-German actress who becomes a British spy, this series of books really captured both of our imaginations and was the original inspiration to plan a trip to find ‘Clara Vine’s’ [the lead character’s] Berlin. (These books also started an obsession with Bourjour’s Soir de Paris perfume but that’s another story…..)

 

For obvious reasons the 1930’s is seen as a rather dark period in Germany’s history, and very little of the Berlin we were reading about was going to be highlighted (or even exist at all after the relentless Allied bombing of the 1940’s)

And so, in our quest to use works of literature as our inspirational ‘guide book’ we read Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ as well as another Berlin novel of his ‘Mr Norris Changes Trains‘. Here was a Berlin we could visit  – Isherwood’s original lodging house is still there on Nollendorfstrasse – and so our planned tour took on a more 1920’s rather than 1930’s theme.

 

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Trip inspiration………

We wanted to experience the Berlin of the Cabaret days (whilst also fitting in some of the more touristy sights) and so lots of research followed as we tried to find as many pre-war places and buildings that would bring the 1920’s era to life!

Here are some of our favourite finds:

Nurnberger Eck

For true vintage style accommodation we cannot recommend Pension Nurnberger Eck enough! Built in the 1920’s, this ‘Pension’ has all it’s wonderful original features (high ceilings, big double doors) and was allegedly where bohemians of Weimar Berlin met to party! With all its vintage furniture, and great Charlottenberg location we couldn’t believe our luck (and actually squealed with delight on being shown our room!).

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The fabulous Nurnberger Eck

 

Hotel Adlon

Opposite the Brandenburg Gate is the place where back in the twenties anybody

who was anybody partied – The Hotel Adlon!  Some of it’s more interesting guests include Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and the journalist and historian William Shirer.  The original building actually survived the Allied bombing only to be destroyed by a fire in the wine cellar started by Red Army soldiers in 1945.

However the current hotel building was bthumbnail_IMG_8176uilt in the design of the original and so as we sat outside enjoying a coffee on our first day we still felt a strong sense of what it would have been like in the early Twentieth Century.

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe Einstein Stammhaus

Another survivor of World War Two was a building on Kurfurstenstrasse currently housing Cafe Einstein.  It has such a varied history since being built in 1878 and was at one time the home of actress Henny Porten (mistress of Goebbels) having been requisitioned by the Nazis. Prior to that it had been a secret gambling club for Weimar Germany’s high society and had been owned by Jewish banker Georg Blumenfeld (a commemoration of Georg and his wife can be found on the pavement outside the building). It was both fascinating and moving to think of the history behind what is now a simple restaurant. – A building that encompasses so many aspects of Germany’s past.

 

Isherwood’s Berlin

The highlight of the trip had to be exploring Isherwood’s Berlin! We booked ourselves onto the 90 minute ‘Isherwood’s Neighbourhood tour’ led by Brendan Nash and couldn’t have made a better decision!  We learned so much about the history of the city as well as visiting Isherwood’s Berlin residence.  Other stops on the tour included the original building that housed the famous ‘Eldorado’ club (now a supermarket!) as well as the site of the notorious lesbian club ‘La Garcon’.  On Nash’s recommendation we stopped by (and were lucky enough to secure an outside table) at Cafe Berio – the very place where Isherwood and W H Auden would sit and observe the city.  Our visit to this district finished with gins at the Sally Bowles club – a bar with a fab vintage feel.

 

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Brenden Nash – The Isherwood Tour

 

 

Link to the Isherwood Tour

 

 

 

All the reading and research gave us the most amazing weekend in an incredible city and we can’t wait to go back ……

 

In the meantime we have a lot of visits and events coming up as the vintage season gets going… can’t wait to share them!

 

xxx

The Journey Begins

 

 

Welcome to our new blog! If  you’ve been following us on Instagram (@the_vintage_tourists),  you can now read more in depth accounts of our adventures with links to other blogs, sites and points of reference on here.

We’re very new to this blogging lark so bear with us. We’ll improve with experience.

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So…. this was us when we met two years ago in 2016.  Two friends who met online through a facebook page, then physically at ‘Bob on Up’ an event hosted by Dawn O’Porter in London. We both spent all our money on Dawns vintage pieces, whilst drinking free champagne.

Needless to say we hit it off immediately and have packed so much into the last couple of years that we decided to collaborate and share our adventures (big and small), which we hope will inspire anyone interested in history or the vintage scene. We have lots to share so watch this space……