#WeTravel - Peter

Peter, UK

“We learned a little bit about other countries at school during my second or third year. One of the masters used to tell us about France, which was completely illuminating because nobody in class had been abroad as the cost of doing that until several years after the war was too much.

I can remember my first trip abroad when I was 16 when my father and I went to Switzerland. We flew to Geneva, which was really quite dramatic, and then caught a train where you were allocated a seat - very luxurious as you had to fight for a train seat in Britain at the time.

When we arrived in Switzerland I was fascinated – everyone was talking in French so rapidly I could only pick out the odd word here and there. It was staggering, so utterly foreign, a completely different way of life. All the shop lights were shining because they hadn’t been involved in the war at all. It was a revelation to me how rich Switzerland was, especially compared to the rest of Europe at the time.

I remember the food was far more varied than what I was used to. In England the food was still rationed several years after the war so you had a very basic diet until about 1948. Whilst in Switzerland we mostly ate in the hotel where we were staying which was the custom at the time. You wouldn’t eat out very often, as you’d rely on the hotel on providing you with all your meals. Breakfast was continental – my father was accustomed to bacon and eggs and fried bread, a typical English menu but he had to eat croissants and butter and things like that which were utterly different – quite a shock to his system. Because we’d been so severely rationed during the war it’s very difficult to describe now the surprise with the food we were offered there.

It was a wonderful holiday. My mother decided not to come along because she didn’t feel she had the right clothes. She thought that as Switzerland was neutral during the war they’d all have very nice fashionable clothes and hers would be old and well-worn making her stand out like a sore thumb and cause her embarrassment. I was quite sad she hadn’t come with us, and my father felt really guilty. We brought her some material back from Switzerland as a present, as she’d never dream of spending clothing coupons on buying materials herself and she made a dress as well as a few other things, a luxury after the war years.”