Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Savoir Faire to L'Amerique du Sud

Back in the golden age of crossing the Atlantic in the 1930’s it was a vast competition between the various Northern European countries to see who could out do each other on the North Atlantic Run. The French had the joie de vie and luxury of the Ile de France and the Normandie. The British had the reliability and sedateness of the Queen Mary. The Germans had the racing thoroughbreds, Bremen and Europa, The Italians had the dolce vita of the Rex and Dutch had the Nieuw Amsterdam, dubbed the ship of tomorrow.

Crossing the North Atlantic was a way of life for many; however the South Atlantic voyage from Marseilles to Buenos Aires had its own star. L’Atlantique! A forerunner to the fabled Normandie in concept, this liner had all the savoir faire of other French line ships, however has largely been forgotten due to an early demise. In my humbled opinion, I think she was decorated even better than the Normandie!

Although not an attractive ship from the outside, this gave no indication as to stunning interiors that greeted the passenger once inside. Her interior spaces were not intimate by any means. They were large, grand, luxurious spaces that indicated that you were travelling first class all the way.

These interiors were the culmination of Art Deco, refining the “ocean liner” style that was introduced on the “Ile de France” several years earlier for the North Atlantic. Modern wood panelling, marble and lacquered panels abounded.

On embarkation passengers were received in a fabulous lobby with stores (not like today’s tack duty free and souvenir stores) with purveyors offering the latest from a new Renault to perfume and flowers.

The first class restaurant featured the obligatory grand staircase where the haute monde travelling to Buenos Aires could descend into a cathedral like space decorated with monumental Dunard panels.


Other First and second class spaces were refined elegant spaces however on a monumental scale. For a liner whose exterior was less than attractive the interiors made up for this, making sure that you didn’t suffer for any lack of savoir faire on the South American run.



Little photographic record of the interiors of this fabulous liner exists. L'Atlantique made only nine round voyages. On 3 January 1933, sailing without for a refit, fires mysteriously broke out in several cabins at once. The crew bravely attempted to extinguish the fires, but the speed and intensity (as well as the rough seas) made it impossible, and soon the L'Atlantique was ablaze from stem to stern.

4 comments:

  1. Love, love, love the Dunard panels/murals.

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  2. Jill, Aren't they just wonderful! I would give both arms to have something like them.

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  3. You need your arms...just offer sexual favors!

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  4. Think I am too old to offer sexual favors!

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