For a touch of old-school glamour take a stroll past the legendary hotels on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais. (Izzet Keribar/LPI)
Fashion, food and music all take their cues from the past, so why not travel with a vintage twist? Here is a down-the-years guide to yesterdays holidays, with suggestions for how you can get a little taste of more – or less – glamorous eras.
As the twentieth century began, travel overseas was the preserve of the wealthy and was starting to assume some of the grandeur we associate with this era. It was all possible thanks to boiling water, which became the steam that turned the turbines on steam trains and ships. This was the start of the ocean liner era – passenger-carrying airships were decades away – with companies competing for speed, size and luxury. The Cunard ship Mauretania, launched in 1907, held the speed record for crossing the Atlantic for twenty years.
How to do this today: Cruises are more popular than ever before, but only Cunard’s transatlantic crossings between Southampton and New York preserve the spirit of travelling to get somewhere rather than boarding to eat and drink vast amounts. The Queen Mary II (diesel driven) is the only vessel sailing a transatlantic schedule each year. Fares start at £699 including a flight home from your destination.
Fast forward past the First World War into the decadent 1920s. Whatever people did, it involved jazz playing in the background and an elegantly poised cigarette holder in their hand. The spirit of the age took people to the French Riviera -- maybe Nice, Cannes or St Tropez -- to the house of someone rich and famous, with plenty of gin and tonics, dips in the deep blue Mediterranean and few thoughts for the penniless rabble about to get blindsided by the Depression.
How to do this today: The south of France remains a magnet for glam travel – it is just much cheaper to visit than it used to be. For starters, Nice is something of a budget air hub, serving destinations across Europe, and is also an excellent base for exploring the region. A stroll along the city’s Promenade des Anglais is evocative of another age, no matter where you are staying.
The giant Zeppelin airship is the iconic image of this decade, and it was these mammoth beasts that carried long-distance airborne traffic throughout the 1930s. The most famous of these, the ill-fated Hindenburg, carried between 50 and 72 passengers. It was 243m long – over three times as long as an Airbus A380, the largest commercial plane in service. It also took 68 hours to reach Recife, Brazil from Germany.
How to do this today: California is one of the few places where you will find airships today. Airship Ventures offer tours of the San Francisco Bay Area and other parts of California, with flights starting at $375 for 45 minutes.
Tourism in many places ground to a halt in the 1940s, but American trains enjoyed a boom years before the post-war rise of the automobile. Comfortable, sleekly-liveried services operated high-speed, long-distance services with evocative names like the Pioneer Zephyr and 20th Century Limited. Think shiny cutlery serving fine fare inside equally shiny trains.
How to do this today: Some great American rail services still operate. The Empire Builder leaves Chicago’s iconic Union Station each day, bound for Seattle or Portland. The 2,200-mile journey takes 46 hours and features cheese and wine tasting along the route.
While for some, the ‘50s were about the development of a political ideology from the back of a bike in South America or road trips across America, (think Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road), for others they were as glamorous as the days of pre-war hedonism. The Jet Age, ushered in by entry into service of the Brit-built De Havilland Comet in 1952 means travel becomes sleek, fast and fun.
How to do this today: Cocktails in Cuba recall the pre-revolutionary island vividly portrayed in The Godfather, Part II. El Floridita in Havana may be a popular spot for a tourist tipple, but you know you are following in some famous footsteps.
The ‘60s were the decade that travel changed forever. The advent of mass tourism introduced a generation of northern Europeans to just how quickly the Spanish sun could turn you lobster pink, and forever transformed sleepy fishing villages into brash, in-your-face holiday resorts. Even today, the straw donkey remains an iconic souvenir of this time -- one redolent of stellar tackiness.