My dear Father
I got down here safely yesterday afternoon after an excellent journey. A party of us left Rouen on Thursday morning, getting to Paris at noon; there we were met by British Red X cars and taken to the Hotel d'Iena. Leaving our kits there we were free till evening, so I went to look up Norton and was fortunate to find him in town. We had a long chat, and then he gave me lunch at the Maurice. I met others of the American Ambulance there also. It was interesting to exchange views with them. Of course they are all as enthusiastic for our cause as any of our own and very sick indeed about their president's fooleries. He was at the latest Verdun battle, and his ambulance must have done a lot of good work in the last two years.
We had places reserved on the night train, and left Paris shortly after 8.0. I got some sleep but not a great deal, and woke up near Avignon. The journey from Marseilles onwards is delightful, the line mainly running near the sea. There are steep hills close inland all the way and pretty white houses with red roofs dotted about informally in all the towns. Mentone is close to the Italian frontier, so we traverse all the French Riviera. There are nearly 200 officers in this home, the normal stay is 2 or 3 weeks. It is a big and palatial hotel, and is run on hotel lines very comfortably. There are three medical officers and a Commandant to keep things in order. The chief restriction is to be in by 7, but as the evenings are short and we are all convalescent, I don't regard that as a hardship. The whole place is run at the expense of Lord Michelham and our only expenses are incidental such as drinks between meals (life is less restricted here than at home!) and excursions into the countryside. There are facilities for making up motoring parties at cheap rates, and later on I must join one or two. Our journey here and back is at Government expense, so really it is a remarkably fine and inexpensive visit to the Riviera for me. They feed us very well, not extravagantly, but certainly well.
Much of the vegetation around is sub-tropical; just now the orange trees are full of fruit, and geraniums and roses in bloom. Today has been sunny, and the views both of land and sea magnificent. The hills are very craggy and steep with villas and cottages perched on shelves. We can see the Italian frontier from here, and the coast running east and south; the district looks more Italian than French.
On the journey I saw soldiers of every ally except Japan, Romania and Montenegro (and Portugal).
I expect I'll have a fortnight here, the MO looked quite gloomy when he saw me, but I told him I'm naturally pale. This holiday in such surroundings will soon put me quite all right.
We are a mixed crowd here, all ages, ranks and parts of the Empire. I think the crowd of men is mainly a nice one - a few misfits, but in the modern army that is inevitable.
Today I've been to Monte Carlo by train and had a look at the Casino, a florid building showing traces of "Kulhu" in its style. I was not impressed, but was glad to see such a famous spot.
All the Riviera towns are rather empty compared with normal times. Monte Carlo and Monaco of course are "nootral" territory! I believe we are not allowed into Italy without passports. I must go up to the frontier some time.
I don't feel very energetic yet, but another night's rest and more acclimatisation should fire me up better. Meanwhile I'll take the MO's advice and go easy for a few days.
The official address is: Michelham House, Cap Martin, APO S7 BEF.
I arranged for forwarding of any letters from Rouen. I was glad to your letter last week speaking of Xmas at home. My Xmas was naturally rather disappointing.
My last letter from May spoke of a heavy cold she'd got, I hope tomorrow I may get later one with better news. I wish I could see my way to getting her down here, it is allowed by the authorities, but what with the expense and difficulties of travelling, and the shortness of my stay here, I don't think it can be managed. A few officers have their wives, here, but most I think take my view.
I hope you are all well. You must think I'm much to be envied in getting sent here.
With love to all.
Your affectionate son