Road Trip!

1924 Citroën 5CV Trèfle

1924 Citroën 5CV Trèfle, Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, TN

Both Emma Calvé and Ursula spoke of “motoring,” or automobile excursions, as activities they enjoyed—Madame Calvé in her autobiography and Ursula in the travelogue she wrote for her sorority’s quarterly journal.

Mme. Calvé described: “On fête days, or when the spirit of adventure seizes us, we go off for long excursions into the surrounding countryside in the automobile. Motoring is a delight in this part of the world, for the roads are so built that one can reach a fairly great altitude without strain.”

maritime_alps_mapAnd Ursula noted, “Leaving Nice, we motored over the Grande Corniche road and through the Maritime Alps which overlook the Mediterranean.”

This excursion afforded a view she would never forget: “From one high point we could look back over the French coast to Marseille or further, and also a great distance down the Italian coast…The shores were washed with water of azure blue, while the hills were studded with gaily colored villas.”

How exhilarating!

I imagined Madame Calvé, Ursula and the other girls motoring about when my husband and I recently visited the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN. Among the many cars and other vehicles from different countries and periods on display was this 1924 Citroën 5CV Trèfle—from the very year Ursula visited France.

1924 Citroën 5CV Trèfle

1924 Citroën 5CV Trèfle at the Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, TN

According to the exhibit information, the Citroën 5CV Trèfle was first shown at the Paris Salon in 1921, and was produced in France between 1922 and 1926. It was interesting to read that, for the first time in that country, the marketing “was directed toward feminine clientele, paying off handsomely for Citroën.”

1924 Citroën 5CV Trèfle interior

Produced in France, the 1924 Citroën 5CV Trèfle had a 3-speed transmission, front engine and rear-wheel drive.

This 3-speed manual Citroën model could reach a top speed of 40 miles per hour (woo hoo!). In 1924, it cost $551 (a little over $13,000 in today’s dollars). From the information plaque:

“The Trèfle has a torpedo body style with three seats in cloverleaf formation. The cloverleaf is designed for the third seat to be placed behind and between the two front seats so the occupant’s legs are between the front seats. This was considered très chic during the 1920s.”

Did opera great Mme. Calvé own such a car? Did Ursula ride in one like this or see one on the roads? It’s impossible to know; it was just cool to see a car from her day and place and imagine her breezing along in it, hand on hat, and scarf whipping in the breeze.

Ursula’s Excellent Adventure (Part 3)

In part one of Ursula’s travelogue, we learned about Ursula’s voyage to the south of France to study with famous opera singer Emma Calvé. In part two, she told us tales of life at Madame Calvé’s castle, Château Cabrières. In part three, Ursula and the other young “song birds” have a glorious summer exploring Europe with Mme. Calvé.

Ursula Cheshire and Emma Calve

Ursula at far right, next to her teacher, famous opera singer Emma Calvé (Photo published in “Themis” of Zeta Tau Alpha)

[Part three]
Studying and Traveling Abroad
By Ursula Claire Cheshire

“July was spent in a villa by the sea, at Biarritz, a summer resort of the Bay of Biscay. The coast there was beautiful—rugged with small coves and beaches—and the promenades are shaded and hedged with the tamaris tree, so dear to France. Here we had our lessons as usual, but we also found time for a few swims in these lovely surroundings.

Spanish_Bullfight_PostcardLeaving Biarritz we went through Spain on our way back to the château. Spain seemed a land of romance, for the poorest little house had its balcony and flower garden. At Saint Sebastian we saw a bull fight. It was a glorious sight to see the arena filled with enthusiastic Spaniards and to see the Grand Entrance procession of the toreadors in their gorgeous costumes, but when it came to the actual fight, and the killing of the bull—it was terrible. We hid our faces behind our fans most of the time, but even with what we did see we left with a very unpleasant feeling.

NiceAfter another month or so of study at Cabrières we left for the French Riviera, a land of sunshine and flowers, bordering on the great Mediterranean sea. Nice, the center of the Riviera, is a beautiful city, visited in the winter by people from all over the world, and on its famous Promenade des Anglais at the water’s edge, one hears all languages spoken.

Monte Carlo is another interesting place, well known for its Casino. Here I played once (ten francs worth) and lost. The Casino is open every day from nine in the morning until midnight and is visited daily by some persons who play the game as a profession.

Leaving Nice, we motored over the Grande Corniche road and through the Maritime Alps which overlook the Mediterranean. From one high point we could look back over the French coast to Marseille or further, and also a great distance down the Italian coast. I shall never forget this picture. The shores were washed with water of azure blue, while the hills were studded with gaily colored villas. Also, from this same point we could look down on the French-Italian border, and soon we found ourselves at the line showing our passports, first to the French authorities to get out of France, and then to the Italian Riviera with its Santa Margherita and Portofino.

PisaAs we moved on toward Rome, our destination, we passed through Genoa, the birthplace of our dauntless Columbus, and where it seemed to me the church bells rang all night long. We also stopped at Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, Cathedrale, Baptistere, and Camp-Sano. Such a lovely group! The tower is so impressive and fills you with awe and wonder as you look up into the air at this huge stone structure toujours penché (always leaning).

Now we are in Rome—‘The Eternal City’ with all its wonders—St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Vatican and many other places too numberable to mention. And so I am beginning to realize what riches and splendor the old world holds for us!

French Landscape

Smoothness like thick crushed velvet sweeps toward the distant hill;
Up from the quiet river the lombardies climb to the sky.
Mellowness broods like an anthem over a golden world;
A magpie swings toward the sunset, and God seems very near.

Margaret P. Fisher, AB.”