Le France
June 12, 2006 1:29 PM   Subscribe

The last liner. Once the longest. Still the fastest. She's off to India to be broken up. The BBC has said its goodbyes. OPEC, the 747 and the need to subsidise Concorde sealed her fate in 1974, despite a mutiny by the crew. She rotted for years in Le Havre, had an unexpected second life as SS Norway, and is now the SS Blue Lady, a nom-de-scrap solely to be used for her final trip.
posted by gdav (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I notice a drastic coloring difference between the BBC diagram and the actual photos...
posted by taursir at 1:43 PM on June 12, 2006

Interesting. I wonder why they painted her blue. This page seems to have some of latest news regarding preservation efforts.
posted by exogenous at 1:47 PM on June 12, 2006

Re the colours (taursir and exogenous): she was black, red and white as the France, and blue when she was clumsily enlarged (you're not wrong, b1tr0t) as the Norway. I sailed on her twice in 1972 as a child, and found on board, amongst other things, a shopping mall of sorts, which also functioned as a memorial museum/gallery featuring pictures and some of the trim from the sadly lost Normandie, the CGT's earlier Art Deco masterpiece.
posted by gdav at 3:05 PM on June 12, 2006

Fastest liner? Any background info on that?
posted by mrbula at 4:22 PM on June 12, 2006

Ah, she was cruisin' for a bruisin'.
Reminds me a bit of E la nave va.
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:58 PM on June 12, 2006

Both the United States and the France had widely publicised (& wildly exaggerated) top speeds in the low forties. The high thirties was more likely.
Hey, we could easily solve this, you know - just re-fit them both and let them race... I'd be there in a heartbeat.
posted by gdav at 6:03 PM on June 12, 2006

In 1971, at the age of six, I sailed on the France from Paris to New York, and never forgot it. Sure wish I could do it again, but now I guess I won't be able to.

This is, I suppose, the final death of a pleasant way to travel (even in third class).

I think it's rather sad, so:

posted by Absit Invidia at 6:49 PM on June 12, 2006

(On second thought, I suppose the France didn't sail from Paris, but rather from a port city. Oops.)
posted by Absit Invidia at 6:52 PM on June 12, 2006

My little sister threw up on the SS France, in 1967 when we were aboard for the day, all over our mother's suede coat.

Sad to know that elegant ship will be deconstructed.
posted by nickyskye at 9:47 PM on June 12, 2006

Oh thank you thank you thank you for this story, though it's so sad.

I was on that crossing with David Bowie. It was April 1974, the last crossing of the SS France. We were moving from Paris to New York and my parents decided to do the move in style. I was 7, and that giant throbbing ship became my playground. It was the perfect age - my parents could let me run around alone, the crew was utterly indulgent of the little blond girl with the good manners and the impeccable French, and I had never felt so free or so much of an intrepid explorer before. I roamed the whole boat and will never forget the sweeping red carpeted staircases and cramped, salt-crusted ladders. The smell of sea and champagne and the constant thrumming of heavy steel.

Bowie even became part of family lore when he cut in front of me getting on the boat train in Paris the evening before we sailed. We never saw him on the ship, but it's nice to know he was playing for the crew.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:21 AM on June 13, 2006

Over the years, I have met four or five other people, now in their 30's or early 40's, who were children on the last voyage of the France. What are the odds of that, even in this internet-addled era? I have long thought that we should have a reunion of some sorts. I'm not entirely sure why really; it's not like we crossed time and space, despite the fact that we all keep re-meeting decades later, and even despite the presence of David Bowie. (My mother has never mentioned the David Bowie part; I suspect she didn't know who he was.)

Some day though, let's have a party, eh? Cunning Linguist can bring the pretty blue glass ashtrays!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:30 AM on June 13, 2006

Now that would be a party. I suggest the Frying Pan for the nautical atmosphere, followed by a good French dinner.

(My parents didn't know who Bowie was either and were scandalized by his appearance in that brief meeting.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:58 AM on June 13, 2006

In the absence of solid empirical data, I'll take the fact that the United States holds the Blue Riband for both Eastbound and Westbound crossings as justification for calling it "The fastest liner ever."

Either way though, both ships were awesomely fast.
posted by Ickster at 8:56 AM on June 13, 2006

Hah, I came here to post about coming back from the US on the SS France in 1970, only to find out I'm the third person here to have done that. Heh.
posted by ciderwoman at 10:41 AM on June 13, 2006

My grandfather wanted to take me and my mom around the world on the France in 1977. She turned him down because she thought the experience would be wasted on a 5-year-old.

We regret it extremely.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:52 PM on June 13, 2006

Hm, maybe it was 1974, when I was 2/3 years old. That makes more sense. But still.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:54 PM on June 13, 2006

Now I'm sad, too. My family did the Southampton/New York crossing in (August?) 1968 when I was 14 (put down those calculators!). b1tr0t, that was an extremely unflattering photo - see the link in exogenous' comment for a contrast with a true "mega cruise liner". As the France, this ship was as beautiful as technology gets and the ultimate in unironic modernism. Hope one of the rescue efforts can pull it off.
posted by skyscraper at 9:45 PM on June 13, 2006

cunninglinguist, my partner and I were married on the Frying Pan. It was a lovely experience, but left most guests so seasick that the last thing anyone wanted was French food.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:55 AM on June 14, 2006

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