My France - Dame Vera Lynn

Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn entertained audiences from the D-Day beaches after World War II and discovered the south of France with her husband 40 years ago. She now enjoys idyllic evenings on the C�te d’Azur, as she tells Rachel Scott

Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn entertained audiences from the D-Day beaches after World War II and discovered the south of France with her husband 40 years ago. She now enjoys idyllic evenings on the C�te d’Azur, as she tells Rachel ScottWhen did you first go to France?I have in the past gone to the D-day beaches when I was working, I’ve gone to a concert on the sands and broadcast after the war. I first went to the south of France about 40 years ago, it was just a holiday to start with. My late husband [Harry Lewis] was in the music publishing business and each January they have the Midem music convention down there and I would go with him. We stayed in a little flat and I rather liked it where I was and I ended up buying one in a little village near Antibes (pictured below).

Do you still visit France?To start with I went with my husband and my daughter Virginia would join us, but now I go with Virginia. I still have the same flat and we still go to the same restaurants and visit the same markets and everything. I only go twice a year, in May and September. Originally when my husband was alive we used to stay a month but now I stay about two or three weeks. I’ll keep going as long as I can.

How do you travel to the south?We go down by train. It makes a nice part of the holiday because you get to see the different countryside going through and have lunch on the train, relax and read a book and it’s all very civilised, no rushing at an airport. It’s nice doing it the way we do, it’s all part of the holiday –relaxing, watching the countryside going by.

Why does France appeal to you so much? What I first liked about it was that it was a break for me from my business, from working; a complete change, different food, different people and total relaxation. I love the relaxed pace of life there, the weather is a bit better than it is here and it is a complete change. I love to go to the markets. They’re very different from English markets but it’s nice to have a change and see how people go about their business compared with how we do it here. They don’t mind having cheeses and things open on the counter in the open air, where we’re inclined to cover things up. They take their food very seriously.

How’s your French?My French is terrible I’m afraid, I’m very lazy like a lot of English people with languages. But Virginia speaks it pretty fluently. I manage to make myself understood when shopping, which is easy, but not to carry on a conversation.

How do you spend your days on holiday?We’re quite happy amongst the locals and restaurants and we really don’t go far. The little restaurant that we go to on the promenade on Fridays has a jazz band concert and these first class musicians come from Cannes and play all the jazz stuff that I know. It’s a lovely evening and we just sit there with the doors open onto the promenade and have our dinner and listen to the music. It is idyllic. They always come to you with a glass of champagne which is nice and maybe I’ll have another glass of champagne.

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Do you get recognised in France?There are quite a few English people living around me and they know me. The French know me more now, from the media I suppose. I did a book signing last year in Antibes. It was very popular because so many English people live there. In France people don’t talk about the war. They had a hard time there with the Occupation.

What was it like having a number one CD and best-selling autobiography after all these years?It was very exciting. Here in England over the past few years they’ve been talking about the wars in schools and that’s aroused a lot of interest. I’ve been going to a few schools and seeing the children and they’ve been asking me questions. I don’t get tired of being associated with the war. I think it’s good for people to remember the war and if they remember me with it, then I feel rather honoured.Dame Vera Lynn's bestselling autobiography, Some Sunny Day, is out in paperback now, priced �7.99 and published by HarperCollins.