I’m a big history nerd, so it should come as no surprise that I decided to name my blog after the infamous “grand tours” of the 1700’s and 1800’s.
‘The Grand Tour’ was a phenomenon which saw thousands of stupidly wealthy young British men cross the channel to the continent to travel around and become “cultured”. A typical outcome of a grand tour was to return to Britain with the most refined manners (from Paris), a deep understanding of the classics and classical architecture (Athens, Rome), and a broad knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings (Venice, Florence). Let’s be real though – quite a bit of whoring, drinking, and gambling en route was also fairly standard.
Pit stops on these tours varied from one man to the next, but Venice and Rome were almost always on the list. Geneva, Turin, Pompeii, Bologna, Naples, Athens, Florence, Paris, Munich and Berlin, among others, were all suitable destinations.
If you’re thinking “this all sounds jolly well for men, but what about the women?” I’m right there with you. Fortunately, there were a number of women who broke the mold and went on their own grand tours. You can read all about their stories in Ladies of the Grand Tour by Brian Dolan, it’s a glorious book!
I like to think my travels have been something of a modern grand tour – less about elitism, and more about learning. For me, it’s been a crash course in learning so much about other cultures, about art, and – of course – about how to ask for a glass of wine in every language.