Val Poore has asked me to blog this. (If you don't know Val - you can find her at her Watery Ways, here.)
Some years ago a daughter gave me a book, not just any book: "The Queen Newspaper Book of Travel" - the 1905 edition. It includes some wonderful advertisements, for cruises, for costumes that do not cockle, for Mrs Pomeroy's toilet preparations, for Ganesh Chin Straps (no, I've no idea what those are either.)
And it tells you all you need to know about undertaking your Grand Tour - where to go and at what time of year, which hotels to stay in, where to catch trains or carriages, how many hats you will need. So I know that 'Avignon cannot be recommended as a winter resort', that 'Rouen is a healthy city for residence on the high ground.' I know that Oberstdorf is '2660 feet above sea level, a climatic air station and whey cure'. (A what?) I know that March is 'probably one of the best months to be out of Great Britain.' The steamer fare to St Petersberg from Hull cost £5 5s. There are maps and routes an illustrations - and it's wonderful.
Would it be possible to do such a tour now?
Yes, it would. Some things would be different - I can't imagine the response to the polite letter to the hotel requesting rooms, so bookings would have to be be email. Travelling by train with Serious Jewellery would be bonkers - though piles of hat boxes might be possible. But the routes - they're still there. The towns and mountains haven't moved since 1905/
So go, said Val - she'd even help me organise it. I am sure there would be a loyal band of you cheering me on.
So why not?
I think a project of this kind needs a sponsor. In Cuba (and on previous trips), once I've paid for my flight the day-to-day expenses are not much more than I'd spend at home. A Grand Tour, staying in Grand Hotels and eating in Grand Restaurants wearing Grand Frocks, would be outside my price range. Stay in cheaper places, I hear you say - and of course that's the sensible way forward. But, even so, three months travelling in Europe, with hats, would be far more expensive than staying at home, and if too many financial corners were cut it would miss the point of trying to recreate the Tour in the first place.
On top of that - the point of it would be to publicise it, make sure plenty of people knew what was going on - and that needs sponsorship. It needs a newspaper, or journal, or publishing company with an advance to fund it. And most of those, as we know, believe that the shenanigans of celebrities make more exciting copy than some woman wandering round Europe with hats, even if she can string a sentence together.
So that, Val, is why it's a dream. But, as you said, it doesn't have to be. You never know ... maybe a sponsor will creep out from somewhere ...