Friday, December 2, 2011

The Grand Tour, Part 2: Sailing Away!

My dears, we are about to embark on our Grand Tour! We are booked to take the Dover packet today across the Channel to Calais. From there, we’ll travel by carriage to Paris. When we’ve filled ourselves with French pastries, we will travel over the Alps to Italy and through the countryside to Venice, then down to Rome. After seeing the sights there, we will take ship for Sicily, then Malta, and then Athens. From Athens, we’ll return home by ship to England via Gibraltar. I do hope I can count you as a traveling companion!

However, one of our traveling companions is coming along in a very helpful book. I have with me the guidance of Mariana Starke, a well-traveled lady who is not at all stingy with her advice. Mrs. Starke as she was known (although she never married) lived in India with her mother and father when she was a child and resided for many years in Italy, traveling in France as well. Her books were the first truly practical travel guides for Europe, including things like how to obtain passports, how much to spend on food, and where to stay in various cities. She was the first to use a rating system (like the stars of the Michelin guides or the diamonds of AAA), consisting of a number of exclamation points.

Mrs. Starke’s advice on what to take with us in our travels is quite extensive, but I shall put what I deem the most important here:

  • Our own sheets, pillow, and blankets. She also advises that our sheets be made of sheepskin, and that we bring essential oil of lavender to sprinkle upon our beds each night to drive away bedbugs and fleas.

  • A mosquito net of thin gauze

  • A travelling-chamber lock to affix upon our doors

  • Pens, ink-powder, and wax wafers for letter writing

  • Double-soled shoes and boots to take the chill from marble and brick floors
  • A trunk covered with thick, painted sail cloth

  • Our passports

  • Letters of recommendation to all British ministers as well as highly respected persons in each of the cities to which we are travelling

  • Likewise letters of credit from our bank in London, so that we only have to carry a small bit of cash and won’t be more attractive targets to robbers

  • And a clever little device supposedly the size of a reticule called a soldier’s comfort. According to Mrs. Starke, it can serve as night-light, stove, and saucepan for cooking meats and vegetables.

All packed? Good! I’ve had your trunks sent ahead from the inn to the ship. We must stop by the Customs House in Dover and have them examine our passports. Goodness, but it’s a bit of a crush! With France being opened just recently after all the troubles with Napoleon, it seems everyone wants to be in Paris. There’s a retired general who will travel on the same ship with us, an ex-pat French aristocrat going back to see what might be left of his family, and several young gentlemen intent like us on seeing more of the world. The weather looks good for our passage, which should take about half a day, tide willing. I do hope no one gets seasick! The Channel is notorious for that.

Next stop, Calais, and then Paris!


Beebs said...

Loving this post Regina!

What a fascinating insight into travel in the 19th century, I didn't know they had passports then. And sheepskin sheets, who knew!

Looking forward to Calais and Paris. *g*

Gio said...

What a wonderful post! I can't wait for the journey to start!

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Beebs and Gio! I must admit, I've wanted to write about a Grand Tour for some time, so this is a good excuse to do some research. (Oh, oh, MAKE me do research!) :-)

J.Grace said...

Thanks for such an interesting post.

Gillian Layne said...

I am loving this so much!

What would a traveling chamber lock look like, pray tell? :) I can't picture it.

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Grace! Gillian, I'm struggling to picture one as well. According to the redoubtable Mrs. Starke, they are quite common in London and can be affixed upon any door. I'm envisioning some sort of padlock kind of arrangement with an adjustable clasp, not unlike the bike antitheft devices today.

Gillian Layne said...

That would make sense, wouldn't it? I got curious and here's one site I found with all sorts of neat pictures and explanations. Not sure why I'd need all the details, but it's so much fun to research...:)

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Gillian! Very good info there. Makes me want to write about a locksmith, or a clever thief. :-)