September 4, 2017
For anyone who has taken an international flight lately and experienced the impersonal shuffle from one security check to the next, the long layovers in boring transfer halls, the discomfort of cattle class and the endless junk food, you may have found yourself longing for the sophistication and romance of the "slow" travel of a bygone era.
The Grand Tour was an educational rite of passage for European 21 year olds from the late 1600s to the 1800s – especially writers, poets and artists. A bit like an upmarket gap year, young men and women (accompanied by chaperones) set off for the classical cities of France, Italy, Greece and the Middle East with their leather cases, hat boxes, suits, gloves, parasols and venetian lace fans.
Travel was a gentle art, of morning and afternoon tea in exotic hotels, pink gin cocktails at sundown and luxurious private cabins in trains and steamers. But it also required a sense of courage and adventure, discovering the ancient world on the backs of camels and donkeys without the convenience of mobile phones or Google Maps.
Samuel Smith's grandson Frederick Caley Smith was one such adventurous soul.
Born in the Barossa in 1864 he was a colonial horticulturist and a global journeyman who set off in 1893 for a grand scientific tour that would take him around the world in 635 days: from the USA, Canada, England and Europe to the Middle East, India and Sri Lanka.
While most colonials could only dream of such a trip, Fred was fortunate to have the support of his parents and several ‘door opening' credentials: his appointment as an honorary Horticultural Commissioner for the SA Government and a freelance contract with the Melbourne Argus, the Sydney Herald and Adelaide Advertiser would start conversations all over the world.
His observations and musings were not just reported in public articles but also recorded in hundreds of detailed letters to his father. Beautifully written, often poignant, these insights into the lone discoveries of a young traveller abroad in the late Victorian era are treasured relics held in Yalumba's archives.
When he returned home 18 months later in 1894, Fred had visited such iconic sites as the Chicago World Fair in the US, promoted Yalumba's wines in London, tasted Bordeaux and Burgundy red wines in France, viewed ancient monuments in Egypt and Syria and scaled the Himalayan foothills in India.
But Fred Caley Smith didn't just return with memories: like the Grand Tourists of the 18th and 19th century such as Byron and Shelley, Fred brought back to the tiny village of Angaston a worldliness that would shrink the globe for those who would come after him.
For the modern-day traveller, looking to retrace the steps of this adventurous colonial, we've put together Fred Caley's itinerary so you can take your own Grand Tour of inspiration for the next generation…
Travelling from Adelaide, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand by steamer, Fred's first stop in the northern hemisphere was San Francisco on the west coast of the United States. In California he visited Stanford University, took Washington Navel citrus cuttings and learnt about the canned fruit industry.
He went on to discover Portland and Minneapolis, met a number of leading scientists and publishers in Chicago and Boston and marveled at the new skyscrapers in New York.
From the US, Fred travelled north to Canada, visiting all major cities including Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City.
After months exploring the Americas Fred took a trans-Atlantic steamer to Ireland where he visited Dublin and Cork before making his way to England and catching up with relatives.
From Liverpool to London, and Wareham to Manchester, Fred was clearly struck by the beauty of the old country and proud of his heritage.
"The more I see of London the more I wonder at its marvellous orderliness, the splendid condition of sanitation, its wood block paved streets, its 15,000 cabs and 5,000 omnibuses and the incessant human throng from dawn to dark," he wrote.
"I shall have a greater and grander realization of the words ‘I am an Englishman' and shall feel prouder than ever before of our relationship to the grand old Mother country."
From England to Belgium he discovered Antwerp and Brussels, then Germany's Cologne and Bonn before taking a trip to Holland to explore Arnhem, Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam.
Fred then embarked on a two-month Grand Tour of the Mediterranean, discovering the wonders of Europe by sea.
Travelling through France he visited Dieppe, Paris, Lyon, Montpellier, Marseilles, Nice, and Monte Carlo, then indulged in the classical Renaissance cities of Genoa, Turin, Milan, Como, Verona and Venice, before returning home via the Mediterranean through Sicily and Lisbon, Portugal.
"It is absolutely impossible to describe the tout ensemble of our experience… the glory of the height and depth and majesty of the wide, calm, placid, sun-glintingly blue Mediterranean," he recalled.
But he wasn’t impressed with the Monte Carlo casino-crowd.
"Shattered hopes (and shattered brains) and wasted lives and squandered fortunes."
From the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Fred went on to discover the ancient and holy sites of the Middle East, travelling from Tangier in Morocco to Beirut in Lebanon, and Damascus in Syria, before paying homage in Jerusalem, Israel.
Fred concluded his Middle Eastern sojourn by visiting Egypt, where he discovered Alexandria, and was rather proud of his efforts at climbing the pyramids in Cairo.
"(I) had to take three or four rests before I got to the top but others used three or four guides who had to push behind and pull their hands and arms," he wrote.
From Colombo in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Fred travelled to India where he concluded his travels by visiting Calcutta and Mussoorie, north west of Delhi.
It was here, in the Himalayan Highlands that he shared a bottle of wine from home – a Yalumba Claret – with his relatives, the Hill family.
"We dined and chatted till late that night and the Yalumba Claret tasted particularly good with the ‘Belladi Pani' or (salty iced lemonade), thirsty as we were."
For a taste of Caley's Yalumba "Claret" you can purchase the wine inspired by the journeyman, The Caley.