I've read so much about the Grand Tour that young, rich, well-connected young men used to make in centuries gone by. These tours were like upmarket, expensive gap years filled with art and culture (their parents hoped) and I'm sure the young bucks had a high old time bumping into old friends in places like Florence and Vienna, flashing letters of introduction via the old-boy network, and generally being high class Englishmen abroad.
The idea of treading the same well-worn path as everyone else through the galleries, drawing rooms and ruins of Europe doesn't really appeal to me, but there is a variation of the Grand Tour forming in my mind which I would very much like to do. It's not exactly posh and classical, but it would be a wonderfully educational and formative tour.
I would like to take a week off to travel to the provinces of England. No glorious capital cities, no famous excavations, no fencing, riding or writing poetry, but instead lots of amazing paintings in provincial art galleries in interesting towns. Because it seems there is this summer a cornucopia of lovely exhibitions in some of our very best smaller galleries up and down the country.
So I would start off with Warhol in Southampton as I think it's best to challenge any prejudices and preconceptions early in the tour.
Then I would move on to Chichester to see Robin and Lucienne Day and to consider their enormous contribution to domestic design.
Next stop would be Brighton for the Radical Bloomsbury exhibition, because Vanessa Bell is one of my favourite artists and because the Royal Pavilion is a sight to behold (very Grand Tour).
Then I would move northwards to Warwickshire to see the incomparable Stanley Spencer in what promises to be a great exhibition (what he called his 'pot-boiler' garden and flower paintings are quite brilliant).
After Saffron Walden, I would travel up to Co. Durham to the Bowes Museum to see the glorious flower paintings by Fantin-Latour et al.
[Ford Madox Brown]
I would end the tour in the familiar surroundings of Manchester City Art Gallery; in order to fit everything in, I would ask them to have their Ford Madox Brown exhibition ready for me even though it doesn't open until September.
I would also take in as many tea rooms as a girl can manage in a day, plus any interesting gardens in the The Yellow Book. The more I think about it, the more my Provincial Tour looks very grand indeed.
[Inspired by the Spencer and Fantin-Latour exhibitions, I have selected paintings according to a floral theme, not by what is on display in the relevant galleries. However, I couldn't find the flower detail I was looking for in one of Ford Madox Brown's paintings, so chose a beautiful little painting of his son instead.]