150 years ago this month, a young woman named Jemima Morrell and her friends from the Junior United Alpine Club undertook a journey to the Swiss Alps under the auspices of a Mr Thomas Cook, ‘the excursionist’. It was effectively the first package holiday tour to Switzerland, and thanks to the diary in which Jemima so beautifully and eloquently recorded and illustrated their adventures, every step of that journey is known.
For the past seven days I have been privileged to accompany a latter day Jemima, Helen Mort (above, 3rd from L) and a group of guests including competition winners, travel writers, a best selling author (above, 3rd from R), an archivist from Thomas Cook (above, 2nd from L) and the great, grand nephew of the original Jemima (above, L) on a Swiss tour to celebrate and emulate this important anniversary. Chosen by Inntravel, Helen took on the mantel of 21st century Jemima, faithfully recording her adventures on every day of the trip and comparing her experiences to those of her 1863 alter ego.
During the course of a journey whose itinerary was based on the original diary entries, our motley crew have ebbed and flowed in their make up and numbers as we have accompanied Jemima from Geneva to Lucerne via Kandersteg, Grindelwald and Interlaken. We have followed in her intrepid footsteps along the Daubensee, up the Gemmi Pass and to the summit of Mount Rigi to witness a dawn shrouded in mists. Being as faithful to the first journey as time and practicality allowed, we have taken breakfast in the thermal springs of Kandersteg; ridden by horse and carriage through the streets of Interlaken, tasted wines in the cellars of Sierre, sailed across lakes of liquid sapphire and walked beside frozen rivers hemmed by ice-topped giants.
In the spirit of Jemima’s insatiable appetite for adventure we have played in the snow on the very top of Europe; climbed the Giessbach Falls and marvelled at Reichenbachfall, all things that no doubt would have been on the agenda of that inaugural trip had they been possible.
Unlike the members of the Junior United Alpine Club, few of us knew any of our travelling companions before we undertook our Grand Tour. Together we have faced and conquered personal fears; greedily consumed knowledge and enjoyed the hospitality and welcome of all we have encountered. Over the coming weeks and months we too will record our adventures and publish them for others to see but as sunset prepares to lay its rosy hue across the placid waters of Lake Lucerne where, now alone, I sit at my keyboard; few of us can hope to achieve the literary immortality of a woman who could hardly have known how many lives her words would touch.
Inntravel offer a Swiss Alps travel package based on Jemima Morrell’s Victorian Adventure (19th century costume not compulsory). For further information on Switzerland and rail travel, visit Switzerland Tourism and for flights to Switzerland visit swiss.com.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+