A San Francisco-based “handcrafted travel” company invites you to “step into the world of Downton Abbey.”
Its eight-day vacation offers private tours of Highclere Castle, which impersonates the Yorkshire home of the fictional Crawley family in the popular British TV series. There’s an optional side-trip to Inveraray Castle in Scotland, which stands in for Duneagle, the home of Lady Rose MacClare. An additional excursion allows you to glimpse “the upstairs, downstairs” workings of another mansion, Shugborough Hall.
But aren’t these posh dawdles missing the point?
If you’re a real fan of Downton Abbey’s stylish trip down memory lane, you ought to experience it as its characters’ real-life counterparts would have done in the 1920s. You should be randomly selected to be either a hardworking domestic, or the master of your domain.
In this set-up, your own desires would be of no consequence. Sure, you’d prefer to waft about like beautiful Lady Mary rather than scuttle around like homely Miss O’Brien, but Fate will decide for you whether you’re an upstairs swan or a downstairs cockroach.
Do you have an attitude of servitude? Sign up and find out.
Here’s how it ought to go. You fork out your money for a proper Downton Abbey experience. When you arrive at the airport, you’ll find out which character you’ll get to be for the next while. Accordingly, you’ll then scrunch yourself up with four others in an economy bathroom for the entire flight, or sprawl in first class with champagne on demand.
Most of you will find you’re valets, maids, cooks, footmen, or butlers, because they, of course, vastly outnumber the five madly idle members of the Crawley family. As servants, you can look forward to backbreaking labour; low wages; no privacy; no freedom -- of expression, or anything else; no friends, sexual partners, or children; and a day off every fortnight or two.
One lucky traveller in your party gets to be the Earl of Grantham, who decides things, derides things, and strides about, pouting, whenever his dictums are ignored. Another embodies the Countess of Grantham, who, with no discernible personality of her own, kowtows to her husband and simpers at everyone else.
A third vacationer gets to be the Dowager Countess, an expert at withering remarks and antediluvian viewpoints. For you, Dowager, even life at the top of the heap is a disappointing business, but one must soldier on being as useless as possible.
Three of you will be the Crawley daughters, who have nothing to do all day but get dressed -- with assistance -- and pick at your food so you can fit into tomorrow’s outfit. Happily, there’s no bathing suit competition.
It would be helpful to have PMS if you are picked to play Lady Mary Crawley, whose perpetual irritability suggests that she could use at least two dozen more Turkish lovers – of course, who couldn’t?
If you are chosen to be Lady Edith, you poor soul, be sure to carry powerful binoculars. You’ll have no worth until you bag an Earl-approved mate.
Sadly, one of you will have to be mild-mannered Matthew Crawley. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. I’ll say no more.
If you are, instead, one of the staff, maybe you’ll be driver Tom Branson. Though you’ll be elevated into better clothing by marrying Sybil Crawley, you’ll be ridiculed upstairs as a lowly Papist Irishman and downstairs as a conniving social climber. Don’t be surprised if somebody slips cold boiled potatoes under your coverlet!
As for you, Mrs. Patmore, why are you wasting time here, pretending you know how to read? Get about your business making three multi-course meals a day as well as tea and elevenses for a houseful of imperious masters and mistresses, plus staff. If you’ve got complaints, take them out on scullery maid Daisy – that’s what she’s there for.
Ah, Mr. Barrow, it’s too bad about your disgusting proclivities. You may have been born that way, just as you were born into service, but, unlike the job of helping fatheads into dinner jackets, in this particular era you can feel no pride over preferring men to ladies. Just keep your legs crossed and Lord Grantham’s cravat pressed until death do you part.
Miss O’Brien, you have our sympathy. As a mean-spirited spinster with no creative outlet beyond the tedious mending of Lady Grantham’s gowns, you understandably keep stirring up trouble for others. You rise every day at 5 a.m. and retire well after the Countess, who can’t even brush her own hair. Spit spot -- about 500 strokes a night should do it. Make sure not to trouble her with any of your own petty concerns. Who cares, O’Brien?
Friends, you’ll have no photographic evidence of your vacation, just spiritual bruises. But if you long to revisit an idiotic way of life that most civilized people have mercifully left behind, by all means, step into the world of Downton Abbey.