A travel journalist’s search for pornographic relics, subversive texts and sinful sites becomes the itinerary for his family’s European vacation.
Victorian elites once sent their sons on the Grand Tour. These lengthy excursions allowed young men the opportunity for leisurely indulgence in the cornucopia of European cultural delights. Perrottet’s quest for enlightenment heads in a more saucy direction. Having tackled similar bawdy topics in his previous books (Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped, 2008, etc), the author was mesmerized by collection of sexual oddities housed in the British Museum, including ancient Roman phallic jewelry and amulets depicting athletic coital positions. With his family in tow, Perrottet began tracking down the “forbidden historical fruit” scattered across Europe. Starting their vacation along the gloomy Scottish coastline, the author visited the Beggar’s Benison, a sex club founded in 1732. As his wife and sons longed for sunshine and swimming pools, the family slowly navigated toward sunnier locales with stops in Paris, the French countryside, Lake Geneva, Venice and the Vatican. They finally landed in Capri, where “[i]t was as if the soil itself were irrigated with sin. The brilliant light, the crystalline water, the languid heat, all cried out, carpe diem.” Throughout, Perrottet humorously recounts his travails at tracking down the location of luxurious Belle Époque brothels; his thrill at securing a spot with a secret tour of Casanova’s prison cell; and his successful wrangling with Vatican authorities for a glimpse of Raphael’s Bathroom of Love. In Lacoste, the author gently and persistently pestered Pierre Cardin, the owner of the Marquis de Sade’s home, into allowing him a visit into the infamous rake’s dungeon. Perrottet layers his narrative with tantalizing historical research, funny family complications and slightly acerbic comments regarding contemporary Europeans.
A well-researched, amusing recollection of one family’s offbeat holiday trek to the naughty nooks of Europe.