Travel Bureau’s personal travel expert, Danielle – a self-confessed train travel geek – had the treat of a lifetime earlier this year, when she climbed on board the Venice Simplon-Orient Express service from Venice to London.
Since its very first service on 4 October 1883 the Orient Express has stood as a shining example of the finest in luxury rail travel. The historic service was given a new lease of life when Belmond founder, James B Sherwood, purchased two vintage train carriages at an auction in Monte Carlo in 1977. After five years spent hunting down more antiquated rail treasures and finding the expert craftsmen to restore them to their former sophisticated glory, the iconic midnight-blue cars of the Orient Express hit the rails once more.
Over its long history the Orient Express has played host to such famous guests as Tolstoy, Lawrence of Arabia, Dame Judi Dench and now, Danielle Waters! Danielle boarded the iconic train in Venice at 11:05 am, welcomed on the platform by a white-gloved steward in blue and gold livery.
Once on board, Danielle was instantly transported to the golden age of travel; the storied carriages holding whole worlds of imagination, their opulent yet elegant décor recalling the easy glamour of bygone days.
The train’s accommodations are housed in the original 20s and 30s sleeping cars, which are full of classic Art Deco accents. Each cabin has been flawlessly designed using beautiful polished wood, sumptuous furnishings and stunning antique fixtures. What’s more, the Orient Express now has three utterly gorgeous Grand Suites on board which, comprising a set double bed and spacious en-suite, even come with free-flowing Champagne!
If you’re not in a suite, your cabin is discreetly transformed from a day-time lounge to a cosy bedroom with upper and lower births while you dine.
Perhaps Danielle’s favourite part of her experience on board the Orient Express was, in fact, dining; an event which is not just about exceptional food but also attitude and ambience. But, of course, the food is exceptional. Ingredients and inspiration come from the destinations that the train travels through and every dish is artfully designed by culinary master, Executive Chef Christian Bodiguel, who has dedicated his 30-year career to honing his craft on board the Orient Express.
Danielle was blown away by the 3-course lunch, the first of many spectacular meals enjoyed on board, while travelling through the scenic landscapes of Italy and France. Changing into evening dress for dinner is a huge part of the experience, a small act of self-transformation that allows you to truly embrace the sense of occasion. And let’s be honest, anyone would feel out of place wearing jeans and a t-shirt in the magnificent dining carriages of the Orient Express.
After dinner, step through to the glittering, Art Deco bar car and embrace old-school sophistication as you sip on a glass of Champagne while the resident pianist plays on the carriage’s baby grand piano.
Of course, as well as transporting the rich and powerful through Europe, the Orient Express has also played a part in the continent’s literary history including crucial roles in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the eponymous Murder on the Orient Express. Fancy a cocktail? Ask the barman to mix you a Guilty 12. This unique drink is an homage to Agatha Christie’s famous murder mystery, with each of the twelve top secret ingredients representing one of the novel’s culprits.
Full and happy after a day of the finest kind of indulgence, you can retire to your cabin for a restful night’s sleep on crisp damask sheets. And if you think that your indulgence quota is full, think again! The next morning, after a light breakfast served in your cabin, an exquisite, mouth-watering brunch consisting of smoked salmon followed by lobster is served in the dining car.
Watch the world go by from your cabin as you steam towards Calais where you will finally have to say goodbye to the Orient Express. From here, luxury coaches will transport you through the Eurotunnel, from where you will board the British Pullman and enjoy a delectable afternoon tea en-route to London Victoria.
It might be hard to tear yourself away from the heady romance and nostalgic glamour of luxury rail travel, but at least you know you’ll be able to face the challenge well fed!
To find out more about journeys on board the Venice Simplon-Orient Express speak to Danielle or another of our personal travel experts on 0191 285 9321. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at 69 High Street, Gosforth. Find out more about Danielle’s stay in Venice or luxury on the rails in Canada on board the Rocky Mountaineer.