Venice Simplon Orient Express
Our journey began with a short but stunning boat ride up the Grand Canal where we were dropped off at the train station. It is a modern station and I wondered if this gentle old train would cope with the somewhat drab surroundings and give us the excitement we all hoped for. As you walk up the platform holding your ticket your butler, who becomes a very important feature of the trip, meets you. (If you book ask for Rupert!) Suddenly you are not looking at the station but at the stunning detail on the train and the beautiful carriages.
Once onboard the cabin is set up for you with lovely touches and amenities. You would think that paying the prices you do on this train you may have a private bathroom but don’t forget this is an old train and that luxury wasn’t how it was designed. Each carriage has one toilet and you have your own washbasin in the cabin.
Every meal on the train is a full on gastronomic affair and when you see the size of the kitchens you realise what a feat of genius this is. We were thoroughly spoilt and the service is exceptional. A drink in the bar as you fly through the mountainous scenery is really something very special.
This is certainly for someone who loves trains and wants that sense of history that the Orient Express exudes. It isn’t for someone looking for the ultimate in luxury and privacy or someone looking to stick to light meals!
You drink and eat until bedtime and by the time you are back at your cabin your butler has arranged it into beds for you. It is cosy and extremely comfy but as the train rockets through the night I would not exactly describe it as a “good night’s sleep”.
Breakfast in Paris and the lobster is loaded for a three-course brunch! This is where I will be suggesting my clients leave the train. You may be surprised at this as it continues all the way to Victoria Station, which is excellent if you live near Victoria, but the journey loses its sense of magic after Paris in my opinion.
You travel on the Orient Express to Calais where you get off and a bus takes you to the border where you get off again to show your passports to then be taken through the channel tunnel. On the other side the bus takes you to a small train station where you join the British Pullman for afternoon tea on the journey back to London. The staff couldn’t do more and it is a logistical necessity of course but it does detract from the magic for me. Victoria Station in rush hour would diminish anyone’s sense of wellbeing let alone having just stepped off such a glorious journey.
For me, Venice to Paris and then a night or two there or even fly back would make the trip just the right length of time and will keep that magical feeling I think you need when spending a lot of money for such a special journey. Your waistline will also thank you!