Oozing glamour and steeped in sophistication, a ride on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express takes you back in time to the most beguiling era of all; the roaring 20s. Europe expert, Pippa, boards the iconic train for an unforgettable journey from Venice to London.
There is nothing quite like the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. It is completely unique. As we arrive on the platform we catch our first glimpse of the iconic navy carriages and the immaculately-dressed stewards with their hats and white gloves. We wander along the platform to our carriage amidst the twitter of fellow passengers all in awe of this epic locomotive, snapping pictures in between ogling at the beauty of it.
We are greeted at our carriage by our wonderful steward, Lino, who shows us to our cabins. It is just as I expected, a beautifully-preserved capsule of 1930’s glamour. Before we know it, we are departing Venice, views over the lagoon on both sides of the train give the feeling of floating above the water and I sit, champagne in hand, grin firmly spread across my face.
Despite being known for its fine food, ball gowns and cocktails, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a remarkably relaxing experience. As we roll through the Dolomites, passing tiny little villages and stunning mountain landscapes, one can’t help but curl up and watch the world go by, it is totally mesmerising and truly peaceful. Of course, there is WiFi for those who can’t live without!
As evening draws in, guests in beautiful evening attire start to appear in the bar for aperitifs. The recently renovated bar car is the only ‘reception area’ on this luxury train and therefore always busy; a perfect spot for people watching and enjoying one of head bar man, Ignacio’s, signature cocktails (the Belmond Fizz is a firm favorite).
Dinner is prepared by head chef Christian and his small team, in their even smaller kitchens. It really is incredible what they manage to create in such a tiny space. The food on the train is fabulous, and seemingly never ending; dinner, breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea… you certainly won’t go hungry!
One of the most memorable moments on my journey was wandering back down the carriages at bed time to discover my little cabin had been turned into a beautifully made up bed, complete with crisp white sheets, fluffy pillows and cosy blankets. With the gentle rocking of the train and the help of a couple of glasses of wine, I was soon fast asleep as the train rumbled along through France, to awake the following morning in Paris.
For those departing or arriving into London, there is the small hurdle of the channel tunnel to contend with, which Belmond do incredibly well. It is a shame the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express cannot magic itself over the sea, however the short trip on a rather luxurious coach is beautifully orchestrated and softened with a glass of Kentish Fizz.
The journey back from Folkestone on the British Pullman is delightful, rolling through the countryside enjoying afternoon tea (more food!) before arriving into London Victoria, having had the most charming and luxurious 30-hour journey you are likely ever to make in your life.
For those opposed to slightly confined spaces, those who can’t possibly start the day without a hot shower, or those expecting modern day facilities on board a piece of living history, this is not for you. For those willing to embrace the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express way, with its cosy cabins, endless charm and jovial fellow passengers, this is an experience you will never forget, for all the right reasons.