London to Venice – One Can Never Be Overdressed
We were newly married and it was my husband’s first trip to Europe to celebrate our honeymoon for a second time. The highlight of our journey would be travelling on the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express; we were very excited. When arranging the trip, I asked what outfits should be packed to which the Belmond booking agent replied “one can never be overdressed on the Orient-Express.” With this in mind, we took the opportunity to treat ourselves to a new wardrobe, evening and cocktail dresses for me, a tuxedo and suit for Jim. Our travel journal and tickets followed in the post and included the itinerary and history of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. To this day I still have that travel journal, the menus and luggage tags as mementos.
On arriving in London
On arriving in London, we stayed with close friends and after a couple of days sightseeing, it was time to make our way to London Victoria for embarkation. The excitement was palpable with passengers, several in period costume, chatting expectantly on the platform. We boarded the British Pullman but not before the porter offered to take our photograph in front of the train – a delightful touch. Plush crested mats at the foot of each carriage welcomed passengers into the beautifully detailed and individually named cars; ours was Perseus. We were escorted to an elegantly laid table with crisp white linens, crystal Champagne glasses, fine bone china and polished silverware. We were welcomed on board; Champagne was poured and a sumptuous brunch was served as the train left the platform. We relaxed in our comfortable wing back chairs, raised our glasses in a toast to one another, and celebrated the start of our romantic journey. Before we knew it, the train arrived at the coast and on alighting we were greeted by a jazz band. A short trip by coach brought us to the Eurotunnel, destined for France.
We arrived in a rainy Calais
We arrived in a rainy Calais where Belmond stewards armed with umbrellas greeted us warmly before escorting us to the opulent Orient-Express. We were welcomed on board by the Chef and our designated Steward, Paolo, who escorted us to our cabin. The beautifully restored art deco interiors of the carriage and our cabin were stunning. We discovered a chilled bottle of Champagne, a vintage Orient-Express poster accompanied by a welcome card from the train manager, Michele, inviting us to celebrate our honeymoon. Paolo promptly served the Champagne, creating a delightful start to the journey. We correctly guessed Paolo was Venetian and on explaining it was Jim’s first visit, he was quick to suggest several sights and promised to provide us with a list. In the privacy of our cabin, we relaxed on the plush banquettes, sipping Champagne, and watching the French countryside pass by.
That evening Jim looked especially handsome
That evening Jim looked especially handsome in his tuxedo. We made our way to the stunning Côte D’Azur dining car which was opulently decorated with exquisite marquetry and Lalique glass panels of Bacchanalian maidens. We were transported to a bygone era of elegance and romance. The tables were extravagantly laid and we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner with exceptional service. When we arrived in Paris, we took the opportunity to have a photograph taken in front of the train to commemorate Jim’s first visit to the city. Back on the train we strolled to the luxurious Bar 3674 carriage for an after-dinner drink, enjoying the boisterous atmosphere as the pianist tickled the ivories and new acquaintances were made. The barman regaled us with tales of the famous Agatha Christie novel ‘Murder on the Orient-Express’ and his encounter with the actor, David Suchet, who played Poirot. On returning to our cabin, which had been prepared for the night, we settled into our bunks, full of anticipation for our arrival in Venice the next day.
Sleeping on a train
Sleeping on a train comes with its own specific challenges and whilst it may not have been the most restful, it certainly was unique. The following morning, we awoke to breath-taking views of the snow-capped Swiss Alps which gave way to green mountain pastures, rain-shrouded villages and on to a sunny Milan. The journey continued and as we eventually approached Venice, the sun was beginning to descend and the age-old buildings glowed red and orange. With the halt of the train, our enchanting experience was coming to an end. As we disembarked and took in the golden hues of the setting sun, it was evident the memory of this romantic journey would be with us forever. Paolo indulged us with a final photograph in front of the train. We made our way to the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, the luxury continued on board one the hotel’s wooden Riva launches. We felt like royalty as we cruised along the Grand Canal which afforded a view of the Venetian skyline.
Our onward journey took us to Florence
Our onward journey took us to Florence, St. Petersburg, Germany and the Netherlands; by the end of the trip, Jim had visited seven new countries. When we returned home, we had our vintage Orient-Express poster framed and it now hangs in our dining room, reminding us of this once in a lifetime trip. Despite only wearing our new outfits that one evening on the Orient-Express, being dressed up in such lavish surroundings made the experience unforgettable. It’s true, ‘one can never be overdressed on the Orient-Express’.