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All Aboard!

By Tara Taylor

Partnership Manager

Posted: 26 February 2014

DAY ONE: London Victoria - Folkestone - Calais - Paris
Check-in: We arrived at London Victoria and enjoyed complimentary tea and coffee in the private lounge while our luggage was taken care of – cabin baggage will be waiting for you in your cabin when you board the train in Calais later in the day and you can forget about your hold luggage until you reach Venice. Our fellow passengers were a mix of ages and most seemed to be celebrating a honeymoon or special birthday. The atmosphere was fantastic – everyone, including me, was clearly excited and there was a real sense that we were all embarking on a very special journey

London Victoria – Folkestone
At 10.20am the British Pullman pulled up to Platform 2. The smartly dressed staff posed for photos and then we were invited to board. We were shown to our seats – comfortable armchairs that wouldn’t be out of place in a manor house – by one of the Stewards who made us feel extremely welcome. We departed from London Victoria at 10.45am and enjoyed Bellinis followed by a wonderful silver service brunch of fruit salad, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, potato rosti, mushrooms and caviar, with a pear and rosemary tart and clotted cream to finish. When we arrived at Folkestone, we were greeted by a jazz band and a Hostess showed us to our coach for the Eurotunnel crossing.

Folkestone – Calais
The seats on the coach were positioned four to a table and there were snacks including pretzels to nibble on. The drive to the Eurotunnel took about fifteen minutes and we were able to get off at the car park for half an hour to look around the shopping area, then we got back on the coach which drove into the large train carriage for the thirty-five-minute crossing. Water and juice were served and if you wished you could leave the coach to stand in the small area in front. We arrived in Calais ready to board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express to Venice at around 4pm.

Calais – Paris
As we boarded the train we were met by Pietro who would be the personal host for our carriage for the journey to Venice. He showed us to the cabin, took our passports (so that he didn’t have to disturb us at any point should we be stopped and inspected), explained the functions in the cabin, took our breakfast order for the following morning and said he was there to cater for our every need – which he did. He even had a supply of motion sickness tablets, just in case! I didn’t find the movement a problem and it was part of what made the experience for me, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t a completely smooth ride and the train can stop suddenly on occasion.

The Cabin
I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to the cabin, but in actual fact, I loved it. It had a real warmth and charm. Yes, it was small with only a washbasin facility (there aren’t any showers or baths on the train, and there is one communal – but always spotlessly clean – toilet per carriage), but none of this seemed to matter. You don’t go on this legendary train for large accommodation and marble bathrooms, you go because it is a magnificent train and as you sip your Champagne you really do feel like you have been transported into an Agatha Christie novel.

Dinner
Dinner was an absolute joy of an occasion – it was even fun getting ready and putting on make-up whilst wobbling around in the cabin! The Maitre d’ visited our cabin earlier in the afternoon to find out whether we’d prefer the 7pm or 8pm sitting and we were called to our seats at the Cote d’Azur restaurant over a tannoy. There are three restaurants, all offering the same menu, but each with a different style décor and there is a dress code, so people had really made the effort.

The service was top notch, but there was a real fun and friendly atmosphere. As you walked through the bar car to the restaurants, a pianist was playing and people said “good evening” to each other and smiled and I felt that we were all a part of something wonderful. By the time we sat down to dinner we were in Paris, where more people boarded (there was a third dinner sitting for the Paris passengers), however, the stop is in a train station so don’t expect Parisian views whilst having dinner. We were seated at a table for four with two ladies celebrating a 60th and a 70th birthday (we had been asked earlier if we preferred a table for two or if we minded sharing), and once the food and wine started flowing it was impossible not to make friends.

Dinner was a five-course feast of lobster, truffles, steak, French cheeses, coffee and petits fours, but if you didn’t want the set menu there was an à la carte menu available at a supplement. The food was excellent and the wine list included half bottles.

After Dinner
We headed for the bar car for a nightcap with our new friends and it seemed that many new friendships had been made amongst passengers – there was lots of chat, laughter and a wonderfully jovial atmosphere. The pianist played a variety of music, from classical to Abba to Andy Williams, on the baby grand piano and the bar stayed open until the last passengers went to bed.

To Bed
We called it a night at about 1am and returned to our cabin to find that whilst we’d been enjoying dinner, Pietro had transformed the sofa in our cabin into a bed and I was amazed at how inviting and comfortable it was. Throughout the night the train stops at various stations and while I wouldn’t say I slept all the way through, I certainly woke up feeling rested.

DAY TWO: Onwards to Venice

Breakfast
When we woke up and opened the blinds we were greeted by blue skies, Swiss Mountains and magnificent views – at last this was the scenery that the camera and I had been waiting for! I called Pietro and he served us breakfast in bed which was such a treat. After breakfast I lay down again for about an hour just watching the mountains go by.

I got up and dressed and Pietro returned to clear the breakfast dishes and make my bed back into the sofa, which he did so efficiently and with a smile, as always. At 11.30am we stopped in Innsbruck for about half an hour so we got off the train to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. When we got back on the train we spent the time prior to lunch relaxing in the cabin, feet up and taking photos when the scenery inspired us to.

Lunch
We went for the second sitting of lunch at 2pm. I was amazed that I could still find room for three courses, but you absolutely can’t resist the food. Everyone was politely asked to settle their bar bill for that day and for the previous night. After lunch we went to the gift shop and then sat in the bar car for about an hour to enjoy the last few hours on the train.

Arrival at Venice
About an hour or so before we arrived in Venice, Pietro came round with afternoon tea, returned our passports and told us what we needed to know for our main arrival in Venice - what would happen with our cabin luggage and where we would find our hold luggage when we disembarked.

As the train approached Venice everyone came out of their cabin to look out of the window and as we got nearer we could see St Mark's and I felt excited about what lay ahead. We’d been on the train for twenty-seven hours and been so caught up in the romance and excitement of the journey that it was only at that moment that you remembered your arrival in Venice was only the start of the next leg of your journey.

About Tara

Tara has always had a passion for travel and it's the direction she knew she was destined for from an early age. She's worked in travel for over 20 years, the majority of those being in luxury travel, and has worked in both reservations and product departments, covering all corners of the globe. She joined Elegant Resorts in 2009 and has spent time as Product Manager for Europe & North Africa and the Indian Ocean, and is now responsible for our Caribbean and Arabian Gulf portfolios, as well as overseeing operations in our Barbados office. Her favourite destination changes every time she visits a new place, however she still has a deep rooted love for Paris − and even though she has been travelling there at least once a year since the age of 16, it never fails to sweep her off her feet as she discovers something new on every visit!

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As the foremost British pioneer of luxury travel – and boasting an ever-increasing collection of prestigious accolades that celebrates this – Elegant Resorts is a tour operator with the expertise, knowledge and reputation to deliver only the very finest tailor-made luxury holidays to our clients, honed by almost thirty years of experience in this niche travel business.

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