Ever since it was invented in the 1800s the idea of luxury and romance was associated with rail travel. The lucky few would relax in sumptuous carriages with fine dining and warm cosy beds. The romance of the railways is very much alive and well, with no journey more iconic than the famous Venice – Simplon Orient Express.
The 1041 mile (1675km) journey from London to Venice is steeped in history, a descendent of the original Orient Express trains of the late 1800s the VSOE is actually two trains with carriages from the 1920s and 30s. A time when luxury rail travel was peaking and beautiful carriages whisked you across Europe in style.
Starting in London
The Orient Express to Venice starts at London’s Victoria station where the British Pullman carriages greet you. You check in at the exclusive Orient Express check-in desk and your carriage butler will greet you as you board. Every carriage is different with its own unique history and interior style. Many of the British Pullman coaches were used on the “Brighton Belle” a famous excursion train to the south coast of England. The interiors are quite breathtaking and the large arm chairs surround you in luxury comfort on your journey to Folkestone. A Bellini or two is the Orient Express drink of choice and the Kent countryside is a fitting start to your journey before a quick coach excursion through the channel tunnel to meet the star of the show, the Venice Simplon Orient Express train.
Once scattered across Europe due to World War II, it wasn’t until 1977 that a wealthy Kentucky businessman, James Sherwood, began the challenge of reuniting all of the carriages of this iconic train. Mostly built in the mid to late 1920s the distinctive blue livery of the former “Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits” are steeped in history, something the staff are happy to share with you as you board.
Unlike the British Pullman this is a sleeper train with your own private bedroom, shared bathroom and dining cars too. There’s always an air of excitement and common interest as you travel, with many of the guests socialising together especially in the Bar Car, built in 1931. Your private room is the perfect setting for quiet moments to watch the world go by, with comfortable seats and grand panoramic views for the entire journey. By night the room is quickly converted for you by the train staff in to a small but perfectly presented bedroom. Everything about the train exudes luxury and history and embodies the very essence of what makes train travel romantic.
Dinner on the Orient Express
Dinner is served in one of 3 stunning dining cars by award winning French chefs. A gorgeous 4 course meal, the likes of which you’ll not quickly forget, are served as the evening draws in and the conversations start to flow. One of the most exciting aspects is the shared experience with other guests, most of which are celebrating birthdays, honeymoons, retirements and anniversaries. Whatever your reason for travel there’s no denying the beauty and luxury of this very special train and it makes the guests want to talk all the more.
Retiring to your ready made bedroom, you’ll find the beds are very comfortable and the gentle rocking of the train actually aids sleep. You’ll awake to the truly breathtaking scenery of the Swiss Alps and greeted by the carriage butler serving breakfast in your room whenever you’re ready. I personally think this is one of the best views from any train you’ll ever travel on and a great sight to wake up to.
After a leisurely morning chatting with guests in the Bar Car or relaxing in your room, a 3 course lunch is served in the dining cars as the journey takes you onwards through the Italian Dolomites. The food is always a major part of any Orient Express train journey and dining with a loved one on such a luxurious trip is definitely a highlight.
As if that wasn’t enough food for one trip an afternoon tea is served in your room before you cruise in to Venice on the most iconic train journey in the world. Venice itself is a city of romance and luxury so there is not better way to arrive than on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Your 2 day journey is soon at an end, but the memories will likely stay with you for a very long time.
While it may be a luxurious expense, it’s a must for any lover of travel and adventure. Taking this iconic journey from London to Venice is one of the greatest ways to travel.