The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is one of the most famous trains in the world. The train is a wonderful reflection of the roaring, glamorous twenties, with the added benefit of its final destination being the unique city of Venice. One Citalia Travel Expert was lucky enough to experience the journey for herself. We caught up with Daniela to find out all about her experience.
Three words I would use to describe the Orient Express – romantic, adventurous, and wonderful. I had read that the train journey takes you back to the fabulous twenties, and it certainly does. Everything from the old wooden cabins, to the uniforms of the staff. The train journey exceeded every expectation I had of it and will be a journey I will never forget.
Your journey begins as soon as you get to London Victoria. I have travelled into London Victoria hundreds of times, and of course never experienced anything like what I was about to.
The start of what I can only describe as feeling like I was taking part in a role play, a bit like a murder mystery. Guests were dressed to the nines – the men donned suits, and the ladies elegant dresses. My group and I were wearing a mixture of outfits. The best advice I would give is to go smart/casual , so you’ll be comfortable but still stylish.
The journey from London to Folkestone was special. We boarded the British Pullman from London Victoria. This vintage train was a fantastic start to the journey to the Orient Express, enabling us to enjoy the full experience right from London.
On our journey to Folkestone, we enjoyed brunch – eggs, salmon and mushrooms served on crumpet-style bread. This was teamed with a welcome drink of either tea, coffee or a Bellini (the Bellini was an easy choice for me!). Tables onboard the British Pullman are set up for two people and laid with china plates and quality cutlery – it is a true vintage dining experience.
On arrival into Folkestone we were greeted to a band playing. It was a real regal entrance.
Leaving the UK
The coach to the Eurotunnel took us back to the 21st century just for a little part of the journey. While you travel by Eurotunnel to Calais, your rep is available to answer any questions you might have about your upcoming journey, or simply just to get you excited. This whole part of the journey takes approximately an hour. When your coach boards the Eurostar, if you want to stretch your legs there is the option to get of the coach and wander. Snacks and soft drinks are also available.
Once you arrive into Calais, your journey is approximately 15 minutes before you board the best part, the Orient Express. Before you board, you are given time to take plenty of photos of the famous train, so make sure you have your camera ready.
Each carriage is made up of nine cabins. You will be introduced to your cabin Maitre D’ when you board. They will start off by telling you everything you will need to know for your stay. There is nothing they won’t be able to help with, and you might find yourself building a lovely relationship with them too – I certainly did.
What’s on the menu
Now we have covered getting there, time for the most important thing – what’s to eat? Your meal times are given to you to by your Maitre D’, so all you need to do is remember them and when your table is ready, it will be announced over the tannoy.
We enjoyed a delicious three-course meal for dinner. For starter it was Parma ham and melon, for main, one of the best beef dishes I have ever had, and dessert was a trio of chocolate delights. As each dish came out, I was left more and more amazed at how food of such a 5* hotel standard is served on a train. This was until I met the man behind it all. The chef came out to talk to his guests. He has been working onboard the Orient Express for 30 years. We were able to have a sneak peek of the kitchen – how he produces that standard of cuisine in such a small place is incredible.
Other meals we enjoyed onboard were breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was a top-notch Continental spread and for lunch we enjoyed another three courses. To start, I had a tomato and mozzarella salad, there was a chicken dish for the main, and the most incredible gingerbread ice-cream dish for dessert. There is also the opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea, which is served before you depart the train. This was my favourite part of the whole trip.
While you enjoy your dinner, your Maitre D’ will turn down your cabin for the night.
After dinner, head to the ‘Bar Car’. Here is where you can drink cocktails and socialise until the last one standing leaves and the bar shuts. The pianist takes requests too.
What to wear
I have touched on what to expect when you take a trip on the Orient Express. The one thing you just need to remember – nothing is too much. Ladies will be wearing their finest jewellery and the men are dressed to the nines in ‘James Bond’ style suits. Other people were dressed in almost fancy dress, like they were really getting in character. You will find many ladies dressed like a 1920s flapper, with feathers in their hair and pearls around their necks.
The morning after
It’s morning after your night on the Orient Express. A bit of advice – put your alarm on for 8am, as this is when the Orient Express travels through the Swiss mountains. It’s stunning and definitely not to be missed. Breakfast is served at your leisure – simply ring the bell and your Maitre D’ will come and change your bed back ready for food to be served. Breakfast is served until 12.
The day is free to enjoy the very best of the Orient Express. Enjoy a three-course lunch, afternoon tea and the beautiful views of the Italian countryside (look out for Verona) from the bar or privacy of your own cabin.
Our journey on the Orient Express had to come to an end on arrival in Venice. But in true glam style, the train pulled in and we were automatically treated to a celeb-like greeting.
What I loved the most
What I loved most about the Orient Express is how friendly everyone was, not just the staff but the guests on board, too. It takes a certain person to enjoy train travel, as they are much smaller than hotels –these people are friendly and willing to say hi, how are you to passers-by. It was a lovely atmosphere.
I loved the effort people put into making their experience the best they can be. And finally, the staff and service is exquisite. The Orient Express experience would not be the same without them.