Most travel advisors have a 'bucket list' of iconic experiences and hotels that they long to experience, and the Venice Simplon-Orient- Express train (one of many trains and cruises by Belmond Ltd) journey would be at the top of the list for pretty much all of us. To be invited on the world's most famous train was a real privilege and all of us were quite overawed at the experience. Arriving at Santa Lucia Station in Venice
for the 10:30am departure to London
is surreal and hugely exciting. There is a lovely little clock on the platform denoting the departure time, and the immaculately on board uniformed staff and stewards with white gloves are all lined up along the platform to greet us and usher us into onto the 17 carriages.
Truly a step back in time, the original vintage carriages were bought in 1977 and carefully restored for the train’s launch in 1982. The cabins are very small and compact, but the lovely tapestry seating which is converted to upper and lower berths in the evening, are exceptionally comfortable - and the tiny washbasin area was amazingly stocked with everything we would need for the journey, seeing as there are no shower facilities on board.
Everything was immaculate of course, and the amenities kit one of the loveliest I have ever seen. Davide, our delightful 24 hour cabin steward, greeted us in our cabin and gave us a beautiful compendium about the journey ahead of us. He made us feel so welcome and like we were stepping back in time for two days.
Dressed to impress in the bar carriage. Image: Belmond Management Ltd
The central focus for life on board the train is definitely the carriage containing the glamorous bar and amiable pianist. Most of the guests on board were enthusiastic in their interpretation of 'dress to impress'. It was so much fun to don our finest and pretend we were a part of La Belle Epoque – sipping on cocktails while watching the stunning scenery of the Dolomites and Austrian Alps go whizzing by. The cuisine on board the train was truly superb. Over the two days we were able to dine in each of the absolutely gorgeous three restaurant cars and feast on the most amazing cuisine. The chef and his team are geniuses to be able to get such amazing cuisine out of such tiny galleys.
The scene is set for the gastronomic cuisine. Image: Belmond Management Ltd
After a beautiful dinner, it was back to the bar car to enjoy the amazing cocktail menu on offer and the piano tunes. They made us a fabulous cocktail in our honour – The Guilty 12 – as there were a dozen of us and 12 passengers were all suspects in a play role of a murder on board the train. By this stage we were trying to work out which of our fellow passengers looked the most likely to be the victim or the assassin.
Before you board the train: Your Venice Destination Guide
More from Ann-Catherine: Resort Hopping In French Polynesia
Midnight rolled around and we were in Switzerland en route to France, passing Lake Zurich as we went back to our cosy cabins to find them all made up for our first night onboard with a lovely turn down service. Some people find it tricky to sleep with the rolling momentum of the carriage, but we found that one last cocktail made it easier for the carriage motion to lull us to sleep.
Adding the finishing touches as part of the turndown service. Image: Belmond Management Ltd
Dawn found us rolling through the French countryside via gorgeous canals and farming land. A quick stop in Paris
and then it was off to the stunning Lalique dining carriage where we had our Lobster and Bellini brunch before (sadly) arriving into Calais. After a quick trip under the tunnel we found ourselves in England and waiting to board the Belmond British Pullman. This charming (and very bouncy) sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient Express was our gracious host for afternoon tea on the way into London.
Of course, the scones and tea were amazing, but the train itself would be a train enthusiast's idea of heaven. So much history with world famous passengers including the Royal family for the past century.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express near Lake Leman Switzerland. Image: Belmond Management Ltd
I think the thing that surprised us all the most was just how much fun this journey is. You suspend reality for two days and just enjoy the artistry and attention to detail that the Venice Simplon-Orient- Express has perfected on this journey. It's an absolute celebration being onboard, and I think it was one of the most perfect travel experiences I've ever had. Everyone needs to go on this train once in their lifetime.