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“This is a train that has starred in novels and films and now it was about to be the star of my journey to Venice... After the first course, the following four hours passed in a beautifully presented blur.”

European product manager, Alison Porter, shares her memory of travelling from London to Venice on the famed Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. 

If there’s one name that immediately conjures up images of the golden age of rail travel, it’s the Orient Express. While we can’t take you back to the 1920s, you can sample a taste of the glamour and finery of the train’s heyday on ‘The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express - bolero jacket and feather headdress optional!


I’ll never forget the surreal feeling of stepping onto the train’s famed carriages for the first time. This is a train that has starred in novels and films and now it was about to be the star of my journey to Venice.The sumptuous art deco interior was like a film set, with exquisite features like Lalique glass inlays and gleaming cherry-wood paneling. I couldn’t help but feel I’d be transported back in time as I made my way to my compartment to settle in. As the wheels slowly turned into motion, I pushed the window open, let the breeze in and smiled. 

My journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express had begun.

I found it fascinating that whenever we were about to cross the border into the next country, the train stopped to change conductor and engine to match the country we were about to enter. The train passes through five countries between Calais and Venice, so there’s a few stops along the way. It’s great to step off and soak in the surroundings – my favourite was Innsbruck, with the glorious mountains surrounding us.

You simply can’t talk about the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express without mentioning the fantastic cuisine. From the welcome champagne (in crystal glasses) to the sumptuous three-course lunch and elegant afternoon tea served in bone china, there was no time to feel hungry. But dinner was the highlight of my experience.The dimly lit restaurant car felt cosy and romantic and exciting all at once. Melodies from the baby grand piano danced through the room. Men wore black tie, ladies were in evening dresses. The first course – zucchini flowers stuffed with salmon and crayfish, drizzled in truffle vinegar – set the mood for the rest of the meal. The following four courses passed in a beautifully presented blur. If you find yourself lingering in the bustling bar car for a nightcap, I’d recommend the ‘Guilty Twelve’ cocktail. A loving homage to the novel, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, only the barman knows the ingredients to this top secret tipple.

My compartment had been transformed into a bedroom by my steward. The two bunk beds were adorned with fluffy pillows, thick mattresses, slippers, robes and chocolates. Through the night, we travelled towards Italy and in the morning I awoke to views of the Swiss Alps. I whiled away the morning and early afternoon watching the views of the Alps change to the Italian Dolomites, interrupted only by breakfast served in my compartment, coffee and biscuits in the bar car and a three-course lobster lunch.  All too soon we were pulling into Santa Lucia station and it was time to say goodbye. But I didn’t feel sad for too long; after all, Venice was waiting.

OE Single Cabin

How should I dress?

There is no finer way to travel than on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – and your wardrobe should reflect that. Make sure you’re comfortable, but comfortable. Jeans are a little too casual. Dinnertime is quite the occasion and certainly a reason to dress up. Many guests will wear black tie and evening dresses.

OE Food

How do we cross the English Channel?

You’ll be whisked from London to Folkestone aboard the Belmond British Pullman train. From here, you will transfer onto luxury coaches and board the Eurotunnel train for the 30-minute journey to Calais. Don’t worry – the Belmond staff will take care of your luggage throughout. In Calais, the famed Venice Simplon-Orient-Express awaits.

OE Conductors

Do the cabins have toilets?

The beauty of travelling on Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is that it’s just as it was in the 1920s – even the heating in the cabins is powered by a coal stove at the end of each carriage. Therefore, there are no standard cabins with en suite bathrooms. Instead, each cabin has a small vanity unit with a basin and there are toilets at the end of each carriage.

OE Restaurant

If the idea of travelling on the amazing Venice Simplon-Orient-Express appeals to you, we have the perfect itinerary

Article published on: 21st May, 2020

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Alison

Alison has worked in the travel business for more than 20 years. Her holiday highlights include a Kenyan safari, chatting with Barbadian cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers at a match in Bridgetown, and watching baby black-tipped reef sharks chasing waves in the Maldives.

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