A Ride On The Luxurious Venice Simplon Orient Express, An Exquisite Chance To Explore Europe’s Most Romantic Cities!

The Venice Simplon Orient Express (or as it is usually called, just the Orient Express) is something familiar to many of us through popular culture. We know this train from books, movies and other sources and we generally associate it with both luxury and mystery. It is a train which has a place in the popular imagination, and this is still definitely a luxurious way to travel through Europe.

Luxury train travel has a long history, with George Pullman being one of the first to hit upon the idea of offering luxury travel to passengers with all of the amenities available. By the mid 1800s there were train cars, which featured parlours for relaxing and sleeping berths. In Europe, Georges Nagelmackers began building luxury trains to provide upmarket travellers with comfortable travel by train.

 

Making Of The Legend

The carriages which now make up the Venice Simplon Orient Express have a colourful history. They have criss-crossed the frontiers of Europe, operating for a number of different railway companies, each having developed it’s own individual character and creating its own history. Sleeping Car 3309 for example, was stuck in a snow drift for 10 days in 1929, sixty miles from Istanbul with a full complement of passengers on board who survived only with the help of local Turkish visitors, whilst Sleeping Car 3425 was used by King Carol of Romania.

In the 1870’s the first meals were served on board a train and together with the first sleeping carriages and parlour cars, the Pullman Limited Express began operating in 1881. It ran between London and Brighton and was also the first train to be illuminated by electricity.

Around the same time in Europe, George Nagelmackers began building luxury train carriages and gradually proceeded to do for continental trains what George Pullman had done for trains in Britain. In 1881 he introduced the first dining car aboard a continental train and later in 1883 he added sleeping cars and on 4th October the first Venice Simplon Orient Express train was inaugurated operating from Paris via Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest to Giugi in Romania.

By 1900 the age of rail travel in Europe was in full swing. In 1906 the Simplon Tunnel was completed, joining Switzerland to Italy under the Alps. At 12 ½ miles long, it was the longest tunnel in the world and significantly cut the trip from Paris to Venice and by 1921 the Venice Simplon Orient Express was running an extended Simplon-Venice Simplon Orient Express journey to Istanbul.

The 1920s and 1930s were the zenith of the Orient Express services with Royalty and celebrities indulging in elaborate meals and fine wines whilst enjoying decadent company intermingled with spies and courtesans. This provided the perfect setting for Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express in which detective Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of one of the passengers. In fact there have been a total of 19 books and a musical written about the Venice Simplon Orient Express.

The cancellation of ferry services and cross-frontier travel during the Second World War put end to this magnificent era and in the depression years that followed, the demand for these luxury carriages declined. Air travel, which was faster and cheaper dealt another blow to the Venice Simplon Orient Express which managed to keep operating until May 1977, its final journey made by just one dilapidated sleeping car and three day cars.

The train was however given a ‘rebirth’ when rail enthusiast, James B Sherwood – an American-born British entrepreneur bought two of the carriages at auction in Monte Carlo and spent the following few years and sixteen million dollars locating, purchasing and restoring some 35 vintage sleeping cars, Pullmans and dining cars. In 1982 the rebirth was complete with the maiden run of the Venice Simplon Orient Express from London to Venice and today it continues to transport passengers in opulent luxury across Europe on one of the most romantic journeys possible.

As you step on board the Venice Simplon Orient Express today, you step back into an age of elegance and refined service as you are shown to your compartment of polished brass, gleaming wood, crisp linen and soft towels. Your cabin is an oasis of restful retreat with views of an ever-changing landscape. Passengers are looked after by cabin Stewards throughout their journey providing attentive but discreet service.

 

The Exprience From Old Times To Modern Times

The Venice Simplon Orient Express originally ran from Paris, France to Giurgiu, Romania on a route, which took the train through Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest. Almost immediately this train became known as the most comfortable way for Western Europeans to travel to Hungary and Romania and with the opening of the Simplon Tunnel, the Orient Express extended its route to Istanbul via Northern Italy, Albania and Bulgaria with stops in Venice and Sofia along the way.

The first run of the Venice Simplon Orient Express would travel from Paris to Giurgi, in Romania, with stops in Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest. Even at that early date, the train had an impressive reputation for taking Western European travellers to exotic places, and by the turn of the century, the route was extended to Istanbul through the use of the Simplon Tunnel.

The Venice Simplon Orient Express has found new life in recent years. Two of the Orient Express carriages were purchased at auction and 16 million dollars were invested in acquiring and restoring the 35 cars of the train.

A trip on the Venice Simplon Orient Express is an unforgettable experience; you can travel to all of the European cities, which were part of the route from Strasbourg to Vienna, it’s a one of a kind way to see Europe. While the cities have changed since the old days of this historic route, the train itself provides an experience, which is like stepping back in time.

Your personal steward will greet you and direct you to your compartment as you board. While you ride the Orient Express, you will dine like royalty. Expert French chefs are in the kitchen crafting exquisite meals from the finest ingredients obtained in each city where the train stops. There are three dining cars, which offer an atmospheric setting for each meal.

When you board the train, you will make the acquaintance of your personal steward, who will show you to your compartment and direct you to your appointed compartment. You will enjoy meals that have been prepared by skilled French chefs using ingredients that have been picked up fresh at each stop, and you’ll be able to enjoy your dining experience in one of three dining cars that give you an unrivalled and impressive sense of atmosphere.

Although the cabins are fitted to the highest standard, it must be remembered that these carriages were originally built at a time when sleeping on board a train was a luxury in itself, and private facilities that we expect today were unheard of on a train. Each cabin has a compact wash basin, there is a shared w.c. at the end of each carriage, but there are no baths or showers on board.

Meals on board are comparable to the finest restaurants with all meals prepared on board by French chefs, using only the finest ingredients, which are taken on board during the train’s journey.

Breakfast and afternoon tea are served in your cabin, whilst brunch, lunch and dinner are served by Italian waiters in one of the three Dining Cars – the Lalique, Etoile du Nord and the Chinoise.

Today the Venice Simplon Orient Express makes regular journeys between London, Paris and Venice between March and November (the London to Folkestone section of the journey is on the British Pullman, another Orient-Express train and passengers are taken by luxury coaches onto Le Shuttle through the Channel Tunnel to join the continental train in Calais). It makes an annual trip from Paris to Istanbul, travelling via Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest and Varna and returning back to Venice. During the year it also makes occasional journeys to Rome, Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Krakow.

 

Sample Itinerary

Europe is home to some of the most romantic cities in the world. Taking rail tours in Italy allows you to relax and enjoy all that these incredible destinations have to offer, while enjoying luxury travel in between. And the great thing about Italy is its tourism operators offers some of the best organized tours in the world, will knock your socks off no doubt!

Offering the ideal elegant and relaxing way to travel, rail journeys around Europe will allow you to see the very best sights in cities such as Paris, Milan and Venice while revelling in the romance of rail travel – something which is particularly well captured by the Venice Simplon Orient Express.

The start of your journey will see you board the Eurostar in London. Before arriving at your first destination, Paris, you can enjoy a complimentary meal and drinks aboard the train.

Once you alight in Paris, you will be able to explore the fantastic array of cultural and visual delights it’s home to. To see the city’s most famous sights, you will be able to take a coach and walking tour to spot the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre, among others.

And after you’ve finished the tour, you will be able to venture out into the city unguided, giving you the freedom to see the sights you’re particularly keen on. The Eiffel Tower is a firm favourite, and while it may sound like something of a cliche to head straight there, it is a trip well worth taking.

If you have a head for heights, going to the top to admire the incredible views across the city is a must.

Meanwhile, you’ll find the streets lined with incredible patisseries which will likely prove irresistible to fans of cakes, pastries and all kinds of sweet treats.

Once you’ve finished exploring Paris, you will be able to board the TGV to whisk you to your next destination – Milan. Travelling through stunning scenery such as the Alps, you will be able to admire the shifting views while relaxing in comfort.

After arriving in Milan, tasting some authentic cuisine is a must, so make sure you sample the delicious Milanese trattoria. Meanwhile, you’ll also find plenty of lovely cafes which make the perfect venue at which to sit, enjoy a hot drink and watch the world go by.

The next day, taking a city tour will allow you to get to grips with all that Milan has to offer. Visit the incredible La Scala – one of the world’s most prestigious and well-known opera houses – as well as the Duomo, which towers over the surrounding buildings.

Your city tour will finish with one of the world’s most famous shopping galleries, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Once the tour has finished, why not seek out a fine restaurant in which to spend the evening?

From Milan you will travel to Venice – a city made famous by its network of waterways. Staying in accommodation close to St Mark’s Square, you will be able to enjoy a city tour including Doge’s Palace, the cathedral and the Bridge of Sighs, among others.

However, undoubtedly the best way to experience Venice is by taking a boat trip. Indeed, with the waterways being such a significant part of the city’s culture, what could be better?

One of the most impressive things to look out for while you wend your way through the water is the Rialto Bridge. This amazing architectural feat was completed in 1591 and remains one of the most beautiful sights in the city.

And once you’ve exhausted Venice’s attractions, you can board the Venice Simplon Orient Express – one of Europe’s most incredible rail trips. This famous train is made up of authentic carriages dating back to the 1920s and 30s, lovingly restored to evoke the golden age of rail travel.

Onboard, you will find luxurious cabins and cars devoted to fine dining. Indeed, the cuisine en route will be prepared for you by a French chef, so you can be sure of enjoying the finest meals possible.

And with breakfast and afternoon tea being brought to you directly in your cabin, you will find this final part of your journey leaves you feeling pampered and relaxed.

With so many treats inside it may be possible to overlook the incredible scenery you will pass, so keep an eye out for the vistas of the Italian Dolomites and Austrian landscape.

 

With an overnight journey starting at just over £1,500 per person the Venice Simplon Orient Express is not going to be a trip for everyone’s budget, but for those that can afford it, or save for the trip of a lifetime, this certainly is an experience that will live in your memories for ever!

Choose from a single compartment or a double compartment, or combine two cabins into a private lounge with a banquette sofa and a sleeping compartment. Why simply dream about the romantic luxury of the Venice Simplon Orient Express when you could be living it and experiencing it yourself?

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