Romance, nostalgia, and glamour all describe the amazing experience aboard Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. This iconic train has inspired writers and directors since its debut in 1883, including, of course, Agatha Christie’s 1934 book Murder on the Orient Express. Today travelers still dream of getting a taste of the golden age of travel via the train, and a lucky few get to turn the dream into a reality. Brownell Independent Advisor Jessica Battista is one of those, and she takes us along for the journey below.
During this overnight adventure, my husband and I took the northbound route between Venice and Paris. Along the way we passed through the Dolomite Mountains, the Brenner Pass at the Italian-Austrian border and Alberg Pass heading towards the Swiss borders. We woke up in the French countryside shortly before reaching our destination.
The cabins are beautifully restored historic 1920s cars which, naturally, are small. A banquette converts to a twin bed in the evening, with twin cabins featuring a top berth for the second guest. Beautiful cherry-wood paneling and vintage details add to this step back in time. There is a wash basin in the cabin, though no shower or bath facilities. A lavatory may be found at the end of each car.
For the ultimate experience, I recommend booking one of the three new Grand Suites. These opulent suites (Paris, Istanbul and Venice) each encompass an entire train car and are designed to reflect the city for which the car is named. With a double bed, sitting area and en-suite bathroom with shower, the Grand Suites offer next-level indulgence on an already over-the-top travel experience.
Lunch and dinner are multi-course affairs focused on local specialties prepared by a traditional French chef. There are two seatings for lunch and dinner, and tables are assigned. The three meticulously refurbished 1920s dining cars are each unique in decor and a destination in their own right. Afternoon tea and breakfast are served in your cabin.
Following the welcome glass of Champagne in your cabin and 3-course lunch in one of the dining cars, the afternoon is best spent taking in the stunning views through Italy and Austria. Of course, you cannot miss the opportunity for pre- or post-dinner cocktails and conversation in the gorgeous Bar Car, ‘3674.’ Here you may sample the famous “Chaos” cocktail or the “Guilty 12” signature drink which references the twelve culprits in Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express.’
I loved dressing up and “getting into character” to fully embrace the magical time-capsule that is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
The quick stop at the Innsbruck rail station at “golden hour” allowed for some beautiful photo ops.
Why luxury train travel?
In this day and age where everything passes by in a flash, the slower pace of train travel is a reminder to take a breath, be present, watch the scenery unfold, and embrace the journey. We’ve become so focused on snapping the best Instagram picture and quickly moving on to the next check-the-box-travel-book-must-do that we’ve lost sight of the joy of simply being. On this unforgettable passage, you’ll want nothing more than to savor every moment.
Pack as lightly as possible as there is little to no storage in your actual cabin. This can be a challenge as the train experience is typically a part of a greater itinerary, so be sure to pack an overnight/weekender bag with just the items you’ll need for your time onboard. Storage is provided for larger luggage.
Note: On the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, your luggage will be taken to a storage car and you will not have access to it during the trip.
What to Pack:
Dress to impress on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express…as they say, “you cannot be overdressed.” I’m talking black tie for the men and cocktail dresses or gowns for the ladies. There are so few opportunities to get really decked out these days, just go for it!
Call me old-school, but I still love to send postcards. In your cabin, you’ll find beautiful journey-specific postcards for sending off your “wish you were here” envy-inducing sentiments. Drop them in the post box on the train and Belmond will send for you with a special stamp. Might take weeks for the card to arrive, but isn’t that in line with the slow travel theme?