When you board the Venice Simplon, you are taking many steps back in time to find yourself completely immersed in another era. You’re in a scene from The Great Gatsby, Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, or any other of the many period pieces that have inspired a nostalgia for a more glitzy, glamorous, and free-sprited time.
Top Five Highlights of the Venice Simplon Orient Express Journey:
- Beautifully restored rail carriages with exquisite art deco design elements everywhere you look
- A perfect setting for a relaxing and romantic escape. What better way to escape our hectic daily schedule of never-ending emails then to go back in time that embraced the slower pace of life?
- Delicious French cuisine expertly prepared by a chef that has been with the train for 30 years!
- Camaraderie and revelry in the bar car with creative cocktails, live music, and the world passing by without a care in the world.
- This is THE BEST way to arrive in any city in style; heads WILL turn!
The moment you set foot into your carriage, you know you are embarking on a journey like no other. Every nook and cranny of this train has been artfully and expertly restored to its original glory. Every finish and fabric is identical to what it would have been the day the car was introduced to the rails in the 1920s. Each car has its own history and story to tell. Your cabin is comfortable, but not roomy by any standards. But, you don’t care and neither did its original passengers. As you take in the beautiful woodwork and creative layout, your steward will stop by to make an introduction and pour a glass of celebratory champagne. The train pulls out of the station and the outside world flies by as you transport deeper into your own art deco world.
You can see all of my pictures from my journey online here.
The task of getting dressed in the small cabin presents some challenges, but you start to learn your way around the small space and the effort is well worth it. This trip wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t fully commit and dress to the nines for dinner. Once you’ve donned your uniform for the evening, head to the bar car where the trains pianist is tinkling out a tune on the baby grand and an aperitif is waiting for your enjoyment. As you meet your fellow passengers, you realize that everybody is here for a special occasion. Someone is celebrating a birthday or an anniversary and another has been saving for years for this experience. Everyone is elated to be living this moment and there is a mutual sense of camaraderie.
After a drink or two, you will be called to dinner. Typically, there will be two seatings each night so there is always a crowd in the bar car for the hour in between. Don’t fret; it will quickly sort itself out as people head to dinner or back to their cabins. The dinner is a top highlight during your journey. Take your time; savor every bite of the four course chef’s menu. It is a marvel what the kitchen staff is able to accomplish in such a small kitchen. The chef has been with the train for over 30 years and he has many tricks up his sleeve! My favorite dish was the pomme de terre Anna; my husband was absolutely giddy over the cheese selection. And, I can’t forget to mention the perfectly selected wine pairings!
While you are enjoying your dinner, your steward is transforming your cabin from a living room to the sleeping quarters. I got to sleep on the top bunk and it felt like I was at the fanciest summer camp ever imagined!
While it is tempting to head back to the bar car after dinner for a night cap, try not to stay too long. You must remember that the best sights will pass your window in the early morning hours. On this trip, the early bird is rewarded with spectacular views of the Swiss Alps! The Venice Simplon has many routes to choose from. I got to experience the newest option: Brussels to Venice. Other routes will vary in times and scenery, but they all have something special to offer!
The morning goes by at a leisurely pace while you enjoy a beautiful breakfast in bed and watch the scenery or catch up on some reading. As you cross the border from Switzerland to Italy, the train will have to stop to change engines and you will have a chance to stretch your legs on the platform. After that, you will be treated to another delicious meal and an excuse to catch up with your new friends in the bar car. When you approach the bridge to Venice, you mourn the end of the trip. But then, your heart skips a beat as you remember your final destination and realize the journey is only half over. You’re in Venice! As you arrive into the city in style, all heads turn to admire the beautiful train. You are arriving in style and you realize they had it right all those years ago: The train is truly the only civilized way to travel!