SOMETIMES THE beauty is in the journey and not just the destination.
While some are happy to rev up the 'CC
and hit the open road
others love the romance of train travel and the soothing rhythm of the wheels on the rails. But we are not talking about overcrowded commuter trains that are often delayed due to leaves on the rail. The Luxury Travel Bible
loves the true golden age of train travel
where you could sit back and relax with a glass of champagne while watching the countryside pass by the carriage window.
Luckily Orient Express' British Pullman can transport passengers back to this glamourous era of train travel. TLTB
boarded the train (sister to the renowned Venice Simplon-Orient Express
) out of London Victoria. We were taking the 'Golden Age of Travel' journey around the English countryside for a four course meal (with a sense of being sent back in time thrown in for free).
If I'm honest I didn't think I would be affected by a mere train but I soon found myself joining in the audibly impressed gasps of the gathered crowds as the majestic British Pullman pulled into the station. The smartly dressed staff stepped off the train to greet guests and as I stepped aboard I was instantly immersed in the age of sophistication.
party was to dine in carriage 'Gwen' which is the most recent addition to the British Pullman but was an original carriage on the famous Brighton Belle
train. Gwen was acquired by Orient Express in 1988 and was expertly (and painstakingly) restored with her signature pearwood shell motif on walnut. Gwen also has a royal link as her and her sister carriage, 'Mona' was used to transport HM Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother
) to Brighton.
After being shown to our seats champagne was served and the crew are clearly experienced in pouring the bubbly; 20,000 bottles of champagne are opened each year aboard the British Pullman (TLTB has done the calculations and this equates to an impressive 130,000 glasses every year).
As we pulled out of the station and through the South-East countryside dinner was served. The crew moved like choreographed dancers with a slick routine of service as we dined on four delicious courses. A menu of traditional dishes of Wild River Trout Terrine, followed by Courgette soup, seared breast of Organic Chicken, a Great British cheeseboard and sublime English Pear cheesecake were all rightfully British and suited the grandeur of the journey.
20,000 bottles of champagne are opened each year aboard the British Pullman.... this equates to an impressive 130,000 glasses every year.
After our delicious dining experience it was recommended we take a leisurely walk through the train to view the other carriages. Each of the eleven individually decorated carriages has an as rich and interesting individual history as the other; 'Audrey' and 'Vera' survived the trauma of being bombed in the second World War, 'Cygnus' (which was used as part of Winston Churchill's funeral train) has a beautiful bathroom
floor with a stunning mosaic design of a swan and 'Ibis' was used as part of the special Cunard
boat train between London and Southampton to meet oceans liners.
All of the carriages have been restored to former glory using traditional skills and their distinctive marquetry panels and decor are based upon original designs and blueprints.
The crew are highly knowledgeable and passionate about the British Pullman and only need to be asked before rattling off a string of trivia and facts on the train and her carriages.
One of the added bonuses of train travel is that you can actually see the countryside, something road and air travel often does not benefit from. Well, not if you're driving anyway. My only disappointment was that as we rode through the stations on the way out of London I was not greeted by scenes akin to my glamourous mode of transport. I was half expecting to see women in couture and men in top hats, rather than jeans-clad teenagers and flashy adverts for fast food. However, as we reached the unspoilt English countryside, away from motorways and cities, my mind was able to wander and imagine grander times.
As our journey ended and the British Pullman pulled back into London Victoria station (and into the real world) we emerged back into reality. After an unforgettable experience I fell even further back into the 21st century as I ventured off to catch the London Underground home.
The British Pullman and her sister train, Northern Belle has launched their new brochure for 2012-2013. Highlights include UK weekend breaks, Christmas themed journeys, seasonal events and special occasions. For further details visit www.orient-express.com/uktrains
Sarah Bryans 25/10/11