Falling in love on the Orient Express
I always meant to fly to New York for my 40th. Then I got knocked up and ended up at a riverside restaurant in London wedged behind a palm tree and several very drunk close friends. True Story. Therefore any chance I get to do something memorable, eventful and something-you-might-do-for-a-big-birthday I'm there wearing a broad grin and slightly too much jewelry.
The Orient Express (full name: Venice Simplon - Orient Express) is a no-brainer when it comes to a spot of exquisite event planning. I would go as far as to say that it's unbeatable. After cleverly going around and buying up, then tastefully restoring some of the world's most beautiful railway carriages and engines (mostly from the Twenties and Thirties); The Orient Express offer year-round schedules of inviting excursions to pick from, guaranteeing a journey of a lifetime. Whereever you end up.
I took the husband along (Alec Baldwin was busy) and we were duly instructed to dress smart and turn up with our invitations at platform 2 at Victoria Station. Sadly we weren't headed for the Orient, or somewhere with a spa and no kids, but we were promised a taste of the Golden Age of Steam. With a four hour round trip, champagne, wine and a five course feast.
A brass band played on the platform as we all climbed aboard one of the sumptuous deco carriages, my lucky plus one and I were allocated Gwen. A pretty little pear wood, lovely all deco chrome, and inlaid walnut panels. Our high-backed armchairs were a class above the normal stained-train-seating which was lucky because other than a couple of trips to the equally elegant lavatories, there we stayed.
They do food terribly well on the Orient Express. As you would expect. Course after course arrived and was consumed....caviar hors d'oeuvres, trout terrine, parsnip soup, rack of British lamb, cheese, chocolate pudding...stop, STOP!
But the most beautiful part of what will always be a particularly memorable trip for the other half and I? Time slowed right down. Yes, readers - for four hours my husband and I talked to each other! Phones are discouraged, books and papers ditto, and all that was left was to wave at the occasional clump of steam enthusiasts gathered at level crossings and country stations. And, to eat, drink, laugh and remember just why you fancied each other enough in the first place to marry, have children, get a mortgage and bicker into eternity.
It's not cheap. I can't lie. But with prices from £195 per person, it's not totally extortionate as a way to celebrate a big birthday or anniversary in style. Remember, this is about stealing time, feeding the senses, the soul and revisiting a more relaxed you with someone you love.
I'm already planning my next trip when I'll go with my girlfriends and take a compartment. I particularly fancy the journey from Edinburgh to Inveraray Castle.
We travelled on the Golden Age of Steam around the Surrey countryside. Prices for a steam-pulled trip (Diesel is £260) with champagne, wine and a five course meal were £350 pp. Other packages are available and more details can be found on the Orient Express website.
ps: that's not us in the picture. We're WAY better looking lol!