69 which is truly the place to be for the de rigueur pre-dinner drink—perhaps a bottle of the Orient-Express Cham- pagne—and to revel in the ambience of the train as it rolls through the countryside towards Venice—first to Paris, then over the Gotthard Pass and on to Verona and, even- tually, Venice. As the sun dips and the vintage lights begin to glow against the polished wood and brass, the pianist begins to play airs from that older era, all create the mood of romance, mystery and delight. Through northern France, the train crosses some of the most fought-over country in Europe, though it looks smiling enough in the gathering dusk. And besides feasting our eyes on this hauntingly beautiful and emotive scene, we’ll feast on the Orient-Express cuisine in the elegant 1920s Restaurant Cars, L’Orientale, Côte d’Azur or Etoile du Nord. A delicious four-course dinner is already being pre- pared by a batterie of chefs under the watchful eye of Ex- ecutive Chef Christian Bodiguel, a culinary master who has honed his arts on the train over three decades. He takes his inspiration from what is seasonal and local—but to the Chef of the Orient-Express ‘local’ extends to choice ingredients from across the train's far-flung desti- nations. There may be lobster with truffles, fillet of sole with caviar, venison with cranberries, salt marsh lamb and ginger, fine cheeses, and scrumptious creations such as coffee bavaroise, Amaretto sorbet, or fantasies of chocolate and fruits. Whatever is on the menu we know it will be superb, beautifully served by the skilled and ac- complished stewards. The quality of service on this train is unmatched—and dinner is a leisured, glamorous de- light. It will be followed, at the time of our choosing, by a nightcap or two, before retiring to our cabins—or suite, if you wish—to be rocked to sleep by the train. We awake to views of the Alps in all their glory. It’s a magical awakening, and from here on the beauty and fas- cination of the scenery is unparalleled pleasure. We shall travel through the astonishing Gotthard Pass between Basel and Airolo, a masterpiece of railway engineering and breathtaking sights. The route offers stunning vi- sions of the mountains as well as picturesque towns on both sides of the Italian border. We’ll pass the three-cas- tled town of Bellinzona, Lake Luzern and Lake Como, and picturesque towns of Lugano and Chiasso before the mountain landscape gives way to vineyards en route to Verona. As these visions soar around us there will be, first, Continental breakfast, and later, a gourmet three- course lunch, followed, later still, by fresh pastries as we travel through the Dolomites. Was it not Robert Louis Stevenson who held that to travel was more important than to arrive? All who have imagination will take the greatest pleasure in this iconic train journey. Eventually—too soon for some—we shall arrive. Venice lies before us as we cross the Venice Lagoon and roll in to Santa Lucia station. Here we leave the train, con- tinuing the pleasure by water taxi—or gondola if you pre- fer—to historic Ca’ Sagredo, where we shall live in his- toric, palatial luxury for three nights. It will give us plenty of time in which to explore this stunningly beautiful city— and late-April is a perfect time of year to be here, away from high summer yet still warm and with long nights to soak up the magic of the city, starting with the picture- perfect pink palazzo which is Ca’ Sagredo itself. The only hotel in Italy to be designated a National Monument, this glorious and historic palace offers us the Venice of nobles, artists and doges. It was the home of the noble Morosini family, and later the Sagredo, one of Venetian aristocracy’s most influential families. Now, behind the romantic pink façade lie sumptuous rooms and suites, immersed in their own historic Venetian past.