This holiday is sold out and a waiting list has been created. But the new dates have just arrived—September 2020. Please call the Member Services team on 020 7399 2960 for details, or visit the web shop.
Take the world’s most glamorous, historic rail journey: the Orient-Express from London to Venice. Join us for five wonderful, exciting days, sleep the night aboard the ‘King of Trains, and the Train of Kings’ as it travels to Venice, be pampered by your personal steward, revel in its history of spies and intrigue, and enjoy gourmet dining and spellbinding views of the Alps. Then reach Venice and live the life of a Venetian noble in another celebrated piece of history, the glorious 15th century Ca’ Sagredo, the finest private palazzo on the Grand Canal, decorated with original frescoes, gilded mirrors, rich Italian silks and velvets. One of the world’s great hotels—and the only hotel in Italy to be declared a National Monument—this will be your home while savouring the pleasures of the world’s most romantic city.
The dates are Sunday, April 19, to Thursday, April 23, 2020, when the sights of Venice and the views from the Orient-Express of the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites in springtime will be stunning in their beauty. This exclusive Members-only, tailor-made, five-day trip will be unmissable. We have secured just 12 places on the famous train—and an exclusive CountryClubuk rate, saving you from £950 to £2,600 per person. Full details, read on!
Spies used the Orient-Express as a secret weapon. A French President tumbled from it. Hitler wanted it destroyed. The real-life, and fictional dramas of the Orient-Express will transport you back in time. Tolstoy and Trotsky, Marlene Dietrich, Lawrence of Arabia and the spy Mata Hari were all passengers. Ferdinand of Bulgaria, scared of assassins, was observed locking himself in the bathroom. Belgium’s King Leopold II rode the train to Istanbul after making elaborate arrangements to infiltrate a Turkish harem. The King of Bulgaria, an amateur engineer, insisted that he be allowed to drive the train through his country, which he did at perilous speeds. Czar Nicholas II demanded that special cars be built for his visit to France, and some decades later the French President Paul Deschanel tumbled from one of these cars in the dead of night, an event that prompted such ridicule that eventually he resigned. Hitler tried, and failed, to have the Orient-Express destroyed.
The truths of the Orient-Express are stranger even than the fiction: but Hercule Poirot solved his most famous case on it, Alfred Hitchcock’s lady vanished from it and James Bond’s Sean Connery rode it for The Spy Who Loved Me, followed by Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench for the film update of Murder on the Orient Express—not forgetting its role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But there has never, despite the novels, the films and the intrigue, been a murder on the Orient-Express.
The first Orient-Express pulled out of Paris for Istanbul in 1883 for the 1,700-mile trip across Europe and thus began a lifelong love affair which we can still experience. We shall step inside those legendary original rail cars with their inlaid marquetry, polished brass, sumptuous upholstery and antique fixtures, to make our way across Europe in a frisson of excitement—everybody stops to look as the Orient-Express pulls into a station, or steams under a bridge or past a railway crossing. It is simply the most famous train in the world. The mystique and glamour of Agatha Christie linger throughout, from the genuine carriages to the crisp linen, the French silverware and heavy crystal glassware, the personal stewards and the white-gloved service, as faultless as one would expect of this grand hotel on wheels.
Carriages are meticulously maintained to ensure an authentic experience, from the original sleeping cars of the 1920s and ’30s, the three dining cars and elegant bar car with its baby grand piano. Each carriage has a history—if only it could tell. Such as carriage 3309, which became stuck in a snowdrift outside Istanbul and gave rise to the scene in the famous film.
The classic 32-hour London to Venice trip is still the most romantic of all. This is the route which gives you the finest scenery by day—the return Venice to London trip is less costly, but you pass the best views at night. From London to Venice the scenery along the way is breathtaking. As we glide through the lush, rolling countryside, beneath majestic, snow-capped mountains and alongside shimmering deep blue lakes, we shall savour every moment. We begin our journey at London Victoria Station, arriving at the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express lounge to check-in our luggage all the way to Venice.
Our first train will be another vintage experience—the historic, beautifully restored 1920s British Pullman will set the scene for our ride out of London, with stunning views over the Thames and on through the Kentish countryside. On board this dedicated train will be our first Venetian cocktail of the trip—a Bellini, naturally—and our first taste of the style—crisp linen, bone china, large menus, comfortable seats and top-class service. A leisurely three-course brunch will be served—perhaps including such delights as smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and caviar among the choice of dishes—and we shall arrive at Folkestone to the welcome of a brass band, to board our coaches for the 30-minute express ride through the Channel tunnel. Awaiting us at Calais, the train!
This is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express—the real journey begins. As the Orient-Express pulls away from Calais en route to Venice we shall have time in which to relax and let the atmosphere of this glorious train sink in. There’s much to marvel at, even in the cabins’ ingenious design. A washbasin is concealed in a handsome wood cabinet. A plush daytime sofa is transformed by our cabin steward into cosy upper and lower berth beds with crisp damask sheets while we dine. The beds are then whisked away after breakfast. This magically discreet service is all part of the experience, as is dressing for dinner—black tie is not compulsory, but how it adds to the romance.
And then there’s the famous Orient-Express Bar Car 3674 with its baby grand, which is truly the place to be for the de rigueur pre-dinner drink—perhaps a bottle of the Orient-Express Champagne—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, eventually, 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 prepared by a batterie of chefs under the watchful eye of Executive 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 destinations. 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 accomplished stewards.
The quality of service on this train is unmatched—and dinner is a leisured, glamorous delight. 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 fascination 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 visions of the mountains as well as picturesque towns on both sides of the Italian border. We’ll pass the three-castled 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, continuing the pleasure by water taxi—or gondola if you prefer—to historic Ca’ Sagredo, where we shall live in historic, 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. Ca’ Sagredo is home to important works of art—paintings by eminent artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, Sebastiano Ricci, Giambattista Tiepolo, Niccoò Bambini and Pietro Longhi. Even the frescoed ballroom alone, which we can explore, is one of Italy’s recognised national treasures.
Ca’ Sagredo is indeed what its owners name ‘A Private Palazzo, a Noble Residence, a Museum, a Luxury Hotel and much more … ’ It has won a place in the 500 Best Hotels in the World by Travel+Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List, and it can truly claim status as one of the world’s great hotels. Together, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and Ca’ Sagredo are a magical combination. They offer an experience which promises to take us, not just across Europe but to another world entirely.
This promises to be a scintillating, unforgettable journey, a blissful, five-day springtime holiday in the lovely month of April—all at exceptional CountryClubuk rates. It will make a special, never-to-be-forgotten anniversary or birthday celebration, or one of those iconic trips to experience in every lifetime. This is an exclusive CountryClubuk arrangement with Belmond, owners of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, and the London to Venice run in this, high season, is the most coveted Orient-Express route. We urge you to book now, as we have only six cabins on the great train.
You are welcome to extend the pleasure by adding extra nights in Venice—or in London, perhaps enjoying a five-star night at hotels in easy reach of Victoria, such as The Ritz, or The Goring, at exclusive advantageous Club Members’ rates, to begin the journey in suitably fine style. And if you wish to take the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express on its way back from Venice to London, just let us know!