Join one of the world’s most iconic and romantic journeys—the Orient-Express to Venice. On this great train journey from the Golden Age of travel we shall enjoy two days on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a Belmond train, as it glides through the Alps on the famous Gotthard route to Venice. We have advantageous rates for this, the most sought-after route of the Orient-Express from London to Venice in high season, April 11, 2024, at the CountryClubuk rate of only £3,579 per person instead of the current £4,275 per person. It promises to be an unmissable journey, especially at what we believe to be the best rate available anywhere.
You can enjoy two wonderful, exciting days, starting with your free Eurostar trip from London to Paris to join the ‘King of Trains, and the Train of Kings’ to travel from Paris 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, the world’s most romantic city. Together, the experience is out of this world. The views from the Orient-Express of the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites in springtime, and the beauties of Venice, will be stunning in their beauty. This trip will be superb. For full details, please 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 bound for Istanbul in 1883 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 Gotthard route across the Alps is still the most romantic of all. This is the route which offers the finest scenery by day. As we glide through lush, rolling countryside in spring, beneath majestic, snow-capped mountains and alongside deep blue lakes, we shall savour every moment.
As the Orient-Express pulls away from the Gare de l’Est station en route to Venice we shall have time to relax and let the atmosphere of the 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 into cosy upper and lower berth beds with crisp damask sheets by our cabin steward while we dine in the evening. The beds are then whisked away again after breakfast. This magically discreet service is all part of the experience, as is dressing for dinner—black tie is not compulsory, but oh 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 famous 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 magical scene, we’ll feast on the Orient-Express cuisine in the elegant 1920s Restaurant Cars, L’Orientale, Côte d’Azur, Etoile du Nord.
A delicious four-course dinner is already being prepared by a batterie of chefs under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Jean Imbert, a culinary master who 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, and beautifully served by the skilled stewards. 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 cabin—or a suite, if you wish—to be rocked to sleep by the train.
We awake to see the Alps in their snow-capped glory. It’s a magical awakening, and from here on the beauty and fascination of the scene is unparalleled pleasure. We shall travel through the astonishing Gotthard Pass from Basel to 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 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, alas!—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—and our chosen Venetian hotel awaits.
¶ To make your reservations by phone, and for all further details, call the CountryClubuk experts now on 020 7399 2960.