I have always wanted to go on the Orient Express, so when I saw the special offer in the newspaper for £159, my sister-in-law and I decided to go. Ideally, Venice would be my chosen destination, but as long as I was on the Orient Express, Folkestone sounded okay. During our two and a half hour train journey we were to be served Brunch with Bellini. The coach was to take us from Folkestone to Canterbury, where we had two hours free time before rejoining the coach for our homeward journey. We were picked up from Thurrock Services and taken to Victoria, where the Orient Express had their own booking- in lounge with free tea, coffee and soft drinks being served.
The atmosphere was electric in the British Pullman lounge, anticipation and excitement mirrored on everyone’s faces. As I gazed around at my fellow passengers, I was intrigued by two young Oriental girls wearing panama hats. Was I still in 2010 in London? I watched them chattering animatedly to each other, obviously as excited as me.
One man appeared to be alone; his face hidden by a newspaper. When he lowered it, my imagination instantly caught; he was about thirty, with rimless glasses; his light brown hair parted in the middle with neat sideburns. He wore a dark beige waistcoat buttoned up to the neck, beige trousers and a long-sleeved white shirt. He could have stepped right out of an Agatha Christie novel.
I spoke to several travellers, some were spending an afternoon in Folkestone, then returning on the Orient Express and having a high tea. One lady was travelling all the way to Venice – via the Eurotunnel to Calais and joining the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. She was spending 2/3 days in Venice before flying back to London. This is great if you have over £2000 to spend.
Sad to say, when the train arrived in Victoria Station, I was in the Ladies and missed the momentous arrival. However, as smartly dressed porters helped us find our carriage, we admired the beautiful carriages. Our carriage was named Perseus; our table for two set for Brunch; an old-fashioned table lamp in the window. One could imagine the yellow glow of a gas light throwing light across the table. Waiters pulled our heavy plush armchairs out and tucked us in. No sooner had we settled when waiters came round with our Bellini (Champagne and peach nectar). It was delicious and soon brought a flush to my cheeks. Our glasses were re-filled several times – my sister-in-law declined a top-up and moved her glass nearer the window. I made sure mine was in full view as the waiters passed!
Our meal began with Fresh Fruit Cocktail; followed by Scrambled Eggs with Chives, Inverawe Smoked Salmon, served on a Potato and Herb Rosti with Pan-Fried Mushrooms. Waiters came round offering a spoonful of Caviar for those who wanted it. We had fresh bread rolls, preserves and butter. For dessert we had Summer Fruit Crumble Cake with Cream (scrumptious). Throughout the meal we were also served with Rainforest Alliance Coffee.
As we ate, the scenery flitted by; in our carriage we were a world away from the countryside we passed through. After my meal I wandered through the carriages, admiring the exquisite marquetry, sumptuous armchairs, gleaming crystal and silken lampshades; each carriage had its own unique design. I passed a tiny kitchen in one of the carriages and peaked through the hatchway. Kitchen staff were busy preparing high tea for the return journey. A tray of canapés with Quail eggs were receiving finishing touches. Moving from carriage to carriage I felt the timeless mystery of ages past; narrow passageways connected by heavy brown cloth strapped securely to the joins. I can well understand what prompted the novel Murder on the Orient Express; the atmosphere was laden with intrigue.
Reaching the first carriage I found my mystery man again, sitting at a table for one gazing straight ahead. I could not resist taking a photo and am sure one day I will write a story based on such a character. Returning to my carriage I went to the washroom and was entranced by the magnificent mosaic tiles on the floor picturing Perseus; and hurried back to my seat for my camera. I was also intrigued by the little brass handle on the edge of the toilet seat, placed so as to avoid touching the toilet seat.
As we pulled into Folkestone and I was still using my camera, my waiter remarked on how many photos I had taken. How can I not, there is so much to capture?
As we alighted from the train a brass band played on the platform; a delightful touch to the end of our journey. Our coach then took us to Canterbury. If you decide to do this trip, I suggest you go on the little trip along the river in Canterbury. Find the main high street of shops, passed the Cathedral, ask anyone if you’re not sure. The trip is on a small boat and takes 40 minutes; if you go straight there you will have plenty of time.
Our journey home was uneventful but I have lots of special memories and hope to travel on the Orient Express again some day. If I win the lottery I will choose the Istanbul to Bucharest to Budapest to Venice – 10 nights/11 days from £5,750. If I don’t win, I may choose an evening trip with 4 course dinner + wine. It’s a great way to celebrate a special occasion. You can check out the website www.orient-express.com or phone Aeroscope on 01608 650103 for special offers.