PHOTO: The stunning Santa Maria della Salute on a stormy morning in Venice.
Well, that's done it. Now that I have experienced the unrivalled luxury of the Orient Express and the Cipriani Hotel in Venice, Easyjet just isn't going to cut it. That is the only downside of sampling how the other half live - you have to resume your daily life afterwards. However, as my Dad always says, "Don't be sad it's over, be glad it happened," and boy am I glad it happened. I'm going to deviate from my usual blog content so please excuse me while I tell you a little bit about our trip.
Our adventure started in the not-so-glamorous surroundings of Victoria Station but one has to start somewhere. The UK leg of the journey from London to Folkestone is aboard the beautifully restored British Pullman carriages. Prosecco and brunch awaits as you whizz through the Kent countryside. Memories of commuting on London Midland vanish as you realise that riding by train is a truly wonderful way to travel. It is the very best way to enjoy the beauty of whichever country you are travelling through.
Once we'd crossed the channel we were taken to Calais Ville station where we got our first glimpse of the shiny Wagons Lits carriages that form the magical Venice Simplon Orient Express. The early evening sun glinting off the highly polished midnight blue carriages. The staff in their fabulous livery waiting in line to greet us. We knew then that this was going to far exceed any expectations. Our cabin was beautifully presented and all our luggage was patiently waiting there for us. After dressing for dinner - in one's most glamorous finery, naturally - we took our aperitifs in the bar car while listening to the baby grand piano. One could get used to this, darling.
Dinner was a fabulously decadent affair. How they managed such impeccable food and service in such a confined space is quite unbelievable and should serve as a lesson for many a restaurant that doesn't seem to even manage to provide drinks in a timely manner. The waiter already knew all my fussy eating habits, I mean, dietary requirements and all my dishes had been prepared accordingly. After our five course extravaganza it was back to the bar car for a night cap and then to our cabin. While we'd been at dinner the cabin had been converted into a bedroom complete with monogrammed robes and slippers. As we journeyed from Paris we slept to the sounds of the world whooshing past our window. It really is a most romantic way to travel.
Morning brought with it the stunning scenery of the Swiss Alps complete with waterfalls and cow bells ringing in the distance. The day then flew by in a haze of food, drink and Italian vineyards. By early evening the train had arrived in Venice.
It always seems a little cliched to say that Venice is your favourite Italian city but it really is a very special place. Yes, it's crowded and yes, it can be a bit smelly in the Summer but there is so much wonder lurking amongst all those tiny streets and little bridges. Our hotel, The Cipriani, was on the Giudecca opposite the Palazzo Ducale and it was like a small haven far from the madding crowd. A speedboat shuttle took guests over to the main island of Venice manned by a lovely man in a white hat. It really was like a scene straight from a film. The weather didn't quite behave accordingly however and it rained. A lot. The water started coming up through St. Mark's Square. Our spirits could not be dampened though.
I will leave the rest of our trip for another day as I'm finding it difficult to condense all our wonderful experiences into a single post. However I will just say that travelling on the Orient Express to Venice and watching the opera in Verona has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. If you have a dream trip, go and do it. Life is too short to wait and the wonderful memories will stick with you for a lifetime.