Everyone should go on the Orient Express. It really is a memorable experience!
I took my daughter Rana as a treat for her birthday.
The British Pullman Lounge is next to platform 2 at Victoria Station
Although its décor and service is high quality, to our surprise it only had one ladies’ toilet, with a long queue outside it.
Nobody had dressed up. I expected to see some of them in 1930s outfits. But we were all dressed in comfortable, casual clothes as it was a cold day and we had a lot of walking to do in and around Chatsworth.
As we were escorted to the train, everyone stared at us from the other platforms, which we quite enjoyed!
We walked along to find our carriage, where our Steward was waiting for us. The Stewards were standing beside each carriage, looking extremely smart, wearing white gloves and jackets with a blue trim.
All the carriages have names. There was Ibis, the oldest, Audrey, where we were, Lucille, Minerva, Perseus, Cygnus, Gwen, Vera, and Zena, where Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was filmed.
The journey started off very slow. Our train had to keep stopping and waiting to give way to all the ‘real’ trains. We looked out of the window while we waited.
DIY if you live in a rail-side terraced house obviously consists of hurling your old bathroom, kitchen, sofa, etc over the bottom fence! Not a pretty sight.
If I was a scrap dealer, I’d try to have a contract with the Railway to clear up all the rubbish beside the tracks. I’m sure I could become a millionaire in a very short time, selling the metal, etc!
At last we gathered speed and escaped from the grey eyesores.
Our Steward began to serve the brunch.
We started with a glass of Bellini.
If you don’t know, Bellini is a Venetian Cocktail, consisting of a mixture of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach puree.
Served with this was a fresh fruit Cocktail, followed by scrambled eggs with Chives, topped with Scottish smoked salmon, served on a warm Crumpet.
They had ordered everything vegan for Rana; milk, butter, etc. She didn’t miss out on anything. The Chef had really gone to a lot of effort for her.
Rana had Crumpets served with a vegan butter.
Then along came our Steward with a basket full of warm Danish pastries, Croissants, etc.
For Rana there was a vegan selection.
This was all served with fresh coffee, tea, or herbal tea.
Now we seemed to have the whole railway system to ourselves. The train was speeding along at a fast pace.
The view out of the window was a lot prettier as we glided smoothly Oop North!
I know we think of England as being too built up and full of people, but when you travel around, it’s surprising how much Countryside there is!
It was a four-hour journey to the Peak District city of Chesterfield, in Derbyshire. But it flew by.
As we reached Chesterfield and slowed down, I looked at the famous twisted spire of the Cathedral. More about that later!
We got off – no, hang on, you don’t ‘get off’ the Orient Express! – We alighted from our Carriages and then got onto Coaches which would take us to Chatsworth, which has been the Stately Home of the Dukes of Devonshire for five Centuries.
Driving through Chesterfield, the twisted spire towered above all the buildings around it.
Construction of St Mary and All Saints started in the late 13th Century, and finished around 1360.
The spire started to twist soon after Completion.
Rumour has it that the Devil rested on top of the spire and curled his tail round it to hang on. Then as he left, his tail twisted the spire. It will only straighten again when a virgin gets married in the Cathedral!
Or it could have been caused by fitting 32 tons of lead on top of green timbers.
As building was carrying on despite the Black Death in 1340, it’s quite possible that unskilled workers were brought in to complete the work because all the skilled Craftsmen had died.
It’s the largest Church in Derbyshire.
The spire stands 228ft from the ground and leans 9ft 5ins from its Centre.
You could say that Nature took a hand in its design –and a very attractive addition it is too!
Chatsworth really warrants a separate article.
I’ve just phoned and asked how many rooms it has. After several hums and ha’s, I was put through to a very helpful lady called Rebecca, who told me there are about 300!
‘About?’ I asked. ‘They’ve had over 500 years to count them all!’
If I’d been brought up in a house like that, the first thing I’d have done is count all the rooms in case there were some secret rooms that didn’t match the number of windows!
Apparently the number changes due to renovation and alterations.
The 6th Duke turned four floors of rooms into a single staircase!
We explored the gardens, which stretches over around 15,000 hectares of land (whatever that is!)
The Cascade really is a photographer’s delight.
There’s loads more to tell you, but I’m going to save it for another day.
So it was back on the coaches, and all aboard the Orient Express for more gorgeous food – lots more!
The train speeded up much quicker than at the London end as there weren’t any delays or holdups.
All the curtains had been closed and the lights were on.
I had already chosen our wine from the wine list.
The starter was Ham Hock Terrine with pickled red cabbage and a honey mustard dressing.
Rana was served a Mediterranean vegetable terrine.
Lightly-spiced carrot and butternut squash soup with coriander crème fraiche came next, with a vegan version for Rana.
Then came Roast breast of Gressingham duck, glazed shallot confi, seasonal root vegetables, galette potato and tarragon café lait. Delicious!
Rana’s vegan dish was Spinach and artichoke parcels with roast vegetables.
Finally we had Sticky pear pudding with vanilla pouring cream – or some of it!
Again Rana had a vegan version.
Coffee and a liqueur finished it off, but no, we didn’t finish it all. We were absolutely stuffed!
After dinner we were encouraged to walk the length of the train to explore all the other Carriages. They are all totally different. And boy did we need to walk!
Zena, the end one, was used for the filming of Murder on the Orient Express.
I politely asked a young guy if he minded if I strangled him and he said, ‘Sure, go ahead!’ He was an American tourist.
Unfortunately he seemed to be enjoying it so I had to ask him to look scared!
Back at Victoria Station the magic was over. People rushed around everywhere and a distorted voice blared out over the loudspeakers.
We caught the crowded Underground to London Bridge and managed to push our way off the train and up to the station.
On the way home, it all seemed a bit surreal as we passed more of the old kitchens and bathrooms by the track.
Note to self; look into setting up a Scrap business, and then I’ll be able to afford another trip on the Orient Express.
Oh if only everyone everywhere could provide a service like on the Orient Express, what a lovely country the UK would be!
|+44 (0)20 31171374Orient-Express Services Ltd|
4 Battle Bridge Lane
London SE1 2HPwww.orient-express.com
|Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. is a luxury hotel company and sophisticated adventure travel operator which seeks to deliver memorable experiences that are the ultimate expression of each destination’s authentic culture. The Company has offered exceptional luxury travel experiences since 1976, when it purchased Hotel Cipriani in Venice and then shortly thereafter recreated the celebrated Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, linking London, Paris and Venice, along with other European cities. Today the Orient-Express brand embraces 45 hotel, restaurant, cruise and luxury rail businesses in 22 countries, including distinctive properties such as Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg, Hotel Ritz Madrid, Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro and Maroma Resort and Spa on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The Company also operates six luxury tourist trains, two river cruise operations and the ‘21’ Club, one of New York’s most iconic restaurants and watering holes.|