Next destination for this group was Prague for a two-night stay and then homeward bound. Their transportation? The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Same as the group I looked after in May but with one big difference: this time, I would be accompanying the group on the train, along with my colleague Claire.
As I mentioned earlier in this series, the Monaco Grand Prix was a huge highlight but the Orient Express was probably on a par with it. Many people only dream of journeying on the iconic train - it's a piece of history, after all. My ‘wow’ moment for this trip came at Venice station when the train slowly chugged its way towards the platform, to the delight of onlooking travellers. It felt like I was on a 1920s movie set!
Once our guests had boarded, we made our way to our carriage, which happened to be the oldest one and the one Agatha Christie had travelled in. The cabins were so cute and cosy that I felt right at home. The bed was high and comfy, adorned with a classy VSOE golden blanket. The sink was hidden under a cabinet which would later be arranged for us by our cabin steward when he performed his turndown service.
We were in awe, just wanting to take it all in, but alas, the Maitre D’ had been to advise us that we were on first sitting so time was a-ticking. It’s not the easiest thing to change into a cocktail dress and do our hair and make-up in such a small carriage! I think that was all part of the fun and the experience.
With a mutual agreement that we looked respectable enough, we stumbled through what seemed like 43 carriages to the dining cars, attempting to take in some of the Northern Italian scenery en route. With the sound of the train trundling along the tracks below and the feeling of being on a mysterious journey, my Agatha Christie moment passed through me right there and then. What a magical feeling!
Dinner was out of this world. We savoured every last morsel, knowing this could be our one and only Orient Express trip ever. As we ate, we passed and stopped at some stations on the Italian/Austrian border – as we travelled through, I made a mental note of all the names, so that I would remember everything I possibly could about this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Dessert done, we rolled into the bar car. One car for the whole train certainly made for an intimate after-dinner drink experience! It emptied somewhat after the second seating diners were summoned so we could relax a bit more with our 22 euro cocktails (and that was the cheapest option!)
Breakfast was taken in the cabin, delivered by our cheery cabin steward as we passed through the Austrian/Czech Republic countryside. A quick visit to the boutique was in order before lunch and before we knew it we were pulling into Prague. I waved goodbye to the Orient with a hint of sadness, after thoroughly enjoying the experience.
Ironically, our guests were not looking forward to getting back on the train after their Prague stay to go home as most of them didn’t sleep so well due to the general train noise. The hazards of luxury travel! I can sleep on a washing line, so I would have gladly got back on. Alas, the dream ended there and so we flew home – with big smiles in our faces, having made memories we’d treasure all our lives.
[to be continued…]
Check back next Friday for the next part of Gillian’s Diary Of A Tour Ambassador series
Hailing from sleepy Northumberland, Gillian Lowes realised her passion for travel at a young age and always dreamt of glamourous worldwide adventures. Having worked in a variety of travel roles over the years – including as a Front Office and Operations Manager aboard a cruise ship – Gill became an ROL Tour Ambassador back in 2013. At the last count, Gill has visited over 70 countries!