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Indolence—with Style—on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

By Owen C. Hardy



Reporting from the Venice-Paris-Calais route of  Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Overcast day. Left Venice’ Santa Lucia Station at 11. Now we’re back from lunch, lounging in our “Cabin Suite,” as the VSOE calls two double compartments joined by a private, interior door. We gaze at high rocky crags, set against a cloud-filled sky punctuated by patches of blue.

Landscape is emerald green; hillsides covered with grape arbors and bright, orange-red poppies, which we’ve seen everywhere since we’ve been in Italy. We think we’re entering the Dolomites, but neither of us has made a move to consult our VSOE map. We’re resting, we tell ourselves.

It’s rained on and off, but the temperature is cooling. We’re feeling no pain.

Went through Verona during lunch. Our waiter mentioned it was the home of Romeo and Juliet. Knew that, but nice of him to remind us. Ah, romance. I drift off to sleep.

It’s overcast, as I said, but we like it that way. It makes our compartment quite comfortable. Mountains seem to be getting more massive as we continue north towards Switzerland. “Style of architecture looking more Swiss, less Italian,” I note, brilliantly, in my journal.

Our morning departure went off without a hitch. We left the Cipriani Hotel by private boat to the train station. People coming in on the Trenitalia trains, even the folks from the snazzy, high-speed ETR 600s, were green with envy. The platform swarmed with the curious, anxious to catch a glimpse and a photo or two of this train straight out of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.”

People crowded the windows to peer into the sleeping cars, and the VSOE staff graciously allowed themselves to be photographed with their many admirers. Even a group of Italian nuns got into the act.

A group of nuns, just arrived via local train, catch Orient-Express fever. Photo by Owen Hardy for IRT

Jake, a New Zealander and our compartment steward, welcomed us each with a glass of champagne in a distinctive VSOE flute on a doily and a nice “Happy Anniversary” card from the train manager. We’re taking this special trip to celebrate our 30th. And what better way for us to celebrate?

Now Eleanor is sound asleep, exhausted by all the amenities she’s been enjoying. The mountainsides are getting steeper as we move further into the Alps.

‘L’Oriental” detail. O. Hardy

Lunch was in the diner “L’Oriental” — which we think looks like a Chinese black lacquered box. We ordered a half bottle of Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino, 2004, an Italian red wine which went wonderfully with our set menu: monkfish, red pepper stuffed with basmati rice, a grilled fennel, dessert of mixed red berries—raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, drizzled with triple sec. With our coffee they gave us a little plate of macaroons, melt-in-your-mouth soft, and three little squares of chocolate.

VSOE delight. O. Hardy

Amazing how much we love those little touches—the chocolates had the swirling VSOE logo on them. We practically squealed with delight.

As my 94-year-old mother would say: “We could get used to this.”

Enjoy these pictures we have posted. You don’t have to be a Facebook member to enjoy them.

Next time: Part 2: A Very Unusual Guest on the Orient-Express