Luxury Trains Provide Elegant, Relaxing Way to Travel
of us look forward to vacation time all year, then find after the trip we're just
as stressed and tired than we were before it started. It's the planning,
budgeting, packing, catching flights or driving- doing all of the things you have
to do before you get to the vacation — that contribute to your post-trip
exhaustion. Your desire to do as much as you can on the trip makes matters
the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
that sounds like the kind of trips you've been suffering through, try taking a
luxury train on your next vacation. The rumble and rocking provide a calm background
to beautiful scenery, top of the line accommodations, food and staff, and an interesting
but not jam-packed itinerary. Most schedules allow for recreation and relaxation,
and usually, the trip's focus is what you see outside your cabin window
the train makes its scenic route.
have a large selection of trips to choose from, as there's something on almost
every continent: the more well-known and luxurious include Africa's Blue Train,
which travels through the heart of Africa; The Orient Express, which visits Europe's
fabled cities; and The Royal Scotsman, which makes a five-day tour through 1000
miles of the mountains and glens of Scotland.
there are some lesser-known trips also worthy of interest: for example, Mexico's "Train Ride in the Sky," aboard the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway skirts
the rim of northwestern Mexico's remote, majestic Copper Canyon, offering breathtaking
views during a dramatic ride. This awesome rift with its adjoining, intricate
maze of canyons is four times the size of Grand Canyon and one and a half times
as deep. Acclaimed as a daring engineering feat, construction of the railway through
these vast gorges of the Urique River began at the first part of the 20th
century, abandoned for almost half a century, and then completed in l961.
the Gulf of California, the train ascends through canyons to Barrancas in the
high Sierra Madre, winds along passes through gigantic boulders thousands
of feet above sea level and soars across roaring streams on high bridges and trestles.
The trip takes you through 86 tunnels, some of them a mile long.
what about beginning a rail trip in Milan's city center, where you will see Leonardo
da Vinci's fresco of "The Last Supper" in the monastery adjoining the
Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie; the Duomo, one of the largest Gothic cathedrals
in the world; and La Scala, the world's premier opera house? You'll also travel
via train to Venice, where you'll board a tiny steamboat and chug down the Grand
Canal; at the Piazza San Marco, you'll get off the boat to see St. Mark's Cathedral's
five great domes, arches, and columns; and the Doges Palace. You'll also visit
and tour Pisa, Florence, Assisi, Pompeii, Amalfi, Ravello, Naples, and Rome; enjoy
overnight stays in top-of-the-line hotels; and have many opportunities to enjoy
fantastic Italian cuisine; and to tour Italy's famous museums, palaces, castles,
churches and other places of interest.
are many terrific train trips to the world's best spots in splendor
and comfort. A taste of three of the most famous, though, gives a good overview
of the benefits of train travel.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (it's official name), known most often simply as
The Orient Express, is the oldest luxury train route. For more than a century,
the Orient-Express has carried the most celebrated individuals of each generation — poets, writers, lovers and libertines — to the famed cities of Europe.
the journey, passengers are accompanied by a personal steward whose main concern
is the passenger's comfort. A private, luxurious compartment offers panoramic
views of the surrounding countryside. Breakfast, afternoon tea and drinks are
served in your compartment. French chefs offer "an ever-changing menu worthy
of the finest restaurants" and a celebrated wine list includes the world's
is not as casual on the former American Orient Express, now GrandLuxe Rail Journeys. Day
wear (but not jeans) is recommended, except for Royal Ascot, when formal
wear is typical. Passengers wear a jacket and tie or evening dress at dinner.
the Paris-Istanbul itinerary, the train leaves Paris on Fridays from Gare de l'Est,
the original departure station of the Orient Express. Dinner is served while the
train passes under the Swiss and Austrian Alps' snow-capped peaks. On Saturday,
breakfast and lunch are served on board while the train nears Vienna and travels
eastward to Budapest, Hungary through the lands of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Passengers disembark for dinner and an overnight stay at Budapest's Marriott Hotel.
breakfast on Sunday, most passengers explore Budapest, a city divided by the Danube
but connected by seven bridges. Lunch is at the celebrated Gundel restaurant.
Passengers reboard the train to journey through rural Hungary before they cross
the Romanian border during dinner.
at breakfast finds the train rolling through Transylvania. Arriving in the mountain
town of Sinaia, there's an opportunity to visit Peles Castle and have brunch before
continuing to Bucharest for an afternoon tour of the city. Later, passengers relax
and freshen up in comfortable day rooms specially reserved at a local hotel before
reboarding the train for dinner, when they cross the Danube Bridge into Bulgaria.
Tuesday, the train reaches Turkey. Breakfast finds the train crossing the Tharcian
Plain and lunch is served as it follows the graceful curves of the Sea of Marmara.
Later the train finally reaches its fabled Byzantine destination: Istanbul.
GrandLuxe Rail Journeys
GrandLuxe Rail Journeys
the former American Orient Express, recently renamed GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, travelers take eight to 11 day trips on a 15-carriage,
restored passenger train, which includes mahogany and polished brass in the sleeping
cars, inlaid paneling in the dining cars, and ebony, brass, and leather in the
club cars. GrandLuxe Rail Journeys launched in 1995 after a $15 million renovation
and runs in the tradition of the legendary Orient Express, whose inaugural journey
from Paris to Istanbul in 1883 set the standard for rail travel worldwide. You
can choose from seven different itineraries which trek through Canada and the
renovation has allowed twice as many travelers as before to travel the best routes
during peak seasons, but still only 100 passengers make each trip, attended by
more than 30 highly trained professional staff and crew. Classically trained chefs
prepare gourmet food, and a pianist provides music during cocktail hour, which
features complimentary hors d'`oeurvres. Historians and lecturers also educate
passengers on the route being traveled.
views from the GrandLuxe dome cars — trains whose roofs are large
domed-shaped windows — are said to be stunning. The GrandLuxe Rail Journey is the
only train that begins and ends the rail journey in the United States, and the
domed cars show the country at its best. One benefit, customs and immigration
formalities are handled as you are one of few to pass the U.S.-Mexico
border by train — something not done since the 1930s.
Some routes will take you through New England and Quebec to see the leaves
turn in Autumn; an 11 day, 10 night transcontinental trip from Washington D.C.,
via Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, San Antonio, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon,
to Los Angeles; or through the Great Northwest & the Rockies.
is casual and dresses and jackets are not required in the evening
or at dinner. Tables in the two dining carriages are set with china, silver, crystal,
and linen. Besides the dining cars the train has two club cars with baby grand
pianos. An historic observation car at the end of the train allows for a great
The Royal Scotsman
Royal Scotsman, a four or five day tour through 1000 miles of mountains and
glens of Scotland, hosts 36 passengers and 14 tartan-attired staff in nine
remodeled pre-war and post-war carriages. All trips offered on the Royal Scotsman
include an intimate excursion along some of Britain's little used railway lines,
visits to private homes, castles, and local places of interest.
tartan sofas and upholstered armchairs fill a remodeled observation
car. Each dining car offers passengers a private, club-like atmosphere, with for
two, four and six set with white linen tablecloths and crested Royal Worcester
china, fresh flowers and glistening crystal. Most of the evenings are elegant,
formal affairs, and after-dinner entertainment includes a Scottish fiddler, live
clarsach music and dancing to the tunes of a Highland band.
companion bus follows each train, providing transportation to famous houses, castles
and gardens where visitors enjoy champagne and special tours, including Glamis
Castle, ancestral home of the Queen Mother and the legendary setting for the Shakespeare play, "Macbeth." At the end of each day the train retires to a country station or quiet siding.
sleeping cars emphasize comfort and space. Passengers spend nights in the Victorian-style
sleeping spaces, which are fitted with brass, polished burl walnut, etched
mirrors, fine damasks, soft carpets and private baths. Each cabin has lower beds,
a dressing table, a full-length wardrobe, a hairdryer, electrically controlled
central heating, cooling electric fans, windows that open and an electric call
button to contact your steward.
a classic four day tour, The Royal Scotsman leaves Edinburgh and travels north
on the world-famous West Highland line. The hmotor coach, accompanied by an expert
guide, takes passengers to Inverawe Smokehouse to see how fish and meat are cured
and smoked, and to sample these delicacies in the company of the Campbell-Preston
family. The evening's informal dinner is followed by entertainment in the observation
next day the train departs early morning for Perth, one of the ancient capitals
of Scotland, for a brief tour of the city before joining the main line northwards
to the Scottish Highlands. On the way, the train passes the delightful town of
Pitlochry, with the ethereal Blair Castle heralding the start of the train's progress
through countless mighty glens.
Carrbridge, passengers can visit Ballindalloch Castle, set in the magnificent
surroundings of the Spey Valley, the much loved family home of the Macpherson-Grants,
families united in the early 18th century. Passengers are met at one of the very
few privately owned castles to be lived in continuously by its original family
by Mrs. Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell herself. The train stables for the night
at the Boat of Garten on the private Strathspey Railway, where the snowcapped
peaks of the Aviemore and the Cairngorn Mountains fringe the horizon. Dinner is
next day's first visit is the Royal Zoological Society's Highland Wildlife
Park, set in 260 acres of beautiful Stathspey and home to many animals and birds
indigenous to Scotland. Passengers view endangered species and others that are
extinct in the wild.
afternoon includes a visit to Eilean Donan, Scotland's most romantic castle, used
as the setting for the film Highlander. Built around 1220, the castle was occupied
by troops dispatched by the King of Spain to help Bonnie Prince Charlie. Dinner
is formal and is followed by a performance on the Clarsach, the Scottish Harp.
four begins with a visit to the Isle of Skye, where Claire Macdonald of Macdonald
welcomes you to Kinloch Lodge for a cookery demonstration. In the afternoon, a
visit to a whisky distillery provides a truly Scottish finale to the day.
Royal Scotsman tour draws to a conclusion as the train sets off from Keith through
the Granite City of Aberdeen on the final leg of its journey south to Edinburgh.
itineraries like these, you can see why train travel passengers are often repeat
customers — one trip is often all it takes to become hooked on the romance of
riding the rails.
If You Go...