It’s Not Murder on the Orient-Express

The historic, restored luxury train cards aboard the British Pullman Orient-Express harken back to a lost era of sopshisticated luxury travel.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

With a massive amount of media pouring into the UK to cover the 2012 London Olympics, the powers-that-be amongst British tourism want to strike while the medal is hot.

London will get plenty of attention during these Games with multiple events playing throughout the great city from Wimbledon to Wembley to the massive Olympic park near Stratford. But there’s more to England than just its capital city.

So, VisitEngland – the country’s tourism development bureau – invited any journalist who wasn’t at an athletic event Tuesday to ride aboard the legendary British Pullman Orient-Express through the English countryside while regional tourism promoters pitched the appeals of their backyard.

Run by Venice Simplon, the Orient-Express is assembled from luxury rail cars with names like Ibis, Phoenix and Cygnus. Built in the 1920s and 1930s, the artistic, beautifully detailed cars have been completely restored to how they looked during the height of rail travel in Europe.

Done up entirely in an art deco style with plenty of inlayed hardwood, brass and marble, the polite and attentive crew serves up gourmet, six course meals and enough wine to make you feel the rocking rails even when the train is sitting in a station.

While the original Orient-Express ran the like of Hercule Poirot and James Bond from Turkey to Venice, this version travels around England – running tourists eager to recapture a bygone era to various destinations such as the English Riviera or the green fields of Kent.

With the day’s most exciting athletic action scheduled for primetime in London with the finals of the Men’s Swimming and the potentially historic medal record for Michael Phelps, I decided to take a maybe once in a lifetime ride aboard this famous train and see what the English tourism gurus had planned.

The multiple train cars each played host to a region and its officials. Bath settled into one car, Nottinghamshire into another, Blackpool into another, etc. Journalists settled into one car as the train chugged out of Victoria Station for a journey down to the country’s southeastern coast.

I was assigned a comfy chair amongst the English Riviera’s reps. Once home to the great mystery writer Agatha Christie, Torquay in Devon is widely known for its mild climate and more sun than Brits expect to find on England’s mountains green. So, I was greeted by a very convincing cosplay Poirot and plenty of facts about the attractions found within one of England’s prime vacation spots.

Between rounds of sparkling wine and Cornish hens (and more wine), there were Sheffield chocolates and cheese from Stilton. Did I mention wine? Because there was wine there.

Hands were shook and plans made as journalists could pick what areas of the country they wanted to visit and what events they could sell to their editors. I even came up with a few ideas of my own.

As for the Orient-Express, a ride aboard her is a carefree journey through shameful indulgence and total flattery. In short, it’s what my life should be like every day – but isn’t.

In fact, the only problems I can see with riding the Orient-Express is that I had to stop riding it at some point alone the rails. And, I wouldn’t be riding it again the next day.

Back to work.