Elegance Express: Belmond British Pullman Train

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Ever wanted to journey back in time?  The Golden Age of Travel lives aboard the Belmond British Pullman train, the sister to the famed Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Gloriously refurbished, gleaming rail cars, veritable “palaces on wheels” which embody the glamor of the 1920s and 30s with their shiny retro facades, interiors of veneered wooden panels decorated with Art Deco marquetry, plush roomy armchairs, linen draped tables set with silver and crystal, brass luggage racks that gleam overhead, even the bathrooms have the most intricate mosaic floors.  Simply stunning.  Luxury Travel Advisor thoroughly enjoyed a recent evening journey from Victoria station, sponsored by champagne Laurent-Perrier.

A truly memorable addition to any London itinerary, the Belmond British Pullman is a charming, very English experience.  The festivities begin in Victoria Station, where Belmond has a lovely lounge that we’d never noticed before, tucked beside Platform 2, with a red carpet entrance and tuxedoed waiters offering champagne.  Off to a cracking start!  Inside was a mix of all ages, dressed in black-tie, sipping champagne and chatting while a trio of female singers dressed in retro costumes, entertained with tunes from the era.  

We were then gently ushered aboard, our train had eight carriages, but the Pullman’s can have up to eleven. Each carriage on the train is unique and has its own name, with the oldest, Ibis, dating back to 1925, some have been used exclusively by members of the Royal family (the Queen Mother had her own), the carriage Vera was host to Prince Charles and Princess Anne for their first trip on an electric train in 1954, and history trivia alert: two were even used as part of Winston Churchill’s funeral. Note: there are four different styles of Pullman carriage, seating between 20 and 26 passengers with various combinations made up of tables for one, two, three, and coupés (private compartments) seating four.

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Attentive staff offered us champagne and canapés as we toured the carriages—it was evening, so the Art Deco lamps glowed softly, reflecting the polished brass, bevelled glass and glossy mahogany.  Arriving at our linen clad table with the most comfortable armchairs, it is easy to imagine Royalty, film stars and heads of state transported on these very seats, in these very cars!

Then the foodie fun began, seven courses each paired with a Laurent-Perrier champagne.  We started with butternut squash soup; then a lobster, shrimp and avocado flan; a third course of mushroom and spinach risotto; a main of duck breast served with dauphinoise potatoes, asparagus and red cabbage; followed by a cheese course; then a white chocolate and orange truffle; and a strong finish of delicate petit fours and coffee.  Top tip: pace yourself!  The food is so delicious you will want to savor each course.  And the Laurent-Perrier champagne, so delightful, our favorite was the Cuvee Rose which was paired with the duck breast.  Between courses, a very good magician stopped by each table, along with experts from Laurent-Perrier to explain the fizz, and the singers were in the mix as well.  A truly memorable evening, that my husband and I won’t ever forget.  

As it was evening, we didn’t really see the scenery outside the carriage, but the Belmond does a range of journeys in the daytime as well as the evening; some through gorgeous countryside to Bath, Kent, Canterbury and York.  There are also themed “murder mystery” lunches, garden tours, excursions to Longleat, and a day-long outing to the famed Grand National in April.  Brunch and afternoon tea excursions start at 215 GBP. http://www.belmond.com/british-pullman-train/luxury-train-travel

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