Travel: riding the Orient Express – a day trip from London on British Pullman

April 2012 – Orient Express from London
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Leather ticket pouch for Orient Express

2012 – Orient Express Ticket Pouch

April. A week earlier a package arrived in the post. Tickets for the Orient Express. Inside the package was a leather pouch. All very Agatha. Fantastic.

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2012 – Orient Express Ticket Pouch

April. There was something very pleasing (and fun) about the formality, and the quality of the experience. A hint of what was to come.

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2012 – Departing Bristol


Friday 13th. 2012. I’m on an early morning bus to London; riding out of Bristol as the sun creeps over a horizon smothered in freezing fog. The early start didn’t bother me: I’m well used to them now with several years of snapping awake at 3, 4 or 5 in the morning to write.

20 years ago I was riding a National Express coach up to Newcastle, one of only a couple of journey’s I would make each year (back then, before the days of Easy Jet) to go see my folks. On the way, to break up the 9 hour journey, the coach would stop for nearly an hour at Digbeth coach station in Birmingham (dump). It was there that I discovered a shop selling RPG stuff and it’s where I picked up a copy of Horror on the Orient Express. Wow. For me it was another epic on par with Masks of Nyarlathotep. Finally, 20 years later, I’m about to ride one of the trains I’ve experienced only in my imagination.

I’m playing a new album on my Creative Zen mp3 device, big can clamped to either side of my skull: Greenosophy, recommended by my favourite Canadian editor and writer, Mary Rajotte.

http://www.amazon.com/Greenosophy/dp/B00765DI88

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So the journey zips by with tunes in my ears and my mind drifting off to explore shores of new ideas and positive thoughts. Really great journey. And the excitement builds.

Get to London. Short walk to Victoria train station but we’re early. Kill some time at a Pret Manger: standing there in the big window by a narrow bench, munching on a salmon cream cheese slice of heaven, I’m aware of the number of glances and stares I’m picking up. It’s the suit. Jo and I grin about it.

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2012 – London – Orient Express

April. We return back to Victoria and find that the tiny little Orient Express check-in office is now open; tucked away beside platform 2. There are two impeccably dressed women outside, serving coffee from flasks; they’re smiling and genuinely welcoming and not at all what you would normally get from service. Everything is groomed to make YOU feel special. The personal egos (and mood) of the staff are subsumed within the larger identity of the company. It’s an immediate and enchanting effect.

Then the train pulls into the station and there’s an electrifying crackle of anticipation from all the gathered passengers. Local trains pulling into the station disgorge commuter passengers who pause or slow their stride to take notice of this spectacle of a bygone era: a platform of smartly dressed passengers making their way inside the Orient Express.

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2012 – London – Orient Express

April. There are stewards everywhere – all of them ready to attend to your every need. They’re incredibly polite and efficient . It’s fantastic.

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2012 – Orient Express

April. Our car was “Phoenix”. A First Class Parlour Car built in 1927 by Metropolitan Cammel Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd. It was the favourite carriage of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother; used by General de Gaulle and visiting Heads of State. It became a stationary restaurant in Lyon, France in 1973 until reacquired in 1980.

The majority of the car is open plan with armchairs placed down either side, in facing pairs. However, Jo and I were placed in a private dinning cabin with another couple. It was spectacular.

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Picture of interior of Simplon-Venice Orient Express - British Pullman - photo David J Rodger

2012 – Orient Express

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2012 – Orient Express – a station stop

April. About halfway through the journey the steward stuck his head around the door and told us that we were pulling into a station where there was going to be a jazz band, champagne (free-flowing the entire journey) and oysters. I actually laughed in delight. Pulling in to the station you could hear the jazz. Great atmosphere. Everyone stepped off the train and wandered around grinning as if they were in a beautiful dream.

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2012 – Orient Express – a station stop

April. Oysters! Yum!

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2012 – Orient Express – Djr

April. Things did get a little squiffy for a while with so much booze sloshing around. Even the washrooms were fabulous.

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2012 – Orient Express

April. Beautiful window in washroom.

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2012 – Orient Express

April. Context: approaching the vestibule between two cars.

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2012 – Orient Express

April. One of the private dining booths.

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2012 – Orient Express

April. Coat of Arms.

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2012 – London, Hilton Hotel – Djr

April. Departing the Orient Express we made our way towards Pimlico and Vauxhall Bridge. This is a hotel I know very well from later days at the Agency. It’s also where I mapped out the plot for Iron Man Project in 2004. It was really nice to be back. I used the room-management “chip” to find a playlist of 1920s and 1930s jazz music on YouTube. Soundtrack to the moment. Looking out across the Thames at Vauxhall bridge and the MI6 building.

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2012 – London – Big Ben

April. It’s been ages since I actually just walked around London (like a tourist). I really enjoyed it. It can be easy to forget just how fantastic and impressive London can be.

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Cyberpunk  novel futuristic thriller corporate warfare using mercs - Iron Man Project by British author David J Rodger

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