First ever Shopping on the Rails event will take place aboard the Orient-Express’ British Pullman train this holiday

Instead of fighting your way through crowded department stores and chaotic shopping centers this holiday, why not do your shopping aboard a luxurious, festively decorated train? On December 1, 2011, the first ever Shopping on the Rails event will take place on board the Orient-Express’ British Pullman train.

A few of the fine British retailers that have been invited to participate in the event include:

  • Harrods– iconic British landmark store with 330 departments of top quality merchandise
  • Brora– fine Scottish cashmere and beautiful clothing
  • Ettinger– handcrafted luxury leather goods and accessories
  • Holland and Holland– known for their artistic and well-crafted guns, they offer clothing, accessories, and technical products
  • Elemis– the leading luxury British spa and skincare brand since 1989

The price for the Shopping on the Rails holiday event is $470 and includes round trip transfer to and from Victoria Station in London, a 4-course lunch with Champagne and half a bottle of wine per person, and the chance to peruse and purchase luxury goods from top retailers. The dress code is “smart daywear” and passengers are asked not to wear jeans and sneakers.

For more information or to make a reservation, click here.

Daily Pampering: Orient-Express launches “Art of Travel” tours through Europe

Luxury train operator Orient Express is taking guests on an art journey through Europe, starting in April 2011.

“The Art of Travel” is a series of art tours to Venice, Paris and within England, in conjunction with London’s renowned National Gallery. Guests will learn about the lives of artists such as Canaletto, Bellini, Titian, Veronese, Monet, Rubens, Turner and Constable, all while seeing the places that inspired their work and notable places that house their work today, accompanied by a National Gallery expert.

All tours include at least one night at London’s Goring Hotel and begin at The National Gallery, where a specialist gives a guided introduction to selected masterpieces before the journeys begin. The tours include:
Venice of Canaletto: This seven-day tour gives travelers the opportunity to view Venice through Canaletto’s eyes. Travel from London aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express through France, the snow-capped Alps and northern Italy. In Venice, guests stay at the Hotel Cipriani and trace the footsteps of Canaletto – the artist forever associated with magnificent Venetian views. Trips start at £4,985 (US$8,000) per person.

Venetian Painters: A six-day tour that introduces great masters from Giovanni Bellini and Titian to Veronese. The morning after a tour and dinner at the National Gallery, guests will fly to Venice where they will step back into the Italian Renaissance and explore great sights such as the Doge’s Palace, the Accademia and Ca’ Rezzonica with an expert from the National Gallery close at hand to add depth to all that is viewed. The price of these trips start at £4,320 (US$6,940) per person.

Impressions of Paris: This series of five-day tours focuses on French Impressionism. Guests will trace Claude Monet’s life and will learn about the drama of the birth of a new movement of art – when painters first began painting out in the open air to capture the effects of light. Prices start at £2,990 (US$4,880) per person.

British Pullman: Combining the thrill of a steam-hauled luxury train, complemented by gourmet dining – brunch on the outbound journey and a three-course supper on the return – and delightful scenery, these exclusive tours include Bath’s finest art collections:

  • Collectors and Collecting: This trip is timed to coincide with the reopening of the Holburne Museum in May 2011 following a major project of restoration and extension. Priced at £1,130 (US$1,815) per person.
  • Thomas Gainsborough: This journey focuses on landscape paintings by notable British and European artists including Rubens, Turner and Constable. Priced at £940 (US$1,510) per person.

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Daily Pampering: Orient Express tours through South-East Asia

The Orient Express, the ultra-luxury train service, is launching a series of rides through Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia starting this November.

Each tour will be limited to 60 passengers (the trains can hold a maximum of 132 people) and will include overnight off-train stays, tours and lectures.

You can choose from three- and six-night excursions that journey from Bangkok to Singapore; Bangkok to north-east Thailand; Bangkok to Vientiane; and Singapore to Bangkok (which includes an overnight stay in the Cameron Highlands).

Prices for the three-night Orient Express tours start from $4200 a person; the six-night tours cost from $9600, a person. The cost for this luxury ride includes food and beverages (so you don’t have to worry about raiding the street markets for a quick bite).

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Obituary: The Orient Express

I screwed up big time.

I’ve always wanted to ride the Orient Express, the famous Paris-to-Istanbul sleeper train made famous by countless movies and novels. It’s an elegant train steeped in glamor and history. Ever since it opened in 1883 it was the way to go to the East. It’s been one of my travel goals for as long as I can remember, but I figured I could always put it off until next year because it would always be there.

Today was it’s last day.

Operators say it’s a victim of competing rail services and cheap airline carriers, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. I think it’s a victim of a corrosive effect I’ve been seeing in travel culture for twenty years now–the concept that cheaper and faster is always better. In an age when you can fly from Paris to Istanbul for less than a hundred bucks–hell, sometimes less than fifty–leaving after breakfast and arriving in time for lunch, why would you want to spend a few hundred dollars and a couple of days rattling across Eastern Europe to get to the same place?

Because the trip is more about the journey than the destination. Because you can’t see the details of the land from an airplane window. Because people talk to each other on trains.

Yes, commentators are pointing out that the route has changed many times over the years, and the train that shut down today didn’t even run the whole way anymore, but that’s like saying that the Parthenon isn’t the real thing because half of the stones are gone. Something old and wonderful has still died.

So next time you think you can leave a dream until “next year”, don’t. You might wake up and find the dream’s over.

CLARIFICATION: There have been a couple of comments saying the Orient Express is still operating. The train that shut down is, indeed, the direct heir of the original Oriental Express, although it had stopped its full service decades ago. Modern companies, such as the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, have used variants of the name but are not the original service. The original Simplon Orient Express opened in 1919, although it too has gone through permutations over the years. For a time there were three “Orient Expresses” running simultaneously, with the Simplon being the second oldest. The original, true “Orient Express” started in 1883. The Venice-Simplon Orient Express is now the closest to the original we have, with vintage carriages from the 1920s and 30s. I’ll have to ride it some day, assuming it doesn’t go out of business too!%Gallery-26075%


New luxury trains coming to India

It just goes to show that luxury travel may be as enduring as the Taj Mahal.

Even in this economy, not one but two luxury trains are debuting in India in the next few months.

The Indian Maharaja-Deccan Odyssey, the first privately-operated luxury tourist train in India, will launch on November 18. Its seven-night, eight-day itinerary includes Mumbai-Aurangaba-Ahmedabad-Udaipu-Sawai-Madhopur-Jaipur-Bharatpur-Agra-Delhi.

Maharajas’ Express will launch soon after, on January 9. It’s making the rounds along two routes: either seven nights/eight days through Mumbai-Vadodara-Udaipur-Jodhpur-Bikaner-Jaipur-Ranthambore-Agra-Delhi and back; or six nights/seven days through: Delhi-Agra-Gwalior-Khajuraho-Bandhavgarh-Varanasi-Gaya-Kolkata (with an option of a reverse trip).

The trains will be a throwback to Orient Express standards. On the Indian Maharaja-Deccan Odyssey, the Presidential Suite replicates a five-star hotel, complete with a bedroom, living area, and personalized bathroom. Prices range from $525/per person per night to $1,120 on the Indian Maharaja-Deccan Odyssey, and $800 to $2,500 on the Maharajas’ Express.

So far, the trains are said to have strong bookings, especially with travelers from the UK, Japan, and Germany.

[Thanks, Jaunted]