Completing number 26 off my 40 at 40 list – The Orient Express

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This was one of those items on my list that I didn’t in my wildest dreams would happen. But after my magazine article was published, I used the fee to pay for it. As I’ve said before life’s too short not to enjoy it.

We had mentioned to our friend Ernie about the trip and he said oh definitely count us in but don’t tell Rachel. Keeping our trip a secret was hard work but luckily he let something slip and Rachel guessed!

The orient express is such an iconic train, the Northern Belle has 6 carriages, each carriage is named after an English castle or stately home. It holds up to 270 passengers. It would be amazing to do the London to Venice trip but funds didn’t quite stretch to that. So we booked to do the Manchester to Balloch trip.

The trip booked and we needed a hotel for the Saturday night. I have no patience when searching for accommodation etc so that’s a blue job=Dave job. What I hadn’t realised, was what an early start it was! Oops! The train was to depart at 6.50 am and to be at Victoria station 20 mins before departure. The Renaissance hotel was booked for Friday and Saturday night, we even got upgraded to a suite.

Friday seemed to drag as the excitement mounted. Collected Ernie and Rach and set off for Manchester. Hotel was perfectly situated in the Northern Quarter. You know when you say “we won’t have a heavy night as we have an early start in the morning” yes that!! When will we ever learn hehe! A delicious dinner at one of my favourite restaurants San Carlo. The food is always good and the wine too!

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Back to the hotel, said our good nights and we were meeting at 6.20am in reception.

Frock on and ready to go.

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Was so excited arriving at Victoria station. After reading the reviews on trip advisor had an expectation in my head of what it may be like. But what we experienced that day completely exceeded all of our expectations!! Heard the train and there she was, the Northern Belle arriving on platform 3. Red carpets at all doors 🙂

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As we made our way to our seats on Belvoir for the day, we were blown away by the beauty of our surroundings. The seats were like armchairs and we all couldn’t stop smiling! Each carriage has it’s own stewards to look after you. Ours were Emma, Tom and Georgiana, they were so friendly and nothing was too much trouble.

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Bellinis were served. Breakfast was a leisurely affair. Granola and yoghurt, fruit salad, smoked salmon scrambled egg parcels topped with caviar and Danish pastries. All delicious.

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Emma came up and asked “are you Cumbrian blondie from twitter?” Fame at last, I was speechless. I told her about my list and that I would love to meet the driver and go on the foot plate. Next the train manager James appears with the Mick the driver! Again the attention to detail made me speechless. With the trip there was an option to do a boat trip on Loch Lomond, I hadn’t booked but Sandra the assistant manager just said leave it with me ;). A few minutes later, she came back to say was all sorted!
All these small things just added to this unforgettable experience. Next arrived some complimentary Prosecco!

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A light lunch was served. Oh my god every mouthful was just divine. It was a slow cooked pigs cheek cooked in salted brine, breadcrumbed and oven baked and served with hummus and herb salad. Delicious.

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The weather was stunning. We arrived in Helensburgh to blue skies and sunshine. It was time to say a brief goodbye to the train. Coaches ferried us to Luss and the awaiting boat.

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A lovely cruise along the loch down to Balloch.
Then back to the Northern belle. When we arrived, we went to the engine room and met Mick again and had a look inside the cabin.

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Every girl deserves red carpet treatment !

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Back to our carriage and the table was reset for dinner. Our champagne and Hendricks and tonic awaiting along with canapés which were yummy.

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A crisp Sauvignon blanc was a perfect partner to our ‘neeps and tattie’ soup. Main was rare beef fillet with celeriac dauphinoise and crisp purple sprouting. Every mouthful was like a food orgasm.
A slight break and then the cheese board arrived, I just love cheese!
Pudding was a chocolate and fruit cheesecake, my stomach pleasantly full and thinking of all the miles I’m going to have to run to burn it off.

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Beautiful wines, with the deal you get £21 per couple towards wine. The wines are no more expensive than anywhere else I’ve eaten.

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Time seemed to fly by, the sun was setting on a fabulous day.

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I’ve been blessed to have done some amazing things but this is one of the most special. From the moment we boarded, the staff made us feel welcome. Service was effortless, highly professional and not stuffy. The food was amazing and when I met the chef, couldn’t believe the tiny space they work in.

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If you ever get the chance, you must experience this wonderful trip. It’s a very special memory that will stay with me forever.
Thank you to my very dear friends Ernie and Rach for coming along to share this with us.

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Thank you to the staff aboard the Northern Belle for making our trip truly memorable, you all are fabulous.

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Travelling on any other train is never going to be the same again!

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Luckily for us there was no murder on the Orient Express!!


3 thoughts on “Completing number 26 off my 40 at 40 list – The Orient Express

  1. As a child my father was a Station Master at a rural railway station. In those days it was steam (that shows you my age). I was allowed to ride on the trains and, as a staff perk, I was allowed cheap travel anywhere in N.Z. Train travel still gets my juices running. So I know how you must have felt when travelling on the Orient Express. When you visit Japan, you must experience the Shinkansen (Bullet Train).

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