Grand Entrance: The Orient Express cover

Grand Entrance: The Orient Express


A century ago, travel wasn’t just about how to get most efficiently from point A to point B: It was as much about the glamour of the journey. Today, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – still traversing in its iconic route from Venice to Paris – reminds us that a slow arrival is often the most memorable. Cue the monogrammed trunks…

Article by Lindsay Talbot
Photography by Benjamin Bouchet
Styling by Céline Marioni
Prop styling by Aurélien Maillé

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars on 1 review

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Grand Entrance: The Orient Express


A century ago, travel wasn’t just about how to get most efficiently from point A to point B: It was as much about the glamour of the journey.

Today, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – still traversing in its iconic route from Venice to Paris – reminds us that a slow arrival is often the most memorable. Cue the monogrammed trunks…

In an era when everything is instantaneous, the greatest luxury may well be the languorous arrival—no wonder, then, that we’ve seen the revival of so many legendary trains over the last few years (India’s Palace on Wheels; the Royal Scotsman in the British Isles; the Blue Train in South Africa).

All Aboard!

All Aboard!

Counter clockwise from left:

Globe-Trotter luggage (; $1883); Louis Vuitton Keepall 55 (; $3650); Ralph Lauren travel bag (; $3500); Louis Vuitton Zéphyr 70 Monogram suitcase (; $4650); Gucci large tote bag (; $2900); Ralph Lauren Collection feather cape (; $3695); Eugenia Kim hat (Intermix stores nationwide; $340).

Through Space and Time

But in the annals of great lines, the most legendary of all is the Orient—Express. With its elegant blue-and—gold carriages and mahogany corridors, the train offers a journey not just through space—but through time as well.

Its history began when a Belgian banker’s son, Georges Nagelmackers, envisioned “a train that would span a continent, running on a continuous ribbon of metal for more than 1,500 miles,” as E. H. Cookridge Writes in Orient Express: The Life and Times of the World’s Most Famous Train.

In 1883, Nagelmackers’s Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits made its first trip, from Paris’s Gare de Strasbourg to the minarets of Constantinople, in three days, and the newspapers dubbed it the Orient-Express. The name stuck, even though Istanbul was as far east as the train ever went.

Refined Elegance

Refined Elegance

Counterclockwise from left:

Bottega Veneta Flamingo Glitter Mary Jane pump (; $750); Jimmy Choo Cosma clutch (; $4,850); Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger narrow bracelet in red enamel and diamonds (; $55,000); Montblanc Meisterstück watch (; $21,600); Moynat Limousine suitcase in black (; $8,745); Edie Parker Fiona clutch (; $1,595); Valentino silk gown (; $32,500); Burberry London tuxedo, dress shirt, and bow tie (; $2,295, $495, and $155).

A Fallen Victim

The Orient-Express was styled after Europe’s grandest hotels, and its romance would soon become as mythical as it was mysterious

(Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich both climbed aboard, and the train made an appearance in a number of films, including Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and the James Bond thriller From Russia with Love). But not even a glittering reputation could prevent the line from falling victim to the modern need for speed, and the train was eventually retired, a relic in an age of supersonic Maglev trains and of course airplanes.

Elegant Treasure

Elegant Treasure

From Top:

Van Cleef & Arpels "Ailes Nocturne" necklace (; price upon request); Bulgari MVSA bracelet in white gold and diamond (; $13,200).

Living Legacy

Happily, the Orient-Express’s legacy lives on, largely due to one man’s obsession. In 1977, hotelier James Sherwood bought two Orient-Express sleeper cars at a Sotheby’s auction.

He went on to acquire 35 Pullmans, sleepers, and restaurant cars from museums and private collectors, restoring them in workshops throughout Europe. And in 1982, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (now owned by Belmond) made its first journey, from London to Venice.

Today, riding from London to Venice—or Venice to Stockholm or Budapest to Paris (there are 26 routes in all)—remains a traveler’s rite of passage, and a glimpse into the glamour of a bygone era.

Timeless Elegance

Timeless Elegance

From Left:

Chanel J12 Moonphase watch (Chanel Fine Jewelry boutiques nationwide; $24,800); H. Stern Moonlight bracelet in 18-karat noble gold with rock crystal and diamonds (H. Stern, N.Y.C.; $13,200); Dior VIII Grand Bal "Fil de Soie" watch (; price upon request).


“The very name is romantic,” says creative director Yolanda Edwards, who took the overnight Venice- to-Paris route last spring and fell in love with the train’s celebration of the traditional and the old-fashioned, right down to the dinnertime black-tie dress code.

“It’s a different way of traveling. Everything is heightened; everyone seems more mysterious than if you were seeing them in a hotel. You get to play a role in a narrative that’s been going on for a century.” She especially loved the leisurely pace, how it forced her and her family to do things they wouldn’t have time for on a regular trip: read, write letters, and simply gaze at the passing landscape. (It should be noted that the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’s slowness isn’t a luxury but a necessity: There are speed restrictions on vintage carriages.)



From Top:

Mulberry Tessie satchel (select Mulberry stores in N.Y.C.; $990) Dolce & Gabbana box clutch (select DG boutiques nationwide; $2,595); Ports N°10 bag in white (; $1,995); Max Mara Margaux croc embossed handbag (select Max Mara stores in N.Y.C.; $1,350); Dior "Be Dior" handbag (Dior boutiques nationwide; $3,700); Salvatore Ferragamo python Fiamma handbag (Salvatore Ferragamo boutiques nationwide; $5,800); Fendi By The Way handbag (; $1,700); Longchamp La Pliage Héritage handbag (; $1,270); Bally Bond Bag (Bally, N.Y.C.; $1,250).

Choose Your Journey

The cathartic rhythm of a train, as Eric Lomax wrote in The Railway Man, says more “about departure than a petrol-driven snarl can ever do; perhaps it has something close to the beat of our pulse.”

It may not be the fastest way to travel, but it’s certainly the most evocative—and a testament to why the rails are enjoying a second golden age.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’s most popular route, London to Venice, runs from March through November, but Belmond also offers a once-a-year Paris-Istanbul train that stops in Budapest and Bucharest, following a route similar to that of the 1883 maiden voyage (800-524-2420;; trips from $970 per person; London—Venice from $3,140; Paris—Istanbul from $9,000).