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Deluxe Train Travel

We’ve said it before, and we’ll probably say it again: we love trains.  Or any vintage form of transportation, for that matter, but today we’re talking trains.  Again.  This time it’s fancy ones taking once-in-a-lifetime trips across the rolling plains of Europe and Africa.  Impossibly gorgeous, known for their white-glove service, and romantic beyond belief, these luxury cars are pure, rail magic.

The Orient Express

The subject and setting of many a story of intrigue and romance, the Orient Express obtained its name from its original route eastward across Europe.  It was widely admired for five-star service, finely appointed wagons, and gourmet delicacies and still stands as a synonym for fabulousness.  The Express saw its glamorous hey day in the 1920s and ’30s, when its sleeping, dining, and socializing cars were filled with royalty, dignitaries, and upper-class citizens.  Over time, the route varied and the cars were modernized, but the high-speed trains that crisscross Europe replaced the need for a luxury service that outlasted the rigors of cross-continental travel.  The train’s service stopped officially in 2007.

We thank our lucky stars, though, because a private company has purchased and restored some of the original cars.  Hello, fantasy trip!  Of course, tickets are over $3,000 apiece for an overnight, but hey!  Meals prepared by French chefs in three separate restaurants, daily breakfast in bed, vacation planning materials that specify passengers can “never be overdressed” – London to Venice in high style might be worth it.

Leaving London – what smart outfits!

A grand tour – slower than a speeding bullet.

A dining car – why can’t we all just win the lottery?

The bar car – forget backpacks and hostels, this is how to do Europe.

The Blue Train

One of two popular luxury lines based in Africa, the Blue Train is a modern version of the classic rail experience that sweeps across South Africa.  Mixing animal print fabrics with upscale furnishings makes the cars of the Blue Train look luxe but still feel like adventure.  In fact, lots of folks pair their train trip with a safari, and some tours even see game from the train windows.  There’s a camera mounted on the front of the engine to help aid the viewing, and it plays to a screen in the lounge cars, so guests can see ahead, as well as to the side of the train.

When they’re not checking for cheetahs, travelers can visit the lounge car for traditional high tea, the dining room for formal dinners (breakout the jackets, ties, and dresses), and the club car for night caps.

Suites have every convenience when it’s time for bed: personal heating and cooling systems, fresh air intakes, down bedding, and even a full bath tub – all in a rich setting of gleaming wood and polished accents.

A suite by day – classic navy and gold brocade.

A suite by night – mood lighting is everything.

The club car – rawr!

The dining car – we might be tempted to “borrow” those salt and pepper shakers!

Rovos Rail

With tracks from Egypt to the Cape, Rovos Rail journeys are both splendid and epic.  A luxury experience that caters to historic train enthusiasts, the Rovos vacation is supported by names, dates, locations, car numbers, histories of service, and original specs of all the cars.  There are no radios or televisions onboard, and the company even charters special trips that rely only on steam, just to please steam train lovers.  It’s the little things.

Mealtime aboard a Rovos train is a highlight of the day.  Chefs prepare traditional, African meals with fresh, local ingredients and serve them in a Victorian dining car.  Between meals, the train stops for tours and sightseeing, but when guests would rather beat the heat, they can retreat to non-smoking lounge cars, browse the boutique, or get fresh air from the shade of the train.  Though the cars are all air-conditioned, they also boast windows that open (a very uncommon feature), so guests can experience the sights, sounds, and scents of Africa.  If that isn’t enough, observation cars at the back of the train are designed with super enlarged windows and open-air balconies!

Guest suites are bedecked in Edwardian elegance.  Every single room features a writing desk – just because the Rovos experience is immersive and marked by period details and the company likes it that way.  Rooms aren’t devoid of treats, however.  They also have 24-hour room service and mini bars.  And wait until you see the superfun bathrooms!

The observation car- those hooks near the ceiling must be for cashmere scarfs to ward off the evening chill.

The dining car – if these two were better at acting like they’re in love, we’d want to be them.

A suite – polished wood makes us swoon.

The bathroom – this is on a train!  A moving train!  Sigh.  It might be love.

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