“No one comes aboard the train to sleep,” says the white-gloved barman, as he floods round after round of Laurent-Perrier into cut crystal.
It’s well after midnight but spritzes and sours still clink. The train jolts from side to side sending out shrieks of delight from glamourous girls in stilettos and gentlemen with undone bow ties. A tuxedoed band belts retro Italian tunes off a grand piano and gleaming brass trumpet with all the frenetic vigor of the musicians on the sinking Titanic.
Champagne corks arch in the air and the French countryside blurs by outside the window, all but hidden behind a curtain of night. It’s Gatsby gone off the rails; a Roaring Twenties gin palace on wheels.
When does the party end and the bar carriage close? “Not until the last guest leaves,” says the barman with a wink.
Welcome aboard Belmond’s legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a veritable time capsule of coal burners and chinoiserie lacquer work, René Prou marquetry and Lalique glass; where each carriage has its own story and history — some dating as far back as the 1920s.
In its current iteration, the 17-carriage train has been crisscrossing Europe for 40 years since its relaunch in 1982, but it will be climbing to new heights next winter with a new route to the French Alps.