Then check out “Once Upon a Time the Orient-Express,” a joint project of the French National Railroads (SNCF) and Paris’ Arab World Institute. It runs in Paris through Aug. 31.
On display are a steam engine plus four original cars, through which you can stroll and literally feel what it was like to ride the famous train in its heyday.
Plus, if you’re willing to pay $165 per person and can snag a reservation, you even can dine in the opulent restaurant car, courtesy of Michelin-starred French chef Yannick Alléno.
More important, according to news reports, is the SNCF’s announcement that it will run its own Orient-Express. Within five years, the SNCF says, the new, ultra-modern luxury train will run Paris-Vienna. Eventually, it will go all the way to Istanbul.
“The idea is to create a cruise on rail tracks,” said Patrick Ropert, head of the SNCF’s Orient-Express unit, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
SNCF paid $3.5 million to finance the Orient-Express exhibit. The railroad will direct its share of ticket sales towards its planned luxury train, the WSJ reported.
Commemorating the 130th anniversary of the famous train’s inaugural run, the exhibit was designed by Claude Mollard, who also designed the Centre Pompidou arts complex, among other projects.
“You enter the Orient-Express as if you were attending a play,” Mollard told the WSJ.
The visitor begins his journey on a reconstructed railway platform located on the Arab Institute’s forecourt, a short distance from the Seine River.
Above, he sees a gigantic steam engine, reportedly used in the 1974 movie “Murder on the Orient Express.” Whistle blasts and steam puffs add to the sensory experience.
Then he strolls through three original passenger carriages (a lounge, sleeper and bar car) and a diner — as if he himself were a passenger. As the train rumbles and sways, the visitor can hear snatches of conversation in Arabic and French—“even sneezes and snores,” according to a New York Times report.
Throughout is evidence of the famous train’s famous passengers: Graham Greene’s typewriter and his novel “Stamboul Train,” singer Josephine Baker’s costumes, copies of Agatha Christie’s famous murder mystery.
The party continues inside the Arab World Institute, where there are numerous displays, including a number for children.
Despite the exhibit’s realism, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express still is the best way to “time travel” back to the golden days of rail travel.
Comprising restored, Art Deco cars from the 1920s and 30s, the VSOE’s annual Paris-Istanbul signature trip routinely sells out a year in advance.
Click here for more information on the VSOE. Or call us at (800) 478-4881 (U.S. and Canada) or (502) 897-1725 (elsewhere). For more information on the exhibit (in French), click here. To make a dinner reservation in the Paris exhibit’s Orient-Express diner, click here.
The parent company of the VSOE, incidentally, changed its name this spring from “Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises” to “Belmond.” The name change, derided by some in the press, was necessitated by the fact that rights to the Orient-Express name belong to the SNCF.
Belmond operates six luxury trains, including the VSOE, which, thankfully, was allowed to retain its famous moniker.