Reporting from the Venice-Paris-Calais route of Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Continued from Part One
Following lunch in diner “L’Oriental,” our train glides northwards towards the Italian/Swiss border. Eleanor and I laze in our double compartment, sleeping, reading, gazing out our open window…
…and daydreaming how we meet the most interesting people on train trips.
My thoughts drift back to Venice, where we spent two glorious nights at the five-star Hotel Cipriani, and where we met a charming young Brit named Alan.
We were relaxing on a bench in one of the hotel’s incredible gardens, when a young man waved to us. We waved back.
Despite the metal stud in his lip, two more in his eyebrow, and his unkempt hair and beard, he was dressed in a beautiful suit and tie. Friendly as he was, I took him to be a member of the Cipriani staff.
But he was a guest. And he was simply overwhelmed, he told us, to be at the Cipriani, where he’d arrived the day before from London on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. He and his new bride were spending five nights at the Cipriani before returning to London, again on the Orient-Express. They thought of the most wonderful thing they might do for their honeymoon, and round trip on the Orient Express and five nights at this fabulous hotel was just the ticket.
He said he was in the process of selling his company, which provided security against credit card fraud.
Interesting business, we said, and we’re sure you’re busy. Oh very, he responded.
How did he happen into that line of work? we asked.
“I used to be engaged in credit-card fraud myself,” he explained cheerily. “Never did much at school. Dropped out when I was 16. I’ve been working ever since.”
Indeed, we said.
But then Alan got caught by the police and, apparently, served at least part of his sentence by teaching the authorities how to protect against people like himself. His services were sufficiently valuable that he founded his own company, which he was in the process of selling – at age 27. His clients included such multi-national corporations as SONY and American Express. From the sound of it, it seemed this would be the last work he would need to do.
He was a charming young man, thrilled by the Orient-Express, thrilled by the Cipriani, and delighted to meet us. He wanted to know if we had a dining recommendation. We spied him at dinner that night on the outdoor patio of the Fortuny restaurant, two tables away, with his young bride. He waved again.
They looked like two children playing dress-up. They probably could buy us out many times over. I gave him our card (but not our credit card) and said I hoped he’d travel with The Society of International Railway Travelers some day.
Maybe we’ll meet again on the Paris-Istanbul Orient-Express for his fifth — and our 35th — wedding anniversary.
Or maybe we’ll wind up back at the Cipriani following the great train’s last run of the season, Istanbul-Venice.
Wherever we meet, we wish him well and echo his appreciation of the world’s great luxury trains.
Next time: Part 3 – Dinner in the Côte D’Azur