Archive | Angela Walker RSS feed for this section

Eastern & Oriental Express: Gracious Train, Lovely Staff

24 Feb

“Tap-tap-tap.”

There’s a soft knocking at my cabin door.

It’s Sarawut, my steward on the Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train, gently awakening my husband, Shawn, and me.

He quickly begins making up our cabin.

“How long have you been working on the train?” I ask him, as he converts our snug bedroom into cozy, daytime seating for two.

Since it began running, in 1993, he tells me. Twenty-six years.

Attendant_Delivering_Breakfast_Smiling

Sarawut enters the author’s cabin with continental breakfast, a private, relaxing way to welcome the morning on the E & O. IRT Photo by Angela Walker

As Sarawut lays out our continental breakfast — coffee, pineapple juice, bananas, cereal, English muffins with egg and bread basket — he tells me that almost half of his colleagues have also been with the train since the beginning.

After my recent journey, I can see why. Everything about this gentle train is pure heaven.

Its standard Bangkok-Singapore itinerary offers a variety of off-train tours. But it’s the train itself — and its staff — that will lure me back.

Welcome_Dancers10

Dancers perform in Bangkok station. IRT Photo by Angela Walker

One morning last December, my husband Shawn and I arrive in Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station, when we spot Thai children on one platform, outfitted in colorful costumes and masks, performing a traditional dance.

Typical Belmond, I think. They know how to get a party started.

It’s the company’s characteristic grand welcome for guests boarding its worldwide portfolio of luxury trains, which includes the world-famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

But in this case,  it’s the Southeast Asian version: the Eastern & Oriental Express, bound for Singapore.

Our steward, the aforementioned Sarawut, shows us to our cabin with welcome drinks.

He points out two attendant call buttons in our room and insists we ring him if we need anything.

Later, we dress for dinner and join our group in the dining car, Malaya.

Chef smiling behind bread

E & O kitchen staff member readies a basket of hot bread. IRT photo by Angela Walker

Dinner service is flawless. The waiters present the dishes beautifully and quickly clear finished plates.

Our four-course meal begins with a memorable “Tom Yum Cappuccino”, a delicious foamed version of the popular Thai soup, served in an espresso cup. It’s delectably creamy, and I find myself wishing it was a full bowl…but there are still three courses to go.

Lunch menu server approaching

Lunch service on the Eastern & Oriental Express. IRT Photo by Angela Walker

Next comes a dish featuring more local flavors: rice noodle with coconut minced pork, prawn and peanut with Nam Jin sauce and a crab, mango and cucumber maki (sushi).

I opt for the glazed duck breast with wild mushroom and charred cabbage for my main course – cooked to perfection.

Dessert is a chocolate mousse with ice cream and caramel sauce; petite fours follow but go untouched because we are full to bursting.

Angela with Malaysian dancers horizontal

The author with dancers in the piano bar car. IRT Photo by Shawn Bidwell. 

After dinner we repair to the piano bar car for entertainment: first, Thai dancers perform, accompanied by a drum and khene (a mouth organ with bamboo pipes).

Later, as the E & O chugs into the steamy Thai night, the bar car morphs into something out of a Joseph Conrad yarn.

Pianist Peter plays and sings, as he gleefully implores guests to join in. Meanwhile, the attentive and friendly staff keep us well supplied with drinks and spirits (included in our fare; premium drinks are additional).

It’s been a great night, but now to bed.

Shawn taking photo out cabin window (1)

The author’s husband, Shawn, takes photos from their cabin window. IRT photo by Angela Walker

Returning to our cabin, our turned-down twin beds await, robes and slippers neatly laid out. The train is stationary the first night, so sleeping is easy.

(On the remaining two evenings, the train is moving. I had no trouble sleeping either night, but some report problems on the second night, as the tracks are rough in southern Thailand.)

Our State cabin is roomy, boasting a couch, comfy fixed chair, small collapsible table, and desk chair. The couch faces two large windows for watching the passing scenery; fresh yellow orchids add a pop of color. We have a private bathroom with small cubicle shower, sink and toilet.

Our cabin’s intricate wood marquetry—cherry wood and elm burr in a criss-cross pattern—is beautiful. And I soon realize the decor, in varying patterns, is consistent throughout the train, all perfectly polished.

Angela side of observation car 1

The author drinks in the scenery from the open-air, rear observation car. IRT photo by Shawn Bidwell.

And so we lazily spend the next few days: private, continental breakfast and afternoon tea in our cabin, multi-course lunch and dinner in the dining cars, entertainment in the bar cars. We could get used to this.

As superb staff members meticulously tend to our every need, we enjoy the ever-changing scenery: the small villages and occasional temples in Thailand giving way to the hills and jungles of Malaysia, before reaching the modern metropolis of Singapore.

Pax photograph Hua Hin station from Obs Car 1

E & O guest snaps a photo at Thailand’s Hua Hin station from the observation car. IRT Photo by Angela Walker

Off-train excursions are brief but impactful.

Day 2 — The E & O stops near the River Kwai Bridge, infamous for its bloody, WWII history. Guests have three options for excursions:

  • a leisurely cruise down the river, with commentary on the history and building of the bridge, ending with a visit to the bridge museum and war cemetery;
  • a bike ride through a nearby village, stopping at a local farm for refreshments;
  • Or a visit to a local wet market, followed by a Thai cooking class on a raft cruising along the River Kwai.

We choose the first option, which is quite moving, if somber.

Day 3 — The train stops in Padang Rengas in rural Malaysia, with a choice of two excursions:

  • a tour of a traditional village to gain insight into the daily lives of a beekeeper, rubber plantation worker, knife maker, and finally to a local home to explore a spice garden;
  • for those who want an active afternoon, a trek to the top of a hill for panoramic views, while identifying local flora and fauna en route.

We loved the village tour — especially the visit with the spice gardener, a gracious host who was happy to share his home and garden.

Angela_Shawn_Cabin-with-Drinks2

Angela and Shawn enjoy drinks in their cabin. IRT Photo courtesy of Angela Walker.

The excursions were great, if only because they allowed us to get off and stretch our legs. But for us, the E & O itself was the star of this show.

The train shows no sign of wear – it’s as if it could have begun service yesterday, rather than 26 years ago.

It accommodates up to 82 guests, although the average number is about 60, I’m told. Public spaces, the heart of any luxury train worth its salt, abound.

The E & O boasts a dining car, saloon car (includes reading room, dining area and boutique), piano bar car and observation car with large, rear open windows for wind-in-the-face viewing.

The rear observation car is a bit of a hike for those in the front of the long train. But it’s worth it.

The large, open-air, verandah-style observation deck allows unparalleled views of this beautiful world, Singapore Sling (or other favorite cocktail) in hand.

Shawn with Fortune Teller 2(1)

The author’s husband, Shawn, discovers his future, courtesy of the E & O’s onboard fortune-teller. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

And there are more on-train pleasures:

  • shopping at the on-board boutique (I recommend an exclusive Jim Thompson scarf);
  • peering into your future, courtesy of a fortune-teller offering complimentary palm-readings;
  • a perfume presentation;
  • at additional (but reasonable) cost, a foot massage.

I sprung for that foot massage. And I’m so glad I did.

As I relax and enjoy my lovely massage, I admire a beautiful silk tapestry in the saloon car. It depicts a roaring tiger, the symbol of the Eastern & Oriental Express.

Indeed, I think to myself: in the increasingly crowded “jungle” of  IRT’s World’s Top 25 Luxury Trains, the E & O is one of the mightiest.

*****

Angela Walker is Vice President, Operations and senior luxury travel advisor for The Society of International Railway Travelers. Ms. Walker’s has been with IRT since 1998 and has traveled on most of the World’s Top 25 Trains.

Toasting a Classic: IRT Advisor Revisits the Belmond Royal Scotsman

21 Jun

 

RS Bagpiper - Cropped Copy.jpg

Making a grand entrance at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

 

Déjà vu washes over me as I walk into Edinburgh’s Waverley Station, where I am immediately greeted by a kilted, bewhiskered bagpiper straight out of central casting.

He leads me and other passengers to a red carpet running beside the gleaming carriages of the Belmond Royal Scotsman, where train manager Fred Laseen welcomes each of us aboard.

Dining staff pour forth to welcome us — more déjà vu. I sip a glass of sparkling wine as we pull away from the station.

I think back to the last time I was aboard this train…

*

It’s been 15 years since my 2004 journey on the Belmond Royal Scotsman — long before ‘Belmond’ was added to the name, actually.

And I am thrilled to report that the grand dame of the Scottish rails is more wonderful than ever.

What differences there are – the Bamford Haybarn Spa Car, added in 2017, reinvigorated interiors and textiles throughout – underscore the train’s commitment to evolving alongside the wants of its guests. Other elements – food quality and service –  have stayed exactly the same, much to my delight.

*

A staff member shows me to my cabin.

It’s a cozy affair, with twin beds configured in an “L” shape. It also sports a dressing table and stool with one locking drawer, full-length wardrobe, ceiling fan, and full bathroom with toilet, sink, shower, and towel warmer.

IMG_9748.JPEG

Twin cabin on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

Other amenities include robes, slippers, and Bamford toiletries. The arched ceilings, marquetry, and paintings of kilted soldiers of yore add subtle touches of old-school luxury.

I could nap in my comfortable quarters all day, but the party’s already started in the public cars.

*

I order a Lagavulin 16. It’s an extra-peaty single-malt Scotch whisky, which I enjoy in the brisk Scottish air from the open platform on the back of the observation car. (All drinks are included, so I recommend you try a range of the more unusual whiskys and cocktails.)

IMG_1007.JPEG

Enjoying the fresh air from the observation platform. IRT Photo courtesy of Angela Walker.

Some time later, we are called to dinner. The dining car’s tables gleam with stark white linen and fine china and crystal, all embellished with the stately Great Scottish & Western Railway Company logo.

DSC_0221.JPG

Fine china, crystal, and and fresh flowers set the table on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

Two of the four dinners on my journey are formal. Men are asked to wear dark suits at a minimum, although some opt for tuxedos or kilts, which can be rented locally in Edinburgh.  The splashes of tartan add greatly to the festive atmosphere. Women are asked to don cocktail attire.

RS_Dinner.jpeg

Formal dinner on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. IRT Photo courtesy of  Angela Walker.

The meals are exceptional. Carefully crafted by Glasgow native Mark Tamburrini, the train’s head chef since 2010, they feature local Scottish ingredients.

Two of my favorites: Scottish salmon with dill, cucumber and cauliflower, with a perfect horseradish sauce; and roasted scallops with chorizo and sweetcorn croquettes in a corn purée.

IMG_9731_cropped

One of the talented kitchen staff stops to admire her creation. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

Wines are carefully paired with each course. And even for those non-wine lovers, the enthusiastic descriptions provided by staff member Matej are impossible to resist.

IMG_0048

Canapés served in the lounge car before dinner. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

For that matter, all of the 12 staff are exceedingly helpful and professional. Max, the head waiter, dutifully goes over the day’s menu with each passenger to ensure there are no dietary issues.

(Those with dietary issues are painstakingly accommodated. The vegetarians, gluten-free, and dairy-free eaters among us are delivered a modified version of each dish).

Want to discover your favorite Scotch whisky and learn more about the country’s local specialty? The indefatigable Jarryd will recommend one of the countless options on board.

Kilts_crop

Guests dressed in traditional kilts before dinner on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

He and Matej tend the bar until the last passenger retires (which is sometimes not until the wee hours of the morning). Then — somehow—they’re up the next morning with coffee and tea to greet the earliest risers.

Last but not least is the Bamford Haybarn Spa Car, which I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. It made its debut two years ago.*

Stepping into the treatment room, I breathe in the lavender scent, and am transported into a cocoon of tranquility. Danielle, the on-board spa therapist, impressively manages the movement of the train while executing massages, facials, manicures and pedicures.  The gentle rocking further enhances the relaxing treatment.

Angela_Whisky_crop

Enjoying the local specialty, whisky, before dinner. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

The after-dinner entertainment in the observation car is another highlight. Colin and Iain, two cheeky chaps playing guitar and fiddle, encourage singalongs on our first night.

On our second night, Highlander Ray Owens brings to life the history of Scotland with his impressive storytelling.

RS at Strathcarron

The Belmond Royal Scotsman at Strathcarron. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

And on the final evening, Brian and Allison play the keyboard and violin before inviting guests onto the platform, where they teach us reels and jigs. It is a fitting, fun, and joyous end to our journey.

A few things have changed in the 15 years since my first trip – new faces, a spa car, updated finishings – but the high standards of food, service and comfort are the same.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll be so lucky as to revisit the Belmond Royal Scotsman again in 2034.

*The Belmond Royal Scotsman’s spa car makes it one of only three luxury trains in the world to boast similar spa cars. The other two are the Deccan Odyssey in India and the Belmond Andean Explorer in Peru.

Stay tuned for my next blog about off-train activities on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. Click here to subscribe to our blog.

Ready to book your own adventure on the Belmond Royal Scotsman?

Click here to complete our online booking form, or call us at (800) 478-4881 (+1 501-897-1725 if outside the US / Canada). Or e-mail us: [email protected].

***************************************

 

Angela Walker is a 20-year veteran of The Society of International Railway Travelers. She is VP, Operations, for IRT, and a luxury travel advisor. She has been on most of our World’s Top 25® Trains, some — like Belmond Royal Scotsman — more than once.

 

 

 

Exotic Luxury Train Tour: A Caspian Odyssey with Angela

28 Sep
yerevan ararat smaller

Photo courtesy of Golden Eagle Luxury Trains.

Mt. Ararat (above), reputed resting place of Noah’s Ark, towers over Yerevan, Armenia. It’s the jumping-off point for the Caspian Odyssey Along the Ancient Silk Road tour.

The 16-day tour visits Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan — and includes a ferry crossing of the Caspian Sea.

It’s one of the Golden Eagle luxury train’s most exotic tours.

IRT’s Angela Walker, Vice President for Operations, accompanied a group of our travelers on the Caspian Odyssey several years ago.

restaurant-small

Photo courtesy of Golden Eagle Luxury Trains.

Below, we present a few of Angela’s photos and impressions:

The Golden Eagle — with its young staff —was a comfortable home for our journey through six countries and cultures. It provided all the comforts of home — and plenty of vodka!

table_smaller

IRT Photo courtesy of Angela Walker.

My fellow travelers were high-spirited and great fun. Here we are in Samarkand, wearing traditional Uzbek hats during a local fashion show.

girl_smaller

IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

I snapped this photo of a darling little girl during a serendipitous moment in Ashkabat, Turkmenistan.

During a regular tour stop, a wedding party suddenly pulled up honking in several decorated cars. Dressed in colorful costumes, they danced and celebrated as they happily welcomed us to join in. It was wonderful to interact with the locals in such a special way.

marching-small

IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

In Almaty, Kazakhstan, next to the WWII memorial, I spied these adorable children mimicking the marching soldiers.

birdman-small

IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

In the hills outside of Almaty, we were greeted by men in traditional costumes showing how they use their birds for hunting.

ladies-small

IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

These four delightful ladies in our group were friends from Peru and Argentina. Here, they enjoy the train’s lounge car—especially its lively pianist, who entertained nightly.

angelafire-small

IRT Photo courtesy of Angela Walker.

Here I am visiting “The Door to Hell” — a gigantic gas crater in the middle of Uzbekistan’s Kara Kum desert, which has been burning for over 40 years.

It was so exciting to drive out to the Darvaza gas crater, in the pitch-black night, to see this site — essentially, a giant hole of fire burning in the middle of nowhere.

And to know that it’s been burning since 1971 — I don’t think there’s anything like it in the world!

smaller_staff

IRT photo courtesy of Angela Walker.

Home, sweet home. After a day of touring along the Caspian Odyssey’s incredible path, it was always great to return to the Golden Eagle and my private, en-suite quarters.

vodka_small

IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

Time for a refreshing drink! In this case, a sampling of one of the Golden Eagle’s special vodkas.

• • •

The 16-day, escorted tour operates just once a year. Next year’s dates are Sept. 19 – Oct. 4. In 2020, the tour runs Sept. 24 – Oct. 9.  If you book the 2020 journey before Dec. 31 this year, enjoy 2019 pricing.  

To see the complete itinerary, click here. For prices, click here.

To book, call us at (800) 478-4881 (+1 502-897-1725 if outside the US/Canada), or e-mail us.

We look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Angela Walker is Vice President, Operations and senior luxury travel advisor for The Society of International Railway Travelers. This is Ms. Walker’s 20th year with IRT, and she has traveled on most of the World’s Top 25 Trains.

 

South African Splendor on Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa

20 Apr
fullsizeoutput_5d09

Rovos Rail guests await their train at Rovos Rail’s private Capitol Park Station.  IRT Photo by Rachel M. Hardy

By the time we arrive at Rovos Rail‘s private station in Pretoria, my colleague, Rachel Hardy and I are both brimming with excitement. We are about to embark on a 3-day journey to Cape Town on one of the world’s most luxurious trains: Pride of Africa. We are here to discover if this train, on our World’s Top 25® Trains list for decades, is still up to snuff ahead of IRT’s special group trip on Rovos Rail in November, 2019. By the time we arrive in Cape Town, we have decided that the answer is an emphatic “Yes!”

Rachel and angela with hostess

Rachel Hardy and Angela Walker with a Rovos Rail hostess. IRT Photo.

The check-in process is a breeze. Rovos Rail hostesses greet us with champagne and juice as our luggage is whisked away by friendly porters. We are ushered inside the beautiful old station to relax and enjoy the view through the stately French doors. Gently swaying palm trees line the platform, and beyond, the famous Rovos Rail train cars fill the tracks as far as the eye can see.

LIghtened guy with bougie bags - ANW.jpg

Rovos Rail porter smiles as he loads luggage on our train. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

A short time later, Rovos Rail’s visionary and idiosyncratic owner, Rohan Vos, summons interested guests for a tour of the grounds. (Mr. Vos began Rovos Rail in 1989 against almost insurmountable odds. His story – Rovos Rail’s story – is fascinating and could fill an entire book. It is only fitting that ‘Rovos’ is a portmanteau of his first and last names!)

The station — abuzz with the activity of more than 400 Rovos Rail employees – sprawls over 60 acres. From the sales offices to the kitchens to the maintenance platforms – where we watch carriages being transformed from dusty old shells into sleek, green Pride of Africa cars – Rovos employees in a variety of green uniforms hurry to and fro, painting, welding, sawing, hauling, cleaning and doing all other manner of task.

Rovos workers walk with trains - ANW.JPG

Rovos Rail employees at the station. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

A variety of animals (goats, emu, ostrich, donkeys and cows) hover around the periphery and impart a distinctly Old World air to the scene. Also on the station grounds: a small museum with Rovos memorabilia going back 20 years, a lovely gift shop and storage facilities.

Mr. Vos leads us to the locomotive depot, where he describes the painstaking restorations his team has accomplished over the years. He also explains the train’s bogies and braking system in some detail – a real treat for rail fans – before shepherding us back to the station for our departure.

Sassy Rohan Vos gives tour - ANW.JPG

Rohan Vos gives a behind-the-scenes tour before departure. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

By now, we’ve come to appreciate Mr. Vos’s hands-on approach – so no one is surprised when he himself delivers the welcome speech and explains the rules of life on board. One point he particularly stresses: mobile phones and computers are prohibited in public areas.  He wants this to be a social occasion, and, as he explains, cell phones are the modern day adversary of good conversation.

He suggests we put our electronics in our safe and forget about them for a few days – a challenge for us, and surely some other guests. We settle with putting our cells on ‘Airplane Mode’ so we can continue to (discreetly) use our phone cameras without guilt.

Tracey Solomzi and chef in cabin.jpg

Rachel gets a visit from the dining staff and chef. IRT Photo by Rachel M. Hardy.

Mr. Vos invites each of us aboard by name, and our hostesses greet us and show us to our cabins. Rachel and I each have a Deluxe cabin to ourselves. Mine is laid out with two L-shaped twin beds (a configuration that is slowly being phased out in favor of side-by-side twin beds with an aisle in between), while Rachel has a large double bed.

In each of our cabins is a table with two chairs, a large wardrobe with safe, ample storage space for luggage under bed and overhead, and a spacious bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower.

Large picture windows – some of which open to let in the breeze – run the length of our cabins.

 

(In addition to Deluxe Cabins, which clock in around 118 square feet, the train offers Pullman Cabins (diminutive but doable at 76 sq. ft.) and enormous Royal Suites, which are 172 sq. ft. and feature a larger bathroom with deep claw foot bathtub and large living area.)

After a cheerful briefing from our hostess, Louwrene, and a visit from the dining supervisor and chef to inquire about dietary requirements, we set off to explore the public cars at the rear of the train.

Rachel and peeps on obs car 2 edited and cropped - ANW.jpg

Rachel and guests enjoying the observation car before dinner. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

We first encounter the smoking car, which is entirely enclosed in glass and surprisingly devoid of bad smells. (Smoking is also allowed within the confines of your cabin.)

Next, we find a quiet, comfortable lounge car with couches and armchairs, which quickly becomes the ‘go-to’ spot for guests looking to read and nap after lunch. A small gift shop is tucked in one corner.

The last car on the train is by far the most special: it is divided between a traditional counter bar with stools, a lounge area with banquette seating (our favorite place for playing the many board games available), and, best of all, an open-air observation platform with bench seating, accessed through a sliding glass door.

Observation car through glass with Rovos insignia.jpg

Rovos Rail open-air observation car. IRT Photo by Rachel M. Hardy.

As we are making our rounds, the train manager, Joe Mathala, greets us enthusiastically and strikes up a conversation about his long and storied career with Rovos. He quickly rattles off the other Rovos trains currently in service – where they are now, where they are headed, what time they will arrive – and regales us with behind-the-scenes tales.

Carmen and Robert talk to Joe at lunch.jpg

Joe Mathala, train manager, made us feel at home. Pictured here with guests at lunch in the dining car. IRT Photo by Rachel M. Hardy.

The South African sun sets rapidly over the increasingly rural landscape, and we retreat to our cabins to dress for dinner. On Rovos Rail, dinner is a formal affair. Jacket and tie for men and cocktail attire for women are required, at a minimum, and everyone happily obliges.

Fancy Angela at dinner.jpg

Angela in the Victorian-style diner. IRT Photo by Rachel M. Hardy.

The dining car is a 1920s-style Victorian beauty with teak pillars, shuttered windows with tasseled drapes, romantic, soft lighting, and beautifully-set tables with crisp white dining cloths, china, and crystal. Red anthurium flowers add a natural adornment to each table.

The service is excellent; we are well-attended by four able dining staff who bounce back and forth from the kitchen car to the tables, serving, pouring and clearing, all with a smile.  Joe is also ever-present, assisting his staff while still managing to mingle with the guests.

Alpheus pours wine.jpg

Alpheus, our sever, pours wine at dinner. IRT Photo by Rachel M. Hardy.

Throughout the journey, the prix fixe menus – four courses expertly paired with South African wines – highlight local specialties, including fresh seafood, ostrich fillet, and Bobotie (spiced mince beef oven-baked with a layer of egg custard). Rachel, a vegetarian, also gave the culinary team five stars for inventiveness and flavor.

We loved the desserts, especially the decadent Koeksister (in Afrikaans, “fat sister”) – fried dough soaking in sweet, drippy grease – paired with a traditional South Africa melktart, dusted with cinnamon.

Angela's turned down bed 2.jpg

My cozy bed, laden with gifts from Rovos Rail, turned down for the night. IRT Photo by Angela Walker.

After dinner, we retreat to our cabins to find gifts from Rovos Rail arranged on our turned-down beds: crystal glasses to keep, bottles of champagne, and chocolates. (As if we needed more food!)  The gentle rocking of the train lulled me to sleep as soon as I hit the pillow.

 

Stayed tuned for part two of our Rovos Rail report, which will be published within the next week. Subscribe to our blog here.

Or, if you are ready to book your own Rovos Rail adventure, call us at 1-800-478-4881 (1-502-897-1725 if outside the US/Canada), or e-mail us: [email protected].

Angela Walker is a 20-year veteran of The Society of International Railway Travelers, and has been on many of our World’s Top 25® Trains. She is a luxury travel advisor and VP, Operations.  Rachel M. Hardy is a luxury travel advisor and VP, Sales & Marketing, for the Society of IRT. Both are based in our Louisville, KY headquarters. They have just returned from a month-long study tour examining trains, hotels and experiences in Europe and South Africa.

 

IRT On Tour: VSOE Grand Suites, Rovos Rail, Shongololo Express, more

8 Mar
Rovos Rail's Pride of Africa. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy.

Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy.

IRT’s Angela Walker and Rachel Hardy are about to embark on a three-week
learning tour spanning two continents to investigate the newest developments in
luxury rail travel.

We checked in with them while they were furiously packing to ask: What about your upcoming study tour has you most excited?

Angela: I am eager to experience Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa after helping IRT travelers take the train for many years – especially knowing how beloved it is by past guests. I especially look forward to meals in the beautiful dining cars and watching the scenery roll by from the open-air observation deck.

I’ll also be testing out Rovos Rail’s new sister train – Shongololo Express – on an
in-depth 15-day tour of South Africa.

The Pride of Africa has been a World’s Top 25 Train since the beginning, and
Shongololo Express may be awarded this elite honor after we’ve tested it. Stay tuned!

Grand Suite 'Venice' on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express.

Grand Suite ‘Venice’ on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express.

Rachel: I can’t wait to see the three brand-new, super-exclusive Grand Suites on
the Venice Simplon-Orient- Express. I’ll be among a very small group to see the
Suites on their inaugural trip from Venice to London. Pictures and full report to
follow.

I’m also excited to test out the services of our great travel partners who are arranging crucial trip elements — in Europe and in South Africa — such as VIP Meet & Greet airport transfers, private guided sightseeing, unique dining and more.

Angela and I will also be visiting a host of 5-star Virtuoso properties:

lobby-saxon-hotel-johannesburg-south-africa-800x495

Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg

Cape Town-
Cape Grace Hotel
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel

Johannesburg-

belmond cipriani

Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice.

Saxon Hotel
Fairlawns Hotel

London-
The Milestone Hotel

Venice-
Belmond Hotel Cipriani
Baglioni Hotel Luna

belmond mt nelson

Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town.

Check in with Angela and Rachel on IRT’s Facebook page for updates throughout their travels, and look out for posts on IRT’s Track 25 blog after they return in mid-April.

If you have burning questions for them about any of the trains or
hotels they’ll be visiting, e-mail IRT’s main inbox at:
[email protected]. They’ll do their best to get an answer for you!

Ready to book your own luxury rail adventure?

Call us at 1-800-478-4881 (1-502-897-1725 if outside the US/Canada) or e-mail us at [email protected].

Angela Walker is Vice President, Operations and a luxury travel advisor. This is her 2oth year with The Society of International Railway Travelers. Read all about Angela here.  Rachel Hardy, Vice President, Sales & Marketing and luxury travel advisor is celebrating her 3rd anniversary with IRT. Read all about Rachel here. 

%d bloggers like this: