Search results for 'Cipriani'

A Very Unusual Guest on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

18 Mar

Reporting from the Venice-Paris-Calais route of  Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Continued from Part One

The Hardys on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. IRT Photo

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.

Cipriani garden. E. Hardy, IRT

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.

The Hotel Cipriani, Venice. E. Hardy, IRT

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.

Fortuny Restaurant, Hotel Cipriani. Eleanor Hardy, IRT

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.

Our dining reservation card on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Our dining reservation card on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

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 at Paris’ delightful Esprit Saint Germain hotel following the great train’s other annual extravaganza: Istanbul-Paris .

Wherever we meet, we wish him well and echo his appreciation of the world’s great luxury trains.

More pictures of the Cipriani.

Next time: Part 3 – Dinner in the Côte D’Azur

Indolence—with Style—on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

11 Mar



Eleanor Hardy luxuriates at the VSOE's open window. Photo by Owen Hardy, IRT

Reporting from the Venice-Paris-Calais route of  Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Overcast day. Left Venice’ Santa Lucia Station at 11. Now we’re back from lunch, lounging in our “Cabin Suite,” as the VSOE calls two double compartments joined by a private, interior door. We gaze at high rocky crags, set against a cloud-filled sky punctuated by patches of blue.

Landscape is emerald green; hillsides covered with grape arbors and bright, orange-red poppies, which we’ve seen everywhere since we’ve been in Italy. We think we’re entering the Dolomites, but neither of us has made a move to consult our VSOE map. We’re resting, we tell ourselves.

It’s rained on and off, but the temperature is cooling. We’re feeling no pain.

Went through Verona during lunch. Our waiter mentioned it was the home of Romeo and Juliet. Knew that, but nice of him to remind us. Ah, romance. I drift off to sleep.

It’s overcast, as I said, but we like it that way. It makes our compartment quite comfortable. Mountains seem to be getting more massive as we continue north towards Switzerland. “Style of architecture looking more Swiss, less Italian,” I note, brilliantly, in my journal.

Our morning departure went off without a hitch. We left the Cipriani Hotel by private boat to the train station. People coming in on the Trenitalia trains, even the folks from the snazzy, high-speed ETR 600s, were green with envy. The platform swarmed with the curious, anxious to catch a glimpse and a photo or two of this train straight out of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.”

People crowded the windows to peer into the sleeping cars, and the VSOE staff graciously allowed themselves to be photographed with their many admirers. Even a group of Italian nuns got into the act.

A group of nuns, just arrived via local train, catch Orient-Express fever. Photo by Owen Hardy for IRT

Jake, a New Zealander and our compartment steward, welcomed us each with a glass of champagne in a distinctive VSOE flute on a doily and a nice “Happy Anniversary” card from the train manager. We’re taking this special trip to celebrate our 30th. And what better way for us to celebrate?

Now Eleanor is sound asleep, exhausted by all the amenities she’s been enjoying. The mountainsides are getting steeper as we move further into the Alps.

'L'Oriental" detail. O. Hardy

Lunch was in the diner “L’Oriental” — which we think looks like a Chinese black lacquered box. We ordered a half bottle of Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino, 2004, an Italian red wine which went wonderfully with our set menu: monkfish, red pepper stuffed with basmati rice, a grilled fennel, dessert of mixed red berries—raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, drizzled with triple sec. With our coffee they gave us a little plate of macaroons, melt-in-your-mouth soft, and three little squares of chocolate.

VSOE delight. O. Hardy

Amazing how much we love those little touches—the chocolates had the swirling VSOE logo on them. We practically squealed with delight.

As my 94-year-old mother would say: “We could get used to this.”

Enjoy these pictures we have posted. You don’t have to be a Facebook member to enjoy them.

Next time: Part 2: A Very Unusual Guest on the Orient-Express

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