Tag Archives: Opera

Railway Journeys 2011: “Wish Book” for World’s Top 25 Trains

2 Feb

Society President Eleanor Hardy on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

The 60-page, all-color IRT Society’s Best-Loved Railway Journeys 2011™ is out the door, and I must say, we’re proud parents. (Download a PDF copy here.)

New for 2011:

We hope you’ll love the detail and photographs — 85% of them are from our staff and members.  We also hope you love the reporting, the detail, the facts. Enjoy!

Once you take a look, please let us know what you think. Is it useful, beautiful, inspiring?

Want to visit the best of Central Europe?

19 Jan
I loved seeing these young dancers at their portrait session

The little dancers pose at the Krakow Royal Palace

I arrived in Dresden in snowfall, having a remarkable conversation with a fellow traveler on the ICE. I came to scout Dresden for our Society of IRT tours. She, in silk scarf and dramatic cape, came to bury her husband, an opera star at Dresden’s Semperoper. You’ll never forget Dresden, she confided.  The train rounded the bend, the city shined before us.

And that is why I am delighted the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has decided to do a tour which includes overnights in Dresden, as well as Krakow. The train has organized in these two cities five-star hotels, transfers and some fantastic, guided outings and events for the lucky few guests. But the train has wisely left plenty of free time for guests to explore on their own. I think the mix is just about perfect.

In Dresden, the Frauenkirche, is a powerful symbol of reconciliation. When I saw it, the rubble, caused by Allied bombing in 1945, lay in huge, numbered piles.  The rebuilding began in 1994; it was reconsecrated in 2005, with the help of donations from around the world. Now it is busy with services, tours and concerts.

Dresden’s river front is  gorgeous…Just walking around, visiting the art galleries, the palace, cafes, the opera, is a ball.  The Dresden Semperoper has tours during many days to visit the amazing building itself.

You also won’t forget Krakow.

Krakow, whose entire historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another great wandering place.  The memorable Cathedral,  Wawel Royal Castle on the hill, the wall around the city. A Polish military band, 50 at least, decked out in fabulous red and blue costumes, first grimaced for their portrait, then filled the square with their music.  A battalion of young dancers decked out in their costumes posing for photographs in the courtyard of the castle charmed all who were lucky enough to see them.

All of these experiences just happened on their own. Dresden, Germany and Krakow, Poland, are just two of the cities in the region that are so worthy to visit. You can get to both of them from major city centers by regular train. But in the one itinerary with the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express this summer, they are linked by luxury train and plenty of time on your own in between.

Do  you have favorite memories visiting either of these two wonderful places?

Opera & Ballet Deluxe Rail Tours in Russia/Ukraine; Mongolia

17 Dec

We were thrilled to welcome Iain Dacre and Georgina Sprunt of GW Travel in Manchester, England, to the Society of IRT  this week. GW operates deluxe railway journeys in Russia, China and India on four of our World’s Top 25 Trains: Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian, Shangri-La Express, Deccan Odyssey and Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. We hosted them at one of our great locally owned restaurants, and learned what’s new for next year and 2012:

Holding IRT's recently presented Magellan Awards are, from left: Angela Walker, VP-Operations, IRT; Owen Hardy, CEO/Publisher, IRT; Eleanor Hardy, President, IRT; Georgina Sprunt, Sales Manager, N. America, GW; Iain Dacre, Managing Director, GW.

Opera & Ballet Deluxe Train Tour: Since Owen and I are big-time opera fans, this “Dr. Zhivago-style” winter-wonderland tour through Russia and the Ukraine really appeals. So many times, we travel to places when the opera is not in season, a huge disappointment. Instead, book now for a deluxe hotel-on-wheels adventure combining opera and ballet tickets (including entrance to the Bolshoi and Mariinksy Theatres) with all meals, all gratuities, all transfers, all hotels needed. Imagine trying to do this on your own; with this program, all you do is show up and enjoy!

Pricing: It had to happen. Prices for most GW tours will going up by as much as 15%, with the first increases coming in the next few months. So book now to guarantee your price for 2011 and 2012.  Does your “bucket list” include the Trans-Siberian Express, the Trans-Mongolian (see below), the Silk Road, Tibet, China or India? If so, you’d be wise to call us now. (800-478-4881 in the U.S.; 502-454-0277 elsewhere). Or email: tourdesk@irtsociety.com.  About pricing: remember all GW trips include all arrival/departure transfers, all gratuities, all meals, all drinks with lunch and dinner. This makes their trips a true vacation: you don’t have to worry about a thing.

Trans-Mongolian: If you enjoyed the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Vladivostok, consider the new Trans-Mongolian itinerary: Beijing-Ulaan Baatar-Moscow. This one’s going on our bucket list. (Well, OK, in addition to the opera/ballet tour.)

So let us know what you think about these itineraries. Is opera  your thing? What about the Trans-Mongolian?

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