Orient-Express chugs again

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE), a recreation of the famous luxury train which travelled across seven countries and cultures, will leave Paris for Istanbul on Aug. 28, just as its predecessor did 115 years ago. The return trip from Istanbul to Venice departs Sept. 2.

“The 1883 excursion is legendary,” comments VSOE director David Williams.

“It was the first train trip across Europe to the mysterious Orient. Five carriages — the most advanced and luxurious of their time — took a hand-picked party of diplomats and socialites to Constantinople (as Istanbul was called back in those days) and back.”

Seventeen cars long, today’s train features liveried stewards, French chefs, Italian waiters, French silverware and crystal and oodles of elegance.

Recreating the “train of kings” was the dream of U.S. businessman and railenthusiast James B. Sherwood, who single-handedly saved the Orient-Express from oblivion when he purchased two of its sleeping cars at a Sotheby’s auction after it had stopped running in 1977. Over the following four years, he discovered and restored other vintage rail cars, creating an opulent successor to the legendary train. VSOE made its deb in 1982 and has been running on a variety of European routes.

This journey is the only trip for 1998 — and it certainly is not cheap.The per person double occupancy rate is $4,625(US) from Paris to Istanbul,and $3,800(US) return to Venice.