What is the Orient Express?
The Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE), inaugrated in 1883 by the Belgian entrepreneur Georges Nagelmackers, is a privately-run train of restored 1920s, 30s & 50s coaches, providing a classic luxury train experience between London, Paris, Innsbruck, Verona & Venice. The entire journey from London to Venice takes a total of 24 hours and costs £1,990 per person one way, including meals. The Orient Express has become synonmous with all that is luxurious, elegant and classy. And why will it not be, for the route it travels on has long since been regarded as one of the most romantic routes covering three of Europe's most beguiling cities, London, Paris and France. However, paying £ 3980 for a 24 hour journey isn't exactly my cup of tea, however luxurious the travel may be.
What is the alternative?
Granted travelling by an ordinary train doesn't exactly have the air of mystery and excitement as travelling by the Orient Express does, but it will still be one of the most intriguing train rides you've taken in your life. Jump aboard an afternoon Eurostar to Paris and a sleeper train will whisk you overnight to Florence, Rome, Verona or Venice, with a restaurant car for dinner and private sleepers with comfortable beds. London-Paris starts at £59 return standard class, or £149 return first class with wine and meal included. Paris to Venice, Florence or Rome starts at £28 each way in a shared couchette, or £110 each way in a two-bed sleeper with light breakfast included.
Can you even begin to imagine breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, tea in the Alps, dinner in Milan... and all without having to shell out big bucks. There are several options but the cheapest and most convenient which we opted for was to take the Eurostar from London to Paris from just £39, then the afternoon high-speed TGV train from Paris to Turin or Milan from just £25, arriving in the evening. Stay overnight at Turin or Milan and continue to Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome or Naples next day by an Italian high-speed train from just €29. Another option you could explore is to travel to Paris on an evening Eurostar, stay overnight and take a morning TGV from Paris to Milan next day. Every day, three 186 mph TGV trains run by SNCF French Railways link Paris with Turin & Milan, with connections to Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples. You could even cover London to Venice overnight, if you get into London early enough. However I suggest you take a stopover in Milan or Turin. They are definitely two of the most underrated cities in Europe which have a lot to offer in terms of things to see and do. Stay at the Atahotel Executive, just across the road from Milan Porta Garibaldi station.