Belle of the north
All aboard for a train ride like no other. Derek and Bridgette James take a journey on the Northern Belle which is heading our way later in the year.
Most people waiting on platforms for trains to arrive haven’t got much to smile about. There are better ways of spending your time. But when this train rolls into the station you can see how pleased people are to see it – even though it is isn’t the one they are waiting for.
Alongside the smiling people with suitcases and rucksacks are others packing cameras with long lenses. Train spotters – men with a mission. We were on board the Orient-Express Northern Belle and never, in my wildest dreams, did I think that a journey from Norwich to Peterborough, and back again, could be so enjoyable.
The train had picked up its passengers in Ipswich, then travelled up to Norwich, before setting off on a memorable journey through Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. While we were rolling through the countryside we were being served a meal which was out of this world and being entertained by musicians and even a magician.
If you fancy climbing aboard then there are a number of special trips leaving later in the year. It is a wonderful way of marking a special occasion in your life and a great reason to get all dressed up and allowing yourself a few hours of pure pampering.
Our day started at Norwich station, where we gathered to be welcomed by Jude Sayer, who did an admirable job making sure everyone knew what was happening and was kept up to speed. The Northern Belle arrived from Ipswich and we were welcomed aboard by the train managers James Humphreys, Sandra Jones and their team of stewards who were waiting with a glass of chilled champagne.
It is thanks to them that this journey is so special. They go out of their way to put people at ease from the moment they step on to this beautiful train.
This is the sister to the famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. It brings back the golden age of travel and the “belle” trains of the 1930s. It really is like stepping back in time and it offers a unique way of exploring this country of ours.
So what did we have to eat? Just feast your eyes on this.
Beetroot cured salmon gravlax with smoked salmon and broccoli parfait with a mixed leaf salad.
Caramelized pumpkin soup with parmesan and parsley creme fraiche.
Prosciutto wrapped guinea fowl breast stuffed with chestnuts, braised red cabbage, creamed butterbeans and sprouts, cocotte potatoes and a cranberry jus.
A selection of cheeses from the British Isles.
Chocolate Orange marquise with confit of kimquats and Christmas biscotti or Christmas pudding with rum sauce.
The food was as good as it sounds and it was served with such style. By the end of the journey the stewards become your friends. There was also an extraordinary range of top quality wines, cocktails and other drinks to choose from.
These days out are not cheap but you wouldn’t expect them to be. You are paying for pure class, and everybody we spoke to had loved every minute of their journey. If you have something to celebrate this year, or just want a day to remember, then consider taking the train – the Northern Belle.
June 7 – Historic Bath or Bath at Leisure departing from Colchester and Ipswich.
June 8 – Historic Chester or Chester Zoo or Chester at Leisure departing from Ely, Norwich and Peterborough.
October 5 – Historic Bath or Bath at Leisure departing from Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich.
December 9 – Christmas lunch departing from Cambridge and Peterborough.
December 10 – Christmas lunch departing from Ipswich and Norwich.
Orient-Express’ luxurious Nothern Belle departs throughout the year from more than 60 regional stations across the UK, offering a host of journeys to some of Britain’s most famous historic cities, castle, country houses and sporting events.
Prices start from £195pp, for more information and reservations call Orient-Express on 0845 077 2222 or visit www.orient-express.com/uktrains