For a long time Tom and I have had our eye on a spectacular journey through the English countryside, back in time… and what a perfect time to organise it… for Barrie/my dad on his 80th birthday. Barrie has always been crazy about steam trains, so when we found the Belmond British Pullman (Belmond, an American Company recently bought the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express Business) was available for a journey back in ‘The Golden Age of Steam Travel’, we began to ‘secretly’ arrange it all. Barrie and my sister Angie came down to London on thursday night and here we are above on the eve of our mystery celebration journey.
Novemember 7th The taxi took us through the London streets to Victoria Station where we walked through to the departure boards… ‘Are we going on a rail journey?’ Barrie asked. It was all quite exiting. To the left I saw platform 2 where we had to be, we walked along the platform and came across a red carpet, a 1920’s brass band playing and a grand entrance… to the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express.
We checked in and received our boarding tickets for our seating in the grand old carriage Gwen…. she had been in service in Britain on the Brighton Belle 1934 – 1972, the first all-electric Pullman car train in the world. It operated between London and Brighton. It’s lavish interior of plush carpets, velvet upholstery, marquetry panels, fronted glass lampshades and brass fittings was nothing but luxury at its very best and available to shuttle the wealthy and distinguished travellers around Britain and the new continent.
Life took on major change in the 1960’s and 1970 and the British Pullman trains/carriages were pulled out of service and either sold off or left for the scrapheap. But a man, James Sherwood had a dream… to revive the legendary Orient-Express. He located all the lost carriages and acquired 35 historic sleepers, pullmans and restaurant cars and using both new technology and the original marquetry business, together they restored the carriages and engines to their former fame and glory. 1981 saw the re-launch of the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express from London Victoria Station. The cars were all stars once again, palaces on wheels, for all to enjoy.
So here we were, walking up to the front of the British Pullman 35028 (in service from 1948 until 1967) and now once again in service to us for a wonderful journey back in time. We were greeted like royalty and seated in one of the closed compartments in Gwen’s luxurious carriage. A thick linen cloth decked the table and china, silverware and crystal glistened as the sun shone in through the window. Before we could take in and register this grand abundance of richness, the champagne was served and we tasted the delicious hors d oeuvres.
We left the station, smoke bellowing along side the carriage, we heard the nostalgic sound of ‘chuff chuff’ as we gained speed, the smell of the coal being fired up and the ‘woo woo’ signal as it approached each station… Our throats were filled with joy and tears came to all our eyes as we were taken back in a time of ‘no time’ with richness all around our magnificent and distinguished self’s. This was our celebration, we found ourselves in a time capsule, peaceful and truly out of this world…a once in a lifetime experience… quite beyond words to write down. Instead our hearts and souls expanded and took it all in as we enjoyed the wonderful five course lunch, plenty of champagne, wine, port and liquors, blue skies and sunshine (in England…), lighting up the beautiful lush countryside of SouthEast England.
Four hours later our journey had come to its end in London Victoria where we disembarked the British Pullman with big smiles and feelings of deep joy and gratitude. We said our thankyou’s and goodbye’s and made our way back home.
So Barrie was exceptionally happy today… 80 years old, still wonderfully healthy and active with optimism and a positive attitude which I knew takes everyone into a grand old age of thriving and continuous celebration with family and friends.
We travelled back by modern electric train to Derby and prepared for our next celebration. Angie was becoming 50 years young… which we again celebrated in style together with family and friends in Shardlow… thanks to Jon her boyfriend and friend Tracy for organising it all. Here’s a few pictures to enjoy… (please note the face masks of Angie that we all wore… just to confuse her) and what do you know… after the wonderful meal Jon got down on his knees in front of us all and asked Angie to marry him.
IAM so so happy… My little sister has found a magnificent person in Jon, a kind active and happy gentleman… Jon, welcome to the family, Tom and I love having you as our younger brother… and looking forward to many more family ‘once in a lifetime’ journeys in the world.
Thanks to all our family and friends who want to share an extraordinary life with us. Until the next time I put pen to paper… IAM so involved in day to day experiences and focusing on my first book and painting (intuitively from peoples names/passion/colour/birthplace)… my book will be ready soon and my first painting by name is here… Please have patience, I’ll be back more regularly soon…
Barbara Franken… Inspiriing New Energy Consciousness…