Throughout the history of rail travel, one name conjures up style, luxury, romance and adventure the Orient-Express. The historic train linked the grand cities of Europe with the mysterious and exotic East in the early 20th century. Blue and gold carriages with art deco interiors gave the ultimate in rail service and were a favourite of royalty and politicians, aristocrats and courtesans, spies and rulers.
The Northern Belle, the Orient-Express of the north, is a reflection of the affluent Belle trains of the 1930s with stylish day excursions and short breaks throughout Britain. Its carriages, food, service and scenery have been pleasing passengers since 2000. Each of the six dining carriage bears the name of a great British castle or stately home such as Chatsworth, Glamis and Belvoir. They have been furnished with specially commissioned designs, fabrics, brassware and marquetry and tables are set with crisp linen, gleaming silver and crystal. The popping of champagne corks sets the scene.
Our crew boarded the Northern Belle in Cheltenham and did a day trip to the Eden Project in County Cornwall. (The train does not have sleeping compartments. Short breaks combine train travel and one or two nights in a hotel).
The journey includes a delicious brunch with Bucks Fizz. At Par, Cornwall, a guide accompanies you on the short coach journey to the Eden Project. The Eden Project is a large-scale environmental complex in a recycled china clay pit. It has quickly become one of Britain's most popular attractions. Two sets of giant, interconnected transparent domes, emulate a natural biome with plant species from around the world. The first emulates a tropical environment, the other Mediterranean.
A guided tour takes you through the two biomes then you are free to explore the rest of the site at leisure. At the end of the day, you are transferred back to the Northern Belle and welcomed aboard with a glass of chilled champagne. Later a four-course dinner is served, accompanied by half a bottle of wine.
The Humid Tropics Biome is the world's largest greenhouse, covering 1.5 hectares and 55 metres high, 100 metres wide and 200 metres long. It has fruiting banana trees, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo happily growing.
The Warm Temperate Biome covers 0.654 hectares, is 35 metres high, 65 metres wide and 135 metres long. It houses warm temperate and arid plants such as olives and grapevines and various pieces of sculpture.
The Outdoor Biome represents the temperate regions of the world, with plants such as tea, lavender, hops and hemp.
Eden is all about humanity's relationship with and dependence upon plants. Much of our food, clothes, shelter and medicines come from the plant world. Without plants there would be no oxygen, no life on earth.
The Eden Project is a showcase for all the questions and many of the answers but is not a pretentious, overly-serious place, nor does it preach. It is about education and communication of the major environmental issues of the day, presented in an engaging, involving, even humorous way.
The Northern Belle
travels year-round to stately homes, castles, cities and sporting events. A return daytrip starts at around $445 per person, including a four-course lunch, wine and champagne.
Prices quoted correct at 19.07.2007.
161km west of London.
For further information
Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises
Ph: 1800 000 395 Australia
Ph: 00800 8392 3500 New Zealand
Ph: 1300 303 777
Ph: 1300 858 589