The world’s most well-known luxury train service, the famed Orient Express, is making a comeback in 2024, mixing old school glamour with modern conveniences aboard the original carriages. Here’s a taster of what passengers can expect.
The Orient Express conjures up images of another era: opulently dressed ladies, civilised table service meals and perhaps, for Agatha Christie fans, stories of murder, although even that was an extremely high-class one.
The first Orient Express voyage was a trip between Paris and Istanbul in 1883. It was the height of luxury travel, and a wonderful way to make a journey by anyone’s standards. But as a taste for fast and cheap travel grew, long train journeys like the Express fell out of fashion, with the service finally ending in 2007.
Fast forward a decade and the French hospitality group Accor announced they would be taking a 50% stake in the brand and planned to restore the service, previously known as the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express, to its former glory.
The first photos, unveiled in late October at the Orient Express Revelation exhibition in Paris, have revealed a décor that is a sublime blend of Art Deco and contemporary, with no detail overlooked.
A legend saved from the scrap heap
Modern art adorns the walls of cabins, which have been optimised to ensure maximum comfort, and there are call buttons for champagne on the bar car’s tables along with Lalique lamps and Morrison & Nelson marquetry. Many of these original features were found almost entirely intact when the train was saved from the scrap heap in 2015 by industrial history researcher Arthur Mettetal, who tracked the carriages down to a station on the Belarus-Poland border.
The old and new combination was no haphazard accident, as Sébastien Bazin, the chairman and CEO of Accor, explained to Condé Nast Traveller.
“The Orient Express is a legend that has lived on through stories, journeys and years,” said Bazin. “The nature of that legacy means that the rebirth of the brand must resonate with both its history and the present day to create something timeless.”
“The definition of luxury”
To take the project from idea to actual concept, French architect Maxime d’Angeac, known for his collaborations with several French fashion houses, was given the job of balancing the two worlds of old and new to make something truly unique.
“I had to respect two key elements in this formidable project,” he said, “extending the spirit of innovation that characterised the original train and reinventing the concept of comfort and luxury for the 21st century.”
To achieve this, d’Angeac is using some of the original elements of the first Orient Express, like the rail motif tapestry that was pioneered by Suzanne Lalique in the 1930s, which he incorporated throughout the train, as well as dark wood panelling and leather partitions. He has merged these with bright colours on the furniture to give a modern twist.
In the YouTube video above, which was put out to give excited future passengers a taste of what it will be like, d’Angeac explains his philosophy: “We are not here to be bling-bling or to be obvious. We are the definition of luxury.”
Passengers will have to wait until the restored Orient Express is fully completed and the route revealed in 2024 to travel on this legendary train.
Photo credits: Maxime d’Angeac