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Beyond Coffee & Chocolate in Bogotá's Dining Scene
Beyond Coffee & Chocolate in Bogotá's Dining Scene
Luxury Train Travel: Ten Trips That Prove It's the Journey, Not the Destination
September 15, 2008 at 8:03AM by Adam H. Graham |  comments

There are certain travel experiences you don't forget, when food, culture and landscape all intersect perfectly. Traveling by train aboard the Orient Express Northern Belle (pictured, courtesy Oriental Express) in England was definitely one of them. As waiters wheeled the cheese board in, the emerald, sheep-speckled hills of England rolled by the window. Though the Brits are generally a reserved bunch, at the end of each meal, (lunches and dinners) the gigantic cheese board was ushered down the car's gilded aisles by two porters, creating a domino-effect cacophony of "Lovely!" "Smashing!" and "Fantastic!" as it passed each row of delighted travelers.

Northern BelleThe journey primed us for more travel by rail, so we've compiled a list of where we'd love to go next: our wish list of luxe rail journeys -- ten in all, each offering its own memorable symphony of land, food and culture.

1. El Transcantabrico, Northern Spain
Route: 7 nights; Santiago de Compostela to León along the Cantabrian coast
Berths: Double beds, private bathroom with hydro-sauna, individual a/c and heat controls.
Landscape and trip highlights: Hugs the Cantabrian Sea through Spain's Green Coast. Pass high jagged mountains and lush green meadows, pristine beaches and rugged coastal cliffs with stops in Santillana del Mar, Santander, and the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum.
Sample meal: Most meals served in local restaurants. Breakfast buffet includes fresh orange juice, local cheeses and meats, breads, and coffee.
Cost: $3,400 per person/double cabin, includes all meals, wine, hotels, and coach tours.

2. Orient Express Northern Belle, Grand Tour U.K.
Route: 6 nights; London to Edinburgh to Oban to Wales to London
Berths: None. Guests stay at luxury hotels.
Landscape and trip highlights: Steam past rolling hills, rain-swept harbors and steep, narrow mountain passes, with stops in the towns of York, Oban, Isle of Mull, Edinburgh, Chester, Portmerien, Wales and Bath.
Sample meal: Slow confit of duck with cider sauce, 
bubble and squeak, and braised red
 cabbage. And the aforementioned Great British cheese board: a massive selection of local cheeses, with "guest cheeses" from the local towns visited on the journey, follows all meals.
Cost: $6,400 per person includes all meals, wine, hotels, and coach tours.

3. Orient Express Hiram Bingham, Peru
Route: 3.5 hours; Cusco to Macchu Pichu
Berths: None.
Landscape and trip highlights: Descend from the Andean highlands into the Cloud Forests hugging the Inka Trail, while chugging past Sacred Valley agricultural plains, lush waterfalls, and the babbling waters of the Urubamba River.
Sample meal: Olive corn tamales with salsa, 
fine herbs omelet, crayfish, and alpaca loin roast with elderberry compote.
Cost: $588 includes ticket to Macchu Pichu, alcohol, meals, and coach transportation.

4. Rovos Rail, South Africa

Route: 5 nights form Cape Town to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Berths: Refurbished air-conditioned 2-person suites that Rovos claims are the largest in the world, decked out in wood paneling, Edwardian furniture, and twin or double beds. 24-hour room service and en suite bathrooms with vintage fittings, including Victorian bath and shower, are included.
Landscape and trip highlights: Encounter the world's largest man-made diamond excavation, the historic village of Matjiesfontein and the spectacular mountain ranges and scenic wine lands of the Cape.
Sample meal: Ostrich sausages, kudu kebabs, and a guinea fowl curry served with a locally grown Rudera Chenin Blanc.
Cost: $2650 per person in Pullman Suite. Includes onboard alcohol, excursions, meals and hotels.

5. Deccan Odyssey
Route: 7 nights; Mumbai to Goa to Pune to Mumbai
Berths: Air-conditioned salons, with 4-twin bedded chambers decked out with music channels, intercoms, CD/MP3 players, attached toilets and showers. Also on board: Ayurvedic spa, gym, steam bath, conference-room/dance club, beauty parlor and business center.
Landscape and trip highlights: Rumble through eastern India's majestic state of Maharashtra past beautiful Arabian Sea beaches, antique palaces, and jungle-cloaked Buddhist caves, including stops in Mumbai, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Goa, Pune, Aurangabad, Ajanta and Ellora.
Sample meal
: Dosa crepes, lamb biryani, creamy chicken Mughal style, and chilled Alphonso Mango soup.
Cost: $4,480 for double (2 to a berth) includes onboard alcohol, excursions, meals and hotels.

6. Napa Valley Wine Train
Route: 4 hours; From Napa To St. Helena
Berths: None.
Landscape and trip highlights: Dine and sip your way through Napa Valley in a vintage refurbished 1912 Pullman Car with stops in Yountville or the Grgich Hills. Train frequently hosts "Varietal Voyages" and "Appellation Dinners" which concentrate on specific regional ingredients, all paired with local wines.
Sample meal: Seared foie gras au poivre
 served on raisin toast with cognac creme, grilled Veal chop
 with mustard reduction, and Black Forest Cake with Chantilly cream.
Cost: Appellation Dinners cost $150 and include meal and wines.

7. Eastern Oriental Express

Route: 7 nights; Chaing Mai to Singapore
Berths: The cherry wood and elm-bur paneled Pullman Superior rooms (standard) feature ornate marquetry, air conditioning, en suite showers, wash basins, WCs and expansive picture windows.
Landscape and trip highlights: Toggle past rainforests, rice paddies and ornate temples aboard this classic rail journey. Itinerary includes stops in Lapang, Bangkok, The River Kwai, and Penang, with visits to elephant camps, UNESCO sites, Buddhist temples and teak teahouses.
Sample meal: Pan-fried sea scallops
 with lemon and vanilla dressing, beef medallions with deep-fried lotus chips, and Malaysian fried rice
 Nyonya curry.
Cost: $3,455 includes all on-board meals, hotel stays and transfers.

8. Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Route: 13 nights; Moscow to Vladivostok
Berths: Cabins have everything from power showers, en suite bathrooms, and sub-floor heating to DVD/CD players, LCD TVs, and individual air conditioning, and are among the largest rail cabins in the world. There are also two restaurant cars on board.
Landscape and trip highlights: Transport yourself from Europe to Asia on this 5,800 mile journey that passes through the Silk Road and the seldom-seen Gobi Desert, with whistle stops in Kazan, Irkutsk, Ulaanbaatar, Lake Baikal and Khabarovsk.
Sample meal: Beluga caviar, borscht, pelmeni dumplings, and Lake Baikal-caught omul fish.
Cost: $18,495

9. Royal Canadian Pacific
Route: 5 nights; Calgary to Banff to Kicking Horse Pass to Okotoks to Calgary
Berths: Restored early 20th-century carriages feature old-world luxuries, like Russian Circassian oak finishing, bird's eye maple inlay, scalloped lamp fixtures, brass radiators, Turkish drapery, and private en suite bathrooms.
Landscape and trip highlights: Rumble through the majestic rugged, snow-capped Rockies past pristine alpine rivers and lakes, fragrant pines and abundant wildlife in Yoho and Banff National Parks and the Alberta Prairies.
Sample meal: Filo millefeuille with Pacific salmon, sautéed shrimp  and scallops, 
drizzled with a Champagne and blackberry beurre blanc, truffled duck confit ravioli, ostrich consommé en croûte and maple mousse.
Cost: $6,177 per person.

10. Tangula Lhasa Express (Opening April 2009)

Route: 4 nights; Beijing to Lhasa
Berths: Contemporary oxygenated suites designed with soft leathers, rich woods and stonework. Each comes with fine linen, en suite bathrooms and showers with custom bath products, entertainment system, flatscreen TVs, iPod docks, wifi, and individual temperature controls.
Landscape and trip highlights: Glide across the frosty Tibetean Plateau, aka the "Roof of the World," past vast grasslands and deserts of the old Silk Road, ancient towns like Xining, the Ta'er Monastery, and sacred glacial lakes in the Northern half of China.
Sample meal: Timbale of lobster, avocado, potato and quail egg on wasabi foam, coriander-tomato soup topped with caviar, dry-aged prime beef over horseradish yams, and cinnamon dusted persimmon sherbet.
Cost: $4,840

Tags: trains
Adam H. Graham is a contributing writer for this blog; his work also frequently appears in Town & Country Travel, both in the magazine and online.


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