Vintage


3
Jan 13

Mother on the Orient Express

Mum cried when I told her, I knew she would.  Being invited for a day out on the Orient Express inspires that kind of reaction. We’re talking happy tears of course, she was without a doubt overjoyed at the prospect of spending some time on the world’s most luxurious and romantic train but there was more to it than that. Her father, my grandfather, worked on the railways and she spent many happy childhood moments riding Glasgow’s old steam trains on his knee. And as Mum is as emotional as a Victorian heroine at the best of times – she pretty much cries every Saturday night for the entire ten weeks of X-factor – those warm memories along with the new mother-and-daughter ones we were about to create inspired a torrent of tears.

It wasn’t long though before sentiment was replaced with excitement. Outfits were planned and arrangements were made. Our day out was to consist of a six-hour Christmas-themed journey through the English countryside on the Northern Belle, one of the Venice-Simpleton Orient Express trains that operate day trips and weekend breaks around the UK. We were setting off from Manchester but the route was to remain a mystery until we arrived.

Brass Band at Victoria Station. The perfect prelude to a trip on the Orient Express.

Frocked up and tissues at the ready, we alighted at Victoria Station to be greeted with the glorious sight of  the chocolate and cream-coloured carriages of the Northern Belle while a traditional brass band played Christmas favourites in the background. It was all so retro and lovely, I was worried Mum might burst in to tears again. Thankfully, before I had to reach for the Kleenex, we were given the nod by a dapper OE attendant and led to our carriage.

It was hard to notice the scenery with beautiful marquetry like this on the walls.

Inside white-gloved stewards glided past bearing bottles of champagne while smartly-dressed guests rattled their jewellery as they settled into deep armchairs. Everything about it echoed the golden Thirties from the walnut veneer walls with their magnificent marquetry to the gleaming brasswear and Lalique lamps. Mum was giddy but it was clear that everyone was excited; the guests were a friendly mix of young and old, lots of couples and a more than a handful of groups of friends and were all happily chatting and snapping pictures. We found ourselves sat at a table for four, sharing our space with two stylish sisters, who by the end of the day would turn out to be new Facebook friends and post-journey drinking buddies.

Our route through Cheshire and Shropshire.

The route of our magical mystery tour was soon revealed to be a trip around the Cheshire and Shropshire countryside. Hmmm. I had assumed that we would be touring somewhere scenic like the nearby Lake District or Peak District rather than the industrial estates of Stockport and transport depots of Crewe. A little bit disappointing but not a huge deal as a trip on the Orient Express really is more about the train than anything else.

Christmas lunch menu on the Orient Express Northern Belle

As we pulled out of the station all eyes were on the Christmas menu, a suitably festive five-course feast complete with wine and Christmas crackers. The crystal and silverwear softly clinked as course after course of delicious food was deftly presented by ever-smiling staff.

Smoked gravlax with salmon mousse to start.

 

 

 

 

 

All of the food was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. Our stewards for the day, Stuart and Amy, a grandfather and granddaughter team from Manchester, did a grand job of looking after everyone.

Our lovely stewardess Amy – doesn’t she look like Reese Witherspoon?

In between courses we were also treated to some rather lively on board entertainment. First up was Lido the magician who impressed guests with a series of “how did he do that?” card tricks.

Lido the Magician

Followed by a couple of marvellous musicians playing show tunes, swing songs and Christmas favourites with the panache.

White Christmas

Throughout the day the atmosphere was refined yet incredibly friendly. Passengers chatted amongst themselves for the most part but as the wine and champagne flowed people starting leaning across the aisles telling their stories to each to each other. And everybody had a story; one of the young ladies sat with us had recently lost her father and her sister had brought her along to cheer her up; another lady was celebrating her birthday; while a long-time passenger in the next cabin told me that he has commissioned his coffin to be made in the shape of the Northern Belle! Seriously, the guy’s casket features walnut marquetry and is lined with the same upholstery material of his favourite train. Even Stuart, our steward, had a secret tale; he was in fact the brother of comedian Russ Abbott – lots of “See you Jimmys” in the carriage after that revelation. It certainly wasn’t your average train time chat.

My favourite fellow guests though were George and Frances who were sat across the aisle from us. Aged 83 and 80 respectively, they informed us that they were in their sixtieth year of marriage – apparently the secret is that you have to be friends first – and inspired us all to tears (luckily I had a substantial stash of tissues on hand). This diamond duo had also travelled all over the world – China was Frances’ favourite – had climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge and sky-dived – YES, SKY-DIVED – from 12,000 feet over Bondai Beach just two years ago. Incredible.

Mommie Dearest with our superstar steward, Stuart.

By the time our gilded chariot pulled back into Manchester, everyone had become firm friends and when it came time to say our goodbyes there were lots of hugs and best wishes all round. Full of Christmas spirit and bon homie, we bade the beautiful Northern Belle a goodbye – a tearful one of course.

GO THERE

Visit www.orient-express.com for more information.

 

 


15
Nov 12

Vintage shopping in Paris

Paris plus vintage shopping – could there be a more perfect travel amalgamation? I think not. And it’s certainly a favourite combination for celebrities and famous fashion faces too. Parisians, of course, take their fashion very seriously, so this is an amazing city to just stroll and shop, but if you really want to know where to go for those amazing one-off fashion finds you’ll need your own personal shopper.

Tara Munro is a vintage shopping specialist and her company Ooh La La Vintage in Paris has worked with everyone from Hollywood costume departments to TV stylists and A-list celebrities. The world’s top fashion houses including Lacroix, Karl Lagerfield, Chanel, Nina Ricci and Marc Jacobs have also come knocking at her door, seeking inspiration from Tara’s amazing retro collections.

Ooh La La’s services aren’t restricted to the red carpet and catwalk though, it’s also perfect for women who are looking for that gorgeous one-of-kind item. And at £45 for a tailor-made tour it’s not as expenses as you might think either. So,eager to sharpen my sartorial skills, I settled in for a clothing master class.

Tea and macarons set the scene

It’s entirely up to you how you arrange to spend your two hours. I was staying at an apartment in Paris with the lovely folks from Housetrip so it made sense to start our session there. While Tara set-up, we sipped tea (then champagne) and tucked into some magical little macarons.

Victorian jacket

Tara’s collection extends right back to Victorian times so not only did we get to ooh and aah over some amazing  frocks and fabrics, we also got a bit of fashion history lesson too.

Loved this shimmery number from the Twenties

The Thirties: this two-piece looks like it came straight from the set of Boardwalk Empire

Tara tells us how material was scarce during the war years but that didn’t stop fashion  - a dedicated dress-maker made this little number from discarded snooker table fabric.

Just peachy 1950s evening dress –  I so wanted to try this on and pretend I was Grace Kelly

Eat your heart out Peggy Olson.

On to the sleeker side of the Seventies.

Ending with some 1980s excess

Presentation over, we were given the chance to try on any pieces that we fancied before taking our newly-found fashion knowledge on to the street. Naturally, Tara knew all the best spots in town to bag a vintage bargain, and I have to say, there is no way I would have found these little shopping gems without her.

Mamie Blue

Mamie Blue was my favourite and the place where I picked up a gorgeous little Mad Men-esque gold lamé top for just 20 Euros. Brimming over with a dizzying array of clothes, hats, shoes, jewellery and accessories, it’s like a big decades-old dressing up box where you could easily stay for a year and still find things to play with.

 

 

 

 

 

This was definitely one of the most enjoyable days out I have had in Paris; champagne, pastries and a little bit of a history lesson all neatly tied up with the possibility of picking up a little bit of treasure for yourself at the end of the day. A winning combination indeed and not one that’s just for celebrities either.

GO THERE

HouseTrip.com has over 3,500 private rentals to choose from in Paris. The average price for a two bedroom apartment is around £84 per night, however, they have a range of apartments, houses and houseboats available starting from just £19 per night. To book a stay visit www.housetrip.com/en/Paris

 

 

Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer