the orient express - travelling in style - MY FRENCH COUNTRY HOME

So how often is it that you receive an invitation to spend a day on the Orient Express?   Not so often in my experience, so when that envelope arrived a few weeks ago, I was beyond happy.  And while I don’t often include ‘sponsored content’ on this blog, here was something that was definitely worth breaking the rules for!

I had seen the new Kenneth Branagh film a few weeks earlier, and loved the whole mystique and romance of travelling on the luxury train.  My hopes for the day were high and I was not disappointed.

We set off to any early start from our Paris hotel and quickly drove through the dark streets to the Gare de l’Est where the train was parked at the end of a long red carpet.   We were welcomed on board and shown to our places which of course were not your usual grimy train seats, but plush deep seated armchairs that were not even attached to the train.   Coffee was served while we chatted together and learnt more about the programme for the day.  The aim was obviously to give us as much information as possible about the making of the film.

But first breakfast, because how can a girl be expected to give her best if she doesn’t get the day off to a good start, right?!    We were served tea, coffee, juice and fresh fruits and pastries, with monogrammed  napkins, hotel silver  and waiters in white jackets.  Perfection…. heading east out of Paris, we watched the landscapes change as we crossed the countryside on our way to Champagne.

Before arriving at our destination I had a chance to talk with James Prichard, the great grandson of Agatha Christie.   Agatha had taken the Orient Express several times, and because she always wrote from her own experiences, it was natural for her to use the beautiful train for one of her most loved stories.   I asked him about growing up with such a famous family member, and whether she told great tales around the dinner table.   Turns out that she had the habit, each evening of reading out loud all that she had written that day ….. and that her husband systematically fell asleep while she read!

As I walked back to my seat after the interview, I wondered whether Christie would have been so enthralled by the comfort on board the train, or whether she was used to the high life and took it all for granted.

Of course Murder on the Orient Express is all about solving a mysterious murder on board the train.   In the film Ratchett, an American business man, is found stabbed in his train compartment.  By chance Hercule Poirot is on board and at leisure to solve the crime.   In a surprise flourish he reveals that Ratchett is actually an infamous gangster called Cassetti, responsible for the kidnapping and murder of a three year old heiress, and of course inthe end he reveals the culprit(s)!

As she wrote the novel,   Christie was inspired by  the true and tragic tale of the aviator Charles Lindbergh’s son who was kidnapped and murdered.    This was a dreadful event that was in all the newspapers for months until the  murderer was found, and it most certainly made a deep impression on Christie.

By weaving this true event into a murder mystery on board a luxurious train, she created a story that has held readers enthralled since first published in 1934.

Back to our day.    After lunch at Reims, and a visit to the Veuve Clicquot champagne cellars, (yes, I know… it was a tough day) we climbed back on board and it was time for me to meet  Alexandra Byrne, oscar winner and the costume designer for the film.

This was fascinating.  I was expecting to talk with someone passionate about details, but still amazed to learn that in her quest for elegance and authenticity, she actually had fabric specifically woven for certain items of clothing, such as Hercule Poirot’s impeccable suit.      She explained the long and meticulous process of reading the story,  researching designs, and then adapting ideas to the screenplay.    I’ll watch the film again, just for the costume detail.

The fun continued with a lesson in cocktail making, more champagne and a delicious tea served in the restaurant carriage.

If you haven’t seen the film, or if like me, you think you’d like to see it again at home, then just click HERE to purchase on-line, or find it on DVD or Blue Ray.

And if you’d like to see more images of the day, then pop over to my instagram, and watch the Orient Express story in my highlights.   A day I’ll remember for a long time to come!


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