A Journey Through Time
Pascal Deyrolle, General Manager Belmond, Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express
Italy, France & Switzerland

The moment you step aboard, you are transported to a different time. To a place where the outside world disappears and you are fully immersed into an enchanting 36 hour journey.

We travel the world and aim to get from one place to another as quickly and hassle free as possible. Belmond and the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express, forces you to do the exact opposite and cherish the journey, slow down and live in a moment, appreciate the landscape and join in the revelry.

This unique and historic train journey travels a few routes with the most common being to/from Paris & Venice via the Swiss Alps. It starts with a live band greeting you on the platform, a cabin steward who introduces you to your car and the train. He takes care of your every need and ushers you through the journey. It forces you to dress up, to dance and dine in style with live performances and exquisite food. The bar stays open until the last guest goes to bed and you wake up to breakfast with breathtaking views.

We had the opportunity not only to experience this train but to sit down and chat with Pascal Deyrolle; The General Manager. He has been working for Belmond for 31 years and is an icon in the world of luxury trains who inspired us with his impeccable hospitality and eye for detail.

Q: Tell me a bit about your background and how you started with Belmond and Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express?

A: My goal was to live and work around the world, experiencing cultures without constraints of being a tourist and that meant immersing myself in destinations and travel. I have lived in 10 countries. While I grew up in France, born in Paris raised in Normandy, I always loved travel.

I started with VSOE in 1992, right after graduation from my studies in California I applied and was selected as a cabin Steward at 23 years old, especially as I spoke French, English and Italian. At that time Belmond had only 10 properties (8 hotels & 2 trains). I have been with the company for 31 years and worked in hotels, trains, boats on all almost every continent.

The legendary Bar Car with Baby Grand Piano.

Q: Tell me a unique story from your time onboard VSOE?

A: A great memory, a very special one and no one has done this since. Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones was on board and he travelled like any other guest. One specificity of the train is that we never close the bar car as long as the last guest is not in bed.

On this night, he waited for all to go to bed and then at 2am he called for all the staff that were still awake and got everybody into the bar car where we have the baby grand piano. He did a couple of songs on the piano just for the staff and we all sung and danced!

The train is truly a time capsule. You’re in a special environment for 36 hours and the rules of the outside do not apply when you're inside.

Q: What is one journey you will cherish and what happened to make it so special?

A: When I was a child being brought up by my mother, to make sure we were registering good manners, her sentence was always, “you have to do that because you never know, one day you might have lunch with The Queen.” Well..I would never believe it myself but this actually came true!

Yes, back in 2000 The Queen was travelling through Australia for the commonwealth heads of state meeting and I was looking after the train she was travelling on. One day I received an honourable invitation to have lunch beside Her Majesty, The Queen of England. It is one of the most memorable moments of my life!

Pascal when he started 31 years ago as a Cabin Steward.

Q: What is your favourite route?

A: My Favourite trip is when you leave Venice to go to Paris, purely because for me the most spectacular highlight of the journey is really your dinner time. Starting in Venice means you start mid-morning and can explore the train before having lunch as you go up the Dolomites all the way to the Brenner Pass which has the most breathtaking views. Then Afternoon Tea, before you go down into Innsbruck. Champagne and Caviar in South Tyrol and you watch the sun set behind the Alps as you get ready for your dining experience. The next day you wake up to the French country side and will arrive into Paris just after brunch.

The way the journey progresses, this route is my favourite. I also love going from Paris to Venice but the way back up north is really special for me.

Q: What’s makes the VSOE so unique and what’s new on the VSOE?

A: The physical product is incredible but a big part of it is that once you are on board, you are in a time capsule where socializing becomes important, disconnecting from devices becomes important – your window is your tv screen.

Through a renovation we have added new suites and new grand suites. The first and most important thing for us was to stick true to our DNA which is Art Deco. Whatever we do has to remain true to that and what we are most proud of is that when you walk into a new suite or grand suite, they feel like they have always been there. Of course they have modern commodities, full ensuite with showers and full beds but the design, the feel, and colour scheme feels as though it has always been there. It is important to link up the history of these carriages.

Our oldest carriage is from 1926, carriage 3309, which was renovated and now houses 3 grand suites, It is one of the car’s that got stuck in the snow drift in February 1929, just 80 kilometres outside Istanbul, that gave Agatha Christie the idea for her famous novel and subsequent movie “Murder on the Orient Express”. So travelling in a grand suite in car 3309 is travelling in history.

Q: Do you have any advice for future passengers?

Take as many pictures and enjoy the moment. Time flies on board (sometimes people worry about what they will do for 36 hours on board) however between the discovery of the train, the on-board entertainment, the culinary experience, your own experience and spending time with those you love, time flies.

Negronis and Martinis in the Bar Car. Follow the sound of the Baby Grand Piano and prepare for the 'Midnight Brunch'!
Pascal Deyrolle in the Dining Car, General Manager VSOE.
Negronis and Martinis in the Bar Car. Follow the sound of the Baby Grand Piano and prepare for the 'Midnight Brunch'!
Pascal Deyrolle in the Dining Car, General Manager VSOE.