For pure luxury on wheels, look no further than the Belmond British Pullman

If you are seeking a luxurious experience with stunning views to match, this is the trip for you.
Updated 08 November 2017
0

For pure luxury on wheels, look no further than the Belmond British Pullman

LONDON: A luxury train with vintage carriages dating from the 1920s, fine dining, tip-top service and the opportunity to visit some of the UK’s most famous places — does all this appeal to you? If so, it is time to book your place on the Belmond British Pullman, sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Arab News had the good fortune to savor this truly luxurious experience on a full day outing to Chatsworth House, the imposing stately home of the duke and duchess of Devonshire passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family.
From the moment you arrive at Victoria Station, London, you will be swept up into the glamor of a bygone age. You are escorted onto the gleaming umber-and-cream-liveried train by impeccably-dressed stewards and it has to be said that stepping on board is an unforgettable experience. We had a coupe, a private four seat carriage which was beautiful in every detail.

Discover the array of prestigious - sometimes royal - anecdotes to each of the train's glamorous 1920's carriages #TheArtofBelmond

A post shared by Belmond British Pullman (@belmondbritishpullman) on

From the veneered panels decorated with exquisite Art Deco marquetry to the polished brass, beveled glass and hand-stitched fabrics, every aspect had been carefully considered. Our carriage was named IBIS, the oldest carriage on the train dating back to 1925. It has an illustrious history, including operating for several years on the Milan to Venice section of the Simplon-Orient Express.
In their heyday, the carriages formed part of the most famous and luxurious services in Britain — The Bournemouth Belle, The Brighton Belle, The Queen of Scots and The Golden Arrow.
Each carriage has its own unique name, decor and history. “Audrey” carried the queen and Prince Philip, the duke of Edinburgh, to review the national fleet in 1953. Their eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, enjoyed their first-ever trip on an electric train aboard “Vera” in 1954. “Perseus” formed part of Winston Churchill’s funeral train in 1965. “Phoenix” was the favorite carriage of Queen Elizabeth, the current queen’s late mother. “Cygnus” was featured in the film “Agatha,” starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman.
Members of royal families from the Gulf have enjoyed the Belmond British Pullman experience too.

In our small but perfectly formed kitchen, a host of delicacies are prepared by our dedicated team #TheArtofBelmond

A post shared by Belmond British Pullman (@belmondbritishpullman) on

So many famous names have traveled in these carriages that it is hard to know where to begin. They range from great figures, such as Nelson Mandela, to rock superstars the Rolling Stones. The carriages have featured in many films, including the upcoming Paddington Bear film, “Paddington 2,” due for release in November. Fans of Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” will also be interested to learn that David Suchet, the English actor who played the impeccably-mannered Belgian detective in the popular TV series, has enjoyed many journeys on the Belmond British Pullman.
Exclusive companies, such as Cartier, have entertained key clients to private showings of their latest collections aboard the Belmond British Pullman. Carriages can be hired for wedding receptions, private parties or business gatherings. There are special black tie evenings where guest have the opportunity to enjoy sumptuous dinners prepared by some of the UK’s top chefs.

Nearly time for our Wonderful @belmondbritishpullman to be on the big screen with @paddingtonbear #paddington2

A post shared by Belmond British Pullman (@belmondbritishpullman) on

It is the attentive and highly-trained stewards who make the whole experience of traveling on the Belmond British Pullman such a pleasure. Our head steward was Thomas Legg, representing the third generation of his family to work with the company. He introduced us to his uncle, Mitch Slater, also a steward on the train, and explained that his father also works for the company. All of the stewards were meticulous in their smart uniforms and combined a friendly, relaxed manner with total professionalism and discreet service.
We had a chance to speak Craig Moffat, director of operations for the Belmond British Pullman, who described the rich history of the service.
“All of our carriages come from the golden age of British rail travel from the roaring 1920s and 1930s. Our goal and passion is to bring back that glorious heyday of traveling when the journey was as important as the destination.
“One of the key things for us is to keep the authenticity of the individual carriages. The marquetry and fabrics you see in each of the eleven carriages is unique and exactly as it was when the cars were originally created. We are very fortunate to have a highly-skilled team of artisans to keep everything in tip-top condition.
“The authenticity of the experience is key. Everything from the environment to the silver service and culinary offering on board is very carefully crafted.
“The beautiful thing about the Belmond British Pullman is that you get to take time out from everyday life. Time to spend with friends and family, enjoy great food and watch the beautiful countryside roll by.”
Norbert Sprater, assistant train manager, said he especially enjoyed seeing the passengers who were fulfilling a dream to travel aboard the train.
“My most precious memories are of the people who have saved up to travel with us. We have birthdays, anniversaries, proposals and honeymoons,” he said.
I could go on at length about the cuisine but let us just say that the four course brunch, including scrambled eggs with chives topped with Scottish smoked salmon, was just a taste of what was to follow — the so called “main event” — a five-course dinner, including a fabulous celeriac and apple soup topped with truffle oil and roast breast of Gressingham duck done to perfection.
The journey up to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire took a leisurely four hours, winding through lovely countryside. Upon arriving at Chesterfield Station in Derbyshire, we were met by a coach only to be swiftly transported to the estate with its expansive grounds designed by the renowned 18th century landscape artist Capability Brown.
We were lucky to catch the stunning “House Style” exhibition celebrating five centuries of fashion and adornment at Chatsworth. Through the display, we got glimpses into the lives of famous personalities connected to the Cavendish family, such as Adele Astaire, sister of Fred Astaire, who married Lord Charles Cavendish, the second son of the 9th duke of Devonshire, Deborah Devonshire and Nancy Mitford, two of the famous Mitford sisters, model Stella Tennant, granddaughter of Andrew Cavendish, 11th duke of Devonshire, and Deborah Mitford, and John F. Kennedy’s sister, “Kick” Kennedy who married the marquess of Hartington, heir apparent to the 10th duke of Devonshire, and is buried at Chatsworth.
After a relaxed stroll around the grounds, taking time to admire the herd of deer, it was back on board the train and a chance again to savor traveling back to London in high style.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the Belmond experience can also be enjoyed on the Belmond Grand Hibernian which travels through Ireland, the Belmond Royal Scotsman which takes in the Scottish Highlands and the Belmond Northern Belle, which travels to cities such as Chester and Edinburgh.
Further afield there is, of course, the world-renowned Venice-Simplon Orient Express taking in destinations such as Venice, Prague, Berlin and Istanbul and the Eastern & Oriental Express, offering glorious journeys between Singapore and Bangkok in addition to more off-the-beaten track experiences around South East Asia.
Belmond also runs exclusive river cruises and safaris and operates luxury hotels and restaurants across the world.


On Thai island’s Phuket, hotel guests check out of plastic waste

Updated 17 August 2018
0

On Thai island’s Phuket, hotel guests check out of plastic waste

  • Hotel employees and local school children take part in regular beach clean-ups
  • Hotels are turning their attention to single-use plastics amid growing public awareness about damage to oceans

KUALA LUMPUR: For the millions of sun seekers who head to Thailand’s resort island of Phuket each year in search of stunning beaches and clear waters, cutting down on waste may not be a top priority.
But the island’s hotel association is hoping to change that with a series of initiatives aimed at reducing the use of plastic, tackling the garbage that washes up on its shores, and educating staff, local communities and tourists alike.
“Hotels unchecked are huge consumers and users of single-use plastics,” said Anthony Lark, president of the Phuket Hotels Association and managing director of the Trisara resort.
“Every resort in Southeast Asia has a plastic problem. Until we all make a change, it’s going to get worse and worse,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Established in 2016 and with about 70 members — including all Phuket’s five-star hotels — the association has put tackling environmental issues high on its to-do list.
Last year the group surveyed members’ plastics use and then began looking at ways to shrink their plastics footprint.
As part of this, three months ago the association’s hotels committed to phase out, or put plans in place to stop using plastic water bottles and plastic drinking straws by 2019.
About five years ago, Lark’s own resort with about 40 villas used to dump into landfill about 250,000 plastic water bottles annually. It has now switched to reusable glass bottles.
The hotel association also teamed up with the documentary makers of “A Plastic Ocean,” and now show an edited version with Thai subtitles for staff training.
Meanwhile hotel employees and local school children take part in regular beach clean-ups.
“The association is involved in good and inclusive community-based action, rather than just hotel general managers getting together for a drink,” Lark said.
Phuket, like Bali in Indonesia and Boracay in the Philippines, has become a top holiday destination in Southeast Asia — and faces similar challenges.
Of a similar size to Singapore and at the geographical heart of Southeast Asia, Phuket is easily accessible to tourists from China, India, Malaysia and Australia.
With its white sandy beaches and infamous nightlife, Phuket attracts about 10 million visitors each year, media reports say, helping make the Thai tourism industry one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster economy.
Popular with holiday makers and retirees, Phuket — like many other Southeast Asian resorts — must contend with traffic congestion, poor water management and patchy waste collection services.
Despite these persistent problems, hotels in the region need to follow Phuket’s lead and step up action to cut their dependence on plastics, said Susan Ruffo, a managing director at the US-based non-profit group Ocean Conservancy.
Worldwide, between 8 million and 15 million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, UN Environment says.
Five Asian countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — account for up to 60 percent of plastic waste leaking into the seas, an Ocean Conservancy study found.
“As both creators and ‘victims’ of waste, the hotel industry has a lot to gain by making efforts to control their own waste and helping their guests do the same,” Ruffo said.
“We are seeing more and more resorts and chains start to take action, but there is a lot more to be done, particularly in the area of ensuring that hotel waste is properly collected and recycled,” she added.
Data on how much plastic is used by hotels and the hospitality industry is hard to find. But packaging accounts for up to 40 percent of an establishment’s waste stream, according to a 2011 study by The Travel Foundation, a UK-based charity.
Water bottles, shampoo bottles, toothbrushes and even food delivered by room service all tend to use throw-away plastics.
In the past, the hospitality industry has looked at how to use less water and energy, said Von Hernandez, global coordinator at the “Break Free From Plastic” movement in Manila.
Now hotels are turning their attention to single-use plastics amid growing public awareness about damage to oceans.
“A lot of hotels are doing good work around plastics,” adopting measures to eliminate or shrink their footprint, said Hernandez.
But hotels in Southeast Asia often have to contend with poor waste management and crumbling infrastructure.
“I’ve seen resorts in Bali that pay staff to rake the beach every morning to get rid of plastic, but then they either dig a hole, and bury it or burn it on the beach,” said Ruffo. “Those are not effective solutions, and can lead to other issues.”
Hotels should look at providing reusable water containers and refill stations, giving guests metal or bamboo drinking straws and bamboo toothbrushes, and replacing single-use soap and shampoo containers with refillable dispensers, experts said.
“Over time, this could actually lower their operational costs — it could give them savings,” said Hernandez. “It could help change mindsets of people, so that when they go back to their usual lives, they have a little bit of education.”
Back in Phuket, the hotel association is exploring ways to cut plastic waste further, and will host its first regional forum on environmental awareness next month.
The hope is that what the group has learned over the last two years can be implemented at other Southeast Asian resorts and across the wider community.
“If the 20,000 staff in our hotels go home and educate mum and dad about recycling or reusing, it’s going to make a big difference,” said Lark.