My wife Julie had very kindly bought me a day trip on the Pullman Express as part of my 60th birthday events and so this morning we travelled to Victoria Station and made our way to Platform 2 where the Pullman reception lounge is located. The sound of a live jazz band greeted us and I was delighted to say hello to trumpeter John Shepherd and his trio, who were regaling the gathering passengers with appropriate tunes from the 1920s and 30s.
We had been allocated seats 9 and 10 in the Phoenix carriage which, it transpired, was a favourite of the Queen Mother and had been used by General de Gaulle. The Express consists of eleven carriages, each of which has its own notable history. We settled in our comfortable seats and took in our luxurious surroundings.
At 12.15 we set off and our principal steward Paul introduced himself whilst pouring the first glasses of champagne. Our itinerary was a simple one. The train would travel slowly through south west London and the Surrey hills before returning to Victoria in the late afternoon.
Our sumptuous six course dinner began (petit fours, soup, a choice of trout or chicken, cheeseboard, flan, all rounded off with coffee and chocolates. With every course accompanied by a superb white wine and served by a highly-attentive team of continental stewards.
Such a journey had long been an ambition of mine and although the views from the window were not France, Switzerland or Italy, it was certainly the most enjoyable train journey we had ever experienced.
After an eighty-four mile round trip, we arrived in Victoria just before 4pm and strolled along the platform to take in the steam engine, which carried a few marquee elements of the legendary Golden Arrow service.
A train to Beckenham Junction was about to leave on the neighbouring platform and before long we were back in the High Street, sampling further drinks in Bocca Social.
A wonderful experience.