Spotlight on The Blue Train, South Africa
The excitement begins the moment you arrive at the pre-departure lounge in Pretoria, joining other guests having their photos taken at the entrance in anticipation of the journey ahead.
While you wait in the lounge, a selection of drinks and snacks are served, everyone is chatting and laughing – even this early in the morning.Then the announcement is made, the train is ready to board. We meet the train staff and our butler before being led to the train. Walking through Pretoria Station, through the many commuters waiting for their trains to take them to work, you feel very special. Then, in front of you, there is the Blue Train in its gold and blue livery. You can experience the Blue Train as part of your honeymoons from Belfast or integrate as part of your holidays from Belfast and Dublin to South Africa.
Watch the world go by
Board this luxurious five-star train and open the door to your suite, small but perfectly formed. Made up for day use, there are two comfortable chairs to relax in by the window so you can watch the world go by. There is space to hang your clothes for the journey and you can choose to put your suitcase in the luggage car to maximise space. There’s a bathroom with shower or, if you’d prefer, request one of the limited number of suites with a bath.
We stayed in our suite while the train pulled out of Pretoria station before heading for the Observation Lounge at the rear of the train, where the party had already started – the friendly train staff were telling stories while pouring Champagne at 8.30 in the morning. The Observation Lounge has windows all round and you can sit and watch the scenery or relax with a book. The best seats are at the rear with its full length windows. Here you can watch the track disappear into the distance.
In the centre of the train, there is another lounge with a bar and high tea is served here in the afternoon. At the front of the train is the Club Car, the only area where smoking is possible. There is also a small shop selling souvenirs of your trip and tempting, beautiful jewellery.
Tea is served
We travelled through the suburbs of Pretoria, passing schools, residential areas and stations where children waved to us as we passed. We slid through the less populated desert scenes before being called to the first of our wonderful meals on board. We picked delicious dishes from the lunch menu and sipped accompanying wines, savouring the many flavours as the scenery passed by.
After lunch, many people relaxed in their suites which are equipped with a TV screen showing the view from the driver’s cabin and a map showing the current location of the train. Afternoon tea is served before stopping at Kimberly Station and disembarking the train to visit the Diamond Museum.
We visited Kimberly Hole and learnt about the history and discovery of diamonds in the area before visiting the museum, housing a huge collection of diamonds of every size, colour and shape. We returned to the art deco splendour of The Blue Train with a glass of sherry before pulling out of the station and relaxing.
Dressing for dinner
Dinner is a special occasion on board and everyone dresses up. We were served pre-dinner drinks in the lounge before an amazing meal in the understated, elegant dining room. We lingered after dinner before returning to our suite, which had been transformed into a comfortable bedroom. The gentle movement of the train didn’t disturb me during the night, but I woke early as I was excited to look out of the window and see where we were.
The scenery had changed again, becoming green and hilly with mountains in the distance. We passed small towns and farms, travelling through a very long tunnel and over a bridge. Travelling on tracks with switchbacks meant we could take photos of the front of the train.
After lunch we saw Table Mountain in the distance and all too soon we arrived into Cape Town. We had to say goodbye to our butler who had looked after us so well and start the next stage of our travels. The Blue Train will be something that I’ll never forget.
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