Our strict instruction was to dress for dinner which was fair and appropriate after all it was South Africa’s lauded Blue Train. How to look elegant with crushed clothes after 10 days on the road was a big problem but almost anything can be solved on this popular and traditional form of transport.
Featuring a big smile Michael, my personalised Butler assigned to our four suite carriage to the rescue “Let me iron these items for you Sir” he said and with that the problem was solved. Just like home really!!
After boarding the Blue Train at Cape Town station, we had a briefing by the train manager, Herbert and an introduction to the train staff whilst serving tea, coffee and champagne. Herbert outlined the safety aspects and highlights of our 27 odd hour 1600 Km journey from Cape Town to the country’s capital, Pretoria.
For travellers with a tight schedule the Blue Trains overnight journey through the semi – arid Karoo desert is a time saver; there is not much more to see but the stars. However in light hours the train snakes through the most diverse and exhilarating scenery in the sub-continent.
There are two train sets owned and operated by the South African Government. We travelled on a 19 coach set (the biggest of the two measuring 399 metres) with a maximum of 80 passengers (we had 60). The train has a conference/observation car at the rear, A Club Car Lounge with smoking facilities, a Lounge Car in which to enjoy a traditional high tea and a myriad of beverages, a 42 seater grand dining car with an excellent choice of fare for breakfast lunch and dinner. The coveted wine list has won many accolades including the Annual Diners Club award of approval. There are two meal sittings to accommodate all passengers and early or late is your call. There are Luxury and Deluxe Suites the Luxury having an extra metre of room and can include a bath.
Seated at our table for four in my newly pressed shirt and jacket, sipping on a Windhoek Lager from Namibia, enjoying animated conversation and watching the sun go down whilst appraising the dinner menu, it was easy to ponder and conclude; train travel doesn’t get much better than this!
I opted for the Oriental Seafood Parcel served on warm fennel and bean sprout salad, curried prawn and grilled langoustine to start, followed by red lentil, chickpeas and chilli soup. For the main event, the pepper crusted venison with a pistachio lamb cutlet in a barley casing was delicious. Other offerings included prosciutto wrapped monk fish and seared duck breast with asparagus and red cabbage marmalade, all served with seasonal vegies. Then the grand finale; sweets and cheese. Following dinner it was time for a night cap, retire to sleep it off or join the ample number of passengers up for a few after dinner drinks and a sing along in the Club Car.
Promoted as “A window to the soul of Africa” this journey is inspirational, elegant, fashionable, and fun but most of all memorable.
The Blue Train has a value added promotion for guests in 2016-17 offering one night complimentary B & B accommodation in a five star hotel either pre or post journey in Pretoria or Cape Town including transfers.
Prices range from AUD$1330 in low season.
Contact your travel agent for bookings
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Written by John Savage