Usually on this page I write about something I’ve done. But things are a little different this time. I decided to combine two things that have grabbed my attention lately and send a guinea pig to try them. I would have done it myself but, alas, this particular article required the writer to get married. And I didn’t fancy that. It also involved them being photographed a lot – and those photos being printed here. I did fancy that, but didn’t deem it a compelling argument for making sacred vows.
So I sent freelancer Max Blain, who was getting married anyway, to try out the mini-moon concept, accompanied by professional holiday-snaps specialist Flytographer. And click here to read a piece in which another writer investigates the fast-growing mini-moons trend.
The phrase ‘mini-moon’ made me cringe uncontrollably. Until I realised our mini-moon would involve flying out for three nights in Venice before making our way home in fine style courtesy of the world-famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
For the uninitiated, a mini-moon is a short break taken straight after a wedding – with a longer ‘proper’ honeymoon taken at a later date. And it’s a great idea. You get to look forward to a relaxing break after the whirlwind of wedding planning and the day itself, but you also have the satisfaction of knowing a longer holiday is on the horizon. And, of course, for agents two holidays is always better than one.
Our first stop was the Ca’Sagredo hotel in Venice (review here), a pink palace on the banks of the Grand Canal where rooms are adorned by frescoes and you can sip bellinis on the terrace while waiting for someone famous to float by.
But how best to capture your stay? If your client is a camera Luddite like me, or prefers to explore rather than pose endlessly with the rest of the tourists, then consider Flytographer (they pay commission). They provide a local photographer, you agree a route and then you’re free to wander the city, while they capture natural pictures.
We met Marta in the old Jewish quarter of Venice and enjoyed an hour strolling leisurely through alleyways and over bridges, while she highlighted points of interest and gave us a potted history of the Cannaregio district. The pictures were brilliant and we even followed Marta’s recommendation of where to enjoy some local seafood.
Leaving Venice was less traumatic than I expected, thanks to knowing the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express was to be our lift home. Escorted to our carriage by our steward, we were soon ensconced in our cosy cabin, which featured polished wood beautifully inlaid with intricate artwork.
The 1,000-mile journey to London takes two days and one night, passing through some breathtaking scenery, stopping in Verona, Innsbruck and Paris along the way.
The trip started with champagne and delicate cakes. From then on, we were either admiring the sights outside the window or the world-class cuisine being served in one of the train’s three restaurant cars. They say you can’t overdress for the VSOE – you can certainly overeat.
Not long after we had polished off our cakes, it was time for a three-course lunch. This was followed by afternoon tea and a four-course dinner. I had planned to pace myself, but faced with such impressive cooking (lobster with truffles, anyone?), it was hard to resist.
Aside from the food, the astonishing level of service stood out. Whether it’s your personal steward, ready to help at the push of a buzzer, or the waiters in the restaurant cars, everyone is friendly and proud to work in such a grand setting.
Most people on board were celebrating a special occasion, and with everyone in their best finery, it made for a truly festive atmosphere. So it was back on with my wedding suit to sip a pre-dinner cocktail at the bar, while the Alps put on an impressive show outside.
We awoke in Paris and were soon in Calais, where we boarded a coach for the Channel Tunnel. The final treat was afternoon tea on board a British Pullman train on the way back to London.
Rejoining the flow of commuters on their way home was a shock, but at least we had memories of the ultimate mini-moon to ease the pain.
A two-day, one-night trip from Venice to London on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express starts at £2,050 a person based on a stay in a double cabin and including all table d’hote meals. belmond.com
From £150 for 30 minutes, including 15 digital photos.
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