What was, at the time of its inception at the fin de siècle, the most grand and efficient mode of transport, journeying by train has now become the standard bearer for luxurious slow travel. Sure, you can take a budget flight to Charles de Gaulle, Marco Polo or Istanbul Havalimanı in less time, but can you dine on Petrossian caviar in a plush bar car to the tinkling soundtrack of a jazz pianist while jammed in the middle seat? In 1977, Mr James B Sherwood, the founder of Belmond hotels, picked up a couple of train carriages at an auction in Monte Carlo and began to recreate the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express lines that had fallen into disuse. Over the years, he gathered dozens more carriages from former greats such as Le Train Bleu and the Rome Express and restored them. This year, the VSOE train is offering three new Grand Suites, each comprising an entire carriage with a private shower and bathroom – compare that with the 13 people who shared the Calais carriage with Hercule Poirot. It’s definitely an option if you don’t want to charter the entire train for a custom journey of your own.
Just three years after his thrilling train ride home from Istanbul, Poirot boarded a steamship for a cruise up the Nile, stopping along the way to visit the temples at Karnak and the Temple of Amun – both of which will be familiar to Bond fans as locations in The Spy Who Loved Me ‘ and the beloved Sofitel Legend Old Cataract in Aswan, where Ms Agatha Christie herself stayed and first began to muddle the facts and fiction of her famous story. These days, travellers in search of a more finely appointed vessel take one of three dahabiyas with signature red-and-white-striped sails offered by Nour El Nil. The company, started by Mexican expat Mr Enrique Cansino, his wife Eleonore and boat builder Memdouh, expressly intends to counteract the swiftness with which we travel today.
“Buy the ticket, take the ride,” Mr Hunter Thompson wrote in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, a novel that begins very much on the road “somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert”. No part of the US has worked harder in myth, movies and books. The old Route 66 meanders from Duarte in the chaparral of California to the red rocks of Arizona, past diners, drive-thrus and truck stops, to the dunes of New Mexico and the scrub of Texas, where national monuments and Native American reservations occupy a vastness of our imagination. If you’re a little wary of striking out on your own, luxury road-trip company All Roads North will design your journey and book the whole thing for you. It provides a bespoke itinerary complete with shopping and eating suggestions and a custom app to help you along the way. All you have to do is shift into drive.
Maybe your invitation to go yachting this summer got lost in the post. Maybe you’d prefer a little more privacy than the paparazzi afford your famous friends and a boat of your own is a bit too much, er, upkeep. The folks at Sailing Collective have you sorted. Book a boat (or eight) with your friends for a custom itinerary along the Dalmatian coast, around Corsica and Sardinia, the Greek islands, or points beyond to Thailand, Madagascar or Maine. The best part of this trip is that, once aboard, you and your companions are not beholden to any sort of schedule. If you wake up one morning and feel like doing little other than cannonballs and diving for sea urchins, then that’s what you’ll do. You’re the captain now.
If open water isn’t your thing and you’d like a more fine-dining sort of cruise, Belmond Afloat In France offers a floating feast through some of the best food and wineries in, well, France. Book one or all of the exquisite barges in the fleet, which accommodate from four to 12 people (each individually fitted, some have onboard pools, some have pianos), and you can chart your own course through the waterways of Burgundy, pop corks in Champagne and drift through Provence to the culinary capital of Lyon. Alternatively, you can design your own trip to your favourite sights, golf courses or what have you, grazing on Michelin-starred food and grand cru vintages along the way while the onboard chefs prepare dinner from ingredients sourced at the farmers’ markets you pass.