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The (very stylish) art of travel

Starting this month, London's National Gallery has joined forces with the luxury Orient Express travel company to produce a programme – 'The Art of Travel' – that combines luxury travel and fine art.

April 7, 2011
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Starting in London with a private viewing at the National Gallery, Venice, Paris and Bath are the destinations for these unique journeys in classic trains, each in the company of an expert guide.

With a choice of discovering Canaletto's Venice in the beautiful Italian city of canals, Impressions of Paris in the elegant French capital, and Thomas Gainsborough or Collectors and collections in the genteel city of Bath, the options sound very attractive. They get even more appealing, though, when you read the details, which include five-star accommodation at the Goring Hotel in the heart of London, and travel by one of the exclusive Orient Express luxury trains.

The legendary Venice Simplon Orient-Express dates from the Twenties and is itself a work of art and an Art Deco icon. And this is the train that will carry the privileged few – there's a maximum of 20 passengers – to Venice to discover the city known as la Serenissima through the eyes of the great artist Canaletto. Departing on October 8th, the seven-day tour includes hotels, flight back to London and guided tours, and prices start at 5,700€.

The tour starts in London with an introductory talk and guided visit to the Canaletto works at the National Gallery. After a night in London and the leisurely train journey across Europe to Venice, accommodation will be at the famous Hotel Cipriani, approached by boat along canals, past gothic palaces and across the lagoon. While in the romantic city, an expert guide will accompany the group, allowing them to see first hand the spots that inspired the master and visit the buildings where his works are on display.

Impressions of Paris is an exciting five-day tour of the French capital and surrounding countryside. The journey of discovery starts once more in London with a guided visit of the paintings of Monet and his contemporaries on display at the National Gallery. After a night at the exclusive Goring Hotel, travellers will board the Venice Simplon Orient-Express en route to Paris.

In the company of an expert in French Impressionism, you will learn about Monet's life and discover the complications and controversy associated with the birth of the new artistic movement. The tour includes a visit to the artist's house and gardens at Giverny, so familiar from his paintings, as well as to the cemetery where Monet is buried, the Marmottan Monet Museum and the Musee de l'Orangerie des Tuileries, where the mythical water lily paintings are on display. Tours are available on limited dates from April through to October, with prices starting from 3,630 €.

Closer to home, there are two shorter, but equally stylish journeys available for art – and train – lovers. This time the train in question is the vintage British Pullman which offers a taste of the golden age of rail travel in the beautiful setting of the British countryside. In May, the Holbourne Museum in Bath reopens its doors and once more the National Gallery and Orient-Express have joined forces to organise two very stylish cultural packages. Both trips include a guided visit to the National Gallery and two nights at the Goring Hotel in London; the journey across to Bath will be made with a steam engine and include a brunch on the outward journey and dinner on the return.

Once again, there will be an expert guide on hand for each of the visits. The first, starting on June 28th with prices from 1,290 €, focuses on Collectors and Collecting, the second, starting October 11th, and priced from1,100 €, focuses on landscape paintings of notable British and European artists, including Gainsborough, Rubens, Turner and Constable.

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