Travel

There’s a Murder Mystery Afoot on This Luxurious London Train

Come for the whodunit, stay for the five-course lunch on the Belmond British Pullman.

Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond

The year is 1951, and someone has been murdered. Their killer lingers on board the Belmond British Pullman luxury train-and they might get away with the crime, if you’re not able to track them down. No, this isn’t a real British whodunit; it’s A Moving Murder Mystery Lunch, a fanciful and opulent train ride that might just be the best way to get your murder mystery kicks without the risk of being offed in your sleep. Those with a penchant for Clue and Agatha Christie (or anyone with a love for theatrics and whimsy) will feel right at home on the glamorous and historical train. Everyone else? Well, there’s nothing to hate about the five-course, silver service lunch that accompanies the experience.

It all begins at Platform Two in London‘s famous Victoria Train Station. Enthusiastic passengers mill about dressed to the nines, chilled apple juice in hand, as live music plays. They’re eventually greeted by dedicated stewards who escort them onto the train.

Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond

Each of the train’s 11 carriages comes with its own name, ambiance, and history. For example, you might find yourself seated in Audrey (known to be the Queen Mother’s favorite carriage), whose ornate wooden wall paneling is inlaid with 35 different species of wood, buffed and lacquered to a high shine. Damaged in an air raid at London Victoria Station in 1940, Audrey was repaired to be good as new and today boasts stunning art deco lighting strips, luxurious armchairs and deep pile carpet fir for a queen. Or perhaps you’ll settle in Cygnus, a Wes Anderson-designed carriage that’s particularly in demand with passengers. The design manages to strike a balance between preserving the original interior while incorporating subtle, modern design interpretations. Anderson’s signature symmetrical lines, unique color pallets and art nouveau style are everywhere in Cygnus, and there are even two swanky private coupés (compartments) within the carriage. You will most likely pay top dollar to reserve one of these, but the Champagne will flow freely all day, and hey, life is short.

Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond

In this state of luxury and comfort, the murder mystery begins to unfold. Over the course of five hours, ten suspects-each with their own motive or agenda-spend their time traversing the carriages, chatting to passengers, and dropping clues about who may or may not be the murderer. Passengers are each given a clue sheet and encouraged to interview the suspects to crack the case. It’s engaging, sociable fun with many passengers joining forces within each carriage to crack the case. And it hardly feels like work, since all this brainstorming takes place in a plush armchair, glass of Champagne in hand.

The drinks won’t go to your head, since a five-course lunch is served over the course of the ride. The Belmond group is owned by iconic luxury brand LVMH holdings, whose brands include Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, so it comes as no surprise that the food (and Champagne) are top notch. Lunch is served to your table as the train rambles over the rolling hills of Kent and you sink deeper into your armchair. Expect top quality local ingredients, excellent wines and a classic British cheese plate to finish.

Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond
Photo courtesy of Belmond

As coffee is served and the train returns to Victoria Station, peak murder mystery status is achieved with the anticipation building as the characters invite passengers to name their number one suspect. Finally, the murderer is revealed and the festivities begin to wind down. It’s not an easy case to crack, but you’ll have fun even if you don’t nab the killer.

Unless you live in the area, you’ll want to complete your experience with an overnight stay at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel in leafy Knightbridge, just a 20-minute stroll from Victoria Station. A series of immaculately restored townhouses are now home to ultra luxurious rooms and a breakfast that’ll make you want to stay forever. Guests can enjoy a leisurely stroll in the private Cadogan Gardens, a perk usually reserved for residents of Cadogan Square, and the perfect way to celebrate a case closed and murder mystery solved.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Ciara McQuillan is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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