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Jane Anderson and family board the Belmond British Pullman, star of Paddington 2, for a bear-themed afternoon tea
If your kids love Paddington, both the films and the Michael Bond books, and you have a special occasion coming up like a birthday, treat your little bears to a memorable afternoon on the Belmond British Pullman, the vintage steam-hauled train that stars in Paddington 2.
You’ll be met by Paddington himself at London Victoria Station (not his beloved London Paddington!), before boarding the historic Belmond British Pullman with its distinctive umber and cream livery on carriages that date back to the 1920s and 30s.
Before boarding, it’s worth heading up to the top of the platform to see the mighty Tornado steam locomotive that pulls the carriages – quite an eye opener for kids used to modern technology.
We were lucky enough to board Vera carriage which began life as a first class kitchen carriage for the Brighton Belle, and were taken by our natty looking steward to a private four-seater compartment with its own glass doors, comfy velvet armchairs, and a table laden with silver cutlery and pale blue fine bone china. Apparently this was the carriage Nelson Mandela chose when onboard, due the distinctive springbok art deco marquetry on the walls.
As steam engulfed the train and Paddington waved us goodbye, we pulled out of the station and across the Thames, for an 84-mile circular route round the Surrey Hills. Just as we’d settled in with a glass of champagne/lemonade, we were ushered politely into the communal carriage where a tweed-suited and felt-hatted ‘George the Master Story Teller’ told us the tale of how Paddington ended up having a bath at the Browns, all the way from darkest Peru. Various young passengers were involved in the gentle story donning wigs and hats.
As we whistled through stations such as Reigate, Dorking West and Worplesdon, and people eagerly waved at us from platforms, we were all reminded how pretty the English countryside is – so close to London – with fields of horses and even some low flying pheasants.
As if by magic we were suddenly being asked questions by a cockney sounding man in a black turban and suit leaning into our compartment – magician Peter Mehtab. ‘Where is the ball young man?’, he demanded of my son Fin as if it was the most normal question in the world. ‘It’s on top of the cup.’ said Fin. ‘No, it’s on the bottom of the cup!’ – which of course was upturned! He went on to do the most incredible tricks with three cups, a ball, a lime and a lemon which left us all asking ‘How on earth did he do that?’.
As the train chugged on, Paddington-themed afternoon tea commenced with marmalade sandwiches – a more refined artisan version of the one under our hero’s hat. A tasty revelation that’s now part of my daughter’s packed lunch repertoire. Other great fillings included Gruber’s cheese and marmite and Aunt Lucy’s cucumber and cream cheese.
After an indulgent cream course, came the finale of a brownie in the shape of Paddington’s suitcase, a vanilla cupcake with duffel coat toggles, Peruvian chocolate tart with Paddington’s face and a Battenberg luggage tag!
The entertainment continued with a blast of 1940s style songs from the glamorous Spitfire Sisters trio in their green velvet dresses. And before we knew it we were pulling into Victoria Station, back to real life!
The Paddington-themed afternoon tea aboard the Belmond British Pullman departs on 16 February and 7 April 2018. Prices start from £800 for a family of four, based on two adults and two children.