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Introducing Michael Portillo

We are excited to announce that Journalist and broadcaster, Michael Portillo, will be hosting a series of guest lectures on board the Golden Eagle in 2018, as part of a rail adventure through the heart of Iran, offered exclusively by Steppes Travel and Telegraph Tours.

Portillo has had an illustrious and extensive career in a variety of different professions. A History graduate, he carved out a path into politics which spanned over two decades, working in various posts for the Conservative government including MP for Kensington & Chelsea, Secretary of State for Employment and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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Image Credit: Regents College London

Michael chose to retire from the House of Commons in 2005 and with it took on a more substantial role within the Media. He makes regular appearances on the BBC’s This Week and is a long-serving panel member of BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze.

With heavy interest in History and Travel, Michael has unsurprisingly fronted many programmes relating to each of his passions, sometimes combining the two with programmes such as 1913 – the Year Before (BBC Radio 4), where he examined the state of Britain in the years preceding the first World War and challenged the idea that these years were sanguine and jovial.

Michael is perhaps best-known in more recent years as a presenter of various travel documentary series. This extensive portfolio of work began back in 2009, when he filmed his first railway series, Great British Railway Journeys, for BBC2.

The concept involves Michael travelling along various railway networks up and down the UK with a copy of George Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide (1913) as his trusty sidekick and reference point. The first episode aired in January 2010 and saw Portillo travel between Liverpool and Eccles, learning about local culture and searching for evidence which demonstrated how railways have positively impacted the UK.

The show proved to be a success and has since spun a further six series, the most recent of which aired earlier this year. It has also lead to spin-offs including Great American Railroad Journeys and Great Continental Railway Journeys, the latter of which focusses on the vast European railway network.

The decision for Michael to host Great Continental Railway Journeys would not have been a big surprise to those who have followed his life and career closely; born to a Scottish Mother and Spanish father, Michael was registered as a Spanish citizen aged four and speaks the language fluently; he still resides in Seville for a proportion of each year. He has previously described himself as ‘a real Eurocentric’ and has a huge fondness for exploring the European continent, particularly France, Italy and Spain.

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Roman Amphitheatre, Plovdiv

Continental Railway Journeys shares the same format as its British counterpart. Portillo visits points of interest and places with historical significance along a chosen European route. Many of the journeys he has taken during the ‘Continental’ series have included the same destinations as Golden Eagle’s Danube Express descends upon. In 2015, he took a trip of the Balkans, from Sofia to Istanbul via Plovdiv, a similar itinerary to Golden Eagle’s own Balkan Odyssey journey.

Some of the notable parts of his journey included the discovery of a Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv still in use today that was built in 2nd Century AD. He also travelled the old Orient-Express route, stopping off at a beautiful rose farm and also to witness Turkish oil wrestling. His journey culminated in a trip along the Bosphorus and learns about the history of the Turkish Delight.

Another journey Michael has embarked upon for the Continental series was Turin to Venice. Venice is one of the most popular destinations for our Danube Express guests and is affectionately known as one of the world’s most romantic cities. In an article Michael wrote for the Telegraph back in 2013, he described his journey to Venice as “… just spectacular; you come out of the station building and down those steps and you can’t believe that you’ve entered a world of water.”

Portillo is clearly a big travel enthusiast and trains are his desired method of transport. In the same Telegraph article from 2013, he discussed the advantages of train travel: “The advantage of trains over planes is that there is much less hassle. You can get up from your seat and stroll about; you’re more likely to meet people and, particularly if you’re making a long journey, you can actually see the terrain.”

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Imam Square, Isfahan

Michael’s career in travel shows no signs of slowing down; he has a book scheduled for release in 2017 to accompany his Great American Railway Journeys spin-off series, which aired earlier this year, and he will join the Golden Eagle in 2018 to host a series of guest lectures.

The 15-day journey commences in Tehran and will explore many of Iran’s remarkable sites and incredibly scenic landscapes. The tour is aimed at guests who display pioneering spirit and is an adventure by private train that will allow you to immerse yourself into the fascinating cultures of ancient Persia and modern day Iran that will enthrall and delight with the potential for a surprise or two along the way.

Michael Portillo will join the train from Yazd to Kashan and will join the group on excursions, during meals and for on board lectures, where he will share his experiences of train travel around the world. It is clear that Michael’s passion for train travel is boundless and will be infectious for his fellow passengers.

April is a perfect time to visit Iran; the weather is pleasant with temperatures reaching the mid-20s (degrees Celsius) during the day time.

To join Michael Portillo on this fascinating once-in-a-lifetime adventure, please visit Steppes Travel’s website.

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