like Venice minus the stench
09.01.2009 - 11.01.2009 21 °C
It felt like an endless drive. We were all grateful that this was the end of our bus rides – at least until we get to Kerala.
Our driver and “co-pilot” were wonderful – but the vehicle itself is a piece of trash – broke down at least once on every trip … the seats were really uncomfortable (if you weren’t careful you ended up sliding right down and landing on your tush on the floor) … and forget shock absorbers. Every time we hit a bump – which happened at least every two or three feet we’d bounce around like popcorn in a popping machine.
We were all looking forward to getting to the hotel. We had a free afternoon and some R & R would be a nice change from the frenetic pace of the trip so far.
At long last we found ourselves near the water (our hotel, the Taj Lake Palace) floats in the middle of Lake Pichola and you have to get there by private boat. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it! It is a vision!
First you arrive at a dock – but what a dock!! It’s a huge, covered landing with comfortable furniture so you can relax for the two seconds it takes for the boat to arrive. Beautifully dressed staff, from the hotel, meet you and make sure you have everything you need – this is really your first welcome to what is an unforgettable experience.
Once on the boat the trip only takes about five or ten minutes. The closer you get to the hotel the more glorious it becomes. Pure white marble, the contrast of the fuchsia bougainvillea and brightly coloured umbrellas from the rooftop dining room – especially in the bright sunlight – is absolutely staggering.
But even this doesn’t prepare you for the lobby and the open passageways to the rooms and other facilities that surround the pond where the James Bond movie, Octopussy, was filmed.
I couldn’t wait to explore this place – until I saw my room – with its red, claw-footed tub which sat right beside a huge window that faced the lake.
So I dumped my bags and had a soak first – then wandered around:
I visited the pool with its two jacuzzi’s (open 24 hours a day) … the gym … the spa … and of course one of the shops in the bazaar.
There the very charming Farouk sold me some magnificent pashminas and I also ordered two tops – those Nehru-collared, button-down, side-slit long tunics the men wear – one in pale pink silk and the other in white linen (to wear with the jodpurs I had made in Jodhpur). Both would be ready the next day.
Tried to blog but I was having some technical difficulties so I just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery until it was time for our tour of the hotel. I was shocked to find that the hotel is over 200 years old – 262 I think. You would never know, it is so well taken care of. We visited a spectacularly romantic rooftop restaurant that is available for private dining – and we also found out that the hotel is only available for guests of the hotel – if you’re staying elsewhere and want to come for a visit you cannot.
After the tour we enjoyed a cocktail or two while we watched the local talent and then we had dinner in the café – one of the three restaurants on the property. I had my first non-Indian meal of the trip – rack of lamb – the best I have ever had – so tender a knife was not required. I kid you not!! And the service? Impeccable!!!
Honestly I do not know how I will cope with the shoddy and rude service we often have to endure in Toronto – and other North American cities. You just cannot believe how they take care of you here, in India. And it is the same whether you are shopping at a primitive, tiny stall in the market or at the grandest hotel … whether it is the proprietor or the most junior of employees.
And their desire to take care of you … to pamper you … to please you, is completely genuine and heartfelt. The warm smiles you receive when you thank them (and they know they have succeeded in making you feel welcome and happy) could simply melt ice. I know I keep talking about the people here, but you just have tofall in love with them.
The wonderful meal made us all mellow and we were all having trouble keeping our eyes open – so off we went to our respective rooms. I slept like a baby – how could I not, though, in this magnificent former palace, in this fabulous bed with pillows that felt like your head and neck were cushioned by clouds.
Up bright and early and ready for our tour of the City Palace at 9.
This Maharana’s palace (the largest in Rajasthan) stands proudly on a ridge overlooking the lake. Sand-coloured, it’s five stories high, built with a series of balconies. Cupolas crown the octagonal towers which are connected by a maze of narrow passageways – and the steepest stairs you’ve ever seen (thank you Lesley for preparing me so well). Inside you’ll find beautiful paintings, amazingly intricate enamel and inlay glasswork and antique furniture. Definitely worth the schlep up and down those stairs.
Then we went for a little tour of the city and stopped to do a little shopping. When we got back to the hotel I unpacked and re-packed for the umpteenth time. Where is a good butler when you need one? The packing becomes more and more of a pain because of the shopping. Oh well …
Although Udaipur (which was founded in 1567) is one of India’s largest cities its population is just half a million – so the crowds and congestion we’ve gotten used to don’t exist here. It’s a peaceful city, very clean, and very romantic, with a very balmy climate.
Ideal, really. I could live here easily.
Just before dinner we had a boat tour of Lake Pichola – very pretty – and the sunset, from the water, was so beautiful.
Tonight we had Indian food – but the most bizarre thing happened. We were having a drink and watching the dancing and there was a girl there – from London – who Haidee knows. Can you believe it? You come to India – half way around the world – and end up bumping into someone you know! Anyway she was lovely and we invited her to join us for dinner.
By nine, though, we were all yawning – and we had 4 a.m. wake up calls the next day off to bed we went. I tried again to post blogs, to no avail.