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our first stop in the royal state of Rajasthan

semi-overcast 23 °C

It was a really good thing that we listened to Rashmi and went to the Taj Mahal yesterday -- even though we were all pretty zonked -- because it was foggy for a lot of the day.

We all got up at the crack of dawn, had breakfast and hit the road. It's about a 5 1/2 hour trip from Agra (which is in Uttar Pradesh) to Samode -- and it is New Years Eve after all. Some primping was required! Rashmi's goal was to get us there by late afternoon so she suggested we grab some food at the hotel for lunch, so we wouldn't have to stop. Most of the hotels have a fabulous buffet breakfast so it's easy to take some extra food for the road.

While I'm on the subject of food I have to say that the papaya here is so delicious you cannot believe it -- unlike the tasteless, potato-like version we get back home. We're all addicted to it. The food is fabulous here -- I may never be able to eat curry at home again -- we are terribly spoiled now.

Anyhow ...

We set out on our drive by about 8 or 8:30. I had gotten behind in my blogging so I wrote (no, there is no internet on the bus -- I did it as a word document to cut and paste later). I wrote until my battery got dangerously low and then plugged myself into my iPod and drifted off. When I woke up I was drooling and my head was at a very precarious angle -- it was the pain shooting up my neck that woke me up.

I was just in time to see the village we were passing through. P1010063.jpg

These villages are so amazing, so colourful. And like Chandni Chowk in Delhi there are businesses of every description operating one after the other after the other -- in stalls, carts, ruins, shacks, empty shells of cars and trucks ... you name it. Get a tooth pulled, a haircut, buy a skirt, pick vegetables, see a doctor, get medicine, buy tires ... and on and on it goes.

Then suddenly the countryside changes and everything is green and lush -- farmland -- and the sight of women wearing scarlet and orange and turquoise and purple saris working in the fields is just glorious.

We had a half hour break -- bathroom/picnic/rest for driver and continued on our way. The terrain now was much hillier and rougher. By the time I come home I think my bladder will be on a highway somewhere in India -- but I digress.

The terrain now was much more desert-like. There was sand -- not everywhere -- but there were long stretches -- with some green but definitely India's version of sagebrush.

We had been making really good time but we hit an accident and then some construction (there is construction EVERYWHERE -- it makes Toronto look like nothing's going on) and that set us back quite a while. By now we needed another bio break but it's not exactly an interstate highway. If you can squat in the bush go right ahead. If you're looking for an actual toilet hold it in!!

If I seem obsessed with bodily functions you try sitting in a bus on a very bumpy road for hours and hours at a time with not much else to do but drink water -- or whatever you want to stash in your water bottle (whatever happens in India stays in India).

We're staying in Palace Hotels, Forts and even tents throughout Rajasthan and the Samode Palace is our first. Not that there's anything wrong with the hotels we've been staying at everywhere else. They are nothing short of spectacular as you know because I keep posting pictures of them.

But these heritage properties are so unique and special. They transport you back to a time when the Maharajas ruled India and had quantities of wealth that are beyond your imagination. But it's a very romantic story (at least to me) and staying in these 'hotels' is putting an entirely different spin on this trip -- because although the original furniture is long gone the grandeur and opulence of the actual buildings and grounds is still there.

It would absolutely, positively blow your mind!

We had been seeing signs for "Samode Palace" for the better part of an hour and a half. But no sign of it yet. We were all taking photos like mad though, so the trip was still enjoyable. We'd been so active since we got here it was actually nice to have nothing to do for a while.

I started thinking of the beautiful (at least I think so -- hope you agree when you see the pictures) salwar kameez I'd be wearing tonight. I was excited. I also noticed we were climbing. The longer we drove, the higher up we seemed to be going. The turns were very steep, the roads very narrow and crowded -- in both directions.

Best to keep your eyes shut. Have I mentioned that I wouldn't be caught dead behind the wheel in this country?


Suddenly there was a fabulous archway ahead, just dripping with bougainvillea -- bright scarlet against old, timeworn stone in a pale English mustard colour. Staggeringly beautiful. Up a long, imposing, winding driveway ... and ... WOW!!!!!!!


Samode Palace's history goes back more than four and a half centuries and it was awarded to Gopal Singh ji -- one of the twelve sons of Prithviraj Singh ji of Amber, the seventeenth Prince of the House of Kachhawaha Rajputs.

Now that's what I call a mouthful!!!

Anyway, with all the pomp and ceremony we have rapidly become accustomed to in this glorious part of the world we had our foreheads dabbed by our wonderfully gnarled 'greeter' ... had garlands of fresh and fragrant flowers draped over our heads and we were whisked to our rooms to prepare for the party that evening.


As you will soon see, pictures definitely speak more loudly than words when it comes to describing the drive ... the hotel ... and the magical New Year's Eve party we attended here. So enjoy ...


Posted by a_broad 02:53 Archived in India Tagged luxury_travel

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Fransi I look forward each day to receive your exciting commentary and wonderful photos...I feel like I am travelling with you...with my weak stomach and bladder I doubt if I could hold it in on those narrow winding roads...you look beautiful in your colourful Salwar Kameez, you already look like a native...I am so excited for you...Happy New Year...looking forward to the party...all the hotels are fabulous...and your description of the food makes my mouth water, I love Indian food.
Love Dana

by Dana Bell


The sights, the smells, the opulance. It is overwhelming. All you need to make it perfect is a travelling portable loo.

Keep the pictures coming!!

by EllenRosen

Awesome Fransi. Just awesome.

by awsmaunt

well don't you just look charming, and so beautiful. And all your pics and words are utterly stunning and captivating. Gee I'd love to be there with you. A trip of a lifetime.Did you bathe in the marble tub???

by fifila22

Hi Fransi,You look very charming with that INDIAN outfit!! I hope you won't get lots of "MOSQUITO BITES" again!!! Enjoy the Indian foods as well especially "CURRY"

by celia1957

Your shalwar kamiz is beautiful, the colours are wonderful. Your reports are so interesting, I look forward to reading all of your posts. The pictures are great too...there is a way you can make a book of this, my friend does it with her trips. I'll let you know about it when you return.

by palval

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