India is known as a country that will change you

I’ve been to India several times and counting.  I’m one traveler who certainly finds the poverty and begging  difficult sights . But as a short term tourist, I have the option of never returning or, as I do,  leave the politics to their politicians.  It is, after all, an ancient city throbbing with 13 million people.

Finally, my dream came true on a recent visit and I was able to stay at the renowned Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in Mumbai (Bombay).  It was pre- terrorist bombing  and the hotel then was filled to capacity.

When I returned a year later with plans to stay at the Taj again, of course,  the tragedy of the killing and bombing had destroyed much of the hotel.  Sheets covered the defaced and ruined areas. The magic had gone for the time being.  A commemorative plaque of the deceased was placed in the once lovely lobby.  Obviously, I stayed elsewhere.

Now the hotel is back to the original beauty and status.  The Taj stands elegant and alone on its huge property. It’s  difficult to believe that the gardens are in the midst of this jumble of a city with constant horn honking and streets that are never nearly empty.

The famed Taj, the flagship hotel of the Group, is just across from the grand Gateway to India.  As I took in the Taj’s  mix of Moorish, Oriental and Florentine-styled architecture, I was also dazzled by its history and reputation.

Built in 1903, the hotel has been the place to hang tiaras and jeweled turbans of  maharajahs, princes, kings, presidents, big biz CEOs and notable celebs.  Actually my room was next  to where Angelina and Brad stayed in the luxurious enormous, grand suite, the one with the double engraved brass doors.  That’s the closest I’ll ever get to that stunning couple. Although either wing would have been most acceptable (the newer was built in the 70s and the older tower was rebuilt to replicate the original after the terrorist attack in 2009) I was overjoyed  to have a large junior suite in the tower where there’s a feeling of exclusivity and a friendly, helpful concierge  on each floor. My indigenous dark wood door certainly didn’t feel like a poor relative to my neighbor’s glossy one and I had the good luck of facing the Gates and the sea.  All this opulence in the middle of this densely populated city was an oasis that could happen only in Mumbai.

Few hotels can rival the Taj hotel with its cantilever stairway, hand woven silk rugs, crystal chandeliers, vaulted alabaster ceiling, onyx columns, extensive art collection and eclectic furniture and above all the impeccable service.

After  wondrous breakfasts poolside amid the lush garden, each day I was reluctant to leave to sightsee and work.

Now no matter where I visit, my reference point for an hotel’s perfection is the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.  Few can compare.