I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy over –the- top luxury and being pampered. And it seems nobody does it better than the five star hotels in India.
From the moment I finished my gourmet meal on Jet Airways, a meal designed by the famous Indian corporate chef of the luxury Division of The Taj Mahal Palace and Hotels, Hemant Oberoi, (who keeps adding new restaurants in Europe and India to his resume) to when the air steward asked if she could make my bed (yes, business class seats become beds covered with crackling, starched white linens) and being tucked in with smart wool and cotton double sided blanket, I knew this would be only the first chapter of living it up from the sky down to earth.
After landing in Delhi, I had booked a room at the legendary The Imperial Hotel. The old grand dame of Delhi has recently had the best face lift. It wasn’t stretched or pulled beyond recognition but certainly freshened up and the 24 Royal palm trees still line the roadway leading to the entrance of the still beautiful and glamorous hotel worthy of its name. Inaugurated in 1931 this independent hotel with Old Colonial, Victorian and Art Deco architectural features represents a lifestyle of the elegant past where bejeweled guests, heads of states and various great personalities opted to stay and now with its renowned reputation an entire new affluent and powerful crowd are back again.
Breakfast in the ‘1911’, a restaurant named when King George V declared Delhi the new capital of India, was for me a start of the day event as I sat on the verandah overlooking the sprawling garden- and this is in the centre of the hectic, noisy metropolis.
Mid morning, my first day, visiting the Chandni Chowk with the narrow winding alleyways, for 200 rupees (approx CDN$&, US$5), the means of transportation was a bike rickshaw capable of maneuvering through the lanes. Although the shops seemed empty, I was assured by my guide, Meena, that since many stalls were strictly wholesale, all the vendors needed were one or two major sales during the day. Although small, many were simple shops where there was everything from leather to silk, woodwork to silver jewellery, ribbons, and footwear to more jewellery. Although the market is exceptionally exciting I looked forward to the traditional English tea back at The Imperial’s The Atrium Lobby , an airy and extremely bright, triple storey area where many of the guests’rooms look down at the sprinkling fountain and white rattan chairs, is an ideal place to unwind away from “the madding crowd”.
And when in Rome etc, etc…I made a policy that every meal (with the exception of the mentioned tea) during this three week sprint was Indian- food only and a good start was at The Spice Route known for southeastern Asian cuisine. Not a big boozer, I still had to have a King Fisher beer at the Patiala Peg, the most popular bar in the city with a most impressive collection of photos of the Maharaja of Patiala taken during World War II.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t warm enough to swim in the perfectly laid out, outdoor pool and patio but just sitting in this quiet oasis seemed to make me oblivious that just outside the grounds was the annoying constant hectic horn honking traffic. But I did hear some hammering, just finishing touches for the 2,500square meter, Six Senses Spa, adjacent to the pool area then soon to be launched and by now opened to the guests. I was a most difficult departure from this wonderful and deserving all the raves for The Imperial