Udaipur And Beyond
Christmas Eve...in all honesty a semi-ropey breakfast in a beautiful setting. The sunset terrace restaurant was beautifully positioned overlooking Lake Pichola, the service was slow and less attentive at the Fateh Prakash than we had hoped for. We met our tour guide, Raj who gave us a unique insight into the palace’s history and the story behind the majestic line of Maharanas (not Maharajahs). A few hours later we had skipped through five centuries, a temple (met a couple of painted Saddhus), bartered with a leather binder (and bought several photo albums), visited a silk painting college, inhaled the royal gardens and several shops our tour guide was hoping to earn a commission from, no such luck. We said our goodbyes after spotting the Prince of Mewar and Satpal drove us through the ancient Aravali Hills to the much anticipated Devi Garh hotel, reputed to be one of India’s finest.
After an hour of sucking in our breath, dodging overladen lorries carrying marble on the national highway to Delhi. We made it the kilometre long driveway leading to the hotel, with its stark silver on black signage. The imposing sight of Devi Garh, the 17thCentury fort cum palace occupies one of the most strategic passes in Rajahstan and rises from its perched hill position with terrifying dominance. The uplighters casting impressive shadows against its many towers, balconies, and crenulations. Very rarely are expectations exceeded, but on this occasion they were blown out of the water by a Howitzer. Uniformed guards saluted our arrival, porters scurried to open our doors and we exhaled a sigh of satisfaction. We hopped out and followed the long low lit path to the main entrance and we were greeted by staff sporting designer black Nehru tunics. We gathered our jaws off the manicured central lawn as our eyes struggled to take in the magisterial sight of Devi Garh, domineering, stark, confident and undeniably the most impressive translation of hospitality we had seen so far. Stone sculptures lay casually strewn across the lawn as if dropped from a height by the gods.
At each turn casual elegance promised mystery after mystery. Historic frescoes twinned with floor sculptures in the shape of lotus plants (in relief from their black granite parents), housed in a courtyard riven with marble patios softened by jade clipped hedging.
Several flights of granite steps leading to secret chambers and a series of courtyards led us to our suite. Our suite was designed and assembled with an immaculate eye, sinuous marble, and quadruple aspect inserted with a window seat the size of a generous bed. The split level led us to our low slung marble based bed. We shrieked with a lottery winner’s surprise and charged with childlike fascination we explored cupboards, boxes, wardrobes, drawers and ante rooms, gasping at the multi level dressing area and bathroom, simple opulence.
Christmas Eve was celebrated with pre-dinner drinks, served in a bar styled from a Bond villain’s lair. The Maharani made herself at home with a ginger infused Champagne cocktail and I made with...a Martini of course. Dinner would have melted the hardest of hearts, the hotel was a scene lit by a thousand candles, soft glow resting on the curls of a carpet of rose petals. Imaginative, modern Indian food was served buffet style, fireworks rocked the clear sky and we filled our mouths with food created by a gastro God.
Our suite was alive with the same soft light created by the gentle flickering of wick and wax, the bath already filled with little red islands of petals floating on the undisturbed surface. That night we gave each other our Christmas present.