Our Chief Experience Officer, Melissa Hansen, recently took an unforgettable bucket-list vacation in India. For the rest of the month, we’ll be sharing her travels — and some of her photos — with you here on the blog. This is the second entry in the series. Enjoy!
I was excited to see Udaipur, since it is known as “the city of lakes” and often referred to as the most romantic city in India. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
Upon landing, we drove to Devigarh, a modernized 18th century palace nestled in the Aravali Hills on the outskirts of the town of Delwara. The once dilapidated palace, said to have been purchased for a mere $50,000 in the 1980’s, has now been refitted as an upscale RAAS hotel property. The masculine feel of the 15-year refurbishment, along with the contemporary décor, has created a special place for the luxury, yet intrepid traveler. And the spectacular views from the pool make it the ideal spot to enjoy a sweet lime refresher or masala chai and scarf down a few canapes. I couldn’t help but roam the massive property, wandering in and out of tiny rooms and private hideaways. But with so much to see in Udaipur, we couldn’t stay long.
Enroute to our accommodations for the night, we ventured through tiny towns that piqued my interest with their pump-water wells and roadside veggie stands. Despite the size of the tiny communities, the traffic jams were noteworthy. It confirmed every rumor I had ever heard about India’s traffic — it knows no bounds.
Once we broke free of the traffic, we were soon at Sas-Bahu Temple, an 11th century Hindu temple built in 1093, showcasing intricate carvings of human and animal figures depicting musical scenes, animated proverbs, and couples entwined in elaborate Kama Sutra positions.
The next day we woke early as there was much to see and do in Udaipur, including a visit to the City Palace. Like a living history book, the sprawling palace, which took over 400 years to complete, has three distinct sections, depicting the evolving architecture from their respective eras. Inside, the palace houses a rare collection of Osler’s crystal, including a crystal canopy bed and a collection of child-sized wine glasses for the royal children. Through the elaborate halls of the palace we wove, snapping photos at every turn. At various decorative windows, views of Udaipur and the Lake Palace beckoned like a siren. Guess where we were heading next?
The Lake Palace, a former summer home to the royal family, has been converted to a fanciful luxury hotel with a colorful history. Built in 1746 and nicknamed “The Pleasure Palace,” this intimate home turned hotel has won the title of the “most romantic hotel in the world.” It comprises the entire man-made island on which it sits and is only accessible by a private Lake Palace speedboat.
As a distinguished bellman helped us out of the boat, beautifully decorated parasols were held over our heads. It felt so civilized and, for a moment, I was transported in time. The Garden of Eden-like grounds were small but effectively peaceful, and the whole place dripped with history and tradition. Much to my surprise, you can actually stay in the queen’s bedroom, which is a stunner with stained glass windows and a beguiling velvet swing in the middle of the room. I later found out that the James Bond movie, Octopussy, was filmed at the Lake Palace.
The following day would prove just as magical as my exploration of Udaipur continued. After a sumptuous breakfast of local Indian fare, we headed to Old Town Udaipur to experience their local market. If you visit, get your camera out because this jaunt is a feast for the eyes! It is here that urban and rural cross paths as colorful tractors, rickshaws, cars, bikes, goats, cows, and monkeys all converge. The single street of colorful fruits and veggies was spectacular, a photographer’s dream! Countless stands of fresh, miniature eggplants, marigold flowers, warm chai, red apples, and so much more lined the narrow street. The part-time vegetarian in me kicked into overload.
Later in the day, we headed to the Shiv Niwas Palace for a hands-on cooking class by the pool. It was here that I had the most incredible naan I’d ever tasted. This melt in your mouth bread was beyond delicious and beyond fresh. In a clay tandoor, the chef slapped a ball of naan to the side (yes, the side!) of the cavernous blazing hot, cylindrical contraption. As the naan cooked and fell off, the chef would pull it out, add some garlic and herbs, and voilà, the most delicious naan! I concluded that the secret to successful Indian cuisine is your adventurous attitude about heat (both in terms of temperature and spice).
Alas, after just a few days, it was time to say goodbye to India’s most romantic city.
If you missed part one of this series, you’ll find it here. And if you’re looking to experience the beauty of India for yourself, we have several trips to this stunning country on our Experiences page, ready to be booked — including a Luxury Journey Through Northern India and an extended Vacation Getaway to India and the Maldives.