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November 15, 2005

A Royal Treat!

Text by Mala Vaishnav. Photographs by Falguni Sheth

Regal living, blue-blooded pedigree, ceremonial cuisine, valuable bequests and a private lake to boot. Indeed, the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur promises a winning experience

If Udaipur’s airport is undoubtedly retro, the gleaming, polished vehicle awaiting us in the car park, is also of vintage lineage and royal no less! Chugging along the town’s dusty streets, we are on our way to the former residence and summer abode of the ruling family of Mewar. An uphill swerve and the overwhelming panorama of the marble palace floating on the rippling Lake Pichola, comes into view. Built on four acres of solid rock, the erstwhile 18th century Jagniwas is now the Taj Group’s prime property, the Lake Palace Hotel.

The hotel boat glides across the lake – in overflow mode, thanks to a heavy monsoon following years of drought – depositing us at the entrance step, where under the shade of a richly embroidered Rajasthani umbrella, we are guided to the arched portals of the lobby, an extravagance of columns, portraits, mirrors and mosaics. Opened in the early ’70s, the refurbished interiors of the Taj Lake Palace, include luxurious suites with spectacular views, each distinct in design and ambience. The rooms, too, boasting embellished wall panels, painted frescoes and silk furnishings, all overlook the water and in the distance, loom regal facades of a past heritage and glory.

In the evening, under the benevolent gaze of the lofty Aravallis and a fading orange sun, we take a ‘heritage walk’ on the hotel premises through historical pathways and carved marble chhatris, brushing against ancient jhoolas and statuettes, while lingering beside the Lily Pond, so christened by former James Bond persona, Roger Moore, during the shooting of Octopussy. It is here, in the romantic setting of tented canopies and flickering candles, that diners can savour the authentic flavours of dal baatti and choorma or mathania safed murg, to the lilting tones of the resident flautist. Relishing our own appetisers of broccoli florets marinated in mustard and yoghurt and pine nuts tossed with spinach and onions, from the specially laid table on the Mewar Terrace, we look down amused at the sight of gypsy-skirted foreigners spontaneously doing a jig with Rajasthani entertainers, to the enervating beat of the dhol!

For more information visit www.tajhotels.com

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