Posts Tagged ‘New Delhi’
Silky waves of saris at the heart of the Grand Hotel. Dazzling smile and radiant faces.
Outside, in the upper gardens, is a wedding celebration.
Colourful ribbons make a vibrant marquee, each dancing slightly in the breeze.
Along the path, thousands of marigolds, bright oranges and yellows mirror the tints of spices used during the ceremony. Garlands and arabesques, lyrical calligraphies, the most extraordinary declaration of happiness, bringing luck for future joys…
Each step sparkles with a constellation of petals.
A poem of a few hours for lifelong memories…
Two ways to enjoy India - being part of the real life, staying in a basic hotel, be part of the buzzing life, being able to step in the noisy streets straight away. Or, at least once, and especially if you have spent quite a few hours on a bus, indulge in a touch of luxury.
The Grand Hotel is a real oasis of calm compared to the more… down to ground life a few hundred yards away, the daily life of dusty yet joyful chaos. The place is ever so calm and soothing, floors shone marvelously, the lounge opens on gardens and fountains. Walking through at night, I often felt like waltzing through the main hall. Yes – that kind of feeling.
Rooms are extra comfy – lots of space to put suitcases, laptop without being in the way. The decoration is contemporary in a classical range of colour – easy to settle in, even if you have been constantly on the move the previous days. The mattress is excellent : jetlag did not apply, I fell asleep in minutes. The bathroom, although my picture does not do it credit, was an incredible size. Tropical rain effect shower, a bath, a huge closet, beautiful black walls that make you feel glamourous - calls for cocooning.
A kettle, tea and coffee, are hidden aside. Wifi, though, is not included. Count 800 rupees (£8) a day though you can choose to get only a couple of hours for a lesser price.
First, because the room is so worth the detour…
…And the buffet is quite something. There is, of course, a generous European one. Do prefer the Indian side. Start with the pistachio milk, rich and creamy, served in individual glass bottles as the freshly pressed fruit juice. The pile your plate with imlis (fluffly lentil and rice cakes), poori (an Indian bread), dahl, sambar (a spiced pea soup), dosas made to order (a crunchy rice pancake to which you can add fillings) or even a masala omlet… The selection changes from one day to the other. Really feels too early? I thought so the first day but got hooked after the first spoonful. here also is coconut chutney, papaya jam, fresh tropical fruit, pineapple and mago compote to win your palate.
Later on, you can still choose from three restaurants (Indian - their chefs are outstanding – Italian and Asian) as well as a pastry shop.
Need to relax? There is a sauna, jacuzzi and spa downstair. Prices are pretty reasonable compared to London ones - a one hour massage would be a mere £30.
Have a walk around - a swimming pool awaits you at the back. Perfect to take the tensions of the travel off or even work in an exotic atmosphere - your laptop will be able to get the wifi network. Flame trees and frangipani frame the scene, cute chipmunks jumping from branches to another. Smile guaranteed!
The Grand Hotel
Sky still pink from the sunrise. Yawns – it is early but the road to Agra – where the Taj Mahal is – may take 4, 5 hours. No one knows exactely, the traffic is full of surprises. Yet those felt like minutes. Looking out the window, absorbed, mesmerised. Temples sculpted with so much care, giant gods of plaster dominating the tiniest homes that threaten to collapse. Camels, pigs, cows, monkeys. Mustard fields, bright yellow, round huts, fog, combed-like furrows. Here and there a market, mountains of peanuts or dates on spread out newspapers. Travelers piled up at the back or top of vans. The crazyness of traffic, never going faster than 50km/h, all trucks showing this blow your horn sign, taken litteraly, translated by honk as soon as you see a vehicule, big or small in front of you, meaning constantly. When the bus stops appear monkey tamers, snake charmers, sellers of close-to-nothing, peacock feathers, plates of mango. Hands waved in greeting, a barber delighted to be photographed. Objects placed hazardly, nowhere in particular, for no reason, just there, a bed, a chair. Suddenly, bright scarves sold on the side of the road, there is a temple nearby. Garlands of colourful flowers, explosion of cheerfulness. A little further, a small child drags a branch on the top of a roof. No continuity, a succession of sometimes contradictory details, impossible to describe, fascinating, a universe where poverty is just another way of life, another expectation from the day.
Delectation. Day after day, so many gorgeous curries served in copper dishes. Opening the lid, breathing in cumin, fennel, lemongrass. Eternal naan cycle - a little naan to finish the sauce, a little sauce to finish the naan. Tandoor skewers. Grilled or melting in the mouth paneer. And the luck to see so many chefs at work, creating recipes around Basmati, this fragrant long grain rice, infused with all the spices…
Constrasts. Golden saris sitting in the dust. Electric poles leaning dangerously, fuses boxes open to all weathers yet explosion of colours in the tiny boutique of the street, each only a few square metres wide. Stall loaded with tropical fruit, right along the traffic, M&S logo on the merchant’s polo. Frail looking bikes carrying an improbable weight. Everyone has a job, some big, some little, carrying their fortune along the next pavement. Live and survive, their own way, no rule, just chance, painting life in bright colours to compensate. A minute after another. A generous tourist might mean a better day, a celebration with more fragrant street food. Luck might be around the corner, you see. Stolen glimpses of a different life, where hope makes everything possible still.
A butterfly pause in New Delhi. I did not get the occasion to do what I really love – getting lost in the maze of narrow streets, the dust, the markets, the musical buzz of the local conversations around me. Still being there was magical. Cows, monkeys, goats. The grace of the traffic despite its madness. Tuc-tucs, bikes, rickshaws dancing around each other, moving away a second before the possible clash. Throw in cars, buses, trucks, people going from one window to another, selling a single magazine, towels, fruit, spare parts for bikes, whatever they could get their hands on. In the middle of it all, surreal glimpses like someone watering the plants in the middle of the road.
There, nestled along the bazaar, is Jami Masjid, a beautiful mosque. Red sandstone stairs get you there. Once upon a time, its arches welcomed horse merchants and jugglers. Today still, hundreds of pigeons are fed in the yard, flying away around the domes in waves. Sepia tones everywhere, rainbow-like saris bringing sudden flashes of brightness .In the distance, the city draws ghost like shadows, an ethereal dream.
Entry is free outside prayers for non-Muslims. There is a very small fee of a 100 rupees (£1) to pay would you wish to take pictures. You will have, of course, to leave your shoes outside. This being a religious site, you may be given a colourful tunique to cover bare legs, arms, cleavage.