Walls of flowers softly grazing your face as you walk through a sweeping 200-acre odd property; panoramic views of the hills, and peacock and deer outside your bedroom window – a vintage-style boudoir fitted with wooden floors, old-brick walls and sheer lace curtains, ones that gets served a platter of whatever it is you desire, with a ding of a bell.
Halls bedecked with hunting game, stud farms filled with magnificent horses and banquet rooms full of extravagance and laughter. Every girl’s secret dream, to live like a prince(ss) even if just for a day but for the blue-blooded, a routine existence. The charmed life of royal in Rajasthan brings to mind quiet everyday luxuries and an admittedly lavish life. And Udaipur, the city of the lakes, the historical capital of Mewar holds on tight to its regal reputation.
One long weekend, my mother and I decided to treat ourselves to a royal respite in Udaipur, Rajasthan and picked the Shikharbadi Hotel — an old hunting lodge of the Royal Family of Mewar-turned hotel, it presents endless views of the Aravalli hills, and is home to a nature preserve full of spotted deer, Neelgai, wild boar, peacocks, and migratory birds making their way to the waterfront—all seen from your room.
Offering three deluxe suites, one deluxe family suite and 21 deluxe rooms, we picked the latter and found ourselves in a cosy, old-school brick walled room, with a writing table by the window and a range of nature-inspired paintings. Their public spaces include the open-air Baithak restaurant, the Cheetal restaurant resplendent with horse paintings and memorabilia, and Wilderness Bar featuring images from the Royal family’s collection – all served by waiters that treat you like family. Many a morning was passed visiting their on-property stables and many a sunset evening spent watching the sun disappear around the hills over cups of tea, and the lingering scent of flowers.
Whether Rajasthani cuisine means steel thalis filled with little bowls of ghee-heavy vegetables, or grilled, barbecued and fried game meat, Rajasthani cuisine is one for the history books. In Udaipur, make sure to get your thali-fill lunch at Bawarchi restaurant and dining hall – like most thaali restaurants, it’s full to the brim but frees up quickly. Try the Rajasthani thali, Gujrati thali or jain version, if you’re feeling experimental. Alternately head to Garden restaurant, a thali-only eatery nestled within the Garden Hotel.
Sunset views of the Lake Pichola with a side of the finest Indian food and candlelit tables ? Yes, please. Sheesh Mahal, the lobby-level restaurant at The Leela Palace Hotel is perfect for a languorous evening that turns swiftly and pleasantly into night. (Book in advance and make sure to take along id proof).
When we made our way to Royal Repast for dinner, we found a beautiful home, tastefully decorated but mysteriously quiet – gingerly we meandered through passages and rooms, luxuriously decked tabletops, to emerge at an airy exterior courtyard decked in blue and white, fitted with a smattering of tables bathed in yellow light — the restaurant, run by the Bedla family. We loved the murg dahi bootha, lasuni palak and rich gulab jamuns.
Home to Anokhi, the boutique of every bohemian-princess’s dreams, a visit to Udaipur is incomplete without at least an hour or two spent at the store – the one at the City Palace complex allows you the chance to explore the Palace, the largest of its type in the state of Rajasthan. For fabrics head down to Shilpgram complex.
If jewellery is your thing, drive down to Nathdwara, the home of the famous Shrinathji Temple where lanes are resplendent in tiny, hidden shopping gems. We loved the pieces at Rathi Bandu,maheshwari bandhu Temple Road, Nathdwara. In Udaipur city, Silver Art Palace, Mewar Art Wali Gali– but make sure to bargain. Hathi Pol market, Udaipur is home to a variety of handicrafts and folk arts of Rajasthan while Bada bazar’s cornucopia of small shops and big boutiques house batik and bandhani prints, jootis and more.
As we propel ourselves into the future, it’s quite something to step back, preview and protect what gave us that very future – still living nature that surrounds us, heritage that stays alive through yet-practiced traditions and the preservation of lakes, temples, forts and palaces, the cuisine we still savour and the artefacts we take home with us … and of course, that old way of life – slow, luxurious, whether in time or method, and unapologetically deliberate. And where better than the ancient city of Udaipur, founded in 1553 by Maharana Udai Singh of the Sisodia clan of Rajput?
Getting there: Udaipur is easily accessible via direct flights from metros, train and bus from all tier-1 and tier-2 cities and via road.
Best time to visit: September to March
Important sites: City Palace; Lake Palace; Lake Pichola, Jag Mandir; Kesariyaji Temple, Jagdish Temple, Fateh Sagar Lake