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The Ultimate Maldivian Trip

So this was my fourth trip to the Maldives and we finally got it right!

Kudadoo was a slice of heaven in the middle of what actually is heaven i.e. The Maldives. The flight to the Maldives lands on air strip no larger than a narrow highway. As the plane lands, you are drawn to the various blues of the ocean and since the water is so clear you even try to spot fish- whales/ dolphins in the crystal clear waters.

As you arrive, the Kudadoo staff usher you from the airport in to a smaller airport lounge where you can freshen up for a bit before they take you to the sea plane that you take to Kudadoo. The plane is small and noisy , so be aware and the ride takes approximately 45 minutes. You land on on the water and at Hurawalhi Island Resort and then it’s a 3 minute boat ride to Kudadoo. The trip is glorious. The arrival is out of a postcard.There are only 15 residences on this spectacular island and it is glorious!

The team had sent in a set of questions which we filled out. What would we like in our bar? What do we snack on? What type of pillows do we like?

The questionnaire was fun and we loved filling it out. But what we loved even more was the room.

The rooms are large with fabulous bedrooms, walk-in closets and a huge bathroom. But what is truly special is the outdoor deck and pool with the beautiful swing and lounging space overlooking your very own entrance to the sea.

Kudadoo was our best trip because it combined all that we wanted a vacay to have. It allowed us to do anything, anywhere and at any time. So if you wanted an 8 am massage, you could have that arranged. And so we did. Every activity, every meal, every drink and every spa service is included in your rate. So whether it’s Flyboarding, which we did- and failed miserably or night snorkelling, which was truly an experience or snorkelling with sea turtles or even a private dinner on the beach- anything your heart desired could be arranged and the team went out of their way to make sure that you felt like you were the only ones on this glorious , glorious island.

And so we water skied to an island no larger than a strip of sand where we had breakfast and we lunched at their spectacular underwater restaurant 5.8 (on it’s sister island Hurawalhi); and swam and feasted and rested to our hearts’ content.

This is what the Maldives should be all about. It should be about new experiences and coming back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

The fact that they have sister islands close by allow them to have the water activities hosted on the sister island. That allows Kudadoo to quite literally become a private residence for it’s guests.

Sujan Sher Bagh

I’d followed the Sujan brand for a while and I liked the quiet luxury and the few rooms they had , hence for #ParentTrap we decided on Sujan Sher Bagh.

Sujan Sher Bagh is part of Relaix and Chateau. Sujan is about 2.5 -3 hrs from the nearest airport which is Jaipur. We drove there on 4 x 4’s and the car and the ride was comfortable. The team and the butler had been made aware of the madness of #ParentTrap and they were there to greet us as we entered.

The Jungle Suite was very comfortable and beautifully decorated. The jungle theme and tiger accents are all over the room. The luxury tent is comfortable, warm and cosy. Aditya and I chose the Royal Sher Suite which a similar room but had a beautiful , heated plunge pool which was perfect to jump in to in the cold weather of Ranthambore.

Your room costs include all your meals , so as we arrived and checked in, we went straight to lunch. There was a nice mix of continental and Indian foods on the menu, but they were happy to create off menu dishes as well just to make sure we were happy!

In the afternoon we were off for a game drive. The drive was comfortable in the Sujan jeep and we had each were given blankets, binoculars and water to make sure we were very comfortable. We were not very lucky with the tiger, but we saw several other animals and enjoyed the drive and the sunset. We returned for a nice cup of coffee and a wash to get ready for dinner.

The trip was all about the game drives and I interspersed it with spa treatments for all so that they could properly relax. The property is lovely and we enjoyed touring the property and seeing their organic garden and spotting animal tracks and checking camera views of the animals who traversed the property at night.

Post the walk, a beautiful bath had been arranged in the outdoor gold tub and I relaxed and enjoyed the bath getting ready for dinner.

A special dinner was arranged for the family and the table was gloriously decorated with candles. Though they were at full occupancy, our butler never made us feel there was anyone else except for us. The dinner was a perfect Indian meal, that I’d asked for and the cold of Ranthambore was warmed by the heat of the delicious Indian food we were served!

The next morning we were off on a drive again with a warm brandy in some coffee to warm us up and we searched the forest for the elusive tiger. We didn’t see the tiger at all on this trip. It did happen and we did get to see a tiger quite literally at arm’s length ;however, more on that later.

Watching the sun rise in the forest and the birds wake the world up is a glorious feeling. As we returned and post lunch, we enjoyed a visit to the local Dastkaar and a nice dip in the pool before cocktails and dinner in front of a glorious fire, where we caught up with other guests, shared forest stories, laughed and relaxed.

Sujan was a truly special experience. The hotel is designed with personality and thought. The only lapse is that their guide was not very good and we were not advised of game drives and sections of the park so unfortunately we missed the tiger. Had they told us and guided us on what drives to do and for how long, we’d have definitely spotted the tiger at least once. The service however was impeccable and our butler went through my idea of #Parent Trap and ensured he made every moment with our parents a special one.

I’m looking forward to visiting the Sujan in Jaisalmer too !

Cost-:Approximately $1200- $2000 approximately per night for a package which is inclusive of meals but not of game drives.

Best times to Travel-:April to June just before the rains…but then it is very, very warm so be prepared. Personally I enjoyed the winter but animals were few and far between and with our guide often nowhere to be found ūüôā .

Zighy Bay

It was a surprise for the parents and we decided to go to our first (now of many) Six Senses resorts- Zighy Bay. Zighy bay is a 2 Hr drive from Dubai Airport and the resort sends comfortable 4×4’s to pick you up. You could also do a 15-minute speedboat trip from a nearby port or enjoy the ultimate thrill strapped to a professional paraglider. Since we had the parents and since these new arrival weren’t available to us (else I would have paraglided!) we went to the resort by 4 x4.

The mountain entrance was spectacular and dramatic and we were welcomed with a welcoming drink and wet towel to Zighy Bay!

All the rooms are Pool suites and we had taken a Beach front Pool suite, so ours became the hang out spot for the family! The rooms were large, cool and comfortable. Considering the sweltering heat outside, the cool stone floors of the room made for a welcome change from the hot sun outside!

For the first evening, we had a wonderful meal at Sense on the Edge to celebrate our first meal of what we now call #ParentTrap together. The food was contemporary, fresh and modern and was light and beautifully plated.

The first night was hard for me as I had the most incredible migraine. The heat in summer is unforgiving and this is something one must think about. The next morning though, I felt a lot better and was happy to jump in to the sea. The sea is incredible… The water was warm and inviting. The sea was almost like a gigantic swimming pool and the family and I spent the next few days blissfully swimming in the glorious sea!

Through Zighy Bay we also decided to do a snorkelling session. They took us by boat and at a few reefs we were told we could snorkel and swim around. The reefs were lovely and colourful. The reefs in the Maldives are a lot nice though, I felt however I am told the diving is quite spectacular around Oman. We swam a bit but this was exhausting as the currents were quite strong. The water was refreshing, the fish colourful and the outing was nice as we got to see the rock formations at Zighy Bay.

What I loved most about this trip , was the sense of privacy we felt. It was like the whole resort just had our family. Though we knew there were other guests and families, the space that this resort has is beautiful and the distance between the villas allows for a completely secluded area for you and your family.

For breakfast we were given the option to eat in the room or at the Spice market. And where my Dad loved wandering around and eating at the restaurant, Aditya and I lazed in bed and sat out near our pool and ate there and soon after rushed to the sea.

Zighy Bay is an oasis of calm. It is a spectacular hotel to escape to to just escape. For those who love sun, sand and picturesque views this is it. There is this gorgeous line with the white sand, the blue ocean and the brown rugged mountains that is absolutely postcard perfect.

Cost-:Approximately $2400 per night in season for a beachfront pool villa.

Best times to Travel-: October to April when it’s not to hot!

Capers at Cape Weligama

Cape Weligama was where we chose to spend our anniversary!Now for those who know me, they know these are important celebrations. I love celebrating love and since Aditya loves Sri Lanka, we decided we should try out a hotel we’d always wanted to visit.

It takes about 2 hours to get to the resort from the airport. We arrived way too early in the morning, but were immediately taken to breakfast and allowed to relax at the pool while the room was made ready for us. The swimming pool was gorgeous. An infinity pool that was truly breathtaking , but it was not the only pool at the hotel. Our room had its own pool and our view was the sea. Waking up and just dipping into the pool was by far the best way to wake up!

Our room was a Pool Villa and was more than comfortable. It was large and bordered with a beautiful plunge pool.

We took an all inclusive plan and also made note that our anniversary was during our stay; so planned on a private romantic dinner as well.

Walking the grounds was incredibly relaxing and therapeutic. The staff was incredible and was always predicting our needs even before we had asked for something.

Walking down towards the beach was an adventure. The hotel has a small strip of private beach and when you get there it’s quite literally like you’re all alone on a strip of sand!

What I loved was that a 3-4 minute drive/ 10 minute walk got you to a slightly larger beach where they would do whale tours and where you may get a chance to see gorgeous whales in the ocean. We tried our luck. We didn’t see just one- we saw six huge whales arms length away from our small dinghy all in the span of an hour or so.

Cape Weligama decided to celebrate our anniversary with a special dinner in the middle of one of their many swimming pools. Wading through the pool we enjoyed the playfulness of the table setting and relaxed under the stars with a perfect three course meal!

Cape Weligama is the perfect place to reconnect and to spend time as a couple. It allowed us to explore, to have fun and to engage in all that nature has to offer. The fact that the resort was so expansive and the service so customised and discreet allowed us to feel like we were the only guests the hotel had.

Cost-:$1500- $2500 per night for the pool and duplex pool villa all inclusive.$604 for the Junior suite with breakfast only.

Best times to Travel-: December to March – this is when the nights are cool and the days not too hot!Also it’s whale watching season.

The Tranquility of Kumarakom

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From Vivanta by Taj Malabar to Vivanta by Taj Kumarakom you can take a boat. Close to an hour either way, we decided to opt for a drive considering we were doing a backwaters boat trip the same evening.I’m glad we took the drive because it was wonderful to see Aditya’s photograph featured on one of the small shops we passed. Part of an old Peter England campaign, he was smiling down at us! Super cool!

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Great start to the day , the day was going to get even better. In the midst of a slice of green heaven the Vivanta by Taj Kumarakom almost merges in with the surroundings. Small quaint cottages¬†banks of Vembanad Lake¬†, private sit outs, bicycles to get you around the property…this property bring s you back to nature but still keeps in mind the luxury needs of it’s guests.We were welcomed in by Prince the F & B Director who we’d previously met when we had stayed at the Vivanta by Taj Maldives. We were famished , so grabbed a quick bite and headed to our rooms. The property is enormous so I’d recommend borrowing a bicycle from their bicycle shed and traveling around the property whenever you need to. It’s fun, it’s relaxing and you get to explore the entire property.

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Our cottage was beautifully furnished and tastefully decorated. With ¬†a massive bedroom, lovely sit out and even an outdoor shower- ‘luxury rustic’ became the way I defined the hotel and my room.

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A quick nap later we were off on a gorgeous cruise amidst the backwater. The mangrove plants had made it difficult for the boat to come to the hotel so we took the boat from just across the hotel and marveled at the expanse of the lake which merged into the sea while the sun set.

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Prince knows me and penchant for romantic dinners and so a table was set with a special menu created just for Aditya and I on the banks of the lake where we could listen to some live music and eat undisturbed surrounded by just gorgeous swaying palms and listening to the fish as they leapt about in the lake below… The dinner was superb. The chef here is EXCELLENT so definitely come prepared with an appetite! The food is marvelous!

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The lake is lit at night thanks to the local Kerala women who are hired by the hotel to light up the lake at sunset…With gorgeous divas the lake looks so auspicious and divine in the night as you walk by the banks!

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The following morning after cycling to breakfast we fed some of the ducks and watched as the turtles came to feed on the banks of the lake. I fed a few and I must confess I had never really thought of turtles as hungry or greedy! Cute, very greedy and very friendly…this was a wonderful experience.

Our trip to Kumarakom was short, romantic and an idyllic relaxing getaway. Far away from the madness and noise of the city we found peace, calm, cycles and ducks ūüôā and had the perfect short break!

Cost-:$300 onwards but remember with very limited rooms… book well in advance… They tend to ALWAYS be full up !

Best Times to Travel-:¬†November to February has great weather… we did Valentines day at Kumarakom and we had a pleasant, slightly chilly evening! Perfect!

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The Taj Mahal , New Delhi

The writing has been a bit spotty because of lots of travel…. lots of travel is lots of fun and with so much to see- traveling to Delhi and then all the way down to the backwaters in Kerala but that’s always good! A little bit of travel makes for some very fun posts…!

So it was a work trip to Delhi and a stay at one of my favourite haunts The Taj Mahal Hotel , New Delhi. Standing proudly on 1 Mansingh Road, this hotel has a prestigious location and incredible history and the perfect address!

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Walk in to a bustling lobby and don’t be surprised by well known politicians, business men, Indian sport stars… all sitting, working, talking and eating… The lobby cafe, the emperor’s Lounge looking out into the gorgeous , manicured lawns is always bustling, always beautiful and always very, very busy!

The Taj Mansingh as some of us like to call the hotel, had several familiar faces and it was a while after getting in that I was finally able to go up after greeting all those I knew. The rooms are slowly getting renovated and this is my only grouse with the hotel. The hotel, steeped with history and yet beautifully modern has some of the most terribly dated rooms unless ofcourse you get upgraded to a suite or one of the renovated Club rooms! The rest of the rooms need an upgrade- NOW!

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Machan’s the coffee shop has great food! Across the board, the food is tasty, filling and well-priced! With a huge buffet for lunch you’ll always notice that Machan is pretty full, with plenty of regulars! Also with all the staff dressed in Safari clothing, and regular food festivals and tasting happening at the restaurant it always makes for an interesting meal!

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But my favourite has to be Varq- the Indian fine dining restaurant. Re-inventing some of our favourite dishes, these dishes are lighter than Indian food usually is without compromising on taste! Plated portions for one, interesting twists with the mains and desserts- this has got to be one of my favourite Indian restaurants pan India- a definite MUST EAT AT!

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Wasabi once again is fabulous and chic for japanese food lovers… All in all the F& B in this hotel is simply SUPERB!

An Olympic size pool makes for great exercise after some fabulous Delhi food and this being just a short trip- it’s time to go back home and then off to Kerala…

Delhi beckons soon but this time I plan to try out one of the newer hotels which I have had my eye on for a while…! Which one? Well… keep reading! ūüôā

Best Time To Travel-:¬†Actually NOW! February and March are relatively cool and you don’t want to be in Delhi for the hot, hot summer or the very chilly winter. July – October also make for a beautiful monsoons moving into perfect , beautiful evenings where all the greenery in Delhi just seems to magically come alive!

Cost-:$400 onwards. But remember UPGRADED ROOMS- else you’ll get an incredible back ache with the hard as nails mattresses!

NEXT WEEK- KERALA AND LOTS AND LOTS OF FABULOUS PHOTOGRAPHS! ūüôā

Koh samuing!

 

As you know (if you’ve read any of these blogs or any of my personal blogs at my website…BIRTHDAYS ARE A BIG DEAL!

I seem to be planning from one birthday to the next and over the years , the planning has become more focussed towards experiences and travels as opposed to gifts and cake- a much more expensive albeit satisfying change!

So last year, the husband decided to surprise me. I am almost impossible to surprise especially over birthdays because my birthday antenna quickly notices any whispering, hush-hush planning or slight change in schedules but Aditya had convinced me that we were going to have a quiet, family birthday and later there’d be a surprise. Now I have to say I think my antenna was slightly less active because he had mentioned key words like ‘birthday’ and ‘surprise’ so I knew there was something planned and I expected it later…by then I was sure I’d know what it was!

Imagine my surprise when 2 days before my birthday I was told at lunch that we’d have to hurry back to pack. We were leaving tonight to THAILAND and to Koh Samui!To get Koh samui we took a flight to Bangkok and then connected to the island. I have to say , now after flying Thai Airways on multiple occasions- whereas the flights to an from India (Business Class) are rather old and quite uncomfortable; the short flight to Koh samui had fully reclinable seats, fabulous movie options and delicious food. I have now stopped flying Thai (unless ofcourse I’m visiting an island!)!

So in less then 24 hours of my knowing about the surprise, bright and early the following morning I was in Koh Samui. We were staying at the W Retreat, part of the Starwood Group of Hotels and a Category 6 on the SPG Scale! This is one of the highest categories of SPG Hotels and it was supposed to be indulgent luxury. Young, fun and decadent, this hotel was the perfect choice for this quick getaway.

The hotel was a 10 minute drive from the small airport and we entered the hotel excitedly. Though most hotels have wonderful web pages with photographs photoshopped to perfection- nothing can beat this magnificent lobby with it’s gorgeous water body claiming pride of place welcoming you to serenity, luxury and calm! With such a wonderful welcome , I couldn’t wait to see the rooms. Our suite was huge(yes I love my pampering) with a magnificent bathroom, jacuzzi tub et all!We also had a beautiful pool attached which was much, much larger than the usual plunge pools. All this and a private sit out , actually sleep out and we had our own private entrance to the beach!

The rooms were perfect and after an overnight flight, we collapsed on to our day beds for a quick power nap so we’d be ready to bring in the birthday with a renewed energy!

The W is fabulous. Once we woke up and made ourselves a nespresso cappucino (my favourite! and in our room!), we wandered for a walk. The staff then pointed us to the just refilled snack freezer which apparently all W hotels have. They’d just filled in some chocolate ice cream and told us it was fabulous! This is how we discovered the W treat freezer. With cokes and ice creams, there are treat freezers , every few rooms for guests to snack on free of charge any time, all the time- another fun W tradition!

And it was time to enjoy some quick Tapas and drinks at sip and take a quick, much needed plunge in the sea!

A short break later, we dressed up for birthday eve and headed to the W lounge where you are ensconced in tables in between the beautiful lobby pool that we saw earlier. Hidden away in between water and the night, this perfect setting was the most beautiful way to bring in my birthday. Cocktails done we headed to the Kitchen Table for some food. The W only has two dining options but 3 bars…so the focus is more on light eats and tapas and some very heady cocktails!

Exhausted we headed back to the room where a cake was waiting to be cut…. Singing and champagne later we settled in for a very restful night after all the heady travel excitement!

The next day we woke up refreshed and charged.We were only here for the birthday and so we decided to enjoy the calm and luxury of the hotel! I would have loved to have visited the Big Buddha but with such a short trip, we decided to spend our time snorkeling,  If you do visit the Big Buddha, you must also go to Wat Plai Laem another active temple surrounded by a lake which is apparently teeming with fish. If you make a donation, you get a bag of food to feed the fish!

Dress conservatively if you wish to visit a temple to not offend tradition and religious customs!

Else step out of your hotel and there are bars and pubs every step of the way… for a night of partying and revelry- nothing beats an island!

For us however it was spa-ing, pampering and a feast of contemporary Japanese at the elegant Namu. With a private dining hall just for us and a specially created menu by the chef and my husband we had a warm , relaxed evening- the perfect start to an incredibly fulfilling year!

Price Factor-:¬†Rooms are between $200- $300! But choose well…remember to get beach front hotels and my sincere recommendation is to try the W!

Best Times To Travel-:¬†March to August. Then remember to take your diving gear along. Koh samui has some incredible diving sites….if you’re not a diver….maybe Koh Samui is a good place to learn! ūüôā

 

 

Balinese adventures!

It was the end of the year and I had let the year win. Exhausted, fed up and trudging along at a miserable pace- the year showed no signs of ending. It was on one such a week where Aditya asked me what my plans were for the next week. Life had become so routine that I recited my daily schedule in a single breath. “Not really,” he said. My Dad and him had taken my life in their very able hands and planned a perfect break-ation!

So it was off to Bali. I had never been to Indonesia before and was very, very excited. We arrived in Bali and checked in to luxurious ¬†Melia Bali in the Exclusive Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is home to luxury hotel properties and Melia Bali was a magnificently beautiful hotel with a private beach and gorgeous lagoon pool that was so, so inviting! Now Nusa Dua is more serene and is rather private so it is a bit cut away from all the action and madness of Bali but we had come here for a break and it was absolutely perfect for us! Ubud , in the hills is also wonderfully luxurious and relaxing but I’m a beach girl and Nusa Dua was PERFECT for us!

For more of the action and fun head to Kuta. Kuta also has several hotels, but none of them have their own beaches. It is also a more touristy part of Bali and so much as I loved hanging out in Kuta during the day, I absolutely loved heading back to my beautiful paradise in Nusa Dua to have romantic dinners on the beach with my husband! Kuta has great shopping and drinking and bargains! It is very touristy, always bustling and always fun.

Nusa Dua was quiet, relaxing and the perfect unwind.

Indonesia is a Hindu Country. They are so proud about the culture, the religion and their temples, it’s hard not to be proud of how well preserved the culture is. Furniture is made on shops along the road and is amazingly cheap , hardy and perfectly crafted. However shipping is often a problem and most of the local artisans would rather have you take responsibility for the shipping entirely and as a tourist with very few days in a country- that’s often not something you can do. Next time I go back, I’ll research the shipping plans better; so I can pick up some amazing furniture or a beautifully crafted Lord Ganesha!

Obviously in Bali , it’s all about the sea. ¬†So after a quick city tour we were in the sea and racing each other till we couldn’t see land any more!

And then we discovered white water rafting.¬†We were picked up with 3 other couples and taken to the Ayung River and then we had to walk down ridiculously steep steps. A quick change and even quicker set of instructions later we were off on ¬†our own learning how to deal with the rapids and weaving our way through the river. At one point, we were allowed to get off and swim and the cool water after a hard bit of rowing was so refreshing we didn’t want to get out! After the rowing, you are taken for a quick bite to eat and something to drink and packed into the bus again and sent back to the hotel. What I really loved was a group of Japanese tourists who had used the river as a treasure hunt-team building experience. Different teams would rush to points on a map and pick up clues. Fun, exhilarating and a huge team building experience and suddenly I wished we had come with the whole family. Nothing like a good , fun competition to make a fun day even better!

Bali is beautiful, unspoiled and serene. It’s the perfect quick getaway from Singapore or Malaysia and a place I definitely must go back to! The sun shone brighter in Bali. My smile was bigger in Bali and I relaxed so completely in Bali!

Best Times To Travel-¬†RIGHT NOW! ALWAYS ! ANY TIME! But on a more serious note…May to October is the best time to travel to Bali. Bali is always warm….so pack lots of shorts and lots of swimwear.

Price Factor-:¬†¬†$300 a night for a good hotel! But check the fine print. Several don’t have private beaches/ all the facilities you’d like! So choose well!

IMPORTANT NOTE-:¬†ONE DOLLAR is approximately 9500 INDONESIAN RUPIAH. SO WHEN YOU’RE TIPPING, DON’T BE STINGY WITH THE TIPS AND EXPECT A SMILE AFTER TIPPING SOMEONE 10/20 RUPIAH! THAT ISN’T MORE THAN A FEW CENTS!

ALSO A COKE BOTTLE IS APPROXIMATELY 20,000 RUPIAH! 

Splendide Roma (Day One Travels)

To do justice to glorious Roma can never take just a single post so bear with me while I go on and on for a bit and then still dream of going back and exploring some more! I’m going to break my trip in Roma up by days , but promise that each post will be completely and totally unique. I also know the next time I go there will be completely different too because that’s what Roma celebrates- the more you see- the more you learn. The more you think you’ve seen it all , the more you’ll be surprised! Roma is a treasure trove for travel enthusiasts and it was one of my creates travel adventures ever!

The Rome trip had been in planning for a while. I had dreamt of the romance of Rome and it’s splendor and to be able to stay in Rome on my birthday (which I did btw), was easily the most special celebration ever!!!

So after a perfect stay in Florence we were up and out early to glorious Rome. Now we were told several times to watch our luggage, watch for crooks, pickpockets etc – but I have to say we did NOT have one single bad experience! The train ride was a quick one 1 hr. 23 minutes and we were in Rome!

This post will only cover Day 1 or the eve of my SUPERB BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION…so you’ll have to keep coming back to see some incredible photographs and hear more about this marvelous city!

Here we stayed at the Spanish Steps at the very quaint Hotel Splendide Royal¬†part of the Small Luxury Hotels. Now I was a little worried about this hotel, what with all my expectations having been so built up in Capri¬†and me not really loving that hotel. But here my worried were unfounded. The Small Luxury Hotels got this very cute hotel just right and it was pretty, charming and very central! Our room had been upgraded to a suite and we had a wonderful sitting room and a charming bedroom and my only complaint was that you got lost in all the reds and golds of the room! It was not very well lit and I often couldn’t find something especially if it by chance fell on the plush carpet or the wonderfully soft, uber plush bed cover! I wish there were more lights in the room! The hotel also has the Mirabelle Restaurant, said to be one of the finest in the city! But best of all is the fact that you’re walking distance form the famous shopping at Via Venetto and the marvelous Spanish Steps.

We checked in and then we were out to explore! The Spanish Steps were a 3 minute walk and the day was perfect. We were on top of the Spanish Steps which made walking down easy and fun! The 138 step climb with shopping later in the day proved to be a little less fun! The Spanish Steps are filled with tourists , young couples and lots of life! Couples hang out on the steps and watch the world go by. Tourists use the steps for fabulous photographs and often a much needed rest stop.  The Steps start from the Piazza Trinità dei Monti dominated by the Trinità dei Montichurch at the top and lead to  the Piazza di Spagna at the base. We had a quick bite to eat at the wonderful , highly recommended Canova Cafe and the most glorious cappuccino and then it was off to walk towards the Trevi fountain!

I was very waylaid in my walk though because I kept finding these incredible boutiques with superbly priced clothing that I just had to , had to , had to have! So what would have been a 15 minute slow walk took us a couple of hours because of my insistence to explore small bylanes and small shops! The clothes however were beautiful, the weather perfect and this for me was the best way to explore Rome- leisurely and allowing a complete indulgence of your senses- because there is so much to smell, see, feel, touch and do!

The Trevi Fountain was glorious! I threw several coins in a fountain believing in the superstition that if you threw a coin in the Trevi fountain you will return! I do hope to go back several times and I wished hard hoping that the Fountain Gods would hear me!

Dinner was at a small cafe in the Theatre district and was absolutely perfect! But an early night Day 1 was almost done and the big birthday blow out was tomorrow! Surprises galore and a trip to Vatican City for a special Papal visit…. but more on that next week!

Till then Ciao!

Price Factor-:¬†Between $ 300- $ 500 but book something CENTRAL …cos the only way to explore Roma is to do it by foot!

Best times to travel-: May- October

Living like a Maharaja in Udaipur!

So anyone who knows me at all…and all those who don’t know me but have read stuff that I’ve written- you’d probably know that it doesn’t take much for me to want to travel…I can make occasions out of almost anything and in my mind celebrations are occasions and are the perfect time to do something different, to travel, to explore, to dream and to make dreams come true!

It was the husband’s birthday last year and in true Divya-mystery style , I told him to take leave from work- ” I was going to kidnap him!” is what I said! And that’s totally what I planned! The Ultimate Kidnap! Nothing was bought via his Credit card. ¬†Bookings were done on email and via the phone and Aditya who was delighted about the kidnapping stayed happily oblivious to all my intricate plans!

Now Aditya had only been very briefly to Rajasthan once when in school. It had been quick , short and unmemorable and he’d always talked of wanting to go back- to see the palaces. I have spent more than a few vacations in the Palaces of Rajasthan but this was a trip and a surprise I wanted to give him…so it was up to me to try and ensure that the trip catered to HIS very specific tastes ¬†and so I went ahead and did my research! The Palace I chose was the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur.

The Taj Lake Palace has always been one of my favourite palaces. A white , carved beauty almost arising like a lotus from the lake- the Lake Palace was a palace used by the Royals for dancing, music and merriment. The Lake Palace stands proudly amidst Lake Pichola with the beautiful Aravalli range helping create the most picture-perfect backdrop!

The Royal WelcomeThe flights from Mumbai are limited and the one we took was rather early in the morning (3:30 or 4 am ish) so despite it being a short flight; both of us were quite exhausted! Udaipur airport is almost a shell structure with only basic facilities and I was happy to quickly get out!

All our exhaustion vanished the minute we stepped outside! A beautiful, heritage car had come to pick us up and Aditya was almost jumping in glee as he carefully examined the beautiful car! The car ride was full of ¬†‘I don’t believe it’s’….and ¬†‘What’s next?’s’ and before we knew it we were at the pier ready to take a boat to the fabulous Palace that stood gleaming majestically in the early rays of the morn!

The trip I had planned would be a trip fit for a King! After all my wonderful husband is my King and he deserves nothing less…so as we arrived we were ushered into one of the Palace suites! The suite was beautiful- a two level suite with all our bedroom windows overlooking the beautiful lake. The room was perfect- opulent , rich and comfortable and the minute our heads hit the bed we were off to sleep!A Palace in my palm!

But there had been much planning that had gone into this Celebration and so in a few hours I woke my husband to take him off for a special Spa session. Aditya loves spas, food, water and a relaxed break and I’m usually the total opposite- loving cities, noise, adventure and fun BUT this was Aditya’s celebrations and the plans were geared to him the time of his life! And the spa treatment did just that. With an outdoor spa bed overlooking the lake as the sun started setting, even I had to admit that there was no way that city noise could compete with the beautiful serenity of that moment! We relaxed. We talked. We de-stressed.

After some fabulous green tea, we grudgingly left the spa but started exploring the hotel. As soon as we found the beautiful pool we couldn’t hold ourselves back! We jumped in! A refreshing swim later- it was back to the room to dress for dinner!The Lily Pond

Now with the help of the hotel I had chosen some Unique Royal Dining Experiences for Aditya and me and our first was at the beautiful Lily Pond. A table had been set and our personal butler escorted us to our table where a musician regaled us with live music as we had traditional Rajasthani food sipping champagne under a beautiful moonlit sky! When we returned back to our room, our Butler had thoughtfully put out a cake, some more champagne and lit up the room so wonderfully – it must have taken him our entire dinner to have been able to make the room look so spectacular ! We cut Aditya’s birthday cake and finally called it a night!

Breakfast on the birthday morning was very special as well. I had pre-ordered breakfast and this was brought to a small garden outside our room and set up just for us! After a late night and with plenty of exciting plans today- this was a wonderful start for us!

Vintage TasteBreakfast over we headed back to the Pier where we had a Vintage car waiting to take us on a tour of the city. Stopping at a few select stores , we took a long break at a collection of the Maharaja’s cars. All restored. All spectacular. All drool worthy ! Now it was back to the hotel and a short heritage walk around the Palace. As that ended we were escorted back to the Upstairs spa ( my request after seeing how calm Aditya had been the previous day) and a new spa treatment. Equally relaxing and fabulous…this time we chose to just let the moment take control and slowly drifted off only to be awakened at the end of the treatment with warm tea.

The Octopussy Boat

Dressed to Impress

Now it was time for my HUGE SURPRISE and the reason why i had chosen we come to Udaipur! The Lake Palace owns and looks after the boat that was seen in the Bond movie Octopussy- the Gangaur! Aditya is a film buff and I knew it would be worth the extra expense to give him a birthday surprise he’d never have dreamed possible- dinner on the boat!The boat is kept in the middle of the lake and holds 10-20 guests but I booked it for just the 2 of us! A magnificent multi course meal on the lake had been booked while my Bond enjoyed the sunset, starters drinks and meal that I had pre-planned for him! The boat was decked exquisitely. With red carpets and 10 butlers , we were looked after like royalty. Both of us headed to the upper deck where a gadda (comfortable , padded mat) had been placed with cushions and we surveyed the whole city as it lay before us.

The City Palace

As drinks finished and the sun set, the boat had maneuvered around some ruins on the main land under the City Palace. Suddenly they came to life and were lit up with beautiful girls doing incredible dances among the ruins. Fabulous music, dances with fire and we felt like Maharjas (I too felt rather King-like!) watching courtesans dance as they might have done decades ago. This had been done especially for us and I was delighted when I saw Aditya’s happy surprise! The meal was served upstairs as we were so comfortable relaxing despite having seen a beautiful , intimate table set up downstairs on the boat. The food was a collection of kebabs, dals , biryanis and curries -each more delicious than the next, each more decadent than the next!

And then as the boat turned once again we saw the beautifully lit Mohan Mandir ( the temple island) and as it turned again Birthday fireworks erupted in the air once again especially for us! The excitement in the air was electric and we were really privileged to have been part of such a wonderful, well thought out experience. As dessert was served (once again a medley of all Aditya’s favourites) we wound down to live Indian music being played by our very own musicians on the boat (once again a special experience just for us!).

And then like a dream the evening ended and we floated back to our suite dreaming of the Rajasthani Royal past and grateful that we were able to have some of the experiences!

My husband felt like a King and I was proud to have been able to make him feel like that! Udaipur is the crown among Royal Rajasthani palaces and the Taj Lake Palace- the Kohinoor!

Price Factor-: Udaipur as a city is inexpensive for traditional Rajasthani handicrafts and materials. The hotels however are expensive and are traditionally between $320- $ 420 per night.

Best times to travel-:¬†Dessert climes…so October thru to March is great to travel in though we had a wonderful time last July as well!

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