If you want a taste of a royal lifestyle, Rajasthan’s the place to go. It seems that there are as many royal palaces and forts in Rajasthan as there are branches of McDonalds in England; every little town has at least one.
Very fittingly, the word Rajasthan means ‘land of kings’, and all the black and white photos in colonial archives of polo-playing, tiger-shooting, gem-incrusted, old-Etonian Maharajas, were taken in Rajasthan.
Some Palaces are very grand, like the fabulous City Palace in Udaipur –
which is full of the most beautiful architecture and intricate carvings –
But when you look more closely at the beautifully carved panels, you can see that the fretwork is there to create peepholes for the royal ladies to peep out of and see what’s going on in their palace –
as they weren’t allowed out of the ladies’ quarters to take part in any of the fun themselves.
Udaipur is also home to the Lake Palace –
which is now one of the most expensive hotels in the country. As these two palaces are next to each other, one on the lake and one in the lake, I wondered why the Royal Family felt the need to have two palaces in such close proximity – even McDonalds would surely draw the line at two adjacent restaurants?
I was baffled by the Amber Fort at Jaipur when I first saw it –
The Red Fort in Delhi is red so why isn’t the Amber Fort amber? I learnt that it should be pronounced ‘amer’, and refers to the name of the family and not to the colour – how very confusing.
But it does have the most beautiful hall of mirrors –
made from local marble and mirrors from Iran. The cool thing to do, according to our guide, is to take a picture of yourself in one of the mirrors, so it looks like your picture is on the wall. So of course I had to have a go –
These were the grandest palaces, which are open to the public as museums, but we stayed in several smaller royal palaces too. When Indira Gandhi removed the privy purse from these ruling families in 1971, many of them opened their palaces up as heritage homestays, in order to make ends meet.
And it’s a great experience – from the welcome at the entrance –
to the huge bedrooms –
This one had hand painted frescoes on every wall.
We enjoyed aperitifs on the battlements at one fort –
with dinner in the courtyard –
and then a breakfast with a view the next morning –
And if the buildings are old and quirky, so is the plumbing. We had bathrooms with no hot water/no cold water/no water at all … and it’s surprising how quickly you adapt and just give a sigh as you turn off the non-functioning shower, and fill up the bucket and jug that are provided in every bathroom –
And one thing I’ve learnt is that a bathroom with no hot water is infinitely preferable to one with no cold water – in one heritage property I had to pour a bottle of mineral water into the bucket to get the scalding temperature down to bearable.
And the best thing about all these royal palaces?
It’s quite straightforward …
… I do love a man in uniform, and in Rajasthan there are so many to choose from.