Favorite places in India

Udaipur, Rajasthan – for the atmosphere. A walking city, with picturesque alleys lined with silver jewelry shops. Lodging: Hilton Trident fine, Jagat Niwas Heritage Hotel more authentic and centrally located. Lake Palace dinner a must.

Jaipur, Rajasthan- wonderful marketplace, with some of the best street food in India: chili pakoras and lassi so thick, it’s eaten with a spoon.  If the guide Sandeep Singh Goyal is available, and hasn’t yet been married off by his Brahmin family, grab him tel 091 291 2439500, navkar-01@yahoo.com. Handi restaurant does terrific grilled foods, Maya Mansion  MI Rd, opposite the GPO. Shapura House is a 3* comfortable heritage hotel in a quiet location www.shshpurshouse.com.

Narlai Village, Rajasthan – because of the amazing, one of a kind Rawla Narlai heritage hotel tel 02934 260425). The secluded location, the richness of the ex-Maharaja palace and authentic furniture, the service par excellence and the surrounding treks make this not to be missed. 

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh – for the beautiful erotic carvings on the Hindu temples. The Taj Chandela  chandela.khajuraho@tajhotels.com is wonderful, reasonably priced, serves delicious outdoor buffet dinners and check out the ayurvedic massages near the pool.

Agra, Uttar Pradesh – for the Taj Mahal, of course, and for the nearby Fatehpur Sikri which is almost as beautiful.

Mysore, Karnataka – to see the palace, open and lit up once a year on the festival with elephant parades. The Taj is serene and upscale, the Darshan Palace is ‘deluxe lodging’ by local standards, and at a quarter the rate. www.hoteldarshanpalace.com. Fabulous food and ambiance is to be had at Parklane in their indoor garden restaurant www.parklanemysore@yahoo.com. They have rooms as well.

Madhumalai, Tamil Nadu – a wildlife sanctuary between Mysore and Ooty, with jungle resorts. Dinner and drinks were served on the porch of our bungalow, and the trekking in the countryside is terrific. On motorbike, we prudently reversed (fled in panic) when faced with a defiant mother elephant and her baby. Monkeys galore, but our night safari didn’t find any tigers. www.bluevalleyjungleresorts.com

Ooty, Tamil Nadu – a hill station to escape the heat – but risk unending summer thundershowers. Interesting old buildings – church, library, etc. Stay (but book ahead, only nine rooms!) and eat at King’s Cliff on Havelock Rd, Strawberry Hill, email holiday@kingscliff-ooty.com.

Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu – the former capital of French India. If I had to choose one place in India to relax for a month, this would be it. On the eastern coast, rich in French architecture and enjoying Bay of Bengal breezes, Pondicherry is unique. If you’re ok with veggies and no guests after hours restrictions, Park guest house, run by an ashram, is popular and on the sea parkgh@sriaurobindoashram.org. I’m more of a hedonist so where I stay is Villa Helena at 14 Rue Suffren, and just writing its name makes me homesick. It’s a sprawling French villa, divided into five suites, beautifully decorated with local fabrics. Breakfast and drinks are served in the shady courtyard, along with newspapers and books. villahelena@satyam.net.in and reserve in advance.  Excellent espresso, cappuchino and croissants are served at Daily Bread, #54 Ambour Salai St. In Pondi, the best shopping for jewelry, fabrics and clothing is at Kasha Ki Aasha Gallery Boutique Cafe, in a beautiful French building at 23 Surcouf Street. Check out Kasha’s products at www.feel-india.biz.
A half hour’s drive north of Pondi, along the worst dirt road in India, is Auroville, a community based on Utopian peace and protection of environmental and organic causes. The visitors’ centre is worth seeing, and in their shop you will find the best and most fashionable cotton clothing in India. They have a shop in Pondi, on Nehru St, but the selection in Auroville is much bigger.

Mamallapuram,Tamil Nadu – between Pondi and Chennai, this small town has two wonderful sites: the Shore Temple and ancient rock sculptures.

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