IndiaGBnews correspondent Aline Dobbie is one of the UK’s foremost authorities on India. Born in India to Scottish parents she spent the first 16 years of her life in the sub-continent. An acclaimed travel writer Aline is the author of a celebrated trilogy of books on India including,The Peacock’s Call (www.thepeacockscall.co.uk) Here, Aline gives her advice on escaping the Brexit blues with a luxury break in historic Dehli. Twitter: @AlineDobbie
For those contemplating a holiday within the next few weeks I most enthusiastically urge – think of India! The Monsoon has broken and that does not mean days and days of unending rain…. actually it is not like Manchester or Scotland at all, not gloomy nor cold! It means Welcome Rain quenching the parched earth of 29 States of India, and though various consequences do come out of monsoon to visit Delhi in the monsoon or other metropolitan cities and the desert state of Rajasthan would just mean a warm but not desperately hot time with some showers of rain….in India glorious rain!
Namaste is the icon of ITC Group this important prestige chain of hotels throughout India. The icon welcomes one with the ancient Indian welcome and offers the traveller the warmth of Indian hospitality combined with contemporary international standards that provides world class hospitality through unique indigenous experiences. ITC pioneered the concept of ‘Responsible Luxury’ and all their premium hotels have been awarded the coveted LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Platinum certification making it the greenest luxury hotel chain in the world. Note please, the world not just India!
At the end of 2015’s journey round India we stayed at the very newly opened ITC Grand Bharat just outside Delhi and Gurgaon. It is about 50 minutes from the airport and the journey is accomplished in a comfortable luxury German 4 x4. The welcome was stupendous. This is an entirely different creation with a 27-hole golf course that is mature and was designed by Jack Nicklaus. It has villas with private heated pools, bigger villas, presidential villas, a beautiful gracious large pool which can be heated, though obviously in monsoon season it requires no heating at all. The huge stunning Kaya Kalp Spa that I found excellent, a Fitness Centre and lovely restaurants; this hotel however is harking back to the days of empire and India’s five thousand years of unbroken civilisation; its interiors are grand and lush. For me the last of five generations who had served, lived, worked loved and died in India it was nice to see the British legacy recognised. Again we had our own butler and he was a total delight and fun to have around as well as helpful. The Grand Bharat would be an ideal destination for ardent golfers, whereby if the spouse does not golf there is plenty in the Spa and Fitness facilities or the sheer beauty and peace of the place to engage them.
ITC Grand Bharat as an entity has much more to offer with sprawling nature’s bounty in full bloom during the Monsoon with the abundance of the majestic Aravalli’s flora and fauna that blooms in this season. It is a paradise for nature trails and hiking in the verdant hilly estate dotted with pristine lakes. For the Wellness seeker, there are enviable options to choose from- Health & Wellness packages at the Kaya Kalp Spa – from Ayurveda packages to Detox or Weight Management & Beauty packages … coupled with Swasthya Cuisine offered by acclaimed chefs in consultation with the Retreat Wellness expert; ITC Grand Bharat is a haven for the escapist- whoever might just now want to escape the drama & chaos of Brexit!
Driving down in a golf cart as the sun set to experience the beautiful golf course was a joy. Here one is in the countryside on the edge of one of the world’s great and ancient cities, masses of peacocks strolled on the putting greens, vibrant bougainvillea’s gave startling colour, the evening bird calls sang out, and it is said that leopards lurk in the Aravalli Hills that come down to the golf course…. they are known to be the world’s most ancient range of hills. A stunning location for golfers, and I am not one, but I could see that the Golf Club and facilities were world class. As the sun set I was captivated.
For the first timer to India and Delhi I would recommend a couple of nights in Delhi at the group’s ITC Maurya…the hotel of choice for the US Presidents and the Russians and indeed others for its huge choice of secure luxury suites. It is situated in the diplomatic area of Delhi Chanukyapuri and a short drive from the IGI Airport. Delhi has so much to offer in the way of heritage and ambience. It is actually my favourite large city in India. After the city centre experience then go out to the Grand Bharat and from there either return to the UK or indeed go on to other lovely places like Rajasthan. India cannot be seen in a two-week experience!
Delhi has so much to see and experience but the must dos are in my opinion: a driver and car to take you around Lutyens’s magnificent New Delhi. Pause at the India Gate and as I write this I think of the Great War and the start of the fateful Battle of the Somme. Indian Soldiers gave their all in courage and fortitude throughout those four years and are honoured at India Gate along with those that came after in World War II. It is the Nation’s memorial such as our Cenotaph and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Then go and have a meal or tea or whatever takes your fancy at the heritage great hotel The Imperial. I first went there in 1958 as a small girl and have loved it ever since…. the first time visitor will absorb the enormity of what was India as the jewel in the crown. Refreshed set out to visit Gandhi Smriti which is where Gandhi lived in the days leading up to his cruel assassination – this is essential viewing in my opinion. Also then go to Raj Ghat and pay respects because there you will touch the heart of India, the reverence that still surrounds this little man who turned the tide of empire. Close by to Raj Ghat is the Crafts Museum which is cleverly configured and gives you a taste of the rest of India all in one place, a really good experience. If you have the energy also visit Teen Murti Bhavan which was designed by Lutyens to be the commander in chief’s residence but became the residence of Pandit Nehru and is now a most interesting museum and hardly visited but again gives you a good feel for the emerging country and its splendour.
Go back in time and enjoy the wonderful Humayun’s Tomb, said to be the template with its great dome for the Taj Mahal. If you like gardening visit the reclaimed and restored Sunder Nursery next door with its mixture of beautiful gardens and heritage tombs of lost empires. The Red Fort, Old Delhi, the Jama Masjid, St James’s Church, the Ktub Minar, Safdarjang’s Tomb, the great national museums of history and art, the shops selling the wonders of India….. well it goes on and on and there is always something new to go and explore in this ancient yet modern city.
If you want to shop there are many malls and markets, but probably my favourite remains Khan Market in the Lutyens’s part of the city. It is shabby, noisy and curious but a great experience and where all of fashionable Delhi shops…. we never fail to find something we want! Delhi Haat is another must to find everything you want in the way of gifts in one colourful place. A gentle walk in the Lodi Gardens as the sun sets will also give you an insight into this vast capital city but then sunrise is also an important time in India when people come out to take the air and gossip and do yoga on the lawns of the gardens…. fun amongst the dog walkers, power walkers, children and old men.
You may decide to go at another season but I would seriously advise not between mid-April to end of June as it is too hot. I particularly love Delhi in the springtime which is from mid-February to end of March when all the beautiful flowering trees and gardens are at their best. Then is the time to actually visit the President’s Palace Rashtrapathi Bhavan’s Mughal Gardens which open for four weeks to the public. They are indeed a sight for sore eyes and a total delight. Dear Old Delhi!
https://goo.gl/photos/HDF38QP1UU3tguzv8 ITC Grand Bharat