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A taste of the Raj in the Himalayas

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					LIFESTYLE TRAVEL                                                                                                                       1. 800. 973.1177




A taste of the Raj in the Himalayas
[by Joan Scobey]
Dawdle over breakfast on the slate terrace of Wildflower Hall, only a low stone wall planted with rosy geraniums between you and a wide-screen Himalayan
panorama rolling out to distant, snow-covered summits. You are at eye level with these craggy peaks in India’s northern hill country, higher than the eagles
wheeling through the crisp air. If you feel a bit heady, chalk it up to the 8,250-foot altitude as well as the breathtaking setting.




                                     Its towers       tually built on the footprint of Lord Kitchen-         massages and other holistic treatments
                                     and turrets      er’s home. It is set on 22 acres of fragrant           based on Western and Asian therapies, swim
                                     rising above     cedar and pine trees, adjacent to a 2,000-            laps in the heated indoor pool or loll in the
                                     a steep,         acre preserve of dense evergreen forest that           outdoor infinity whirlpool and gaze at that
                                     forested         shelters bear, langur monkeys, antelope and            blockbuster Himalayan view.
                                     slope of         even hard-to-spot leopards.
                                     the Middle                                                              Look for traces of the authentic Raj in
                                     Himalayas,       Though much taller than the original, Wild-            Shimla, where British colonials transplanted
                                     Wildflower       flower Hall recalls colonial-era hill house            a bit of England for their summer comfort.
                                     Hall is          architecture, from the slate-clad exterior and         The town spills down steep hills, with mul-
                                     Oberoi           narrow iron balconies to its pitched roofs.            tistory houses stacked tightly in tiers on the
                                     Hotel’s          Inside, teak floors, Oriental rugs, clubby             slopes. On top, the main road, The Mall, runs
homage to the Raj. Actually, it is barely five        chairs, green baize-covered game tables and            for about three miles, in the middle widening
years old, but its roots go back to 9th cen-         a portrait of Lord Kitchener himself over a            to a mile-long promenade called the Ridge.
tury colonial days when the British ruled In-         welcoming fireplace evoke the spirit of the            It is anchored at one end by the golden stone
dia and made the nearby town of Shimla the            Raj.                                                   Christ Church and half-timbered public
summer capital. For six months every year                                                                    library, and at the other by the Tourist Office
from 865 to 947, the government fled the                                                Lord Kitch-        and Scandal Point, once the meeting place
steamy heat of the Indian capitals, first Cal-                                            ener would         for assignations and gossip-mongering.
cutta and then Delhi, for the Himalayas and                                               be proud. He
did the government’s business in the cool hill                                            might not                                               Along The
station of Shimla (then spelled Simla).                                                   recognize                                               Mall are
                                                                                          the marble                                              handcrafts
Two of the famous names during the Raj, as                                                bathrooms,                                              and cafes,
the British colonial rule was called, were                                                satellite                                               wood-gabled
Lord Kitchener and Lord Curzon. When                                                      television,                                             shops and
Kitchener arrived in Shimla in 902 as India’s        DVD players and other high-tech amenities of                                                restaurants,
newly appointed commander-in-chief, Cur-              the 87-room, fully wired hotel, but surely he                                               a touristy pe-
zon was viceroy of India. They were soon em-          would appreciate the sporting opportunities                                                 destrian zone
broiled in a military controversy and became          in this glorious mountain playground: river            with only hints of its glory days as a once-
bitter enemies. Curzon lived in the official          rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding,            stylish British shopping street. Below The
residence, Viceregal Lodge. Kitchener rented          tennis, ice skating and golf on rolling mead-          Mall, via steep alleys and stairways, are the
Wildflower Hall, a forested mountaintop               ows of a century-old course, not to mention            food markets and stalls of the lustier Indian
retreat ,000 feet above Shimla so, the story         treks through terraced fields and villages             Lower Bazaar that Rudyard Kipling, who lived
goes, he could look down on Curzon.                   and along forest trails edged with wild flow-          in Shimla for 4 years, described a century
                                                      ers and strawberries.                                  ago in “Kim.”
Kitchener’s villa is long since gone, as is a
small hotel that replaced it, but the present         Too active for you? Hedonists can head for             “He led the horses below the main road into
Wildflower Hall stands on that same site, ac-         the Banyan Tree spa to sample ayurvedic                the lower Simla bazaar - the crowded rab-




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LIFESTYLE TRAVEL                                                                                                             1.800.973. 1177




bit-warren that climbs up from the valley to       five nights, and includes deluxe room, a daily      ings, including tea with the Maharajah; (800)
the Town Hall at an angle of forty-five. A man     one-hour spa treatment and transfers from           999-758, www.coxandkingsusa.com.
who knows his way there can defy all the po-       Shimla airport or train station. The Unforget-
lice of India’s summer capital, so cunningly       table Experience package, including deluxe          Joan Scobey is a freelance travel writer.
does veranda communicate with veranda,             room, breakfast and dinner, is $760 for two
alleyway with alleyway, and bolt-hole with         nights, $,30 for three nights and $,470          © Copley News Service
bolt-hole.”                                        for four nights. Both packages are double
                                                   occupancy, include round-trip transfers from
Shimla’s monument to the Raj is the historic       the airport or train station, and are good Jan.
Viceregal Lodge. Built in 888 in grand Scot-      2 to March 3, 2006.
tish Baronial style, with gardens and an
indoor tennis court, it was the residence of       The Cecil, (800) 562-3764, www.oberoihotels.
all 3 Viceroys of India, from Lord Dufferin to    com.
Lord Mountbatten, until India won indepen-
dence in 947. Now occupied by the Indian          Chapslee, 0-9-77-280-2542, fax: 0-
Institute of Advanced Studies, it has several      9-77-265-8663, chapslee@sancharnet.in,
rooms open to the public, and an exhibit           www.chapslee.com.
documenting the momentous debate and
signing of the Partition Plan that took place      Getting there: The easiest way is the Oberoi
there, and its famous visitors, among them         Air Charter between Delhi and Shimla, with
Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.               daily flights five days a week that must be
                                                   booked in advance; (800) 562-3764.
If afternoon tea seems like an appropriate
finale, Shimla has two authentic Raj-era op-       You can also fly India Airlines between Delhi
tions: The Cecil Hotel, built in 902 and glori-   and Chandigarh, then drive four hours up
ously refurbished; and Chapslee, a delightful      to Wildflower Hall on a precipitous, twisting
“bungalow” where Kanwar Ratanjit Singh,            road with dizzying hairpin turns; you can’t
the Maharajah of Kapurthala, informally            rent a car without a driver, and you wouldn’t
known as Reggie, has six rooms for guests.         want to.
All the furnishings, from Gobelin tapestries,
Murano chandeliers, even the wallpaper,            The train from Delhi to Shimla, changing in
date to the 930s when his grandfather, Raja       the middle to a narrow-gauge track, takes
Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala, bought the          most of a day.
house. It’s probably your best chance to see
how a Maharajah lives - let alone actually         Among the various carriers that fly from
meet one.                                          the United States to India, Lufthansa has
                                                   the most European flights that connect to a
                                 IF YOU GO         number of U.S. gateways. The airline’s new
                                                   business-class service has several interest-
                                 Staying there:    ing perks: the longest flat beds in the air, in-
                                 Wildflower        flight wireless Internet, U.S.-type electrical
                                 Hall, (800)       outlets for laptops, and meals by Michelin-
                                 562-3764,         starred chefs.
                                 www.oberoi-
                                 hotels.com.       Travel tips: It is convenient to leave travel ar-
                                 Double rooms      rangements to a reliable tour operator such
start around $355, but special packages are        as Cox & Kings, who are very experienced in
frequently offered. The Winter Retreat Pack-       India. They can coordinate logistics, provide
age is $,400 for three nights and $2,300 for      knowledgeable guides, and make all book-



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Description: Wildflower Hall in Indias northern hill country. Himalayan Hideaway is set on 22 acres of fragrant cedar and pine trees. Raj is historic Viceregal Lodge. Built in 1888.
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