“In the mid-1950s the so-called ‘Blue’ train from Paris’ Gare de Lyon lead passengers along the route from Paris to the Côte d’Azur. A road was built in parallel to the train, and outposts of fine French taste started to flourish along this route. As the owners of one of these establishments, Marcel and Nelly Tilloy saw an opportunity to band together with other locales sharing the same unflagging passion for hospitality and excellent cuisine. They offered an enticing culinary itinerary, encouraging travellers to explore all the spots. Soon this itinerary acquired the moniker “La Route du Bonheur” or “Road of Happiness”.”
Relais & Châteaux
A hugely familiar song, popularised by the legendary Lys Gauty in pre-war Paris (1938), “le bonheur est entré dans mon coeur”, (happiness has entered my heart), strikes a chord with Relais & Châteaux’s vision of a “Road of Happiness”, a journey of passionate experiences strung together in a series of interludes, dramatic in their hospitality and mouth-wateringly delicious cuisine . One such route, lies in the heart of India and conveys travellers across six properties, four of which are SUJÁN’s ode to experiences in Rajasthan. Combining an affair with The Serai, Jaisalmer by the deserts of the grandiose geography that is the Thar Desert with the eye-opening, unique experiences of JAWAI and Jaipur’s most delicate and most royal palace that is the home of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the route takes you along to Ranthambhore, one of the finest places on earth to see tigers in the wild.
This discovery of Rajasthan, a linear journey of pleasure and passion from west to east (or conversely in the opposite direction), covers a region that defines the special temperament and feel of Indian hospitality, offering experiences in their most immersive forms. The golden city of Jaisalmer holds time in its expanse. The rousing, lifting music of the Manganiars at The Serai, elemental, rustic, real, brings to life a haze of history that goes back a millennium and more.
From the symphonies on the sands of Jaisalmer to the dramatic, dark granite hills of JAWAI and the experience is vastly different, the passion as resonant. Secret shrines located in cavernous concealment offer a refuge for both elusive leopards and local deities. The camp, surrounded by acres of private woodland and wilderness is located between timeless villages and azimuths. The wondrous, sometimes bewildering but always charismatic red turbans of the Rabari tribesmen evoke a spirit of kinship, with a whole way of life that seems lost to the world outside this lost world of JAWAI.
Carrying on, and once more a witness to the pace of life, its “incredibleness”, one moves away from the tranquillity of these vast solitudes to another refined tranquillity, a surprising one which lies at the heart of Rajasthan’s capital (and most visited) city, Jaipur. SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace, the home of the Maharaja of Jaipur, an abode for the “Pink City’s” rich history itself.
Every corner and corridor, every vaulted room and pathway arouses nostalgic evocations in step with a heady past of Kings and Queens, Shahs and Stars, the great and the good. Like all the other properties on SUJÁN’s own route of happiness, the palace too is famous for its kitchens. Family recipes of the Royal Family as well as scrumptious selections cooked only with the freshest ingredients are a sensory delight that evoke a deep sense of satiation and well being. And should you feel the need to walk off your languor, the city of Jaipur awaits you – pebbled with the past at every corner.
A relatively short drive away – you can make it in time for luncheon after a full Palace breakfast – is Sher Bagh, set on the borders of Ranthambhore. Home to another iconic fortress and forests as old as time. It is also – arguably – the finest habitat in the world to see wild tigers in their element. You do wax and wane between adrenalin and sentiment as you first scout and – if you’re lucky – come upon this most iconic of species in its own home. Sher Bagh is an extension, a sense of Ranthambhore itself. The knowledge that you are in the embrace of nature and the wild resonates throughout the Camp and yet as the sun goes down and the lanterns come to life around the roaring campfire, the clinking of cocktail glasses and the scent of the spit roasting your dinner gives you a feeling – at least while you are there – that all is well with the world, and exactly as it was meant to be.