From a few days in the wilderness of JAWAI, Simona travels across to Jaipur and SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace on her next leg of the Rajasthan Tour. Follow her diary as she comes back to love a city she previously had no love lost for and find out the reason for her change of heart, in this week’s blog.
I visited Jaipur for the first time in 1998. I was 20 then. I was backpacking on a shoestring budget and I was really, very sick. I hated it, even if everyone told me it was one of the most magnificent, decadent, and dreamiest of Rajput strongholds. Throughout my love affair with India I went back to Jaipur several times and visited the different monuments and the intricate alleys hiding gems’ and block-printing textile shops; but still it has not been on top of my list of places to visit, in Rajasthan.
When I was little my sister used to force me into a lounge chair while she was dressing me up to play princesses. I was her ‘model’, so she would do my make-up, my hair and my clothing and then we would need to imagine that we were in a palace. I would basically remain still for couple of hours, while she was having fun.
Considering these two combinations, I never thought that one day, at the age of 40, I could actually play a real life ‘Princess of Jaipur’ for a whole day in one of the most exquisite palaces imaginable, in the “Pink City”.
After a very short flight from Jodhpur I get into Jaipur airport and it is actually the first time I see it. A chauffeur is patiently waiting for me with a very elegant white outfit topped up with a pink turban. We drive through the city and I immediately notice quite a big change from my last visit, although today I know already I’m not too keen to go out and explore. I saw pictures of Rajmahal and I’m so looking forward to just experiencing the Palace.
Upon my arrival, in front of the extremely ‘choreographical’ staircase, leading to the Palace, I am greeted by a gentleman with strikingly regal manners, who ushers me into the Durbar Hall. There are few words to describe the magnificence of this room. That was the idea when it was conceived; a public hall to meet dignitaries and actually impress them with the opulence and splendour of the décor.
Sid – this is the name of the gentleman – shows me around the other public areas, all unique and equally beautiful, and the garden and the sweeping lawns and swiftly guides me to my suite.
That is when the “Princess mood” really kicks in! Only “WOW”…I just keep myself calm and look absolutely grown-up, while he is explaining my room and its features, but as soon as he leaves I kick off my shoes and as a little kid would do I get onto the bed and jump (maybe I should not say it).
As a welcome there are some homemade chocolates and macaroons (which I am usually not a big fan of) and I try them all with the glass of champagne given me as a welcome – 12.15 PM, the perfect time for a Princess glass of bubbly!
The suite is just eccentric and understated at the same time and the whole atmosphere and the service are of sophisticated elegance. This princess gets into a bit of outfit anxiety and so I try on my entire wardrobe just to go and have lunch and then onto the pool.
I do not walk around the Palace, I float in pink clouds of happiness.
I spend my afternoon at the pool, a lovely example of art deco architecture, while a butler keeps bringing me some deliciously healthy eats meant to hydrate and cool me down. As the sun starts to set I decide to go out for a run and I have the crazy idea of doing it in the streets of Jaipur. I get a call back to reality soon enough though and long for the Palace, and its magnificent calm.
I run back into the garden of the palace and I finish my exercises there. Here the Raat Ki Rani (the Queen of the Night) smells deliciously sweet and promises nights of passion and tenderness, the dim lights reflect on the pool and there is a still, comforting silence.
Rajmahal Palace is a place meant for a princess and I’m glad I could play at being one during my stay here.