There are great places and great hotels: sometimes they gloriously coincide. Udaipur is such a place. Devi Garh, our first hotel stop, is an Escher drawing from a fairytale made real: a twisty-turn-y warren of a palace on a hill top thirty minutes from Udaipur centre, commanding imperious views of the surrounding villages and fields.
You can look right onto people’s rooftops which is where folks conduct a lot of their daily business. Makes you realise that the aristocrats of old, who built these fort palaces, might have wanted to literally and figuratively look down upon the rest, but they were still dead nosy.
One of the truisms about travel is that you cherish those moments when you feel ‘at home’. The grandest palace or the lowliest B&B can equally do it: there’s a magic ingredient, a rhythm and a vibe to a place that allows you to fully relax that’s independent of any particular fixtures and fittings but often the most highfalutin’ Five-Starrers can seem sterile and isolating. Devi Garh, though, has soul and all mod cons: the kids set about flying kites and, in Alice’s case, performing water ballet as though they’d been there weeks and John colonised the sunbeds, mainlining nuggets in my swimhat like he owned the joint.
Hilariously, Adam and I and the girls decided to get up at 6am and do some cycling, we were that relaxed. CYCLING. In INDIA. At 0600. Fortunately, the countryside surrounding Udaipur is about ten times lovelier than that around any other Indian city I’ve visited (but you’ll have to take my word for it as I’ve yet to master simultaneous pedalling and snapping) culminating in Lake Pichola, the biggest of the man-made lakes of Udaipur. Up on a hill to the edge of Pichola is the Monsoon Palace, famous as the home of arch-baddie Orlov in ‘Octopussy’. The biggie from the film, though, is The Lake Palace, the confection of arches and gardens in the centre of the lake that Bond swims up to disguised as an alligator.
Adam and I arrived disguised as whacked-out tourists, had our palms read and then slept like logs – which probably had something to do with the fact that we’d necked a couple of bhang lassies with lunch that day and then proceeded to tour the City Palace Museum absolutely off our nuts. Here’s Adam drinking his, 45 minutes before the effects began:
Our guide, Sahaj, said he’d bought them ‘Extra Mild’ which means my tolerance hasn’t improved since college (famously asleep within 5 minutes of a smoke). If you notice below, just about every picture I took in the Museum is slightly askew.
My favourite is this one which is a photo of a photo of two elephants wrestling over a wall. It’s not only dull and weird but it’s out of focus and slanted.
If you’re interested, bhang lassies are technically illegal in Rajasthan outside of the festival of Holi but if you know where to go, eh eh nudge nudge wink wink, they’re available … and lethally delicious. We got ours from the rooftop restaurant opposite the Jagdish Temple (bonus points for the great views):
Word of caution though: DON’T DRINK THE END BIT. A slight John Wayne bravado almost kicked in when Sahaj told me to leave the dregs (darker, swirlier liquid than the rest… sinister in fact… take heed, pilgrim) and I SO nearly drank it, with misplaced chutzpah. I’m very glad I didn’t. Even without the end bit, I was WRECKED. At one point, I followed completely the wrong tour group and ended up on a totally different floor of the museum to everyone else.
Anyway, I digress. Udaipur is amazeballs, Octopussballs, bhangballs, lakeballs, kiteballs. Devi Garh is a simply magical hotel (with awesome food) and I’m an absolutely terrible role model for an impressionable young lady like Jamie. Or Alice. Except I’m banking on them going the full Saffy to my Edina and realising that it’s best to JUST SAY NO… to the dark swirly bit at the end, at least.