Neemrana Fort: A Palatial Holiday
Because every girl deserves to feel like a princess.
When my close friend from Kolkata decided to pay a visit to the capital, I was super excited to play the host. While the things to do in Delhi are simply endless, I also wanted to grab the opportunity to pack in a quick weekend trip. I soon realized this was the perfect time to fulfill my desire to explore the stunning Neemrana Fort Palace. In the years that I have spent in Delhi, I have heard enough people rave and rant about the place. In fact, many a times I myself had visited the Neemrana website and day dreamed about the possibility of a visit.
Once the place was picked, there was some difficulty in booking the room. Being an advertising copywriter, it was next to impossible for me to visit the Neemrana office in town, even though it wasn’t very far from where I stayed. To top it, their online booking page was also not very helpful. Every hour a new room was shown as available with a different price bracket altogether. Eventually, we managed to book the Hans Mahal.
After the initial hiccups, we waited for the day to arrive excitedly. On the day of the trip, I arrived at the airport to receive my friend in a rented cab. On meeting her it was difficult to decide, what was more exciting - the fact that I was meeting her after two years or that we were finally off on our journey.
It was a pretty hot day. So, even though the scenery of the Aravalis was tempting, we didn’t dare to stop the car and click photos. About two hours later we reached the resort. Our excitement knew no bounds, when we saw the durbaans sporting bushy moustaches just like the men in the Amar Chitra Katha. Resplendent in their maroon kurtas and turbans they looked like the true protectors of the fort.
A quick check-in later, we were ceremoniously led to our room, through winding stairways, mysterious walkways, hanging gardens that opened to the hills and pools that glistened with the sky. Hans Mahal, our room, had a high four-poster bed. The tall door attached with coloured glass instantly added to the old world charm. Even the room itself was built much later in this 17th century fort. In keeping with the feel of place, the room didn’t have a television but had modern fittings in the bathroom.
We decided to freshen up first; after all we needed to look our part (of princesses). At the Jalgiri Mahal, we realized the spread of food was nothing less than that befitting a princess. Right from Rajasthani classics like Methi Chicken, Sangri, Gatte ki Sabzi to Continental Baked Potatoes, Pasta in Red Sauce, the spread was big and delicious. They also had a range of desserts and fruit platters to choose from.
Satisfied with the food, we now decided to explore. We loitered aimlessly around the fort and realized that at every twist and turn, there lay something interesting. We took plenty of photos and soon it was sunset time. So mesmerized we were with the surroundings that we forgot about the complimentary tea completely. By the time we found our way to the Durbar Mahal where tea was being served we realized we had almost missed the live performances too. In the end, we managed to catch the last song or two. On our way back, we lost our way not once but a couple of times. But each time, we found someone to escort us back like we were true blue princesses.
The sight that greeted us when we stepped out of the room later in the evening, was something else. The entire fort had been lit up and completely transformed. I was amazed to see the amount of hard work put in by the staff of the resort. They had painstakingly laid out layers and layers of fairy lights covering each and every rampart of the fort. Tables were laid out on the Uncha Bagh, a hanging garden complete with tea lights and cutlery while they patiently waited to serve dinner. And at the end of the night, they once again tucked away everything till the next evening.
The possibility of sitting under the open sky, admiring the moonlight as we compared notes about our lives was a happy one. We were amazed that despite the heavy lunch, our appetite was unaffected. Compliment must also go to Executive Chef Pinaki, a very warm gentleman who introduced himself to us and recommended the best dishes.
After dinner, my friend wanted to catch up on her beauty sleep. I somehow wanted to spend a few more moments to savour the ambience. So we parted ways, she to our room and me back to the garden above our room. In the quiet, I did the best thing that I could do, daydream.
Next morning I was up early as I was determined to make the most of the day. There was much to do – a camel or a bullock cart ride to the step well near the fort, flying fox from the hill to the fort, swim in the pool facing the hills and so on and so forth.
I began the day by going on a solitary morning walk. Soon I was clicking pictures, climbing endless stairs, admiring the amazing architecture and horribly lost. A couple of frantic phone calls from my friend who wanted to go for a swim and directions from at least five housekeeping staff later, I reached my room.
Next stop was at the pool. Though there were two swimming pools at the resort, we opted for the less deep and hence the lazy one. Call it another princess thing. It was heartening to see another big group of only girls enjoying in the pool. The experience of the pool with the hills behind and the open cliff in front was a novel one.
Post the swim, my friend decided to go for her zip lining trip, while I decided to stick to the theme, and go in search of the resort spa. Somehow my surroundings got better of me again, and all I ended up doing was sitting and day dreaming at various reading nooks, admiring the décor and clicking endless pictures.
Soon it was time to bid goodbye to this idyllic world. Discard our princess avatars and get back to slogging at our respective jobs. While that might have been the reality, we realized girls ought to treat themselves from time to time. After all, we deserve nothing less.
(Anindita Das is a guest writer. The views expressed here are her own.)