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It’s not often you get to stay in a room fit for a queen, or to gatecrash the most opulent of Indian weddings at a royal palace, while following in James Bond’s footsteps on Udaipur’s cobbled streets and stunning lakes. Norah Casey uncovers the magic of Rajasthan.

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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2018-11-26 05:52:42

Land of Lakes and Palaces

It’s not often you get to stay in a room fit for a queen, or to gatecrash the most opulent of Indian weddings at a royal palace, while following in James Bond’s footsteps on Udaipur’s cobbled streets and stunning lakes. Norah Casey uncovers the magic of Rajasthan.

Keywords: india,udaipur,rajasthan,lakes,palaces

Land of


It’s not often you get to stay in a room fit for a queen, or to gatecrash the most opulent of
Indian weddings at a royal palace, while following in James Bond’s footsteps on Udaipur’s
cobbled streets and stunning lakes. Norah Casey uncovers the magic of Rajasthan.

It was an oppressive 43 degrees and lake to LaLiT Laxmi Vilas Palace, my the next few days the nightly al fresco
the streets of Delhi were chocked home for the next few days. The hotel, feast and traditional Indian dancers
with rush hour traffic and a dusky built by Maharana Fateh Singh of the and musicians fed and entertained me
haze. I almost missed my flight to Mewar dynasty, features the original in royal style at Aangan, the garden
Udaipur amid the chaos and long suites of the royal family. While the restaurant, while the banquet in the
queues at the domestic terminal. In Maharana Suite with stunning views more formal dining room, Padmini,
less than two hours, however, I was of the hills and lakes has its own (and especially the chefs) introduced
transported to a land of lakes and private courtyard and exquisite hand- me to so many dishes I had never tried
palaces. The air was fresher, the roads painted gold leaf work, I was staying before. One very hot afternoon I sipped
less crowded, the people more relaxed. in the equally opulent Maharani Suite. a glass of chilled white wine on the front
I was now in beautiful Rajasthan. The Beautiful Rajasthani art and original, lawn with views over the lake, Nehru
regal palaces and forts of Udaipur are antique furnishings share a space with Island and the distinctive and world-
the perfect backdrop to the sparkling contemporary digital living in these famous Udaipur Solar Observatory.
lakes and richness of the colours and well-appointed royal quarters, with a The staff stood in the hotel doorway
artistry of the city. grand masterbedroom, dining and living wondering what madness would
rooms and a separate walk-in wardrobe. persuade anyone to sit in 40 degrees in
FIT FOR A QUEEN As I slipped under the crisp Bombay bed the hot sun rather than the welcome
We ventured upwards in the darkness linen I could well imagine life as a queen cool of the air conditioning. When the
to the Aravalli Hills above Fateh Sagar in this magical heritage palace. Over waitress finally approached me to ask



me why I would rather not be indoors, I said I’m The architecture is
stocking up on the sun before I return to Ireland. always intriguing
She smiled knowingly.
City Palace, on the edge of
The first morning I set out on a long day with
a great guide, Abhimanyu who, along with our
driver Ashok, was a constant companion during
my time in Rajasthan. Often called the Venice
of the East, the city also lays claim to being the
most romantic city in India with the perfect
symphony of majestic palaces and beautiful
lakes. They are all human-made but, even so,
they are wonderful and a welcome relief from
the oppressive heat and congestion of the city.

I loved Udaipur; the winding, colourful
streets, with lots of interesting galleries and
artisan shops. Abhimanyu took me to amazing
lakeside and rooftop restaurants and helped me
navigate the purchase of silk and cashmere gifts
(really reasonably priced and totally unlike the
hassle and hustle of buying anything in Delhi).
Over lunch and dinners, I enjoyed my first thali
of regional food, bati–dal and lal maas and my
first taste of Indian wine.

The local fruit and vegetable market was
such a lovely place to pause. A far cry from the
crowded bustle of old town Delhi. It was here
I tried my first (of many) masala tea. It tasted a
bit like Baileys with cardamom.

Seeking shade from the India: the modern and the CITY PALACE, UDAIPUR
Indian sun traditional Out first sightseeing stop was the largest and
most stunning royal residence, City Palace,
“Often called the Venice nestled on the shores of Lake Pichola. On the
of the East, the city also morning we visited, Abhimanyu stopped me
lays claim to being the on the walk up to the main entrance with great
most romantic city in India” excitement and a warning to be quiet. There,
below us, appeared the current Maharana
of Udaipur, Shreeji Arvind Singh Mewar and
his family. Once India became a democracy,
the descendants of the Royal Family found
entrepreneurial ways to give people a taste
of the royal life through their commercial
properties. As we arrived inside the main gate
we were met with a café, run by the princess,
and the craft shop next to it with magnificent
silk pashminas run by a sister-in-law. The family
runs a hotel group which encompasses two
Grand Heritage Palace hotels within the palace
complex Fateh Prakash Palace and Shiv Niwas
Palace as well as the Jag Mandir Island Palace
which I visited the following day.


Rajasthan has numerous lakes

The city blends many types of Fit for a queen

The entire history and architectural Jagat Singh II, ruler of the Rajputana The Women’s Garden
influences of Udaipur can be found empire, as a Royal Summer Palace. In
in the various rooms, paintings and 1960 it was converted into a luxury Good to know
courtyards of City Palace, which is hotel, privately owned by Maharana
Rajasthan’s largest and most opulent Bhagwant Singh. No wonder it was the All of my travel plans in India were
palace complex. Here you will find setting for the Bond movie Octopussy. oragnised via India Tourism with a
the diverse architectural partnership Although the interior was used for
of Rajasthani, Mughal, medieval, the filming, the rather more dramatic great company, SA Southend
European and oriental influences which elephant-flanked exterior of my next Travels. Find them at
blend into a beautiful showcase of destination was used for the outside
Rajasthan’s royal heritage. shots. (owned by
Anurag Agarwal – say hello if you
I headed out alone by boat on Lake Jag Minder Palace was a pretty regal book him, he’s great). Email:
Pichola from the City Palace to visit experience despite the fact that the [email protected]

“The diverse architectural partnership of Rajasthani, Mughal, I would highly recommend my
medieval, European and Oriental influences which blend into Guide Abhimanyu Singh Deora;

a beautiful showcase of Rajasthan’s royal heritage” +919928689999
I stayed at The LaLiT Laxmi Vilas
Jag Mandir Island, where a beautiful whole island was in a pre-wedding Palace in Udaipur.
palace awaited for morning coffee. frenzy which involved piles of bright I flew with Etihad Airways, which
Better still, it was being prepared for a gold leaf and sparkling arches amid the operates twice-daily flights from
lavish wedding later that day. I didn’t beautiful gardens of roses, palm trees, Dublin to Abu Dhabi, with regular
quite gatecrash the wedding but it jasmine and frangipani trees. connections to Delhi (total flight
was pretty special to get a bird’s-eye
view of the opulent transformation THE WOMEN’S GARDEN time 13.5 hours).
that was taking place for the three-day On the banks of Fateh Sagar Lake,
ceremony and party. this lovely little oasis was built for the
queen and her maidens who would
Lake Pichola was created back in while away the time in the cool shade
1362 and is the oldest, and one of the of the trees while strolling around the
largest, lakes in the city. Along the marble elephant fountains and lotus
way, we circled the famous Taj Lake pool. The gardens, designed by the
Palace which appeared to float on the king himself and built for the royal
tranquil waters. The palace’s royal entourage between 1710 to 1734, are
heritage dates back to 1754 when now kept by only women gardeners.
it was commissioned by Maharana


Norah Casey finds a home from home at 30,000 feet thanks to the Etihad A330 Airbus.

There are two things I love about long it comes to long-haul travel I take the alone with the divider to the left). The
haul. Top of the list is any destination total experience from door to door Dublin to Abu Dhabi leg is an A330
where I fly directly from Dublin and, if into account, not just from take off to Airbus with a personal screen, reclining
at all possible, I avoid flight transfers touch down. I have been travelling with seat, elegant muted tones of beige, greys
in London or Paris (my least favourite Etihad for over ten years; economy, and creams and discrete lighting. I’m
airports for transit). Secondly, to fly with business, first class and on one very relaxed with a glass of chilled champagne
an airline who works hard to make the special occasion the Residence – a one even before take off. I charged my mobile
whole experience – from check in through bedroomed luxury experience (a level phone, caught up on emails for the first
to arrival – as seamless as possible. I have beyond first class) complete with butler, hour or so, then relaxed into a wonderful
been a firm fan of Etihad for some time bathroom and sitting room. dinner with a great selection of wines,
and it always ticks multiple boxes in terms and watched all the movies on my wish
of efficiency, quality, service, connectivity, This time I was flying to Delhi and list. I transferred at Abu Dhabi, which is
inflight entertainment, superb food and Etihad was top of my list as a preferred always busy day and night, but it is also
a great wine and drinks list. But, on top parter. Firstly, because I love Dublin a very well organised airport and easy
of all of that, the staff are the absolute Airport – if I can leave on a long haul to navigate between gates and lounges.
plus factor – a secret ingredient that edges flight from Dublin it will win every With just enough time to catch up with
Etihad into the award winning space time time. The transfer at Abu Dhabi is Dara and enjoy a healthy salad, I was
and time again. A big shout out to my star seamless (just enough time for a coffee back on board for the second leg. This
cabin crew minders; Yez on the Dublin to and a quick break). Business Class on time I opted for 7A – first row, also a
Abu Dhabi flight and Dennie on the Delhi Etihad is better than many first class
leg (the only girl named for her dad, she compartments and the staff are always window seat (more comfort and privacy
told me). exceptional. I boarded the 9.35am than the aisle).
from Dublin, I always try to sit in 7k, a
Some flights I see as a necessary evil window seat on the right hand side of the My effortless flight in the luxurious
and will spend hours figuring out the plane (very private if you are travelling surroundings of Etihad Business class,
shortest possible time between take being pampered and cosseted in all
off and landing. I have been a travel manner of ways took just 13.5 hours
writer for over twenty years and spend from Dublin to Delhi, including transit
a good chunk of my life commuting to time. My ancestors risked life and limb
various parts of Europe, so I know all the to sail for six months from India to
short cuts, how to pack with efficiency Dublin via the Cape of Good Hope.
and also which airports to avoid at all Their courage and determination is truly
possible costs, either because of the in- inspiring. Thankfully, today my journey
transit time or the inefficiencies of the couldn’t have been further from their’s –
security or passport queues. it was pure pleasure.

I also know which airlines really do
offer good value for money and have the
edge in terms of quality of seat and leg
room and the all too important service
level and friendliness of the staff. When

Etihad currently fly to Abu Dhabi from Dublin on a double daily schedule and fly from the ever-expanding Terminal 1 in Dublin airport.
Check flights and rates at


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