India Part One
Having visited India in 2012 and having been completely bowled over by the colour, vibrancy and warmth of the country, I knew it was treasure trove I hoped to return to one day. This was all before the birth of Sara Miller London and excitingly in 2019 I had the opportunity to go back, now with my design team, to explore and re-discover exotic Rajasthan.
DAY ONE - JAIPUR
Bleary eyed and still acclimatising to the heat and heady scents of India, we arrive at our first stop - the Samode Palace - a 16th-century palace nestled in the Aravalli hills and former home of the Maharaja. We were immediately struck by the grandeur of the majestic building with magnificent sandstone steps lined with red carpet and leading up to the beautifully dressed hotel staff presenting us with marigold necklaces and traditional red vermilion painted Bindi for our foreheads. Walking a through an ornate entrance we emerged into beautiful a courtyard, full of scalloped archways, overlooked by the hotel rooms above.
Upstairs, our first glimpse the palace rooms was a complete visual overload meticulously covered in the most amazing hand painted detail. As we continued through the palace, the patterned walls showcased craftsmanship over 200 years old; whichever way you turned lay an illustrated world. As we wandered the palace in awe, our eyes danced from surface to surface trying to take in the incredible decoration surrounding us. From the elegant archways and latticework windows and trellises, to the flowing trees and understated colour palette which allows your eyes to focus on the amazing detail, this was an absolutely unique place and we could not get enough! A true celebration of the senses and perfect welcome to India!
Following our palace tour, we ventured into nearby Samode village and were instantly caught up in a herd of goats making their way up to the hills for the day. The peace and quiet of the village was then broken by an over-friendly monkey who caught us completely off-guard, just as the monkeys had done at breakfast helping themselves to our food from right under our noses! The wildlife here were certainly proving to be bolder and cheekier that we are used to, and an integral part of village life in India.
In the village, known for its block printing and handicrafts, we were captivated by the local people. Our eyes were drawn to a small shop with stunning, glistening bangles piled floor to ceiling. We couldn’t help but stay around and watch as these creations were made by the craftsmen themselves, from the lacquer been melted, the bracelet being formed, right through to the painstaking embellishment of gems added one by one.
Two hours later we found ourselves in the Samode Haveli, an ornate oasis in the heart of the hectic old town in the centre of Jaipur. This traditional Indian mansion, now a beautiful hotel, is surrounded by tranquil gardens, courtyards and alcoves and filled with glittering mosaics and opulent archways. Inside, we stepped into a large reception room, which had the feel of a traditional English drawing room, but with the extravagant decor of an Indian Palace - floor to ceiling covered in hand painted pattern work and portraits of trees, animals and scrolling flowers. A tour of The City Palace followed, where we were able to gain more of an understanding of the so-called Pink City. The imposing palace had the most magnificent doors, each representing one of the four seasons. Complete with traditional peacock archways, each is unique and awe-inspiring with its hand carved and hand painted details. The doorways remain as vibrant as when they were originally painted; the pigment in the paint being created from ground gemstones, typical of Rajasthan, which ensures colours do not fade.
To be continued ...