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Neemrana

A rather ideal weekend getaway from Delhi, Neemrana is known for its fifteenth century charm. Approximately a two-and-a-half hour drive from Delhi, on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, it doesn't seem as though it's two states away! Delhi bid us goodbye with a pleasant shower after days of scorching heat, and the only eventful occurrence on the road was my first sight of a line of orange-clad people carrying glittery puja stuff on the pilgrimage to Haridwar. KFC burgers took care of any hunger pangs, and I barely had time to settle in and do something productive during the drive before it was over.

The Neemrana Palace Hotel/ Neemrana Fort Palace is the major attraction of the place. As the name suggests, it's a fort from 1464 AD that has been converted into a heritage hotel. The Neemrana Group (Neemrana "non hotel" Hotels is what they call themselves) has, in fact, taken on several such projects across the country and have several successes to their name, from a glass structure near the Ganga to villas in Kerala.


After a bumpy drive up a dilapidated lane leading to the fort-palace (which we missed the first time) came a very steep climb uphill to the reception area, where we stopped to catch our breath. Our rooms were called Kailash and Ambar Burj, very quaint in a tower-like structure with a verandah, narrow staircases and a "terrace"! Me and bro took a fancy to the top room (we have a thing for stairs) and he couldn't stop talking about how this was such a "feel place". Ha. I kind of expected that, having done my research as with every trip. And the view from the terraces was glorious. In the evenings, the whole place is lit up with tiny lights that make me think of Diwali, and there's a cultural Rajasthani folk performance for the guests at the Hawa Mahal. A more special one on Saturday evenings. Before beginning, they poured rose petals on our heads. Strange, but not disagreeable! The performance was quite engrossing though I freaked out when he started grabbing audience members to dance with.

The palace has much to explore, and is being re-done in many parts with new rooms and things being constructed. I'm not sure how I feel about that - kind of takes away from the historicity, but I guess they know what they're doing. The decor is quite nice overall with antique furniture and paintings, but of course many parts have the converging of the ancient and the modern, what with a swimming pool, loungers, jacuzzi, a spa, conference rooms, a gym, and so on. There's also a beautiful amphitheater, and endless passages, staircases, and surprises. We got lost before breakfast, and they thought it'd be fun to change the dining area with every meal, every day. So kind of a treasure hunt every time you want to eat. Not fun. The food at the end of it was good, though. Especially the non-vegetarian dishes and desserts. I sampled pasta, salads, baked veggies, potato gratin, cheese rolls, mutton do piaza, omelettes, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, three kinds of ice cream, cherry gratin, almond pie, khara, chocolate pie and I forget what else. This is over six meals, of course. I love buffets.


As far as entertainment goes, exploring is the major activity around here. I finally had a chance to use my rusting camera, after days of un-inspiration. There is also a step-well or "baori" nearby which we couldn't find (flashback to Ranthambore! We have a bad track record with baoris). Trekking is another option. You can also borrow books and movies from the reception, and there's an LCD in the TV lounge (Nazara Mahal). Till a few years ago, hot air balloon rides would've been an option. Boo. There's also zipping with Flying Fox, for Rs 1600 per person (on-the-spot booking) - five zip trails - an aerial tour.

As for us, we just watched movies, talked, read, explored and set aside leisure time to roll around in the springy beds. Much needed.


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