A Home Away From Home: The White Peaks

IMG_4976Just a one-hour drive from Kathgadom Station or eight-hour bakery from Delhi brings you to the sloping village of Gagar. Greeted by the mild-mannered housekeeper Mohan, who will grab your bags and whisk you away to your new home for the next few days. This two-bed cottage, with views of the foothills of the Himalayas, and on a clear morning the Nanda Devis. An idyllic home away from home. Owners, Aparupa and Abhijit have decorated it as though it were their own private home (and they do come and stay here as often as life allows)! Feature walls of framed Rajasthani artwork paired with old family photos create an eclectic and lived in feel. The living room, dominated by a large, stone, open-fireplace is the definition of homely. While away an evening with a good book (of which you’ll find plenty around the house) in front of the log fire.

IMG_4992Both of the bedrooms are cosy with soft white linens and proper feather down duvets. The beds might be regular doubles but you’ll sleep like a Queen. Colourful cushions and wool dhurries add a pop of colour whilst antique writing desks double as bedside tables. Bathrooms are simple (it’s a bucket shower affair) but the hot water flows. You’ll find an electric heater in your room for those chilly evenings (once you manage to tear yourself away from the fire). An all-inclusive property, this is a place where friends and family (and well-behaved dogs) are meant to come and congregate. There is no Wi-Fi, however, there is a television, but the whole point is about spending quality time over a heated game of Rummikub.

IMG_4972Meals are cooked by your housekeeper Mohan: daal, rice, steaming hot chapatis, as well as home-style butter chicken, and seasonal vegetable preparations. For breakfast eggs to order with brown toast with local jams. A constant flow of masala chai is on hand, just let them know what time you’d like your bed tea for the morning.

IMG_4977Great walking routes right from your front door, the forest trail will get your legs walking and the blood pumping or make the day trip to the Talla Ramgarh river. Bhimtal and Nainital are also just a short drive away, should you wish to explore further afield. A writer’s retreat, a dog-lover’s holiday, or an escape from the city, The White Peak’s is a breath of fresh air.

For direct bookings click here.

Rajasthan for Romantics: Tree of Life Resort & Spa, Jaipur

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Image courtesy of Tree of Life Resort & Spa

A world away from the frenetic Pink City and Jaipur’s modern metro city, The Tree Of Life exists in its own micro-climate of peace and tranquility. With a focus on Ayurveda, each of the rooms are named after a different tree, and their decor reflects its colour. We stayed in the Champa Villa, adorned from floor to ceiling with fuschia pink and splashes of lime green – synonymous with the shrub that shares its name. Whilst the decor borrows from traditional Rajasthani designs, especially in its vibrant colour palettes, interiors avoid the usual cliches. The private pool and in room spa area, plus indoor and outdoor showers and an outdoor bath are the height of romance.

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Image courtesy of Tree of Life Resort & Spa

In fact this property is made for couples. Even fully booked (which it is most weekends) you will barely see another soul. For making the forty minute drive outside of Jaipur guests are rewarded with complete privacy. Dinner can be arranged in room, a candle lit affair by the pool or a private setting at the sunset lookout. Whether in-room or at the spa, couples therapies are available. The Aravali bath, a rose petal filled affair with fragrant oils is an indulgent experience.

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Image courtesy of Tree of Life Resort & Spa

As with all Tree of Life properties, the food is superb. Chef will consult on a daily basis what you would like for dinner and create a menu tailored to you. The food, both Western and Indian, is superb, with many of the vegetables coming from the on site organic vegetable garden, and as much sourced locally and in-season.

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Image courtesy of Tree of Life Resort & Spa

Yoga and meditation are available in the ‘Ganesh Abode’ as well as guided village and nature walks. Plus you are only twenty minutes from Jaipur’s most famous (and must visit) attraction: Amer Fort. An utterly relaxing escape on the outskirts of a frenetic city.

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Image courtesy of Tree of Life Resort & Spa

Great for: A relaxing couples retreat. You can still tick all the Jaipur tourist boxes, Amer Fort is only twenty minutes drive and ‘The Pink City’ is a further twenty.

Best time to go: Between October – March is the best time to visit Jaipur, though it can be quite magical during the monsoon. Expect it to be chilly in the evening between December and January. In January the city plays host to The Jaipur Literary Festival, which sees literati from across the world descend upon Diggi Palace. A must visit for bookworms and Indophiles.

For direct bookings click here.

A Jaipur Gem: 28 Kothi

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As reviewed for i-escape:

Hidden down an unassuming lane in Jaipur’s residential Civil Lines district, 28 Kothi brings a new level of luxury to the guesthouse experience. A joint venture between Siddharth Kasliwal (co-owner of Gem Palace, India’s most glamorous jewellery business) and Abhishek Honawar (eminent Bombay chef), it opened its doors in early 2016 to instant acclaim. It was envisaged as a place for Kasliwal’s clients to stay that would be “as extraordinary as the jewels they come to Jaipur for”, and is filled with stunning objets d’art and eye-catching commissions.

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With just five stylish rooms, a lush garden, a peaceful library and a bijou spa, the atmosphere is particularly special; intimate and welcoming, and ideal for solo travellers as well as couples. There’s no restaurant or formal menu; meals are made to order using farm-fresh vegetarian ingredients – you’ll breakfast on the terrace and dine under the stars at night. But most seductive of all is the peace here – it’s a true urban oasis. You’re more likely to hear the resonant call of a peacock than the thrum of traffic, yet Jaipur’s ‘Pink City’ and its numerous attractions are just a tuk-tuk ride away.

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Interiors lovers will lust after designer Nur Kaoukji’s flawless rooms. Her passion for the organic percolates its way throughout the entire property, from the miniature Indian mural in the library to the palm prints and bespoke Rajasthani furnishings in the bedrooms. Each of the 5 is decorated in the colour palette of the gemstone that bears its name, and ornate beds have mirrored headboards worthy of a Maharani.

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The largest suite, Sapphire, has a floor all to itself and doors leading out onto a private terrace; perfect for couples who want complete privacy. Topaz also has a private terrace – a welcome extra for a standard room – whilst the other standard Spinel has a lovely cushioned window seat. Suite Moonstone is the only room with a bathtub (a fabulous, deep-soaking affair), and Peridot is a great-sized single room that’s excellent value for long-stay guests or families with an older child.

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Co-owned by culinary legend Abhishek Honawar, you’d expect the food here to be first-class – and by all accounts, it is. With an emphasis on the freshest food of the best quality, meals are strictly vegetarian with international flavours, market produce dictating the daily-changing menus. On balmy evenings, dining under the stars is a real treat. We love the sound of a chickpea and vegetable Moroccan stew served with warm herbed couscous, or a spicy Rajasthani thali with gluten-free chapatis and chilled cucumber raita.
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Come morning, a continental or Indian breakfast is served on the terrace – try the Rajasthani version with green split-pea pancakes and an exotic fruit salad. Teas are sourced from Goa (marigold, saffron, lemon green tea), coffee is roasted in Delhi, and the Bhuira strawberry preserve and bitter orange marmalade are handmade in a local village. Provenance is paramount here. Reliable WiFi, bathrobes and air con are welcome extras, and toiletries by KAMA Ayurveda are a fragrant treat, with old soup ladles for soap dishes.

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Best time to go: October to early April, when it’s warm and dry, is the best time to visit. December, January and February can be cold in the mornings and evenings, though warm and sunny during the daytime. March and April are fairly hot. In May and June it gets humid and the heat can become intense and uncomfortable. The monsoon breaks in July and lasts until September. January sees the city play host to the Jaipur Literary Festival and bookworms from around the world descend.

Top Tips: For the best insider’s guide, bring a copy of Fiona Caulfield’s Love Jaipur, which is filled with local tips such as the splendid Saturday Hatwara flea market; whilst fashionistas can create amazing souvenirs at the Anokhi Museum of Handprinting, where you can block-print your own shirt!

For direct bookings click here.