Curious about exploring Delhi? Read on for a first-hand account
about what it's like to experience this stunning city up-close. We
caught up with two Greaves clients who embarked on a two-month tour
of India. Read on for their impressions of this once-in-a-lifetime
Was this your first time travelling to India? If not,
where had you visited previously?
No, this was our sixth trip to India. On previous trips we
have visited Kolkata, Darjeeling, Sikkim, Delhi, Agra, Kerala,
Ranthambore, Madhya Pradesh (including some tiger safaris),
Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, and we have visited
several places in Rajasthan, returning to some quite a few times
(Jaipur, Samode, Jodhpur, Mandawa, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Deogarh,
You started your trip in Patna, one of the oldest
continuously inhabited places in the world. It must be teeming with
things to see of so many different periods - what did you see and
what was the highlight?
We were in Patna to visit an NGO which works in schools
throughout Bihar, but we did plan a morning's sight-seeing. The
Golghar, originally built as a grain store by the British army in
1786, was interesting to see from the outside, and the museum had a
few interesting displays, but, rather to our surprise, the visit we
enjoyed most was to the zoo! It was good to stretch our legs
and walk around this pleasant park for a while, and we enjoyed
seeing leopards, tigers, deer and other animals. One of our very
well-meaning guides confused a giraffe and a zebra, which did make
We are sure there are some interesting places to visit further
afield in Bihar, but Patna is not really a place we would recommend
for pure tourism.
The Golghar, Patna © Suronin,
Following Patna you had five days in Delhi, most people
can't wait to get out of the city and somewhere less crowded - what
did you find to see and did you have enough
Actually, we are both fond of exploring Delhi! It certainly
helps being able to retreat to the wonderful Imperial, which by now
feels like home from home, but we think the surprisingly beautiful
Delhi gets a bad press. We were primarily here to see a
number of people, but we did manage a visit to the garden of the
President's Palace, which is only open at this time of year.
It was delightful and very well set out.
Having had guided tours to the main tourist sights on previous
visits, whenever we are back in Delhi we try to fit in quick visits
to either the Red Fort, the Qutub Minar or Humayun's Tomb. On
one trip we found it fascinating to visit the Coronation Park,
where Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India, and later
Edward VII crowned Emperor of India. That day was very foggy
and all these old statues of former colonials loomed eerily out of
the mists. We also enjoyed seeing St James's Church, and the
Memorial to those killed during what the British call the 'Mutiny'
but Indians view rather differently. Now that I have recently
read William Dalrymple's wonderful book,The Last Mughals, I am keen
to go back to this area.
The Museum of Modern Art in Jaipur House is really
worth a visit - excellent examples of the various schools of Indian
art, very well explained.
On recent stays in Delhi, friends have also taken us around the
various Mughal ruins in the Hauz Khas area. There are so many
fascinating relics of this period in and around Delhi. Our
friend, Charles Lewis, and his son, Karoki, have produced splendid
books about Delhi's historic villages and Mehrauli -
Whenever we are in Delhi we always try to get a walk through the
lovely Lodi Gardens - such a precious green space, dotted with old
Mughal buildings and much loved by Delhiites.
Dadi Potis Tomb in the Lodi
Gardens, Delhi © Jorg Hackermann, Shutterstock.com
Pune was the summer capital of India and typified the
British Raj, is the British effect still very much imprinted on the
Once again, we were in Pune to visit an NGO this time, but we
did enjoy a guided tour of the town, which has many interesting old
buildings, little changed for decades and reminiscent of colonial
buildings around India and indeed in Jamaica where I grew up.
We also did a walking tour with our guide, which was a very good
way to see more of some of the backstreets. I was trying to
track down the grave of an English woman, the mother of a family
friend, who had died in Pune in 1921, so we visited a couple of
churches and the enormous St Sepulchre's cemetery - a different
side of Pune. This is a very pleasant and very clean town,
and one we would like to explore further.
Did your experience in Bengaluru differ significantly
from your time spent in Delhi? How do the two large cities compare
We were visiting another NGO in Bengaluru, so didn't have much
time for tourism, though we did see the main government buildings
from the outside, visited Tipu's wonderful summer palace, and
enjoyed a walk in the park. We had heard so much about the
vast expansion of the town and the fact that so many trees had been
sacrificed to building housing and offices, that it was a complete
surprise - and a wonderful one - to drive into the grounds of the
Taj West End hotel. This gorgeous place
is set in the most splendid gardens, filled with giant tropical
trees, and every morning we awoke to the sound of birdsong.
It was worth going there just to spend a few days at this lovely
Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace,
Bengaluru © Arteki, Shutterstock.com
What was your experience like when visiting the Tibetan
settlement of Bylakuppe?
I'm afraid that, after a long drive from Bengaluru, we opted to
head straight for the hotel in Coorg, which was delightful.
We had hoped to pay a quick visit to the elephant camp, but the
road was closed and it would have meant a bumpy ride in a tuk tuk,
so we just headed for the peace and calm of the Taj in Coorg.
Lobby View - Vivanta by Taj
You also did an extensive tour of Rajasthan visiting
Udaipur, Jodhpur, Samode, Jaipur and Deogarh, particularly Udaipur
- they are all very different but what was the highlight for
Rajasthan always calls us back, and we have a number of old
favourites there. Since Greaves introduced us to the Raas Hotel,
Jodhpur, nestling in beautiful historic buildings and a lovely
garden right under the stunning Mehrangarh Fort, this has become
one of our favourites. It is hard to beat the breathtaking
views from the rooms there. Samode Palace is another favourite - an old
fort that became a sumptuous palace, hidden in the rocky hills so
that you are under the walls of the palace before you have seen
it. It has lots of fascinating nooks and crannies to explore,
plus two great pools and a friendly village to wander in. No
wonder we keep going back! Deogarh Mahal is an old friend, another palace
with lots to explore and a wonderful audio tour narrated by William
Dalrymple and the late Rawat. One of the highlights of
staying there is chatting to the delightful former Rani (the late
Rawat's widow) and the current Rawat himself, her son. This
royal family has always lived here and they take a keen interest in
the palace, its guests and the village.
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur ©
When you travel do you tend to eat in the hotels you
stay in or do you venture out into really local restaurants? Did
you have any particular memorable meals this trip?
Most often we eat in the hotels, and have found the (Indian)
food excellent. But we have had some good meals out,
particularly in Delhi with friends. We were recently taken to
Karim's in Old Delhi, close to the Jami Masjid
- a famous old place with lots of atmosphere. We also had a
delicious meal at a relatively new Bihari restaurant, the Potbelly Rooftop restaurant - good fun!
You must have covered a lot of miles by car, any
hair-raising experiences on the notorious Indian roads, or did it
all work like clockwork?
Fortunately, all the drivers employed by Greaves have been
excellent, so we have never had anything too hair-raising, but
we've seen enough to know that, although we drive all over the
world, India is one place where we won't get behind the
wheel! It's the unexpected things: the realization that a
nice new dual carriageway is actually treated as parallel two-way
roads so you are very likely to find a big truck coming towards you
on what you thought was your carriageway, or find that a farmer has
decided that the fast lane of a new highway makes a great place to
dry his grain! On one recent drive that found us winding
through the lovely countryside back to Udaipur after dark, it was
alarming to see that many people drive without lights! But
there is always so much to see on these drives that they are always
interesting. This last time as we drove through a Rajasthani
village on the way from Udaipur to Jodhpur we saw the tops of
twirling umbrellas in a tented area on the roadside and stopped to
investigate. It turned out to be a big birthday party to
which we were immediately invited. John was given an umbrella
and invited to dance, before being offered some opium (which he
declined, much to our hosts' dismay!).
During your extensive tour of India you must have seen
some amazing buildings, monuments and temples - which really stuck
in your mind?
The temples of Tamil Nadu and Orissa are quite extraordinary,
and we were lucky enough to have excellent guides in these states
to show us around and explain everything. Konark is just
wonderful, as was the temple in Madurai and many others. We
never tire of exploring the forts and palaces of Rajasthan,
particularly those in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur. This
last time we were able to attend a series of dance and music
recitals at the City Palace in Udaipur, as part of a festival
leading up to Holi, and it was a real treat to sit in front of the
palace and be immersed in Indian culture. A friend who has
studied Indian classical dance was able to explain the various
techniques to us, which made it all the more interesting.
But perhaps our favourite place is the magical Jain temple at
Ranakpur with its 1,444 carved white marble pillars, no two
alike. It is quite stunning. The drive between
there and Udaipur is one of our very favourites, winding through
the Aravalli hills, with water wheels, bullock ploughs and tawny
coloured fields on all sides.
Jain Temple at Ranakapur © Waj,
What was your experience of travelling with Greaves
We have now travelled with Greaves on the last five of our six
trips, and been really impressed with the careful and thoughtful
preparation of our tailor-made trips, Varuna's patience even if we
have to make changes when everything has been arranged, the team's
knowledge of each area and its hotels, the choice of really
excellent guides almost everywhere, very good drivers wherever we
have been, and the fact that not once in five long trips have we
ever been let down by a driver or a Greaves representative.
On the one occasion when a hotel failed to meet expectations, the
Delhi team were on hand to help make alternative arrangements, and
they make a point of letting you know that they are on call night
and day. To see the ever-smiling young Giri waiting for us on
our arrival back in Delhi, whatever the hour, always wipes away the
cares of a long flight!
Delhi features in our itinerary; The Heart
& Soul of India.