Soon after breakfast, we drove from Delhi to Jaipur, the Pink City. All of 6 hours. Bad for my back. Thank God lunch did not disappoint. Amidst all the hassle, dust and dirt of Jaipur is this oasis for the soul. Completely unexpected and charming, you forget all that rubbish as soon as you climb up to enter the gardens. Hey, the air suddenly smells differently here as if one’s transported to another part of the world. A world so self-contained, nearly intimate.

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We were tired. We were hungry. But the charming elegance of the nearly two centuries-old Samode Haveli made us forget about our grumbling bellies. This royal family manor is now a luxury boutique hotel that blends Rajasthani and Mughal art and architecture. I hear the 1984 hit HBO TV serial adaptation of the novel “The Far Pavilions” was filmed here and in the Samode Palace. I’ve read the book but remember more the Omar Shariff and Christopher Lee-starrer.

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The courtyard garden is pretty at noontime. I can just imagine how lovely it looks by nightfall with lighted corners and illuminated pomegranate and jasmine trees. I can likewise imagine the flowery aroma wafting through the garden with every passing breeze. A patio looks out to this garden, and it looks every inch stylishly elegant and atmospheric.

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The dining hall evokes a royal ambience with its ornate, handpainted murals from floor to ceiling. My, those are damn good artisans! The colors remain bright and vibrant, and I wonder how much restoration work was done here, if any. I would have felt quite happy just being here and settling for “mediocre hotel food” but I was in for a pleasant surprise.

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A buffet of seriously ethnic and authentic Indian cuisine satiated our senses even before our spoons and forks reached our mouths. Maybe we were really hungry. Famished even. But I know my dahl and mutton curry. And I had my best dahl (lentils) and mutton curry in this place. There was a good selection of flat breads, chutneys, the ubiquitous palak paneer (a popular spinach-based vegetarian dish) which I love.

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By the time we rolled out of the former royal dining hall, we were simply too happy. Our senses were completely satiated. Food for the soul; bellies fed. NAMASTE!

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