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Taj Mahal At Dawn And More Day 2

We were not alone in visiting “The Taj by Dawn”, it is obviously very popular. So we had to queue for Tappas’s photographer to capture us in all the right places.

Nothing quite prepares you for walking through the entrance arch and the long view. The pure symmetry and beauty of the Taj has oft been described as a teardrop. The Taj touches hearts and senses – all of our group felt an emotion, a scalp tingle.

We spent almost three hours wandering with a lot of posing by our group for photographs – well with our own photographer why not – and time passed without being noticed.

Just time for a short horse and trap ride, breakfast and a venue visit. My driver was wearing a GTAssociates t-shirt – a surprise I nearly missed. This is a must for animal lovers and one for the few forms of transport allowed inside the Taj’s pollution free zone.

Back for breakfast and good bye to the Amarvilas. Leaving was a surprise, I actually felt sad to leave the hotel, the food and views had been brilliant but is was the way the staff connected. A perfect balance between being so professional and attentive, without seeming to hover at my elbows, and just the right level of friendliness.

The venue was a curious mix of artisanal crafts workshop and theatre. On the craft side they cast objects in stone, inlay stone panels with coloured glass and gemstones and creates pictures. It was fascinating to watch the slow, patient skilled craftsmen working on the inlays.

The atmospheric theatre produces a musical history of the Taj and is open to privitisation for groups up to 200.

En route an interesting side show, a young woman, with a pillion passenger, on her scooter had parked in the middle of a T-junction to go and chat with someone on the pavement. Only in India… the traffic took it as absolutely normal and found a way round.

And off to a royal palace, lunch with the Maharajah and Jaipur.

Facing a four hour drive, plus stops, I had the thought Jaipur better be worth it. It was.

We did have a little sweetener that would have made the drive worth it regardless of Jaipur.

A private lunch with a Maharajah in his palace.

The drive was another of those occasions where real life differs from outsiders’ perceptions. Much of the land was actively farmed with crops that looked surprisingly healthy despite the 120 degree heat. My perception was that the region would have been less productive. That said, where there was not any irrigation it was somewhat arid….

And we had the passing traffic to entertain us. I seriously doubt that there are two lorries or trucks that look the same. We saw dozens of huge lorries in mini convoys, all fantastically decorated works of art.

Maharajah Brijander Singh was the last official Maharajah and he did have 9 palaces. When India gained its independence the state asked the family which palace they wished to keep as their home. Laxmi Vilas was the Maharajah’s choice and the family still live at “home” today. Our host, Deep Raj Singh inherited the title as his uncle did not have sons.

A Heritage Hotel home that still hosts the world’s great and good. Prince William, and Kate, where recent Royal visitors.

So lunching with the “Maharajah”, still used as an unofficial title, is a rare privilege, especially if you are only stopping for lunch.

Laxmi became a hotel in 1994, initially based on the old palaces guest rooms. Laxmi now includes a modern wing with more rooms to come. Should you wish to live like landed royalty, for a short while, Laxmi is an excellent place to stay.

We certainly felt like royal guests, our host was charming, gracious and entertaining. Lunch and the waiters bearing service trays held head high echoed days of the Raj – as for the food – wonderful.

And on to our second Oberoi – Rajvilas Jaipur.

Never before have I seen, or heard, of a hotel built around a temple.

The Rajvilas is built around a still functioning 400 year Hindu temple. Perhaps it is the temple’s presence that helps create an air of serenity across the 32 acre site.

The standard rooms, well if you consider standard is a canopied bed, sunken bath and shower backing onto a private garden along with a walk in dressing area as “standard” are set in small groups dotted around the site.

Villa and tent suites are spread out within their own walled gardens.

Our luxury for the evening, private dining with the GM and, for me, a surprise red wine. And really good red wine – produced in India. Maybe I had failed to notice India is fast becoming a high quality wine producer. My must visit bucket list for India was large enough already but the wineries are on the list.

Post dinner I had an extra dessert – the chocolates in my room including GTA’s logo in white and green.