We spent a Week in Delhi in February

  • Posted on: 25 April 2016
  • By: Aline Dobbie

Kumarakom Lake Resort KLR as we call Kumarakom Lake Resort sent a comfortable car to Cochin Airport and we arrived as the sun had set to a most enthusiastic warm welcome.  Truly a home from home in a heritage villa with its own courtyard pool.  We spent three weeks as indeed we had in 2014 and it provided the joy of comfort, beauty, tranquillity, good food, swimming in warm water and lovely service.  We were happy people and I recommend the place strongly. The Yoga is also very popular and it is a beautifully wedding and special function venue.   But we just swam, watched birds, read copiously, and interacted with friendly Staff and Management. ....and relaxed!

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Delhi Gymkhana ClubAll too soon it was time to say ‘phir milengi’ and farewell to KLR and fly to Delhi. We flew on Indigo and the flight was delayed which is sad as they rather pride themselves on their punctuality….. We stayed at The Delhi Gymkhana Club. This old Club is the prestige club of Delhi and a busy place. It is spacious with its history intact. It is eccentric and as someone who knows about hotels and hospitality I longed to shake its employees into the modern world. However, it was so good to see our very good friends Nawal and Jyotsna Sethi whose guests we were, and Frank Christopher and others and Sam Pachauri.

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We visited The Leela Palace Hotel for lunch which was a second visit for us three years after the first. This busy hotel was hosting an Indian Arab Conference on that day so covered in security but the welcome was warm and the food delicious….a gracious charming place.

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It was so good to see our friend Naveen Kumar who now is General Manager of the Travel Agency Hi-Walk and he gave me some beautiful roses and lilies that adorned our cottage at the Club.

We had a dinner with the lovely Sonal Kapoor who founded the wonderful charity Protsahan to help educate and nurture girl children who are totally disadvantaged. She does wonderful work and is so committed and courageous. We first met in February five years ago and we visited one of her centres in extreme west of Delhi

St James’ Church in Old Delhi I did my trawl round Khan Market and found nice things to buy both clothes and objets d’art…. I cannot go to Delhi without a couple of rounds around that funny shabby old place. I so wish the authorities would give it a really sensible fundamental clean up and refurbishment…. because it is very popular and would enhance its status if looking elegant and clean! We visited St James’ Church in Old Delhi which is connected to the legendary Colonel James Skinner who founded Skinner’s Horse. He is also buried there as are various relatives of his. Part of the old city’s British Christian past. Sadly the Delhi cleaners were having a strike so the area was more challenging than ever which just made me feel bad. This is historic Delhi and tourists want to understand the area by walking around whereas on this occasion it was too severe a challenge! We went for a welcome lunch to The Maidens Hotel which I knew is a gracious place and the Thai red curry ticked all my boxes!!.... I recommend.

On this occasion we had the services of a taxi driver that had been ordered through the Club. He proved to be a decent young Sikh who would ramble on to me in Hindi, much of which I did understand but not all. He had worked in Iraq and was thinking of returning there to work. He found being a driver in Delhi was very hard without adequate rest and I suspect poor accommodation. He was a good chap we felt and very reliable and even came late in the evening when I wanted someone reliable to take Sonal Kapoor back to her parents’ home safely. He curiously also learnt about Delhi with driving us around and was open to that education. I wish him well. I have his phone number on my Indian cell phone.

We returned to the Club and had a wonderful Kulfi ice-cream in a matka pot and observed all the members who had come for lunch in the sunshine and their socialising. We also went round the old Lodi Gardens of which we are very fond. It was sunset and we watched the parakeets and chipmunks and the locals all exercising or walking their dogs….. Ranjit learnt another place to park from us! Part of Gymkhana Club life in the winter months is to have tea in front of their two fireplaces near the Ballroom. This we were also happy to do as the tea is very good. I loved watching the quite elderly members all meeting up or coming out of the bridge sessions. I just could not make out what they were all carrying until our good friend Sam also went off and returned with a brown paper parcel. It turns out that the Club Bakery is excellent and the bread they make is extremely popular….so all the members come and buy the loaves and have them sliced….so that was the awful noise that sounded as if a hydraulic drill was operating fifty feet away…..often, more often than we liked!! So the little old Ladies and Gentlemen all clutching a substantial brown paper parcel were just stocking up the larder for the week-end with good quality bread!!

21 Gun Salute Vintage Car RallyWe then transferred to our old favourite The Imperial Hotel and attended the 21 Gun Salute Vintage Car Rally which had its opening day at the Red Fort in Delhi. A delight to be back at The Imperial again which I have known for over 60 years…..and then the Vintage Car Rally was a total delight. Glorious old vintage and classic cars in beautiful condition. Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Maybach, Horsch, Mercedes, Jaguars, Alvis, American cars, and motor bikes – truly a splendid array. Some of these cars are of course truly vintage but a lot of them went back to the Fifties and that was when I was a child and therefore I recall them clearly – in India and elsewhere. The banquet at The Imperial was very good and well organised and well attended by Vintage Car Buffs from Europe and elsewhere as well of course as in India. Lunchtime next day saw us all travel to Budh Racing Track outside Delhi. The only trouble was that whilst driving along the Delhi Noida Highway drivers were concentrating on the vintage cars and not looking at where they were driving…..it was quite a hazard. This was a good event.

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That evening after a welcome pot of tea in the Atrium we prepared for our journey to Rajasthan and then had a lovely dinner at San Gimignano the Italian restaurant in The Imperial. I usually don’t try Italian because I am wheat intolerant but they assured me their risotto capabilities were second to none…so we did and were rewarded.