The Imperial Delhi is simply elegant. Enter and you look down this gleaming corridor (similar corridors on all three upper floors are carpeted). Here, you feel the luxury hotel employs night staff who wear felt slippers and tango all night long, polishing as they glide from end to end. The gal always opens her eyes with amazement whenever she sees the beauty of this place, built in 1931 as part of Lutyens’ 1911 overall design for Delhi, the capital of New India.
Calcutta had been capital until then but it was more politically correct for Delhi, a central city, to assume the top-dog role. Now Lutyens’ vision has grown into a vast sprawl – go to a meeting in Delhi Gurgaon and you are told it is 26 kilometres away and you need at least an hour, but that is another story. Here, inside the eight-acre palm-tree compound and the pristine white building that is the hotel, all is calm.
Gorgeous little wood or metal elephants, mostly highly decorated, sit on console tables along some of the corridors.
There is art and sculpture everywhere (more of the art, to come). The 234-room hotel’s stunning subterranean spa, with lots of skylights, is now two years old. It is run by one of the most talented spa brains around, Tara Herron, author of The Definitive Spa & Body Therapist’s Handbook.
Have a Natura Bissé facial here and boy, you know the therapist knows what she is doing (Natura Bissé senior trainers come regularly to update Tara Herron’s skilled young women). Come out, and along one of the spa corridors, shiny marble of course, you see a contorted sculpture that makes you want to head to the Technogym for yet more working out. I like this gym. Headsets, with fresh sets of earphone covers, are already fixed to bits of equipment.
Look at one of the photos on the walls and you know you are in a keep-fit environment (just as fat people network with other fat people, so fit’uns like looking at images of the super-healthy). By the way, you can only access this spa if you are staying over. No walk-ins allowed. Travel tip for the day: if you want post-flight therapy, or body-loosening before heading for Rajasthan and its gorgeous palaces, stay at least one night at The Imperial and maximise use of the spa and many facilities. Have a free yoga lesson. This is what is called body investment, and well worth it.
You have a squash court, indoors of course, and a Pilates studio. Outside, in those gorgeous gardens of this luxury hotel, you have a pool, and tennis, and the chance to walk around. Admire a statue that might be temporary resting spot for a few of the birds that are a feature of Indian life (stay at Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, with its resident day-long human bird scarers, and you know what is meant).
And then retire to your room, in Art Deco or Classic style. Each room is unique. 359, on the top floor and conveniently, for fit people, next not only to the elevator but to stairs (74, down to the ground), has a four-post bed, late 19th century original prints, a standing metal pony (about four feet tall).