The gal is revelling in rolling round the Tata Suite of Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. Not literally rolling, but at times rocking with laughter. One of the arrival posse, showing off the suite (651 if you want to book it – and it is worth every rupee), said goodbye and instantly took a wrong turning, thus missing the front door.
Outside the door, a couple of marble elephants, which represent wisdom in Hindu mythologypatiently held secure court throughout the stay. Go inside, turn left to the salon – enormous. Turn right to find the dining room on your left, kitchen on the right.
The corridor takes a sharp right angle and then a left angle. You now have the office on your left, a visitor bathroom on your right. Continue on, turn left into the bedroom, with the ceiling-high bedhead’s back in front of you. Go round this to the right, to the gym. Go round this to the left, to the walk-in closet and the master bathroom.
Believe it or not this 5,000 sq ft pad is actually incredibly cosy. Typical Taj style, there are oodles of flowers and things to read and things to eat and touch and do.
Go into the bathroom and there are enough lotions and potions and things to scrub your Kate Moss body with to pretend you are Cleopatra (come to think of it the only thing not provided is the asses’ milk that she is supposed to have bathed in).
At least one can indulge in Forest Essentials’ Bitter Orange and Cinnamon bath crystals. Question, why is it the only time one wants a bath when travelling at hectic speed is the ONE time there is no bathtub?
Others might explore the Taj Mahal’s great shops. But for your humble correspondent, dear reader, it was gym time. The fitness centre seems to have doubled in size since my last visit (the first time I came here, way back in the last century, ha ha, it was full of revolving belts for local ladies in saris to lean against in an attempt to flatten, pastry-style, the rolls of flesh between sari and ‘blouse’).
Now there are plenty of latest-pieces, Technogym like 651’s private mini-gym. Now it was dinner time. Soukh, up on the top floor of the Taj’s 1973-vintage tower, is a lunchtime favourite, for the buffet, and the view down to the Gateway to India and out to the Arabian Sea. At night it takes on a mystical air.
We have mezze, fabulous muttabel (also known, when the eggplant paste is not accompanied by pomegranate seeds, as babaghannouj), and hommus and a Greek salad. This is a restaurant that serves dishes from around the eastern Mediterranean, which somehow also manages to include a great salmon main course. This is luxury dining, for a travellin’gal.
There are myriad dining possibilities at Taj Mahal Palace – including Chinese and Japanese. All the food is overseen by corporate culinary director Hemant Oberoi, a hero in so many ways. The hotel is full of heroes.
The former General Manager, the softly-spoken gentleman Karambir Kang Singh, was honoured by Virtuoso, the top travel agents’ consortium, as hotelier of the year – he is now heading Taj North America as Taj Boston and weaving his service magic for traditional New Englanders.
The boss here, now, is the equally-super Gaurav Pokhriyal, who moved from Goa, where at some times of year he had to put up with charter holidaymakers who stayed 20 nights or more (the thought makes me cringe, especially since many of them are Brits who possibly want to lie in the sun all day long).
But as usual, the gal is only here for one night, which means one dinner and one breakfast. She heads for the buffet, watches others taking their fill and then chooses to sit outside on the terrace.
Yet again – but never boring – Indian-curd yoghurt and papaya, and lots of fresh juice. Bliss oh bliss, one of the best cups of coffee anywhere, from fresh-ground Illy beans, and a second cup is brought just before needed.
Overhead at this gorgeous Leading Hotel old lanterns hang from an intricate new ceiling. Through the greenery pool life is beginning to stir to action. The pool is cleaned, and loungers are put around.
Few here spend day after day boiling themselves, as in Goa. They may be spoiling themselves, sneaking in an hour between cultural trips or other sightseeing, or doing, as I was about to do, merely walking around to see Bombay, on foot….