India Review 2012

Enjoy reading about our fabulous 23 day trip around India in October 2012

Also read about a previous trip in an article featured in the Artist and Illustrators magazine April 2010 issue.

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We began our trip in the magical city of Jodhpur, our home for the night was a beautiful hotel Rattan Villas. It is located on the edge of the city it provided us with a quiet and relaxing sanctuary. After a long flight to Delhi and an onward flight I wondered if anyone had energy left to explore the city. A few of us dusted ourselves off and headed for the busy centre of Jodhpur. It was hot and grimy with hundreds of people selling their wares, most of it on the ground or in tired looking shops. We wandered around soaking up the atmosphere in sweltering heat. It was a little early in the trip to shop, we caught a glimpse of the famous Mehrangarh Fort as we wandered in and out of the ancient architecture. Returning to the hotel we prepared to go out to dinner at the Fort. It proved to be the start of a magical evening dining under the stars.

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We were all very tired yet at the same time full of excitement at being in India. Our evening started with an adventure in to the famous Mehrangarh Fort. Guided in the dark to an open air terrace, nestling under the spot-lit fort, we were escorted by a guard to a delicately lit terrace restaurant in a stunning setting.
It was a warm evening, the city looked beautiful below, lights twinkling and music delicately wafting through the air. The food was delicious, the staff attentive and interested to hear our comments. We discovered they had opened the restaurant just for us, we were their first guests. What a perfect start to our trip.

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In the morning we all took the opportunity to go back to the Fort to explore it in daylight. To our amazement it was huge! We took the lift several floors to the top and spent a very interesting day wandering around the beautiful rooms. From the ramparts and windows we could see “The Blue City” below, the Brahmin houses that give Jodhpur its distinctive colour all painted blue. Our visit to Jodphur was all too brief, we had to keep to our schedule so we departed Jodhpur that afternoon for a remote village, only an hour away, Chandelao Garh.

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Chandelao, is an old Cavalry post, it had been beautifully restored and was now a hotel, quite remote and unspoiled. Some of us stayed a few nights here, the rest went to Jodhpur to catch the night train to Agra. We visited a women’s co-operative “Sunderang” that made clothes and gifts to sell to visitors. The group had relaxing Ayurvedic massages and sat sketching in the garden acclimatising to the heat. The following day we went to the beautiful Bazaars of Pipar, an ancient market town, after which we continued on our journey by road to Jaipur.

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It was the first visit to the Taj Mahal for most of the group, the advantage of getting the night train meant that arriving early in the morning they beat the crowds. The Taj was fairly empty and easy to get around. It really is a phenomenon, much larger than expected and very beautiful. There was enough time in a day to make a visit to the Red Fort, another feat of architectural prowess and worth a visit. The group left by train early the following morning and met up with the rest of the group in Jaipur.

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I thought Jaipur was a similar size to Jodhpur, surprisingly it was much bigger. Known as the “pink city”, the centre is surrounded by ornate and highly decorated pink walls. Lots to see, we went to the Palace of Winds, the Astronomy Museum, the Amber Palace, the Water Palace, the Monkey Palace and the Bazaars. We managed to fit in a Bollywood movie at the world famous Raj Mandir cinema. The centre of Jaipur, the old city is full of bazaars, and is surrounded by ornate highly decorated walls and large gates.

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We stayed on the edge of the busy city in a lovely hotel – The Maduban, it was an oasis of calm in this very lively city. We took local tuk tuks in and out of the city as it was a little too far to walk both ways in the heat. The staff were lovely and the hotel restaurant provided us with delicious local cuisine

We spent several days in Jaipur, culminating in a visit to the Amber Palace. A truly spectacular building, huge and so big you could easily get lost. There were elephant rides to take you into the Palace – it was a really dynamic way to arrive. I walked up to the main courtyard and met the riders. The palace has amazing architecture, highly decorated rooms there was such a lot to see. A place I would definitely like to visit again. Int the city there were plenty of shopping opportunities, beautiful leather slippers, and alleys full of Bangle sellers.We took an early flight back to Delhi and then flew on to Kolkatta, it was raining and hot, we arrived at noon. After lunch there was time for a stroll around the streets and markets nearby, it was very busy festival time. We visited the famous “South Park Cemetery” the plan was to sketch here. The gardeners asked us not to as the park officials were inspecting it, so we moved on. The group visited the national museum then took the underground to a private gallery owned by a local wealthy family. It was beautifully presented with different floors full of historical pieces of art and a exhibition of current modern painting. Some of the guests took a walk around the old Colonial area of Kolkatta to see many of the government building with their dramatic architecture in typical British style.Our next destination was Darjeeling, we flew to Bagdogra Airport and were driven in jeeps from the plains of Silighouri up windy roads 7000ft to Darjeeling. It is a spectacular city, perched on a peak of one of the Himalayan mountains. We stayed at the Belle Vue Hotel right at the top of Darjeeling, on the corner of the main square. From the roof terrace you have a 360 degree view of the Himalayan mountain range. This is an old Tibetan hotel, full of character. We visited the Happy Valley tea garden and the Himalayan Mountain Institute. We also visited a Tibetan monastery to hear the evening prayers of the Monks, the chanting and music was very hypnotic. The next morning we arose at 4.00am to watch the sunrise from our fabulous vantage point on Tiger Hill. The aim to catch a glimpse of Everest, its a great atmosphere, hundred of people every morning, all wrapped up warm, drinking chai and coffee.
Darjeeling is also really good for shopping, a broad selection of wonderful pashminas, rustic hats, socks, and beautiful jewellery. We spent our last morning walking to the Tibetan Refugee centre, meeting refugees and descendants, families living and working in the centre.From Darjeeling we drove to Karmi Farm to relax and paint in peace and tranquility. Karmi has such a tremendous view its is truly inspirational. It was good to be still, to relax and loose oneself in painting. We have visited Karmi farm six times in as many years, Andrew Pulger Frame has a beautiful home that welcomes travelers and provides a beautiful setting for our painting retreat. Perched on the side of a Himalayan mountain it is a perfect spot. We spent a week painting the beautiful vista in front and around us. The light always changing, the view amazing.
The local food is delicious, we where well looked after. At the end of the week we exhibit all the paintings and were pleased and delighted at all the beautiful work createdEnjoy looking at a selection of the work produced by the guests on the 2012 trip.Click on a thumbnail to see the full image..

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