A wedding is stressful while a honeymoon is relaxing. And both can be managed brilliantly at The Leela Palace Udaipur. Doubting my judgment? Then you have to read this!
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: October 10, 2011
Want to start your honeymoon experience with a leisurely boat ride, a shower of rose petals, a traditional Rajasthani welcome, culminating into a lavish room with spectacular views of a lake and mountain range? The Leela Palace Udaipur is your destination then.
This was exactly the reception I received on my arrival – and I was completely bowled over! The pampering starts right from the moment you step your foot into the property – in fact, from the time they pick you up at the airport. After the traditional welcome, you are whisked straight into your room and all the facilities are completed there itself as you sip on your welcome drink. A small tour of the room and its modern facilities by your personal butler begins your magical journey in this property.
Udaipur in itself is a destination steeped with rich Indian heritage and culture. It is the romanticism of being in the same space as early Maharajas, and getting a chance to lead that kind of life, that pulls you to this city of lakes. Of course, the beautiful lakes and the Aravalli range of mountains make it even more dreamy and straight out of a picture book.
The Leela Palace Udaipur, located on the bank of Lake Pichola with a wonderful view of Aravalli Hills, Jag Mandir, Lake Palace and City Palace, aims to provide you with a snapshot of princely life. Get ready to feel like a “modern day royal”, as Mr Graham Grant, General Manager, The Leela Palace Udaipur, puts it. Throughout the property, wherever you go, everyone greets you with a smile and addresses you by name. Little touches by the staff assure you that your experience is thoroughly important for them. A small example - every evening, you are served a traditional Indian sweet in your room and a server also goes around with a tray of canapés in case you wish for something lighter!
Time to be in love
But let’s not talk about the staff anymore. After all, as a honeymooner, you would rather be left in privacy I suppose? The Guava Orchard and Amrud Mahal should tempt you. I had a lovely morning sitting on one of the cool, marble seats in the guava garden and basking in the warm sun. At night, the scene becomes even more stunning! Overlooking the lake, the garden can be lit up by lanterns and a special table set up just for both of you. A gourmet dinner setting is ready!
The Amrud Mahal (Guava Palace), a small roofed building with a typical Rajasthani architecture, is situated in the Guava Orchard, again overlooking the lake. “What we do is place some colourful cushions in a low seating arrangement, adorn the room beautifully with candles and flowers, and set up a dinner table just for the couple,” explained Mr Grant enthusiastically. I could just imagine. With privacy, good food and wine, and stunning views, what more can a couple in love want?
The palace is sprinkled with little nooks and corners where you can sit together, away from the rest of the world and relax. And if you want to explore another dimension of relaxation and togetherness, then try ESPA!
The white tented ESPA is the spa at The Leela Palace Udaipur. The area is ornamented by small gardens, numerous small water fountains and flowers. The couple spa suite – a separate tent in itself – is large and spacious and is divided into two parts: the changing area with a bathtub and the massage area. If you see above, the roof cloth will look as if it’s sparkling with stars…
As for the spa treatments themselves, expect only the best. My experience at the spa was fabulous and even effective! Starting with a calming and well-made Tulsi & Ginger tea, you are made to fill out a little form – as is usual in all spas – and then asked for your music preferences. A 60-minute Aromatherapy treatment assured me that the therapist knew her strokes well. She was attentive to any demands I had and made sure that I didn’t experience any discomfort. Rest of the experience, I am sure, will be beautiful in any case with your beloved beside you!
Choose the ‘Suite Time Together’ journey – where a couple can choose any two treatments from their exhaustive menu. Make the most of it and soak into the bathtub together in the end for full bliss!
And how can I forget the little, round table, set up just for two people near the lake! It made me wish for a partner during my trip. Mornings in Udaipur are extremely beautiful with the lake slowly getting washed by the sunlight. The green Aravallis add to the scene. Start the day with just two of you indulging in a champagne breakfast. A beautiful way to begin a new life as well, don’t you think?
Tie the knot
“Being married myself, I know that besides the bride and groom, a wedding is about the families as well. Weddings can be a stressful process. For us, it’s about trying to ease that process. If a particular guest wants something unique or special to be done at the wedding, we should find a way to be able to do that. And if not, then we should be able to provide alternative options. We understand what needs to be delivered and we stretch ourselves to make it happen,” said Mr Grant. For someone who comes after years of experience, and most notably with Palazzo Versace, I wouldn’t think twice before trusting my wedding preparations to him and his team.
The Leela Palace Udaipur has a number of areas which can be used for wedding festivities. The main ballroom extends to a wonderful terrace area as well, therefore providing an indoor and outdoor experience. The inner and outer courtyards are absolutely stunning with their black and white marble flooring and small water bodies. “And if you can imagine big, big lanterns at night – absolutely gorgeous,” adds Mr Grant. Throw in some traditional performances and entertainment – and you are set to begin the festivities.
Executive Chef at The Leela Palace Udaipur, Chef Zafar, knows what the requirements and needs of a big function could be and ensures top quality produce with perfect presentation. “We have a team of chefs who can belt out a string of cuisines for the guests. We can even organize more specialized chefs to come for a particular event from our properties in other cities,” said Chef Zafar. After sampling their traditional Rajasthani cuisine, created by Chef Vishal from the team, I doubt anything could be impossible for them!
Traditional Rajasthani cuisine, as Chef Zafar himself admitted, is not something which quickly appeals to everyone. You need to acquire a taste for it. Having grown up on Rajasthani cooking from childhood, I know that they have got the authenticity of the cuisine correct. The ever-famous trio of Dal-Baati-Churma was just as it should be, the Gatte were melt-in-the-mouth category and the Missi Roti was crisp. The Kheer had just the right amount of sweetness to it – not over the top. And the Gulab Jamun was hot and extremely soft! Top it up with a Gulabshahi Bellini and you have just had a princely meal!
“If you take the entire property and want to entertain around 150-200 guests, well, you own a palace. It’s yours. You become the Maharaja of Leela Palace in Udaipur,” said Mr Grant cheerfully. “And even if you don’t, we ensure that we find you areas where you are not intimidated or interfered by anyone else – that it becomes a specialized experience for you.”
Well, I just had a small room to myself. And I still felt as if I was walking in a palatial home. “The worst thing we could do here is treat everybody the same. We must make sure that you – as you – are important. We understand everyone’s unique needs and desires and make sure we perform,” explained Mr Grant.
A point in case, Mr Grant related one of the feedbacks he got from a guest. Recently, they had a guest from UK who came with his wife and was celebrating his 81st birthday. So incredibly wonderful his experience was that he invited Mr Grant up to his room on his birthday, to share a bottle of champagne with him, and to tell him how great the staff and the environment of the palace was. Having a bad knee, he went for a specific massage at ESPA, and admitted to have never felt better in his entire life! “He said, ‘If I had time, I would stay here for two weeks, because I feel totally revitalized and I have been treated like a king.’ That’s the type of feedback I am getting,” said a visibly excited Mr Grant.
And why not! He himself is so enamoured and enchanted by The Leela Palace Udaipur. “The sunset here is etched in mine and my wife’s memory as one of the most beautiful,” says Mr Grant. Doesn’t that just make you long to spend time here with your sweetheart and life-long partner?