Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jaipur to Roopengarh Fort

We left the beautiful Samode Haveli on Friday morning (4th October) a bit after 10.00am after a relaxed start to the day eating breakfast  in the courtyard under the spreading frangipani trees and ripening pomegranates.

It was over an hour’s drive travelling south west of Jaipur, past small villages, assorted goats, pigs and cows and fields of cauliflowers and barley (?) before our next stop at the Samode Palace and its protective fort, nestled in the ancient Aravilla Hills.

Samode Palace is over 400 years old and belongs to the same Rajput family who own the Samode Haveli in Jaipur. It’s now used as a heritage hotel and function centre.

We were taken on a tour of the palace.  They are most proud of the Durbar Hall (Public Audience Hall) which is decorated with the most amazing original frescoes and decorative mirror work – at least 250 years old.  It was jaw droppingly beautiful to look at – in an over the top way. No expense was spared in its execution. The mirrored surfaces are inlaid with rubies and other precious gems and the vibrant mural paintings are inspired by the Hindu religious tradition.

We enjoyed this stop over which included a buffet lunch in the grand dining room.

We left around 1.30pm and had four hours of driving ahead, over the long flat toll roads we’ve grown used to, full of old heavily laden trucks and motor cyclists, on the way to Roopengarh Fort.

Roopengarh Fort is well off the beaten track, in a picturesque village of around 20,000 people. As a hotel the fort has heritage charm though nowhere near the amenity or elegance of our other accommodation. There are a couple of camels in the grounds though and peacocks are wandering over the garden. The oldest of the fort walls would date from the 1600s, although our rooms were a bit newer than that.

The best part of staying here is our proximity to the village. A lovely young man on the hotel staff took us for a walk this afternoon and introduced us to some of the families – the flour miller, the furniture maker and the sari braid weaver, and then walked us through some of the laneways filled with goats, cows and errant pigs.

Word must have passed around the kids in the village as they seemed very excited by our presence, trying to make conversation and asking for their photo to be taken (and requesting pens(!!)).  They were just happy kids, no one was after money and they all looked bright eyed, healthy, well fed and cared for.

We’ve been struck by the beauty and elegance of the women of Rajasthan – they wear the most colourful saris in all of India and all seem to be slim and very poised in their bearing.  They smiled a lot at us behind their colourful dupattas – making us feel very welcome in the village.

Judy and I did some bangle shopping in the little village market area-which seemed to cause much excitement too.

We were the only guests at the fort that night, and the staff went to a lot of trouble to set up a table outdoors on the tennis court and cook us FOUR tandoori chickens in their own tandoor oven for our dinner.

The lovely young man who took us for the village walk then showed us the suite the Rajput queen used to stay in when the family was in residence at the fort. He told us that STING and his family had stayed here back in 2004 when he was visiting India. Apparently Sting arrived on a motor bike but others in his group rode in on horseback (as you do)!

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