Thursday, November 29, 2012
I am generally not a fan of man- made wonders. But I was in South Africa recently and was overwhelmed by the incredible Palace of the Lost City in Sun City. This over-the-top creation is nothing but grandiose. You can stay busy in this man- made extravaganza for days.
I opened my windows to tribal- style cabanas and a swimming pool with a giant sun mosaic, water spouting out of seashells and waterfalls roaring from every corner.
The rotunda ceiling in the lobby with a jungle motif alive with animals and birds was created by five artists ‘in the same way as Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel!
Stone lions and cheetahs stare from the rooftops, there are colonnades, gigantic chandeliers and soaring arches, wherever you look. The theme is based on a legend of a North African tribe which built its city here and which was destroyed in a volcanic explosion- a lost empire which was re-created out of the dry bush veldt.
The details astounded me: 6500 light fittings, 50,000 square metres of carpets, a table made from eight different kinds of wood costing 3. 5 million rand, tapestries woven by two women from Swaziland over two years and 3400 square metres of murals all creating a fantasy land of gargantuan proportions!
This is the most famous resident celebrity- a life- sized bronze model of Shawu, one of Africa’s most famous tuskers of the Kruger National Park re-created by the South African sculptor Danie de Jager. Shawu with his leathery skin and cracked feet had the most massive ivory tusks in Africa and died of old bullet wounds in 1982.
Mounds of cereals, luscious piles of fruits, quails eggs, cheeses that could feed a continent, a waffle station-the breakfast spread in the massive over-the-top Crystal Court, is fit for a king.
Looking down from the King’s Tower at the panoramic views of the resort, with its lush vegetation and water bodies, I find it hard to believe that it was a rocky near-desert plain twenty years ago.
We learnt to Segway around the property, trying to balance and enjoy the views of the Gary Player- designed golf courses, one with leathery crocodiles sunning themselves in a pit at the 13th hole.
To taste raw Africa outside the resort we took a trip to the 550 square kilometre Pilanesberg Game Reserve just outside the resort, set in the crater of an extinct volcano and even spotted the Big 5!
Is the Palace brash and commercial? Yes..but it must be seen to be believed! Great for families with kids, as there are lots of activities that can keep them occupied.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
One of the most atmospheric hotels that I have been to is the Ahilya Fort Hotel in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh.
Ahilya Fort was built in the simple Wada style of Maratha architecture- with wooden pillars and supporting beams made of lime and bricks. Today, part of it has been converted into an atmospheric and intimate heritage hotel with fourteen tastefully decorated rooms by Prince Richard Holkar, her descendent and the son of the last Maharajah of Indore.
The hotel is a splendid maze of low, white washed buildings, hidden terraces and turrets, corridors and lush gardens.
Rattan furniture painted black and white, wooden ceilings, piles of books almost everywhere-on eclectic subjects from history and art to philosophy and fiction, an internet room with an antique door, two adorable pugs called Yoda and Alhambra...the ambience created is warm and cosy.
Gods and goddesses smeared with vermillion, urns and planters filled with flower petals, paintings of local scenes and sepia photographs of the Holkar family all create a back-in-time feel…
Each room is unique and is named after the tree that it overlooks-I am in the Gulmohar Room with a lounger and antique desk, soft Chanderi quilts on my bed, marigolds in brass vessels and old style fans. The bathroom has modern plumbing but the endearing details continue- a brass bucket and lota with rough stone floors.
Delicious meals are served alfresco in different places- in the terrace overlooking the Narmada or the courtyard garden of the erstwhile cow shed or the lush Poshakwada filled with greenery.
Come night, Ahilya Fort takes on a bewitching look. Oil lamps are lit everywhere, casting small, warm pools of orange light and creating a dramatic stage for aperitifs.
There is the Lingarchan courtyard where Ahilya Bai used to conduct prayer services and had hundreds of Shiva lingams...today it has two quaint rooms called Neem and Imli with window seats that have panoramic views of the Narmada.
I took a boat ride on the Narmada at sunset and was bewitched.
Powered by Blogger.