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Author: Devanshi Mody

SVATMA (Tanjavur): History Gets Hip in Tamil Nadu’s 1000-Year-Old Chola Capital!

A bharatnatyam dancer swirled her uncle’s 150-year-old heritage home into 2016’s cunningest boutique hotel. It’s about art. Resolutely, Tamil Nadu’s age-old arts. Svatma chicly disposes Mahabalipuram rock sculptures, Swamimalai bronzes, Chettinadu woodcraft, Kumbakonam brass lamps, bejewelled Tanjavur paintings and hand-crafted old musical veenas. If you don’t know what any of this is, you will at Svatma. For you should know that Mahabalipuram sculptures and Swamimalai bronzes are millennial art forms that predate most things you’ve seen at the Louvre, the Uffizi and the Prado. As for Tanjavur, if you didn’t know about this ancient capital of the Cholas, shockingly...

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The Bangala, Chettinad: Heritage Haven in Historic Tamil Nadu!

Featured several times in the New York Times, the hotel occupying a house that turns 100 this year has redefined ABC. In Chettinad “A” stands for Achchi or the grand-dame Mrs. Meenakshi Meiyappan who owns The Bangala, which “B” designates, whilst “C” can only signify the celebrated Chettinadu cuisine The Bangala upholds with unmitigated zeal. Achchi (meaning grandma) which Mrs. Meiyappan is unexceptionally called, runs the hotel as an extension of her home, which means you sometimes concede the professionalism of a hotel to the charming idiosyncrasies of local staff (who seem to have been around as long as...

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Sicilian Siesta

Everyday in Sicily is Christmas day. Work is abhorrent. Certainly over Christmas and New Year, as UNESCO World Heritage sites that tessellate this remarkable island vibrant with orange and olive groves languish and the spectacularly good Sicilian wine matures. Yet Sicilians, evoking their famous cannoli, although often limp like the ricotta filling, can be as crisp as the dessert’s enveloping pastry. So on Christmas Eve I descend upon Taormina, that hill-perched fairytale town. A Mercedes conveys me to the legendary San Domenico Palace. It’s nearing midnight. Yet Caterina at Front Office, “flouting” the notorious Sicilian indolence, has tarried to...

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Mandarin Oriental Paris: An Oriental Ode to Paris

Who’d have imagined that what was at nascence a medieval nunnery would  attain the apogee of luxe parisien, conferred the ultimate and uniquely parisian designation “Palace Parisien.” Notwithstanding, the Mandarin Oriental, a precious stone’s throw away from Place Vendôme necklaced in haute joailliers, is so discreet you could slip past it on designer-boutique-streamed Rue St Honoré. And yet, the MO has stamped itself reverberatingly on the Parisian luxury circuit Sensationalism isn’t emblematic of brand Mandarin Oriental, but the check-in at MO Paris is nothing if not sensational. “What would you like to drink?” you’re asked. Your “welcome drink” might...

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Kabini: Jazzing the Jungle

Set on the Kabini river by the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, the award-winning eco property, Orange County, distinguishes itself. If South African lodges I recently visited jealously absorb the guest in a swaddling, suffocating superfluity of finery, Orange County generously directs the gaze outwards. It is minimalist, with mud cottages replicating thatch-roofed Kadu Kuruba tribal huts (albeit rather fancy ones with private pools or jacuzzis). Unlike what is found in South Africa, 1,000 chandeliers don’t burn irresponsibly in your villa day-long. Amidst this unabrasively-lit, unobtrusive, indigenous set-up, the one jazzy concession is a cutting-edge river-front infinity pool, but that too...

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Orange County (Coorg): Culinary Capers in Coffee Country

The car mounts high, high into an endless tunnel of verdant arches. Heavy foliage falls all around from lofty trees. Then, suddenly, a clearing. We’ve arrived at the resort on a family-owned colonial coffee plantation. The Raj-era estate has been around a century or more. It’s the resort’s 20th birthday, for which it has offered itself titivation and pretty new lily pool villas. Tradition, however, persists in old-world hospitality. In the reception area I’m offered hot or cold coffee, made with beans from the plantation. A coffee fiend, I’d like both, but decide to behave. A swig of cold...

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Hemingways Naughty Nairobi

I’m in snug rolls of blankets, gently rolling into slumber, when gently my breakfast order is requested. It looks as if Naomi Campbell is speaking to me. Am I dreaming? But I’m not on Kenya Airways’ just-launched new Dreamliner, I’m in their more down-to-earth aircraft. Though I’m in their world-class Business Class, I haven’t quite expected its multi-award-winning amenities to include Naomi Campbell as hostess. Attending me is Victoria, about whose uncanny resemblance to the super model I remark. Victoria smiles that she did indeed model but hasn’t the “X-factor.” She has, however, the “I” factor, intelligence — demonstrated...

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Ritz-Carlton Bangalore: Hedonism Galore

The IT boom set Bangalore bang in the centre of international cyber cool. Bangalore has the bang and the lore and far from “ban galore,” it feeds hedonism galore. Heightening the hedonism is India’s very first Ritz-Carlton. It hasn’t banged on about its presence. Indeed, I discovered it quite fortuitously, when a hotel I was to visit bungled their airport transfer, leaving me stranded at the airport. There, savvy young Saurabh Bharti, Ritz-Carlton’s Guest Relations agent, noted this damsel-in-distress and gallantly intervened. Over an hour, whilst Saurabh tracked another hotel’s errant airport transfer, he duly dazzled me with the glories of...

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Eating Around the Kenya Bush!

Kenya, the original and perhaps ultimate safari destination, is legendary for its wildlife. Lesser known but only little less delightful are the exceptionally original and extraordinarily creative dining experiences that Kenya’s premium luxury camps orchestrate. If camps are constructed to bring the wilderness in, then they also construct culinary journeys that take you out to savour nature. Whilst over-built lodges in other safari destinations have nurtured and somewhat de-natured nature, Kenya offers a true taste of the wilderness. Speak to Chris Flat (chris@bush-and-beyond.com, Mobile: +254-0723 273668) at Bush & Beyond (www.bush-and-beyond.com). Chris is taciturn and terrifically efficient, and will tailor...

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Chef Grzegorz Odalak: The Magician Chef Michelin Missed?

Each time I’m embarking on a voyage, Chef Grzegor Odalak of the Park Hyatt Chennai calls. “We’re doing something new. It is very nice. You must come.” I cannot refuse the most creative executive chef of all my travels. Problem is, this “something” he’s doing, it transpires, is a volley of glamorous gourmet events, each miss-me-not, which detain me endlessly. For instance, over a fortnight, Chef Grzeg or Chef G, as he’s fondly known, orchestrated a week-long festival Masters of Food & Wine, swiftly succeeded by a chi-chi Brunello Wine Dinner, a wacky Whisky Paired Dinner and, the apotheosis of...

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Ol Donyo Lodge: Killing View in Kilimanjaro

Ol Donyo Lodge: We’re whizzing through the conservation, past a zig-zag of zebra browsing and ostrich tip-toeing hurriedly, flirtatiously wagging tutu-like feathered bottoms. A lone elephant looks very pleased with a tree he has toppled over and Seki, my Masai guide, grins, “Elephant display; they do it to show off to the women. It’s all about the women, you know…” This entertaining game-drive ends with my arrival at the lodge in the Chyulu Hills that Hemingway poeticised in his writing. Worthy of poetry is the lodge itself. Perched over Savannah grass with astounding views over the snow-capped Kilimanjaro that...

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South African Spa Safaris

Earth Lodge (Sabi Sands) Cameron Diaz, it seems, is waiting to receive me at the lodge. But it’s Nadia. Then my hearts beats excitedly as it looks like Nadia is presenting me Warren Beatty. But it’s Nadia’s husband, Stefan, as attractive as Warren Beatty. Stefan and Nadia are the handsomest couple of GMs you’re likely to meet. Nadia flutters about prettily. Stefan’s exactitude ensures South Africa’s tautest service. Here’s one safari lodge that spares you shambolic service and where you don’t expostulate “TIA!” (“This is Africa!”), which is the standard explanation for all organisation disasters in Africa. As good-looking...

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