|Swimming pool view
I adore Jaipur and visit as often as possible – who can resist the magnificent Fort, the stunning Astronomical Observatory and the great shopping? Normally I stay in an hotel in the middle of the melee. I must admit though the hustle, bustle and heat of the city can be draining, so this time I decided to try something totally different – a place in the country far from the maddening crowd.
I'd heard about the Tree of Life opening last year and thought the idea of a rural retreat most appealing as Jaipur does get hot, and I do get bothered, so the idea of a refuge appealed to me. However my major concern was, that it could be a nuisance, staying so far from Jaipur and having to travel in each day to 'do the sights'.
I left Delhi on a hot and sticky day; monsoon clouds loomed, threatening a torrential downpour. Nothing happened and the thermometer just soared. Finally my driver careered off the main highway, obliviously going against the traffic and merrily pointing out the sign for the Tree of Life, as he weaved in and out of honking lorries and frantic tuk tuks scurrying out of his way. We bumped our way through a very careworn village- where pigs wallowed in the heavenly mud and children yelled with delights as we drove past, waving furiously and disturbing the pigs blissful siesta. I felt depressed – surly this was not my destination?
| Pool and sitting area
A few minutes later we headed into the Aravalli Hills. Gentle undulating terrain hid small houses and distant villages; it was a peaceful rural scene until suicide jocks on scooters played chicken with us on the narrow road! Finally we arrived –and my depression instantly lifted. Before me was a small fort, with terracotta domes climbing a hillside, mellow and earthy, blending into the land.
Greeted by, Akhil, (the owner Himmat Anand's son) who acts in many capacities, including front of house, and is, I gather a wonderful musician giving impromptu recitals in the evenings. Akhil was a delight with his gentle manner and obvious pride in his work and that of the family business. I immediately felt both relaxed and welcomed. After a cooling drink and receiving a bangle as a memento (I 'm still wearing it) I was escorted to my room - a glorious villa on a hillside, with a plunge pool and views over the entire property.
The extensive grounds shelter 14 individual villas (some with plunge pool like mine). All are beautifully furnished, spacious and – most important in the heat – restful on the eye. Each is built to reflect the architectural design and traditional heritage of Rajasthan using sandstone and lime. I loved the domed ceiling above my bed in my villa – such a delightful detail – a sibling in an amazing shade of pink graced the vast bathroom. The outside shower was perfect for those long hot Rajasthani days. Tucked away in a corner of my walled garden was a bright canopy covering the massage beds and a sunken tub – just right for a honeymoon or for simply being pampered together –in fact you don't need an excuse at all!
If you opt for a villa without plunge pool then don't worry – the infinity pool is dazzling with fabulous views over the property and distant hills. During the evening I sat there, watching the sun slowly fade. The landscape changed its harsh sun parched colours and was bathed in a soft rose and ochre glow - even the looming monsoon clouds (that had followed me from Delhi) couldn't spoil the moment.
The dining concept here is different, I was totally unprepared for the chef to call and ask for an appointment to discuss the evening menu. He does this each evening and talks you through the menu. The menu was small – but this meant food was fresh and cooked to order. Freezer options were not an option here.(This is one of the reasons why the property will not expand, I gather, as the chef would spent all evening talking instead of cooking!). The dining room cum bar area was lovely and relaxing. I enjoyed a stiff Gin'n Tonic – a necessary pick me up after the journey from Delhi!
The next morning after far too much breakfast I did my usual Fort and City visits in Jaipur. It took 20 minutes to reach the fort – not bad at all as I had originally heard the Tree of Life was at least 40 minutes away. It was an unhurried drive. Later I went to the wonderful Observatory – but at 52oC soon called it a day and headed off for some lunch before re-emerging in the cool of the afternoon to see the City Museum. I just so loved my return to the hotel. After the heat of the city it was a cool calm backwater - my plunge pool was in the shade and I just flopped in! My concern about being out of the city faded instantly...
Why I like it
- You get a complimentary massage upon arrival –head and neck – brilliant idea.
- There's also a spa with a sauna and steam bath for relaxing moments and for unwinding from the Rajasthani heat.
- Don't miss the art gallery with its unique display of Ganesh statues - truly fascinating with some rare pieces on view.
- A small vegetable garden is being developed and the hotel tries to source as much as possible locally – including training up locals as staff.
- Great care is taking over the use of water and recycling as much as possible.
- Determination to work with and support projects in the local community.
- An interesting range of excursions are available from the hotel.
Who should stay
- The place is ideal for a short stop over – a couple of nights (or more!) is perfect – easy drive from Delhi for first night.
- Good for a honeymoon couple with a pool room.
- Perfect for renewal of vows – on my list for our next major anniversary celebration.
- Ideal for anyone wanting to walk in the local countryside.
- Good base to use to do the tours of Jaipur - then to relax afterwards in a top class resort.
- It is not a place for kids.
The Tree of Life
Filghts to India
-- Deborah Radcliffe