The Windamere Hotel, a heritage hotel in Darjeeling

The Windamere Hotel, a heritage hotel in Darjeeling
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Windamere Hotel situated on Darjeeling's Observatory Hill always takes you back in time to give you a taste of the Victorian life.

Sharda Adhikari
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03 Min Read

Darjeeling: Where would you go if you wanted a whiff of the old “Raj air”, where evenings are spent playing ageless tunes on the piano in front of a crackling fireplace, and where dinner is one big family affair? If you want to step back in time and live the Victorian life, there is no better place to be than the Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling. Situated on the Observatory Hill, the hotel overlooks the town’s main promenade and is surrounded by pine trees and white picket fences. The Windamere started as a cosy Victorian boarding house for English tea planters in 1889, and was transformed into a hotel in 1939. It has preserved its old-world charms resisting the march of modern standardisation which ensures that a hotel room in Dakar looks identical to another in Delhi.

Ms Subhana Rai, manager of the hotel, says that it has maintained the British air “without its stiffness". And that is what draws guests from all over the world, year after year.  The hotel has no room service, television, kiosks or  central heating system. But it does have the clanking pull-chain toilets, hot water bottles, log fire in every room, a well-stocked library, the Daisy’s Music Room and the Bear Park Parlour. It isn’t surprising then, that most guests prefer to stay back in the evenings in the warm cosy ambience of the Parlour, flipping through the century-old photographs or just browsing through the memorabilia at ‘The Snuggery’ which houses the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Club.

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The service is an unobtrusive comfort. Perhaps the Windamere’s winning combination of  personalized attention and unfaltering efficiency springs from the fact that  it is family-run— in fact, it  is run almost solely by a fragile 97-year-old charming Tibetan lady, Mrs Tenduf-La. She recalls the visit by King Albert of Belgium and Queen Elizabeth in 1925. Lord Lytton and his daughter Pamela, as well as his successor, Lord Reading, visited in 1926. Some say that the destiny of  Sikkim took a turn at the Windamere when, in 1963, the crown prince of Sikkim met and fell in love with Hope Cooke, a New York social figure, in the drawing room of the hotel.

Mr Ravindra Rai, resident Manager at the Windamere, says that guests have fallen in love, celebrated their engagement here, and come back with their children to show them their honeymoon cottage. A bench at the patio is named after a couple who first met while enjoying the view of the mountain range from it.

The cuisine is varied and includes plain English fare like roast potatoes and steak and onion pie, Indian curries, Cantonese Chinese and Continental favourites. Coffee is always from Baba Budan Hills, tea from Darjeeling.

The hotel also has an annexe higher up on the ridge with a smallish isolated cottage and a honeymooners’ suite. If you’re looking for fireworks and mechanical, antiseptic hospitality, the Windamere is not your cup of tea.

Getting There: Darjeeling is 80 kms from Siliguri the main transit point. Fly to Bagdogra Airport from Calcutta or Delhi and then take the Toy Train (eight hours) or a taxi (two-and-a-half hours) to Darjeeling.
Accomodation: 38 rooms
Tariff: â?¹12,519-16,646 approximately
Contact: 0354 54041/2 Fax 0354-54211/54043 Email: Windamere@vsnl.com , www.windamerehotel.com 


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