Our limo doesn’t whisk us to the hotel’s driveway; instead, we glide to a stop at Lake Pichola, leave our bags in the vehicle, descend to a private floating jetty, and are ushered into a canopied motorboat. A smiling, liveried helmsman takes the long way across the lake, pointing out the sprawling City Palace, and, mid-lake, the palaces where a Bollywood actress had her wedding reception, and where Octopussy was shot, and the city in general.
At the landing stage, a wee vehicle waits to ferry us up the driveway to the hotel. Being perverse, we wave it away and stroll up. Worried driver whispers into walkie-talkie. Evidently, we’re disrupting the choreography, because as we admire the flowers in our best minor-potentate-returning-to-the-beloved-manse style, we see that our vehicle is rounding the bend. We realize that the boat-ride is a little psychological game, and we grin as we admit to ourself that we fell for it. And we remember we’re here to review the place, and, reluctantly, we abandon the ‘tude and the Royal Pronoun, and get down to work.
From the outside, Udaivilas sure looks like a palace. Vast arrays of fat, pink onion-shaped domes and cupolas crown the rambling building, chhatris and arches abound, a large version of the bronze, mustachioed sun god symbol of the princes of this neck of the desert adorns the driveway. But it is a modern building a few years old, styled to look like a Mewari palace. Great care has been taken to further the illusion in the interiors, but not at the cost of function. Room ceilings, for instance, are high, but not absurdly so that it takes hours for the air-conditioning to cool the room down; the room refrigerator is hidden in a dark wood cabinet, as are TV and electronic safe. Unique little touches abound.
The spa, run by Banyan Tree, is a house of delight. A wide range of massages and treatments are enough to keep any sybarite supple and relaxed.
Food: Excellent. Aside from a range of local specialities like Laal Maas, the range covers a nice assortment of Indian and international cuisine. The bakery gave me the best croissant I’ve ever wolfed down.
Complaints? A few. The service is a tad too attentive for my taste: I don’t want my pillows rearranged and bed cover put back on when I’ve taken great trouble to arrange them the way I like it; and if I put my toothbrush in a glass next to the washbasin, that’s where I want to find it when I reach for it blearily the next morning, dammit. I’m a bathtub addict, but the ‘Victorian-style’ claw-foot bathtub is just a hip-bath, really: if I want a good soak, I want to be immersed, not have half of me sticking out shivering.
Location: On the banks of Lake Pichola, Udaipur
Accomodation: 63 Deluxe rooms, 19 Superior Deluxe, 4 Luxury Suites, 1 Kohinoor Suite
Contact 0294-2433300, toll-free 1800-11-2030, www.oberoihotels.com