New Delhi (India), 02.07.2013
Having spent countless nights in them all over Europe, we must admit that we are no big fans of hotels. And also this journey has brought us to see plenty of them across the countries we have passed that were far from perfect, in the better cases. The Imperial in Delhi is a noteworthy exception, and for various reasons. The most apparent one is historical, since this place transmits the splendour of British imperial times to present day. The opulent decoration, never cheap, contrary to so many fake antique hotels we have seen particularly in the US, amazed us. We walked through the corridors to admire the various rooms, bars, restaurants and lithographs on the walls.
Another reason is the absolutely impeccable service and attention of its staff. When we lived in the US we were irritated by the superficial and clearly money driven friendliness of so many waiters, concierges or other tip-expecting people. And we took that suspicion with us ever since, also into the Imperial. It has become a natural reaction to anybody being spontaneously friendly to us in hotels and restaurants. Here we learned that this can be different. We also suspect that once the staff discovered what our journey was about (our car probably got screened and we explained at the reception what our situation was), all doors opened. We received help on all fronts, from storing our car’s almost full contents to organising cars and drivers. Many smiles and open doors and little gestures of attention came along with a very pleasant discretion of the whole staff.
And yet another reason is that this place is almost perfect. There are so many beautiful hotels we’ve seen over the years, but every single one has imperfections, and in many cases practical ones that you notice during your stay. Broken showers, missing power plugs, stylish yet un-practical interior design, malfunctioning AC or heating, smelling restaurants, corners to hit legs and heads, furniture not fitting in the room concept – the list is long. In the Imperial we found even the small details perfectly thought through. Just the huge pool was not perfectly clean in every corner at 07:00 in the morning when it opened, a gang of pigeons was finishing breakfast and feather picking around one of the fountains. But there are even micro details all targeting total customer satisfaction, like the wooden closure of the counters on both sides of the 1911 restaurant, that absorbe the bill printer’s noise so that guests are not disturbed. Wonderful.
After yesterday’s breakfast composed of European as well as Indian delicacies, we started our day. Since we needed to bring the Evoque to the Land Rover service center for its first regular inspection after 26.000 km we had to take all things out. At the reception we explained our situation and asked if there was a possibility to store our luggage for a week. The polite young men behind the desk listened to our account of driving from Europe to Asia by car. “Sir, don’t worry about this. We will take care of everything.” The valet parking, that in the morning had already washed the car without us even mentioning it, parked it at the entrance to the baggage room, and we started unpacking. Once you take that one step out of the lobby through the door to the courtyard you get hit by at least 10-15 degrees higher temperatures and a brutal humidity. Once you then step into the sun, sweat starts flowing in rivers. It was 42 degrees once we opened the car. Our car was not too full, and we were quite quick in not only taking all bags out, but also in packaging all loose items that have their own storage in the vehicle normally. After just 15 minutes we were completely wet. The staff brought us water bottles, but that only made us sweat even more.
The rest of yesterday for me went into taking care of the car, driving to AMP motors through the crazy New Delhi traffic, the official Land Rover dealer and service center in Delhi. I explained them all that had happened with the Range Rover and ran them through our issues list. Helena found a laundry, Quick Clean, where we could wash almost 20kg of clothes that had accumulated so far. It was not easy to find, its address is a fine example of lack of clarity: JA-IA/A, Khirki Extension, near Tikona Park, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi. The taxi driver had no idea where it was, nor did the people in the area. Finally they found the rear entrance, and it took another odyssey to find the front one. What is so difficult in just having 1 unique street name and 1 unique number? Anyway, during washing and drying there were several power shortages, making a 90 minute operation a multi-hour pain. In the end Helena came back without the laundry, having to entrust it to the owners of the store to finish the job and delivering to the hotel. Here, in a normal Indian outlet somewhere in Delhi, our trust in people was again rewarded. They delivered a little late, but everything was there, and even the change was complete. Great experience!
In the evening we tried the Spice Route, one of the restaurants in the hotel. Not big fans of hotel foods (as in Lahore we usually prefer the roadside shacks), we were again pleasantly surprised. The restaurant has a splendid wooden decoration. We spent quite some time admiring it while enjoying the calm, great attention by the waiters and delicate South Indian food. The wine list was well assorted, just the Spanish wine section was under represented, considering the great variety and quality of wines Spain produces. The evening closed with style at the Patiala Peg polo bar, a well assorted and stylish art deco cocktail bar.
This morning we went for some quick sightseeing. First we checked out the Gurudwara Shri Bangla Sahib, a Sikh temple. Heads covered, shoes off and hands washed we went for a tour. As the roof, also the ceiling was impressively decorated with gold, and in the heat of New Delhi this seemed to be a place of rest, meditation and cool for many people of all parts of society. As the guide pointed out several times, all people are equal in there, independent of caste, race, belief or nationality. Outside again, we drank and washed our faces with what is considered the holy water this temple is famous for. We were explained that the huge pool besides the temple was for washing, you could just have a bath or hang your feet into the water. There was a special corner for women if they preferred to be for themselves. Last stop of the short tour was a visit to the kitchen, where food was being cooked for thousands of people that eat together every day here. Bread, vegetable curry and rice were on the menu.
We jumped into the taxi waiting for us and drove to the parliament and presidential palace. Built by the British in colonial style and with red bricks, the entire complex has a distinct color, that to us seemed to emphasise the heat. The former British Governor-General’s house is huge. And so are the two secretariat buildings in front of it, the alley down the hill and through the Raj Path, the park, the India gate. Everything here is huge and majestic.
Last quick stop were the Mughal gardens. We had little time left before having to head back to the hotel, and since these parks are unique and need more time to discover, we just took a short walk inside. In no time we were soaking wet, it was simply too hot. So we jumped into the taxi with AC again and drove back to the Imperial.
Dear readers, this is it for the time being, our journey takes a little break here in Delhi. We will take off for some days without car and exploring, just relaxing. After 2,5 months of daily action we need it. Next Monday we will be back!
No trip data for today