Monday, 17 September 2018

Stay | Enjoy Rajasthani Grandeur at this New Luxury Hotel in Jaipur

JW Marriott Jaipur is a new age palace

The JW Marriott Jaipur Resort & Spa is the brand’s second resort property in the country, after the one in Mussoorie. “This spa resort is the jewel in our crown,” says general manager, Chandrashekhar Joshi, referring to JW Marriott’s collection of 10 hotels in India. Despite the existing number of hotel rooms in the city, the Jaipur market is nowhere near saturation, according to Joshi. “Jaipur is seeing 65 per cent occupancy through the year across various categories. With the growing number of direct international and domestic flights, it is becoming even easier to reach,” he shares. Interestingly, this luxury hotel suits various categories rather well - whether it is a weekend getaway, lavish weddings or large events.

The JW Marriott Jaipur took almost three years to build and the attention to detail has resulted in a new age palace with all the charm of being in Rajasthan. Situated 10 km outside of Jaipur city, it is a haven of luxury at the foothills of the Aravallis and has plenty of outdoor spaces to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding hills. As soon as the sun sets, the cool breeze is ideal to soak in the splendour of the property. While there are buggies aplenty to navigate this expansive hotel, a walk is an equally pleasant experience with broad, cobbled walkways and soft ambient music playing in all the public areas. The music is complemented with the refreshing gurgle of water since there are more than 120 water bodies across the hotel. 

Royal Reflections
The meandering driveway is an ode to the erstwhile forts and palaces that were protected from attacks by their elaborate ramparts. A grand welcome awaits at Tulsi Mahal, that houses the front office, with live musicians, tilak ceremony and a refreshing drink. A quick look around gives an idea of the splendour of this resort: furniture and artifacts made with silver, other pieces with mother of pearl inlay, a grand marble water fountain beneath an imposing chandelier, walls adorned with traditional tikri work and pillars done with arayash, an indigenous painting technique that keeps walls cool – every corner showcases exquisite craftsmanship of local artisans.

The Royal Pool Villa

Romantic Retreat
For an utterly romantic experience we suggest that you book yourself in the Royal Pool Villa, indulge in a rejuvenating couple’s therapy at the spa and follow it up with a candle lit dinner, like none other, at Mohan Mahal.
·      While the villas are fitted with all the modern amenities, it is the outdoor space that makes a stay here most memorable. A well-sized plunge pool in a private courtyard is truly reminiscent of a royal lifestyle, complete with a ‘chhatar’, a traditional canopy, on a sunbed for two.
·      The Spa by JW offers a range of therapies. The couple’s therapy room is amorous, and the massages are executed very well too. We personally recommend the 90-minute ‘Create Balance’ therapy that includes a 30-minute scrub followed with a 60-minute massage.
·      Mohan Mahal, designed like the Sheesh Mahal at Amer Fort, is decorated with more than 3 lakh pieces of mirror and is lit entirely by candles. Open only for dinner, this is the place to indulge in a traditional Rajasthani thali.

Mohan Mahal

Family Fun
The resort has eight categories of rooms. The family room is spacious and has two queen sized beds. There are many activities to involve kids, like cycling, and evening tea in the garden with locally inspired craft activities and live music. Another immersive experience is a trip to Hathi Gaon. This area has many farms that rear elephants that take travellers up and down Amer Fort. All the elephants have been rescued from various parts of India and here you can ride them, paint, bathe and feed them. You can also take a trip to Nahargarh Fort to enjoy the view over the city from a hilltop and dine at their restaurant, Once Upon A Time.
Within the hotel, the all-day dining restaurant, Sukh Mahal, offers an array of international and Indian fare. The al fresco seating is particularly beautiful, and complemented with the chirping of birds and a flautist playing lovely tunes. Hawa Mahal, the rooftop restaurant is all set to open soon and will be serving Mediterranean grills as well.

Banquet Spaces

Grand Weddings 
The resort boasts 52,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor venues including the pillar-less Vikramaditya Ballroom (11,000 sq. ft.) and two smaller halls, Nahargarh and Jaigarh (900 sq. ft. each) with their designated pre-function areas. With the palatial architecture, the entrance has seven fire columns, that when lit make for a very impressive backdrop. The hospitality team ensures that you and your guests have the most memorable experience. With 200 spacious luxury rooms, this hotel is ideal for a big, fat Indian wedding.

Jaipur-Delhi Highway, NH11, Kukas 
Jaipur 302028 India
Tel: +91 1426 666 000

A version of this article first appeared on on September 17, 2018.

Stay | A Heady Mix of Romance, Opulence and Indulgence at Lake Como

If Lake Como is the playground of the rich and famous, CastaDiva Resort and Spa is the most perfect setting to enjoy it with its romantic legend combined with ultimate luxury.

CastaDiva Resort offers the most luxurious view of Lake Como.
It’s no secret that Lake Como has always attracted royalty, stars from showbiz, musicians, poets and artists. As one of the most romantic locations on the planet it is also the ideal getaway for weddings and honeymoons. The scenic area surrounding the lake is dotted with villas of the likes of George Clooney and Richard Branson. While you may not be able to enter their plush abodes uninvited you can probably enjoy a similar lifestyle at CastaDiva Resort.

The Story of CastaDiva
The long, winding drive to the porch affords stunning views of the blue-green Lago di Como (Italian for Lake Como) fringed with green hills on the opposite bank. The reception echoes the opulence that lies within with velvet drapes in shades of purple and red coming down from high ceilings, ornate cornices, gold-framed mirrors and gilded portraits. In fact, there is one mesmerizing portrait of a lady just as soon as one enters. “This is Giuditta Pasta,” I am told while I gaze at her; and thus starts the story of CastaDiva.

The plush interiors feature opulent drapes and furniture.

Giuditta Pasta was one of the most famous Italian soprano opera singers of the eighteenth century when she bought this villa (it was previously a casino). She had it redesigned like Scala Opera Theatre (Teatro alla Scala) in Milan because she wanted to recreate that atmosphere. It soon became a meeting point of many artists, opera singers and composers including Vincenzo Bellini who wrote the famous opera - Norma. Giuditta also lent her voice to a popular aria in that opera called Casta Diva, hence the name of the resort!

My favourite spot at sunset.

About the Resort
The resort now features nine villas with 73 rooms in all, and the original villa known as Villa Roccabruna houses the common areas, the front office, concierge’s desk and a foyer with a sweeping staircase that leads down to the spa and the upper floor with four classical CastaDiva Suites. The huge glass doors and windows of the salon offer picturesque views of the lake but one must step on to the terrace to breathe in the cool air and take in the 180-degree vista of the cerulean beauty. It’s even better if you go down the stone steps and walk along the pebbled path – the lake on one side and the resort set amidst lush gardens makes a breathtakingly beautiful setting.

Each villa is named after an opera singer and is built in a different style in terms of both, architecture and d├ęcor. You may take your pick from the neo-classical or modern as per your preference. But if you’re looking for exclusivity, there are two private villas complete with private housekeeping, butler and chef. Villa Norma, at the farthest end of the estate offers 360-degree view of the lake as well as complete privacy since it has a private dock which enables guests to check-in secretly straight into the villa. Built in Neo-classical style, this three-bedroom villa is spread over four floors and comes with a full kitchen, lakefront Jacuzzi, a games room with pool table and wet bar, a terrace and private gardens with additional security.  

There are different categories of rooms and villas to choose from.

My suite in Villa Dorabella is contemporary and plush, with a separate sitting room and private balcony overlooking the lake. The only thing better than this view is waking up on luxe linen to this view as the water glistens along with the rising sun. Sunsets are equally picturesque. In fact over the course of my stay I enjoyed the magical sunset over Lake Como from different locations at the resort – the memory of the blue water turning to liquid gold while I sat on a bench at the far corner and the cool breeze and happy humming of birds as I lay on the lounge bed in the garden. These are really the moments that make me love my job!

The spa celebrates the elements. This is the Terra Suite - an ode to the Earth.

Time for Spa
The wellness area is as well equipped as it is aesthetically built. Complete with the latest facilities it has a vitality pool with hydromassage, a Himalayan rose salt relaxation room, showers with mint and exotic fragrances and a Kneipp circuit and ice cascade. But what is really stunning is the private spa suites that are based on the four-elements - fire, earth, air and water. Each has a personal kingsize waterbed, steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi. Built like a cave, the earth suite is very rustic and calming. You can choose from a range of indulgent, relaxing and detoxifying therapies.

Venue for a fairytale wedding.

Weddings and Events
The resort offers a variety of venues to host private events and weddings. An amphitheatre overlooking the lake is ideal for concerts and intimate wedding ceremonies. While the wood-decked floating swimming pool is ideal for enjoying sundowners, it can also be covered up and used for private events to host cocktails or a sit down dinner for a unique experience. The lush garden over looking the lake can also accommodate upto 200 guests.

Last but not the least - Food!
A resort can never be complete without good food! Villa Roccabruna has a lovely Bellini Bar where we are served a memorable meal comprising the freshest salads, hand-made pastas and most decadent desserts. The ravioli with artichokes, burrata cheese and candied lemon turns out to be as delicate as it is delicious. While the bar is ideal for a light meal, it attracts the swish set till the wee hours. The main restaurant however is the waterfront L’Orangerie with a gorgeous verandah that makes candle-lit dinners by the lake utterly romantic. The same venue serves a lavish breakfast buffet and an array if Italian classics as well as modern fare. If you like the food as much as we did book yourself a masterclass with executive chef Massimiliano Mandozzi. Even though he uses some of the most trendy techniques in his kitchen, he’s sure to demonstrate recipes that you can easily replicate at home and impress your friends and family. I certainly vouch for the tiramisu recipe that I learnt.

First glimpse of Bellagio, also known as the Pearl of Lake Como.

Experience Not To Be Missed
A visit to Lake Como cannot be complete without a boatride on the lake. Do check with the concierge and take the boat tour to Bellagio. As you enjoy the mist spray on your face the captain also points out all the celeb villas on route. Bellagio itself is an island in the lake, also known as the Pearl of Lake Como. This quaint town has flower lined cobbled streets, alleys through which the turquoise waters of the lake are visible like a jewel at the end of a tunnel and all the quintessential Italian things to do – aperitivo bars where you must have an Aperol spritz, shops stocked with Italian leather bags, handcrafted shoes and exquisite silk scarves, family run cafes serving delicious woodfired pizzas and a range of gelato bars that make for a perfect Italian holiday.

The best way to enjoy the Lake is definitely by renting a boat.

Como Tip 1
The resort offers shuttle service to Como town that is just a few minutes away from CastaDiva. Como town is bigger yet less touristy than the surrounding towns of Varenna, Bellagio and Lecco.

Como Tip 2
Book a Como Food Tour ( and enjoy a walk and eat tour along with a glimpse into the history of city center. Sample fresh focaccia, taste local wine, enjoy fresh lakefish and local finger food and wind down with a famous Italian espresso.  

Casta Diva Resort & Spa, Via Caronti 69, Blevio, Italy (Tel: 00 39 031 32511).

A version of this article first appeared in Eat Stay Love Magazine, July 2018 issue.