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Published: February 10th 2018
Woolly says – I was delighted to be arriving in Jaipur, since our first discussions of travelling around India had begun it had been top of my list of places to visit. I couldn’t wait to pad round in the footsteps of Dame Judi, Cecila Imrie and Bill Nighy and see if I could do a bit of star spotting into the bargain. For those of you not in the know and having not watched my favourite all time film (with the exception of Ice Age), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a 2011 British comedy-drama film about a group of British pensioners moving to a retirement hotel in India with the most incredible cast, if you haven’t seen it then it’s a must. As we set out with our driver, I kept my eyes peeled for any sightings of the famous ones, as we passed buildings that had been used in the filming I could hardly contain my excitement.
I hadn’t got the heart to tell him that not only were they not really living there but that a lot of the filming had been done some two hundred miles away! Woolly
says – As our rickshaw started on the steep incline to take us to our first destination in the city, I thought it was about time to fill the girls in on the city itself. Jaipur is the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan and was founded on 18th November 1727 by Jai Singh II, the then ruler of Amer and after whom the city is named. Known as the Pink City of India it is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Jantar Mantar and the Amer Fort. As the slope increased and the rickshaw crawled slowly upwards I could see parts of the fort everywhere, the walls seemed to go for miles across the rocky inclines that surround the hub of the city. Finally, with a final spurt we made it to the summit and coasted down towards the entrance to the fort, passing several elephants strapped into the dreaded howdah’s. Pulling up we thanked our driver and I led the way up the steps which gave us a chance to admire the fort in all it’s amber glory. Although a steep climb the steps were placed well enough apart that made
it easy to bounce from one to another, a I went I wondered if Bill Nighy would be showing people around as he had taken up the role of tour guide in the film, he would make an excellent tour guide for us, not as good as me of course.
The fort was massive and seemed to spread across the landscape in front of us, it might be quite a while before he realised that Mr Nighy was nowhere to be found. Woolly says – Overlooking Maota Lake which is the main source of water for the Amer Palace, the buildings are constructed of red sandstone and marble, laid out on four levels, each area having its own open courtyard. Having admired the Lion Gate, we found ourselves in the first of the courtyards, with it’s large audience hall where the kings would meet their subjects and officials. The columns were decorative and used the red and white materials to display elephants that appeared to be eating flowers, the views from it were incredible and went on for infinity. We stood admiring the elephant gate with it’s beautifully painted flowers that covered
it, as well as a rather chubby Ganesh marking the middle section. I spotted a sign and as I dashed over to it I had to chuckle, it was a Turkish Hamman, well that had to be seen. Tiny rooms with deep pools and areas for fires to burn for the hot water were very unlike the Hamman’s we know from home, a small set of stairs led me upwards and onto another layer of the palace. A building to the side of the courtyard seemed to simmer in the sunshine as as I got closer it appeared to be covered in gold and mirrors, each tile beautifully decorated and different, this according to the nearby sign was the Diwan I Khas and had been used for private audiences with the royals, you would really know your value if you were granted an audience in there I thought. Across the courtyard was the summer area for the royal family to sit and keep cool, decorated in lights blues and pinks the marble was cool to the touch and the deep shadows made a welcome reprieve from the heat outside. I could just picture myself languishing on my day bed admiring
the flowers in the nearby garden, if only I had a carer that could made these things happen for me!
I’ll have to find one for you! Woolly says – Having given Jo a withering glance I noticed a small doorway that just begged to be investigated and having ambled across the open space I couldn’t contain myself when I realised that it was one of the ninety nine latrines that the palace holds. Not your usual toilet at all and certainly not one for reading the paper on but a real royal poop place.
Having refused to let him use them and hustled him up some more steps we found ourselves in a maze of rooms and small corridors. Woolly says – Room after room went by, some painted, some purely white with alcoves to keep your bits and bobs, the doors were beautifully carved and led from one straight into another. Suddenly we could see another courtyard below us with another audience area, with no idea how to get to it I continued to dodge in and out of spaces
and along the passageways, twenty minutes passed, and we still didn’t seem to have run out of rooms, you could lose someone forever in this place, I glanced back to make sure the women were still following. Appearing in daylight at last we realised that we were at the top of the lion gate which was equally ornate as the frontage, with it’s stripy blue and green domes topped with golden points it was very grand indeed. What looked like a circular summer house stood not far away and having taken the pictures of the exterior I peered inside to find amazing views of the gardens far below, the lake and the walls of the fort circling a nearby mountainside. A sloped path returned us to the elephant gate and its nearby palace kitchens as well as another ten or so small rooms that led away from them, what did they use all these rooms for? You could house a whole nation in the place! As we wandered onwards more summer houses appeared as well as a variety of small shops selling all sorts of touristy things, I noticed a nearby rack of postcards and quickly grabbed one for my
best friend Sion, although finding a stamp might take another four weeks which is how long that last one took! We started our descent passing families of monkeys and stepping round elephant poop, didn’t the elephants have latrines I wondered.
It had certainly been an experience and like my small friend I was staggered at the number of rooms that were hidden everywhere. Having found our driver napping, we climbed on board and set off to conquer the hillside once more. Woolly says – Having made it to the top we cruised down the hillside sliding into a parking space for a quick photo opportunity at Sagar Lake. There in the middle of the lake stood the Jal Mahal (meaning "Water Palace") having been renovated and enlarged in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber it looked like a fine building. Although it didn’t look that big from the waterside the clever King had actually built five stories of which four lie under the water, it’s need for renovation was due to rising damp, so maybe he wasn’t that bright after all! Having also had a quick look at
a bronze set of statues on the shore featuring an elephant being followed by men and horses heading towards what appeared to be the gate of the fort which was beautifully crafted I jumped back into the transport wondering what was next. The driver started talking gems, carpets and textiles and having given the women a hard stare I was rather surprized to realise that they hadn’t said no but had leapt at the chance to see a textile mill, shrugging my shoulders and hoping that they wouldn’t get the hard sell I settled back to the swerving and honking that the route took us.
Although we don’t as a rule by anything unless needed both Zoe ad I had wanted a reminder of India and had loved the idea of having something made for us, this might be our chance. Woolly says – Having arrived at a drab looking building I reluctantly followed them inside. The room was lined with padded tables were men were pinning hand dyed cloth down and then using stamps to print patterns onto the fabric. It looked really easy and having watched for a while I
thought that a few paw prints might add to the patterns they were creating, I was just about to pop my first paw into the paint tray when I could feel one of Jo’s steely glares, not wanting to be caught out I waved my paw a few times pretending to point the materials lining the walls, luckily I got away with it. Having watched several large sheets of textile go from being plain to covered in white patterns we followed one of the men into the show room, here it comes, how much is this going to cost me! Huge throws were placed in front of us one after another, even to me they looked incredible and as Jo fingered a couple I dreaded to think of the cost let alone how we would be carrying them. Having gone through ten or so samples Zoe piped up admitting that lovely though they were they would like some clothes. We were taken into another room and for the next hour or so the two women pulled out bale after bale, humming and harring over it’s merits, decisions seem to have been made and a small man appeared with a tape
measure and started jotting down vital statistics, I stood waiting for the bombshell.
I to was waiting for this point and just hoped it wasn’t more that we had allocated for the purchases. Woolly says – With the measuring done and the promise of fully made garments before nightfall I nearly collapsed when he told us the price, the grin on Jo’s face was a picture as she handed over less then we were paying a night for rooms! How can they make something so cheaply? As we clamoured back on board the rickshaw I wondered if they would actually fit for that price, well only a few hours and we’d soon find out.
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