Sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself: You deserve the best. The Rajmahal Palace, drenched in rich, flamboyant colors and patterns and boasting monumental architecture and a supremely attentive staff, offers a maharajah’s life every moment you are within its walls.
After a few adventurous days in the wilderness at Sher Bagh safari camp in Ranthambore park, we head to our next destination, Jaipur, the famous “Pink City.” As we start to approach the city, our excitement grows as the roads become more densely packed with cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, cows, and camels. We arrive at the gate of the majestic Rajmahal Palace and are warmly greeted with “Namaste.”
Located in central Jaipur, the palace is owned by the royal family and was their primary residence before relocating to the City Palace. The palace was renovated and refurbished by renowned designer Adil Ahmad and opened in 2014. Forty-six custom wallpapers adorn the common rooms and suites in the palace. Each of the 13 suites is uniquely and lavishly decorated with a mix of classical and modern styles. Coming from Paris, we are in awe of the use of bold colors and patterns. There’s a dining room called “51 Shades of Pink” that is, well, decorated entirely in hot pink. We gasp every time we walk into a different room. With a large garden, terrace, common areas, and multiple dining rooms, we feel like we have the palace to ourselves. The property is a luxurious oasis sheltering us from the hustle and bustle of Jaipur.
We settle into the beautiful Mountbatten suite. Being a big fan of the TV series The Crown, I am excited to learn that the real Lord Mountbatten has stayed here. The palace has also had other famous guests like the Queen herself, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and Jackie Kennedy. I enjoy a bath in the lavish marble bathtub and slather tuberose lotion on my skin. I come out of the room feeling like royalty.
As the sun sets and paints the palace exterior in a different shade of pink, we make our way to a special outdoor dinner they have set up for us by the pool, filled with candles and rose petals. Like the first property we visited, the service here feels genuine and unobtrusive and they always go above and beyond to make our experience exceptional. The menu has international options and a traditional Rajasthani thali. Having booked a cooking class with chef the next day to make a thali, we opt for the homemade pappardelle with red-wine-braised lamb ragout, which is delicious!
The next morning, we hop into the hotel’s 1950s Ambassador car and tour the city in style. We drive through the terracotta pink gates into the old city of Jaipur and are surrounded by beautiful ancient haveli architecture. Our first stop is the wholesale flower and food market. Our senses are overwhelmed with excitement as we stroll throughout the vibrant market full of colorful flowers, spices, fruits, vegetables. We can't help but buy some spices to take home with us. We are enticed by all the street-food vendors and stop for a cup of chai and crispy chaat to snack on.
Our tour continues to the city palace, where the royal family currently resides. Part of the palace is only open to guests of Rajmahal Palace and thus we are lucky enough to be given a private tour. There are so many gorgeous rooms: the mirror room, gems, blue room, and the four ornate gates representing the seasons. On the outer palace wall lies the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds. The facade of 365 windows was built as a screen for women of the royal court so they could watch parades on the streets without being seen.
Even though Amer fort is known to be a must-see in Jaipur, due to time constraints, we choose to visit a nearby temple instead. The 92-year-old priest blesses us with a bindi and ties a kautuka (red-and-yellow string bracelet) around our wrists for protection.
After a morning of being wowed by the incredible monuments, we head back to the palace for a cooking class with the chef. We start with a tour of the organic vegetable and herb garden, which is not only used for the restaurants in the palace, but is also for the employees to take home. We learn to make dishes that will be part of our thali tonight – mutton cooked in red chilis and ghee, daal, and spinach sautéed in garlic. Indian cooking is all about layering flavors, allowing each spice to blossom before adding another. When I used to make Indian food back home, I remember just measuring the spices and dumping them in the pot. We are tempted by the aroma of the spices and want to eat them right away, but know it will taste even better with time.
While our stew continues to simmer in the kitchen, we relax by the pool and recount our fun-filled day. Rajasthan has managed to capture our hearts with the colors, textures, flavors, and especially the warmth of the people. As the sun begins to paint the walls of the palace again, we settle in to taste the fruits of our labor. Before our thali arrives, we enjoy appetizers of chicken tikka, minced lamb skewers, and beetroot kebab from the grill.
With each bite, we feel like we are gaining a deeper understanding of and appreciation for this complex cuisine. The first part of our tour in Rajasthan has been incredible. Each time, they’ve gone the extra mile to make our time here memorable. Thanks for following along as we head west to our last destination in Rajasthan, Mihir Garh.