Cloudless clear blue skies and pine trees full of small fruit greeted as we drove into the valley. Soon, we reached the top of the hill, that is, the hotel. Tall deodar trees hid the hotel at first, but as we got closer, a magnificent building with slanted roofs, long black panelled windows and a historical make came into view.
Shimla has a rich history, it was declared the British summer capital in 1864, and during the British rule, many lords and viceroys have spent summers here. The hotel, also, was originally built for Lord Kitchener- the commander in chief of the British army.
The historical aspect of the hotel is preserved- the hall is almost entirely made out of wood, and a painting of Lord Kitchener was hung over a fireplace that kept the hall warm and comfortable.
My room was designed with care, luxurious yet cozy. There was handcrafted furniture, paisley patterns on the sofa and paintings of Lady Kitchener on the walls.
The restaurant at the hotel had a very expansive list of dishes, covering cuisines from North Indian to Italian. Thrown in the mix were interesting local dishes like Tandoori Kullu valley trout (Trout is a speciality in the area) and Sepuwadi, dumplings made from lentils and cooked with yogurt and spinach.
I enjoyed my breakfasts in the restaurant’s glass conservatory, basking in the morning rays and looking out at shades of green and browns of the valley. Dinners were usually inside in the hall with the warmth of the fireplace and sometimes in the shadow of brightly twinkling stars.
It did not snow during my entire stay, which was a bit disappointing honestly. A thick blanket of snow all around would have been a cherry on top.
However, I did get my share of winter with some ice skating. The hotel converted its tennis court into an ice skating rink as it does every year. I was hesitant at first, the blade below each skate seemed scary, and the thought that if I fall, it will be on solid ice was no help either, but I tried anyway. The trainer was helpful and reassuring, and in some time, I was moving my feet more freely and enjoying the glides as I felt the cold wind on my face.
Overall, the hotel is a must visit. It combines the history of the town and hotel with luxury quite well.
My stay wasn’t long, so there are plenty of things I did not try out, like mounting biking in the hills and a picnic in the gardens of ‘The Peak’, a historical bungalow surrounded by apple orchards.
These are tasks for my next visit here..
But if you do happen to go before I do, let me know how it goes!