On my recent trip to India, I called upon the knowledgable author of the Indian Love Travel guide series, Fiona Caulfield. In addition to her must-have, go-to guides she is offering the ultimate concierge service to your Indian travels. Her concierge service ranges from a bespoke ‘end-to-end’ service beginning with your itinerary, all ground services & bookings and introductions to India’s most interesting, eccentric & extraordinary people & places. If you have the know-how and just require additional information ranging from dinner & hotel recommendations, sourcing, production contacts, itinerary planning & any other advice you can dream up, this too can be done.
I chose the full service and our trip felt as though we had our fairy godmother watching out for us as we dined at the Taj Lake Palace, shared a tipple with the Maharaja amongst his vintage car collection, was fitted for bespoke jeans, had a private tour of an C.13th palace by an ancient key keeper, conversed with hotel owners and viewed ateliers & private collections. It was a trip of a life time!
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The ancient keeper of the keys showed us around Juna Mahal Fort, which has the finest mirror work on every surface.
Q&A with Fiona:
WHERE DO YOU LIVE
I have a home in South India, in the booming city of Bangalore with a population of around 10 million people. My other home is a 1920’s fishing cottage at Hardys Bay, right on the water, on the NSW central coast, home to a few thousand people on the weekends and just a handful of us mid week.
WHAT ENTICES YOU TO VISIT A NEW PLACE
Normally it is something very specific that I have heard about. Currently I am in Australia and next month at planning to attend Ngeringa 24 at Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills. Five concerts in 24 hours. Later in the year I am off to Mundaring in Western Australia to the Machines and Makers exhibition In India, I also go for something specific, recent journeys have taken me to a sacred music festival in the churches and ruins of Old Goa, leopard spotting with a Rajput in rural Rajasthan, to a textile centre on the outskirts of Udaipur who only work with Indigo, to a very hip coffee roasterie in a tiny laneway in Delhi who source their organic coffees from single estate farms in India. When I get back to India, I want to travel to the town of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, famous as the cricket ball capital of the world where the red leather balls are still stitched by hand. I also want to go to check out a new luxury vagabond hotel in the Andaman’s, spends some time at the Isha Yoga Centre ashram in Coimbatore, see the white lions in Gir in western Gujurat, photograph the ship breaking yards in Alang, explore chikan embroiderery in Lucknow and my list goes on and on!
BEST SPOT FOR A REFRESHING DRINK & WHAT FLAVOUR
Ahhhh this varies, after exploring hot and dusty old Delhi by foot or on a cycle rickshaw, I love stopping at my favourite tea house for a cup of first flush Darjeeling served in bone china cups under whirring ceiling fans. In fact I think it is true that a good cup of tea is the ultimate refresher. On a plane, I always feel refreshed and rewarded with that first glass of French bubbles and in a Sydney summer it is hard to beat an aussie beer on my deck at Hardys Bay.
MODE OF TRANSPORT
Walking A complete luxury, to take the time to walk anywhere and everywhere. My longest walk was in Tibet around Lake Mansarovar and Mt Kailash, a quiet meditation in an extraordinary place. My more recent walk, was today along the beach at Hardys Bay. I try to get an hour’s walk in every day. Harder in India, sometimes I am reduced to walking around my local park, which is just one house block in size and takes about a one minute to do the loop – I stop when I get dizzy! Juna Mahal of Dungapur dating back to C.13th
I love the Upper House in Hong Kong, I feel like I am returning home when I stay there, even if just for a few hours, which I did last week in transit. I also love the Lodhi in Delhi, a complete retreat from the chaos of the city. I have spent a lot of time there in the last 12 months working on the next edition of Love Delhi. Leopard spotting is an exhilarating new past time, and for the ultimate glamping experience head to Jawai mid way between Jodhpur and Udaipur. My newest discovery was the wonderful Udai Bilas in Dungapur, the largely untouched 19th century palace overlooks the Gaibsagar Lake and is a delightful surprise in southern Rajasthan.
The fine fine detail in Aneeth's Péro workshop
STAND OUT TOP 5 SHOPS
Delhi – The péro Studio Handcrafted clothing by Aneeth Arora with wonderful surprises such as the delicious chai and cookies by Jugmug Thela.
Mumbai - Obataimu, a fashion atelier that celebrates slow and conscious consumption. Designed like an open kitchen as a place where design, production and consumption converge.
Jaipur - Brigitte Singh creates some of the finest hand block prints in the world in her haveli in Amber just outside of Jaipur. The antiques of tomorrow. By appointment only.
Bangalore - Balaji’s Antiques and Collectibles is my favourite antique shop, not just in India but the in the world. Established in 1924 this is a true treasure house run by the high integrity and highly knowledgeable, Balaji. He provided the props to David Lean for the film, Passage to India and specializes in South Indian art and artifacts and also colonial furniture.
Goa - Sacha’s Shop in Panjim. Fashion stylist, model and writer Sacha Mendes curates an eclectic range of fashion and flea market treasures and sells these from a few rooms in the house that her grandfather built.
Calcutta - Maku Textiles run by Santanu and Chirag, both of whom are passionate about ethical and sustainable textiles. They only work with natural indigo dyes and traditional weaving practices, even the tags are made from indigo dyed handmade paper.
Hardys Bay – Mooch Inside Margie McFayden runs a soulful gallery and design showroom full of objects that make her heart sing.
Note: All Fiona’s shops are listed in her wonderful Love Travel guides
The Amrapali Jewellery Museum in Jaipur. Opening next month, this will be the world’s largest specialist jewellery museum based on a private collection of over 3000 pieces amassed by the Amrapali founders.
WHERE TO NEXT
In my head, I am spending the next few months in Delhi writing the 5th edition of Love Delhi and then spending time in Calcutta finishing the first book in my new series Made in Kolkata. In person, wheels up to Adelaide just after Easter and heading to the Barossa Valley for the Silver Raven music festival and dinner at the wonderful Ferment Asian in Tanunda.
A C.15th intricately carved Stepwell or Caravanserai, there are 900 of these beauties scattered throughout Gujarat.
Shop Fiona's Love Travel Guides online!