A Royal Stay in ITC Grand Bharat.

Facade, ITC Grand Bharat

The Palatial ITC Grand Bharat, Gurgaon, India

It all started with a royal welcome – and by royal I mean a red carpet (yes, no kidding) and four male Indian turbaned men awaiting my arrival. I was promptly ‘garlanded’ with a scarf, and warmly welcomed by the public relations manager, Nataliya Saxena. I was tired from my red eye flight and was more than happy to head to my room in the buggy quickly proffered to me, but not before noticing the sheer grandeur of the all-suite luxury retreat ITC Grand Bharat.

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My room – the one with the semi-private pool. The bedroom opens up to a seating area – great for reading.

I hadn’t really noticed much about the room that I was in, other than it was very spacious, it supposedly had a pool and a bathtub and sleep amenities, which I took advantage of and squirted liberally on my pillow. It worked and I was out like a light for at least a few more blissful hours.

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The gorgeous pool right outside my room

The retreat has 100 suites and 4 Presidential Villas. My Deluxe Suite with Semi-Private pool has a glorious cobalt blue pool right outside my room. It’s shared with the suite beside me – not that I minded, I never saw my neighbours during my stay. I loved the thoughtful amenities – there was a picture frame made out of chocolate with my picture in it; as well as a cheese plate and chocolates that I snacked on during my stay.

Glorious Eats

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Tandoori Jhinga paired with Mulligatawny of India – also known as the dish that changed my perspective of Indian food

In the interest of full disclosure I was – and still am – not a fan of Indian food. The spices always seem to overwhelm me, leaving me either in a coughing fit or reaching for copious amounts of water. However, the first dish that I had in ITC Grand Bharat’s Aravali Pavilion, I realised my misconception. Each dish that I ate at any of the dining establishments at the retreat were painstakingly crafted just for me and my guest, who more often than not was the lovely Nataliya. I had my very own menu for each lunch and dinner, while breakfast was my choice. There were too many standout dishes to name, so I’ll start with the first dish, the Tandoori Jhinga (shrimp) with hints of cilantro and carom, perfectly paired with the Mulligatawny of India.

Behind the scenes - the restaurant's kitchen for Cuisine Classica

Behind the scenes – the restaurant’s kitchen for Cuisine Classica

You could also attempt to recreate these dishes with the help of Cuisine Classica, where the chef will take you through the steps to making some of the renowned dishes. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

Bukhara Food

Just some of the food that I tried during my lunch at Bukhara.

Other signature, must-try dishes included the menu over at ITC Maurya, the sister business hotel in the heart of New Delhi and renowned for Dum Pukht and Bukhara. The latter has been visited by a range of emissaries proudly displayed within the restaurant itself, and includes Arnold Schwarzenegger who was a fan of the Naan Bukhara.

DAL BUKHARA

The legendary Dal Bukhara

Signature dishes include the Dal Bukhara, a mix of black lentils cooked with tomatoes, ginger and garlic for over 18 hours.

The Dum Pukht biryani

The Dum Pukht biryani

We dined at Dum Pukht with the lovely Bindu Panicker, the General Manager of ITC Maurya, and had a taste of all its signature dishes, including the famous Dum Pukht briyani. It would seem these dishes in both ITC Grand Bharat and ITC Maurya were of great repute, since celebrity television chef David Rocco too wanted to learn how these dishes were made, and happened to be there at the same time I was.

All-Inclusive Luxury Destination

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The golf club – the ITC Grand Bharat has a Jack Nicklaus golf course!

It was a short three-day (effectively, since I left the morning of the fourth day) trip in India, and aside from the one day that I spent in New Delhi, most of it was spent leisurely touring the hotel and its facilities. I’d recommend taking a bicycle ride around the property – just be careful if you’re vertically challenged like me since their seats are not adjustable – to see the golf course, the gardens and to really get a sense of just how vast the property is.

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The pool at ITC Grand Bharat – we recommend you eat the barbecued food at Apas Promenade, right beside this pool.

There are a wide range of other activities including arranging for a private picnic on the hotel grounds, or engaging in activities like rock climbing, zorbing and rappelling.

In addition, if you’ve arrived after an uncomfortable attempt to sleep on your flight, the Kaya Kalp Royal Spa would be a welcome haven for you. Try an indulgent spa treatment to relieve any jet lag and muscle aches – it worked for me! Other facilities would also include a fitness centre for those more inclined to workout during their holiday or try a relaxing yoga class.

Scenic Tours

The Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar

Before my arrival at ITC Grand Bharat, I had requested a tour around New Delhi to see the best of its sights. The hotel efficiently arranged for a tour guide to meet us at the locations – these included the world-renowned Humayun Tomb, the Presidential Palace, the Lotus Temple, the Qutub Minar and the India Gate, as well as the Khan Market and the Cottage Industries Emporium – the last of which we had to miss due to the long, hearty lunch that I had at the ITC Maurya.

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The Exterior of Humayun’s Tomb

What stood out for me was surely the Persian-influenced Humayun’s Tomb, which tells of a story of a devoted wife, Hamida Banu Begum, who built this tomb for the Mughal Emperor Humayun. It was truly amazing to see such a spectacle of Mughal architecture.

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The Lotus Temple – yes, surrounded by locals and tourists alike.

I also liked the Lotus Temple – it was highly unique for me to see a building carefully shaped and moulded to form a huge lotus, as well as to learn about the minority religion behind this temple. 27 freestanding marble ‘petals’ are arranged in clusters of three to form the nine petals – the founder of the Baha’i scripture, Abdul Baha, believed it was essential for a house of worship to have a nine-sided circular shape. Its grounds, with large gardens, together with the lotus temple, really invoked a sense of peace within me (or it would have, if we were not surrounded by like-minded tourists).

Thoughtful Touches

Just one of the many thoughtful mementoes I received from ITC Grand Bharat.

Just one of the many thoughtful mementoes I received from ITC Grand Bharat.

I really appreciated all the little details and effort into welcoming me as their guest. These included the sleep amenities, which comprised ear plugs, eye mask and scented aromatherapy, as well as an invitation to call their staff to request any foods or drinks to make dozing off that much quicker. I hadn’t bought much during my foray into New Delhi, but I left with many souvenirs, a pillow with my name embroidered on it, aprons from Bukhara and Cuisine Classica as well as a little knife that I had to check in and look upon with great affection.

*The writer of this piece, Kimberly Tan, is the managing editor of INSPIRE Travel magazine. While this was a sponsored trip, the opinions and views in this piece are entirely her own. 

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The most luxurious experiences to try in Switzerland.

The country, perhaps made famous by the film The Sound of Music, is home to several celebrities, including Shania Twain, Phil Collins, Boris Becker and Tina Turner. We round up the luxurious indulgences that travellers can enjoy.

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Purchase the finest Swiss-made watches, so defined when the movements of the watches are encased in Switzerland, and whose final control by the manufacturer occurs in the country. Quintessentially Travel offers guests a three-day On Time in Geneva shopping itinerary, where you’ll stay in the Le Richemonde hotel with an opportunity to select some of the finest Swiss watches at a luxurious VIP watch salon on the Rue du Rhône. The itinerary will cost about US$1,590.

Perfumes in Zurich Atelier by FL Parfums

Perfumes in Zurich Atelier by FL Parfums

Alternatively, meet up with the Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and Music Director of the Zurich Opera House in Switzerland. While renowned for his musical repertoire, Fabio Luisi cherishes a second secret passion – perfumery, which he has honed over the years by creating perfumes for friends. These include the use of exotic ingredients like Oman’s frankincense, Ethiopia’s myrrh and sandalwood from India and New Caledonia, to name a few.

His FL Parfums  experience starts with a private invitation to the atelier in Zurich, where you’ll share your preferences, ideas and wishes, exploring different exquisite scents to reveal your personality. The process, which takes at least three months, will result in a tailor-made luxurious perfume in an exclusive Lalique Cristal bottle. Further refills can be ordered as often as you require. His clientele has included a renowned Lady in Switzerland, a famous singer in New York and he is currently creating a Calvados-related perfume for a Calvados distillery in France. The US$350 15mℓ Limited Edition Le Magnifique is encased in Evyan vintage bottles.

Procure a tailored, made-to-measure suit from Alferano, a local company that was founded in 1993. These suits, which would be handmade in Italy, might cost about US$2,273, and take at least four to five weeks to have your shirt, coat or suit to be tailored to your exact specifications and to the greatest quality possible. Appointments can be made at home or office, or at their made-to-measure boutiques at Herren Globus and Jelmoli in Zurich. After the suit is created, a final fitting will be carried out.

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View some of the best art on display at Art Basel, in Basel on 18-21 June 2015. The original show, reputed to be the leading international art show for modern and contemporary art, will have a collection of approximately 300 renowned galleries from around the world. Last year, 285 galleries from 34 countries participated in the event, which attracted a record attendance of 92,000 over the six show days. A self-portrait of Andy Warhol was reportedlyamong the big-ticket purchases last year, sold for a cool US$35m. Secure VIP tickets and visit the exhibitions up to two days earlier. The by-invitation only tickets allow for private viewing on 16 and 17 June.

Seasonal Adventures

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Mountain Biking in Gstaad

In summer, from 14 July to 27 August, children can learn to climb alpine peaks with Backcountry Adventures. The three-day Intro to Summer Alpinism course (about US$525 per person with a minimum of four persons) will include skills like glacier walking, ice and multi-pitch rock climbing, abseiling, belaying and crevasse rescue around Grimentz in Switzerland. Arrange a bespoke off-piste private session with an instructor from the same company, and heli-ski around the area from one of two Swiss ski resorts that has an “in-resort” landing pad.

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Be pulled by Siberian Huskies in Gstaad in the winter

A wide range of adventures are also available at Gstaad in Switzerland, such as mountaineering and climbing in first-class regions from Zweisimmen to the Pays d’Enhaut that’s suitable for a range of athletic levels. Alternatively, visit well-known sights like chocolate factories, a mountain summit 2,002m above sea levels, the Bex salt mines and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Finally, try mountain biking in a region that has specialist bike hotels, 280km of sign-posted routes, 500km of GPS routes, and even lifts that can transport your bicycles up to the mountain stations and even between villages. Celebrities like Madonna, Julie Andrews, Jean Reno and Roger Moore were spotted at the ski resort here to watch the screening of Big Eyes, starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. In winter, we recommend going ice-climbing, or gazing down at the amazing scenery of Gstaad on a hot air balloon, paragliding or via helicopter rides. Follow this up with a dog-sleigh trip where you will be pulled by Siberian Huskies, or learn the art of horseback riding.

Indulgent Pampering

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Dolder Grand Spa

Also in Zurich lies the Dolder Grand, an award-winning hotel that has an opulent spa. The hotel has reportedly been visited by celebrities like Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey and Mick Jagger. The 4,000sqm oasis is touted to be a sanctuary of relaxation for body and mind, reputed for a comprehensive range This page: Zurich during twilight; Opposite page: The Matterhorn of treatments based on the Dolder Grand Life Balance. We recommend the Vitality day programme (about US$5,012) which includes a Relaxing Moor Mud by Kerstin Florian, paired with personal training, a full cardiovascular checkup that includes an ultrasound, performance diagnostics and training service and a consultation with a sports nutritionist.

Alternatively, be completely rejuvenated with the Beauty day programme (about US$4,395) that includes a Caviar Firming Facial and Body Treatment by La Prairie, a complete blood and hormone count, medical coaching for inner and outer beauty and a medical consultation with the spa’s dermatologist or even a specialist in cosmetic surgery.

Michelin-Starred Eats

Sole caviar, Benoit Villier Crissier

Sole caviar, Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville

Within Switzerland currently lies two, three Michelin-starred restaurants, namely, Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, helmed by Chef Benoît Violier and Chef Andreas Caminada’s Schloss Schauenstein in Fürstenau. The first is a restaurant that aims to be sustainable, incorporating new and eco-friendly technologies, and sourcing their produce from local producers and using products of biological origin. The tailored Discovery Menu at about US$426 includes dishes like the Frivolous Salt Fondant Covered in Imperial Oscietra Caviar, a duo of silver spiny chardons from Crissier with Richerenches black diamonds, one crunchy and the other ‘Colbert’. Alternatively, try the blue lobster from the island of Bréhat with seasoned romaine lettuce ‘dumplings’.

Located in the smallest city in the world, Fürstenau, is Schloss Schauenstein, a three Michelin-starred restaurant that’s currently on the 43rd spot in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants by San Pellegrino. Outstanding dishes include goose liver with fresh goats’ cheese and maize that has been disguised to resemble ice cream and gazpacho, and the sweet roasted langoustine that’s paired perfectly with a delicate lime mousse and the Amalfi lemon confit. The six-course menu will cost about US$283.

Gruyeres, image courtesy of Artisans of Leisure

Gruyeres, image courtesy of Artisans of Leisure

Alternatively, try the Food & Wine Tour of Switzerland with Artisans of Leisure. The 7-day trip (US$24,700 for two persons) features the best Swiss food and wine experiences, starting with Zurich to sample upscale food shops, continuing on to Basel to try its specialties like laeckerli, a traditional hard spice biscuit that reportedly includes honey, hazelnuts, candied peel – the actual recipe is a secret. Lastly, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Lavaux wine region and visiting a local cheese maker in Gruyeres.

Kimberly Tan is the Managing Editor of INSPIRE Travel magazine. When not indulging in her greatest passion – writing – she embarks on her other passion – travelling – as much as she possibly can.

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