A charming and funny film about a rather cantankerous group of seniors (played by Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and others) who relocate to Udaipur to live out their twilight years, opened Friday. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" feels a bit like a beautiful photo book, bursting with richly colored photographs from India. A convincing argument to visit.
The retirees in question move into The Marigold Hotel, an establishment run by an affable young Indian man (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionare) eager to please despite the failures of his surroundings. I was reminded of Samode Haveli as soon as I saw the film's trailer because I stayed there recently while taking family on a whirlwind trip around India. Located in Old Jaipur, this heritage property -- once home to the royal family -- has managed to retain its traditional character and warmth without sacrificing any modern comforts.
I'd dozed by their ice blue pool, sipping delicious fresh-squeezed orange juice and soaking in the desert sun.
Since Samode Haveli was once a private home, no two rooms here are alike, though they all share the traditional kind of décor and comfortable sense of space that welcomed royals nearly two centuries ago. The large swimming pool is flanked by lounge chairs and canopied Indian daybeds that will have you lounging like a Maharaja, while the spa (where my aunt said she had the best massage of her life; ask for Sam) will ensure you're relaxed after an exciting day of sightseeing and shopping in the bustling markets. Do not miss dinner in the courtyard - their traditional Rajasthani thali plates are delicious, perhaps even tastier with the sound of local musicians performing throughout the evening.
During our two nights at Samode Haveli we stayed in a marvelous duplex suite with large Indian-style beds, a wrought-iron spiral staircase and a sunlit terrace. A suite fit for a Dame Judi Dench.
Samode Haveli, Old Jaipur (India)
Hawa Mahal: The Palace of Winds
Jantar Mantar: An impressive astronomical observatory built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh
City Palace: Admire the blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture and don't miss a chance to listen to the local musicians
Samode Haveli: Sit in the courtyard restaurant and devour a vegetarian thali plate of traditional Rajasthani food.
Anokhi Café: Fresh soups, salads and sandwiches.
Taj Rambagh Palace: Book the private alcove room at Suvarna Mahal and sample an array of delectable local dishes in this fine dining restaurant, while seated on plush floor cushions.
The various markets in Jaipur are a real treat to shop in! Look out for lanterns, traditional Rajasthani footwear and puppets.
Jaipur Gem Palace: Exquisite gems and jewelry.
Anokhi: Find traditional block-printed textiles at this popular shop.
All photos by Marissa Bronfman unless otherwise stated. To read more from Marissa Bronfman and to see other photos from India visit her blog.