Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..
Kerrie Lake, manager of our Felixstowe travel agents, experienced India for the first time in a six-night trip which included visits to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah. Here are her highlights…
Destination: India-The Golden Triangle
Accommodation (Hotel names/Ship name):The Grand Hotel, Delhi, The Radisson Hotel, Agra, The Trident Hotel, Jaipur
Check-in was smooth and the friendly staff were very helpful. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to Premium Economy on the outbound flight and Upper Class on the homebound with Virgin. Having travelled Premium before I knew what to expect and enjoyed the extra space and the lovely small touches that come with this service.
Upper Class surpassed expectation; I thoroughly enjoyed the new futuristic onboard bar; it’s separate from the cabin and it is a great place to sit and socialise with fellow passengers. It’s easy to forget you are flying through the air with a glass of champagne in your hand!
The beds were amazing; how the other half live! Again I could easily forget that I was on an aeroplane whilst lying on my bed with comfy mattress, pillow and quilt. It was a fantastic way to end a full-on trip.
The Grand Hotel, Delhi
The Grand Hotel has a huge white marble lobby; everything is really elegantly done with a host of facilities and restaurants. It offers 390 elegantly designed rooms & suites – one of the largest in the city – and it is located close to the high-end shopping malls of New Delhi. It would definitely suit business and leisure travellers; offering a gymnasium, yoga, steam room, sauna, swimming pool and Jacuzzi. There were a lot of business guests at this hotel.
Although I did like this hotel and could not fault the room, for me personally I found it all a bit too stiff and unfriendly. You never saw the same person twice and whilst trying to settle bills or change money up at reception you spent ten minutes being ignored by the staff before having to intercept them as they walked away from you!
The Radisson, Agra
The Radisson didn’t really wow me but was great due to its location. I would say it is a good 4-star and offers what you would expect from a Radisson Hotel. Its close proximity to the Taj Mahal and The Fort is the main selling point and we saw lots of leisure guests at this hotel getting ready for their trips to the these major attractions. It has a lovely bar which was a nice place for guests to relax in after a day of sightseeing. They offer 142 rooms, which I think is quite a nice size. In my opinion, it is a hotel which does its job but did not have much character.
The Trident Hotel, Jaipur
The Trident Hotel had a lovely feel to it; smaller and more intimate with only 130 rooms and two suites. There was a wedding taking place when we arrived and maybe that is why I have an affinity with this hotel. Everyone was so friendly and warm and the views over Man Sagar Lake from our room topped off what was a very lovely hotel.
I have thought long and hard about this and cannot narrow the trip down to one favourite part. The trip was such a memorable one that I would do it all again tomorrow.
We had a six hour drive from Agra to Jaipur and we all agreed that this was not the most pleasant journey. The mini bus we had was great for short journeys, with fully working air conditioning and a very helpful driver, but the roads were very bumpy and the vehicle made for a very uncomfortable six hours.
I would definitely investigate other options rather than endure this route by car or minibus. I did enjoy driving past the villages and seeing new parts of India but, if I’m honest, I would have happily flown this route.
The trip that we did provided a small taste of India and gives travellers the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal; something which is on almost everyone’s to do list. I would recommend it to holidaymakers who may have never been to India before as it gives you enough of a feel for the place to decide if you want to go back and maybe stay for longer next time.
It really has opened my eyes up to India. The good people who manage to raise a smile when they have nothing, the street kids who melt your heart as they wave at you with big grins on their faces, the amazing food, the colours, the poverty, the warmth of the people and the Indian way of life are all excellent to see first-hand.
If nothing else India will make you appreciate what you have and how lucky you are; it is a trip that will stay with me forever. I know I will go back, but for some of my fellow travellers they felt that this trip would be the one and only time they visit India as it just wasn’t for them.
The poverty in some places does hit you in the face and at times it can be hard to deal with, but it is a place that can get under your skin. It is a strange feeling to enter a luxury hotel knowing that just outside there are people living on the breadline and this can be tough. Overall I think India has so much to offer and I can’t wait to explore more.
My top tip has to be to go to India with an open mind.
Take a look at The Samode Haveli Hotel in Jaipur. We were lucky enough to visit and eat at this hotel but I would have loved to stay here. The decor and the feel of the place are absolutely amazing. It reminded me of a Moroccan Riad, truly unique and beautiful, well worth a look and will blow you away.
If you are visiting the Taj Mahal, I would advise to visit first thing in the day. I found the experience so much better at Sunrise; less crowds, not as hot and so much more peaceful. At sunset and throughout the day the crowds and the heat are intense. Get up early and have a better experience.
I was advised by people before I went to India not to give money or buy anything on the street as it will cause lots of the other sellers to follow you. This is true in part but there are sellers everywhere, especially outside the monuments. We all bought things from them but were vigilant and remained firm. If you are not interested in something they will soon get fed up and walk away. Visiting the markets was an experience not to be avoided; great fun with friendly shop staff. I didn’t find them to be too persistent but we always kept in small groups and I would have felt uncomfortable on my own.
Prices are very low, almost too low, which makes it all the harder to say no to the street kids. Hence the reason that I am now owner of 12 very badly made elephant key-rings!
Must see? The Amber Fort in Jaipur – absolutely beautiful
Must do? A Sunrise trip to the Taj Mahal – unbeatable
Must try? Indian Cuisine – there is so much on offer
If you want to experience India for the first time this could be the perfect trip for you. We can help you get the most from your journey and plan something close to what Kerrie experienced if you wish. Drop by one of our East Anglian travel stores to speak to a member of the team.