For the past 25 years, I have been travelling to India in search of antiques, beautiful statues, textiles and of course to design the jewellery collection for our shop, Opium Kings Road, Chelsea. It is undoubtedly my second home and the place in the world where I am my 'best self'. I was thrilled to finally be able to travel to India and to Jaipur last month to complete jewellery work for the launch of our Opium Jewels web site - once more working with the talented jewellery artisans who bring my ideas to fruition. I am excited to showcase the collection with you here on our Opium Jewels web site.
Clients often ask me where to stay when planning a visit to India and of course there are many fabulous places I can recommend, but here I'd like to introduce you to where I stay on a buying trip, but with a budget in mind, as I'm away for several weeks. My trips mostly take me to Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and sometimes Cochin in the South. For most of the time I have worked in India, I’ve not only stayed in the same guest houses and hotels, but also in the same rooms! These places have become my second home and settling into my favoured room, completes the landscape.
Since my backpacking days 25 years ago, I have stayed at Master Guest House in West Delhi, which has only 4 rooms (Ganesh & Krishna being my favourites). Run by Ushi Puri, it’s a homecoming every time I walk across the threshold. She has become a very close friend and nothing is too much trouble. If there’s a chill in the air, I find that Bhagat Singh, the room boy has left a hot water bottle in my bed at night and a pot of Master Guest House tea (Assam mixed with Darjeeling) may actually be my favourite drink in the world ... maybe even more than wine!
Bar Palladio, Narain Niwas, Jaipur
Jaipur takes me to room 33 at Narain Niwas with doors opening straight onto the garden and peacocks sauntering by. The staff here find just the right balance of being attentive, but at the same time leaving me to do my own thing, as if I’m just living there for a while … When I'm working with my jewellers, I often don't return until 10pm in the evening, but the hotel is still happy to take my room service order for Tarka Dhal & Jeera Rice no matter what the hour.
Devi Bhawan, Jodhpur
In Jodhpur, from dawn to dusk I spend my time scouring architectural salvage sites and rummaging in back alleyways for antique and vintage treasures both for the shop and for client projects. Once sourced, I begin working with skilled craftsmen to adapt and restore all the beautiful pieces I have found. My refuge during this time is the wonderful Devi Bhawan, a heritage hotel with rooms dotted around a beautiful tropical garden with a delightful verandah for breakfast and dinner. Here I'm in love with Room 12 which is huge and set up amongst the tree canopy. The hotel is run for the family owners by the wonderful Rakesh Singh who promptly calls my room each morning to gleefully announce the arrival of my driver ... "Ma’am, your pilot is waiting!”
Kankarwa Haveli, Udaipur
In Udaipur, I favour Karkarwa Haveli tucked away right on the Lake below the City Palace. A 16th century small haveli which retains the character of the original palace - a magical place to stay.
Fort House, Cochin
In Cochin, I love to stay at Fort House, set right on the dock with rooms in an Indian minimalist style and absolutely the best seafood in town.