Delhi – There is all India here.

New Delhi or Delhi as people still call it, it’s the reason why I am still here. I could blame the fact that it was my first  stop in India or maybe because there is so much India in Delhi, but the truth is that, on that very first day of my trip two months ago and as soon as I touched Indian soil and looked around, I knew that the three weeks officially planned weren’t going to be enough. I knew this country would have been mine for longer. I would have been hers for as long as possible.

Eight weeks later and with still four more to go, I can’t get my head around it or why I love it so much, I don’t know why it has a magnetic effect on me. What I know it’s that I’ve “post-poned” countries like Mynamar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from the first leg of my trip because of Delhi. I can’t get enough of this country and its people and I’m seriously thinking of moving here.
To Delhi? Possibly, the coffee scene here is spectacular and there is such a huge variety of bookstores.
My fundamentals are there, I just need to find a job now. Can you help me? 🙂

Here’s your:

Delhi’s Creed

COFFEE

Hauz Khas Social
This uber-cool, stylish and vaste co-working space in the Shoreditch-y part of Delhi, blends the best of the office and the café. At Social, you can buy a membership and swap your boring office desk with one of their hip booth. Combining work and play, Social turns into a urban hangout where cocktails are served and music start pumping on the speakers after 6pm.

Address: Haus Khas Village, 110016, New Delhi (but also in Mumbai and Bangalore)

Indian Coffee House
Like the one in Jaipur, this venue in Connaught Place is an iconic cafe in New Delhi. It’s open from 9am to 9pm and the food, which is great, is also very, very cheap. Coffee is also very special as it’s made with old coffee machines. Unlike many modern cafes, you can stay here reading your book or chatting with your friends for hours and no-one would ask you to order something else or to go. Vintage vibe, no wifi.
Address: 2nd Floor, Mohan Singh Palace, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place, Near Tivoli Cinema, New Delhi, Delhi 110001
Ph. Credits: BBC News

Kunzum Travel Cafe
With a similar concept of Ziferblat in London, at Kunzum’s idea of “Pay what you like”,  you are not under any obligation to even pay for coffee or food or wifi.  It was Ajay Jain, a traveller and photographer who started this cool cafe where travellers still meet in person and interact.
Address: T-49, GF, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi, Delhi 110016

Chill & Chai This cute cafe is part of Khoj, a not-for-profit contemporary arts organisation which offers space and programs to local artists, since 1997. You should totally order some food here as they change their menu every day and maybe also enjoy a cappuccino as I did. Free wi-fi comes as a bonus if you have emails to check or upload your cuppa on Instagram. Address: Khirki Extension, opposite to Select CityWalk Mall, Saket

READ

A person that doesn’t read lives just one life whereas a person that does lives a thousand.

For all of you, like me, gifted with a burning passion for reading and books, Delhi will satisfy your hunger as it offers a wealth of bookshops and all sorts of stories.

Cha Bar
I couldn’t include Cha Bar in the above section as this is not just the regular cafe, but it’s a house library also known for its wide variety of teas (more than for coffee). The place can be crowded sometimes, but you should always be able to find a quiet spot to enjoy your cuppa.
Address: Oxford Bookstore, N-81, Barakhamba Road, Block N, Cannaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Galgotia Book Shop
Walk around CP’s (Connaught Place) Inner Circle and on top of the various book stalls you will come across this fabulous bookstore tucked away in the corner of B Block. Your nose will awake right away by the musty smell of old books and then your eyes will be pleased by the endless shelves of literature treasures. There is any kind of book you are looking for here, from children’s stories to enciclopedias, from travel guides to dictionaries passing through adventures and romances.
Address: 17 B, Inner Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi-01

Full Circle
A very special bookstore with a cafe attached and owned by a publishing house. It sits in the heart of Khan Market and it also offers a great terrace where you can watch one of the most spectacular sunset in Delhi while forgetting you are actually IN Delhi. This bookshop is also stocked with a number of books on a wide variety of topics.
Address: Shop No.23, Khan Market, New Delhi-03

Books

EAT

Ivy & Bean
Great “Aussie”-style cafe in the Fashion district of New Delhi. Not sure there is much of Australia in their menu which included Italian and local dishes, but it’s surely a good place for some tasty food and good coffee.
Address: 119, Sishan House, Shahpur Jat, Siri Fort, New Delhi, Delhi 110049

Zen Restaurant

It might happen after some weeks of travels that you will get tired of Indian food, so this is a great Chinese option right in the center of the city.
Address: B-25, Connaught Place, Near Rajiv Chowk Metro Station Exit-2, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Cafe Lota
This is the perfect place for a local cuisine bite and a good coffee inside of the National Crafts Museum. It’s very popular with locals as well as expats and tourists.
Address: National Crafts Museum, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

DREAM

Once again, after Udaipur, I was kindly invited to stay at The Leela Palace in New Delhi and how could I possibly say no to the opportunity of being the princess of a fairytale once again?
I don’t know if it’s the fourteen thousand roses in display (read more below), the majestic interiors, the love for details, the art that takes your breath away or maybe the mouth-watering food that is served in all its four and award-winning restaurants, but The Leela has surely taken a predominant spot in my preferred luxury hotels in the world and I would recommend all of you to stay there while in Delhi.
This venue is one of the Leela flagship hotels and is one of the finest architectural marvels built from ground up in the last thirty years in downtown Delhi. Built in the shape of a butterfly, architecture inspired by Lutyens, art and embellishment by Mrs. Madhu Nair, The Leela in New Delhi takes luxury to a completely different level.

https://www.instagram.com/p/9A772CMQ4w/

Capt. Nair, the founder of The Leela properties  a man with one of the most amazing entrepreneurial story  I’ve ever heard,  was a hotelier, a dreamer and a gardner. From his love for nature he planted over 1,000,000 trees and plants in their eight properties combined and thanks to Mrs Madhu Nair, every day, The Leela New Delhi has a minimum of 14,000 roses displayed in the hotel. They fly them in from Bangalore two times a week and in summers three times. Each silver urn holds 500 each and in addition, they have 2,000 international flowers that range from Australian or South African Banksia’s to Tulips, Hydrangeas from Holland.
What I love most about their love for flowers on top of the beautiful arrangements, is the fact that Leela recycles them in several ways: in winter they harvest all pedals and thereafter fill our fire urns inside the ponds outside Qube; in summers they support a local NGO, that turn them into Rangoli and vegetarian dye.

Address: Chanakyapuri, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi 110023

Udaipur – The City of Lakes

Your new C-R-E-E-D guide is here, this time to tell you about the magical city of Udaipur.

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This is the city of love par excellence in the whole India or maybe the entire Asia. Honeymooners from all across the country and beyond come here to enjoy the serendipity and romantic vibe of the place, but also every age and love-stage couples come here to celebrate their anniversaries or more simply to renew or reinvigorate their love.
This is why, Udaipur is also known as the ‘Venice of East’.

But, of course, singles, love-seekers and convinced love-haters are welcome to come the City of Lakes has it has so much to offers to anyone. Udaipur doesn’t need much introduction in fact: this picture-perfect city spread on the banks of the Pichola lake and surrounded by lush green hills is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature in the best way possible.
A boat ride on the lake at sunrise or sunset would start or close your day in the perfect way. And a visit to its City

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COFFEE

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Brewmen
I said it many time, but here I’ll tell you again: No day should ever start without a good cup of coffee, so the best option you have in Udaipur is Brewmen: excellent vibe, great arabica espresso and top-notch service. Oh, did I mention the delicious brownie with ice cream? Nope, well just check the picture below and let your mouth water… 🙂

Address:  Hitawala Complex II, Saheli Marg, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

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READ

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If you have time (which unfortunately I didn’t have that time!), you should go to check the Gulab Bagh Public Library . From the outside, it’s a very stunning building, but I’ve been told that inside there are some pretty amazing literary treasures too.

In terms of books, you should read:
Maharana: The Story of the Rulers of Udaipur 

and again, get a copy of
Rajasthan Style (out on November 10th)

[see the READ section on my Jaipur guide for the details]
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EXPLORE

Like most cities in Rajasthan, there is so much to see, but In Udaipur especially, the best part is on the streets itself. Make sure to save at least 45 minutes to one hour just to roam free in the narrow lanes and…get lost! Yes, that’s real fun and you will find some of the oldest bikes and Vespas ever, you will talk to some locals or just exchange a few smiles with them and have some street food. Then, when you had enough, turn on your google or pick actual maps and make your own way to the Jagadish Temple, a popular hindu place for worshipping made even more special by the colourful saris of the Indian women sitting and praying ( note: photography is not allowed inside).
Once you are done there, make your way to City Palace: this one is unmissable.The quite expensive ticket makes it worth the while, but remember to make a separate ticket for your camera too. To end your afternoon, head to Ambrai Ghat where you can have a stunning view over the lake as well as the City Palace and Lake Palace, another outstanding building right at the center of the Pichola lake now turned into a luxury hotel.

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EAT

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For this special edition of your CREED guide, please refer to the DREAM section for my dining suggestions; The Leela Palace, with its various restaurants and its Library provided the best food in town so we didn’t feel the urge to explore beyond its kitchens!  

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DREAM

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With a prime location on the Lake Pichola and a superb view of the Aravalli Mountains, The Leela Palace evokes grandeur and opulence of the land of the Mewar. Beautifully designed to reflect the surrounding style and influences by Jeffrey A. Wilkes and the attention to detail in the art and embellishment by Mrs. Madhu Nair makes it the ultimate royal trip in India.

I never really understood why a normal person would spend their holidays barred in a hotel when in any location you choose for a holiday or a break there is always so much to see and explore, but after spending a few nights at 5-star hotel at The Leela both in Udaipur and New Delhi, I think I have a few answers! Why on earth would you even think to leave heaven when you can have a massage, a swim, outstanding food and so much more all under one roof?
Well, this is what we actually did and that’s why we only left our paradise to test the fabulous and uber chic Leela tuk-tuk to roam the street of Udaipur and see its main sights.
Whether you are coming to Udaipur for your honeymoon or for a relaxing holiday, do come and stay at The Leela Palace. Not only the best hotel in town, but also the best Spa in all Asia according to World Spa Awards. And having had the best Swedish massage ever I can only confirm the award!

But let’s not forget the whole magical halo that surrounds the Leela Palace in Udaipur.
Our fairytale started right at the jetty where our boat driver was impatiently for us.
The boat was sailing Pichola lake at a leisurely speed when I suddenly saw it standing right, in its gorgeous greatness right in front of me. While entering the palace a rain of rose petals softly fell all over me like I was the princess they had been waiting for. The entrance, in its grandeur splendor was shining of sparks and mirrors. The huge chandeliers standing above us was impossible to miss or to not look at. And then, a beautiful indian lady welcomed me with a bindi as a local welcome to their royal palace.

From there we were transported to our suite which comprises of a huge bedroom, an even larger living room and a stunning, spotless bathroom (if you were following me on snapchat, you probably remember what I’m talking about).
From there, every single detail of this venue was a pleasure to the eyes and to the heart, walking on the corridors, was more like a walking in a museum where local artworks collected by the late Krishnan Nair and his wife Leela, hung on the walls throughout the properties.  You can easily spend half a day just browsing it all and already feeling inspired and in touch with the Rajasthani culture and art trends.

Another point goes to the stellar food we had throughout our stay, especially the bespoke dinner Chef Rupak prepared for us at Sheesh Mahal, the fine dining restaurant overlooking the Pichola lake.

What else to add? Well, the true cherry on the cake of all Leela’s properties is probably its outstanding service: the staff, constantly smiling and incredibly courteous and helpful truly made me feel like a princess in a castle.

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*This article was sponsored by The Leela, 5 stars luxury resorts, all the views are my own.

Agra – A Photo Essay

Agra is that one city that everybody who visits India has to pass through. Not because it has something special, but because it’s very close  to something extraordinary and famous in the entire world. A little bit like Alice Springs in Australia or Anaheim in California, Agra is a gateway to something else, something pretty incredible in fact, it is not exactly a city you would normally include in your itinerary if it didn’t host the best, grandest, most beautiful monument on Earth – at least, in my humble opinion.  Something that everybody in Europe, USA, South America, Australia and the rest of Asia has seen at least once in a postcard, TV or a magazine.
I’m obviously talking about the Taj Mahal, that one and only building I wanted to see since I was 5 or even younger as I found a postcard and fell in love with it straight away. 25 years later and having brought that card with me in 3 different cities across two countries where I lived in the past,  the dream became real as I was standing in front of all its grand beauty.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, the white marble mausoleum on the southern bank of the Yamuna River is in fact a tomb that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.  It took about thirty years and about 20,000 artisans to complete, but Shah Jahan didn’t actually had time to enjoy the outstanding monument as his son quickly imprisoned him to take over the reign.

Anyhow, enough words for now, I let this white, huge, moving, perfect building speak for itself.

Photo Tips:

#1 Leave  your tripod and big expensive lens at home. They might let you only take one camera/lens, definitely not a tripod or a gorillapod and you will be asked to leave it outside, no storage facility from the gate I entered, so I kindly had a shopkeeper looking after my stuff while I was inside.

#2 Enter from the southern gate, it’s the least popular for some reasons, but the queue is also the faster one.

#3 If possible, go there in the morning as soon as it opens (normally at sunrise), to get some nice #empty shots, but stay there until people arrive to give some scale to the building. If you wish/can, you should go back around sunset to capture the changing colours of the marble. Ideally, find a place to set your camera on a stone or something for a long time-lapse.

#4 Boat trips are not longer available; the river’s water is very polluted, therefore dangerous  – however, local people keep having sacred baths by its shores.

#5 Tickets are 750Rs (about £7.50) for foreigners . It’s worth going back if you have the time!

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While in Agra, there is also another outstanding place you should visit: Agra Fort, the one fort (among millions) you must visit while in India. The photo essay continues:

Stay tuned for my Indian adventures!