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So how does it feel like living in a real Palace? I was intrigued by this question, and it became even more pertinent after a chance visit to the Laxmi Nivas Palace dinner on a cold winter night.
So once my stay at Narendra Bhawan got over, I decided to extend my stay in city and moved to this heritage hotel, which was once the home to the King of Bikaner. The last few days in the city had been magical for me, I could feel Bikaner become my muse while I painted her naked beauty through the canvas of my pictures (read: Rampuria havelis of Bikaner). The transition was smooth, as I was already in love with the place and spending the last few days in a palace seemed like a fitting end this is desert sojourn.
The fact that King George V and Queen Mary of Great Britain had been here, among a host of many other kings and queens, made this stay even more interesting. This is what their reporter had to say about the their stay here.
"The Laxmi Niwas Palace is the most perfect modern building in the Indo-Saracenic style in India - an entirely graceful pile of carved red sandstone, nobly proportioned and harmonising entirely with its environment. Their Royal Highnesses have not been more splendidly housed since they landed in Bombay".
I had a ground floor room, which opened on one side to the central courtyard and on the other side to the front lawn. I could enter and exit the hotel without even going through the lobby - made me feel like a celebrity with quite a bit of privacy.
The room was surprisingly simple for a place, but it had its own charm. The ceiling was hand painted with local motifs, and they had remained unchanged from the time the palace was inaugurated in the early 20th century during the reign of Maharaja Ganga Singhji. The bathroom was huge, almost as big as the bedroom, and looked straight out of a European mansion.
The most interesting part of the palace is the central courtyard, which is also the hub of all activities. You ca eat all your meals here, sit in the winter sun and warm yourself up, and in the evening enjoy the cultural dance performances, which take place everyday. All the restaurants, bar, as well as the billiards room are around the courtyard.
On the left edge of the courtyard is another relic from the past - a lift from a bygone era, which still runs and takes you up on the second floor. There are mirrors as well as seats, just like the royal old days - absolutely charming.
The best part of the palace, however, is located on the terrace on top. This is where you need to be, if you want to enjoy the sunset of your life. I went one step further, and climbed up the chattri right above the entrance (not accessible to guests), and for the next couple of hours I was in a magical land, away from all distractions of life.
Though I simply loved the Rajasthani thali for lunch, I had little else at the hotel, as I was busy exploring the local Bikaneri food in the city.
Though it's unfair, I can't help but compare the food here with Narendra Bhawan, and the latter is a clear winner. However, if you are a guest at Laxmi Nivas Palace, you can easily go for meals to Narendra Bhawan as well as both the properties are owned by the same person - the dynamic Manvendra Singh.
In my opinion, the opulence of a real old palace is simply unmatched, no matter what you build now. When there is silence around, you can actually feel the walls talk to you (no, I am not senile, yet), and when you lie down on the bed and look up at the ceiling, you know you are looking at the exact same thing that another king did, when he was resting here. Something connects.
My stay here was pure indulgence. I had no reason to be here, in fact I had self invited myself just because of my love for all things old. From back-to-back four cups of delicious cups of ginger tea, to special meals prepared purely to fulfil my royal fantasies, to getting access to inaccessible areas under the pretence of photography (I am being a bit harsh on myself here), I did it all and loved it all. The fact that I was alone was a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, as I usually do, but this time I didn't do much of that. I lived like a decadent king, sans the decadence.
Disclaimer: I stayed at Laxmi Nivas Palace as their guest. However, all views expressed are my own and based on my own personal experiences.