Saturday 6 November 2010

Hot Water Bottles and a Maharajah

It was the arrival of the Hot Water bottles that capped an amazing day!
What better way to spend ones 58th year than in a Maharajah's Palace? The Fernhill palace at Ooty was the summer home of the Maharajah of Mysore, at a time when this was the British hill station for Madras; now a rather quirky hotel .

A somewhat eccentric place; a cross between a huge swiss chalet- Scottish hunting lodge. The Ballroom contains the sort of furniture one remembers from Great Grannie's and with masses of photos of the Maharaja's hunting parties , which unless one knew better,would assume were the quintissential english Hunt.

We are in the Kodagh suite, with an attached room for the Aide-de- Camp ( as it says over the door). So useful I'm sure. And with our own courtyard where morning tea can be served.

Ooty was established by a Scotsman in the 1840s. He discoverd its gentle fresh climate as a welcome relief to a humid Indian summer. And you can grow tea here, so we are surrounded by plantations which produce high grown Orange Pikeo  of renowned quality.

Of course the climate has one draw back. It is rather cold at night; hence the hot water bottles. But that rather took me back to my childhood in the glorious 50s. I used to go to bed with a hot water bottle;with a nice wooly cover if I remember right ! I suspect my staff have no idea what one of these things is, let alone actually used one.

 And Ooty itself is a trip back in time. The shops are very like ones I'd visit shopping with mummy back in the 50s. Wood display cabinets. The shirts etc all neatly tidy away in their boxes on the shelves. And purchases involve taking one's invoice to the payment clerk before emerging with them in a lovely brown paper bag.

But the highlight of a visit to Ooty is the train journey. The nilgri blue mountain steam train makes its arduous ascent by narrow gauge up the mountain with the steam engine pushing from the back.


The journey of 5 hours goes through 16 tunnels and 19 bridges climbing steeply up through densely wooded mountains and tea plantations. The views are magnificent. Monkeys clamber around you at the station halts, stealing your pakora bites if you are not careful! Built between 1890 and 1908 it is one of the last remaining fully working steam journeys of the world.


I have always enjoyed the fact that my birthday is on Guy Fawkes Day and so always accompanied by fireworks. And so it is here in Ooty. Fireworks galore cascading over the town and firecrackers in the streets. All for me? Well , perhaps it is the fact that it is also Diwali!


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