May 3, 2015

Posted by in Luxury travel, Travel Reviews | 0 Comments

Colonial Charm

Colonial Charm

WelcomHeritage Windsor Ranikhet

Palaces, forts, luxury resorts….been there, done that! All I wanted on my trip to Uttarakhand was to get a feel of my roots, go crisscrossing through those little Kumaon villages, eat Pahadi food and generally be lost in the mountains.

And that’s precisely what happened during my stay at Windsor Ranikhet, a property run by the WelcomHeritage group of hotels. As my car stopped on a hillock, I was more than happy to see some Pahadi faces who welcomed me in their Pahadi accent.


Windsor Ranikhet

As soon as I entered my room and the curtains were drawn open, I quickly walked up to my balcony to soak in some heat (2 degrees is not something that a Mumbaikar will ever come even remotely close to) and I said to myself “Oh baby! Now this is what I call a room with a view.” A lovely view of the snow-capped Himalayas for as far as my eyes could see is a view that I had only imagined till now. Sipping on some hot masala chai, I enjoyed my view for the next couple of hours before it was dark outside and the staff asked me if I’d like to eat my dinner. Dinner at 7? “Pahadon mein jab andhera, tab raat ho jaati hai madam”, a staff tells me. Well, when in Pahad, live like the Pahadis.


View from my room

I only wished my hands were not as frozen as I relished the typical Pahadi dal and chawal but the hot gulab jamuns compensated for everything. Tired from the day’s drive and the biting cold, I slept within minutes.

There was something about the next morning; I’m not quite sure if it was the sunlight, the views or just the simple wooden interiors that made me feel so alive, so sure that all that travel from Bombay was worth it. I kept relapsing in my thoughts. I guess mountains do that to you. This time around, the wake up alarm was a traditional breakfast, Poori sabzi.


Early morning breakfast- Poori sabzi

I planned my day’s itinerary while gorging on the delicious meal and we decided to head to give the usual markets a skip and head straight about 4 kms down to the Baba Haidakhan temple. The temple as my driver informed me has been built mostly by foreigners who now reside within the premises itself and practice meditation. Interestingly, a lot of these foreigners can speak Pahadi as I found out myself after speaking with them. I decided to head back to Windsor soon after as I wanted to take a tour of the property, having heard so much about it already from the people around. The manager at the property, Rajesh Sharma, who has been living in Ranikhet for the past 11 years himself and has been with the property from the very beginning, told me that most of the property was built and owned by the Shah family in as early as 1909. Infact Windsor was the first property at the Kalika estate. It was over a period of time that the property attracted interest from the British elite who used to come looking for a royal sojourn. Tragedy struck when a massive fire devastated the property in 1948 and it remained in ruins for the following half century.


The lobby

Restoration work began around 1999 and it took the next five years or so to restore, not just the lodges but the outhouse and the residence of Rai Sahib Moti Lall Shah,younger brother of Rai Sahib Harkison Lall Shah. As of today, the Windsor property comprises of seven gorgeous buildings that have retained their colonial charm. The lavish use of timber in the interiors and rough hewn stones on the exterior lend the vibrant antiquity.


The Bar post the restoration

The hotel comprises of 3 suites (Robinson, Deluxe and Windsor) apart from the 19 superior rooms with a private balcony and 4 deluxe rooms.


Dining area


Windsor suite


Deluxe suite

I’d sound biased if I were to say that the staff at the hotel are friendly and caring because that’s how all Pahadis in the region are. But without a doubt, they really do look after each and every guest of theirs with a lot of love.

If you do wish to venture out of the hotel, most of the local attractions are within easy reach like the Ranikhet bazaar, Chaubaria gardens, Jogeshwar temple complex, Almora, Naukuchiyatal and so on.

I was happy just being inside the property, totally charmed by the views at one time and being scared of the monkeys creeping in at other times.

As I penned down my thoughts in my balcony, here’s how I’d describe my stay at Windsor. “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”

All I wished was to just stand and stare at these views and not have a care in the world for those few days.


The gorgeous Himalayas- as seen from my room

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