Well, it took us two days, but just before 3am on Monday, February 2nd, we finally arrived at our destination, the Oberoi New Delhi. Our trip to India was built around a tour designed by the Oberoi Group, and we had customized it to include 4 cities: New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. In each of the four cities, we would stay in luxurious Oberoi hotels, and use a driver and guides to help us explore all the cultural riches to be seen in those cities.
After an overnight trip involving two flights to get from New York City to New Delhi, it was so great to find a driver with a sign waiting for us in New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport. You can imagine that we were very tired, and having a driver along with an airport official to walk us to the car (of course they immediately took charge of our luggage, so all we had to do was walk) was sensational.
The driver was quite gregarious, offering us water and asking what sort of music we wanted to listen to on the radio. He pointed out a couple of details along the way. My first impression was one of surprise that the city was so spread out, with so many wide avenues. We would later learn that this is the southern, “New” part of the city, which was built by the British when they took control of India in the nineteenth century.
When we entered the hotel, we received the wonderful welcome that everyone writes about: rose petals underfoot, a dot of saffron applied to the middle of the forehead (which is meant to restore balance to the mind) and a warm towel to refresh us. We entered the spacious and beautiful lobby with its many artistic details and comfortable couches.
Our luggage was spirited away – we never had to touch our luggage pretty much the whole time we were in India – and we were shown to our Executive Suite (a complementary upgrade that was one of the perks of doing the full Oberoi tour). A minute later someone appeared with our luggage on a cart and deposited it in the bedroom.
As for every day, there was a plate of fruit and a second plate of sweet snacks, and on the dining table there was also a complementary bottle of wine. We sliced up some fruit and had a little snack, and then got to bed. We wanted to get the ball rolling quickly the next day, which meant we would only get about 6 hours sleep before our wake up call, shower, late breakfast in the dining room and meeting our guide and driver the “next” day.
Breakfast in the Oberoi New Delhi’s Threesixty restaurant was splendid. Our initial impression that it was the best breakfast that we might have for the whole trip was borne out by our experience during the trip. The other three hotels might outshine New Delhi in other ways, but this Oberoi has the best breakfast of all.
The large buffet was split into three sections: cereal and yogurt, fruit and omelets, and English and Indian breakfast. Seeing that among the jugs of milk was one of soy milk was thrilling to me – so so nice to be able to have the choice to eat a bowl of cereal if that’s what I wanted! And along with 4 or 5 varieties of cereal were dried fruits and nuts. In spite of it being India’s winter, the middle section had several tasty varieties of fruit to offer. I never would’ve guessed that they would have watermelon in India, for example, but there it was.
The Indian breakfast section was the most intriguing for Therese. When a cook at the buffet saw her interest, she had the chef make Therese an entire Indian breakfast plate, and the chef himself came to our table to explain the various items to us and to hear our reactions. Beyond discussing the food, we proceeded to have a very nice chat with him about our plans in India. This was just the first example of what we would witness again and again at the Oberoi hotels – people were very happy to stop whatever they were doing and chat with us and take care of any request we might have. I suppose you could say that we got special treatment because we were special guests, since we had signed on for the Oberoi tour. But I don’t think this was so: I am fully confident that Oberoi treats every guest at their hotels with this same level of truly remarkable hospitality and service.
After having that amazing breakfast, we were sorry to be leaving New Delhi so soon – we would only have one day there before leaving for Agra on Tuesday morning. But we were consoled by the thought that we would return at the end of our trip, for two more days. In my next India post, I will tell you about our first guided sightseeing in India, as we visited the Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and India Gate (and ate our first authentic Indian meal).