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British Presidencies & Capitals (Tour Code: IN/022) – It was more than 335 years that the British had their strong footprints in India. For quite some time India was a sought after dream destination for Britons to work and live in India and then go back to England towards the end of their carriers. It was during this period that the British established a lot here, initially during their stint with India through the East India Company and later on under the crown. The era of British could be divided in three phases, East India Company (1612-1757), Company Rule in India (1757-1858) and finally British Raj (1858-1947). It was during this period that the British left an impeccable mark on India’s otherwise indigenous skyline and systems through architecture, bridges, railways, judiciary, civil services and many more. On this tour we take you through Delhi, Shimla, Calcutta (now Kolkata), Madras (now Chennai) and Bombay (now Mumbai) for 16/17 days.
Day 01 Arrival day in Delhi
On arrival in Delhi, our representative will meet, assist and transfer you to hotel. Check in at the hotel and day at leisure. Our hotel here would be The Imperial, that was built in 1931 (British India) by Blomfield, one of Sir Edwin Lutyen’s associates and inaugurated by Lord Willingdon in 1936, it is New Delhi’s landmark Hotel, located on the erstwhile Queensway. Welcome drinks along with an expert talk ‘British in India’ delivered by a prominent historian, followed by welcome dinner at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Delhi.
Day 02 Delhi
New Delhi, added to the ancient city of Delhi to which the seat of government was moved from Calcutta in 1911, is surely the most successful planned city of the twentieth century and Viceroy’s House one of the finest buildings anywhere. After our breakfast at the hotel we will explore Old Delhi. It was here that some of the bloodiest events took place during the siege of 1857. We will visit the Flagstaff Tower and the Mutiny Memorial. It was here that the change of capital from Calcutta to Delhi was announced at the 1911. Visit the temporary Viceregal Lodge. Also visit Kashmir Gate, the scene of fierce fight in 1857, Skinner’s Church. Also we will see some magnificent Islamic architecture. In the 17th century a Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan began the construction of Red Fort and its palace in 1639, visit this and also the mausoleum of the Emperor Humayun that is yet another example an outstanding Islamic architecture. Back to hotel and overnight Delhi.
Day 03 Delhi
This day post breakfast is for New Delhi, established in 1911 and inaugurated 20 years later. The Secretariat and The Parliament House were by Sir Herbert Baker, and the Viceroy’s House where Sir Edwin Lutyens gave a fine mix of Moughal, Hindu and Buddhist elements in a monumental classic of all times. Another masterpiece by Lutyens is the Hyderabad House, yet another is Jaipur House. Also visit National Gallery of Modern Art. Among the buildings designed by Lutyens’s disciples are the Anglican cathedral and the Garrison Church. Evening we will visit the Khan market, that now is a favourate shopping destination of expats in Delhi and numerous Embassies and the High Commissions, Back to hotel and overnight Delhi.
Day 04 Delhi / Shimla
This morning with packed breakfast we will check-out from the hotel and will be transferred to railway station in time to connect our train to Shimla, via Kalka. The journey itself is the highlight for today. We are traveling to Shimla from Kalka on a mountain rail arriving Shimla at about 1700 hrs. The railway line that runs from Kalka to Shimla was laid in 1906, adding to an easy accessibility of Shimla’s from the plains. This train route has 103 tunnels and 806 bridges and the railway track was recognised as an engineering marvel that came to be known as “British Jewel of the Orient”. In 2008, this track and route became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, being a part of Mountain railways of India. Our packed lunch will be served on this train, while we traverse through the beautiful Himalayan countryside. Upon arrival we will be transferred to our hotel in Shimla, The Cecil – The Cecil began operations in 1883 as a single storied modest house, the Tendril Cottage is known to host famous author – Rudyard Kipling. It is said that Rudyard used to frequently come this house and it was here that he wrote many of his books (novels), including the ‘Plain tales from the Hills’. An Indian, M.S. Oberoi had a very cordial and strong relations with the new manager of this place, Mr. Ernest Clarke. Oberoi acquired the Cecil in 1944 and very soon it was named as, The Cecil. This hotel became the most sought after address in this hill town, where every body wanted to be seen at. Balls, Floor shows and Lola, the dancer enhanced the innate charm of The Cecil. Well restored and retaining its old world charm along with modern aminities, The Cecil till date enjoys the pride of place. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 05 Shimla
Breakfast at the hotel and post breakfast we explore Shimla. In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British in India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. We will visit the Mall, that is the main shopping street of Shimla. It has many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, Post Offices and tourist offices. The Gaiety Theatre is also situated there. Also visit Christ Church, situated on the ridge, it is the second oldest church in Northern India with a very majestic appearance including the stained glass windows. We will also visit Viceregal Lodge, built in 1884-88. Also visit the Summer Hill. Later we will visit Annandale, the racecourse of Shimla. An interesting visit is to the Scandal Point, the name arose from the commotion caused by the supposed elopement of a British lady with an Indian Maharaja. The story goes that the then Maharaja of Patiala had eloped with the daughter of the British Viceroy. We will see the Vidhan Sabha and later back to hotel and overnight in Shimla.
Day 06 Shimla / Chandigarh (on transit break to Delhi)
Today after breakfast we will visit water catchments area, here we will enjoy a bicycle ride and walk through the forest area to explore old colonial buildings. Back to our hotel, checkout and later we will drive to Chandigarh (3 hrs drive). Overnight at the hotel (This is not a period hotel. Chandigarh is the most modern and most planned city of India).
Day 07 Chandigarh / Delhi / Calcutta
Post early breakfast we will check-out and take a short driving tour of the city, later we drive to Delhi (5 hrs by road). Upon arrival in Delhi, we have lunch and later we will be transferred to the domestic airport to further fly Delhi Calcutta. Arrive Calcutta. Calcutta, “city of palaces” with its surviving wealth of stuccoed Classical buildings can be compared with St Petersburg rather than Cheltenham. Upon arrival we will be transferred to The Tollygunge Club, Kolkata. It is the only Country Club of its kind in India and ranked amongst the top 20 Clubs of the world. It is spread over a hundred acres with a Club House that is over 220 years old. The Tollygunge Club was founded in 1895 as a meeting ground for British Merchants and bankers, who sought refuge from the encounters of a sweltering city to carve out a niche for themselves in an otherwise alien environment. Where the ‘Tollygunge’ scores over other clubs set up during those times, is its identity as the first country club of its kind in India with a unique collection of flora and fauna, some of which are rare enough to be found in a botanical garden. On your stay in Calcutta, you will have ample time to explore and enjoy the surroundings of this British abode and experience the evenings of the Raj. Overnight at the club in Calcutta
Day 08 Calcutta
Breakfast will be served at our hotel and post breakfast we will see Calcutta, the city that came to be known as the East India Company’s trading post and then became the capital of British India, after Robert Clive was victorious over the Nawab of Murshidabad. Visit Dalhousie Square, St John’s Church, Tomb of Job Charnock, Town Hall, Writers’ Building, General Post Office and High Court all of these remind of an imperial footprints in India. The Government House started in 1799 by then Governor-General Marquess Wellesley, was the grandest of the palaces of all. Also we will visit Rabindra Bharati Museum, home of the poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore. You will also cross the Howrah Bridge, the huge cantilever steel structure over the river Hooghly opened in 1943, to see the Howrah Railway Station, an example of an Edwardian building and it will be here that we will understand the contribution of the British in unifying India through railways. Back to hotel and overnight in Calcutta.
Day 09 Calcutta
After breakfast today’s visits will include St Paul’s Cathedral, the Victoria Memorial, by far the grandest building in Calcutta, that was founded by Lord Curzon as a museum of British India and contains a magnificent collection of paintings and sculpture. Also visit the Belvedere, the residence of the Lieutenant Governors of Bengal and now houses the National Library. Overnight in Calcutta.
Day 10 Calcutta
Today after breakfast we take a city tour of Calcutta. Park Street Cemetery is a place where Calcutta’s early residents lie. The Indian Museum was established in 1814 by the Asiatic Society; its present home opened in 1878 and was the work of Walter Granville, architect of the Post Office and the High Court. It contains India’s most important collection of sculpture. Also we will visit Maghen David Synagogue of 1884 and the Armenian Church of 1707 survive as reminders of the cosmopolitan nature of the city before Independence. in the evening we will visit Park Street, the street runs through what was a deer park of Sir Elijah Impey, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Calcutta from 1773 to 1789, hence this name. Also we will enjoy our tea at the Flurys – the legendary tearoom founded in 1927 by Mr and Mrs J. Flurys. Presenting fine European traditional confections.It introduced the city and many generations to authentic Swiss and International delicacies. As the only tea room of the prosperous Britisher and the affluent Indian alike, the place was known far and wide for its exotic cakes, pastries, rich puddings and perhaps the best Swiss chocolates outside the European continent, and in no small measure to the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere that it provided. Now the old world charm of a European Café is given a contemporary touch to create a new, homely and calming, trouble free and relaxing space. Back to our club in Calcutta for yet another night’s stay.
Day 11 Calcutta / Madras (Chennai)
Post breakfast we take a Raj Walk. The British had sought to build ‘the second city of the Empire’ right here and it is this ‘building’ that we’ll show you in the course of our walk through the ‘European’ areas of what was once the capital of the British Empire in India. There are major plans on to beautify and restore this heritage site with its rich and varied architectural styles. One of our most popular walks this serves as the perfect introduction to British Calcutta and gives you a sneak peek into what went into the making of the Colonial Capital of India. So prepare to whet your appetite for all things Raj. Later return to the hotel and fly to Madras. On arrival we will be transferred to our period hotel Taj Connemara. This hotel was originally built as the Imperial Hotel in 1854 under the proprietorship of Triplicane Rathinavelu Mudaliar, renamed Albany in 1886 when it was leased to two other Mudaliar brothers, and re-established as The Connemara in 1890, named after the then Madras Governor during 1881-1886, Robert Bourke, baron of Connemara, a county in Ireland, later becoming a Spencer’s hotel. In 1891, Eugene Oakshott, owner of Spencer’s, then a little shop near Anna Circle, bought the hotel and its nine acres to build a showroom. Oakshott wanted to give Spencer’s a facelift, so he decided to build one of Asia’s biggest departmental store. In the 1930s, James Stiven, director of Spencer’s, modernised the hotel starting in 1934, and the modernisation was completed in 1937. It sported an art deco look when it was reopened in 1937. The tower block and linking pool was designed by architect Geoffrey Bawa in 1974. In 1984, the Taj Group of Hotels acquired the hotel. Stay overnight at this hotel in Chennai.
Day 12 Madras
Toady post breakfast we explore Madras, that was once Madras Presidency, officially the Presidency of Fort St. George and was also known as Madras Province. Today we visit Fort St.George – The British built Fort St. George. Fort St George was completed on St George’s day in 1640 and hence was named after the saint. George Town developed becoming the modern city of Madras, absorbing several nearby areas. Also visit the two suburbs, St. Thomas Mount and Santhome, that are named in the memory of Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus. Also visit the Madras High Court – the present buildings of the high court were officially inaugurated on 12 July 1892, when the then Madras Governor, Beilby Baron Wenlock, handed over the key to the then Chief Justice Sir Arthur Collins. Also on this tour we will get to see many colonial clubs. A little south of the fort, across the Cooum River, is the Chepauk cricket stadium, another British staple, dating back to 1916. North and west of the port is George Town, where dockyard workers and other manual labourers used to live. George Town is now a bustling commercial centre, but its architecture is significantly different from areas closer to the fort, with narrower roads and tightly packed buildings. Most of the colonial-style buildings are concentrated in the area around the port and Fort St George. The Chepauk Palace, designed by Paul Benfield, is said to be the first Indo-Saracenic building in India. However, most of the Indo-Saracenic structures in the city were designed by English architects Robert Fellowes Chisholm and Henry Irwin and can be seen across the city, especially in areas such as Esplanade, Chepauk, Anna Salai, Egmore, Guindy, Aminjikarai and Park Town. Other prominent structures are the General Post Office, State Bank of India building, Metropolitan Magistrate Courts, YMCA building, and the Law College. Chepauk area is equally dense with these structures with Senate House and library of the University of Madras, Chepauk Palace. This evening we will visit an old Ango-Indian family for our evening drinks and dinner. Back to hotel and overnight.
Day 13 Madras / Bombay (Mumbai)
Breakfast at the hotel and post breakfast we will fly to Bombay. Arrive Bombay and transfer to our hotel for 3 nights. Bombay, which Robert Byron once described as “that architectural Sodom” can now be seen as the finest Gothic Revival city in the world. The highlight of course is our hotel where we stay in Bombay, a rude answer to a British architecture by an Indian is our hotel The Taj Mahal, that is constructed opposite the majestic Gateway of India. This is the spot where King George and Queen Mary came in 1911. You get an ample time to get the feel of your hotel and visit the surrounding areas today.
Day 14 Bombay
Post Breakfast we will visit the Victorian city of Bombay not Mumbai and understand how the city has evolved from the British strong hold to an Indian dream city of today. This is the only city that can truly be termed as the only Gothic city outside England. We visit the Secretariat, the High Court building and the Bombay University. Also visit The Prince of Wales Museum which has an impressive collection of European and Indian paintings. This evening we have an exclusive dinner with a local Anglo Indian family.
Day 15 Bombay
Breakfast at the hotel and post breakfast. We visit the Victoria Terminus railway station that is an inspiration drawn from St Pancras station of London, Afghan Memorial Church that reminds of the first of Britain’s several disastrous interventions in Afghanistan. St Thomas’s Cathedral, typical of so many Anglican churches in India. Also visit Sassoon Library and the University Library, based on the designs of Sir Gilbert Scott. This afternoon by a very exclusive arrangement we will visit Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, the oldest in the city, founded as the Victorian and Albert Museum in 1855. Overnight at the hotel in Bombay.
Day 16 Bombay / Home
Breakfast at the hotel. Post breakfast till your departure you are free to explore a bit more of Bombay, may be a visit to one of the Bollywood studios or a stroll at the Crawford Market. Today you will check out from the hotel and transfer to airport in time to connect your evening flight back home or via Delhi (2 hrs flight to Delhi).
Visit local Anglo Indian Families at each destination over afternoon tea or evening drinks or may be dinner. Engage in conversation to understand their roots and a very unique lifestyle that they follow in India.
An exclusive walking tour in Calcutta to understand its British legacy. Also enjoy an afternoon tea at The Flurys.We travel by a
Period Mountain train from Kalka to Shimla. A British marvel of engineering in the Colonial India.
All stays in these places are with character, specially connected to the British period in India.