Winter Issue January 2009
A letter to a friend from WindSong
I'm at the Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling, India.
My name is and this is my personal letter to you.
Hello! I know that you have visited the Windamere in the past, so I just wanted to drop you a quick line to wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year and also to ask if all is well with you? Can you and I chat about what has been going on up here on Observatory Hill and also the exciting times ahead?
As I sit here on the Windamere Terrace, sipping a lovely cup of "the champagne of teas" from our Darjeeling Hills, I pause to reflect upon the festive season which has just passed, and I am reminded of the various remarks fed back to me by our wonderful guests from all over the world. You know, someone was heard to remark in our ‘Bearparks' Parlour' the other day, that it is like being invited as a personal guest to our "house in the country" for the weekend. Another added that the level of care they receive is like being "back in the nursery" (meaning, that one is truly cosseted and looked after by very caring family members!). What a lovely way of describing it!
Mrs. W. from the UK wrote on October 19th, 2008:
"Every aspect of your wonderful service was First Class and much appreciated. Your hotel is the diamond jewel in the crown of the Queen of the Hills Station"
Mr. S. from the USA wrote on October 10th, 2008:
"It remains the centre of a by-gone era, with a charm that is relevant in the 21st century – happy to have been here!"
Oh, before I forget, I wanted to tell you about our festive season. I can truly say that we all had a lovely Christmas, finishing with our world renowned Christmas Dinner festivities. As you all know, we offer a very traditional Christmas season here at the Windamere and it appears to be in great demand by our international and domestic guests. Well I loved it – and to be more specific, the carolling around the fire, followed by the lovely dinner served by candlelight. Did you know that we had some very talented entertainers from France this year? Trebeka, accompanied by Philippe, served us proud with their Jazz and Boss Nova/Samba rhythms. Our Bearparks' Parlour was so packed at times, that I could barely squeeze into my usual seat (usually accompanied by my inevitable "G & T"!)
On New Year's Eve, I danced the night away, completing the celebrations with our countdown to 2009 in the Windamere Bar. We all "hokey cokeyed" through Bearparks and best of all, sang "Auld Lang Syne" to bring in the New Year; then on to snacks at midnight and dancing until the early hours. Getting up on New Year's Day was quite an effort...
Mr. F. from London, England wrote in December 26th, 2008:
"Christmas at the Windamere is one of the 30 things one should do before one dies! A wonderful Christmas!"
I need to comment on something that I have often noticed. Some people come here extremely tired, jetlagged and burned out from their busy lives. I personally feel that the Windamere offers an opportunity to "just be". To sit on its sunny terrace with a book, a drink and maybe indulge in a little snooze until lunch? Others need to explore the local areas and "get out and about". One delightful lady from Australia advised me that she and her family just wanted to "sit outside and vegetate". Not a bad idea from my perspective……I wish that I had had more chances to do this, but alas…….I leave it to my guests to show me how it is done in style!
You know, some of my guests need to take a trip down Memory Lane again – usually they either were born here and then left, or worked here and then left or had a relative who had filled them with such stories of longing, that they had to come anyway. Re-discovering their heritage through our photograph albums, books, pictures on the wall and just wandering around is a joy to behold for me.
Mr. G. from the UK wrote in October 20th, 2008:
"So good to return to such hospitality. I was here with my mother in 1936/7"
Mr. M. from the USA wrote in January 2nd, 2009:
"Thank you so much – I restored some memories of a romantic time when I visited in the ‘70's and now have built some new ones – all positive!"
I know that many of you come through some truly wonderful tour companies and seemingly "pass through" the Windamere from your last place and then on to the next glorious part of India. However, may I be so bold as to timidly add that you may like to stay an extra day? No, no, not sales talk (heaven forbid!) but this remark comes from actual comments from our guests. They tend to say that they have come up the mountains (usually taking 3 hours); wolfed down our scones, cakes, sandwiches and biscuits for Afternoon Tea and then later on into the dining room for a candlelit dinner, only to be ultimately awakened at any time from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning to whiz off to Tiger Hill for the marvellous sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjunga. Then back here and either zoom off the same day for more wonderful sights to behold, or trip around to other points of interest here in Darjeeling and then the very next day they leave for the rest of their trip. Quite a whirlwind stopover!
Our guests have explained to me (either over a cup of tea, or even better, over a drink in the bar!) that they would have liked to have had an opportunity to "just sit and be" – either on the terrace with a good book (only to fall asleep and blissfully dream on this sacred hill of ours, where the holy men at the top waft down their daily blessings to all who come to their shrine) or to ask for a massage, or manicure/pedicure in our ‘Well Being Centre' (and usually fall asleep there also!) I have to let you into another little secret – I have had more than one massage there (the de-stressing variety) and have snoozed in perfect peace until it was time to wake and get up and about again.
Some of my guests come for more than 3 days and indulge in far deeper pastimes such as: yoga/ meditation/ introduction to Tibetology/ visits to local monasteries and so on. The founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche, prophesied that Buddhism would eventually go to the West……and well, it eventually did - interesting, eh?
Mr. & Mrs. from South Africa wrote in May, 2008:
"Surreal! Charming! Romantic! Excellent service. To stay here for these 6 nights was truly a dream come true. We hope to return soon…"
Before I forget, I must tell you about a "strange phenomenon" which is usually brought here by our male guests (with some females as well, I quickly add) – the fanatical lovers of the narrow gauge steam train! They make a pilgrimage to these hills and simply ride up and down the mountainside on the world famous Unesco World Heritage Site, the "Toy Train" (or officially known as the "DHR" – the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway"). By the way, did you know that Mother Theresa gained her enlightenment whilst journeying on this train from Kolkata to Darjeeling? She was visiting Loreto Convent for her annual holiday and…well, you know the rest…she stepped off the train, got back on the return version and set up the "Sisters of Mercy". What a story and what a person!
Did you also know that the famous actress of days gone by, Vivian Leigh, was a student at Loreto? Such trivia! I surprise myself sometimes! However, I digress with this wonderful story. Dear train lovers, I need to let you know that you can all meet up in my "DHR Club" in either the ‘Heinrich Harrer Room' (the real life star of "Seven Years in Tibet") or the ‘Lowell Thomas Room' (he discovered Lawrence of Arabia), to talk incessantly about trains (and trains!) over drinks, snacks and even dinner. I will arrange to keep you warm by lighting a huge roaring fire. Would you like to do this? We even have a film about the last steam trains of India – the producer, William Livingston, is a great friend of mine and stays here frequently.
Ms. B. from Europe wrote in May, 2008:
"Between the pulls of this lovely little train, the drapes of the mist, the chanting of the monks, the green curtains of the tea bushes and the lovely quaint charm and hospitality of the Windamere and its charming host, what else could one desire in magical Darjeeling?"
Talking about weight (well, we weren't but maybe I can indulge you for a moment…) - maybe it is a good idea that nearly every road is a mountain climb which brings on huffing and puffing to even the fittest of us (didn't you find that to be so? No? Well, maybe it's me then..?) because with my offering of traditional breakfast ("full English" or Indian); "double trouble" of the same at lunch; afternoon tea of scones, biscuits, sandwiches, cake (phew!) and then snacks with your drinks and then, believe it or not, you stagger into my dining room to repeat the process, you may find (and I am very sorry and humbled to have to say this) that one or two extra pounds (or is it kilos now?) may have crept on……I want to offer my sincere apologies and hope that you have now worked it all off in time to visit us once more? You have? Great, I look forward to seeing you again...
Ms. B & Mr. T. from the UK wrote in December of 2008:
"The food was terrific – we now have to go home and lose some calories – a great stay!"
Mr. & Mrs. J. the UK wrote in October of 2008:
"6th visit this time – gets better every year!"
A few of my guests asked me what our guests of 2009 are up to – what new things are going on, and so on. May I just add a few parting words on this subject?
Top executives from the Indian plains who need the rest and quietude of our hills to map out their upcoming business strategies……we house them in our equally heritage styled ‘Observatory House' meeting rooms and our larger ‘Rhodes Hall' accommodation (seating up to 60 in theatre style grouping and up to 45 in board room style). In Rhodes Hall we also have our "Writing Room" where you can send and receive emails (for those of you who really want to be "unplugged" for the duration – my apologies – please forget I mentioned this!)
Alumni "old girls and boys" from all over the world – many, however, used to attend famous boarding schools right here in Darjeeling
Darjeeling DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) enthusiasts
Trekking and Mountaineering groups (after all, we are home to the famous ‘Himalayan Mountaineering Institute' – founded by one of the first men to climb Mt. Everest, Mr. Tenzing Norgay
The Tea Gardens and Tea Tasting sessions…..what a glorious history lies here!
Flora and Fauna (including orchids and many other exotic plants……also, I must mention the equally famous ‘Windamere Palm')
Tracing the remaining remnants of the old British Raj from by-gone days
Groups who concentrate on the recovery of their health (on many levels) – you are over 7 thousand feet up the Himalayas, so surely this means something? Also, the Himalayan Range is cited to be one of the world's energy vortices – some of our guests note that they have experienced a "sense of shift" whilst sleeping and living here for a few days….it does bear thinking about doesn't it?
Groups who just love to sit and look at Mount Kanchenjunga
People who take delight in multi-tribal races of people and how they live and have their being. Who wish to rub shoulders with all manner of peoples in Darjeeling's square – called the "Chowrasta". By the way, these people also love to shop for bargains in Pashmina shawls/ Kashmir clothing and Tibetan artefacts. You can still find some wonderful bargains here and can ship them back to your home country if you are worried about the luggage weight issue.
Hopefully you found this to be of some interest – to quote the famous saying – "it is all grist for the mill (of life)" isn't it?
DEAR FRIEND: IF YOU FEEL AN OVERWHELMING NEED TO CHAT "BY RETURN",
PLEASE EMAIL ME AT: [email protected]
WHY NOT RAMBLE THROUGH THE HOTEL'S WEBSITE – http://www.windamerehotel.com
PERSONALLY, I FIND IT WHIMSICAL AND VERY ENTERTAINING!
Well, dear friend, I have to sign off now. Did you enjoy reading my news?
Please, would you send me a little note with your comments? – do keep in touch until we meet again? Farewell for now...
With deep respect and good wishes for you and your family,