It is the first Salute I have missed for around ten years but it was nothing to do with my annoyance last year at the South London Warlords' inability to deal with complaints about dubious re-enactors. No, I was in India on business (hopefully for the last time!).
Now I stay in a lot of five star hotels during the course of a year but I have to say that the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, is quite exceptional.
The Imperial was opened in 1936 and is located on what was then Queensway, now Janpath. Designed by Lutyens it was intended to be the most luxurious hotel in the city and succeeds triumphantly. Whilst its exterior is resolutely Art Deco its interior is a blend of Art Deco, Victorian and Colonial. Literally hundreds of 18th and 19th century artworks litter the rooms and spacious corridors.
The hotel itself is on four floors and is arranged as a square with no less than eight protruding wings, giving it somewhat the appearance of a hash mark in plan view. Unlike most hotels, considerable attention to detail has been devoted to the corridors and other common parts and they gleamed with marble and polished brass. Indian rugs were scattered about as were interesting sculptures and pictures.
Little, and not so little, alcoves and ante-rooms were placed throughout the hotel and served to show off more splendid pictures and sculptures.
The lobby was restrained but led to a magnificent central corridor that went the whole length of the hotel.
The adjoining 1911 bar, whilst undoubtedly beautifully decorated was too brightly lit for my taste and contained, horrors, a television which seemed to show, inevitably, constant cricket, much to the delight of the Australians who appeared to be its habitual residents. I preferred the smaller Patiala Peg bar (named after the early twentieth century tent-pegging victory by the Maharaja of Patiala’s team over the Viceroy’s). It contained only six tables, some rather daring Art Deco girlie statues and a lot of old Indian Army prints.
Outside, a short walk through the palm-filled gardens, was the pool, where I spent most of Salute Saturday. The palms gave good shade to the poolside and there was a small bar which could supply Kingfisher beer and delicious sandwiches
All in all I cannot recommend The Imperial highly enough and I would venture that it is indeed the finest hotel I have ever stayed in anywhere in the world.
So, on Salute Saturday, when everyone was dealing with the rain and the transport problems in Docklands and seeing whether the show really was down on numbers or lacking in atmosphere I was staying in this splendid hotel. I didn't wake until 9.00 and took the lift down to the Art Deco lift lobby.
After a leisurely breakfast on the verandah, I read the Times of India in the Atrium but it mostly seemed to be about cricket.
I then wandered down to the pool and read a book, took a few not very energetic swims, enjoyed the French young ladies whose husbands were in a conference all day and had a very good hot chicken Tikka sandwich and a couple of ice-cold Kingfishers for lunch. Once it got too hot I went and had a pot of Darjeeling tea on the Terrace.