SOUTH­ERN WALTZ

Step into the re­fur­bished Taj Con­nemara, Chen­nai, for a date with his­tory.

India Today - - HOTELS - By PRACHI BHUCHAR

His­tory lessons of­ten come from un­ex­pected quar­ters and when you check into a ho­tel you cer­tainly don’t ex­pect to come out on the other side with wis­dom about the city or the space that you have stayed in. The Taj Con­nemara stands off a busy road in cen­tral Chen­nai, and the milky white façade be­lies the churn it has wit­nessed over the last cen­tury, given that it is the old­est ho­tel in south­ern In­dia. With over 125 years of check ins and check outs un­der its belt, the ho­tel, which has re­opened af­ter a twoyear-long re­fur­bish­ment wears its her­itage with pride but doesn’t shy away from pro­vid­ing mod­ern lux­u­ries.

Tales of the scan­dalous Lord Con­nemara (he was gover­nor of Madras be­tween 1886-90) and his irate wife Lady Con­nemara oc­cupy cen­tre stage as you tour the ho­tel. With the in­tro­duc­tion of a Colo­nial wing to add to the ex­ist­ing Her­itage wing and the Tower wing which house the rooms, a Chet­ti­nad restau­rant Rain­tree, which is true to the re­gion’s food di­alect, the Taj Con­nemara is a his­to­rian’s dream des­ti­na­tion.

English Tea Party

The af­ter­noon tea ritual dates back to 1865 when the Duchess of Bed­ford is said to have en­joyed her cuppa at the ap­pointed hour. While bread and but­ter ini­tially ac­com­pa­nied the tea, over the years, the ritual got more elab­o­rate. When at the ho­tel, take time out to en­joy this ritual. With star teas like the lap­sang sou­chong which is from the Fu­jian prov­ince in China to gen­maicha which is a blend of green sen­cha and toasted rice, to sin­gle es­tate cof­fees that are de­li­cious, this is a must­try ex­pe­ri­ence. In true Bri­tish style, your tea or cof­fee is served with a se­lec­tion of fine pas­tries, del­i­cate sand­wiches, cakes, and scones with berry com­pote and clot­ted cream.

Cost The af­ter­noon tea is priced be­tween `3,500 and 5,000

Lady Con­nemara Bar

The newly minted Lady Con­nemara bar and lounge bar is cosy and in­ti­mate. It was the city’s first li­censed bar when the ho­tel first opened in the nine­teenth cen­tury and even to­day, the mu­sic, light­ing and sig­na­ture cock­tails are rem­i­nis­cent of a time gone by. Or­der the ‘Madras no 1’ which is a gin-based cock­tail served with a ball of cu­cum­ber­basil in­fused ice that slowly melts into your glass, giv­ing it its dis­tinct flavours. ‘Since 1891’ is an­other pop­u­lar sig­na­ture drink that you can en­joy while lis­ten­ing to jazz or the blues.

Trail­ing His­tory

What re­ally seals the trip is a walk­ing tour of the city of­fered by the ho­tel in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sto­ry­trails. No mat­ter what tour you pick, you are likely to be pelted with fab­u­lous sto­ries that bring these lo­ca­tions to life. The two-hour pri­vate tour in­cludes spe­cials such as the Pea­cock Trail which fo­cuses on My­la­pore, the area from where the city of Madras is said to have been born and takes you through old homes, tem­ples, walks you through an­cient rit­u­als and ends at the San­thome Cathe­dral Ca­si­cila which is an im­por­tant spot for Catholic pil­grims. The tour of old world Madras on the other hand takes you past many beau­ti­ful Bri­tish-era build­ings, high­light­ing those that con­tinue to dot and dom­i­nate the city’s chang­ing land­scape with pride. With stel­lar guides or rather sto­ry­tellers guid­ing you through these well-thought out trav­els that of­ten be­gin with a his­tory of the ho­tel, this has got to be one of the high points of your stay at Taj Con­nemara.

Cost A pri­vate 2-hour tour costs `6,000 per per­son; sto­ry­trails.in

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