Arriving at Chapslee and the history :
Dogs ran out to greet us in the lush green courtyard. We stepped onto the cobbled path that led to the hallowed home that is Chapslee Palace. Resplendent with golden glittering lights, antique furniture and a fine collection dating back to British times, Chapslee is an experience to remind oneself of the glorious royalty in the imperial times of the Raj.
Chapslee was originally constructed in 1830 by an East India Company official. Chapslee was purchased by Raja Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala in 1938. His grandson, Kanwar Ratanjit Singh, is the present owner and the perfect host who opened the doors of Chapslee Palace to guests in 1976.
Shimla : Past and present
Although Chapslee is within walking distance of the Ridge, yet it feels like a world away from touristy Shimla. The Ridge, with its plethora of heritage buildings is definitely worth spending some time in, and feels almost like an English town with a chapel and Tudor architecture.
The charming town of Shimla is best explored on foot; heritage walks showcasing British architecture in Shimla. Shimla has a total of 3 heritage walks that start from the vicinity of The Ridge. We were mesmerised with the green forests of Mashobra on a day trip and decided to walk a part of the distance among glorious pine country to the hamlet of Bekhalti.
Getting there :
The journey from Jaipur to Shimla was another experience to remember. For once I decided to do something touristy and took the UNESCO World Heritage ‘toy train’ from Kalka to Shimla. Grand views and quaint colonial style stations made train travel a fitting style to get here, after all I was staying in one of the oldest British houses in Shimla.
Living the history at Chapslee
Ratanjit Singh’s (Fondly called Reggie) hospitality and genuineness is visible in the effort he takes to make your stay as memorable as possible. Right from arranging your local sightseeing, to long walks to nearby hillocks, to cooking your favourite delicacy, he makes sure each and everything is taken care of.
The house has 6 rooms. We are in the the pink room first, it has been done tastefully in light pink. We jump and dance like little kids after Reggie decides that we should be upgraded to the best room in the house – The Luxury Suite (Also Raja Charanjit Singh’s room.)
Architecture and antiques from around the world
The luxury suite is decked with a huge brass bed, a very airy sitting area, dressing section, enormous bathroom, and a writing desk with pretty views of the croquet lawn. The furniture perfectly complements the period of the house; everything has an air of faded grandeur, and yet has all the comforts of the modern world. The suite has 3 huge fire places (yes, it is huge!). It feels like one is staying in a living, breathing museum.
The house is tastefully furnished with spectacular antiques, British-India memorabilia and exquisite age old paintings. There are intricately carved metal holders and cabinets from Venice, blue pottery jardinieres from Multan(present day Pakistan), Peshwa vases, Persian & Afghan carpets and rugs, chandeliers from Belgium and Italy, and blue tiled fireplaces.
The staff are dressed in a Himachali cap and are always around to help. There are strategically placed bells around the house to summon the staff whenever required.
Perfecting ‘Dolce far niente’
Even for an explorer like me, the thought of sitting and watching the clouds engulf Shimla is enticing – I choose to sit in the garden sipping a fine variety of Darjeeling Tea. Tara (a golden retriever) and Thunder (a black labrador) and their two kids (both labs) lie in the sun all day long. They lend a very happy vibe to the place and are quite helpful in keeping the noisy monkeys at bay. I learn the fine Italian art of ‘dolce far niente’ from the dogs.
Feasting in Royalty
The finesse with which food is presented at Chapslee is almost unbelievable.Personal butlers serve us and I fall in love with the apple crumble (made with fresh apples from Kinnaur). The spinach and baked egg is easily the best I’ve ever had. There is no menu here at Chapslee, and you don’t mind that either. It is even better when the chef puts his soul in the dishes that he makes, and crockery that makes you feel like royalty.
Dinner is served on silver plates and cutlery that transports one to pre-Independence times. There is fine bone china for bed tea, while the evening tipple comes in rare glasses.
A chance to become a part of history itself
You don’t realise how the day goes by at Chapslee, here the silence is so immense that you can hear a pin drop, yet it is so fulfilling that this silence soothes your nerves too. The notion of ‘time’ at Chapslee is fictional – Time ceases to exist here.
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