New Delhi, India
March 20, 2009
We arrive in the late afternoon, dusty and dishevelled, and wait at the gate while our cars are subjected to a security check. Check-in, fortunately, is swift and we’re served complimentary glasses of chilled fresh limejuice while our keys are handed over. The lobby isn’t the vast, intimidating stretch I expect in deluxe hotels: though marble floored, it has cosy sofas, rose petals floating in bowls, and a large flat screen TV at the end.
Our rooms are on the second floor. A smoking floor, though it doesn’t smell; I don’t realise these are smoking rooms until much later. Inside, our room’s clean and welcoming, with comfortable sofa chairs, twin beds, luggage rack, wardrobe, TV (lots of channels!), and a writing desk and chair. There are freebies too: tea and coffee fixings, mineral water and fruit. There are nuts and potato chips on a pay-for-what-you-eat basis. The hotel brochure gives us an idea of the services: a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, swimming pool, shopping arcade, room service, laundry, even an astrologer (yes! And quite a hit). Various activities are also organised, lessons in puppetry, vegetable carving, and cooking among them.
Our room has interestingly Mughal touches. The headboards are of red sandstone, inlaid with a simple floral pattern. The rugs are, as a plaque on the wall reads, replicas of `Agra Jail Carpets’. The Emperor Akbar, in the 16th century, brought Persian carpet weavers to Agra to teach inmates at the jail their craft; the prisoners eventually became proficient and began producing very fine carpets.
The bathroom too has its own traditional touches: the lampshades have a bright floral pattern, with enamel, and there’s red sandstone on a couple of the walls. The towels are white and fluffy, the basket filled with soaps, loofah, shower cap, bottles of shampoo and lotion—there’s also a hair dryer. The only thing I find iffy is the bathtub: it’s part of the wall and flooring, covered with the same stone tiles, and looks grubby, so we restrict ourselves to showers. Swapna and gang have a normal porcelain bathtub, so this isn’t standard.
The other thing I didn’t like was that besides a thin duvet, there wasn’t anything to cover with—not even a sheet. It was a little hot, and lowering the temperature on the AC didn’t work: I spent quite a while tossing and turning.
But, despite that, I’d recommend the Gateway. It’s conveniently located close to the Taj Mahal; the staff’s friendly and helpful; and the tariff—our rooms cost Rs 5,000 a night—is reasonable. And I guess if I’d asked for a sheet, I’d have got it.
From journal Agra: Been There, Done That