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Finding bliss in Jaipur | The Star




Nearly 300 years ago, an enlightened maharaja with a penchant for jewels and an eye for architecture built a planned city amid the arid hills of northwest India. Called Jaipur after the city’s founder, Jai Singh II, it arose on a grid of urban sectors not just for royal palaces but also for the workshops of artisans recruited to establish a new commercial hub. These days, gem cutters, jewelry designers and garment-makers are still flourishing in one of India’s most popular tourist and shopping destinations, part of the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur Golden Triangle. This is a city where the royals, to this day, occupy a wing of the City Palace and where midrise towers and a new subway system are muscling in on a proud past. Street markets are awash in colour and handicrafts, and Hindu temples can be found nearly every 100 yards. Although the streets seethe with beeping and belching traffic, tourists and dung-dropping cows, you can find bliss amid the commotion.

Friday3 p.m. Divinity tour

Hinduism, with its colourful gods and goddesses, permeates everyday life, so dive in with a visit to Birla Temple, a domed, white-marble building with an airy main hall, stained-glass windows and a shrine to the Uber god Vishnu, and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Speaking of Uber, the ride-hailing service is a good way get around this spread-out city. From Birla, it is a 20-minute ride to Govind Dev Ji Temple, built in view of the emperor’s City Palace windows. Get there for the 5:30 p.m. ceremony when priests in saffron robes pull back the curtains to the altar holding Lord Krishna, playing the flute under golden umbrellas. People pour into an open-walled hall by the hundreds, raising their hands in adulation, clapping and chanting while making circuits around the shrine, banging knockers on its wooden side doors to let Krishna know they have arrived. Free entry.

8 p.m. Ramparts and lentils

You can dine like royalty at 1135 AD, a restaurant in a palace perched atop Amber Fort, a magnificent hybrid of Hindu and Mughal architecture. Walk through the main courtyard up to a terrace with candlelit tables and scattered rose petals. A thali, or meal, served on a silver platter lets you sample a variety of dishes, from goat in red sauce to black lentil dal and a spinach and corn purée (1,750 rupees, or about $24). Ask for a tour of the glittering private dining room upstairs, with silverbacked chairs under chandeliers and a ceiling embellished with mirror fragments. The fort is a popular location for filmmakers. If you are lucky, it will be alive with turbaned extras, white horses and adorned camels re-enacting a scene from a historical drama in the floodlit courtyard.

Saturday9 a.m. Buttery ballast

Ghee, a form of clarified butter, is essential to the fare at Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar, a landmark hotel, bakery and vegetarian restaurant where the menu front declares an adherence to Lord Krishna’s condemnation of food “which is half-cooked or halfpipe …” The Rajasthani Special breakfast platters are anything but. Badvi Bhaji (potatoes, tomatoes, coriander and green hot chilies) and Poori Aloo Mattar (potatoes in tomato stew with peas), with fried wheat pockets, are served by efficient waiters in brown jackets with epaulettes (breakfast for two, 750 rupees). The decor feels early 1980s — purple and teal wallpaper, and abstract Hindu wall hangings — but it has been around since 1954, frequented by the jewellers and gem wholesalers taking a break from their workstations in the nearby back alleys.

10 a.m. Mind the cattle

Step back into the history of clan-warring Rajasthan, long before Jaipur became its capital, on a tour of the Albert Hall Museum. Or, step into the frenetic present, exploring the boulevards and back lanes of the old city. Walk under the porticos of sidewalk bazaars festooned with everything from puppets to pyjama pants; around the horned bulls wandering on the narrow roads; past the carts of fried chickpea cakes, and marble-lined shrineswith statues of gods; through an arched doorwayinto a four-story courtyard with intricate floral railings; and into a crowd of men at a corner fountain polishing brass prayer cups.

11 a.m. Pink City

Jaipur is known as the Pink City, built with sandstone and blushed with paint in 1876 to welcome the Prince of Wales. It is epitomized by the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds. The five-story facade of protruding bays with lattice stonework and 365 windows is said to have been built as a screen for the women of the royal court so they could watch unobserved the parades of soldiers and elephants below. It is a steep climb to the top, where it is only one room deep, but the view and being ensconced in cupolas mimicking Krishna’s crown are worth it (entrance: 50 rupees for foreigners).

12:30 Oasis of calm

The sound of cars, motorcycles, scooters and tuk tuks on a main drag called Mirza Ismail Road is non-stop. Until you step into Niros, a garden of tranquility with yellow tablecloths, plush booths and mirrored walls and ceilings made to look like arched windows. Opened in 1949, it advertises itself as the city’s first to serve Chinese food. There are indeed plenty of Chinese items on the menu, but go local, with the Tandoori mixed grill — the goat kafta with chili and cardamom is exceptional — a spinach-and-cottage cheese Palak Paneer and yellow Dal Tadka (lunch for two, about 2,500 rupees).

2 p.m. Gems galore

Jaipur is a global centre for cutting and polishing precious and semi-precious gems. Stop in Jewels Emporium’s stately white building and take a tour of the workshops, where cutters shape facets, and men at workbenches adorn gold settings with jewels and rinse the gold dust from their hands in wash basins (the water is later sold to extraction companies). Upstairs is the finished jewelry (recently spotted: a pair of emerald earrings in a gold setting, about 45,000 rupees). Around the corner, at Gem Palace, an owner, Sanjay Kasliwal, and his son Samir might show you a frayed registry with signatures from customers like Jacqueline Kennedy and Bo Derek, and a diamond and enamel turban ornament made by the family’s ancestors 300 years ago, valued at $7 million. There is also a small shop called Rajasthan Gems, 41-A Shahpura Bagh, Amer Road, where owner Satish Sharma will make you a cornflower-blue sapphire ring and enlighten you with his philosophy of yoga.

4 p.m. Garment hunting

Inside Saurashtra Impex, an explosion of colourful fabrics heaped in piles and stacked to the ceilings greets you, along with the owner, Kishor Maheshwari, and his staff. They will extricate antique cushion covers from Pakistan, tablecloths with block-printed blue elephants and vintage rugs from Afghanistan. For a more refined retail experience, RASA boutique makes its own mod-Mughal brand of exquisite silk, cotton and linen dresses, tops, scarves and bedding (silk scarves start at 4,400 rupees).

8 p.m. Finger food

The city is not exactly a hotbed of celebrity chefs, but the culinary scene is still lively. Options range from Meraaki Kitchen for dal fondue, or Virasat for traditional thali. For superb northern Indian cuisine, head to Peshawri, downstairs at the ITC Rajputana hotel. With its stone walls and mushroomlike stools, it serves dishes you eat with your hands, and pair with a pleasant sauvignon blanc from India’s Fratelli Wines (dinner for two, about 7,000 rupees).

10 p.m. Ice cream and cocktails

At the famous Pandit Kulfi, redshirted servers prepare a frozen treat of milk, crushed almonds and cashews, sugar and cinnamon. They freeze it in metal cylinders and tap out the sweet and dense, double-sticked little rockets (20 to 50 rupees). For the international party scene, head to Bar Palladio, set in a former palace’s garden house with a dramatic Wedgwood blue interior and canopied tables in the garden. It serves Italian cuisine and cocktails, like a cosmopolitan (500 rupees).

Sunday9:30 Heart of Jaipur

A 500-rupee ticket to the City Palace will get you into a museum with royal costumes and a courtyard displaying massive silver vessels that carried an emperor’s drinking water from the Ganges River to London in 1902 for Edward VII’s coronation. But splurge on the 2,500-rupee Royal Grandeur ticket to see where the monarchs lived. The sovereigns still entertain in an ornate dining room and parlour, where chairs have silver lions for armrests and walls are painted with gold dust and extracts of rubies and emeralds. Have brunch in the complex at Baradari, chic restaurant and bar in a stone courtyard with contemporary Rajasthani and continental dishes. Do not miss the smoked baingan bharta, a tower of spongy bread supporting roasted eggplant with chili powder, spinach greens and a fried egg (700 rupees), and the smoked tandoori pineapple (300 rupees).

1 p.m. The kaleidoscope is you

Return to the Amber Fort to soak up the daytime atmospherics — the soft wind blowing through the open, pillared audience hall and the crisp vista of mountainsides sloping down to a green lake. In the Sheesh Mahal, a fairy-tale, open-air hall of mirrors, the walls and ceilings are covered in geometric and floral patterns inlaid with thousands of tiny foil panels, as well as marble relief panels and larger mirrors. The effect is kaleidoscopic as the constellation of convex pieces above reflects the movement of the visitors below (entrance, 200 rupees).


Rent a villa or apartment in the core of the city near the Albert Hall Museum on Airbnb. The options are limited but you can find apartments within walking distance of the gem market starting at $34, and a room with a private bath or an entire floor in heritage-style homes near Central Park for $50 to $80.

As if floating in Man Sagar Lake, the Jal Mahal island palace is not open for visitors, but you can take in the view from an upstairs room at the Trident across the road (about 16,000 rupees). The handsome, 21-year-old hotel has 152 rooms, jade-green marble floors and a puppeteer and drummer who put on an evening show beside the pool.

Get a taste of royal living with a stay in the Taj Jai Mahal Palace, with stately columned porticos and 18 acres of gardens. Built for an 18th-century Rajput military commander, it is one of several royal residences converted to hotels, this one operated by the renowned Taj group. You are greeted in the grand lobby with a garland of flowers, pink lychee drink and a forehead dot of sandalwood paste. A handsome room with a patio leading to gardens and a short walk to the 95-foot long pool costs about 25,000 rupees.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)





(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel





(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!





Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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