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Top 8 things to do in Jaipur, India

Few people are aware of a city which is quintessentially Indian, Jaipur. The capital and the largest city of the state of Rajasthan, its also known as the Pink City of India, and it offers visitors a wealth of architectural, cultural and foodie delights. Jaipur earned its moniker the Pink City because it was built, literally, on the bedrock of pink sandstone which changes shade depending on the suns position in the sky. There are innumerable ways to familiarise yourself with this wonderful city. Options abound.

1. The Pink City

Jaipurcertainlyis pink. Even the unforgiving midday sun casts a rich red hue as it heats the stone. Not surprisingly, the city takes on a stunning beauty at sunrise and sunset. Its at this time of day that you should give yourself over to navigating the streets, experiencing the history, while weaving past the inhabitants, the rickshaws and tuk tuks, the motorbikes (Bajaj bikes most likely), the sacred cows, the not-so-sacred pigs and the occasional monkey.

2. The Palace of the Winds

The Hawa Mahalis an architectural marvel, a fanciful blend of red sandstone shaped like a honeycomb pyramid. Intricately decorated, each window jharokha ornamented with elaborate latticework. The high screen wall was created so that ladies of the court could observe street festivals and yet remain unseen by the revellers.

3. Indulge in the city palace

Not so much a palace as a series of magnificent residences, the city palace has a history dating back to 1729. It comprises of the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces which incorporate courtyards, gardens and other buildings. I particularly enjoyed the Armoury, marvelling in every detail of the ceremonial weapons craftsmanship, as well as the Mubarak Mahal, the ‘Auspicious Palace', which is an unsurpassed fusion of the Islamic, Rajput and European architectural styles.

4. Dinner with members of the royal family

Experience Travel Group can arrange a dinner with descendents of a royal family for you. The Sai Niwas prepare a splendid meal for guests to enjoy and theres even a cooking lesson beforehand, so you can learn how to create traditional family cuisine yourself. Enjoy mouth-watering food while all the while discussing the citys rich history and the vagaries of modern life.

5. Relax on aheritage walk

Explore Jaipurs old town with an expert local guide and discover delicious street food, beautiful craft shops and antique stores. Its an illuminating chance to experience the way of life in this bustling city and get a better understand of how its history has shaped the culture today.

6. Exploring the historyof Jaipur

TheAlbert Hallwas built, unsurprisingly, during colonial times. It is an impressive example of colonial architecture, fusing European, Indian and Islamic styles into one. Within its elaborate walls youll find the story of the city.

7. Sunrise in Jaipur

A morning cycle is a great way to experience a city. It allows for an unmatched perspective, just as the city and its inhabitants awake. We stopped off at street food stalls regularly, whether for a refreshing lassi or sweet chai with the locals, or a tactical break at a tiny bakery for sweet treats and an energy boost. We also visited a lively and colourful market with a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna; it was a fantastic, immersive experience.

8. The indomitable hill forts

Joined by a local guide, you can journey out to rural hill forts near Jaipur. Travelling from village to village, youll visit beautiful Hindu temples along the way as well as meet Rajasthani farmers and hear of their lives. I met one who was worried that a leopard someone had supposedly spotted could endanger his oxen! Finish up at Kuntil Garh Fort, a property frozen in time with beautiful views of the countless forts that characterise Rajasthan.

Sam Clark is CEO at Experience Travel Group.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, pleasecontact us.

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Zermatt Unplugged the best festival in the Alps

There are some awesome places on this beautiful planet that lend themselves perfectly to music events, the Montreux Jazz Festival is a case in point, stretched out on the shore of Lac Leman, the setting greatly enhances the music on offer. Cafe Del Mar, in Ibiza is another venue that springs to mind. Not strictly speaking a music festival but the daily Sunset Session is assisted by the setting sun and the chilled vibes enjoyed by the clientele.

Maybe Thomas Sturchi and Marco Godat had this kind of thing in mind when they founded the Zermatt Unplugged music festival in 2007. Zermatt is a pretty and compact Swiss village with a fascinating history and a draw for people worldwide in both summer and winter. It could be described as a cosy resort, sheltered as it is on three sides by mountains, with the magnificent Matterhorn at its head watching over the village below. It's a no brainer and fits the bill as a perfect venue for an intimate music festival.

Thomas Sturchi had a background in staff recruitment and sold his business to diversify into the entertainment industry, Marco Godat was involved in a top Swiss talent agency so it was a perfect match between two can-do people with a vision to start something special. Initially conceived as a singer-songwriter festival, hence the name ‘unplugged', the first event held in 2007 was a success and gave them both the confidence to expand and build something unique to Switzerland as the only festival of it's kind. However Thomas and Marco soon felt that the one man and his guitar idea was perhaps a little limiting so they decided to open it up somewhat for the 2008 edition and widen the scope but still remain acoustic in essence.

The Zermatt Unplugged event is held annually in early April at nine varying venues around the village. The intimate nature of the venues creates a winning ambience that brings out the best in the artists booked to perform. No massive, hanger like stadiums here, all the venues were chosen for their cosy and intimate nature. Perhaps the pick of the venues is the Main Tent, erected by around 170 workers, 100 of them volunteers, setting up and dismantling approximately 140 tons of material. The Main Tent has a capacity of 1,800 seats and is the largest of the venues by far. The other stand out venue is The Vernissage Club, with a 500 seat capacity, designed by the renown Zermatt artist and architect, Heinz Julen.

There was a hiccup in 2009 when the administration of the municipality and the festival organisers could not agree on a date, so disappointingly, the event didn't happen that year but in late 2009 long term financial and logistical support was agreed by both parties, thus ensuring the events longevity.

Intimate venues and settings and the unique ambience helped by the layout of Zermatt have also ensured the event has established itself on the calendar. As word of mouth has spread an ever growing list of top artist, enthusiastic about the festival and wanting to perform there has grown, the event has certainly attracted some top names, among them, Suzanne Vega, Alanis Morissette, Jason Mraz, Lionel Ritchie, Chris de Burgh and Seal to name a few.

The ten year anniversary edition has just finished and has certainly built on the solid foundations laid down so far ensuring the festival goes from strength to strength. Among the artists appearing this year were Michael Bolton, KT Tunstall and Paulo Nutini. If Thomas and Marco remain true to their initial philosophy the event will remain intimate and acoustic, perhaps never growing to rival the Montreux Jazz festival in size and scope but after all small is beautiful as anyone who has attended this charming and unique festival will attest to.

Next years festival is already shaping up to the the best yet, with some surprises in store. You have plenty of time to get yourself booked in. The week long festival is an ideal opportunity to get some time on the slopes with the ideal apres ski thrown in for good measure. As Fred Pontin used to famously say ‘book early, you won't be disappointed'.

Rebecca Taylor is Director atSkiBoutique.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, pleasecontact us.

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