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Taj Connemara ? Time tends to stand still here.: Submitted by: Krishnamrutam | Date Added: 28 Jul 2015
Listed in: Destinations / India - South India Synopsis

It was the UMPTEENTH time we stayed at the Connemara. The last one was five months earlier and I just had some wonderful memories. This time too, I had taken my wife because it was business-cum-leisure trip. The Connemara experience begins at the Chennai airport, when you are received by a handsomely dressed Devender with his disarming smile that is patently the Taj's. On our drive, not tiresome despite the morning traffic of Chennai, Devender gave a glimpse of what to expect. The first fascinating news Devender gave me was that my usual suite 123 was ready for us. Splendid news was that Samrat Datta, GM of the hotel was moving to Taj Bengal but I was going to miss him this time and he was not going to be there to receive us at the hotel.

At the hotel entrance we were received by lovely lasses with vermilions and garland. Yes sir. We had been given our usual heritage suite and yes sir, all our requirements including flowers for our deity puja would be taken care of, though Gopi would turn up with his shining pate and teeth the next day only. We were led across the lobby at the front of which we saw the familiar hotel associates, all smiles and words of courtesy, who led us to the lift. Saniz Pottakkad, the acting GM was always there throughout our stay but we had no occasion to call him, except for thanksgiving. We were taken to the 100 year old 'modern' suite, suite 123. Easy to remember and easy to locate too. The hotel has two sections ? one heritage wing, 160 year old and another modern wing ? just 100 year old. The hotel has a long history. It is not named after its masters. It is named after Mrs. Connemara, one of her long-stay guests, wife of the then British Governor of Madras, Lord Connemara. It was the marital squabbles of Mrs. & Lord Connemara that led the lady to stay in the hotel and it was in her memory that the hotel was renamed Connemara hotel. It was taken over by the Taj in 1984 but sorry sir, the hotel is till ?Connemara? and not Taj Connemara. Any tuk-tuk will take you to Connemara ? if you pronounce it the way they do in Chennai ? Cunnimaara. That's it. The suite ? elaborate, aesthetic, and imposing ? had two rooms ? living and bedrooms ? connected with a corridor facing a huge bathroom. The furniture is minimalistic, utilitarian and nothing super-fancy about. As I said, it is elegant and well oriented. A huge bed with quite a lot of pillows. You had great many choices about them. We would experience that the sleep quality was exceptionally good, well comparable to the Leela?s. The living room that was the farthest had a plasma television, with a good veritable choice of English, Hindi and vernacular channels and also a video player. The sofa and settee were well stocked with flowers, dry fruit, cookies, chocolates and fruits that were regularly replaced and replenished without our having to remind except only once. A well stacked mini-bar. The house keeping set upon rearranging the furniture as per my wife's pleasure ? to suit her setting up of our family deity. And they arranged flowers every morning and evening ? not in parsimonious quantities, but in plentiful abundance. All thanks to Gopi the florist. And the splendid looking housekeeping Supervisor Akshaya. Later we would find they did everything possible and impossible to make our stay more than comfortable, rather pleasant and memorable.

The lunch was at the coffee shop, where Saravanan, whom I knew from the Lake Palace, Udaipur, and restaurant manager, waited for us. And there was Gopi, the Sous Chef who concocted Fish Achari and mutton Nihari, the way only the ITC Sonar make. The fish curry was not only good but delectable and genuine with original spices from Kerala. Coming as it did from Rajendran, the sous chef, every preparation was exceptionally good. Saravanan, originally from Kerala seemed to know his job, as did Deepak Padmanabhan, and under their care every time we went to the restaurant, it was always a pleasant experience. Special mentions for Malcolm, a Mumbaite Anglo Indian Associate, and his partners Anthony. Not to forget Bhaskaran ? hardly God makes very good professionals like him these days. Taj is lucky to have them all and we are lucky to have them in Connemara.

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In the evening, as is our wont, we took a tour around the hotel. The hotel had its origin as a property of the Nawab of Arcot. When it was purchased and converted by a European master, it became Imperial Hotel. Changing hands and ownership, it became Connemara hotel and remained as such even after it became Taj Connemara in 1984. The courtyard leading to the Rain tree restaurant had seen quite a gathering ? theme weddings, parties, musical extravaganza and many more happenings. The courtyard was lined up stone pillars dating to seventeenth century and earlier and extracted from the ruins of temples and palaces that are real sculptural marvels, depicting scenes from puranas and history. My wife never got tired of clicking her camera and I had to frequently call her to attention as they narrated every stone and carving on the courtyard. One hotel staff informed us that Archaeological Survey of India recently took a census of the sculptures on the pillars and was in the process of documenting the sculptures for the of future guests and art lovers. We also took portraits of an ancient statute of Radha Krishna set at the top of a fountain. The idols were dressed up and garlanded and we were told puja was being performed by a pundit on daily basis.

We strayed to an all wood restaurant ? Rain tree. It was venue for quite a few social and cultural gatherings and housed a Chettinad restaurant, specialized in Chettinad food. Unfortunately thanks to our tight schedule, we could visit the restaurant only on the penultimate night before check out. But the warm welcome afforded by Gopi and his team was all we needed at that late hour to impose on the chefs and associates of the restaurant. But we were richly awarded. The starters were so interesting that we just got carried away and filled our stomach even before the main items came through. The chettinad appam with nattukozhi curry and mutton sukka were really delicious and divine. There was no space for desserts. Only Elaneer Payasam, a sweet concoction with tender coconut and coconut milk.

The spa here is very nice ? but we had no time this time for the heavenly bliss.

But we missed the Thai restaurant.

The pool is very ornamental and can you imagine, there is a Silent Zone, with a sofa where one can spread a book on his chest and in between easy-readings can take an easy nap. A special word about housekeeping ? in the hands of Gopi the florist we had nice puja everyday. About the sanitation of the hotel and pool ? every corner was squeaky clean. Timely non-intrusive service. Always in time. We never went short of fruits, flowers, cookies or any other thing that a hotel of this sort provides for its Gold members. What really meant a lot for us was the genuine warmth in their smiles, total sincerity in their approach, and unstinted hospitality at its best and real concern for its guests.

When the checkout time came ? mind you I had asked for an early checkout considering my dawn flight ? I was called on by Devendar to checkout whether anything else was needed to be done. We had hardly seventy minutes when we boarded the hotel car. At the early dawn, Devendar was on continuous call with the Taj representative at the airport and the driver wound his way through the hell of the traffic and when we reached the airport, it was five minutes before the closing time. The Taj representative somehow got us checked in and we could just board the flight in time. I cannot thank Devendar and the Taj Representative at the airport, as also the expert driver, whose name I forgot to check, we would have missed the flight and all hell would have broken loose in my Mumbai office. Forgot to mention, we had sufficient servings of takeaways packed with love and affection by the Verandah Team, thanks to Padmanabhan, the restaurant manager. Words are meaningless in front of this love.

My readers always want a fair picture of the hotel we visited and that is what you have read. Time tends to stand still in Taj Hotels. Connemara has mastered the art and science of hospitality to such an extent that what they do could come to stay as the USP of the Taj Vivanta. They don't follow any International Standards in hospitality, but they set one difficult for the rest of the industry to follow.

Before I conclude, I have to take two more names ? Kurat from Kashmir and Nani from Georgia. I have put one of her photographs playing a 100 year old piano on the grand lobby. Awesome ? both the piano and the player.

If the Tatas make a huge profit from the Taj chain of Hotels, definitely I did not contribute much.

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Taj Connemara ? Time tends to stand still here. Taj Connemara ? Time tends to stand still here. Taj Connemara ? Time tends to stand still here. Taj Connemara ? Time tends to stand still here. Taj Connemara ? Time tends to stand still here. Taj Connemara ? Time tends to stand still here.
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