© Maharajas Express
India's most luxe train, the Maharajas Express.
I spent the last three weeks eating my way across India. This week, I’ll be posting updates on my most exciting experiences. I kicked off my trip on what is being touted as India’s most luxurious train, the Maharajas Express. The 82-passenger train has four-, six- and seven-night itineraries; I was aboard the inaugural Celestial India journey from Calcutta to Delhi. How luxe could a train possibly be? I had my own butler and private room with Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV and a bathtub. I even had enough room to do yoga (though yoga on a moving train proved quite a challenge). At night, passengers shared their day’s adventures over Indian wines, excellent mojitos and great Indian chaat in the bar car before moving on to dinner in one of the two glamorous dining cars with white linen tablecloths and custom gold flatware and plates. Each night, the chef created a different three-course menu, offering both Continental dishes (foie gras and mushroom ravioli) and regional Indian ones (laal gosht, a classic, spicy Rajasthani lamb preparation with Kashmiri chiles).
The itinerary: stops at iconic sites, like the Taj Mahal in Agra, and off-the-beaten-path spots, like the forts of Gwalior and small villages around Khajuraho. True luxury, at least for me, is getting an insider's perspective on the ground. The Maharajas team created fantastic, immersive adventures in each city, such as the visit to the Bodhi Tree at sunset, as well as, upon my request, a street-food tour with a local through Varanasi’s alleys, so I could taste a just-made lassi and kachori (a fried ball stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas).