When I used to live in India, I used to dream of Venetian palaces, French chateaus, Chinese summer homes. It took 24 years to open my eyes and see the history surrounding the place where I spent my childhood summers, the city of my birth. Often we passed by the Laxmi Villas Palace in Vadorara in rickshaws but never did I have the curiosity or the fascination to go visit it. Vadodara back then was associated just with long, lazy summers lounging in Grandma’s apartment and going shopping for pretty Gujarati dresses on R.C.Dutt road.
That dusty, boring Vadodara too could have its own fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and an on-site royal family never struck me.
It was the permanence of the backyard that strongly hindered my exploratory spirit when it came to this palace. It took a physical, permanent removal from India to get me dreaming about one day visiting the sprawling construction in the heart of the city.
Laxmi Villas Palace, build circa 1890, is gorgeous. One of the seven wonders of India, the palace is a fusion of styles – going from Italian stained glass window (the most in any private residence) to Islamic arabesque carvings. Yet, it retains within itself that charm that makes it a true Gujarati construction – that airy feeling, those open aangans (courtyards), those sculpted wooden arches.
Amusing call-back to America: The palace tour is conducted via an audio guide (in English!), reminding me of my Fall ’09 visit to the gilded mansions in Rhode Island.