Location: Glenburn Penthouse, Kanak Towers, 7A Russel St, Park Street area, Kolkata, West Bengal
Since I first visited Kolkata in 1983, what it has badly needed is a congenial place to stay that feels like home – that is, an improved, well-designed, beautifully decorated, spotless version of home with the staff one dreams of having ‘when my ship comes in’ (but like most of us I’m still awaiting its arrival). Glenburn Penthouse is precisely that.
It ticks all the boxes, as well it might. The top three floors (7th - 9th) of the well-located but architecturally unpromising Kanak Towers have been transformed into a mini palace-in-the-sky. It has ten light-suffused bedrooms with bathrooms that you might find in a country mansion, an elegant salon-cum-restaurant whose big terrace has views across the lush Maiden to Victoria Memorial, and a rooftop library, pool and sun-deck – ideal for practicing your sunrise yoga or enjoying a sundowner.
The staff are remarkable. You barely see them. They are so professional that they seem to have prepared everything they know you will want (but you might not know it, yet). They clean up after you in such a way that you kid yourself you are the one being tidy. And if you want a random chai, nimbu soda and chili cheese toast – all I yearned for after my journey London-Delhi-Kolkata – someone is magically there to take the order and ‘do the needful’ as if it was the most natural thing at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday morning.
In short, everything is just right. This is because the owners are the third and fourth generation of the Prakash family who run the Glenburn Tea Estate near Darjeeling (where you can also stay). And growing tea demands spot-on skills at every stage – I once visited a dozen tea estates while researching a book; it’s a job that is about precision science and decision-making, being on the job 24/7, considerable self-reliance and huge management skills. It also requires accomplished hosting because tea estates tend to be isolated so anyone who comes to visit stays a few days. Guests need comfort, good food and entertainment – there is a limit to gazing at the stunning hill views. Glenburn Penthouse provides comfort with good food precision service; entertainment is the huge, multi-layered city all about you.
A few more good things about Glenburn Penthouse. The white and daffodil yellow interiors dotted with dramatic textiles on invitingly relaxing chairs, sofas and beds are by Bronwyn Latif, who effortlessly blends ‘Calcutta Raj’ with fresh contemporary India. Importantly, there is enough public space to find privacy without having to hide in your room. When you take the lift up and down it stops at random offices with busy people; I like that peep-hole connection with the city. At ground level you are in the hubbub: walk in any direction for a cornucopia of Kolkata treats from its special street food (irresistible), serious sweet shops and left-over British buildings to joking shoe-shine men, the Indian Museum treasure house and the Metro which zips you all over town. Perfect urban wellbeing.
Must-do wellness experience: breakfast on the terrace – that huge green morning view!
Glenburn Penthouse buzzword: see you on the roof for sunset.
Ideas for unpacking your kind of slow-down wellness at Glenburn Penthouse
The great salon is whatever you want it to be - breakfast, coffee with a book, flopping down with a cuppa after going about town, elegant cocktails and dinner.
Bedrooms of high four-poster carved beds are paired with pale grey spacious bathrooms, making the experience feel more like a luxury suite than a room.
Bronwyn Latif's sharply tuned eye for colour and pattern is evident in every space but especially in the salon where this parade of joyful cushions sits on a burgundy sofa in front of a mural evoking Kolkata's history.
Taking stairs up to the roof you find a big surprise! A large sundeck and pool with views gazing down across the Maidan. Here, took is the library for quieter moments.
Despite its compactness, Glenburn Penthouse does not feel cramped at all. The spacious public areas have many places to curl up with a book or just think about the day's adventures through Kolkata's lively streets. Noone need bother you.
Episode 27: Home stay in a rare surviving indigo planter's house
It really is time to start planning your Unpacking Wellness experience for 2023!
How will we want to travel?
We are emerging into a more cautious world, one where we perhaps want to move more slowly, be in control of our interaction with other people, avoid crowds, be outside as much as possible. I am here to help you achieve this in the Himalaya, on the Deccan Plateau, along the coast, in forests, desert and villages.
If you have not traveled with me in a group before ....
Please know that we experience great sights in the best possible way, with lots of add-on encounters and visits to off-beat places. We meet conservationists, curators, craftsmen and musicians, we walk with naturalists, we cook with local chefs. In sum, we imbibe the essence of each area thanks to my four decades of studying and visiting India - and making great friends who I share with you.
For private travel ....
I work with you to create your tailor-made trip to any corner of India, to any budget, for all interests and special needs, for families and parties of friends, for business groups and for honeymoon couples - India is ideal for everyone!