Ampersand's Unusual Escorted Tours for 2019
Nothing creates a bond than experiencing an unfamiliar setting and culture in the spirit of adventure and fun. As the world gets increasingly more digitally connected people are in fact seeking physical community. Social media and the longest working hours in history have created a society of individualism that has had a corrosive impact on the ‘art of togetherness’. With this in mind, we are flying the flag for the joy of the shared experience! We know from our previous escorted tours of small groups that guests gain a unique and deep experience from sharing their journey with like-minded fellow travellers. Curating a group that is small enough to be intimate and friendly, and yet not too large to be impersonal is a skill we have honed, and we believe that our upcoming tours will bring both enriching opportunities to explore fascinating destinations alongside a fun atmosphere and the building of lasting friendships. We have outlined two of our upcoming 2019 Unusual Escorted Tours below, from the temples and palaces of Punjab & Kashmir to the gardens and castles of Ireland.
PUNJAB & KASHMIR, MARCH
Hop on a magic carpet ride through India’s colourful festival of spring, Holi. Ampersand's Unusual Escorted Journey to Punjab & Kashmir offers a privileged and unique glimpse into hidden treasures of the Subcontinent. The tour will be guided by author of Glorious Hotels of India, Cosmo Brockway, who has lived and worked in India for 20 years. You will meet some of India’s most interesting and charming personalities, from Maharajas to artisans, with extraordinary private access using Cosmo’s and Ampersand’s wide range of contacts, to ensure a truly memorable and unique journey.
From the modernist city of Chandigarh, with its Le Corbusier-designed architecture, to the flamboyant princely creations of Kapurthala, the spirituality of the Golden Temple, and the ceremonial spectacle of the Pakistan border ceremony, the highlights of Punjab are explored in an unforgettable away. The festival of Holi will be spent enveloped in a shroud of exuberant celebrations, with drums, flower petals and coloured powders galore!
The final stop is Srinagar, renowned for its natural beauty, gardens, placid waterfronts and colourful array houseboats. Here, at the fascinating summer capital of Kashmir, you will visit the floating flower and vegetable market on Dal Lake, the beautifully preserved Mughal gardens around the lake’s eastern shore, and the atmospheric old city with its intriguing wooden mosques and authentic bazaars.
Celebrate Holi in the holy city of Amritsar
Celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, like a local. The Hindu festival of Spring brings the subcontinent alive in a shower of colours and festivities. Devotees take to the streets to sing, dance and scatter rainbow-hued powder and water at each other. As the sun sets, friends and family gather for delicious meals. We will celebrate this festival at the 19th century haveli, Ranjit's SVAASA. The family-owned manor house will be the setting for music, flower petals and feasting. The Mehra family are one of the city’s oldest, an ancestor provided the gold for the famed Golden Temple, and they will join us for the celebrations with a warm welcome and memorable hospitality at their elegant home.
Private tour of Amritsar and the Partition Museum
Guru Amar Das, the Sikh warrior leader, chose the then unknown village of Amritsar for a Sikh holy shrine in the late 16th century. Nestled on the border with Pakistan, Amritsar is a fascinating frontier city built around the heart of the Sikh religion, the breathtaking Golden Temple. We will visit the temple both during the day as the sun sets the golden dome aflame and at night to witness the moving Palki ceremony among pilgrims from all the world. We will also have the privilege of a private tour of the Partition Museum, founded by children of partition families, Lord and Lady Desai. The museum, in the former town hall, is a very personal and memorable glimpse into the story of the separation of India and Pakistan and all those affected.
Exclusive visit to the rose-pink Jagatjit Palace, modelled on Versailles
The former home of the Maharajas of Kapurthala, this extravagant palace is not usually open to the public. We will have special access to view its staterooms, filled with paintings, 18th century furniture and mementos of a royal dynasty. This will be followed by a gracious lunch at the private home of the present Maharaja of Kapurthala who will host us at his 19th century residence and share tales of his illustrious family.
Take in a military ceremony at the India/Pakistan border
Every sundown the border comes alive with cheering crowds, music and a surreal ceremony of pomp, bravado and high-kicking. We will have ringside seats to this memorable spectacle between two rival nations.
Le Corbusier-designed Capitol Complex in Chandigarh
The Capitol Complex is Le Corbusier’s most spectacular work. Exploring the iconic buildings and piazzas with a guide, we will see the famous sculpture of The Open Hand, the official emblem of Chandigarh, signifying city’s motto of ‘open to give, open to receive’.
Dine on a traditional Kashmiri feast, the Wazwan
Journey through the legendary culture of Kashmir through a memorable multi-course banquet, the stuff of dreams for foodies, accompanied by explanations of the cuisines heritage and traditional music.
Meet local artisans working with the traditional crafts of Kashmir
From the ornately carved houseboats, embroidered textiles and evocative miniatures - the crafts of Kashmir are famed the world over. We will have a chance to visit artisans, many of whom have inherited generations of heritage and gain a richly detailed understanding of their skills and arts.
Experience Srinagar’s unique wooden mosques with their rich interiors
The unique shrines and mosques of Srinagar’s Old City are one of the great highlights of the trip. Reminiscent of Central Asia, the architecture are elaborately carved in wood and stone and feature glorious interior paintings and atmospheres of ancient worship.
Shop in the bazaars of the Old City of Srinagar, untouched by time
Feast your senses on the sights, sounds and smells of the medieval lanes of the Old City. From Flower-scented oils to traditional teas, dried fruits, inlaid antiques and the most beautiful pashminas, this is an opportunity to acquire treasures of the highest quality at local prices.
Explore Dal Lake by shikara boat, the floating market and Mughal flower garden
From Mughal emperors to the British Raj, Srinagar’s Dal Lake, around 15 km around, has been seen as a water of paradise. Encircled by the mist laden peaks of the Pir Panjal Mountains and dotted with flotillas of colourful shikaras (the Indian gondola) and houseboats, this dreamy lake is a memory to last forever.
HOUSES AND GARDENS OF IRELAND SPRING 2019
Ireland is home to some of the world’s finest historical homes, medieval castles and influential gardens. We have created Ampersand's Unusual Escorted Journey to Ireland to offer our clients a chance to discover some of Ireland’s most beautiful countryside and picturesque villages, whilst delving into its fascinating heritage – from medieval castles, including Waterford Castle, to the beautiful gardens of Killruddery. A one-off journey through some of Ireland’s hidden treasures, this tour will be guided by writer and social maestro, Cosmo Brockway. Being half Irish, Cosmo’s close family connections to the country allow him access to some usually private locations, as well as the knowledge to showcase Ireland in an exclusive and memorable way. Cosmo is reputably charming and erudite, and his friends include an assortment of the most interesting and talented movers and shakers in Ireland. He will undoubtedly educate as well as entertain everyone on this trip!
Throughout this journey you will stay at our selection of luxury properties, which are set in rural landscapes of outstanding natural beauty. Discover the rich history of each of these locations and learn about how many of the former residents of these grand homes dedicated their lives to their extraordinary homes and gardens. From the UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin, with all the attractions of a modern capital city combined with the beauty and heritage of the past, to the green undulating hills of County Laois in the central heart of Ireland, this privately guided tour explores Ireland’s most charming towns and ravishing landscapes, which have inspired numerous poets, painters and writers over the years.
For more information or to start planning your tailor-made holiday, please get in touch: