Star of stage and screen, Just You Brand Ambassador Claire Sweeney headed off on our Spirit of India tour recently. She was in search of excitement and, boy, did she find it. Here she tells us about the highlights.
I found it so relaxing going on holiday with Just You, it’s such a hassle-free way of travelling. There are so many amazing experiences organised for you and you don’t need to do anything other than sit back and enjoy them – it’s just perfect!
The adventure begins
After checking in for our flight, we had a wonderful welcome from our Tour Manager in the lounge at Heathrow. Quite a few of the group were nervous about travelling by themselves, but it didn’t take long for everyone to start chatting. You could sense the excitement we all felt about heading off on our Indian adventure.
Our group was a real eclectic mix. The youngest person was in their thirties, the oldest was, well older than me! Some were divorced or widowed and others, like me, were single and just looking for an adventure! I loved getting to know everyone, hearing about why they wanted to travel to India and where they had been in the past. It was obvious we all had one thing in common, a love of travel and a passion for discovering new cultures.
The way the tour was put together was perfect and our Tour Manager was fantastic. We all knew exactly where we were supposed to be and didn’t have to worry about a thing. We experienced so many unforgettable moments, including seeing a tiger, but for me the highlight was our stay in Varanasi. There were plenty of opportunities to do your own thing if you wanted to, but I loved sharing experiences with the group. I really looked forward to getting together with everyone in the evening and chatting about the day over a drink or two.
I like to try the local cuisine when I am on holiday and India was just incredible. I absolutely adored the food, it was all amazing, so much choice and variety. I never ate alone. If a meal was included as part of the tour, our Tour Manager arranged for the group to sit together, and when we had free time for lunch, I’d always find other members of the group to tag along with.
A home from home
The hotels we stayed in were of the highest quality and the service was just wonderful. The Jungle Vila hotel on the edge of the tiger reserve in Ranthambore was one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed in. And of course, it was great to always have my own room to relax in at the end of the day.
CLAIRE'S MEMORABLE MOMENTS
The holy city of Varanasi
On our first night there we watched more than 2,000 people praying in unison and then got up at 4.30am to sail along the Ganges at sunrise. The river bank was full of worshippers - and there were rows of children doing yoga on the riverbank. It was an extraordinary spectacle - words just can’t describe how emotional it was.
Enjoying lunch at the Sankotra Haveli
In Jaipur, we were invited to the 17th century Sankotra Haveli, a picturesque family home straight out of the ‘Real Marigold Hotel’. It was a truly magnificent experience, stepping into someone’s home, learning about its history and being made to feel so welcome. I didn’t feel like a guest, I almost felt part of the family, and the traditional lunch we were served was delicious.
Searching for tigers in Ranthambore
I will never forget my trip to Ranthambore National Park. There was so much anticipation and excitement when we set off on safari, all of us wondering if we were going to catch a glimpse of a tiger. And then, one appeared, walking freely, it was breathtaking. I feel so lucky to have seen these magnificent creatures in the wild.
Shopping in Jaipur
We had some free time in Jaipur, so I headed to the market. The colours of the fabric were so bright and vibrant, and to say the spice market was an assault on the senses would be an understatement. There were bargains galore, and of course I had to do a bit of haggling, it was great fun.