Saratha Vilas Kothamangalam
Ideal for anyone needing a getaway from South India’s busy cities, Saratha Vilas occupies a renovated mansion at small Kothamangalam, among 70-odd scattered cities and towns which make up southern Tamil Nadu’s interesting Chettinadu area. The dusty surrounding countryside (best explored with vehicle and driver) is dotted with exceptional Ayyanar shrines and tens of thousands of palatial 19th- and 20th-century mansions. The closest airport is Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), 45 miles (70km) shore)
Style & personality
This might be a 20th-century Chettinadu mansion, but the tasteful, uncluttered, contemporary boutique style is fantastic French flavor. Architect/interior designer owners Michel and Bernard have meticulously restored the house using only enough fresh, modern flair. In typical regional style, a pillared lobby erupts to a set of tranquil courtyards flanked by expansive wood-carved doorways and bowls of fresh flowers. Conventional Ayyanar-inspired sculptures are scattered round and miss the white-tiled pool, surrounded by tropical greenery.
Service & amenities
The owners are huge advocates of Chettinadu’s cultural and architectural heritage and exceptionally knowledgeable about Tamil Nadu. Service — from check to supper — is unobtrusive and effective; many employees come in local villages. There is a massive collection of activities available: cooking courses, biking excursions, kolam workshops, countryside excursions and guided visits to silk-weavers, tile-makers, temples, markets and Chettinadu’s beautifully extravagant mansions. Enjoy ayurvedic massages, the pool and the tiny Indian crafts souvenir.
The eight bedrooms are lavish, high-ceilinged and individually styled, including four-poster beds, sandy-red feature walls and glistening, soft-blue locally handmade tiles. Each includes a mixture of antiques, glossy teak furniture made by the owners, and decorations from throughout the globe — South Indian prints, Keralan masks, Chinese vases. Bright bathrooms consist of walk-in closets, chunky square baths and natural toiletries from Auroville (near Puducherry). Kettle kits include Twinings teas. Both ‘Master’s Chambers’ are spacious, but ‘Heritage’ rooms are alike dreamy.
Food & beverage
Breakfasts, at a rust-red pillared courtyard or in the tables out, are a highlight. Bowls of tropical fruits, cherry jam, homemade yoghurt and honey, along with appams (spongey rice pancakes) with coconut milk usually look from the kitchen. Market-fresh ingredients also gas yummy lunchtime thalis (standard Southern Indian all-you-can-eat meals), served on banana leaves, and tasty three-course dishes that attractively combine tasteful French and fiery Chettiar tastes.
Value for cash
Double rooms from INR 7,460 (#90) in low season; also out of INR 10,050 (#123) in large (minimum 2 nights). Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Accessibility for guests with disabilities?
Yes. Bookings are required for households with two kids, and additional beds or cots are supplied. You will find kids’ menus, and several of the activities available are ideal for children.
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