After 20 years travelling all over India, this September was my first ever trip to Uttar Pradesh, neighbouring Rajhasthan in Northern India.
We hopped over the border to the capital, Lucknow for a quick 48-hour adventure - travelling out amongst the Mango Groves, crossing the Ganges, to visit outlying villages and co-operatives of women who hand-embroider our womenswear collections (read about our trip here) to plan our summer collections for next year.
Pictured: The red-brick clocktower is the largest in India, at 67m. Built in the 1880s.
Uttar Pradesh, between Nepal and Rajhastan, has a diverse population of Muslim and Hindu faiths and a huge influence of Islamic Architecture in Lucknow's historic cityscape can be seen. Compared to the dusty desert cities of Rajasthan, the green slightly faded glamour of the city with its parks and wide tree-lined avenues were a welcome change of pace.
Stay: We visited the boutique hotel Lebua Lucknow; set amongst lush green gardens and formal lawns, the 1920s sprawling bungalow has been beautifully restored, with quiet inner courtyards and 4 stand-out restaurants (lunch at 1936 - a nod to the hotel's birthyear - was a highlight of our trip). The rooftop cocktail bar has a fun buzz for sundowners, too. A great hidden gem with personality, away from the sterile, impersonality of the 'bigger' hotels.
Visit: Perhaps two of the cities most famous monuments are the Muslim mausoleums - Bara Imanbara (main pic) and Chota Imanbara (below).
An imanbara is a tomb dedicated to a Shiite holy man - the two complexes, within walking distance of each other couldn't be more different - from Bara's labrythine corridors (shell out for a guide if you want to make it out by sundown!), collossal towers and grand halls (the great hall boasts one of the world's largest vaulted galleries), to Chota's lush green gardens, intimate and quiet solitude.
Try: Throughout India, Lucknow is famed for its Awadhi Cuisine. There are many 'culinary food tours' available in the city that will guide you to the best street food and hole-in-the-wall joints, not to be missed. Our favourite? Panipuri - bitesize hollow puffs, filled with chickpeas, potato and tamarind chutney.
Coming up: A shoppers guide to Jaipur and 48-hours in Delhi.