Autumn in India will see the opening of a series of hotels that blend historic buildings with high luxury. Next month the Maharaja of Jodhpur will open the Ranvas, a 26-room hotel within the 12th-century walled fort of Ahhichatragarh in Nagaur. In the 18th century, the then Maharajah created a residence within the fort for his 10 ranis, or wives, and this has been restored and converted into the new hotel. Then, in October, Hyderabad’s Falaknuma Palace will open after 10 years of restoration work. Made entirely of Italian marble, the building was originally used by the city’s ruler to accommodate visiting dignitaries, including George V and Tsar Nicholas II, and is now being talked of as a “seven-star” hotel and the most luxurious in the country. Meanwhile, October will also see the opening of two bold new properties in Jaipur: Devi Ratn, a modernist 63-room hotel decorated in the colours of Rajasthani gem stones, with dramatic black and white terrazzo floors, and Rasa, a “futuristic” tented camp beside the 17th-century Amer fort. Rasa features 40 white canvas cubes, each with a pavilion, bay windows and a four-poster bed. All properties can be booked via Bales: www.balesworldwide.com
Enterprise Rent-A-Car, America’s biggest car rental company, is to offer customers the chance to spurn gas-guzzlers in favour of green electric vehicles. From January next year, Enterprise will offer the Nissan Leaf, which can be recharged from a standard domestic socket or commercial charging station. In Europe, Avis has announced a partnership with Renault to introduce four models of electric cars, also starting in 2011. www.enterprise.com, www.avis.com
Trees in an 18th-century orchard are now able to “talk” to passers-by using inbuilt audio devices. The talking trees have been developed as a pilot project by the National Trust, the charity devoted to protecting historic buildings and landscapes. Walkers in the orchard at Cotehele in Cornwall’s Tamar Valley can swipe a pen-like device on the tree, to hear it tell its story. For example, the Colloggett Pippin apple tree talks about its breeding and suitability for cider-making, in what the Trust calls “his local dialect”. The project is the latest in a string of innovations this year designed to update the organisation’s image. After introducing new logos and advertising campaigns, last month saw the launch of a National Trust Top Trumps game and the opening of its first “tea towel-free shop”, selling walking gear instead of the traditional offerings of lavender bags and tea cosies. Perhaps paradoxically for an organisation dedicated to history, the Trust decided an update was needed after focus groups concluded it was “a bit old fashioned”. www.nationaltrust.org.uk
In a bid to promote its 2011 year of tourism, the Nepalese government has announced it is waiving visa fees (which start at $30). The special offer has, however, strict terms – it is only open to those who have already stood on the summit of Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh highest peak, or of Everest itself.