MUMBAI - as Bombay is now known - may not be the fist place that comes to mind when planning a shopping spree in search of homeware. But for about £1,000 (which includes return air fare, a Sheraton hotel room and a day with spent with a car a driver and a personal shopper), you can take a long weekend in the Indian business capital and come home laden with home goodies. Traveltakes about the same time as flying to New York.
Over the phone, Tanya at specialist firm reaves Tours sings the praises of Mumbaibased über-shopper, Monica Vazirelli. Vazirelli is a former interior designer with a packed contacts book and can, apparently snap her fingers and get things made, copied and shipped in an instant. She can find antiques in back alleys for next o nothing, and unearth silverware and raw-silk upholstered sofas.
Vazirelli is, by al accounts, the Trinny and Susannah of the sub-continental decorating world.
Mumbai is city throbbing with energy and is not an easy place to master. Britons find it almost impossible to buy prperty there and residential rentals can be sky-high. But shopping in the city - whichstarts with a Sheraton curry breakfast and an Ayurvedic massage in the fivestar hotel's spa - ws never such fun in London.
I meet Vazirelli at 11.30am, the recognised start of any Mumbai shopping day. Resplendent in orange nd pink with long silver hair and gold sandals, she quickly plans my itinerary. I want bepoke leather ottomans (I've spent a year failing to find them in a particular size in London), three rough-silk blinds for our bay window, cushions with chain stitch, and Š well, I'm still waving my list as we drive off.
Vazirelli soon proves worth her weight in god (or indeed silver, if we're talking about handmade, beaten, silverclad funiture). I could never have found these places on my own.
We are chuffeured from Phillips (perfect for kitsch iconography and Victoriana) to Moorthy's Antiques Warehouse - just down that alleyway, past the banyan trees and tucked under an overhanging corrugated rof - for colonial furniture, spiral staircases and Kerala carved columns.
At Bharat Funishings I buy "antique rose" cotton damask (£8 a metre); in Kala Niketan, amid sais and bangles, we choose exquisite raw silk (£3 a metre). D Popli offers a mine f jewellery and great silver boxes, frames and candlesticks - at tin prices - and, at Pllate, there are acres of Asian contemporary design on display and, oh, such cushions hen there are the leather hides in the Muslim quarter, and the master tailor, Kishor, at Choice, wo makes my silk into beautiful blinds in four days (less than £250 for three blinds, incuding the fabric).
Vazirelli makes this so easy because, unlike me, she speaks Hindi, knows where places are (unlike the tai drivers), isn't on commission, gets fair prices, stops me dithering, saves me from myworst style mistakes and even helps me cross the roads (a feat in itself). She also getsitems loaned (on approval) and persuades me to pay for items that will be delivered lter. Ah, such trust.
For lunch she takes me to the (members only) Willingdon Club, wher ladies play bridge and gentlemen ring bells for the waiters' attention. In the evenig we attend a contemporary Indian art auction at the Taj hotel, where shouting "lakh" is a pice in millions and not a comment on the art.
On the way back, we must make our way in thedart through a 3,000-strong wedding party; there are fireworks, tambourines and raucus street vendors: Peter Jones this ain't.