Fort Rajwada, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

When I first stood gawking at the magnificent gate, camera in hand and mouth wide open, little did I know I was standing dwarfed by the same façade that was an eternal part of an award-winning TV show I’ve been a huge fan of… “Balika Vadhu”.

Jaisalmer – the city of wind-swept sand dunes, warm and dreamy sunsets and star-studded skies, is quiet at peace sitting in the heart of the formidable Thar desert. Its majestic forts, ornate havelis and traditional houses all look regally gilded, built from the indigenous gold-honey hued sandstone. This is how Jaisalmer is designated as ‘The Golden City’, where people’s hearts exude a golden warmth, just like their houses.

Fort Rajwada carries this legacy forward with utmost pride. Just 20 minutes drive from Jaisalmer Airport, this colossal hotel leaves you awestruck with its regal opulence, every nook and corner demanding your attention. Brace yourself to experience the love, warmth, hospitality and majestic grandeur like never before in this beautiful oasis of tranquility.


Take a stroll around the property and you’ll get an insight of how much pain, efforts, love and attention to the minutest detail has gone into making it a visual treat. The sitting area is so huge, it looks like a mini airport. The floor-to-ceiling mural at the reception is splendid.  Walls painted in light pastels reflect the sunlight that keeps streaming in from all sides. It’s fascinating to learn that the elegant balconies made of sand-stone carved in intricate latticed work are centuries old and originally belonged to the Mughals. There’s artwork, carvings and paintings everywhere and all of them are a handiwork of the local artisans.


While the check-in formalities were being completed, I waddled around only to return all bemused and wondering, will three days be enough to explore? What I actually meant was Jaisalmer and the hotel. Will three days be enough to explore both of them together?

Fort Rajwada is an ideal stay option both for leisure and business travelers with an array of rooms in Deluxe, Suites and Mahal categories. Sounds like an ode to Rajasthan royalty, doesn’t it? Deluxe Room is good enough for a couple. More than good. It’s super huge.
All rooms are splendidly furbished with modern amenities and still exude the old-world charm.
After a tiring day of soaking in the sights Jaisalmer has to offer, sink into the cosy, plump bed for a night of sound sleep. Wake up to the tranquil, lazy morning you crave but almost never get in the city.

Try to peel yourself off the bed, and if you do succeed, hop down the stairs to kick-start your day with scrumptious breakfast that awaits at the Roopal Restaurant, the kitchen of which also whips up an excellent contemporary and local regional cuisine. The Laal Maas here is something you shouldn’t miss. They spice it up as per the tolerance levels of your tongue and tummy.

Before you head for breakfast or after you’ve had your fill, I really suggest, toss away your flip-flops and take a stroll barefoot on the lush green and perfectly manicured grounds, bathing in the early morning sun.

With superhuge sunflowers smiling in their utmost glory, abundant rays of morning sun and artsy objects scattered around, you have plenty of opportunities to click Instaworthy photos that won’t even need a filter.

Imagine posing like a royalty in one of these.

The terrace offers kaleidoscope views of the panoramic cityscape.
Stretch your legs in one of these gazebos and allow the desert wind to be flirty or just pose for pictures cuz you wont be in a hurry to make your way down.

Roopal Restaurant adjacent is Sonal, which is a fine dining restaurant. With its luxurious interiors and imperial decor, it makes your dining experience at par with royalty.

While away your time at the Pattu Bar with drinks and a platter of authentic Mughlai and continental snacks. If nothing, just plonk down on their cushiony chairs with a cup of coffee and just soak in the vibe of the place.

Service in all of the three restaurants is exceptional. Friendly, polite, eager to serve and with their trademark smile and simplicity. We got a new friend in Bhavani Singh who regaled us with anecdotes about Jaisalmer, its erstwhile kings and the Indian Army. The conversations kept spilling over three days. Speaking to people like him who’re so passionate about their belonging, you realize how deeply engraved are the scars of the battles that were fought through centuries and how the current generations still live with them.

There’s also the Rooftop Sunset Bar that provides a perfect setting for a romantic candlelit dinner under the starlit desert skies.

The hotel can also arrange a Pool-side barbeque while you surrender yourself to being serenaded by the local artists who put up a mesmerizing show of their craft and having you totally glued to your seats.

You only get the real feel of the desert when you actually spend some time with it. Like spending a night in a desert camp, bashing the dunes in a 4X4, going for a long ride on a camel, enjoying folk dances hunkered down under the starlit skies and gorging on some lipsmacking food.

Save the best for the last. So, here’s all about the service. It’s the people that make this spectacular hotel a place you want to live in for as much time as you can. Bhavani Singh in the restaurant, Hansraj in housekeeping and Roop Singh who chauffeured us… unforgettable, all of them. Speaking to Roop Singh, I realized the value of every 100 bucks a driver earns as tips.
Lastly, there’s Vaibhav, Manager and the star of Fort Rajwada. Any recruiters reading this will surely be tempted to poach him. hehe. Smart, capable, pleasant, patient, amicable and deeply passionate about everything Jaisalmer, despite not actually being the product of the city. He comes with vast experience having worked with some of the prestigious hotels across India. He gave us a feeling that we weren’t just guests but a part of their family. He planned our trip with the same passion he would have planned his own and altered it many many times as per our needs without a frown. Had it not been for Vaibhav, it would have been just another holiday.

Considering how humble and modest they are, I’m sure they’ll attribute their success to us, their amazing guests; but it’s actually them who make the place worth living…even if it is for just 2 days.

For bookings and other details hit:
http://www.fortrajwada.com/

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Sherlock, Ooty

This isn’t the place where the great Sherlock Holmes once lived. Or ever lived. Boy! he was fiction. But, I’m sure he would have given an arm and leg to buy this eponymous mansion as his post-retirement home. After all, even an eccentric detective like him covets this kind of haven to rest his deerstalking hat, stretch his legs and puff his calabash pipe.

So captivating is the charm of Sherlock, a century old mansion that hasn’t aged a day since it’s birth in the Raaj era.

Driving uphill the narrow winding road and no trace of the hotel, Oniel blurts out his anxiety, “wonder how the place is gonna be”. I pretend to have not heard, rather ignore, thinking to myself, “it better be good. After all that micro-research, it has to be”.
All those apprehensions rest in peace the moment we enter the gates of Sherlock. It’s heaven up there. It is.

Cocooned within the soothing confines of Pine dotted hills, the property shares its neighborhood with a terraced farmland splashed with the greens and aroma of the seasonal cabbages.

We are received by Mr. Sanjay and Ms. Shabnam, two wonderful people who manage the property. It’s 3.15 by the time we complete the check-in. Kitchen is about to close. The three hour long journey has us aching and famished. Michael and Godwin are accommodating enough to cook us some creamy Chettinad Chicken Curry and rice after which we are escorted to the Honeymoon Suite named Gloria Scott.

Honeymoon? you ask. Well, i know, we are way past that …like, more than a decade past. But, for a five day stay laced with comfort, tranquility, spectacular views and most importantly…memories, why not?

The room is large and painted in happy warm hues. It’s adorned with the same century old furniture, sepia toned photographs of Mr. Holmes grace the walls, a walk-in wardrobe, a fireplace and an extremely spacious bathroom. That jar plonked atop the fireplace is filled and refilled with melt-in-your-mouth buttery Shrewsburry Biscuits.
Can this get more English!!!

Thaw yourself in this charming patio, dunking those buttery biscuits in your steaming hot coffee and catching up with some reading, while the bone-chilling winds blow outside.

And, when the sun comes out, go sit in your private little, flower dotted garden, breathing in the fragrant mountain air. Lend your ears to the faint birdsong that’s emerging from somewhere in the woods.

Then again, hold your breath as you witness the dark rainy clouds push the sun behind and the eerie mist comes undulating down the hills, accompanied by strong gushing winds, straight at you. Let out a terrified scream and run back to the room.

Apart from the Honeymoon Suite, there are nine other spacious rooms named after some or character the other from the Holmes diaries.

Taking a walk around the property is something you must not miss. Impeccably manicured lawns peppered with most beautiful flowers are all worthy of appreciation. Two really old uncles are the ones who pamper these babies with their tender love and care.

The kitchen prides itself in various cuisines and equally delicious food. Buffet breakfast is wholesome with South Indian fare like Idlis, Dosas, Uttappam and a touch of Continental like pancakes with maple syrup. Lunch and dinner are served a la carte with host of options to choose from.

If you wish to stay warm, there’s the Adler dining room, named after Mr. Holmes’ muse, the beautiful Irene Adler,

Then there’s the Sunroom, where you can get a little chilly while devouring your food and the stunning views of the piney peaks, both at the same time.

Evenings will never be the same once you are here. Ours were mostly in the lounge area, warming by the fireplace as soft music played on. Conversations just flowed with Sanjay, his unforgettable anecdotes, his giggles and the lip-smacking Onion Pakoras, yummy Chicken Satay and piping hot Masala Chai… unbeknownst to any of us, when the burning wood turned to ember.
Service is extraordinary, whether it’s the reception, the housekeeping or the cheerful kitchen team. It was incredibly kind of them to pack us some yummy mayonnaisey sandwiches at 7 in the morning for our journey back to the airport.

After all this in-house pampering, when you decide on going about Ooty, which you should, because it has plethora of insanely gorgeous sights to offer; dial Sanjay. He’ll help you plan your day and make all the necessary arrangements to get you going. If it wasn’t for him, our plans of doing the Mudumulai Tiger Safari would have gone for a toss.

After soaking in the stunning views of the Kamraj Lake, clicking countless pictures in the Rose Garden, sampling numerous teas and homemade chocolates, walking up the windy Doddabetta Peak and various other captivating sights, you are sure to work up an appetite for dinner. So, loosen your belts and let Adler serve you some of her most delectable dishes.
Later, ask Yuvraj to light up the fireplace in your room and sink in the warm cozy bed, looking forward to yet another wonderful Ooty day.

Sanjay, Shabnam, Marshall, Michael, Godwin, Andrew, Sabri, Yuvraj, Carlton, Thangaraj aren’t just names. They are memories we brought back home. These are real good friends we made during those five days at Sherlock…

How To Get There –
By Air: Coimbatore International Airport is about 95 kms, around 3 hours drive. Airport taxis charge fixed rate of Rs. 2500. The hotel too can arrange a pickup and drop at the same cost.

By Rail: The Udhagamandalam Railway Station is only fifteen minutes drive away. It’s linked with the major cities like New Delhi, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Chennai, Kochi, Mysore, Lucknow, Chennai, Kanyakumari, Puri, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
Autos charge Rs. 250/- from the hotel till the station. 

For bookings and other details hit:
http://www.littlearth.in/sherlock/contact.php

Arco Iris, Curtorim, South Goa

I remember coming across a similar picture of a courtyard in one of the travel magazines. I also remember how it yanked me from my chair and ricocheted me decades back, playing in my grandma’s Malvan home, with a bunch of cousins.
How I miss those days…
That picture never really left me. The longing to be there followed and kept following until I cajoled my dear husband to celebrate our anniversary in Goa. And, he instantly agreed. That’s very rare of him. May be the universe-to-your-rescue funda worked or something 😉

So, Arco Iris…
There are sounds you must like before you get here. Sounds of rustling trees, chirping avians, sounds of bow-wow, sounds of wind chimes, sounds of absolutely nothing… quietude!
Perched atop a tableland, smiling at the seasonal Zuari river is this 200 year old colonial Portuguese manor restored to an unimaginable glory.

Plonked happily on a sprawling 1.5 acres of verdant upland, Arco Iris, is located in the sleepy village of Curtorim, away from the city hustle-bustle and yet close to Margao, the capital city of South Goa.
A good 50 minutes drive from Panjim airport later, we arrive at our destination. The car halts right at the steps and down comes Feni, tottering and sashaying, along with the rest of her family; a twig in her mouth, her style of welcoming her guests.
Feni, the cutesy, roly-poly lab is the biggest highlight of the home-stay. She’s warm, social and well-mannered than most of the kids would be. Her demeanor is so infectious that she can turn even the biggest animal-intolerant to an ardent animal lover.
Here… Isn’t she adorable!
Arco Iris means ‘Rainbow’ in Spanish. Which is why the colour of the five rooms – Indigo, Orange, Violet, Yellow and Blue. We stayed in the Yellow Room.
All of these are Wi-fi enabled and spacious. Well, spacious will be an understatement.
Unobstructed sublime views of the lush greens come rushing in through the large wood-paneled windows.
One of the doors opens into the balcony.
The lobby of yore, primordial courtyard, mighty high ceilings, four poster beds, rocking chairs, antique furniture take you through the time warp to an era gone by.
Ensuite bathrooms are so spacious you can stick a DJ in one corner and turn the place into a dance floor.
Everything here is an intricate blend of traditional grandeur and modern comforts… threads of the past delicately woven into a gorgeous carpet it is today.

Mobile phones barely receive signal. But that’s exactly what we want, don’t we? Be far, far…far away from all the noise… noise of the ringtones, alarms, beeping messages, noises in our head that remind us of the cacophonous cities we live in.

Fret not if you’ve forgotten your kindle back home. This is a place that’ll spoil you with literary options. Curl up in your rocking chair, plonk down on the veranda or sunbathe on the hammock. Evoke the reader in you and keep him awake with endless cups of coffee… without making rounds of the kitchen yourself. If this ain’t your idea of perfect relaxation, don’t know what is.
Bennita, the lady of the house runs the show along with her better half, Ganesh. She’s warm, friendly, kind and very very helpful. One email before our check-in and she had everything organised… the room, pickup, two-wheeler… She’s more than happy to share her Goan anecdotes and enlighten you with stuff to do, places to eat, thus make your stay a memorable one.

Lunch and dinner are arranged with prior notice. Buffet breakfast is complimentary with a limited menu -fluffy idlis, fresh cut fruits, jam-bread-butter and tea / coffee. The super-soft, yummy cake deserves a special mention. It’s that one time of the day when and where everyone gathers before heading out to hit the sands of Goa. And it’s this time when you make new friends from across the globe 🙂
The wishing well; you wish you never grew up…
Amidst all that holiday-spa and pampering, if you ever decide to peel your slothful self out, there are hoards of activities to indulge you.
If you are adept at spotting birds, the early mornings are totally for you. Stroll in the property gardens while soaking in the morning sun. Or take a walk along the winding roads, marvel at the beautiful old houses and admire the locals going about their daily lives.
Stone’s throw away is the Zuari river. You’ll most certainly spot the kingfishers in their beautiful, bright plumage. Amble along the banks or take a cruise when the skies are painted with sunset hues that reflect off the shimmering waters.
Benaulim, Colva and other beaches are a short ride away and offer a platter full of beach activities.
Primeval churches, archaic chapels, ceremonial temples are things you just don’t want to miss. Then, there are spice plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, museums and heritage buildings that mirror the life of the Portuguese days.
The home-stay can also arrange travel packages for you.

While you are on the wheels, exploring and eating, you obviously lose the track of time. This is when the dark slowly creeps in and it’s time to head home. South Goa goes to bed early. Really early. There isn’t a soul outside, just the Google Maps to guide you home. The dark, never-ending roads illuminated by the glistening moon and very few street lights, may feel eerie, but are totally safe.

You park your scooter in a corner of the facade and are ready to take the first step when… the mighty Feni comes charging. She’s sensed an intruder who’s about to enter her home at those freaking hours of night. 10 o’clock is not really a night in cities like Mumbai, is it.
It’s only when you smile and call out her name, does she apply her brakes and starts to nudge you. She’s welcomed you home.

Members of the house are in deep slumber. Hallway lights are dimmed. Candles at the alter are still burning. The courtyard is quiet. You tip-toe into your room, rather stealthily, so no one wakes up. You dust off the sands and shower off the fatigue, craving to sink into the cozy, cuddly bed. Instead, you make your way to the veranda. Consumed by the deafening tranquility, you sit there, on those cold, red-washed steps and let your mind wander into the night, again, through those by-lanes you just returned.

Hidden Village, Shahapur, Maharashtra

The village may be magic
It may be something in between
In truth all I can tell you
What I saw, not what I mean…
It’s a village, plain and simple
In the woods, all shades of green
Unkissed, and yet so perfect
stuck in stasis, in between…

Definitely borrowed, but these beautiful lines do strike a chord with a city-slicker like me, wanting to run away, as fast as I can, from this throbbing, deafening chaos straight into the arms of the swaying, whispering woods that’ll hug me like my mother and never let me go.

Hidden Village does just that.
The rustic entrance of woody bamboos welcomes you to an earthy interior where cool breeze blows you a kiss, sun rays peer through the stubborn foliage and unusual feathered fellas happily totter away.
bamboo-entrancePeace cocoons as you stretch yourself on the porch. You are involuntarily drifted into a lull as soft music wafts from the speakers attached above your window.

If sitting idle ain’t your thing (it ain’t mine either 😛 ), then take your shoes out for a stroll across the property that spans four acres of luscious greenery. After driving through the sizzling hot and arid highway for almost an hour and a half, you realize, this place has created its own microclimate that does everything to alleviate your senses.

Walk over the bamboo bridge that stands above the perennially flowing stream. A family of ducks waddles through, frequently bobbing down to catch their feed.
stream

Dunk your feet in its coolest waters and you feel something tickle below. These are the teeny-tiny fish that do the harmless nibbling, giving you a pedicure of sorts.

To the other end of the bridge, a cutesy waterfall plunges into a small pond.
waterfall

Ever been in a swimming pool that’s infused daily with fresh waters of the stream?
swimming-pool

Farm animals are mighty pampered here.
Like them…
turkeys

And her…
henAnd them…
hamsters

When your feet are weary of wandering, head for lunch that awaits in the dining area. You dine among coolness of terracotta roof and muddied floor, while the feathery wonders scurry around, least bothered by your presence. Timings are set and so are the meals.
dining-areaThis isn’t a foodie destination, mind you. So expect basic yet delectable home-style veg and non-veg meals. It’s a buffet of crispy fried fish, egg curry, chicken curry, veggies, rice, chapattis, and salad. Wash these down with a glass of ice-cold Chaas (buttermilk). Finally, end your meal with yummy hot Gajar or Dudhi Halwa. Breakfast, too, is a traditional affair with poha, upma, puri bhaji, egg bhurji and steaming hot tea.
Ingredients are freshly sourced from the nearby village. Humble and unpretentious, they are prepared by the loving locals who work on the property, thus making the food hearty and comforting.

When your tummy surrenders and you can barely keep your eyes open, go sink into the soft, cozy bed that beckons you. Our Fern Villa is painted with happy hues and exudes an old wold charm.
fern-villa-1It’s equipped with all the modern amenities – large LED TV, DVD player, split A/C, tea/coffee maker and a bottle cooler fridge, are all at your service. What really deserves a mention is the bathroom. It’s huge, never-seen-before spacious with a glass shower area and a twin tub.
fern-villa-2A private sit-out…
sitout

Don’t forget to set your alarm to 4.30. Sun somehow seems to have his own timings with villages. A twenty minutes walk back hills, through the tall grassy fields and a dried stream and you are in for a treat.
villagersThe pristine lake is captivating. Its placid waters shimmering with rays of the dissipating sun look perfect against the backdrop of rolling green hills. No one has ventured out here. Not a soul. Silence is palpable. All of these lend a perfect aura to satiate us suburbanites craving for a piece of tranquility. Just when you realize, you haven’t had enough of this serene panorama, it’s time to head back before it turns dark. Dark here means 6.15.
lake

Return home to hoards of activities that’ll keep you occupied and have you famished until dinner. Play area for adults is equipped with pool table, table tennis, carom boards and hand soccer.
play-areaThere’s plenty to keep the kids entertained too. Swings, see-saw, slides and merry-go-round , all will keep your tiny ones pretty occupied. There is also a small ground for team sports like cricket, badminton, Volleyball and other groupies.

Lounge on one of these under the dim light of dangling oil lamps and let the conversations flow, before calling it a night.
cot

Rise early, tear yourself from under the warm quilts and take a walk around. The village mornings are not to be missed. Lend your ears to the avians’ chirping merrily, feel the echoing tranquility and sniff that rustic village air before heading for a hearty breakfast of delicious, savory Poha and steaming hot tea.

On the day of check-in, I’d come across a booklet lying at the reception. It’s like leafing through the autobiography of this place – into its past, journey until now and plans for future. I couldn’t resist myself from taking a pic of this very page that’s sure to blow your mind off.
history

It’s incredible how Mr. Tony Dsouza, coming from one of the insignificant pockets of Mumbai, buys a piece of land, waves his magic wand and turns a barren terrain into something this phenomenal. You can feel his efforts breathing in every corner, every brick of his creation. This place has not just given us city-folks a countryside to go back to, but has also generated employment to significant number of villagers living there. Speaking to them, you realize how much they own this place, how happy and proud they are to be here working, providing for their families and having an identity of their own.
woman
Hidden Village is a trip down the memory lane, where you wish time just froze so you relive those moments of childhood, when buffaloes din’t feel smelly and cellphones were unheard of. You won’t be surprised if, on the day of check-out, you find yourself sitting at the reception, urging the sweet and warm, Mr. Claude Pinto, to extend your stay.

P.S.: Their website, http://hiddenvillage.in/ has all the details you need to know – the rates, booking, location, directions, meals, etc.
Click on the FAQ section and you feel as if someone just read your mind.

Tudor Retreat, Khopoli

Breakfast swinging by the lake, morning stroll breathing in that fresh fresh village air, losing yourself in the vignette of the sun going down behind the hills and the silence interrupted by just the sound of your swing….sounds surreal. But a weekend at Tudor Retreat and you’ll know how desperately you needed this bucolic and tranquil interlude.
SunsetLali along with her pups leads your way as you take a morning stroll.
MorningWonder how many monsoons this big guy has seen. Takes me back to the summer vacations spent in my native, Malvan, when my granny would take us kids to collect mangoes, cashews and tamarind.
The oakTudor Retreat is in Khopoli, a quaint little town perched in the lap of the Sahyadris. I’d been to this place years ago. Things haven’t changed much, except for the additional couple of cottages. Maitre D, Mrs. Khan, a septuagenarian toughie runs the show. From booking to checkout, she manages everything. Woah!
EntranceIntersecting the limpid waters to one side and hills abutting the other, this place is crazily elusive and awefully quiet. Silence is palpable, punctuated by the frequent chirps of egrets or just the rustling of dry weathered leaves.
Lake view
Accommodation:
The resort is more like a BnB. There are cottages for couples, honeymooners and big groups. Lake-view Cottage: The room is basic. By basic, I mean real basic. Take a look.
RoomWho needs entertainment when you have sunbathing snakes and gorgeous kingfishers for company. Look at this guy, sticking his head out and about to writhe in. He so righteously has all the lake to himself.
Snake

The room opens to a seperate dining area peering straight into the lake. There are couple of swings in here too.
Dining tableThere’s one more right outside the room and a fence away from the lake. I could swing for hours, unperturbed, with no company – books, laptop, cell or humans… all by myself… Sorry Oniel, not even you 😛
There’s also a machan-like structure atop this room. Bingo!!!

Honeymoon Cottage: No lake view here. It has its own perks though – privacy and peace. Its away from the cottages that are rented out to bigger groups.
One look from the outside and it ricochets  you to those cutesy traditional houses in Goa and Malvan.
Honeymoon Cottage

Food: Wholesome, homemade and delectable. Ingredients are sourced freshly from a nearby market. You have to message Mrs. Khan your meal preference, a day prior to check-in.
Breakfast is replete with nutty poha or upma, bread-butter-jam, omlette, biscuits, fresh cut fruits, tea/coffee.
BreakfastGorge on the ghee soaked chapatis, lip-smacking spicy chicken, steamed rice, daal and gajar halwa for lunch.
LunchHow about some crispy Pakodas and piping hot coffee…by the lake…watching the sun go down…
SnacksEnd your day with yummy chicken biryani and fish curry for dinner.
Dinner

Amenities:
Ample parking space, hot water throughout the day and room service.
Carrom and table tennis keep you entertained indoors.
Dining: Eat in your room or dine here in the open.
DiningGarden: Keep your little ones occupied in the manicured lawn dotted with swings, slides and see-saws.
GardenTake a walk within the property hemmed by the beautiful bougainvilleas or just lounge by the lake… you have the time of the world to get lost in each other’s company.
Walk through

Service:
Yogesh, the care-taker will leave you his cell and kitchen land-phone numbers. Dial up whenever you need anything and you are attended to in a short while. There is no intercom facility here.
I really wish, Mrs. Khan had invested in service-training her staff. There’s no room service in the morning, unless you ask for it. Wonder when the upholstery and bed linen had a last wash.
Rooms and furniture need maintenance.
Tariff: Rs. 3000 a night, 12 hours precisely, including all meals.
Shout-out to Mrs. Khan at +91 9821026639 for bookings.

Commuting:
Address: Taluka Khalapur, Off Old Mumbai-Pune Highway, Karjat-Khopoli, Kalote Mokashi, Maharashtra – 410202.
Directions: The place is around 70 kms from Mumbai, i.e. roughly 3 hours drive.
Put your Google Maps on to Khopoli. After taking the exit to Khopoli, ask the map or the villagers for Nishiland Water Park (it no more exits, but serves as a landmark).
Remember, there are no signboards that’ll come to your rescue. So keep an eye for these pointers:
1.There are couple of petrol pumps on the way. Ask the locals for lake Kalote or village Mokashi.
2.25 kms drive later, keep looking for a huge aeroplane mascot to your left. There’s an elusive little left turn adjacent to it.
3.Once you achieve this feat, buzz Mrs. Khan and she’ll guide you till your destination. The road ahead is villagy, rustic and fun.

Go here. Chances are you’ll end up cancelling your drive back to this crazy city pandemonium and spending your Monday blues swinging away besides the serene, beckoning lake.

Tullahmore Estate, Mussoorie

“Oh my gosh! Is that the Himalayas out there? Yeah that’s the Himalayas. Yaayyyyy we can see the Himalayas from our windoooowwww!”…I shrieked and leapt as I opened our window to let the morning sun inside our freezing room.
Himalayas1

Tullahmore Estate is a century old colonial bungalow. The earlier version of it belonged to the British and has now been renovated to its grandeur.
Tullahmore2

Photographs of its Brit avatar along with its renovated counterpart adorn the walls of the reception.

Reception

Tullahmore is located on a mound, offering pristine views of the Himalayan range and alluring scenic locales.
Pine view

The weather here caught us totally off-guard. Being the second week of March, we’d packed just the light woolens… while Mussoorie was freezing with temperatures dipping down to 8 degrees.

Accommodation – Tullahmore Estate is a B&B property with 10 eco-friendly rooms doting the bungalow. We stayed in the Hill View room. Pale warm colors, vintage lamps, wooden furniture, flooring and high shingled roof, all blend well with the beautiful scenic outdoors.

The main door opens to a spacious bright living room.
Living Area

This in turn opens to two balconies offering the most blissful views there can ever be. Imagine sipping a cuppa while the mountain winds start to nip and nudge you. Or doing the morning yoga in those serene environs  while the towering Deodar trees coyly watch over.
If being by yourself aint your thing, there are monkeys for company. They are happy to be the uninvited guests, so keep the doors and windows closed if you ain’t around.
Balcony

The bedroom is replete with LCD Tv, heater, intercom, tea/coffee maker and wardrobe (with extra pillows and bed sheets).

Bed

Dining – There’s a spacious dining room on the ground floor with great view of the garden. Mr. Bhagwat is an amazing chef and cooks delectable home-made food. While breakfast is included in the package, lunch and dinner cost Rs. 500 per person respectively. Staff needs to be informed in advance if you choose to dine in, as the ingredients are sourced freshly from the nearby market.
Dining

Breakfast is wholesome with yummy buttered Aalo Parathas, Omlettes, toasted bread, freshly cut fruits, tea and coffee.
Breakfast

Steaming hot soup is brought to the room before dinner. Nice to keep you warm in that nippy, wintery evening outside.
We absolutely devoured the Jeera Aalo, Chicken Curry and Mutton (Bhagwat’s signature dish and a highly recommended one too) for dinner in the warmth of our room.
Dinner

Amenities – The property offers ample parking space and free pick-up and drop to the Mall Road and Taxi stand.
In-house activities include pool table, carrom, table tennis and badminton. Wanna lace up your adventurous shoes? There’s mountain biking on the menu.
Table Tennis:
Tennis

Pool Table:
PoolTable

Else, just amble in the garden trying to grab that little warmth before the sun gets in the mood to play a peek-a-boo.

Garden
Service – There are around 4-5 people that run the entire show which is helmed by Mr. Rakesh Rawat, the Manager. He’s been of immense help right from the first call I’d made to him. He is pleasant, approachable and always kind to go out of his way to help.
Everyone here is a multi-tasker. Bhagwat is a Chef, always smiling and also mans the reception in Rakesh’s absence. So does his kitchen-assistant. Its amazing how these guys share their duties.
So whenever you dial a 9, there’s always someone to help you.
Sanjay, the driver ferries you to and from the Mall Road at your beck and call. Knowing about my heart disorder, he went that extra mile to stay back late in the hotel in order to pick us up. These guys are truely gentle, generous and genuine!

How To Get There –
By Air: Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun is 60 kms. Taxis ply regularly at a fixed rate of Rs. 1500.

By Rail: Dehradun railway station is around 37 kms from here . Superfast trains like Mussoorie Express and Nandadevi Express reach you overnight from Delhi. There’s a taxi stand just outside the station. Rate is fixed at Rs. 700.

By Bus: There are regular buses from Dehradun to Mussoorie and also from various metros and tourist places in Uttarakhand and also from outside the state.

Holidays come to an end, but its the memories that last forever. How heavy your heart feels while bidding Tullahmore a goodbye is all that you’ve experienced and imbibed here. Its a place that bonds you with each other, its people and with nature…

La Petit Maison, Lonavla

Caution! This page is loaded with irresistible pictures that can entice you to pack your bags and head off to Lonavla the immediate week-end.
Gosh! This place is infectious!

La Petit Maison, as different as it sounds, is a dainty bungalow clandestined on the slopes in the picturesque location of Lonavla. The exteriors are guaranteed to get you ricocheting into the black and white days when the fairy-tale movies ruled our hearts and our summer vacays.

The rustic, old-style iron gate opens to this world of bliss and tranquility, the bright bougainvilleas festooning the already divine environs.
The Bungalow
The wrought iron swirling staircase in this picture is redolent of Rapunzel peeping out of her window. This actually opens into the kitchen.
Stars
Accommodation – We booked the Glass Room (Rs. 3800 per night) where the walls are made of glass and the view is breathtaking. The room is big enough to accommodate 3 people. Extra bed is chargeable.
Glass Room
Mirror mirror on the wall – The middle one actually slides open to the toilet.Table
The view – Isn’t that relaxing…
Room View
Toilet – Big vintage mirror adorning the cobblestoned wall and a glass bath cabin. Everything so tastefully done! There’s hot and cold water throughout the day. The bath products, you need to carry.

Glass toilet
Dining – The bungalow has a common dining area. The caretakers, Mr. Dagdu and his wife live in a petite out-house along with their little girl and are here whole day.
Breakfast menu is fixed – poha / upma / omlette, toasted bread, butter and jam and a cup of tea/coffee.
Although there are many dining options outside, Mrs. Dagdu can cook you a homemade meal (veg or non-veg) if you wish. But that comes at a cost. Rs. 50 per head as the cooking charges. Ingredients – you can either buy all the essentials on your own, or pay Rs. 150 as autofare and Dagdu will source them for you, the cost of which you have to pay later.
We dined out.
Dining
Oh the sopophoric Verandah! – Just sit down, soak in the sun and do your best at doing nothing at all…or may be just sip a cuppa and let the nature take over you.
Verandah
Garden – Give your weary feet a chance to meditate. Toss away those shoes for a therapeutic walk on the greens while the birds sing for you. Can anything be more relaxing!
Garden

The Bungalow has two other rooms which are also rented out. But this weekend we were lucky to have the entire place to ourselves. No other guests had checked in.

Lounge Room – The main door opens to a huge lounge room, equipped with old-style wooden furniture, sofas and a television. The paintings adorning the walls ooze the warmth of the bygone era. I specially loved the one of the villagers dating back to 17th century…the days when Konkan was spelled as Concan.
Living Room
Suite Rooms – Two suites (each Rs. 5000 per night) are located inside the main part of the bungalow and can easily accommodate 3 – 4 people.
Each of them is tastefully done with light pastel colours, matching upholstery and vintage furniture. Both are connected to the lounge, kitchen and balcony.

Suite 1 –
Room2
Bath2
Suite 2 –

Room3

Bath3
Amenities – Ample parking space, 24 hours hot water, garden, kitchen, common television (only in the lounge room), in-house library, care taker at your service.

Commuting – The resort being tucked in the interior and at a considerable distance from the main road, its good to have your own vehicle for commuting. Auto-rickshaws are another option.
Market is just a couple of kilometres away.

My Say – Adults, specially couples, will love the place. It offers all that you need to unwind and rejuvenate – peace and tranquility amidst nature.
There’s too little for children to do here.

We enjoyed the silent weekend before heading back to the cacophonous city for another busy week.
(http://www.lapetitemaisonlonavala.com)