Just a one-hour drive from Kathgadom Station or eight-hour bakery from Delhi brings you to the sloping village of Gagar. Greeted by the mild-mannered housekeeper Mohan, who will grab your bags and whisk you away to your new home for the next few days. This two-bed cottage, with views of the foothills of the Himalayas, and on a clear morning the Nanda Devis. An idyllic home away from home. Owners, Aparupa and Abhijit have decorated it as though it were their own private home (and they do come and stay here as often as life allows)! Feature walls of framed Rajasthani artwork paired with old family photos create an eclectic and lived in feel. The living room, dominated by a large, stone, open-fireplace is the definition of homely. While away an evening with a good book (of which you’ll find plenty around the house) in front of the log fire.
Both of the bedrooms are cosy with soft white linens and proper feather down duvets. The beds might be regular doubles but you’ll sleep like a Queen. Colourful cushions and wool dhurries add a pop of colour whilst antique writing desks double as bedside tables. Bathrooms are simple (it’s a bucket shower affair) but the hot water flows. You’ll find an electric heater in your room for those chilly evenings (once you manage to tear yourself away from the fire). An all-inclusive property, this is a place where friends and family (and well-behaved dogs) are meant to come and congregate. There is no Wi-Fi, however, there is a television, but the whole point is about spending quality time over a heated game of Rummikub.
Meals are cooked by your housekeeper Mohan: daal, rice, steaming hot chapatis, as well as home-style butter chicken, and seasonal vegetable preparations. For breakfast eggs to order with brown toast with local jams. A constant flow of masala chai is on hand, just let them know what time you’d like your bed tea for the morning.
Great walking routes right from your front door, the forest trail will get your legs walking and the blood pumping or make the day trip to the Talla Ramgarh river. Bhimtal and Nainital are also just a short drive away, should you wish to explore further afield. A writer’s retreat, a dog-lover’s holiday, or an escape from the city, The White Peak’s is a breath of fresh air.
A world away from the frenetic Pink City and Jaipur’s modern metro city, The Tree Of Life exists in its own micro-climate of peace and tranquility. With a focus on Ayurveda, each of the rooms are named after a different tree, and their decor reflects its colour. We stayed in the Champa Villa, adorned from floor to ceiling with fuschia pink and splashes of lime green – synonymous with the shrub that shares its name. Whilst the decor borrows from traditional Rajasthani designs, especially in its vibrant colour palettes, interiors avoid the usual cliches. The private pool and in room spa area, plus indoor and outdoor showers and an outdoor bath are the height of romance.
In fact this property is made for couples. Even fully booked (which it is most weekends) you will barely see another soul. For making the forty minute drive outside of Jaipur guests are rewarded with complete privacy. Dinner can be arranged in room, a candle lit affair by the pool or a private setting at the sunset lookout. Whether in-room or at the spa, couples therapies are available. The Aravali bath, a rose petal filled affair with fragrant oils is an indulgent experience.
As with all Tree of Life properties, the food is superb. Chef will consult on a daily basis what you would like for dinner and create a menu tailored to you. The food, both Western and Indian, is superb, with many of the vegetables coming from the on site organic vegetable garden, and as much sourced locally and in-season.
Yoga and meditation are available in the ‘Ganesh Abode’ as well as guided village and nature walks. Plus you are only twenty minutes from Jaipur’s most famous (and must visit) attraction: Amer Fort. An utterly relaxing escape on the outskirts of a frenetic city.
Great for: A relaxing couples retreat. You can still tick all the Jaipur tourist boxes, Amer Fort is only twenty minutes drive and ‘The Pink City’ is a further twenty.
Best time to go: Between October – March is the best time to visit Jaipur, though it can be quite magical during the monsoon. Expect it to be chilly in the evening between December and January. In January the city plays host to The Jaipur Literary Festival, which sees literati from across the world descend upon Diggi Palace. A must visit for bookworms and Indophiles.
This day could not get any worse, I mused mid-way through my ‘wild-wee’. I was meant to be lounging by the infinity pool in the mid-day heat of the Karnatakan sun; instead I was squatting in a field with a pair of bovine beauties giving me the eye. Our car had broken down, five hours into our six hour drive; or, as I am still convinced had run out of petrol.
Making friends on the road
In a Howard Beale moment of “I’m not going to take this anymore!” R and I had booked two tickets to GetMeTheHellOuttaHere, located some 1400 miles from the torturous Delhi summer. Less than 12 hours later we arrived in the ‘Garden City’ of India, Bangalore, before driving onwards to Coorg. Famed for its beautiful people and aromatic coffee (two of my favourite things) and its temperate climate it seemed like the perfect place to escape to. Until the break down. Long weekend slowly slipping away both the repair party and our emergency hotel pick up arrived at the same time. Naturally. We waved a quick goodbye to our new four-legged friends before the convoy set off for the Vivanta by Taj, Coorg.
Pool with a view
Now, I am not one of those people who never leaves the resort but at the Taj’s property in Coorg you just don’t feel you can. With a list of activities from nature walks, cycling and even pottery (yeah, I made an ashtray!) it really is a impossible to leave the beautiful surroundings. In fact that is what the property is all about – the views. Built into a hillcrest every area, from the reception, to the pool, to the lift(!) makes the most of its stunning vistas.
Reception with a view
Everything with a view
And there is the spa. Not content with yoga by the poolside every morning we made more trips than necessary. Taj properties are known for their excellent JIVA spas and with an on sight Ayruvedic doctor and this for an entrance, the one at Coorg is certainly one of the best.
Hoping this is not the disabled entrance
In fact the only time we did leave the property was on our way to the airport to buy coffee, for which the area is famous. About 3 kilos worth, enough to satiate even a caffeine addict like my self’s habit. Unfortunately there were no beautiful men to be purchased. In fact, one almost unwinds too much after a weekend spent here, resulting in us (accidentally on purpose) missing our flight and spending an extra night. Now, if that is not testament to a property’s perfection then I don’t know what is.