A Drive, A Walk and A Dip

Let’s kick the year off with an out and out WINTER DESTINATION. I’m itching to re-unite with all of you and share wonderful glimpses of my trips. I took a brief hiatus as I was enjoying a beautiful phase of my life. A personal promotion if I may say so (but that’s a story for another day, maybe someday!)

Last month a video of the very dashing English football captain, Harry Kane, diving face first into powder-white snow and then jumping back into the warmth of a hot-tub was doing rounds all over the net. That’s how I would imagine one enjoys the Finnish Lapland in the dead of winter. “I imagine” being the key words.

Little did I know…

 

The Drive

“Could you sleep on papa’s shoulder just for a bit?”

 She turns her head and voila! back to sleeping.

A solid nap later…

“Hey guys wake up, we’ve reached the Dhaba,” announced my husband.

“I’m famished!” exclaimed my son.

“Ditto,” I agreed.

After horsing down Paneer-Kulchas and Paneer-Pakoras and sweet lassi, we continued on our drive to Shimla, which we had started from Chandigarh. Two and a half hours and a few more broken naps enhanced by amazing music and a generally pleasant drive later…

“Mom is that stall selling Maggi?”

“Where?”

“Can we stop please?”

“Look another one” she pointed again.

High up in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, by a tiny thatched stall on a narrow winding road we enjoyed the most delicious street-food, Maggi and Masala Chai.

The sun was setting as we entered our hotel.

“This looks like a movie set.”

“Wow! It’s unreal. “

“Welcome to the Wildflower Hall.”

In the night sky the hotel looked like an over-sized ginger-bread house which was covered in fresh snow. It’s foregrounds like a white carpet, dotted with tall trees and lit up by soft lamps. It looked like a scene straight out of ‘Country Living :Winter Edition’.

We knew it had snowed in the area, but we hadn’t anticipated actually living in snow. Our windowpanes were thickly frosted, the brown roof almost completely white, the fire crackling in our suite warmed our hearts and added a hint of drama to our already beautiful evening.

 

The Walk

If the night was so stunningly gorgeous, I couldn’t wait to see the snow in daylight.

It was another level of magic.

“It’s a short trail, mildly inclined.” Informed my husband.

“Let’s go and take all the beauty in.”

“Are you sure? We could just walk around in the front courtyard.”

“That’s pretty too, but let’s go on this small adventure,” I nudged.

Fully bundled and booted up, we walked to the outer periphery behind the hotel. The four of us trudged along in a single file stepping on the exact footprints of some braveheart, who had walked on the fresh snow before us that morning. Full of excitement, I initially didn’t notice the steep slope on our right past the first bend.

“A little ahead on the ridge we’ll be able to see both sides of the valley, try not looking down till then,” called out my husband, sensing my unease.

The view from the ridge at the end of the trail was sublime. Thick snow glistening in the morning sun, pristine slopes, clear blue skies, a tiny peak of colorful homes nestled on the mountains on the opposite side, the soothing sounds of nature. We were speechless…and immobile! We just stood there for a long time, taking it all in, awestruck by the beauty.

“I’ll take the lead back, just let me turn and pass by all of you,” announced my husband.

“Where’s the space to pass by?” I objected, balancing precariously on the icy snow.

“Keep standing and just breathe,” he comforted me.

If I thought getting to the ridge was tough, I had it coming on the return. Balancing downhill on a slippery path was far more challenging. Thank God for our sturdy boots. All of a sudden, WHOOSH! Slid my daughter and sat down abruptly. Her blue jeans leaving an indigo dye on the cloud-like white snow. My legs froze and I felt my sugar drop.

“I’ll help you up, don’t worry you’re ok. “

“You can do it, we’re not that far from the hotel.” Urged both men.

Breathing in…we treaded ahead lightly.

On our return, exhilarated with the feeling of conquering the trail, we made snow angels, clicked a thousand pictures and had a great (nervous) laugh.

The Dip

After the snow, the highlight [and much needed after our adrenaline pumping walk] for me was the hotel’s outdoor Jacuzzi. Perched on the lush white slopes, situated outside the indoor-heated pool area, the hot-tub beckoned us. We dashed from the glass door leaving the warmth of the indoors, the cold air biting us as we submerged ourselves into the steaming hot water.

“This is divine!”

“Doesn’t get better than this”

“It’s snowing!” Gushed my daughter, opening her arms, and facing heavenward.

“Apparently it does around here.” I smiled.

“Wow, what luck!”

We were witnessing the best of both – Mankind and God. The oh so hot water of the man-made jacuzzi while Bollywood’s greatest serenaded us on my son’s speakers, and the majesty of the Himalayas, while the heavens sent those marshmallow like white flakes onto our heads. I didn’t know whether I should close my eyes and feel the alignment through nature with God, or open my eyes and take in the view of the snow-capped mountains and valleys while I dipped in hot water.

I did both.

What we also did, was dive into the snow, ‘Harry Kane’ style and then jump back into the jacuzzi! Many times.     

Picture and Video Credit: Self

Welcome to St. Tropez

 

 

I think it’s time for some glamour, some flair, something out of a movie fantasy. What do you say?

Let’s kick off with St. Tropez! Does it fit the bill?

Our group of five couples landed in Nice on a beautiful summer morning. We had been told to pack for a week, to bring with us resort-wear and party-wear, heels, flip-flops and loafers, hats and sunglasses, play lists and fun stories.  The rest was a surprise for us.

“Where do you think we’re off to?” a near shriek from my excited friend, as we rolled out from the airport in over-sized luxury vans.

“I’m guessing the French Riviera.”

“Monaco!” gushed my other friend.

All this while our darling host sat smiling across from us. Rather quickly, our cars entered a small compound and halted in front of two gleaming choppers. Our doors slid open and a host with dark Ray-Bans greeted and ushured us onto the waiting choppers.

The combined energy of our excitement was probably enough to propel the helicopters as we took off and our Captain explained to us the scenic route that we would take to reach our destination -‘St. Tropez’. And so we started our magical trip in true 007 style. We flew over the gorgeous coast-line oohing and aahing en-route St. Tropez.

Our first stop was the magnificent view and refreshments at ‘Hotel Villa Belle Rose’ which is set atop a hill that overlooks all of St.Tropez. We then strolled around the port enjoying gelatos from the world-renowned ‘Barbarac’, clicking pictures of the luxury yachts that bobbed up and down putting up a spectacular show for us.

One moment we were debating on whose gelato flavor was the best and the next moment we were being whisked onto small speed-boats (called tender rides) as we glided into the turquoise waters.

My love for travel is familiar to you all by now, and I’m always awestruck by the beauty, the diversity, and the energy that the world has to offer. But believe me when I say this, that a collective jaw-drop would have made for a fine picture as we reached our ‘surprise’. I was and still am a little tongue-tied about it. We were welcomed like royalty by a staff of around twenty, queued up to greet us aboard ‘Numptia’, a luxury super yacht (70 meters and 5 floors). This was way bigger and shinier than any that we had clicked pictures with, just a few moments ago.

That feeling of WOW will never leave me. Standing aboard this disarming beauty with the cool sea-breeze in my hair, the bluest water all around, the picturesque port of St. Tropez on one side and a cloudless horizon on the other, I was astounded. It was a magic so pure that even a gifted writer couldn’t have imagined it. The spark of joy that conjured up within me was simply blissful.

“Let me give you a trip around your home for the coming week,” announced our Captain with obvious pride in his voice.

The spangly ‘Numptia’ consisted of the main deck, the sun-deck, a formal living area, an informal indoor sitting area with karaoke, games and more. A formal dining room, an outdoor dining area, many lounge seatings around the decks, a pool and jacuzzi on the top floor, a gym, a steam room, a beauty salon,  endless water-sports equipment (or ‘toys’ as our Captain liked to call them) like jet skies, banana boats and sea-bobs, and our beautifully decorated bedrooms of course. All of this, just for the 10 of us to enjoy.

“Did you see the control room or cockpit?” asked one of the guys.

“The controls and displays look super sophisticated and high-tech, just like a sci-fi movie.”

“Hey guys, look ahead… the ‘Titanic’ pose is underway.”

All eyes turned towards the front followed by peals of laughter, but I know it couldn’t be helped. This was all too stunning, just like a movie, except that it was for real, and we were living it. To our delight, our luggage was unpacked for us by the extremely caring and meticulous staff.  Our clothes were ironed and hung, our shoes and bags assembled, even before we finished our tour of the boat and reached our rooms. This was some serious pampering.

That day we had lunch at the world famous ‘Club 55’. The beach, music and crowd there were amazing. Dancing and merry conversations were the order of the day.

“Are these real vegetables?” Inquired my darling husband, looking at the assortment of baby vegetables served before us.

“The display does kind of trick you, but here…. you can eat these.” Offered one of our friends as she nibbled on a baby fennel leaf.

To this day my husband recounts the names of the baby veggies that he had tried there for the first time.

We then moved onto the swanky, chilled out ‘Nikki Beach’.  Dinner that night was at ‘Villa Romania’. Just as the name suggests this place had the aura of  a roman villa, replete with marble sculptures, green vines, lush floral displays and a fun vibe. The music here was sublime. Desserts were devoured with some dancing at ‘Babylon’ and then to top it all off was perhaps one of the best party scenes in St. Tropez at ‘Spoon’.  As luck would have it, Europe’s top DJ was in the house that night and he truly ‘welcomed us to St. Tropez’ at this wild party.

Hours later, “Should we head home?”

“Aren’t you ladies tired?”

“We should definitely get back on board. But fatigue has nothing to do with it.”

“Is everything okay?”  All eyes were on me now.

“Yes, Yes, all good. It’s just that the stars are expecting us. I hear they too have put up a great show for us. And the viewing tonight as we lift anchor is from the top deck.”

picture credit; self