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?”


“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




SPLASH! Into the refreshing, cleaner than expected, cool water of the Ganges on the banks of Bithoor, Kanpur.

“Here we come!”

“Slow down, the last steps are slimy.”

“Careful kids!”


It is said that a dip in this holy river rids one of their sins.  I’m sure that dips and salutations offered by the whole family (all 3 of the generations) together must definitely count for bonus points up there!

“Girls, the gated stairwell is ready for you to change,” hollered my brother.

“Round up girls, let’s go in, in twos.”

“Mom!!! these stairs lead up to an open-air courtyard!!” squealed my daughter.

Well, that was that.  On the rugged ghats of Bithoor, also the home of Lord Brahma’s (the creator of the world) temple, on a balmy April day we offered prayers to mother Ganga and enjoyed the cool dip. It was a very serene setting this, the banks had a very rustic charm.  Although the hullabaloo of people was there, it wasn’t as crowded or noisy as the usual Indian religious cities. The river was set off with lush trees on both sides, colorful homes with heavy wooden doors and thick brass links, and of course the huge steps on the banks which lead into the river. It felt more like a picnic than a pilgrimage. And to top it all off, the one announcement that all of us had been waiting for all morning . . . “The Papdi with aloo saag and hot jalebis with dahi are here!”




“Slow down, don’t fall!”

“Watch out for the rocks and pebbles beneath.”

Those warnings were a blur, as the brilliant blue-green water sparkling almost to gem-stone perfection beckoned me. SPLASH!

Well, the star cast for this adventure was the same as it had been two summers ago in Bithoor.  The location however was a world apart.  What?. . . it really was.

Did you think that this lot of 15 went only on pilgrimages?  This trip was anything but.  However, ensconced in all directions by the eye-catching beauty of Mykonos Island, I did say a quick thank you looking up at the powder blue and candy fluff sky.  The beach club at Super Paradise seemed straight out of a travel show.  The weather was just perfect for a fun day at the beach. The music was amping up with every song, the crowd had a very chilled out and groovy vibe.  People were enjoying everything, from swimming to dancing to napping away any thought, that might intrude on this splendid setting.

“Where’s Mom, she’ll love this water!” I shouted in the direction of my sister.

“Still recovering somewhere from the car ride here, either that or the party and the lightly clad revellers are too hot for her, ” she laughed, winking at me, while building a not so perfect sand castle with our nephew.

“We have the 3 best drivers money can’t buy, what’s to worry?”

“I think that it was the steep incline.”

“I think that our beloved chauffeurs actually saved the day.”

“Did some one just call me a chauffeur?” asked my brother feigning hurt.

Mykonos is a gorgeous Greek Island surrounded by the Aegean blue of the Aegean Sea.  The snow-white buildings adorned with sprinkles of magenta bougainvillea and colorful shutters line the meandering streets. Most of the pretty town looks fake, almost like a movie set, but then the fresh aromas wafting from a local bakery or a peep from a grandma, drying her clothes on a brightly colored balcony reminds one that these strawberries and cream huddles are very much real.  The cobbled streets of old town and the colorful shops and cafes of Matoyianni Street are fun to explore.  The famed white Mykonos Windmills, which are perched on a rocky landscape are every bit as picture-worthy as they are known to be.

Most of the roads however are steep slopes, many seemingly with almost 60-degree inclines. That’s where our tiny zip cars (3 of them as we were 15 of us) needed a lot of tenacity and skill from our drivers, our doting men of the family.

“We should probably start packing up.”

“Maa, the party is just starting!” I pointed out.

“Exactly! The kids are here too and it’s a very colorful beach!”

This ignited peels of laughter from all of us, Dad in particular, “If they can chill in the Ganges with me, they can and will enjoy in Mykonos with me.”

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pictures courtesy; 123rf.com, viator.com, mykonosyellow.com

Wait! Where Did The Water Go?


“Do you work for Microsoft?”

Turning around I smiled at the red-cheeked old lady.

“Me? Nah.”

“My apologies for assuming, it was your bags.  I thought you were returning home.”

I could feel, more than see the rolling of my husband’s eyes.

“We don’t travel light, do we? We are here just for a short holiday actually.” I replied smiling at her angelic face.

That really shocked her.  Taking our bags off the belt, we left, bidding the plump, rosy, old lady a farewell.

It hit me later that our being an Indian family must have sparked the thought in her.  After all, Seattle is the hub for Microsoft (where we Indians tend to thrive) and is not really known as a vacation hot-spot.

But our quest for the perfect waterfront  log-cabin had brought us all the way here.

Now on interstate 5, our family of five, was on our way to our travel destination, Alderbrook.

“That’s Mount Rainier, guys!”.


“The snow cap looks manufactured”

“Slow down, I’m trying to click a picture.”

“Argh! My lemonade spilt!”

And so it continued. The rest of our one and half our drive was enjoyable.  Great music, chitchatting, munching on goodies and the picturesque scenery kept us merry….and before we knew it, we were heading into the drive-way of the Alderbrook resort.  Lush greenery followed by a huge log-cabin/cottage welcomed us.  It’s rustic charm and warm ambience soothed our jet-lag.  Two furry, fluffy cats lazed on the rugs by the fire-place opposite the reception area. Instantly, I found myself in need of a warm blanket and a nap.  My longing must have reflected on my face, because the sweet receptionist approached me, “That’s Alder and that’s Brooke.”

“They look so relaxed, all they need is a book and hot chocolate.”  I joked.

Smiling, she said, “Let me show you to your cottage, I’m sure you’ll find it to your liking.”

On one side of the water-front property were the rooms and suites surrounding the pool area. The golf course was situated at the mountain top, the lush green lawns overlooked the cinematic view. Rabbits hoped across as we walked through the beautiful gardens towards our cottage. Our three-bedroom private cottage sat at the corner, on the board-walk.  It was a beautiful sight.  City life seemed like a faraway thing for now. Our charming cottage had a porch with a swing, a living area with a fire-place (in which already bloomed a crackling fire) and best of all, a small library.  All the ingredients for a perfect relaxing get-away!  Throws, pillows and rugs were scattered thoughtfully all over, inviting as well as enticing us for a nap, a read, a cuddle.

There was just one thing playing on my mind; how to keep my youngest from falling off the porch and into the water.

“Welcome to your home for the next few days, we are at your service should you need anything,” offered the Receptionist.

All I remember after that was testing the over-sized recliner in the living room and sinking into its soothing softness. I sighed in bliss and closed my eyes for just a second.

I woke up to the sound of loud chirping.  From my vantage point, through the window, I could see the morning rise over the lake, centuries old pine trees dotted the shoreline.  Was I dreaming?  My sore neck reminded me to get up and I knew that this magical vision was real.  This is the reason we had travelled all the way from home, for this pristine, untouched beauty of a sight.  Grabbing my phone for an undisturbed picture, I unlocked the door and walked out on the porch.  I don’t know how, but I managed to trip on the wooden porch-floor and SWISH…. my phone soared from my hand  and into the lake.

Oh no! My heart started racing.  Walking up behind me, my husband sleepily asked me, ”What’s wrong?”

Turning awkwardly, I replied, “My phone is gone.”


“In the lake! I didn’t even hear a splash, it’s just gone.”


“I was just trying to capture the heavenly sunrise over the mountains and lake.”


“It’s not funny, I was still in my sleep.  I don’t know how I slipped.”


“That’s enough! This isn’t amusing. My camera, music, data are all gone for the rest of the holiday.”  I wallowed in self-pity.

“Look behind.” Still laughing, he naughtily nudged me.

So, I did, looked behind and below.

“Wait! What? The lake disappeared? I was tired, I know, but surely I saw the water hit the porch last evening.”

“Of-course you did.”


“It’s a Fjord (a long and narrow winding inlet of the sea between high cliffs) not a lake.”

“Oh! I thought only Norway has Fjords.”

“We are on a Fjord at Hood-Canal right  now.  It was high-tide when we came in last evening and since its low-tide now, your phone has landed safely on the soft marsh below.”

“Oh, lucky me.”

“Grab your shoes, let’s walk on the shore-line while the tide is low.”

“And let’s get  my phone to finally get those amazing shots.”


pictures credit: self; child number 3

My Upside-Down Road Trip: Down Under

Have you ever felt like you were a part of a family holiday movie?  The one where your well-planned itinerary falls apart and you end up on an unforgettable adventure?  Well, I have. Let me take you on this crazy road trip with me.

First off, let it be said that had it been up to me, this day would have been spent ensconced in the pampered luxury of our hotel, followed by shopping on Collins street.  This trip could have been taken on any other day.  Alas! I lost the vote 1 to 4 in my family of five.  All four of them had everything planned, from foot thumping chart-busters, to snacks, to the exact route we would take for our three-hour long drive from Melbourne to the `Twelve Apostles’.

We were so engrossed in matching our vocals with Bruno`s (Mars) that when the signs over-head read ‘Scenic Route: Twelve Apostles’, it seemed like the obvious exit to take.  The navigator’s warnings for staying on it’s suggested route were drowned out by our singing, and we soon hit the ocean.  This view was unparalleled.  Witnessing the skies and ocean, merging and mingling, we were tantalized by its beauty.  Driving along the ‘Great Ocean Road’, the singing and “oohs” and “aahs” grew louder, the mood grew so buoyant, that the forty minute increase on our ETA seemed like a blip on the screen.

“Look surfers,” pointed my middle child.

“Woah! Those waves are super high!” said my youngest.

“Let`s lay a bet on who can stay on longest?” challenged my eldest.



“Break time guys,” I decided.

We took a coffee break, enjoyed a local play-area`s swings and slides and got back on the road.

The signs were there.

The signs were literally there.  But packed on adrenaline and witnessing such a beautiful sight, in the best of company, we paid no heed whatsoever to all the orange ‘Detour Ahead’ signs.  So, it was only natural to turn right as the road diverted a little away from the ocean.  Five minutes into this uphill drive we entered a verdant, foggy, foresty area and sure enough, our GPS couldn’t recalculate.

“Check out the route on Google Maps,” said my husband, driving into the now dense mountains.

“Already on it, it says two more hours,” answered my son.

The stunning atmosphere kept us hooked on despite the obvious delay.  The road signs became infrequent and the GPS died down completely.

“Should we turn around?” was the general question.

“It will take the same time if we turn around now, so let’s just go with the flow,” my husband decided.

It now seemed that in a span of half-an-hour we had reached the most beautiful rain-forest, unlike any I had seen before.  The tree-tops were tall and dense, the flora exquisite and multi-dimensional.  The mumbling, munching and napping were now under way on the backseat. All of our feelings were back and forth between enjoying the surroundings and getting anxious about our whereabouts. We came upon a small clearing, and lo!


“Stop the car.”

“Seems like they are following us, yayy!”

“Aww, they’re too cute.”

“Look, look they’re smiling.”

We clicked a few pictures from the safety of our car and just like that we were back in the groove again.

“Take a right after 1.8 miles,” instructed ‘Tom-Tom’, our GPS, finally.

“Thank God! She’s alive again.”

Now, well into the mountains, we were resigned to the fact that we were going to take much, much longer than anticipated. As though the playlist could sense our somber mood, slow romantic songs started playing. Road signs just ahead showed ‘Restrooms’, ‘Zipline Centres’ and ‘Cape Otway Light Station’.  Guess which one we chose to take?

An hour into the next decision and we finally entered the ‘Cape Otway Light Station’.  Hungry, anxious, desperate to use the restrooms and nowhere close to the Twelve Apostles we got out of our car and stretched.  It was COLD.  And WINDY. And as if on cue it started to RAIN. Add to that, the area was to shut in half-an-hour.  But after a hundred meter walk inside, we were astounded.  Bellowing winds and the wild Pacific Ocean waves crushed the cliff on which the lighthouse stood.  We could barely hear each other over the high octane orchestra played by the elements and were too stunned by the unexpected and unforgettable sight. The light-house itself was mighty tall, battling the unobstructed high winds of the Pacific.

Either we were famished, or the fresh scones and jelly were too delicious, we gorged on them while watching this crazy sight from the warmth of the tiny in-house café post our visit.

“Quick, let’s leave. Its another hour from here,” said my husband enthusiastically.

“We won’t make it in daylight,” I lamented, resigned to our fate.

“We have come this far, let’s give it a try at least. Tell me truthfully, wasn’t this sight worth a stop?”

“It was amazing actually.” I agreed.

All of us now a little numb from the cold wind, the post-adrenaline rush and the long-long drive sat quietly as ‘Tom-Tom’ guided us towards the Apostles.  We were racing the sun. It seemed like we would make it and we took the road in to the town that would take us back onto the ‘Great Ocean Road’.  It was just our luck today that a local marathon was wrapping up and our path was hindered yet again.  We were resigned now and tired. However, too much commitment had been assigned here, so we slowly drove in the direction of the apostles.

A pink and golden sky greeted us at the parking spot. Covering ourselves in more layers, we hurried towards the Apostles. It was a surreal moment as we got our first glimpse of the huge limestone mountain-like formations standing proud in the Pacific Ocean. One behind the other, even their placements were perfectly set up. Wave after wave pelted these giants from all four sides. We had to lean in against the crushing winds to walk forward, such was their might. The lighting for our pictures was of professional quality, as if God had set it up himself. I couldn’t get enough of this energy. The wind, the ocean and the sky (now almost magenta in hue) were casting a magical spell on all my senses. All the fatigue of the day now forgotten, I stood there mesmerized, almost in a hypnotic state. Such was the power of these wonders and the aura surrounding them.

Well, did the trip go downhill as soon as we took the scenic route? Probably. Was it predestined that the roads would be diverted, and the marathon would take place today? Seems like it. Would it have been better if we had taken Tom-Tom’s original route? NO WAY! Seeing the yogic smiles on my family’s pink faces, I say that we took the correct route. How else would we have enjoyed the simpler joys that we faced along the way? After all, Simple Things Give Pure Joy.

picture credits: self