Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mahabaleshwar, The Strawberry Country

16th March 2013

This year I celebrated my 10th Anniversary with my now ex-organization. As a token of appreciation among other things I received a two day Bed and Breakfast plan anywhere around India. I chose the Citrus Chambers at Mahabaleshwar.

I chose this hotel for its 100 year old bungalow and peaceful settings as shown in the pictures on their  website.

We planned almost 2 months ahead, all the time thinking we will drive to Mahabaleshwar with the driver in tow. However we dropped the idea as Mishra was behaving funny and we did not want to risk spoiling our holiday. We went without him and took the Neeta travels bus instead.

Exactly at 7.15 am we jumped onto to the bus at Nerul. We made ourselves comfortable and chatted about everything under the sun on our way to the strawberry country. This ride on the bus was my longest distance travel after the health incident in Jan 2012, it meant a big deal to me to be able to dare it and I did!

On the way the bus stopped at the Neeta Inn at Lonavala, it was midmorning and we were not exactly hungry but felt like munching on some goodies you cannot miss in Lonavala. Dad bought some chips, chikki and walnut fudge.

The next halt was at Surur after which we took a right for the road to Mahabaleshwar. The ride into the hills thru all the curves and bends was exhilarating. The sun was harsh and a gleaming green pond  below at the foothills attracted the bus riders.

It was past 1pm when we reached Mahabaleshwar. The bus journey ended at Neeta's Shanti villa Hotel. I looked around. It had some tables in an open garden like setting and was covered. It was a long gap since I had last visited Mahabaleshwar so seeing Neeta's businesses there I was quite happy. It is a local company that operates Volvo bus services and seeing how strategically they had set up hotels and Inns that enhance a travellers experience was something. The quality was budget category though. Yet it was convenient. Hope they keep improving their services and facilities.

As we got off the bus we were swarmed with Taxi drivers soliciting for business.. It being the hills Taxi is the only vehicle permitted operation here unlike other flatlands and cities in Maharashtra. We chose a taxi after some negotiation and reached our hotel a short distance thru densely shaded avenues.

I was wowed by The Citrus Chambers, and the surrounding acres of green. It is a boutique hotel and instantly you feel as if it is your own holiday home. The staff is friendly and they led us to our room on the back side of the main bungalow. The main bungalow has just 5 rooms and the annex behind has may be 20. Each one with its own Victorian - Parsi sit out with lounge sofas and coffee tables.

The decor of the room is cozy and old world. I ordered dal rice lunch and slept off the entire afternoon. We woke up and made our own coffee and sat on the little porch. It was very beautiful and at one end of the courtyard was a grand old Avdumbar tree. This tree has a religious significance and as I went near I saw that the hotel staff had done a puja under it, the fresh hibiscus flowers told that this was a daily ritual. I loved the place so much that I suggested to Dad that we'd spend the entire evening on the 5 acres of the hotel's property and just chill out. We could do all the touring in the next two days. As it happens one of the staff started a conversation with us and recommended his relative's cab for tours. We called in the taxi owner and froze on a compensation after glancing on the standard tour packages. I told him I did not want the standard packs instead I picked and chose the visit "points". My health allows me only that much. The deal was reasonable and we were happy with the vehicle and the service.

At 8pm we had a lovely dinner in the old English club style dinning room and retired to bed.

The relaxed environs and the few guest in the hotel made our stay very pleasant. 

Comeback for the treks in the hills of Mahabaleshwar and strawberry indulgences in the upcoming posts.


evolvingtastes said...

You piqued my interest at "Mishra was behaving funny". What happened? Hope nothing weird.

Anjali Koli said...

Just before this trip he was trying to scare us by driving rashly. When I admonished him, he was saying I am just avoiding the drains, the roads in the vicinity on my home do not have drains in the middle of the road. Also once before that we went to a friend's home and he created such a ruckus as we were late and planned to stay over that it was not just embarrassing for us but we had to tell him to leave the car and go. The next day my friend lent us her staff to drive us back. You know sometimes our kindness to our staff comes in the way, they just take us for granted and even trouble us like this.

evolvingtastes said...

So he is still your driver even after he caused trouble? Finding good people you can trust is hard.

Anjali Koli said...

Of course not We got rid of him. But since then I have to depend on my bro. Fortunately now I don't need a permanent driver since I am not working anymore. We call another guy whom we trust on weekends. I am planning to get back to driving myself it's been about 2yrs I haven't done it.