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A Suite Anniversary!

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And so before you know it…we’d hit number 7! The seventh anniversary dawned upon us and with my focus being the many shows we’re doing and traveling with this year, and with a show on the night before my anniversary ; we couldn’t really get away (MUCH AS I’D LOVED TO HAVE!)….But if you can’t get away from the city well then you should make a small get away IN your city and so that’s what we did!

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On the Anniversary we checked in to the Spanish Suite at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Straight from our wedding, Aditya and I had checked in to the Taj, and readied ourselves for the grand reception the next day! The Taj Mumbai also played host to my sister’s engagement, my parent’s marriage my in-laws marriage as well! So naturally, but naturally we’d want to check in to what can only be described, as almost a second home to us! My brilliant sister, Nikhila had pulled out all the stops to make this the best most memorable anniversary ever and she never fails to amaze us! The Spanish Suite is known for a beautiful , old chandelier and the beautiful romantic hues of the room. With a glorious view of the Gateway of India…. it was the perfect backdrop to my small afternoon plan of reaffirming our vows! Since we were home, this one time , on our anniversary I thought of doing a small reaffirmation of vows with just family. For me that would make my day just perfect!

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We checked in and were thoroughly surprised(I spent a good 15 minutes running from room to room) to see all the many, many photographs that had been strategically placed of us. It was like the room had been specially kept just for us! We quickly changed and headed to the pool for some sun and i was delighted when almost every staff member greeted me by name and wished me Happy Anniversary. It’s true what they say about the legendary service at the Taj.

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Lunch was at my favourite restaurant in the world 🙂 Souk and then after more sunbathing; we rushed back to the room for me to soak in warm romantic bath that had been prepared. And then before we knew it family had arrived and Nikhila , my sister who had been ordained online performed a quick ceremony and our anniversary was celebrated with champagne toasts and tons of laughter!

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And then it was off to Sea Lounge for the fabulous High Tea! The Sea Lounge has the best high tea in Mumbai . with sandwiches, and chats, pastries and savory items; this is a fabulously filling meal and it was a wonderful evening spent chatting, laughing, reminiscing and relaxing!

The family then left and much as I couldn’t eat another morsel, Aditya insisted that we at least go to the lounge and have a drink! Now it was just the 2 of us and we headed to the lounge where they had prepared a special cake just to celebrate our anniversary!

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I was too exhausted at the end of the day to eat another morsel; so after sitting in the lounge for a bit , it was room service and an extremely comfortable bed for me!!!

Surprise! Surprise! Chef Hemanth Oberoi,  the Grand Executive Chef at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, as well as corporate chef for the entire Taj chain of hotels; and most importantly the man who designed the menu for my wedding -had sent to our room ; not one, not two- BUT THREE GIGANTIC CHOCOLATE CAKES! Now we had THREE PLUS ONE FROM EARLIER!!!! 🙂

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I awoke on Sunday to a fabulous breakfast in bed. Capuccino’s , croissants and juices… I felt thoroughly pampered. Off for a nice , long relaxing swim and then we ended up at lunch at Masala Kraft , the Indian restaurant!They knew all my favourites and had brought them even before I placed my order!

And then post a cup of coffee; it was time to go home… Though this was a very, very short break- I came home feeling refreshed, energized and still in vacation mode…!

Anniversary or no anniversary – I think I’d like to do this every 3 months or so! Wot say Aditya? 🙂

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God’s Own Country!

It was the first birthday I started the ‘kidnapping!’ Well in this case the ‘husband-napping!’I told Aditya to take off from work, didn’t tell him where we were going and made all the bookings and payments myself and told him to pack ‘comfortable’ and whisked him away. Luckily airports have just 2 Premiere desks and none with flight destinations attached, and I kept the tickets in my hand so it was all the way till we boarded the bus taking us to the plane that the secret was safe. I was taking him for a quick birthday spa break to Kovalam!

My Father’s family is the Royal family of Cochin and Aditya had never been to Kerala with me. This was our first visit together! My family knows Captain Nair’s family well and Vivek Nair (his son) had helped me create the perfect birthday surprise for Aditya! We were staying at the fabulous Leela Kovalam. We arrived and were met at the runway. 5 suited men escorted my very shocked husband and me through to a car waiting for us! Now my husband who was dressed in shorts suddenly felt very overwhelmed- but Kerala hospitality is legendary and my Father’s family is very beloved and news had traveled- a Palat (me!) was coming home!

The hotel was a short drive away and esconced in palm trees and open space , it was a refreshing change to hear the waves instead of horns and honking and to be slowed down by a cart and people crossing and enjoy the change of pace. That’s what Kerala does. It calms you. In moments, you are allowed to forget the noise and stresses, the deadlines and worries and it allows you to breathe. And when you do breathe all that beautiful, rich, unspoiled air clears away years of pollution and hate and you just automatically relax. The Leela was beautiful. After a wonderfully warm welcome we were shown to our suite. Away from all the rest of the rooms, this little piece of heaven had little gifts for Aditya stashed everywhere!

While Aditya searched for his gifts , I booked some traditional Kerala massages and organised a romantic candle lit dinner for us. We were planning to eat at the beach but after a consultation with the chef and a visit to a very windy, very rainy beach; we decided to do the dinner in our dining area in our suite!

After the most relaxing of massages to have a dinner of traditional Malyalee food, a multi-course degustation menu and to sleep listening to the sound of the waves- it was the best birthday ever for my husband.It also started a tradition of surprising each other on birthdays!

The next few days involved breakfasts in bed, swimming in the eternity pool, quick dips in the sea and more massages- after our short escape to God’s Own Country and Aditya’s personal heaven- it took both of us a while to get our feet back to Ground Earth again!

Best Times to Travel-: September to March… else you might be caught in the very hot summers or the very rainy, but incredibly romantic rainy season!

Cost-: Approximately $300 a night but spend on the massages and definitely spend on the romantic dinner… They will be memories you’ll treasure forever!

A day in Amsterdam…!

Amsterdam was the last stop on our best Euro trip ever and we were exhausted! Traveling had been incredible and exciting but we knew Amsterdam would give us the much needed down time that one often feels one needs AFTER a holiday…like the holiday from the holiday!

We were right!

Both Aditya and I had visited Amsterdam before… but when we were kids. This was our first time here as a couple and we were excited!

From Paris to Amsterdam we took the Thallys. Fun, fast, fabulous and modern- this train was a dream! With fast speed internet connection on board, comfortable seats this bright and cheerful train put all of our other train journeys to shame! Travel in Europe- Use Thallys!

After a fabulous, invigorating morning because of a super train ride passing through some fabulous places that I made note of to visit we arrived in Amsterdam! The hotel we stayed at was a Starwood property – part of their Luxury Collection- Hotel Pulitzer.

The hotel comprises of 25 restored canal houses which makes it so incredibly unique with no two guest rooms being the same. Each has their own character and a distinctive and personal. The rooms are small and cosy. Our suite overlooked the canal and was very special because of the large windows which allowed us the luxury of sitting indoors in the rainy weather and watching the beautiful city glisten and glimmer as it bathed in the quick shower! It rains in Amsterdam – it rained all 3 days while we were there. The rains are usually quick and windy but if you’re outside you can feel quite bitterly cold!

Amsterdam is a glorious city. Walk it and you can stop in the many small pathways and find the most amazing shops, the most vibrant of cafes and the most interesting of boutiques. The first morning was spent walking over bridges and stopping at cafes and finding this small , incredible cafe with the best fries ever and lingering over cups of coffee- the perfect unwind!

The mode of transportation is trams or in the smaller roads- bicycles or walking. But know that riding a bicycle in Amsterdam has lots of rules attached and bicycle riders are quite fierce and fast and can give you quite a scare making walking an often safer mode of transportation!

Later in the afternoon it was off to the centre of the city and for a shopping experience like none other. Small boutiques bordered large expensive stores and local cafes stood side by side to fast food chains. Something for everyone and colours everywhere!

The Coffeeshops in Amsterdam are easy to spot… In its spelling itself there is no space between coffee and shop and it is not called a cafe. They serve cannabis and hash brownies among usual coffees and soft drinks and snacks that you’d get at another cafe. I wandered into these more for curiosity’s sake and was pleasantly surprised to see the owner cum server totally knowledgeable and very cautious about what he was selling and even more so how much he was selling. He enquired carefully whether it was your first time and talked you through the entire range of products he had and didn’t push any when I chickened out and ordered a coke and chips instead and focussed on what seemed like a very stoned dog sitting with his master in the coffeeshop!

Anne Frank’s Home is an absolute MUST DO! I was never an ardent fan of the book. I had read it, enjoyed it, but never been really been overly interested in her life. I guess, being born in a different era made what happened seem so unreal, so frightening and a bit unreal to me. Our hotel was a building away from the Anne Frank Home and I decided I wanted to see it. Book tickets online as they only allow a few at a time and the lines outside the house otherwise are very long and to shiver in the rains is not appealing at all! We booked tickets and went in. Suddenly we were transported to an era gone by. With black and white videos, handwritten diary pages and even walls with height marks as to how tall she’d grown- suddenly her life became all to real. Her story told so perfectly and simply through simple diary entries came alive in the small , cramped rooms and the creaky flooring where she’d spent her life hidden in fear. We read about her arrest, saw the records , heard her father speak about her and I wept. Like the tens of others who had walked in with us, this experience became personal, became real and it stopped being about a book. It became about a life- a life lost too early. This was undoubtedly the most beautiful and touching experience that this trip offered me and I was glad I made time to do something that would offer me such a personal experience.

After all the tears I went back to our room for a nice hot cappuccino and we ended up at a fabulous local restaurant which was filled to the brim. With tapas and wine this became the perfect end to a perfect day!

Best Times To Travel-:  June through to October ! But it does get chilly at night and be prepared for rain!

Price Factor-:  $300- $500 a night and do try the Canal House Hotels . They are definitely an experience!

WILL GO BACK…STAY LONGER…SOON!

Parisian Adventures Day 1

And it was off on a Eurail journey again….and my first overnight train from Venice to Paris. Much has been written about this train-the luxury of first class, the food , the convenience.

These are all lies. The train is filthy, cramped, and a totally awful way to cross from one country to another especially from 2 cities as glamorous as Venice and Paris are. The food cart runs out of food minutes after you leave. The waiters are rude, uncaring and probably poorly paid. The rooms have almost no space to sit let alone sleep and most importantly you must not only lock your room at night when you attempt to sleep you must also barricade the door with luggage. Two separate families lost passports, money and handbags on the awful overnight disaster! Since this train makes several stops through the night and since you often only discover your loss in the morning, the perpetrator is usually long gone and there were several exhausted, woebegone faces at breakfast in the morning.

The morning on the train isn’t much better. The coffee is runny and weak, the croissant is hard and unpalatable and there’s no point even discussing the sham of a hole that masqueraded as the bathroom.

This train is NOT WORTH IT! TAKE A FLIGHT- ANY FLIGHT INSTEAD!

Thanks to this awful journey, I arrived very exhausted in to Paris. Now this was our second to Paris as a couple. We decided we wanted to do this trip because the first time we visited Paris we were on our honeymoon! A tour every few hours , staying in a small hotel ( that was all we could afford) and running between one tour and the next trying to cram all of Paris’ sights into a 3 night stay and also relax and enjoy our honeymoon proved to be an impossible holiday. Most of the trip was fraught with arguments and tears because we were so exhausted after doing sooo much! But even in between all the running and madness we fell in love with this beautiful , romantic city. We promised that we’d visit again-with out the tours and the schedules and that’s what this trip was for.

We had taken an apartment at the beautiful Fraser Suites on Champs Elysees. This was because one of the things we learnt about Paris was hotel rooms are terribly tiny. We’d stayed in Fraser Suites in Malaysia and the large bedrooms, huge living room and a wonderfully compact kitchenette! We wanted to stay centrally in Paris and this 5 star part-hotel seemed ideal- even more son once I saw some of the world’s best tennis players staying there with us as they were playing the very exciting Rolland Garros French Open!

We were upgraded to a suite on our arrival. The newer rooms were plush, with new furnishing, facing Champs Elysees and the Arc di Triumph and were large and spacious. Two televisions(not that we got time to watch tv), a large living room with a dining table, a bedroom, 2 super sized bathrooms, a stocked kitchenette and a massive bed and I found a new home in the heart of Paris. This trip was going to be different so Day 1 started with no plan at all and it was wonderful.

The last time we came to Paris , we arrived (like we did this time) on a Sunday and everything was shut! That was six years ago. This  time Paris was bustling on a Sunday- everything was open, everything was crowded, everything was buzzing and alive and it was amazing! We stopped to pick up some croque monsieurs on our way at Champs Elysees and decided to take the underground to the Latin Quarter.

Briefly glossed over during tours , the Latin Quarter with its frenetic activity, quirky shops, arty bars and cafes is a wonderful, bohemian vision of Paris. Each bylane has lots to explore, each cafe has new , exciting food smells and each shop has interesting , quirky things to take away, buy and keep! This area is very filled with students and young couples and is so diverse in culture and colour it was absolutely magnificent walking through the Latin Quarter.

Paris is exciting every time you visit but I believe the more you walk through Paris , the more layers you uncover. Like an onion, you can keep peeling and peeling and discover new and exciting places, people and sites within the city and still realise you have more to see.

Paris is more than the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame–those are exciting and pieces of history that you must see…but walk through Paris,see the architecture, meet the people, sip the cappuccinos….the romance of Paris is all around for you to discover…

We came to Paris first on our honeymoon…but we really fell in love with Paris this time ’round.

More on our Parisian adventures and a special trip to Versailles…next week!

Best Times To Travel-:  June through to October – but expect crowds and tourists! So remember Paris is beautiful but make your own memories….different from the brochure memories that are sold to you! 🙂

Price Factor-:  EXPENSIVE!!! $600- $1000 per night for a 5 star hotel but you must know that you should stay in the centre of Paris for sure (Champs Elysees, Concorde  is great or opt for something more arty like Opera)…then everything is walking distance and everything- amazing!

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