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Travel Essentials – January Edition

As I set off to make 2019 my year of travel, this blog post is dedicated to some of my essentials that I have recently acquired and things that drive me towards my short-term and long-term goals.

The first one on this list is my visiting card. Yes, I got myself my own blogger card. I designed it (well, most of it) and got it printed online. The idea behind having my own card is to network better and to reach out to people in the community by having a tangible recall factor aka a business card.

Another favourite acquisition is this Urby passport cover that I recently received. This one’s from their Wanderlust Collection and it’s custom-made for Tinker Toes! Say what? I love customised goods and this passport cover just fits into my scheme of (travel) things so perfectly! The shimmery aster gold colour and texture of the cover is gorgeous and it’s already become one of my favourite travel accessories. Don’t forget to check out their range of wallets, for men and women. Whether you like your accessories suave and smart or with a touch of quirkiness, Urby has got ’em all.

Now, for some tech update! The most recent addition to my travel gear is this black beauty – the GoPro Hero 7 Black. Say goodbye to shaky videos with its brilliant stabilisation and insanely smooth 4K video. This has to be the best GoPro so far and the most amazing waterproof travel/action camera there is (in this range)!

Head to my Instagram for some GoPro travel content.

GoPro Hero 7 Black

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are just my January favourites. Stay tuned for fab February additions to the travel essentials list and tell me what are some of your favourite travel tools?

Quirky Cocktails Alert – HOP Mumbai

Cocktails have found themselves in this experimental-quirky loop for the last few years. Every bar, old or new is trying different variations of the classics or innovating with new ingredients, introducing fresh ingredients to the mix, et al. Following a similar mantra, HOP Mumbai offers a range of fun (read delicious) drinks for the cocktail enthusiast who’s not afraid to experiment a little.

Craving some quirky cocktails to end the year on a high note? Hop into House of Party, located in Andheri, Mumbai. Here’s what all we tried at the resto-bar a few days ago.

Frozen Pants
Cucumber Cooler with a Tequila Twist
  Appetiser Platters
A Looonnng Island Iced Tea
Whisky Malai Maar Ke
Baked Yogurt (That is not a donut)

All Things Apple at Theory, Mumbai

When it comes to creativity, the chefs at Theory have mastered the art of innovating! Last week, I attended a dinner at this beautiful eatery in Lower Parel. Guess what I ate? A especially curated four course dinner with apples as the main ingredient. All things apple – yes, we ate and sipped on apples throughout the course of the dinner.

The evening was kick-started by Theory’s Chef de Cuisine Clyde Comello and Chef Simarpal Singh Virdi with a salad making demonstration. Soon after, we dived into the sumptuous menu that had not only excited our palates but also intrigued us with the creativity and ideas behind this curation. We tasted delicacies with US Apples on our plates and here’s all that we gorged on.

First Course: Curried Carrot & Apple Soup

Second Course: Poached Apple with Goat Cheese

Crunchy endives with red wine poached apples, drizzled with red wine reduction served with gratinated goat cheese and hazelnut.

Salad and Sangria

Third Course: Apple Gnocchi

Pan seared apple gnocchi served with cinnamon glazed butternut squash, sage butter and burrata.

Chicken Roulade with Apple Jus

Moist chicken roulade stuffed with mushroom forestiere and gruyere on  a bed of peronata and brandy apple jus.

Fourth Course: Desserts

Apple cheesecake with burnt butter ice cream/Apple baklava with vanilla ice cream

     

The evening was hosted meticulously by the lovely FBAI team, US Apple Export Council (USAEC), and the staff of Theory. So, the next time you pick up US apples, you’re going to think of this menu and perhaps get inspired to experiment with this versatile fruit in your own kitchen!

Staycation at Aamby Valley

They say travel isn’t just about the destination, but about the journey. Truer words haven’t been spoken and I all the more relate to this each time I take a trip. My trip to Aamby Valley was another testimony to that very idea. The route to the beautiful Aamby Valley was a sight to behold. The scenic Sahyadris come alive during monsoons and our road trip began on a sunny morning, followed by a light drizzle as we stepped into the Western Ghats. Soaking into the green glory of the hills meandering across the Expressway to Lonavla, I was not only dreaming of my staycation but also looking forward to this ride as well. The journey turns even better when you’re in good company and my fellow bloggers and FBAI and Hotel Sahara Star teams made sure of that!

The lake at Aamby Valley City

After a pleasant 3 hour ride, we reached destination Aamby Valley and we couldn’t have been more excited! The façade, the greenery, the architecture – everything of this beautiful city looked promising! We spent three days here, packed with fun and activities, good food, and scenic surrounding. Here are a few reasons I absolutely loved my staycation and why you should consider planning one too!

Nature trails

Into the woods

Who doesn’t like luxury travel and being pampered to bits! Add a dash of natural beauty to it and I’m smitten! And that’s exactly what happened at Aamby Valley. Here I was staying in an Australian Chalet – my own wooden cabin the in midst of greenery, with views of dark clouds hovering over mountains and trees reaching out to me on my sun deck. The setting was so refreshing from the usual concrete jungle that we’re so habituated to, that I felt it was all too surreal. We roamed around the city in golf carts and the days we felt a little adventurous, we’d walk around under tall coconut trees, gardens and the huge artificial lake in the middle of the city.

   

Architecture and design

A peek into my Australian Chalet

We were allotted the luxurious Aussie Chalets. The view from the balcony, the sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy days, the picturesque hills and trees just made this staycation an experience of a lifetime.

Aamby Valley has various kinds of accommodation available – from the opulent Australian or Spanish chalets and Hermitage villas with an open air Jacuzzi with a view to the romantic Cabanas by the lake and the rather humble town plaza tent-styled villas. We were treated to the best of views and greenery as we took a guided tour of the whole property, while it drizzled and added to beautiful vibe of the place.

Hermitage – cottages amidst clouds
Jacuzzi with a view
Private dining area of the Cabana Suites by the lake
Evening tea in my chalet

 

Cabanas by the lake

Foodie’s paradise

Salads galore at Woodpecker

With an array of restaurants, Aamby Valley City is truly a food haven. Whether you like experimenting with your food or jump at the sight of an extensive breakfast spread or love the idea of learning the nuances of various cuisines and try chefs’ specials, this place will not disappoint you! From an elaborate breakfast buffet at Woodpecker to the incredible Indian cuisine at Namak, day 1 was just a glimpse of what was in store was all culinary enthusiasts in the house! The Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine at Mabruk was a delight along with the wonderful middle-eastern setting and belly dancing at the restaurant. That dinner was a night to remember!

 

  

   

Foodies have a special place in their hearts (read stomachs) for thalis. The extravagant lunch at Manuhaar – the vegetarian thali restaurant at Aamby Valley was delectable yet homely. The good news is, this spread is soon coming to Mumbai – Manuhaar opening soon at Sahara Star.

For the adventurer

Aamby Valley City has so much to explore. Not one day of our staycation had a boring moment. Our days were packed with adventure activities. Day 1 was all about water sports – from the exciting speed boat and jet-ski to the relaxing kayaking in the lake and aqua bus ride.

All set for the speed boat ride
Off we go…

Day 2 came with a dash of adventure too – from zip-lining across the valley and going on a bumpy but gorgeous jungle safari to competing in paintball, reverse bungee, riding and ATV, we were pumped up all afternoon!

Paintball ready!
Sail Bridge

Now, I don’t know how to sum up my experience of discovering Aamby Valley and its offerings! There’s so much to do and explore in this beautifully planned out city that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Whether you want to spend a quiet evening amidst nature, swinging by the lake, soaking in the beauty around or you want to try your hands on adventure activities and enjoy water sports, there’s something for everyone. So, go #DiscoverAamby!

Negroni Week – The Bombay Chapter


Negroni Week, presented by Imbibe Magazine and Campari was launched in 2013 as a celebration of one of the world’s most iconic cocktails and as an effort to raise money for charities around the world. From 2013 to 2016, Negroni Week grew from about 100 participating venues to 6,000 venues around the world, and to date, they have collectively raised nearly $900,000 for charitable causes.

This year Negroni Week takes place from June 5-11, 2017, when once again, bar and restaurants will be mixing classic Negronis and Negroni variations for a great cause. To participate, each bar signs up for it, chooses from a list of recommended charities, and makes an immediate donation to that charity.

The Bombay chapter of Negroni Week at Razzberry Rhinoceros kicked off last evening and guests and cocktail enthusiasts tasted three renditions of the classic Negroni – crafted by Rojita Tiwari (Drinks & Destinations) and Master Bartender, Nitin Tiwari. The three variations were created to add a local touch to this international drink and to keep offer a fusion of Bombay flavours with a hint of global finesse. The three variations that you can try at Razzberry Rhinoceros in Juhu through this week are Cutting Chai Negroni, Crawford Sour, and Gola Negroni.

PS: In case, you were wondering, a classic Negroni cocktail is made of one part gin, one part vermouth rosso (red, semi-sweet), and one part Campari, garnished with orange peel. It is considered an apéritif.

SulaFest – A long weekend under the Sula sun

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A long weekend of wine, music, good food, and good vibes at the ‘wine capital of India’. Attending SulaFest 2017 meant a road trip from Mumbai to Nashik – and thus began the ultimate party with friends, music, conversations and picturesque views. The road to Nashik is replete with pretty scenery and stunning photo worthy spots – crossing ghats, winding roads, hills, and a lot of greenery.

This February, the 10th edition of SulaFest set benchmarks for festivals in India with its incredible artist lineup, food & drinks, and above all the great vibe that it’s known for! And here’s all that I loved about this magical festival amidst lush and beautiful vineyards in Nashik:

The setting:

Set amidst the lush vineyards of Sula, the 10th edition of SulaFest was pure magic! With its sustainable art installations, vibrant decor, SulaFest Bazaar, and three amazing stages, SulaFest was a sight to behold!

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The stunning view of the vineyards from the Tasting Room

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Music:

Amphitheatre, Atmasphere, and Tropical stages set the mood for the ultimate musical party at SulaFest. While Day 1 was all about Indian artists like Kabir Cafe, Nucleya, Raghu Dixit Project; Day 2 saw a mix of Indian and global musicians like Dubioza Kolektiv, Dana Ruh, Loco & Jam, Shaun Moses, etc; and Day 3 just raised the bar with international bands and icons, including the headliners – Infected Mushroom. While the headliners’ final act did set the stage on fire, my favourite and most memorable performances at SulaFest were definitely – Hilight Tribe and Afro Celt Sound System!

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Infected Mushroom LIVE at SulaFest


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Food & Drinks:

What made my palate most happy at SulaFest was not only  a plethora of food options, but also gourmet food and drinks for the discerning fest goer. Special mention to the exclusive cocktail workshop session (only for media) with Bruno Vazan, brand ambassador of Volare and Antica Sambuca.

Not to forget, the signature cocktail of SulaFest – ValenSeco, a mix of Sula Seco Rose and RAW Pressery’s Valencia Orange was such a refreshing drink to sip on during performances, or paired with food. Did you try it?

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Bombay Food Truck at SulaFest

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Fashion:

Well, SulaFest was buzzing with amazing street style and the best of fashion on all three days. Sula Vineyards even showcased a few of the best ones on their social media platforms during the course of the fest.

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Tinkering around Little Italy at Sula Vineyards

The vibe:

When you tune in to the rhythm of the vines, it’s set to take you on a trippy ride! And that’s what SulaFest ’17 did – took us on a wonderful musical ride, and gave us three memorable days of fun and frolic under the Sula sun! Were you there too?

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Exile – A Memoir

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“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Controversy’s favourite child – Taslima Nasrin, the writer and woman believes thoroughly in Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s words and more than anything else, her life has been about fighting for freedom of speech. Her memoir, Exile is nothing but an account of her struggles while in India. Her journey in India has been replete with constant resistance since our society at large isn’t too comfortable with a woman voicing her opinions, owning her body or speaking against religion and patriarchy.

Whether one considers Taslima Nasrin a literary icon or not, one cannot deny that her life has been nothing short of phenomenal. She never shied away from speaking her mind or expressing her opinions on religion or society. She hasn’t visited her country for the last 22 years now and has been leading a nomadic existence with the label of anti Islamic. ‘Exile’ is the moving and shocking account of all that happened during her stay in India – Kolkata, Hyderabad. It is filled with nostalgia and remains of her childhood while contrasting with the gory details of her encounters with death (mob attacks, verbal attacks, bans). It’s a story of fear and courage, of determination and failure, of tears and heartbreak, of home and belonging…

The book chronicles her journey in India – a country she holds dear and feels at home; Kolkata, the city that makes her nostalgic, the people who make and mar her. One thing that this woman holds the promise of is honesty and blatant truth. And her words live up to that legacy.

Read it to get some insight into the life of a woman who did not bow down to the whims of patriarchy or religion or politics, and stood her ground for what she believed in. It’s reflective and evocative, and to say the least – leaves us disillusioned with our world that is incapable of being a safe haven for its artists.

– Yashnashree

Glamping at Yamunavan Camps, Dahanu

 

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If this photograph evokes any longing for adventure in your heart, this blog post is for you! We recently spent a wonderful weekend at Yamunavan Camps, Dahanu. Just about 3 hours away from Bombay, Dahanu Road is a quiet town, unhurried and beautiful, laden with a stunning beach and sprawling greenery till your eyes could see.

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The campsite is located in a chikoo farm, spread across acres of land
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The entry to the kitchen area of the campsite is a beautiful trail in itself

Last month, we travelled to this quaint place and spent an evening by the beach ~ chasing crabs, watching the sun melt into the sea, beach-combing, and just walking under the tall trees by the beach. After the gorgeous sunset, we headed towards Dahanu East, where the campsite is located. If you’re in the mood for some nature loving and yet not ready for a rustic camping experience, here’s how you achieve that balance. Glamping aka glamour camping is the answer! At Yamunavan Camps, one gets the taste of adventure with a pinch of luxury.

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Summer haze…

The campsite is located in a Chikoo farm (Dahanu is known for this fruit and the place also celebrates Chikoo Festival in February every year). There are a number of tents under the lush green Chikoo trees that were laden with fruits. We had our fair share of the cool shade as well as the sweet fruits. We spent the day amidst nature, living in a tent, waking up to birds chirping, eating authentic Maharashtrian food, playing games, cycling around the farms, star gazing, and indulging in all things natural, away front the cacophony of city life.

A good dose of nature therapy is all we need over the weekends to survive a week, perhaps! Here are some pictures by Wishwas Srivastav to take you on a nature trail with us:

 

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Let’s go darting!

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Women cleaning a bunch of chikoo at the farm

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Keep calm and camp on!

The campsite is owned and maintained by Mayuresh Phatak, who is working earnestly towards building a good hospitality culture in Dahanu and developing the place as a tourist destination. He has big plans for his town and if things go well, Dahanu will soon be on the water adventure sports map of India.

Not only does this campsite offer an off beat experience, they even host parties and take big group bookings. If you’re willing to visit this lovely campsite, this experience is just a call away.

Contact: +91 9920690508

https://www.facebook.com/rawescapades/

 

 

Breakfast at Silver Beach Cafe, Juhu

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The cute and cosy Silver Beach Cafe tucked in the by-lanes of Juhu, Mumbai

If you’re one of those people who believe in the power of breakfast, and its ability to transform your day, go grab a bite at Silver Beach Cafe and be spoilt for choice with their all new breakfast menu.

From the delicious Egg Calzones, Masala French Toast, and Sunny Side up with Kheema, along with Banana and Butterscotch Waffles and a selection of teas and coffee to kick-start your day, the food at Silver Beach Cafe will certainly steal your heart and make you want to come back for more.

We recently visited the eatery for our share of indulgence. Here’s all that we gorged on. Get ready to drool as you scroll! 🙂

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Egg Calzone
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Remains of Egg Calzone
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Masala French Toast
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Happy mornings that smell of freshly brewed coffee
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French Toast with an Indian twist
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Sunny Side up with Kheema
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Devouring our sunny side up, on a bed of kheema
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Evident how much I’m relishing the apple green tea 🙂

 

Photography: Wishwas Srivastav

 

 

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