Sunday, November 4, 2018

Visiting sustainable resorts in Ooty & Kotagiri

Come see our resorts called Teanest in Kotagiri & Ooty said Sanjay an old friend and resort owner. This is not a brand new resort but resorts where we have refurbished old colonial homes and turned them into homestays in the tea gardens. So we decided, spur of the moment to go to see them, quickly packing overnight cases and jumping into our drag queen of a chevy with her busted silencer. It made me laugh looking at people in cars alongside us staring as we sounded like we were on some racing track with every acceleration! So the first place we went to was Teanest, Kotagiri. That had four rooms and was in the heart of tea country. We also had a manager who told us all about the best teas one could get and when and how they had to be picked. Kotagiri is much nicer than Ooty as it is still untouched by a surfeit of resorts and domestic tourists. It still is green and clean and the sides of the roads have flowers growing everywhere, planted by the CM of TN as she owns huge tracts of tea gardens. We loved the trip and thats where we got hooked on masala chai.
Then we went to visit Teanest Annexe in Ooty. That was formerly the managers bungalow in the Singara tea estate and overlooked the 1800 acres of the Singara tea gardens. The owners lived in Kenya we were told and only an old matriarch lived in the family home on the estate with her servants. Our little homestay just had two rooms and was lovely and peaceful to enjoy without the normal gaggle of other families in the place. The garden was full of flowers and we loved every minute of our stay there.
Google the names if you would like to make a booking and go visit, especially check on Trip Advisor for good deals.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Repairing the roof in Pilerne, Goa

We headed to Goa to give the old homestead a look see. There is always work to be done in the house and this time one area of the roof needed work. So because we work on a terribly tight budget, we buy the wood and call in the workers and supervise the job. We are the contractors, we dont contract it out and lose more money.
So we drove down like we always do and called in the workers and got down to work. They came in very early as in Goa the heat on the roof gets unbearable as the day goes along. So the earlier the better. By seven the men had arrived and they hared up the roof like monkeys, lithe and fit and in no time were pulling off the old tiles to get to the rotten rafters.
The rotten rafters came down with a crash and clouds of mud and dust. We ran to cover the beds where our stuff was kept. The men worked fast and furiously. Pulling up the new rafters we had bought for them and with the kgs of nails hammered them into place.
Once the new rafters were put in place, the tiles came up fast and furious. Beautiful, mellow terracotta tiles. The roof was starting to look like a roof again, but many tiles broke while the work was being completed. Thats part of the deal anyway, thats why extra tiles are bought.
In the remaining days we began painting the windows so the house began to look good. It was a happy feeling to see the new coats of paint come onto the old main door and the mother-of-pearl windows. Dad would have been pleased. And I was happy I was there in the kanta season.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Two days in teacountry Kotagiri

What an amazing place, Kotagiri. I cant understand why we took so long to go there and discover its scenic beauty and unpolluted air. Well I guess it was just a stroke of good luck. An old friend asked me to come view the new property they had leased and made into a boutique hotel. Called Teanest, Nightingale, it took us seven hours to drive down from Bangalore.
As far as the eye could see were rolling slopes of the Nilgiris hills covered in tea bushes. Simply heavenly, we stopped to stare and gape at the sprawling untouched vistas before us. Kotagiri which my Uncle priest always spoke about and who came to every single year for a retreat. For some calm and stress busting time and now we understood why.
The inside of the elegant colonial bungalow was done up with a lot of care and love. Muted colours blended and luxurious furnishing had turned the insides into a restful and luxurious homestay. Just four rooms and yet, it was a place we will never forget. None of the posh new resorts came anywhere near this.
A tiny little library was well stocked with books to cater to the tourists who wanted to spend a little quiet time reading in the comfortable balconies with a hot cup of chai.
Take your next holiday in Kotagiri at Teanest Nightingale and I can assure you, you will come back refreshed and ready to take on the mad whirl of what life in the city has become.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A London garden in Spring

It was exciting to be in London in the Spring. All the trees and plants were bursting into bloom and fresh new leaves were making their presence felt everywhere. My walks were an overdose of sights and smells, as thankfully in the UK sounds are not that intrusive at all. We had come to see the new baby and also to meet up as a family, in my sons newly done up home.
Since the house had just been through a year of work, with workmen and bull dozers everywhere, the garden had taken a rough beating. Thankfully because it is the UK, the weather kept the plants which had been shifted, well and they looked quite prosperous except that huge weeds had sprung up, choking the smaller plants. And ofcourse the lawn had tried to over come the beds yet again.
The Rhododendron bushes were fine upfront and were in full bloom when I arrived. The white was the most startling to look at while the pink and red tried to keep up. They are miniature trees and so dont need much clipping and keeping down.
At the back where the bulk of the flowering plants are was where the work killed me the most. I knelt on the kneeling pad, day after day for one week to try and weed the place of the dratted weeds which had overtaken everything.
But finally it was worth the effort and soon the beds began to look almost perfect and the plants looked happier and bloomed with vigour, as their food was not stolen by the weeds.
The hydrangea, the roses, the new delphiniums, the hostas, the Penstimons, all the plants we had put down over the years, sprang up and began to show their joy at the warmth and the rain which signals spring.
David picked up his favourite marigolds from a tiny nursery nearby and put them down symmetrically under an apple tree. Sadly they will bloom after I have left.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Innovative gardening is the need of the hour

My son and his family live in Tennessee. So I visit every year, sometimes twice a year. When he lived in Nebraska I was not so gungho to go there as the winters are extreme and the summer no less. But here in Tennessee the weather is more conducive to gardening which is what keeps me occupied while I visit.
The first to show are the day lillies in the back yard. They grow vigourously and are very low maintenance. What is difficult is the weeding between the clumps. when we water and fertilize, we encourage the weeds to grow up, especially the grass which intrudes from the lawn.
So this time my son who had bought planting fabric and pine straw from Home Depot asked for help to keep the beds weed free. It took a long time to free the beds of weeds and then between us we laid the fabric. Then he cut out holes in the fabric to let the lillies peep out. Have a look in the picture above at the effort and time spent, but, it helps to keep the place weed free for the season! In the west there are no maalis like we have who weed and clean all day long. One has to do it oneself OR hire a gardening service which is very expensive. As my son says anyway Mum it gives me a good workout and I will do it as long as I am young.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Glittering Dubai

It was a fun trip with us three classmates getting together in one of our homes in Dubai. I had never been to the Middle East and so it was an eagerly awaited trip. Starting off with a wonderful 3 hour comfortable flight to Dubai and being picked up by our friends, the city was a revelation to me. Skyscrapers almost touching the sky, magical lights glittering as we drove home, a maze of fly overs intersecting one another. What a wonderful and shining example of mans drive and ambition to achieve in just 50 years.
The malls were massive, but more suited to the western mind. I loved the souks which breathed the life of Dubai. The incense curling upwards, the brightly lit lamps in the shops, the multicoloured Turkish plates and the sacks of spices to entice and invite. That was the real Dubai I enjoyed the most. And ofcourse crossing the Dubai creek on one of those old fashioned motorised dhows.
Enjoy Dubai from its skyscrapers and snowski slopes in the mall, to the date palms and the rambling old souks. And dont miss going into a local restaurant to savour Arabian food. It's a holiday of a lifetime and one you should make to enjoy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Enjoying Crotons in an apartment in Bangalore

Living in Bangalore with it's salubrious climes definitely has it's advantages. I love Crotons and today they have a hybrid which is in sale which is small and dwarf enough to grow on one's balcony. However one definitely needs the sun to enjoy the changing colours in the leaves. Have a look at the first picture and then see how the colours change with the sun playing artist with colours.
Crotons when we were kids were pretty large shrubs grown in the sprawling gardens of Bangalore. Now we can still enjoy their colourful foliage with this dwarf variety. I have a great collection as we give them out to our guest authors in my iBrowse book club and so I collect one every month! So here's to all my balconies being filled up with these really easy to grow yet colourful plants.