Author: C.C.

Slovenia: An Outdoor Enthusiast’s Dream Destination

From scenic alpine peaks to a beautiful coastline, from the mysterious Karst plateau riddled with underground caves to charming walled towns—Slovenia is a delightful discovery in this part of Europe. The country, which lies on the sunny side of the Alps, also has a vibrant folk culture and plenty of adventure activities. Here’s what you can do.

NATURAL RETREATS – Slovenia is one of the world’s most sustainable tourist destinations. Take a tour of the Triglav National Park and get a good view of the 2,864 metre limestone peak, Triglav, believed to be home to the three-headed local deity. Get mesmerised by the bizarre, jaw-dropping structures formed by stalagmites and stalactites at Postojna Caves or Skocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re lucky, you might get to see baby dragons’ that live in underground pools inside these caves. Slovenia has plenty of emerald green lakes, an unspoiled coastline, and sparkling waterfalls to refresh you.

Lake-Bled

MEDIEVAL AND MODERN – Visit the Predjama Castle nestled at the mouth of a giant cave or get a view of the only island of Slovenia from the top of the Bled Castle. Piran is a picturesque old town on the Slovenian coast and boasts of several Venice-inspired Gothic architectural gems. If you are feeling lucky, try your hand at one of the gaming tables or slot machines at a casino in the coastal city of Portoroz or dance away at a nightclub in capital Ljubljana.

THRILLS & SPILLS – Slovenia is the perfect destination for thrill-seekers. The world renowned Kranjska Gora ski resort boasts 18 different ski slopes. Head to Bovec, surrounded by the Julian Alps, River Soca, and the Triglav National Park, to indulge in river rafting, paddle-boarding and kayaking. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery around lakes Jasna, Zelenci, and Bohinj as you swim, or take a boat ride. You can also go surfing, sailing, or kite surfing on the Adriatic Sea in Koper and Piran.

MELANIA TRUMP TOURS – The American First Lady Melania Trump, born Melanija Knavs in Slovenia, has given tourism in her quaint little hometown a boost. Now there are several Melania-themed First Lady tours conducted in Sevnica, that include visits to her childhood home, her elementary school and the factory where her mother made children’s clothes. You can dig in to a First Lady apple pie or the Melanija tortes served at a local cafe or buy White House slippers at the local shoe store.

A GASTRONOMIC DESTINATION – With a selection of sausages, cheese, mushrooms, and oils, Slovenia is emerging as an exciting culinary destination. Chef Ana Ros of Hisa Franko put Slovenia on the gastronomic map of the world when she was named the World’s Best Female Chef for the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, 2017. Take a wine tasting tour in the Vipava valley and dig into potica, a traditional dessert that comes with at least so different fillings. You can also try Zlikrofi, pasta dumplings from Idrija and the sinful Gibanica, a multi-layer cake. The Open Kitchen Market, that runs every Friday in Ljubljana, is a must-visit for foodies who like local street food. A vegetarian meal is not that difficult to find, and Indians craving for home food can head to Namaste, the country’s longest running Indian restaurant in Ljubljana

Ljubljana

VOLCANIC SPA – Slovenia is blessed with thermal and mineral springs where you can unwind and also pamper your skin with volcanic mud. The country is a front runner in cultivation of bees and has a host of wellness treatments ranging from honey massages to api-therapy (inhaling beehive air for respiratory problems), to eating pollen candies for essential vitamins. You can indulge in thalassotherapy at one of the many salt pans in and around Piran.

Dive Into The Fairytale-Like Scenery Of Uttarakhand

If you could touch and walk around heaven, what would it be like? I picture it as a house atop a hillock, surrounded by white snow peaks, with the warmth of the mountain sun. And this summer I got the closest I could to this reverie. In Uttarakhand’s tiny hamlet of Talwari, about 24s kilometres from Dehradun, I walk on the forest trails and across apple orchards to arrive at the charming Tridiva by Saffron Stays. ‘Tridiva’ loosely translates to ‘heaven’ in Sanskrit, and this three-bedroom villa does justice to the name.

Tridiva

Uninterrupted green landscapes help create a sense of tranquility at this homestay. Tall, manicured deodar trees and terraces growing mustard and other local vegetables surround the area I sit in the balcony to get a magnificient view of the Trishul massif- three Himalayan mountain peaks which take the shape of a trident. And this, my host and caretaker of Tridiva, Pradeep Rawat, tells me, is a matter of chance as weather in the mountains can be really unpredictable. The Trishul massif is usually hidden behind the clouds during monsoon, but on a regular day, one can see the mountain range for hours.

As panoramic windows fill the room with warm light, I walk into the house and run my hands on the Vaishnava chants written on the wall. From the earthen pot at the Main door, making my way to the wooden tables and the artistic swing, I admire the dark wood panel with carvings of Radha-Krishna over the stone fireplace.

The kitchen is a storehouse of local produce and stories. Pradeep introduces me to the (fresh and) local cuisine of Garhwal. While pahadi rajma and white rajma from the highlands of Garhwal, were a revelation, the madua (finger millet) roti and lentil cooked with local seeds like jaghiya were more homely and suited my palate. I spent mornings sipping tea while chatting with Pradeep about local beliefs, customs and stories. The people here are believers of Goddess Parvati, also known as NandaDevi. Every year the NandaDevi Jaat, a religious procession, is taken out in the months of June, July or August. It attracts hundreds ofbelievers from neighbouring villages. It is believed that the goddess returns to Mount Kailash after being away for six months.

The procession takes a bigger form every 12 years (Nanda Devi Raj Jaat) when palanquins from different parts of Kumaon and Garhwal scale up to Homkund, which lies at an altitude of 37SS metres. Pradeep was a part of the last Nanda Devi Raj Jaat—an experience that he says has reaffirmed his religious beliefs and spiritual inclination. During my stay, I met Khilaf Singh, a neighbour of Tridiva’s. An elderly gentleman, Khilaf tells me in detail his moment of faith during’ a visit to the hill shrine of Badrinath.

Uttarakhand

His face lights up as he recalls his journey to the shrine of Lord Narayana, where he managed to stay put in the temple for more than an hour, when everyone else struggle to offer their prayers for even few seconds. In my quest to identify with Khilaf’s beliefs, I hiked up to Badhangari- a popular devotional spot among locals. A day visit from Tridiva, the temple is situated at a height of 2,286 metres and dates back to the eighth century. It is dedicated to Goddess Parvati, and the locals believe that the goddess herself once stayed here.

I walk the steep and concrete path to the old temple on the hilltop. As I sit to catch my breath, I try to spot my homestay. A small white house appears amidst the green groves and other tiny blue Kumaoni houses – all dappling in the sunshine. Admiring the panorama, it occurs to me why it is called Dev Bhoomi, the land of gods. And how Tridiva completes this frame.

Lamayuru Monastery, Leh-Ladak: A Therapy For The Soul

The arid region of Leh and Ladakh is peppered with Buddhist monasteries and stupas. The Lamayuru Monastery—perched on a steep rock mountain at 3,500 metres—is one of the oldest monasteries in Leh and is affiliated to Drikung Kagyu school of Buddhism.

Lamayuru-Monastery

Almost in ruins today, Larnayuru hosts two masked dance festivals every year in the months of March and June, where monks and villagers perform traditional dance in colourful costumes. Surrounding it is a surreal moon-like landscape that excites both photographers and trekkers. The best time to visit the region is from June to September as the roads are clear and snow-free.

Ascona, Switzerland: Enjoy Nature In Its Purest Form

On the northern shore of Lage Maggiore is the lowest lying town in Switzerland. Ascona, in Ticino, feels like an Italian village with Vespa-driving, Italian-speaking Swiss. With its balmy weather, fashion boutiques and art galleries, and fine foods and wines, the lakefront town is a perfect summer getaway.

ascona-switzerland

Lounge by the lake or stop by a cafe on the lake promenade; visit the old town of Borgo and the beautiful church of San Pietro e Paolo; take a boat ride to Brissago Islands on the lake that have 1,700 plant species. There are numerous hiking and biking trails all around—in Switzerland, the Alps are never too far. If you’re visiting in September, attend the classical music festival, Settimane Musicali di Ascona and listen to symphony orchestras, ensembles, and other recitals.

London’s Indian Accents

As London pulsates with festivals and open-air activities, escape to The Lalit London, strategically located on Tooley Street. Whether you want to take a stroll by the riverside or admire the tallest building in United Kingdom, The Shard, the boutique hotel is close to many of London’s stunning attractions. Enjoy one of the warmest months of the year in London, and be assured of being warmly greeted with two hands pressed together in ‘namaskaar’ by the staff dressed in full Indian attire.

Old Meets New – Housed in a 180-year-old Tudor-inspired red-brick building that was once a grammar school, the 70 individually crafted rooms and suites are reminiscent of a classroom and are named so too. The Headmaster’s room, redecorated as Lalit Legacy Suite, features ornamented ceilings and warm oak paneling. It interconnects three rooms and is perfect if you are travelling with your family. The guestrooms and suites—that used to be classrooms—have soaring ceilings and large windows that provides natural light. To soothe the sore muscles, head to Rejuve – The Spa and revitalise yourself with the Ayurvedic techniques using herbal infusions.

 Rejuve - The Spa

Rejuve – The Spa

What’s On The Menu? The former grammar school’s assembly hall is now Baluchi— the hotel chain’s signature pan-Indian restaurant. You can dine under the blue chandeliers and treat yourself to Kerala-style seafood bisque with coconut and cognac and Kashmiri rogan josb. You can also savour fine wines and pair them with naans at Naanery. The hotel offers a novel Indian Afternoon tea menu at The Gallery at mezzanine level. Watch the London skyline change colours from The Terrace, where you can enjoy the best of both Baluchi and The Gallery in an open setting.

Koramangala Offers You The Opportunity To Try Spectacular Dishes

Coffee roasters and microbreweries, Asian canteens, and hidden-away regional restaurants—these are the coolest spots in Koramangala to take you from an early morning caffeine fix to a late-night tipple.

Flying Squirrel Coffee Roasters – From a lush coffee estate in Coorg, small batches of carefully harvested Arabica and Robusta beans make their way to a cheery little coffee roastery in Koramangala. Overlooking a fiery red gulmohar tree in bloom, a strong aroma of coffee lingers in the air, as fresh roasts are brewed in a variety of styles. With pour-overs, cold brews, and the current global trend in the coffee world, nitro coffee, on their menu, Flying Squirrel lets you choose your brew and your bean. Tubs of organic Sattva, chocolate-and-caramel toned Parama, a chicory blend, and fruity-sweet Aromatique beans are on display and available for sale. Co-founders Ashish D’Abreo and Tej Thammaiah—a third-generation coffee estate owner—are in the business of serious brewing, and the new cafe is a natural progression of the three-year-old online coffee brand.

Flying Squirrel Coffee Roasters

Flying Squirrel Coffee Roasters

Marla’s Goan Kitchen – A mix of homesick, experimental, and curious diners flock to Koramangala’s 7th Block to the cluster of tiny, regional Indian restaurants known for their otherwise hard-to-find cuisine. Tucked away among these, Maria Fernandes dishes out the wonderfully piquant flavours of Goa at Maria’s Goan Kitchen. What started out as a food delivery service for hot, home-style meals gradually evolved into a fuss-free, blink-and-miss establishment with a rather expansive menu. With favourites such as pork vindaloo, beef xacuti, pomfret in ambotik curry, Goan chorizo, and squid chilli fry, it’s hard to believe you aren’t seated at a beach shack with a view of the sea and beer in hand. The real winner here is the wholesome thali, perfect for those days when you want to order everything off the menu. Fluffy sannas, cutlets, tangy solkadi, rice, a choice of seafood, meat, or veg, and a slice of gooey bebinca.. Who says you can’t have susegad-in Bengaluru?

Marla’s-Goan-Kitchen

Marla’s Goan Kitchen

Nasi and Mee – Sitting behind a cheery glass frontage on the busy 80 Feet Road, dressed in warm tones of wood and yellow lights, the Asian canteen was born out of Singaporean local Ravindran Nahappan’s vision to bring the food that he grew up with to the city. A fourth-generation Indian, Ravindran says, “Nasi and Mee, which means ‘rice and noodles’ in Malay, is truly what we eat in the Straits Belt. Our cuisine originates from the movement of people— it’s a mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian influences.” His sentiment translates into the menu, which features staples and specials from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand—the slow cooked, ceremonial Malaysian Rendang, the delicate Chinese Char Siew, Indonesian sambal prawns, and the elaborate spread of Nasi Lemak. The peanut laden, coconut milk doused flavours transport you straight to Singapore’s hawker centres or Bangkok’s street food stalls. Coupled with the summery, deceptively light kiwi and lychee-infused wine spritzers, it’s no surprise that Nasi and Mee is always abuzz.

Lake Geneva Can Be Dramatically Beautiful This Time Of The Year

Surrounded by vineyards, storybook castles and cathedrals, with magnificent views of the Swiss Alps, Lake Geneva is for the dreamy traveller in us. The lake is shared between Switzerland and France, and is dotted with picturesque towns of Lausanne, Montreux, Nyon, Evian, among several others.

EXPLORE

Watch out for the most stunning scenery as you cruise the lake on a luxury boat from the Eelle Epoque era. See the lake changing its colour, or be witness to the occasional ocean-like moments with surf and waves. The most beautiful stretch on the Lake Geneva cruise is between Lausanne and Montreux, where the Alps form a constant backdrop and the Lavaux vineyards are seen on the northern shores.

lake-geneva

CHOOSE YOUR CRUISE

Lake Geneva caters to all travellers. Go for a day-long trip on a luxury boat, or hop on a regular ferry and explore the nearest port city. Compagnie Generale de Navigation is the most popular company in the area, and offers rides on various routes. It is also the only company that is allowed to drop off passengers at ports other than original boarding port. You can rent a kayak, yacht, windsurfer, pedalo pedal boat or power boat from major cities and explore the waters of Lake Geneva at your own pace.

WAYS TO SAVE

Try and plan your trip during the day when most of the companies offer cheaper deals. If taking your family along, ask for the family day tickets at ticket windows or buy them online. They are not well advertised, but save a great amount of money. Also, a same-day return ticket saves you around is per cent over buying two single tickets.

Beluga Expeditions: The Ultimate Game Fishing, Diving & Yachting Experience

The gleaming white mother ship seems to hover over the translucent waters of the Great Barrier Reef, a beacon of refinement for the exhausted and happy anglers aboard the game boats. It’s been another extraordinary day of marlin fishing on two of Australia’s most technologically advanced game fishing vessels. Now it’s time to return to Beluga for G&Ts, a chef-prepared dinner and a good night’s rest in five spacious cabins.

The European style of service on the decks of the mother ship contrasts with the easy camaraderie among Zulu and Levante’s experienced fishing crew. Captain Bob and his crew are polished despite being barefoot, asking if we’d like drinks or a dip in the on-deck Jacuzzi. If ever there has been a way to go heavy-tackle fishing in style, Beluga Expeditions is it. The concept of mother shipping – using a superyacht as a base while exploring, diving or fishing by day from the game boats – has never been done at such a level in Australian waters. The three vessels complement one another, providing both action at sea and a sophisticated retreat.

Beluga-Expeditions

The fleet is based out of Reef Marina at Port Douglas, but it’s rare to see the fleet in one place for long. This world wonder gives guests access to some of the most exciting dive, snorkelling and fishing sites, and free reign to enjoy her many toys, including jet skis and a mini-submarine. The Kimberley, the islands of Indonesia, Lord Howe Island and New Zealand are all among her possible destinations. A private charter aboard Beluga is all about the experience; she represents access to some of the world’s finest on-sea adventures without compromising on privacy, service or refinement. And for those days when you’re not feeling too adventurous, there’s always the Jacuzzi.

Discover The Most Delectable Tastes Of The Greek Islands

With an appetising crunch, I push my fork into a kataifi, splitting it in two. The traditional filo pastry, with strands as thin as vermicelli, wind tightly around a soft eggplant filling. It releases a warm, fragrant aroma of rich Cretan herbs on splitting and, after dipping a forkful into the accompanying sweet tomato marmalade, I savour its piquancy and delicate texture.

I’m sitting at Avli in Rethymnon, Crete, one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the Greek islands. Known for honouring traditional flavours of the land and preparing them with inspired techniques, Avli seamlessly blends the best of both old and new. Like the people of every Greek island, Cretans are fiercely proud of their local dishes. There are subtle differences, but a mutual climate with sun-soaked Mediterranean earth, warm seas and cultural influences from ancient Greek, Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish ruling periods bring the scattering of islands together in their cuisine profiles, producing a unique culinary landscape.

Greece

Gastronomic origins – From those historic eras until now, Greek island dishes show off the local produce, with olives, citrus, fresh seafood and local vegetables playing starring roles. Though simple, main meat dishes are never plain. Fragrant, slow-cooked rabbit, goat or lamb stews highlight the bold and bright qualities of intensely flavoured fruits and vegetables, thanks to the islands’ blazing sun and meagre rainfall. The country’s best wine varieties hail from Santorini, where volcanic soil nurtures the main grape variety, Assyrtiko, a vine that thrives on a water source of sea mist and nocturnal dew.

Above all, seafood reigns supreme. Octopuses are pinned out to dry daily, and can be seen splayed above mounds of sea urchins, calamari and shellfish as they chill on ice trays. Handpainted fishing boats haul in their catches of the day, to be consumed mere hours later. Whether it’s sea bream or sea bass, simply grilling a catch with a classic, uncomplicated blend of olive oil and fragrant herbs such as oregano or thyme often completes a recipe. Once served, a satisfying squeeze from a fresh lemon instantly brightens the scorched fish, rendering it irresistible.

Old island towns – Greek island fine dining brings these ingredients and techniques to an entirely new level. Avli’s degustation menu celebrates local culinary treasures and is inspired by the past and present in both taste and presentation. Dining in the Greek islands is also about appreciating the incredible surrounds. In Rethyrnnon, marbled door frames, ochre-painted walls, and intricate wooden Byzantine balconies draped in bright pink bougainvillea greatly enhance the experience. The conversation of passing locals and wandering travellers are the only sign that time hasn’t stopped in the most romantic of eras. At a neighbouring table, a clink of small tumblers brimming with a locally made raki – an anise-flavoured spirit – is accompanied by the toast “san ygeia mas” (to our health), setting a meal in motion among friends.

Greece

From the seaside – That familiar toast is echoed in Mykonos, my next stop, with glasses of a pale, golden-hued local white wine. At the five-star Bill & Coo Suites and Lounge, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, I’m settling into one the most prized dining verandahs in the country. This time, I’ve traded an old town island view for another quintessential island scene: the impossibly azure Aegean Sea stretching endlessly into the distance.

Adrift in the trance-like tranquillity, a white plate topped with a stunning crimson composition suddenly seizes my attention. Called Cherry Tomatoes vs. Strawberries, this dish turns out to be not a competition of flavours, but rather a harmonious balance of them. Local cherry tomatoes roasted in honey, caper cream, thyme, virgin olive oil and goat cheese complement the sweet tang of strawberries for an entirely pleasing dish. It’s the start of a degustation menu meant to be lingered over, which isn’t very hard considering the setting. By the time I’m enjoying the last delectable mouthful, the sun is slowly sinking in a fantastically coloured sky. Taking in the moment, I sit back and breathe in the quiet night air and feel the hint of a cool sea breeze. Dining in the Creek islands – a truly intriguing and breathtaking destination – is about appreciating everything that surrounds you.

Abeking & Rasmussen Yacht: A Dream Come True For An Extreme-Sports Fanatic

Cloudbreak’s name says it all. The 72.5-metre motor yacht was named after a renowned Fiji surf spot that has some of the most challenging waves in the world. The owner is a surfing and heli-skiing enthusiast with an adventurous spirit. His dream? To own a global cruising yacht that could access remote parts of the world inaccessible to others.abeking-and-rasmussen

Built in 2016 by Abeking & Rasmussen with interior design by Christian Liaigre and exterior styling by Espen Oeino, the ship reflects the owner’s desire for German quality French interiors and a masculine exterior design. Envisioned as a high-tech floating ‘chalet’ the yacht has five comfortable guest cabins, cabins for the heli-pilot deck master suite. The layout and fresh decor won a 2017 Show Boats Design Award for Best Interior & Design. It has a fireplace lounge for warming up after a ski or diving adventure and an expansive Winter Garden with lounge, bar and dining area that can be enclosed in glass, allowing guests to take in the often spectacular views no matter what the weather’s doing.

The challenge for the designers was to create a cosy interior without the use of too much dark timber. Instead, a soft colour palette and tinted brushed pine meets the youthful, sporty brief. A superyacht helideck for the owner’s Bell 429 Global Ranger enables easy access to the world’s best slopes and surf breaks, and a quick return at day’s end. The owner wanted to be able to land on the deck and head straight into a warm and comfortable lounge to watch the GoPro videos he and his guests had made during another action-packed day.

abeking-and-rasmussen

There’s a large collection of water toys, including rugged tenders that launch straight off the main deck for safety in rough waters. Extreme sports may be exciting, but the yacht also has plenty of capacity for fun on board. A sound system, complete with DJ station, and sophisticated laser lighting makes this yacht party ready. Keeping fit between adventures is important, of course, so there’s a high-tech gym, sauna and chilled plunge pool with easy access from guest cabins via the engine room.