Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Experience nature at its best at SGNP

Part of the trail

Is that wishful thinking for a Mumbai-ite? Not at all. Sanjay Gandhi National Park always has some good nature focused activities on. So does BNHS. See links at the end
The reason for this blog is to inform all of you how easy it is possible to be part of the Great Outdoors right here in our mega-metropolis, Mumbai
For some years I had wanted to go for a walk /nature trail at SGNP but the thought of reaching Borivili on a Sunday morning by 6 am was too large a deterrent!
Finally this year, in June as I saw the walks on the SGNP Facebook page, I decided to go. 2 friends agreed to join me for the Monsoon Walk!
I cannot express what an exhilarating experience the walk was! We started at about 6:30 am and were back at about 11 am. The group was small – about 20 participants accompanied by naturalist, Dr Parvarish Pandya who is so knowledgeable! Shri MK Rao of the Forest Dept. and some of his team members accompanied us. They made the experience amazing! Can't wait for monsoons 2018 to return.
Walking in the forest we saw myriad and assorted frogs (tadpoles too), insects, fungi, spider webs and more, all pointed out to us by the experts. We heard scores of bird calls. In fact, the surroundings were drenched in green. So soothing you’d never think we are in crowded Mumbai.
The trail provides great opportunities for birding and exploring natural habitats as these evergreen forests are host to a rich diversity of life forms. Well-shaded for the most part, some of the trails take you to the highest point in the park providing a fabulous view of the forest.
Wear full sleeves and take tea tree oil as a natural insect repellent. We carried our breakfast and ate it while walking! (we brought our litter back to dispose it later)
There are longer trails returning around 3 pm.
Also expected to come up is the “Night Under the Stars” on Saturday nights at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Mumbaikars go... and see what a treasure trove lies on our doorstep and reconnect with nature.

Next event

Birdwatching with Adesh Shivkar. Sunday, 22nd October 2017.

Bird watching is one of the fastest growing hobby in the world today and studies suggest that bird watching contributed USD 36 billion to the American economy in 2006! Human being has been forever fascinated and interested in watching and identifying birds since times immemorial – the question is have you gone bird watching yet?

Winter is one of the best seasons to go birding – several birds migrate to SGNP, to escape from the harsh cold of their native lands. Join Adesh Shivkar (one of India's most respected name in Birdwatching and introduce yourself to this passionate hobby, which will last you for your lifetime. This walk will take you through forested valleys, river beds and open rocky plateaus and will introduce you to the science, art and sheer joy of bird watching.

6.15 am : Registration at SGNP Gate, Tea
6.30 am : Departure by vehicle into the forest
7.00 am to 11.00 am : Birdwatching
11.45 am : Drop back to the main gate & Disperse.

Bird Walk Fees:
₹ 700/- Per Person (Max 20)

Costs Include:
Expert Fees
Entry Tickets (not vehicles entry fee)
Morning Tea & packed light- breakfast
Internal transport from SGNP main gate & back

Profile of Programme Expert:
Mr. Adesh Shivkar is synonymous with birdwatching in India. And over the last 25+ years of watching birds Adesh has crisscrossed the length and breadth of India and continues to do so zealously. At the same time Adesh sincerely believes that more and more people should take up birding and get close with the natural world; for this he is always ready and enthusiastic to help lead others on their birdwatching sojourns.

Check the events here regularly

Monday, September 11, 2017

Our 1st AirBnB stay - hooked!

La Mer Entrance


Our sit out in Goa

We had a great stay at the very first AirBnB stay ever and that too in Goa.
We stayed in a lovely home in Goa: Apartment # 6, La Mer, Reis Magos. Entire home/apt hosted by Heena. https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/8302437

As it was our 1st Air Bnb stay, we weren't sure what to expect. Heena's apartment No 6, La Mer, looked exactly like the photographs. It is a 1BHK apartment with a spacious hall with TV and AC, an open plan kitchen, and a bedroom with TV and AC. The ground floor apartment has great light and privacy due to the lush greenery in the garden.

The Vianaar complex, La Mer, is safe with security and also has a generator so at no time were we without lights and fans.

The apartment was clean and we felt quite at home. Having housekeeping service was wonderful. The complex is very pretty - I enjoyed coffee in the private garden outside the apartment among the flowering plants. (see pic above)

Living room
The Living room

The bedroom

The kitchen

The pool with the club house on RHS

Even the common club area (AC) in the complex was great. We swam and the children hung out there (free wifi). My son and our friend’s sons who were in Goa at the same time as us.
Verem market was a short walk away- we picked up fresh bakery bread (poi), fruit etc. 

Our host Heena had arranged to keep mineral water for us in the fridge. There was soap and toilet paper in the washroom. And ample crockery and cutlery. She was very responsive to any requests.

We chose AirBnB because this was a longish stay and we felt that s hotel room may be too cramped for us. With the money we saved on the hotel room we hired a car for the duration of our stay and roamed all over eating our way through North Goa! See link https://loveslifefood-mumbaifoodie.blogspot.in/2017/08/eating-out-in-goa-2017.html  We would eat lunch and dinner out and also often just drove to Anjuna to eat gelato

We will certainly return.

Several of our friends have some great AirBnB recommendations. 

Here's one for Barcelona from a family with kids https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/11831658

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eating out in #Goa #2017

Goa’s Restaurant Scene Hits the Right Notes (North Goa)
 Food in Goa is innovative, individualistic and responsive to the state’s culture. We visited Goa in May and got a chance to revisit favourite restaurants and try out some new ones.
Goa offers a smorgasbord of food from Hindu and Portuguese-style local cuisine, abundant seafood and a lot of international foods due to the large numbers of foreigners who love to call Goa “home.” This makes the restaurant scene vibrant with a wide assortment of cafes and restaurants offering an array of food.

Fish thali

We ate the famed Goan fish thali at two renowned local institutions both in Panjim. Casa Bhonsle and Ritz Classic. Go there for lunch and be prepared to wait. The thali serves a large slice of fried surmai, kismur, crab, veggies, rice, a bowl of gravy and sol kadi/kokum. Beer is available and you can order a la carte, The rawa fried mussels, calamari and shrimp here is delicious. In these traditional fish thali restaurants, it’s all about the food!
Many of the restaurants in Goa apply a higher-level restaurant ethos to a casual experience. The food and alcohol menu in many places is on par with fine dine, but the ambience is relaxed and approachable which is ideal in Goa. It is this vibe and the gastronomical offerings which attracts Indian visitors to Goa year on year.  


Hogging at Gunpowder

Fairly new on the scene is Gunpowder, Assagao. It was worth the drive to experience the fabulous food of South India, in a glorious garden shaded by trees and a multitude of colourful umbrellas; accompanied by interesting desi-inspired cocktails and mocktails. Think jamun daiquiris and basil-ginger infused cocktails and watermelon-tender coconut based mocktails.
Try the delicious pork ribs, in a tamarind chilli marinade with a sweet note; awesome mutton pepper fry, beef chili fry, pandi curry, fried calamari and have it with Malabar parotha and dosai.

Crispy pork salad at Bomra's

Mussels at Bomra's

Ruling the roost of fine dining in Goa is Bomra’s, Candolim which is named after the eponymous Bomra, the Burmese chef who owns it.  This is a must visit alfresco restaurant  on the main Candolim road, offering contemporary Burmese cuisine in an al fresco setting. The food here is flavourful with delicate hints of herbs and spices. This is our #Top favourite in Goa, no visit is complete without eating there. Try the crispy pork salad with pomelo as a starter - this is the signature dish here. Other favourites are: crispy vegetable tempura, mussel curry, shrimp curry, Aldona pork, smoked shark salad with mango and rocket and chicken with white fungus. Oder the coconut rice or Phad Thai noodles with your mains. Order the Bomra's special, a cocktail redolent with lime and ginger flavours and the tamarind martini. For dessert, (keep space for it) order the tender coconut panacotta with passion fruit compote, creme brûlée with lemongrass and ginger and for my son who can’t have dairy, a coconut milk based ice cream with a sticky rice pudding. Great service.

For great pizza and other bakery products, visit Baba Au Rhum, Arpora. It’s situated under some ancient trees, next to green paddy fields. Most of the dining area is covered. Good friendly and quick service. Check out their all day breakfast, pizzas, burgers, filled croissants as well as their salads. Closed on Tuesdays, this café is open from breakfast to dinner.

See the sunset from Thalassa, Vagator.. Book a table and enjoy sun downers and some good Greek food. Or if you are like us and did not get a booking, hang out at the bar till you get a table or walk down the cliff side to the beach. It’s magical!

We could not leave without partaking of the best pork chops in Goa, head to House of Lloyds, Candolim. Situated in the garden of a beautiful, yellow coloured Portuguese home off the main Candolim-Aguada road. The steak here is excellent, so is the seafood. Try their amazing cocktails, the chili flavoured Mojito hits the spot. The dining area is covered. There’s a DJ who plays requests, both Hindi and English songs.
Ice cream selection at Cream Choc

If you like gelato (is there someone who doesn’t?) then please check out Cream Choc, Anjuna. The most delish flavours being churned out on the site, fresh daily like Pistachio and Hazelnut,  even better they have a range of sorbet. So important for my son who has a dairy intolerance.

View from The Square, Novotel Shrem Resort

my indulgent breakfast at Novotel Shrem

Breakfast icecream at Novotel Shrem

Doughnuts - kids loved them, Novotel Shrem

The best breakfast spread was at the Novotel Goa Shrem Resort in Candolim. Awesome breakfast buffet, better than even the Taj Holiday Village, in my opinion,  Loved the indulgent Icecream and doughnut selections with toppings! And the waffles with maple syrup! These made my day! Of course the usual was on offer: South Indian, eggs to order, bacon, sausages, fruits, selection of breads and pastries, cereals.

South Indian spread at Novotel Spa Resort

Baker selection at Novotel Spa Resort 

Loved the tea selection at Novotel Spa Resort

 A close second, in terms of breakfast buffet spread is at Food Exchange at the Novotel Resort and Spa, Candolim. Great South Indian and a vast buffet including lovely baked items and chole bhature to pao bhaji and doughnuts, Good food and stylishly laid out with a lovely pool and paddy filed view.

Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel 

View from the restaurant perched high on the Fort

Visit the northernmost tip of the state, Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel. Go there before sunset to feast on the view and see an amazing sunset. Check out the sundowners and stay for dinner if you can spare the 

Don’t miss Friday nights at Cavala Resort, Baga. Live music and dancing. So fun. A perennial favourite. Its always packed! Great food, drinks and the place is buzzing!

For party animals, Cohiba on the Aguada Siolim road is the right place. Saturday nights here are rocking.

Please check Zomato for timings, note that some restaurants like Bomra’s and Calamari close during the rains

Can’t wait to return to my adopted state. Go Goa..ah.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Holidays #2 Novotel Goa Shrem Hotel - 100% FUN

The welcoming lobby

We recently visited not once but twice!

On our 1st visit in April, the husband and I stayed in a Luxury room in the new Club wing. So on our next visit in May, with the teenaged boy, we booked the same category room. The 1st time we had the pool view, the 2nd visit we had the mountain view!

Our room

Pool view from the balcony

Bar Asia - poolside 

The larger pool

Pool with waterfalls
Pool at night

Square - table with a view
Loved the contemporary chic design – the room was spacious with a large balcony overlooking the 2 inviting pools. The spacious balcony had bench type seating.

The room was luxuriously appointed, spacious, very comfortable and contained a pull out sofa bed for children.

A spacious loo had a shower stall and stocked with good toiletries (VLCC).

The poolside Bar Asia offers drinks and snacks. In the evenings, guests in the Club wing enjoy Happy Hours with cocktails, mocktails and snacks at the poolside – from 6-7 pm. It also serves  Bahn Mi the Vietnamese sandwiches. Just right for hungry swimmers or just to enjoy Goa!

The Square, the all day dining restaurant was fairly empty at lunch time and though they had a buffet laid out, as nothing appealed (no Goan seafood), we ordered ala carte seafood. But, it was buzzing for breakfast which was a huge spread from waffles to ice cream's to eggs, breads, fruits to South Indian and loads more. #BestGoaBreakfast and I’ve seen quite a few including the Taj Aguada and Holiday Village.

The lobby houses a deli cafe - The Little Place - we picked up some cakes to take to a friend's home. Very convenient for quick snacks!

The lobby has a lively vibe apart from being very spacious. Loved the music – you can also hear it poolside.

On our 1st stay I mentioned to the Guest Relations Executive that it was our anniversary so a yummy chocolate cake was sent to us! On our second stay we received a cake which said welcome back! These personalised and special touches really warmed my heart!

Though this hotel has a gym and spa you can avail the complimentary transport service to go to the Novotel Spa Resort just down the road or to the beach!

The service was excellent – everywhere – pool side, room service and even in the very crowded Square for breakfast – our server replenished our waffles, got us coffee and lots more!

Strongly recommended – I’m going back. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Holidays #1 Novotel Goa Resort and Spa

As its holiday season I am doing a series on holidays and hotels – to give you ideas for your next getaway! And i have to start with Goa, my family's all time fav holiday destination.

View of the pool from the 2nd floor balcony outside our room

Table decor in our suite's living room

Welcome goodies in our suite 

We recently stayed at the Novotel Goa Resort and Spa, Candolim, Goa, in the Prestige suite. 2 rooms with 1.5 loos! Convenient for a family. Spacious and luxurious with all mod cons and 2 balconies. One was used by the husband to smoke in and the other is where we had our morning tea/coffee! 

Loved the huge bathroom with the double sink, wardrobe and lots of space. Truly luxurious!

The bedroom had many lights - good for reading too! We had a coffee machine apart from a well stocked mini bar and a mini kitchenette.

Our sitting area

Pool shaded by the giant banyan tree

The pool area is truly lovely and embodies Goan susegad. The pool itself is shaded by an ancient banyan tree! Lots of loungers around it and many attendants to give service – a cold beer or fresh lime soda?

There's a Children's activity centre to keep kiddies busy and an indoor game area with a table tennis table, foosball and carrom.

The lobby houses CHY - a deli, bar and bakery, very convenient for snacks and drinks. 

Lobby deli CHY

The very popular CHY 

Vero Cibo is the Mediterranean Restaurant, open for dinner which has fab views 
but we missed eating there as its closed on Tuesdays. We did eat at Food Exchange, the all day dining restaurant. Please see review in the next blog!

The Warren Tricomi spa is outstanding! Treatment rooms are Bali-styled Wooden huts in a tropical garden. The husband and I booked an energising couples massage. 

The 60 minute session took place in a wooden Balinese style hut with a washroom, sunken double tub, changing room and a spacious treatment room with 2 beds/treatment tables. 

Decor at the Spa reception
Spa treatment room 
Spa treatment room

We started with a warm water soak for the feet in rosemary and eucalyptus salts – the aroma was heavenly! The body massage was in lime and ginger oil! All this while soothing music played in the background. The session was very relaxing and energising! The masseurs /therapists recommended waiting for an hour before washing off the oil for best results. So we dressed and returned to the room and bathed later.

The hotel is very close to the main Candolim stretch and overlooks green paddy fields. It's a short walk from the beach. (10 to 15 minutes). The property offers a half hourly drop and pick up from the beach upto 7 pm. 

Morning view from our balcony - very Goa

Beside the pool is the gym. So you can exercise in air-conditioned comfort surrounded by the pool vista and the green fields beyond.

Must do for your next visit to Goa! 

On my last visit I stayed at the Taj Holiday Village and though it’s on the beach – the room didn’t have a sea view, the bathrooms were tired and there weren’t any bedside reading lights. This hotel with its fab service and amazing rooms is a really good option, in fact its a steal!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Koko Asian Gastropub- Great food & drink, cool classy vibe

Morning Glory and Black rice - our outstanding mains 

Phone No.
Koko Asian Gastropub
Kamla Mills
JustDial 88888888

We visited Koko for dinner in October, we were a group of 5. The spacious, well-appointed gastropub seats 80 people. It was crowded at 8 pm, early by Mumbai standards, but as they take 2 sittings, the next at 10 pm, understandable. It was our 1st visit to this restaurant which opened in July where it’s still hard to get a table reservation on any day of the week! At the moment, it’s only open for dinner.    

Spicy Salmon Sushi

Prawn Cheung Fun

Crispy prawn sushi

Crispy pork belly slices

Spare ribs

We mainly ate sushi and sashimi:  crispy pork belly, spare ribs, soft shelled crab, spicy salmon roll, mushrooms, shrimp done in various sauces. Very delicious, served with a variety of interesting chilli sauces. Quite full, we barely had room for the main course.
But so glad we did- ordered black rice with burnt garlic and sauteed morning glory, both outstanding.

We had a variety of interesting cocktails –my Funky Buddha cocktail was good.
The only disappointment was the dessert, the salted caramel tart, which was strictly average.

The people behind this are the brothers Tham, sons of Henry Tham, who’ve given Mumbai Trilogy, Juhu and the Good Wife, BKC.

Good service and lively classy cool vibe. Recommended

We’d just visited Bastian 3 days prior and I can honestly say I’d rate Koko higher – with its huge menu, generous portions and cost per head less than Bastian! (It was Rs 2000 approximately at Koko versus Rs 3000 per head at Bastian – both without tip and one alcoholic drink per head)