Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Good Earth for Nilaya: The launch

Solve this puzzle. What do you get when you put together 'Nilaya'; an offering of Asian Paints that is basically like couture for your walls, with Good Earth: a name synonymous with only the finest of sensibilities in the world of home decor?

It is really alright if you cannot because this post is dedicated to this new dimension of home decor that the partnership between Nilaya and Good Earth has unveiled: a line of 'Silk Route' themed wall papers. With fairy lights strung from tree to tree and the classic Good Earth lamps paving the way, the event to launch the Silk Route line of wallpapers was every bit magical. The centre pieces with large peach and white roses dotted with hydrangeas and the wallpapers, hung like tapestries right in the middle for all to explore. There were little cabanas done up in decor by Good Earth and the Nilaya wall papers in contrasting prints formed the folding doors right at the back. The Nilaya and the Good Earth teams ensured that we went home well versed with the detailed concept of Silk Route and the different landscapes explored in the wallpapers through this fabled journey.

When you think Good Earth, your mind automatically drifts to eclectic and romantic Indian prints with a colour pattern that prides in the richness of our heritage with a dose of modernism. There is not much from the house of Good Earth that does not stir a little something in your soul. Nilaya has redefined what surfaces meant to an Indian household. After a fantastic collaboration with Sabyasachi, this endeavour to roller-print some of the finest wallpapers for all structures alike is everything we have waited for. 

The Silk Route collection of wallpapers explores three segments of the mysterious Silk Route journey. 'Charbagh' which etches out blossoming blooms and plants found in the walled gardens. 'Palmyra' which is an 'imagined oasis paradise with lush foliage and exotic birds'. 'Xanadu' where the Silk Route originated from across the Great Wall of China.

For all those asking, the wallpapers are ready and stocked at the Good Earth Select City Walk Mall, New Delhi.

Photography by: Ilina Luthra
Find all information on Good Earth here and more on Nilaya by Asian Paints here.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Follow me to Anant Rasa: a travelogue

Off late I have been quite besotted with writing about my travels and ensuring that I develop the right language to be able to best share my travel experiences with my readers. In the past I have written extensively about my trip to Paris here, about Netherlands here and even Bali right here, amongst other travelogues. My biggest hit from within the country was a piece I wrote about Banaras right here. For a decade now, I have not taken a holiday to the hills and when this opportunity to experience the lap of luxury right from within the Himalayas knocked at that metaphorical door, I seized it with all that metaphorical zest. Anant Rasa markets itself as a hideaway and while I had no idea that it could really be a thing en route to the hills, on reaching there I was convinced that it did full justice to the term. Somewhere between the towns of Ranikhet and Almora, spiralling upwards lies the Shahi Devi Estate where the little magical stretch of Anant Rasa finds itself. If you left me to my own strengths, I would probably spiral into madness looking this little Narnia up but therein lies the basic idea of a holiday there: it's where you go to find solitude, hear the winds whisper all night and bask in the lap of nature. 
Let's do it in the style that I know most of you enjoy the most. A travelogue in the form of a listicle. TEN things that make Anant Rasa the perfect hideaway in the hills:

  • The hospitality: You know how they say, you never forget how a person makes you feel. At Anant Rasa, every member of the staff, from the driver to the people serving you your feed exude a kind of warmth that almost makes you feel like you were at a holiday with your family (and not in a creepy, infringe on your space kind of way!). They have a team of highly trained staff that takes care of everything efficiently from your food needs to experts who help you undertake adventure sports in the hills.
With Siddharth and Aditi, the most congenial people and the founders of Anant Rasa

  • The food: I take a lot of pride in the fact that I genuinely enjoy my food and derive a lot of pleasure from scoping out different cuisines, the freshness of the produce, the veritable flavours etc. Anant Rasa believes in a 'farm to table' concept wherein everything that is brought to the table for all your meals is from the gardenscapes and farmed at the resort itself. Imagine eating a focaccia bread that came straight out of the oven served to you, with a tomato soup with rosemary and thyme, all plucked straight from the farms of the resort. Every meal is accompanied with every possible kind of green and as I write about it, the sinfully fresh flavour of each herb still lingers fresh in my mouth. The diverse menu will ensure that you not just eat well, but eat healthy all through your holiday. 
  • The views: You cannot holiday in the hills without choosing a hotel or a resort that allows you the luxury to wake up to the views. I could step out of my room into a balcony which afforded me the views of large oak and cedar trees for as far as the eye could see, only to be topped with a layer of fog hanging on the mountain peaks. The views from every angle of the property propel into the mountain figurines or dense jungles full of pine and cedar trees. 

  • The orchards and the blooms: Anant Rasa is brimming with all of nature's wonders. While that sounds like an advertorial for a natural honey or some such (I am certain they make their own honey too! ), it is not an exaggeration by any stretch. The resort is colours galore with a wide variety of flowers all through the year. The orchards, in the right season also offer a variety of colour and fruits and the opportunity to go fruit picking, much like your favourite Enid Blyton characters! 

  • Trekking and hiking: Fact: the longer ones are the treks and the shorter ones are the hikes. Even our 3 km trip into the jungles at the crack of dawn when the forest was covered with a damp layer of mist, only qualified as a hike. Never mind my lazy girl issues, the place offers guided treks and hikes into different parts of the erstwhile British colonies and the jungles suitable for people of different age groups, stamina and of course depending upon the weather conditions. We spotted a whole variety of wild mushrooms, rhododendron trees and a pack of red faced langurs.

  • Bird watching: I never prided myself in being much of a keen nature observer but if my getaway gives me the opportunity to discover a bevy of beautiful fluttery creatures in their natural habitat, even I know better than to refuse it. Under the aegis of a certain Mr. Lokesh, we set forth early in the morning to explore a whole world of magpies (and other exotic birds) but mostly magpies because we spotted a lot of those!

  • Adventure sports like the Tyrolean traverse: I love the idea of plunging into new experiences headfirst, even if I sustain a few head injuries along the plunge. Seriously bad jokes aside, the tyrolean traverse comes from the Tyrolean Alps where people possibly used the idea of zipping things across a fixed line to carry them faster. In this particular activity, you are slipped into a harness and clipped to the fixed line of rope that stretches from Point A to B and you have to pull yourself through your upper body strength from A to B. The rush comes from realising that if not for the harness, you could be dangling quite a few feet off the ground in the midst of a thick jungle. 

  • The rooms: Immaculately clean and minimally chic rooms are not just spacious but also tastefully done. Every room has an adjoining balcony overlooking the mountains and it is interesting to note that the resort also has an absolutely fantastic 'No plastic' policy which means that they use waste paper baskets made of cane and the toiletries come in large glass dispensers as opposed to the tiny plastic ones we commonly see.

  • The resort design: Credit where credit is due. I was quite enamoured by the space utilisation and the design of the entire resort. Not only are there winding paths with flower belts on either side, the rooms have been spaced out and constructed in a way that they are not too closely constructed and give each guest an exclusive experience of the resort. The club house bears a wonderful old vintage charm with hints of cerulean blue all through the upholstery. Makes it almost impossible to miss the tea hour.

  • One large photo op: I get it. I should be propagating internet free and photo free holidays but really, what is the meaning of such life when you cannot rub it in other people's faces. Never mind that new age, satirical pearl of wisdom. Anant Rasa is by and large one large photography opportunity. We could not turn into a corner without the urge to take out our cameras and photograph. For once, I did not even care so much about being in the photos. The glistening mist on the leaves, the myriad shades of nature, the spikes fallen off a porcupine that we found in the jungles, the gentle giant Himalayas, the fog hanging low over the green and beautiful resort, that and more. Okay I might have lied about the ' I didn't even care about being in the photos myself' part.

A good time to visit Anant Rasa is towards the end of September and for the month of October. The rains finally call it quits and the weather is chilly and lovely, just in the right amounts. 
Find them on Facebook too and if you do visit, make sure to blow a kiss to the hills for me. 


Saturday, September 17, 2016

7 Benefits of Oiling your hair ft. Avon

If I jog my memory to the earliest years of oiling my hair, it takes me back to my Nani's household which was a full house in the sultry, fragrant summers of Delhi. She would line all of us up and give us the best oil massages ever. Befitting since as kids our hair could do with all kinds of nutrition and we never really cared too much about being caught dead with oily hair. My mother insisted for the longest time that I get around to oiling my hair but apart from an occasional massage or a spa visit or too, I wouldn't let an oily hand touch me with a barge pole.
Life comes a full circle as they say. I went from hating oiling my hair to enjoying the one hour of oiling time that I enjoy weekly now. I was genuinely experimenting with a lot of oils for different purposes before Avon introduced me to their new launch, the Natural Hair Oil with it's #PowerOf7.
I am also going to try my hand at Youtube with this official debut on my channel and would love to hear your thoughts on it. Like, love, comment, subscribe to the channel and tell me what you would love to see more of, right here and here.

Production by Archisman Misra


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ten things you HAVE to do in The Netherlands

One thing that runs consistently through all my travels is the realisation that no matter how much time I spend in a country, it just is never enough. There are always boxes left unchecked, experiences unexplored and that one cafe not checked out. This also happens to be my biggest lesson in travelling. You can never see everything and it is best to take some time to soak in what you can as opposed to touch and go a multitude of places. 
Twelve days in the land of canals and tulips and I cannot probably find photographs or words to do justice to The Netherlands as seen through my eyes. I covered The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam; three of the largest cities in The Netherlands and also probably the most significant. Apart from the fact that only about 50% of the country is one metre above sea level, The Netherlands is also one of the most liberal countries in the European Union. It has something to do with the fact they have legalised euthanasia, prostitution, same-sex marriages and boast of a relatively chill drug policy. But it also comes with the fact that the work culture and the work life balance of the nationals is extremely balanced and thus contributing to a great quality of life. You know how it's difficult to find a Parisian smiling or waving at you for no real reason? Let's just say that despite the same kind of a language barrier, I had many a happy Dutch (men, women, kids alike) smiling and waving at me on different days. I have come to realise that listicles work best when it comes to compiling my travelogues so let me just give you my top ten things to absolutely not miss doing in The Netherlands:

  • The Museums: I know I know, you definitely saw it coming. I am a hard core museum buff and can very conveniently spend almost every second day exploring a new museum. Over the course of twelve days, I went to five museums across the three cities and picking a favourite would be almost like picking a favourite child. In no particular order, my five picks were: Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, House of Anne Frank Amsterdam, Escher at The Palace in The Hague, Mesdaag Panorama in The Hague and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. All of the above are a great mix of art(Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Claude Monet and many a Dutch gems), craftwork, pottery, antiques and a display of the evolution of it all. House of Anne Frank as the name suggests is the original house where Anne Frank and her family went into hiding when the Nazis invaded The Netherlands during World War-II. It displays everything from the original transcripts of her notes to each doorway that originally led up to the hiding place and has now been sealed off. Needless to say, the museums were the most satisfying part of my trip.
Van Gogh, Amsterdam

Escher's genius, The Hague
  • Bicycle, walk or take a boat across the canals: The canals are all over the country and incidentally when I was in Amsterdam, the Gay Pride Parade was at it's peak which was essentially a long drawn celebration of homosexuality across the long weekend. The house boats and the jets across the canals were all a riot of colours and parties dotted across the entire city and there possibly could not have been a better time to be there. We walked around, stopped across bars and even took one of jetties across the canals which took us on a mini tour of everything in Amsterdam. It is scenic and definitely a part of the complete Dutch experience. 

  • The Food Experience: My fiancĂ© had his finger on the pulse when he said that there really isn't anything very intrinsically Dutch about their cuisine. It is heavily influenced by the neighbouring countries and is basically a mix of everything European. However, Dutch pancakes, coffee, cheese (or kaas as the Dutch call it), hand cut fries with different toppings, gelato (albeit Italian) are few of the Dutch food experiences that you need to dive into. Usually the street food carts do a good job of all these especially if you are close to the Pier. 

  • Shopping: I did most of my shopping in The Hague since I spent most of my time there and while the local Dutch designers are definitely not easy on the pocket, the high street brands work out a lot cheaper in Europe as I told you here and here. River Island, Bershka, H and M, Pull And Bear, Monki are all great options for bulk high street shopping. My favourites, however remain COS and this Dutch label that I discovered there called Vanilia. In The Hague, Centrum is the central part of the city which has winding alleys with all the stores. There is also De Bijenkorf which is the multi-designer retail store across The Netherlands. When in Amsterdam, you would find a lot of cute vintage shops dotted across the 9 straatjes and is a real hit with the tourists.

  • The street market experience: Amsterdam runs a host of street markets but one of it's most popular ones has to be the Albert Cuyp Market which has more than 200 stalls running across Albert Cuypstraat selling everything from souvenirs, to dried herbs, from pieces of luggage to Delft pottery, form cheese to all kinds of meat. Basically, everything a local family or a tourist needs can be found here. It is also a great place to pick up vintage artefacts and household things.

  • The nightlife: While you might think Amsterdam is all where it's at, you would be surprised at how exciting the nightlife in The Hague is too. Everything ranging from the 'brown cafes' to cocktail bars and coffee shops across the country are abuzz for most part of the night. For those of you travelling by trains and trams, you might need to take the party closer home since those services stop at around 12. My first and the best pick for a bar in Amsterdam would have to be Vesper which is a tiny boutique cocktail bar boasting of some beautifully potent cocktails, especially martinis that are all bound together by the common theme of James Bond. The bars dotted all across Amsterdam especially the alleys around Leidseplein are great to party all night or just sit across for a couple of fresh brews since the variety of beer brewed in The Netherlands is just brilliant and diverse across palates. Prinsengracht also has many a bars to just sit outside and to look out from. It's best to just walk around since all these lanes are walking distance of each other and have a vast range of bars and breweries. My favourite area which is also basically a square full of outdoorsy bars and cafes in The Hague would have to be Grote Markt

  • A guided tour of the Peace Palace in The Hague: This international law administrative building houses the ICJ (The International court of justice) and the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration). Not only is it an intimidating yet stunning structure with every detail about the countries' contributions and the history of the world legal politics but it also houses the fantastic Peace Palace Library. Given the significance of Hague in international law, this one is a must visit. The guided tours for the inside of the courts only go in batches of twenty so make sure you squeeze in with people before 3 or 4 pm. Post that, you only have access till the lobby which gives you a free of cost audio tour of the history of the Peace Palace.

  • The Heineken Experience: The Dutch love their beer just as much as they love their museums and when you bring the serious affinity together, you get the Heineken Brewery Experience. Amsterdam is the home to the Heineken Brewery and this fun, trivia filled little tour (followed by a little roof top party with burgers and beer and the views of the city) will actually take you through the entire procedure of how their beer is brewed complete with historically significant memoirs of everything Heineken. The souvenir shop is mind boggling and it's hard to settle on the one perfect Heineken memoir but your own beer bottles brewed and packaged with your name printed atop the heineken logo take the cake. 

  • Vondelpark and the AMSTERDAM letters: Slightly gimmicky as it is, no real visit to Amsterdam is complete if you do not get yourself a photo infront of the signage at Museumplein. Like they say, pictures or it didn't happen. Vondelpark surrounded by the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum is the Central Park of Amsterdam. With hot dog carts and souvenir shops on the side, you will find the locals and the tourists alike, sunning themselves here or sitting propped open with their picnic baskets. It also has an open-air theatre. I am quite the park and garden person so it definitely was worth all my time to just get a cat nap here.

  • The pier or the Dutch Riviera: It is not much of a confession since I made it abundantly clear in all my travelogues till date that I am more the beach person. Not to say that I don't love the hills but as and when the opportunity strikes, I always go the beach route. Should not it come as much of a surprise then that The Pier Scheveningen or the Dutch Riviera as it is also known in The Hague made it to my top picks from The Netherlands. Dotted with restaurants, bars, food stalls and a Sea Life Museum, the pier and the beach promenade are delightful and needless to say that the restaurants at The Pier itself offers wonderful views of the water. The weather in August, when I was there was a little tricky and not quite appropriate for hitting the beach but the restaurants and the walks are abuzz nonetheless.

No listicle or travel blog can cover every little thing to do or place to eat at, all encompassing. However, the attempt always remains to give the reader a holistic idea based on your experience and interests and it should be customised keeping your personal interests in mind. Keukenhof in Lisse for the Tulip Gardens, Delft for the shoe making and pottery and the Rijksmuseum are on my must-see for the next visit.
If you would like, I would be happy to share my list making methodology which I use to create my organised lists of 'Things to do' before each holiday. Yes, it's an acquired skill. No, you don't know my secret.
For all travel related questions, ideas etc. Fire off below.



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