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A weekend getaway to Lonavala

© Photographs: PocketfulofHappiness
Lonavala, a hill station near Mumbai in western India, is ideal for a weekend getaway with little or no preparation. It’s the kind of place you visit to unwind rather than sightsee, though you can do both if you like. The popular tourist destination, which gets its name from a series of ancient Buddhist caves, is surrounded by hills and valleys — a part of the Sahyadri mountain range or the Western Ghats that rolls across six states. The expressway that cuts through Lonavala is peppered on either side with all-budget hotels, dhabas or roadside eateries and dozens of shops selling chikki, a traditional brittle sweet made with jaggery and peanut.

A last-minute decision and two backpacks was all it took my wife and me to drive down to Lonavala. For end of March so close to summer, the weather was unexpectedly pleasant. Although it was warm in the afternoons, cool winds in the mornings and evenings lifted our spirits and made our trip more enjoyable.
The Orchid
We stayed at The Orchid, an eco-friendly resort where the staff was courteous and helpful and the room clean and spacious with modern comforts. Since, in the past, we’d already been to the various scenic points overlooking hills and lakes, this time we did little more than relax, go for walks, catch up on sleep and generally laze around.

On the evening of our arrival in Lonavala, which was a Friday, we walked up to Mapro Garden located about a kilometre away. Mapro, short for Mahabaleshwar Products, is known for its strawberry delicacies like syrups and sherbets, jams and spreads, fruit chews, chocolates — and yes, strawberries, too. We picked up a few things from the superstore, though we couldn’t decide which flavours of the ‘Lounge’ brand of bottled syrups to buy. Every one of them — Strawberry, Mojito, Blue Curacao, Green Apple, Vanilla, Watermelon, Mosambi (sweet lime), Mint, Coconut, Peach and Hazelnut — looked appealing. Finally, after tossing back a few at the tasting counter, we settled for Mojito, a combination of lime and mint, and Green Apple. It was a smart choice, considering summer was only a couple of days away.
Mapro's fresh strawberry icecream.
From there, we strolled through a flower garden to the wide and airy Mapro restaurant where we shared a whopper of a fresh strawberry icecream layered with strawberry fruit, strawberry cream and strawberry crush. It was so delicious and filling that we went back the next evening, this time for some fresh mango icecream with all its delectable trappings; except, they didn’t have any. Given a choice of strawberry and chocolate, we settled for another strawberry overload and ordered what turned out to be a sizeable vegetable grilled sandwich with fries. We ate watching the sun dip below the horizon.

While it’s always fun to go on a vacation with friends, one of the joys of holidaying as a couple, especially if you’re married for as long as we have been, is that it brings you closer together. My wife and I share many interests — our love of travel, books, movies, food, writing, music, etc. — and so we also had plenty to talk about. We sat on the lawns of our hotel under a clear night sky and brainstormed story ideas for our website; we spoke about ways to grab happiness by the fistfuls and cherish every moment of our lives; we discussed places we should visit, cruises we could go on; and so much more.
The worth of a good hotel can be determined by clean accommodation, the quality of its service and the food it serves, especially buffet breakfast. Luckily for us, The Orchid did not disappoint. Boulevard, the multi-cuisine fine-dining restaurant at the Ecotel hotel, laid out a scrumptious spread that included a variety of traditional Maharashtrian, Gujarati and South Indian dishes, oats, eggs and croissants, fruit and fruit juices, and more. What we liked about the morning meal was that it wasn’t very oily or salty.

Buffet breakfast is often so filling that you have to skip lunch, as we did. Instead, in the evenings, we settled for a leisurely snack served on banana leaf at Café Vindhyas, an open-air South Indian restaurant at The Orchid. The place overlooked the highway and seemed like a perfect hangout spot for those passing through Lonavala.

Our weekend escape was over quickly, but the break did us good. By the time we were on our way back to Mumbai, we were already making plans for another holiday. While the places we visit matter, what is more fulfilling is going there together and creating new memories.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

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It all sounds heavenly! And that strawberry ice cream looks absolutely delicious. I'm so glad you took the time to enjoy ourselves and step back from your regular lives a bit. I think that's important for mental as well as marital health. And it sounds like a wonderful place to be in nature, too. What's not to like?

Apr 07, 2023
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Thanks, Margot! Yes, the strawberry icecream was "heavenly" and a meal in itself. I agree, these small excursions are good for both mental and marital health, and for the well-being of the family as a whole.

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