On a Crisp autumn morning in October, Laveena and I drove 70 Kms North East of Prague, to Mcely, a beautiful picturesque central Bohemian village in the Czech Republic, with a tiny population of 300. The colours of fall, had cast an umbrella of red and gold, upon many of the narrow village roads and our mood was gloriously happy and mellow as our car drove through several light drizzles of leaves, which delicately fell to the ground, reminding us of the magnificent season we had chosen to be in the Czech Republic.
For our Diwali (The Indian Festival of Lights) holidays this year, Laveena and I travelled to the Czech Republic. Our first stop was Prague, the ever so stunning capital city, steeped in history, with its colourful baroque buildings, red rooftops, narrow pebbled streets, Gothic churches, old bridges and the glorious Vtlava river. Our first impression when our taxi drove into the left-bank neighbourhood of Mala Strana (Lesser Town), was that Prague (or Praha as the Czechs refer to their beloved city), was one of the most beautiful cities either of us had ever set eyes on.
Wanting to escape from the heat and dust of Mumbai over the long weekend in October, Laveena and I, were excited about our visit to Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat and Spa which is located in the Sahyadri hills. Our 3-hour drive to the retreat was a pleasant one and although there is a short 2 km stretch of mountain road which is uneven and bumpy, the emerald-green, rain-soaked landscape more than makes up for it.
A comfortable 3 and a half hour car ride from Delhi, on the Yamuna expressway, got us into Agra on a Friday afternoon. The traffic on Friday is thin in Agra, as it is the one day in the week that the Taj Mahal is shut for tourists. As we drove along a sweeping approach road, surrounded by native trees, through the gates of the Oberoi Amarvilas, we were met at the main entrance, by a young hotel staff member who guided us past the grand quadrant style forecourt, into a lobby where a crystal chandelier hung from a blue-and-gold dome, showering its glittering light onto the marble floor.
In February this year, one of our dearest friends, Nikita Sanyal, celebrated her 40th birthday in Bangkok and we were invited to spend a night at the Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park. We had arrived in Bangkok a day earlier as we didn’t want to miss out on staying at our favourite city hotel in the world, The Siam Kempinski. On the day we were to shift, I remember telling the staff at the executive lounge at the Siam Kempinski, that we were sad to be leaving to stay at another hotel in Bangkok, but we did tell them that we would be back in a day. When our taxi arrived, the Bell Captain at The Siam Kempinski, while loading our bags asked, “ we hear you are moving to another city hotel Mr. Mitha. Why?” We explained it was only for a night, for a friend’s birthday celebrations and promised we would be back.