It was Oscar Wilde who had said, “It’s an odd thing,but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.” I was in this Californian city of breathtaking postcard views last week and yes it was indeed a delightful city. I was lucky that the Platts partnership summit I attended was hosted at the fabulous Ritz Carlton hotel.
“Does God have a swimming pool in heaven?”, I would ask my mother when I was very little. She would always answer ‘yes’ and would say that God did have the most beautiful swimming pool ever. I always loved the way she would take her time to describe God’s swimming pool. She would say the pool in paradise was clear with the bluest of blue, turquoise coloured water and that it was as big as an ocean. She would talk about how it was surrounded by white beaches with velvet smooth sand grains which would feel like soft talcum powder when you cupped it in your fist. She would talk about green swaying palm trees and coconuts which carried in their green shells, water which was sweeter than sugar.
For the August 15th weekend, we chose to travel within India. After a short early morning flight from Mumbai, we landed in Managalore, a little after 10:00 am. A hotel car was waiting to drive us to Bekal, a small town on the shores of north Kerala , a state in South India. The drive from Mangalore airport to Kasaragod district, where the Taj Vivanta Bekal is located, was quite picturesque with vast expanses of coconut trees and river crossings. Kasaragod is bounded by the Western ghats in the east and the Arabian sea in the west and has twelve rivers flowing across its terrain. On account of extensive road work, our drive stretched on for an extra 30 minutes, but we did not complain as we let our eyes soak in the local surroundings.
As a continuation of our family vacation last November, we travelled from Firenze to Terontola, Cortona. We had taxi’s waiting for us at Terontola station. For those who prefer to drive, you are better off taking the train from Firenze to Camucia, a small village where there is a car rental available.
Our friendly taxi drivers were a father and son team, typically Tuscan, typically Italian, both cool to the hilt. As we drove down the perfect village roads, headed to Borgo di Vagli, my mind wandered to the locations shown in ‘a walk in the clouds’ starring Keanu Reeves and Aitana Sánchez-Gijó. Although filmed on location among the wineries of Napa Valley and in the towns of Napa, St. Helena, and Sonoma, I felt that the region of Cortona was very similar to the locations shown in the film. And as our taxis neared Borgo , our final destination, the similarities grew even stronger.
Last year was special. Dad celebrated his 75th and it was mum and his 50th wedding anniversary. The family, my brother Aiyaz, his wife Shamira, Shahzain my nephew and his girlfriend Medina flew into Florence from Dubai while my folks, Laveena and I joined them from Mumbai.We spent four nights at the Four Seasons Firenze. The hotel is set in a former 16th-Century convent near one of the largest and most elegant Florentine gardens in the city. Our room was the Renaissance suite with a frescoed ceiling and opulent décor. The large bathroom with a victorian sofa overlooking the perfectly manicured lawns, sprawled generously across 11 acres, seemed like it was designed for royalty. Facilities at the hotel included a luxurious spa and an outdoor pool with a Gatsby like feel.