6 THINGS I ENJOYED DOING AT SULA FEST 2016

A weekend at SulaFest was a mega mix of great music, wine, drinks, gourmet food, fashion, shopping and more in idyllic surroundings of the scenic vineyards in Nashik. Here’s every little fun detail for you

(1) SHOPPING AT THE MINI BAZAAR

When there is music, wine and shopping, you don’t really need more! SulaFest had these little shops selling knick-knacks and creative items sprinkled across different areas. I found some hand-painted bottles, antique silver jewellery, hand-embroidered little clutches from Kashmir, pretty Pashmina shawls, colourful ganjis with quirky sayings for both men and women, jootis with ghungrus, dainty and French-like kitchen ware in subtle shades of white and pink and a lot more. Even if you don’t really intend to go back with your hands full of shopping bags, sometimes, it’s just a lot of fun to look around and hunt for interesting stuff.

(2) GRAPE STOMPING, OF COURSE!

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The moment you look at those bunches of grapes lying in a huge wooden barrel, you simply want to kick off your shoes and jump in for some fun. The experience of squishing and squashing fresh grapes with your bare feet and feeling them between your toes is utterly delightful. Plus, grape stomping never fails to be the perfect photo op! This activity at Sula Fest was chargeable at Rs 300 per person for 10 minutes. Had it been cheaper, I would be dancing, sleeping and rolling in that tub full of purple grapes all night.

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WHY YOU MUST DROP EVERYTHING & TRAVEL. DREAM, BOOK, GO…

There is no discounting that you learn some of the most important skills in the classroom but the lessons you learn about life when you leave your comfort zone and step into the unknown are incomparable. Here are some of the best lessons of life that travel teaches you.

TRUST YOUR INTUITION
If you travel on your own (by not opting for no-sweat group tours that have everything planned for you), you are likely to tackle situations where you have to make a choice or a decision immediately. No amount of research or preparedness can come to your rescue. But on the bright side, discovering things on your own, like what’s the cheapest and quickest way to get from point A to point B, how much should you trust your instinct when talking to a stranger, how much should you spend each day… etc. all go a long way to smarten you up. When you are in another country, you feel less judged and more courageous too.

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ANANDA IN THE HIMALAYAS: LUXURY DETOX IN THE LAP OF NATURE

Even a month after my stay at Ananda – In The Himalayas, I can picture myself floating in the tranquil temperature-controlled pool with alluring turquoise-feathered peacocks wandering all around. I can hear the gurgling sound of the waterfall I enjoyed while lazing in the balcony of my premium valley-view room overlooking verdant hills and the dimly-lit, meditating Rishikesh. Every time I close my eyes, I can feel the composure I experienced after every rejuvenating spa therapy performed in their very idyllic setting. And once I am in this bubble of bliss, it takes a hell lot of effort to decamp and get back to work. Such is the repercussion of my four-night getaway at the opulent destination spa in Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand.

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Living ‘maharaja’ style
The moment I entered the space, I was welcomed with more than a dozen warm smiles and a rudraksha necklace around my neck. The reception area – housed in the palace – instantly transported me to an era of Indian royalty and the typical, soothing essential oil aroma shook off all the travel tiredness.

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MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH CHOCOLATE IN BELGIUM

It’s really hard to not love a place that offers the three most delicious things in the world – chocolates, waffles and beer.

Even before I booked my tickets to Belgium, I already had my chocolate-crazy friends making special requests to get them all possible varieties of Belgian dark chocolates. And this made me even more curious about what these oh-so-special “Belgium Chocolates” tasted like.

My romantic rendezvous with Belgian dark chocolate began the very moment I landed at Brussels airport. One of our co-travellers was yet to arrive and we decided to kill time by sipping a cup of hot chocolate at a trendy coffee bar. For a perpetual dark chocolate lover like me, it was almost close to experiencing one of life’s greatest joys.

Whirling it in my mouth, I could easily distinguish the Belgian choco drink from any other I’d had before. Decadently rich. Smooth in texture. And just the right amount of sweetness; nothing less, nothing more.

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JAISALMER – THE CHARMING SANDSTONE CITY

The rainy season certainly isn’t really the right time to visit Jaisalmer, especially if you wish to enjoy a camel safari and a night of camping under the starry sky. But that did not deter the curious rain chaser in me who desperately wanted to experience the monsoon magic in the ‘Golden City of India’. After living the Maharaja life at a 550-year-old haveli in Jodhpur, we decided to take off to Jaisalmer by road. I must say that our 300 km drive was quite rewarding. The highway was stark empty with open spaces on either side, and no visible economic activity for miles and miles; we almost felt like we privately owned the beautiful surroundings. To make the trip all the more pleasant, peacocks, camels and blackbucks occasionally made an appearance, gorging themselves on the fresh green grass, courtesy the random bursts of rain.
The city that is entirely constructed by yellow sandstone is much more laid-back and hassle-free as compared to cities like Jodhpur and Jaipur and untouched by globalisation. Retaining the rural Rajasthani aura and culture, the city has no fancy malls or popular food chains and is hugely dotted with ruins. We started our day with a walking tour of the city’s major heritage spots which are within the radius of 2 to 4 km. Even if you’ve hired a car or taxi, you’ll have to walk up to most of the places as the streets are quite narrow. When you look at the magnificent, carved havelis and the unique fort perforated with winding lanes and lined with houses and temples, you’ll be transformed to a bygone era and would never wish to return to reality.
After savoring a few local dishes like Ker Sangri and Daal Baati at one of the small joints near the fort, we proceeded to Sam Sand Dunes for a desert safari which was just the perfect way to end the evening on a delightful note. It wasn’t raining that evening and we just got lucky. When it rains, you can’t recognise the desert – heaps of sand are eroded, leaving behind bare nut-brown earth and a camel or jeep safari remains a distant dream. But we got to experience both and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, the ride is likely to take a toll on your back if you tend to become too stiff and don’t move in the same rhythm. Post the safari, you can either get back to your hotel or book an overnight stay at one of the desert camps to witness the breathtaking sunset and spend the night around a bonfire or simply appreciate the rustic performances by the folk dancers of Rajasthan.
My trip to Jaisalmer was indeed a memorable one as it felt like I was travelling back in time. Too hard to believe? Here’s a glimpse

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A panoramic view of the Jaisalmer city from Canon Point
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Jaisalmer Fort Road enclosed by honey-coloured sandstones. Can’t take your eyes off the unsurpassed architectural marvel?

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TASTING TOUR IN HK, MACAU

The variety of food available in this ex British colony is mind boggling, making it a gastronomic haven for every hungry instagram-ing soul. A few pages from my diary…

Hong Kongers are truly passionate about their food and novelty is their forte. Whether it’s on the sticks or in a pot, fragrant or stinky, intriguing or just weird, the food here is a curious mix of the traditional and western culture. Asia’s culinary capital, the city pretty much lives to eat and boasts of everything edible from Cantonese, Shanghainese, Vietnamese, Japanese, European and many more cuisines around the world. Whether you’re an adventurous eater or a picky desi vegetarian, the city can never leave you disappointed. Not to mention the former obviously has an upper hand. The variety here is so wide that you can consider a customised food tasting trip to Hong Kong. Yes, a tour completely dedicated to the city’s culinary experiences. From delicious egg tarts, wine jellies and ice-creams in flavours of red bean and green tea to a whole range of hot and cold teas, roasted chestnuts, dim sums and curried animal organs, Hong Kong brims with tons of restaurants, well-lit cafes, noodle bars and street joints that rustle up yummy local as well as international fusion delicacies on a daily basis.
When it comes to impressing the taste buds, Hong Kong’s close cousin Macau doesn’t lag behind. Just a 45-minute ferry ride from the noodle town, Macau has its own signature must-eats. What you certainly can’t miss out on is Serradura – a layered Portuguese dessert of crushed sweet biscuits, cream, condensed milk and vanilla and served chilled – and oven-fresh egg tarts.
While Hong Kong and Macau have the ethnic Chinese population in bulk, there is a sizeable presence of food-obsessed people from other places in Europe, America and Asia. Probably, the drool-worthy food scene here says it all about their cosmopolitan nature!

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AUTUMN IN ANTWERP, BELGIUM

Every season has its own charm but the beauty of Autumn somehow leaves me speechless. Trees look radiant as they shun the greenery of summer and adopt the hues of fire – yellows, reds, browns and burnt oranges. This November, Belgium treated me to the most stunning fall foliage on the planet. I decided to simply sit in silence on a small wooden bench at the park opposite Leopold Hotel, Quinten Matsijslei 25 and submerge in the beauty of nature. The weather being just ideal, neither too chilly nor too warm, I wish I could sit there for hours staring at the landscape in idleness…

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