There’s been a new world order in place these past few months. All travellers have been grounded, physical affection distanced, and screens have become our most trusted confidants. We might be trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but our dreams are far from contained. Here are some of the picture-perfect, cultural concoctions that our travelling celebrities can’t wait to explore and experience again, once the travel industry gets back on its feet.
I love the ocean and the Maldives is my favourite place on Earth. Set in turquoise-blue waters, the islands are a stunning haven of tranquillity. There are those who seek the mountains, and then there are those who yearn for a laidback beach vacation—finding their happiness in the sun, the sand, and the sea. My husband, Raj, and I fall in the latter category. As personality types go, we are quite different. Raj loves to chill and relax, while I like to be in a place that is chilled and relaxed.
I also like to have an agenda and a plan. So, I make sure to get some work done when I’m in a place like the Maldives. Of course, I pamper myself too. In fact, I rarely ever go to the gym when I am visiting the islands. After all, I get to swim in the ocean. Snorkelling and diving are always wonderful too. We indulge in all kinds of food, from a lavish breakfast spread to fresh, local preparations. We go for boat rides and just soak in the beautiful scenery. Among my top picks are villas on stilts; you can step out, stand in waist-deep waters and just enjoy the serenity and stillness. It’s heaven!
Chef Ranveer Brar
I love the contrast between Fort Kochi, which is the semi-urban, semi-European part of the inland that still gives you a feel of being in Kerala. I think the contrasts in Kochi are beautiful, the romance of the Chinese fishing nets, the cobblestoned streets of Fort Kochi, the pepper exchange, and the different cultures that have come together over the centuries: the Jewish culture, the Gujarati culture and all the others that came in via trade and the way they have settled and integrated.
I usually stay at the Brunton Boatyard when I am in Fort Kochi because they have made an effort to collate all the micro cultures that thrive in that area. From there, one has to drive very little to experience the countryside, the backwaters, and the coconut groves. My wife, Pallavi, and I love sitting by the beach since we’re both water lovers. I am a sucker for fresh toddy before it starts fermenting, so we do this thing of paying the toddy tappers and drinking neera (palm nectar). Also, we love the firewood-smoked toddy shop food, especially the duck. Every time we’re in Kochi, we make it a point to visit Mullapanthal Toddy Shop for the shappu curry. It’s a precious connection we have because we love eating in these shops more than anywhere else.
São Miguel, Açores
A part of Portugal, the Açores are nine tiny volcanic islands in the Atlantic, somewhere between Europe and the USA. They were never colonised; they were discovered and occupied by the Portuguese while still totally empty. São Miguel, the capital island, is the biggest (that doesn’t mean it’s big at all, one drives along its longest side in about an hour!), and has incredible natural sights of all kinds. From mountains to lakes in volcanic craters, from fields to hot springs and thermal pools, from beaches to the ever-present, all-surrounding ocean. We didn’t even travel to any other island as we had originally planned to. We decided to do justice to all that São Miguel had to offer instead, and left the other islands for ‘the next time’.
We stayed in two charming, old-world AirBnBs on opposite ends of the island to make our sightseeing easier. The food was very much like on mainland Portugal, but the highlight was my birthday dinner at the gourmet ‘Quinta dos Sabores’. Every dish was a masterpiece, and the hosts most friendly, charming and efficient. Book in advance. Even though we hail from Goa, we were blown away by the allure of São Miguel’s tropical beauty and vegetation. I had the impression that the whole island was one big bonsai garden, with diverse landscapes compressed into a tiny piece of volcanic black land. Will we return? You bet.