Day 2 began as a super-duper lazy Sunday with us slurping on steaming hot tea with some crispy, spicy paneer paranthas for breakfast while the rain drummed an energetic beat on the tin roof! (Food at Yasmin’s house has always been sumptuously delicious and leaves me wanting for more ….. Her Mom and staff believe in pampering with great food and all meal times usually, turn into veritable feasts in their house. And I so miss it when I am back in my home and staring at the kitchen cupboard, mentally tossing between making maggi or eggs.)
Sitting cosily in the bay window, watching the clouds dipping over the dal lake, was a surreal moment ( yet another excuse to sip on a hot cup of Kehwa). I could just live this tranquil life and envied Yasi her gorgeous place in heaven. The peace, quiet and the beautiful, bountiful surroundings, are more precious than a life times worth of one’s materialistic possessions.
Our original plan of heading out to tungmarg for the day was mooted out since it was still pouring so insistently! Instead a tea outing at the newly made taj vivanta sounded utterly relaxing! I was quite curious to see this place. The short drive was up a winding road, nestled in the tall mountains on all sides and fluffy white clouds floated all around us, dissolving into misty moments – truly a paradise all around here!
The hotel was a downer as far as the interiors and ambience went. I was expecting luxury and class all around but the design and finishes were nothing much to write home about. It seemed a low-budget job with not much taste and care given to the design and specifications. Sad to see a TAJ hotel in such a state!!! Then again, maybe my expectations are much higher, having worked in such gorgeous properties of the Taj group ( Umed Bhawan, Jodhpur is an absolutely breathtaking property)
We sat in the tea lounge sipping jasmine tea and brunching on pizza and bruschetta – all of it excellent! The food pleased us even though the ambience didn’t – so maybe not that bad after all!!!!
We wandered out in the gardens to take in the view of the dal lake and the mountains all around. The elegant gray sky was smeared with puffs of clouds which cast a mesmerizing spell on all of us. The mountains seemed to have disappeared beneath the clouds, as they breathed in and out. The valley lay before us with a fantastic view of the Dal lake.
While heading out, we came upon a beautiful smelling bush with small purple flower heads. Aunty informed up that this was lavender. I couldn’t resist stealing a few stems to take back with me and we spent the car journey home breathing in the soft fragrance which filled the car.
We drove down to the main market for some last-minute shopping for our trip – medicines, sunscreen and chocolates!! Why is it that despite all the planning, there is something still left to do/buy at the last-minute???!!!!!
Had to stop at the Grand palace hotel which overlooks the dal lake and is one of my favourite places in Srinagar. This hotel is actually the Royal Palace converted into a 5 star hotel – it’s truly elegant and charming with a huge garden full of tall chinars, poplars and multi hued flowers.
But the most fascinating thing were the lush apples hanging in great big bunches from the trees in the garden. The sight of them lured both me and Saad out of the car. While he went to “steal” a few to munch upon, I captured a few in my camera for eternity.
Drive back home became a full on eating trip since Yasmin was determined to make me sample all her favourite delicacies. Sweet ears of golden corn roasted on a slow coal fire (these were much better than what we get here in Delhi), pumbaz – lotus heads full of soft sweet seeds, tasting almost like fresh almonds! This was a first for me and I was totally bowled over by the taste. Even now the taste lingers in my head as I sit here writing about it.
The tikka joint opposite the dal was a fabulous food haven. The food was finger licking good . I was bursting to the gills after all this food and just when I thought no more, espied some road side vendors selling fresh green walnut. For the uninitiated, walnuts grow as soft sweet fruits and later harden into the state most of us are used to eating them in.
Scores of men and women sat there with mountains of walnuts, shelling the green fruits to get to the soft brown ones which has a sweet and juicy centre inside.
Finally came back home to find some hot jalebi and samosas with steaming cups of fragrant kehwa waiting for us. God bless her staff for this wonderful hospitality. (Told you, their only mission in life is to feed us). I am a big fan of this exotic Kashmiri drink and just couldn’t get enough of it, especially since the weather was so perfect for it.
Day ended with some masti with yasmin’s adorable Persian cat, aptly named Muffin who decided to entertain us with his cute antics.
At one point, he got inside the suitcase that Yas was busy packing. He decided it was one of the most cozy space for a siesta. I am so going to miss him from tomorrow.
But tomorrow is going to be the start of a trip of a life time! Fingers crossed for it!