It feels almost unreal that we are halfway into February, 2016 is moving a bit too fast, isn’t it? I had a wonderfully slow start to the year though, in the serene hills of Nainital, surrounded by friends, in a cozy hill cottage overlooking Naukuchiatal Lake. It was a New Year getaway but let me confess that I am not a big fan of celebrating the onset of another year. I find the whole thing overrated, especially in the cities, who you pay thousands for going to an overcrowded party, where the food and drinks suck big time, the service is disappointing, and you are likely surrounded by college kids getting hysterically drunk and throwing up before the clock strikes twelve.
So, predictably, over the past few years, I have completely abstained from the whole Delhi party scene on NYE, preferring getting together at a friend’s place, or even better, going out of town if it’s a long weekend.
This year, we found a cozy lake facing cottage in Naukuchiatal which seemed perfect for our group of eight. The distance and price was just right for a three day trip and we were all set. We took the Shatabdi till Kathgodham, and an hour’s cab ride later, we reached our cottage which was named Déjà vu.
We were received by Govindji, the in-house chef as well as caretaker. You know how you remember some places not so much for the places themselves, but for the people you met there? Govindji is one of those people. Extremely hospitable, he used to be at the cottage before we were up, and was willing to stay till late even if we didn’t need him to. His “poori aloo”, “chicken curry” and “aloo paranthas” were lip smacking. We learnt from Govindji that the owners of the cottage stay in Delhi and visit the cottage occasionally.
Coming to the cottage itself, it was lovely (I must admit that I have a weakness for hill cottages and this one was no different). Four bedrooms split over two levels with a huge sunny balcony facing the Naukuchiatal Lake. The cottage is done up very tastefully, with little knick knacks, which seem to have been collected by the owners over years of travel. There is something about it the cottage that is very welcoming and makes you feel at home instantly.
We spent our evenings around a bright bonfire, with music, food and glasses of wine. Days began with lazy breakfasts and hours of sun bathing in the balcony. And since I was visiting Delhi for a few weeks, all of which went into running around the city and meeting people, this was a welcome change. I guess for my friends too, with hectic jobs and no time, such a holiday is a real luxury.
To pack in some activity, we went kayaking in Naukuchiatal lake, took long leisurely walks, quad biked around our cottage and went para gliding in the hills. My favorite experience was kayaking in the lake, it was my first time and I loved it. Naukuchiatal is full of adventure companies offering these activities and they come fairly cheap.
You can also try Neelima Mathur’s menu (you will find it in the cottage) – she does home cooking and baking and can make a variety of goodies at a day’s notice. We ordered a lemon cheesecake and a chocolate coffee cake, which were quite nice and lasted our group for three days.
There isn’t much more to do in Naukuchiatal honestly, but if you need a relaxing break, and love nature and quiet, this place is for you.
You can more details on the cottage here.