This year there has been a deficit of mountains in my life. But my trip to explore Landour with Rokeby Manor was one beautiful trip. I had initially planned for three nights with my kind hosts. But due to date constraints, I had to cut it to two nights. I regretted every minute that I was not staying longer.
Landour is a dreamy place above Mussoorie. It has all the charms of the hills minus the crowds. Landour is a cantonment area so it has escaped indiscriminate construction. It is a pleasure to walk around the small town. As I am writing this, I am getting so nostalgic.
Rokeby Manor is a charming old world mansion. Its construction started in 1840 by Captain G.N. Cauthy. It has changed many hands over the years. It is now a beautiful hotel managed by the Mars Group.
Other than the main hotel, they have beautiful private cottages across the small town called ‘Rokeby Residences’. Bothwell Bank House is a three-bedroom mountain home provides a historical charm with original fireplaces and wooden beams, equipped with a kitchen, barbecue and an outdoor Jacuzzi. Set on a quiet sunny elevated slope overlooking the breathtaking views of the Himalayan range, is a charming small 2-bedroom apartment house called Bothwell Bank Cottage, an authentic stone clad mountain log cabin with a knotty pine wood decor which has all the comforts of a home. Another two storied bungalow Pine Tree Lodge is inspired by Scandinavian architecture, with colourful patchwork stools, vintage lamps and traditional Finnish artwork.
Being cute and scattered around the town is their hallmark. For example the Landour Bakehouse in the Sister’s Bazaar belongs to Rokeby Manor, so does the Clock Tower Cafe in the Landour Town.
The name of the spa is ‘The Little Salon & Spa Shed’. The name of the F&B outlet is ‘The StrayDog Cafe-Bar’ which comprises of ‘Stübli’, a Swiss styled restaurant serving Swiss & European cuisine and ‘Ale House’, an Olde English Pub. The spa as well as the cafe-bar is owned and managed by Rokeby. They had large umbrellas for the guests and I loved to walk around the small town in the light rain.
I tried out all the dining options available with Rokeby Manor but I am extra partial to the cakes and coffee of the Landour Bakehouse. I would love to go back, sit on a table by the window and get lost in the view and my thoughts. I may occasionally glace through a book but I would love to daydream more than anything else.
I had a cozy room at the Rokeby Manor that opened to the tea garden. However it was raining a lot to sit outside for tea. My adda was the balcony of the Emily’s Cafe where I would sit with a hot cup of tea and enjoy the rains. I loved sitting in the library too. The tea garden has beautiful views of the Valley. It is a great spot to catch the sunset too.
On some of my hosted trips I miss out on sleep almost all the time because the itineraries are invariably packed. Not so with my trip with Rokeby Manor. I was treated like a guest, who had no itinerary to follow.
I mean they made a plan for me but I was free to do whatever appealed to me and drop whatever I did not feel like doing. I need more hosts like them! I never woke up early and there were no late nights on my agenda. It was like a vacation for me, when most of my trips are not. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely thankful for all the travel opportunities I get but this trip was sheer luxury!
I established peace with the rainy weather at Rokeby Manor. All my working life rains were synonymous with traffic jams. In the mountains I do not like clouds because that means no views. But this time I loved the mist, the rains, the tea and the walks. I can be patient, I can go back again for the views! Rokeby Manor is special if you are looking for a peaceful vacation with family and friends. I would surely love to go back!
PS. I was invited by Rokeby Manor on this trip.
I am a hill person, I must have been born in the plains by mistake in this life. I am always happy to travel to the hills, even though it often means an early morning start for catching the Shatabdi Express train. My visit to The White Peaks at Gagar, Uttarakhand was no different. I got up at 4.00 am to catch the 6.00 am Kathgodam Shatabdi Express train. The White Peaks is a cozy cottage! It takes its name from the view of the White Peaks but I only got a glimpse of it as most of the time the weather was overcast. You can check out the rates here.
My plan was to sleep in the train after breakfast. But I was so busy chatting with Neeru and Gurjas (bloggers on the same trip) and a fellow passenger that none of us slept a wink! Travel is such an addictive topic. Due to avomine, I slept off in the car drive from Kathgodam to Gagar though. I woke up quite close to Gagar and I immediately noticed the Rhododendron blooms. Gagar is a small town a few kilometers before Ramgarh in Uttarakhand. If you want a peaceful holiday, it is the exact spot where you should stop.
Mohan, the caretaker, the cook and the ever smiling chap, greeted us at the road. We walked a short distance to arrive at the White Peaks Homestay. The territorial dogs (safely tied in their homes) went mad at the sight of the strangers!
Mohan asked if we would like a cup of tea? Even though it was lunch time I said yes to tea. The weather was awesome, my room looked cozy. Mohan reminds me strongly of my guide Sohan Singh Bisht, also from Uttarakhand. You can hardly ever find people with such perfect manners!
The White Peaks is actually a cottage with two rooms at the first floor and a cozy living area on the ground floor. My room was tastefully done. It had a comfortable double bed, a large collection of books, including back issues of National Geographic. It got ample sunlight and it had a view of the hills. My room did not have an attached bathroom. The bathroom was just outside my room. The other room had an attached bathroom, so the other bathroom is actually private. It was not a problem for me at all. The bathroom had plenty of hot water, just what you need in the hills!
There is a balcony between the two rooms which is ideal to sit and have tea/coffee. I noticed an ironing board in the common area on the top floor.
We spent most of our time in the balcony or in the living area of the cottage. The living room has a collection of beautiful curios and it has a real fireplace! The dining area is adjacent to it. The table can seat 4 comfortably. We saw a TV there but we never bothered to open it.
However most of my time was spent with a cup of tea or coffee, whatever took my fancy, on the terrace with a view of the mountains!
Mohan cooks some amazing food. He would ask you what you would like to eat and try to make it too. I immensely enjoyed the home cooked food, it was a luxury for me. All his dishes, be it daal, bhindi, bharta, rice, paneer were excellent. He would serve us hot chapattis and I was certainly overeating!
He made non-vegetarian food for Neeru and Gurjas and I think they liked it. But the best as the chai on the terrace with a cool wind and a wind chime tinkling away!
There is a small road going up, right next to the cottage. I asked Mohan where it would lead, he said it would go up to a small temple. I went on an evening walk on that beautiful road. The path is flanked by trees, a lot of them Rhododendrons. And they were in bloom. It was a joy to be among them and soak in their magnificence. I did reach a temple but it was not the temple!
I am no longer a late night person. If I can have it my way, I like to be fast asleep by 11.00 pm. And yet on both the nights Neeru, Gurjas and I sat chatting late into night! It is a blessing to have such fellow bloggers on a trips! Both have a background in film making and I learned a lot by observing and talking to them!
The White Peaks is a beautiful cottage in the hills. Gagar is one hour away from Kathgodam, hence it is easy to access. And yet it is amazingly peaceful and relaxing place. It would work for you if you are looking for a homely place to stay, away from the big cities. I liked the area so much that I actually want to buy a house there.
PS. I was invited by the White Peaks Homestay on this trip.
I am a big mountain fan and I am blessed that I live in India, the home to the Himalayas. And if I want more there is always Nepal and Bhutan next door. However our ‘main’ hill stations like Shimla, Manali, Nainital etc are extremely crowded, particularly over holidays and weekends. They are over constructed too. However, the solution to the problem is also simple. Just move out a few kilometers from the main hill station and it is all beauty and solitude. Fagu Himachal Pradesh is just 22 kilometers away from Shimla but it is a different world out there. Admittedly there is no nightlife, and other than the HPTDC hotel, I spotted no restaurants as well. There are a few kirana shops and there is nature on a grand scale.
Remember my letter to the mountain gods? Looks like it worked partially. I got an absolutely gorgeous day at the beginning of the trip. After that it snowed and it was business as usual but I am not complaining.
Even though I have been to quite a few places close to Shimla like Chail, Narkanda, Naldhera and Hail Himalayas near Sadhupul, this was my first glimpse of the snow capped ranges. I so wanted to see them glow red at sunset, but then mountain gods had other ideas. Even though it was a clear day, by sunset the whole range disappeared behind a veil of clouds, but even then I am not complaining.
We were staying at the HPTDC property Apple Blossom. There was a temple behind it and a tila (hillock) beyond it. It was our favorite walking ground. I actually liked that stray white cloud because it made the scene even more pretty.
On the hillock was this lonely house which was locked. There were no other accommodations around it. I wonder if this is just a store house?
And even when I got mist, it was beautiful on this trip to Fagu. This year the effort is going to be to go to the Himalayas whenever possible.
Dear Mountain Gods,
You know how I worship your domain. Every little holiday I can scrape through, I try to run to your highest adobe, the Himalayas. Do you remember the days when I used to be your favorite child, when you would let me see so much beauty on my various treks and trips?
I would particularly like to draw your attention to the Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal in 2012. How kind you were to me. Due to my work commitments I could only take the pilgrimage in May, not the ideal month for walking in that sacred region! And yet you showered me with abundant blessings. On all those 11 days of walking you did not let a single drop of rain fall on my head. Agreed there was a bit of snow but then, it came at night, made everything look even more pretty at Dignboche and it caused no trouble while walking.
There were treks when I walked in hail for about two hours but then you produced a magnificent rainbow the next day!
Now I am sure I have done something to irk you, but for the life of me I cannot figure out what. When I went to trek through the Annapurna Circuit in 2013 you made it rain for four days, out of which two days started in a raincoat and ended in a raincoat as well! Now you also know what misery it is to trek so. Then at Letdar you made it snow, not the beautiful half inch but the kind that makes you give up the trek and walk back. I would not have been desolate but for the dense cloud cover which hid all the peaks on all the days I was there. I barely got a glance, a poor one at that, of the magnificence that surrounds the region. That was in 2013.
It is now 2015 Gods and I still get the same treatment. Last year even at Charndratal, Spiti I got rains! When I went to Kareri recently I got one absolutely sunny day out of the six that I was there, it was the day when I was leaving for home. It has been the same story with some minor changes on all my trips to the mountains from 2013 to 2015.
Now Gods I am not complaining, because I am sure have done something wrong to invoke your ire. But whatever I did, don’t you think it is enough? Can you please take me back in your favor? I know you are only miffed because you have always let me come back one more time, but please can we go back to the Everest Base Camp days once again?
PS. Since you were so reluctant, I just have these two watery sunsets to show for my six days of stay at Kareri Village.