FULLMOON CAFE, Havelock Island

Revisiting the Andamans after many, many years, it was as though we were discovering the islands for the first time, so much had things changed.

One of the lovely discoveries we made was the trendy Fullmoon Café on Havelock Island, which was not only the eatery for our little hotel, but also a popular hang out for tourists and divers from all over Havelock Island.

And deservedly so.

Chill vibe.

Great food.

Excellent service.

Golden Retrievers and a cat.

What more needs to be said?

The dogs flop at your feet, the cat curls up on your lap, all adding to the relaxed mood of this open-air café that gives onto the beach.

 

Thoroughly recommended, for the excellent food, great menu choices and reasonable prices.  To serve such a varied menu, given the logistics of island life, is seriously impressive.

We paid our own way, and I did not tell the staff at Fullmoon Café that I blog and write reviews.

A great little place.

Testing Reebok’s reversible running shorts

Late September & Delhi is at its worst.

Hot, humid, the fag-end of the monsoons – which explains all that heat and humidity.

So, of course, that is exactly when I decide to buy some new running trousers, and test drive them (as it were) in such an unforgiving climate.

Because I’d just bought some Reebok running shoes, I decided to try out their clothing range as well, and bought a pair of reversible running shorts –  well, more capri-length to be exact.

They are indeed reversible –  grey one side, black the other:

I have subsequently used these running shorts at least twice, if not thrice, a week since then, and 2 1/2 months on from humid September, I am every bit as pleased with them, and they show no sign of wear and tear.

They really do wick away the sweat, as advertised:

The only adjustment I made to the trousers when I bought them, was to cut off the care label, in order to make them truly reversible.  Like so:

 

It was stitched on in such a way that removing it was easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My only cavil – I do wish there was a pocket.

I bought & paid for the trousers myself, and no-one in Reebok knows that I blog.

They cost Rs 2699 (in late September 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to buy these running shorts, you can get to Amazon very quickly, straight from this page.  Just click on either of the links below, and they’ll take you straight to their website…but, hey, you know all this stuff, right? 🙂

A brilliantly located rental apartment in Rome

Disclosure time (& even my husband doesn’t know this).

When looking online for a flat to rent for our stay in Rome earlier this month, I was looking for places which seemed well located for running.  I’m a brand new, totally enthusiastic runner, and this “choosing a location so that I can go for a run” malarkey is also brand new.

So, looking at the map of Rome, and remembering bits and pieces of the city’s geography from my last visit there some 30 years ago, I thought, why not something along the river? It’ll be nice to run alongside a river in a big city, I thought.

Panorama Ripetta looked perfect.

On the river, & from the map it looked apparently quite close to the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps.  A little balcony on which to have morning coffee/evening drinks.

Perfect.

What I hadn’t quite realised that Panorama Ripetta is so amazingly close to all these iconic locations and more.  Looking at a map, I’d thought we would have longish walks to reach all these places, but instead it was literally a matter of minutes to reach so many of Rome’s major sights. Piazza Del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, the Borghese Gardens, the Vatican – all an easy-peesy stroll from our lovely apartment.

So, on location grounds alone Panorama Ripetta wins hands down.

Absolutely brilliant location.

The flat was equally lovely & spotlessly clean. Decent sized bedroom with hanging space, hangars, extra blankets; bathroom, large living room, with the kitchenette tucked away behind doors.

Panorama Ripetta is in a gorgeous old building just oozing charm and dignity, and with its high ceilings and quiet elegance, it was a delight.

The address is Piazza del Porto di Ripetta.

This is the building, with our very own slightly crumbly fountain.

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There is a lift, and our 1 bedroom apartment looked out over the river.  This was our view:

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There is traffic along the Lungotevere, but the flat has double glazing which cuts out the noise.

The tiny balcony was my favourite perch, to have my morning coffee

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my evening glass of vinoIMG_1699

and just to sit and watch the world go by:IMG_1471

There are plenty of shops and restaurants within a couple of minutes walk, and we shopped most days at the great little Carrefour just round the back of the building, which is amazingly well-stocked and open every day till late.

The kitchenette (below) folds away behind those doors.  There are 2 electric hobs, toaster, dishwasher, Nespresso machine  – when we were checking in (late), it was discovered that there were no Nespresso capsules for the next morning (oh disaster!) but they were delivered promptly next morning, which was a sweet touch.IMG_1598The other folding doors conceal a washing machine, and all the cutlery and crockery.  The crockery was of good quality but there was literally just enough stuff.  Meant we had to run the dishwasher after virtually every meal (& we ended up buying our own capsules as the few supplied ran out).  Similarly, the cooking pots and pans were fine, but j-u-s-t enough.

Nicely decorated and no visible signs of wear and tear.

TV, but we didn’t actually use it at all.IMG_1597

Bathroom was small but had everything including a heated towel rail, a hairdryer, and a first aid box which I thought was a nice touch.

Fire extinguisher, too.

We used the A/C a couple of nights to sleep, and it worked perfectly.

Free wifi.

We arrived late, and so had to pay Euro 25 as a check in fee, which was explained to us in advance.  A lady was waiting for us at the bottom of the building, checked us in, explained things – adequate English.  Since I speak no Italian, am in no position really, to pass judgement, am I?

There was also a Euro 30 end-of-stay cleaning fee, which I’m not sure I remembered seeing online, but there you go.

We booked online, through Expedia, and all emails were handled very promptly and efficiently, including queries about taxis etc.

Recommended.

Would I stay there again?  Oh, absolutely.

We paid our own way, and no-one knew/knows that I blog or write reviews.

Oh, yes –  the running was GREAT.  Along the river to the Vatican City every day –  too much fun.

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Where to stay in Venice for THE ultimate view? Altana Albachiara

We have just returned from THE most fabulous trip to Venice (for an equally fabulous family wedding) and we stayed at the ALTANA ALBACHIARA.  And loved it.

There are, however, 2 things that have to be made clear at the outset.

a) the view from the two rooftop terraces is absolutely breathtaking.

b) the 91 steps to get to the flat (& then a few more up to the terrace) are equally breathtaking.

If climbing up 91 steps is not a deal breaker for you (it a-l-m-o-s-t was for our family at one point) then do not hesitate.

Repeat do not hesitate to book this fully furnished, well-stocked, fabulously located 2 bedroom flat for your Venice trip.

The views from the 2 roof terraces (yes indeed, oh joy, 2 terraces!!) are beyond gorgeous.

As in this gorgeous :

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The description that the owner of the flat, the utterly delightful Chiara, has posted on sites such as Tripadvisor is 100% accurate:

“In the San Marco district, Altana Albachiara is an elegant charming 120 square meters penthouse at the top of a 16th century merchant’s building at the base of Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal, accessible from a private courtyard, offering the best view you can dream of Venice 360 degrees from the two large top roof terraces overlooking the whole city!

Restored respecting the original features of the typical venetian home, such as the timber beamed ceiling, marble floors, the fireplace and raw brick walls, the apartment is tastefully furnished, with a mix of antique furniture and contemporary conveniences to offer an authentic, cozy and welcoming atmosphere and every necessary comfort to feel completely at home.
The apartment is provided with wifi internet connection, self-regulating air conditioning and heating system, tv, dvd player and a complete hi-fi system for the whole house entertainment.
Full of natural sun light being located on the fourth floor and attic, it feels like the ideal quiet refuge of tranquility where you will be delighted to come back at the end of your days exploring the city.”

The location is unparalleled.  Right at the foot of the Rialto Bridge.  You could not be better located if you tried.

There are 2 well appointed, air-conditioned bedrooms, each sleeping 2 people. Cupboards, ample storage space, coat-hangars galore.  Sheets, towels, extra blankets.

One bathroom upstairs – loo, bath, shower, washing machine.

One downstairs loo.

Well stocked kitchen:

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Dishwasher, gas cooker, toaster, every kind of pot and pan you could wish for.  Even a basil plant on the windowsill:

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Kettle, coffee percolators (plural –  see photo above), loads of glasses, cutlery, crockery.

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Chiara even welcomed us with a bottle of Bellini and some chilled beers.

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Large living & dining room, with books, videos, CDs, jigsaw puzzles – it’s truly just like being in a home.  And such a nice relaxed home, too.

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Chiara, the owner, could not be nicer nor more helpful.  From the first email enquiry, she was enthusiastic, helpful, charming.  Fabulous English.  She came to meet us from the ferry station, along with her equally charming daughter (whose baby photos are in the flat), and they settled us in, helping us carry our luggage on our first ascent of those 91 steps.

There were lots of lovely touches.  The Bellini, the beers, chocolates on our bedside tables, visiting cards for a range of shops and restaurants, leaflets, ferry timetables fridge-magneted onto the kitchen fridge (those are the lovely homely touches), a pile of guide books and maps…even a pair of binoculars.

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Ah yes, but what about the two terraces, I hear you ask.  They face in different directions: the lower one has a dining table and chairs and faces Piazza San Marco.

The other, a few steps further up, faces the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal and has a sofa and chairs.

Too, too perfect.

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Totally, unequivocally recommended.

Would we go back and stay there? In a heartbeat.

Book online via any of the main booking sites, such as Expedia, Tripadvisor.  Just Google “Altana Albachiara” and you’ll be spoiled for booking choices.  The price varies according to the season, I think, but you can figure all that out from whichever booking website you use.

Enjoy your fabulous, unparalleled views.  After all, you have climbed up a lot of stairs to get there.

Enjoy your morning coffee view :

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And enjoy your evening cocktail view:

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We paid our own way, and Chiara doesn’t know that I blog.

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MYKONOS: a good Greek restaurant in New Delhi

Battling the summer heat and a long powercut in Shahpurjat, 3 of us had lunch the other day at Mykonos, a cute, refreshingly simple and natural Greek restaurant.  Sonam had eaten there once before, but Asha and I were first timers.

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The restaurant is run by a Greek lady called Anastasia, who hails from Thessalonika, and is the probably the happiest person you will meet on any given day.  She is chatty, friendly, explains the menu, cheerfully apologises for her English (the day I can speak Greek, Anastasia, then we can revisit the question) and greeted us all like long lost friends, with kisses and bearhugs.

The A/C wasn’t working for most of lunch, due to the massive powercut, so the door was propped open, and we gazed at the trees outside, and we all made a promise that we’ll be back in the winter, to eat out on the tiny balcony with a tree top vista.

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The decor is white and blue and has a refreshing seaside feel to it, which was oh-so-welcome on a hot Delhi day.

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On Anastasia’s advice, we opted for a mezze platter, and several small dishes, so we could see what we liked, and it was the correct decision.  Cool mezze were just what we needed :

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The tzakiki and humous were too delicious, and as for the pita bread…fabulous.

I enjoyed the vine leaves (below) but was less keen on the sauce which I felt overpowered them.  Next time, I’ll have just dolmades:

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The Greek salad was lovely:

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The feta has a completely delicious, different taste from locally sourced feta as do the tomatoes, which had a rich taste.

As a vegetarian, this kind of food is perfect and what I crave.

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I didn’t have the coffee, but Asha assured me it was good and strong.  Nor did I have the dessert, which my companions told me was excellent.

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Mykonos card

We paid own bill and I did not mention that I write reviews.

Personally recommended.

And a return visit is planned.

Emerging from the by now deliciously cool European feel A/C restaurant to this view was a bit of a culture shock…but what a view.

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Weirdass Pajama Festival

At first I thought it was an age thing.

As in “I am SO old that clearly I don’t get the humour of youngsters today.”

But then I looked at my husband and another friend our age, and they looked as mystified as I did.

Then I thought, “Oh, it’s because I’m not Indian that I’m not getting the jokes.”

But then I looked at my (Indian) husband and another (Indian) friend our age, and they looked as mystified as I did.

And then I decided that the truth of the matter was the “The Weirdass Pajama Festival” at Delhi’s Siri Fort last night was, quite simply, not funny.

Crude.

Vulgar.

Scatalogical.

Expletive laden.

But not funny.

I tried my best, I really did, to “lighten up”, as my 24 year old daughter kept admonishing me to do, but whatever passed for humour onstage last night at the Siri Fort just didn’t do it for me.

The concept is as follows :

7 stand up comics take turns at insulting each other and the guest for the show, one Suhel Seth, who then gets to insult them back.

Mr. Seth sits in an armchair on a dais, while the 7 comedians lounge around on charpois, laughing uproariously at each other’s jokes.

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Mr. Seth is one of those all-embracing figures thrown up occasionally by society –  an ad man, a columnist, a commentator, a staple of every gossip column –  and, it must be said, a man who sat there and laughed uproariously as each of the 7 young comedians was incredibly rude about him, while everyone laughed uproariously around him.  Both onstage and off stage.

There was a young woman sitting behind me who said at one point, “Oh God, my jaw is aching soooo much with all this laughing”.

If you took out the F word which was in continuous use all night, and if you took out every reference to vagina, penis, boobs, balls, foetus, abortion, sperm…you see where this is going, don’t you?

If you were to extract the swearing and the constant reference to body parts, and the pelvic thrusts, you would be left with…precious little.  One or two jokes, a coupe of witty one-liners, but not much else.

To be fair, the last performer, Suresh Menon, was good at accents which was funny, as he did a parody of a popular TV talk show, imitating a range of personalities.  Clever.

Otherwise, honestly, a total waste of time and money.  But everyone else was laughing uproariously, so don’t take my word for it.

And it is a concept that takes place across the country, to packed houses, apparently, so yes, actually, don’t take my word for it.

 

Parting shot, which is absolutely nothing to do with the Weirdass Pajama youngsters, I hasten to add.

Despite hosting President Obama last week and getting an expensive makeover, so we are told, the Siri Fort Auditorium is as awful as ever.  One whole section of the balcony ended up shouting in anger & disrupting the show, because they couldn’t hear a thing –  the sound system wasn’t working.

And as for the utter chaos of the entry: one small gate with hundreds of people pushing through.  An accident /stampede just waiting to happen.  WHAT is it with India and closed gates and forcing people to push & shove their way into venues ?

And the car park & the traffic were as horrid as I had remembered.

 

But as I said, that’s Siri Fort, and nothing to do with the show.

Starbucks, Connaught Place, New Delhi

It’s taken a while, but I finally visited a Starbucks in India.

The fact that I ended up in the wrong Starbucks for my first-time meeting with a well-known author is not especially relevant to this review, other than the fact that sitting alone (in the wrong place, you remember) gave me time to observe my surroundings.

And jolly impressive they were, too.  Now please don’t take this wrongly, all ye diehard “Mera Bharaat Mahaan” people, but sitting in Starbucks in Connaught Place, you could have been anywhere in the world.  Which is what you sort of expect in a Starbucks, right?

I knew I was in India, because of the very polite service and the “Ma’am” added to every sentence, but in case of doubt, here you go:

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But what was totally un-Indian (and y’all know I love India.  Live here, remember) is the feeling of space.  It’s lovely and restful, when you find it.  And it was quiet and the cappuccino was excellent.

So all round great experience.

Too bad I was in the wrong Starbucks for my meeting.

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India_Starbucks_8891Oh yes.

Price.

Rs 147 for a very generously sized cappuccino.  Not bad at all.

MOGAMBO, a classic Kolkata restaurant

It’s been a while since I was last in Kolkata, which was known as Calcutta then. That’s how long it has been, and then some.

On a fabulous journey of re-discovery last week, we checked out one of the old time classics of this great city –  Mogambo.  It has a delightfully retro feel to it –  just the way I remember the India of the early 80s, before the economy opened up and everything flooded in, good, bad & indifferent.  Mogambo has staff with turbans, and booths in which you sit, and little red reading lights, and it’s all fabulous, starting with the menu and its running commentary on the food:

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I had the Fish a la Diana as it so happened, and yes it was rich, with all that cream, but it was delicious.  And a huge serving too :

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Our friend Sue had the grilled fish which she also pronounced delicious :

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And hubby dearest, who is a bit of a steak-aholic, had the Irish Beef Steak.  Yet again, pronounced delicious and (for once) cooked exactly as ordered –  very rare.

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All in all, a good lunch, reasonable prices, good service.  Could’ve done with MRP for the water and Coke, but perhaps that’s not how it’s done in Bengal?

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bill Mogambo

 

Recommended, for the ambience and also for the food, which is good and hearty.  I didn’t tell anyone that I blog and write reviews, and we paid our bill.

Himalayan Trout House in Nagini Village, Himachal Pradesh

We have just returned from yet another delightful stay at the Himalayan Trout House, a cute lodge in Nagini village, run by Shefali & Christopher Mitra, who (in the interests of full disclosure) have now become friends, rather than simply lodge-owners.

I am a little unsure how many times we have stayed with Shef and Christopher – 6,7,8 times? – and we are the newbies in our fishing group, some of whom have been staying there for 14 years.  So this is a long, happy relationship.

The lodge, as the name implies, caters for trout fishermen, who are drawn to the lovely Tirthan Valley and its clean rushing waters, but there is no “requirement” to fish.  I have never touched a fishing rod in my life, but am still made to feel welcome and at home there.  And that is the key to the success and charm of this little hotel –  you never actually feel as though you are staying in a hotel, but rather as a very welcome guest in someone’s home.  The dogs flop, there is a fire in the chilly evenings, people drop by for a drink, for lunch, for a chat, and in the evening Christopher gets out his guitar and a sing-song inevitably follows.

When we arrived at the Trout House last week, after a beautiful drive up through the hills, there were 3 other groups staying there, 2 of whom we had met there last year, so it was more like a reunion than anything else.  Hugs all round.  Exclaim how the children have grown in a year.  Greet the gillies, all local boys. Admire the new kitchen extension.  And then sit round the fire with a glass of wine and catch up on the news.

For fishermen, there is all the infrastructure you need, including the possibility of lessons, of renting equipment, of buying any flies you need, and of course, there are the knowledgable gillies.  You need a licence to fish, but Christopher does all the paperwork for you.

For non-fisherfolk like me, there are long walks to be had, along the narrow road that connects the little villages, strung our along the valley.  Walking through the villages is a pleasure –  especially if you live in an aggressive city like Delhi, as I do.  People greet you, children wish you “namaste’ automatically, the local bus driver slows down and waves.  A delight.

Or you stretch out in the eating/general hang-out area and read the afternoon away, with only the sound of the river for company.

 

There is a range of accommodation (check their website for details), and we have stayed in almost all the rooms over the years, and they are uniformly cosy, spotlessly clean, and with great bathrooms.  On our first visit there (in 2007) we even stayed in a tent, with Ready the family dog barging his way in every night and sleeping with us, too…I swear Ready remembered me when we arrived last week.  As well he should.

The food is home cooked and delicious.  To be honest, I cannot tell you too much about the variety of the menu because I have the same thing for dinner every night, year in, year out –  trout.  Too delicious.

Even though the trout fishing season is drawing to a close for this year, the lodge stays open until December, and re-opens in March, when we fully intend to return.

Cannot praise this charming place, and the even more charming Shefali and Christopher, too highly.

Personally recommended, over many years.  (And in case you were wondering, no, the Mitras do not know I have written this review.  I know they read my personal blog, but the subject of this review blog has never arisen with them.)

And obviously we always pay our own bills.

Oh yes, there’s wifi too.

For rates, bookings, any further info, check their website.

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India. Himachal Pradesh state. Tirthan Valley.

India. Himachal Pradesh.  Morning tea and biscuits.

India. Himachal Pradesh state. Tirthan Valley.

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Re-visiting Bon Appetit, Leh, Ladakh

Last year, I ate at and enthusiastically reviewed a delightful restaurant called “Bon Appetit” in Leh, high up in the Indian Himalayas.

In Ladakh this year, once again acclimatising for a 6000m+ climb, I spent quite a lot of time alone in Leh, and inevitably found my way to “Bon Appetit” several days for lunch.  I know there are many new places to visit in Leh, but working on the if it’s not broke, then don’t fix it principle, I knew from last year that I could get a fabulous salad there, if nothing else.  Plus delicious al dente pasta.  Plus it’s quiet.  Plus the views are gorgeous.  Plus the loo is spotless.

And this year they have free wifi.

What’s not to love?

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Every day I had virtually the same thing, oh unadventurous soul that I am : either a tomato and rucola salad (same price as last year) or the mushroom and chive pasta (Rs 20 more than last year).

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One day I branched out and tried the spinach and ricotta gnocchi which was OK, but not rave-worthy.

Most days I ended up having delicious local seabuckthorn juice, and always served in a recycled beer bottle, for some reason.

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Frequent power cuts meant, sadly, that I didn’t get to have as many iced coffees as I would have liked.

The last time I went there for lunch, the day I staggered back into Leh after 17 days camping and climbing, the charming waiter told me that they had had no power for 2 days –  so no iced coffee and no classical music piped quietly in the background.  But fresh salad…

Some trekkers I met told me they found “Bon Appetit” too expensive.  It’s not cheap, but the food is delicious, the service lovely and quiet and unhassle-y, and you can while away many calm hours there.

Enthusiastically re-recommended.

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