Valentine’s Day gifts for her

Chocolates and roses are fine but if you fancy giving your lady love something a little more unusual this Valentine’s Day, we’ve got you covered. Here are some unique Valentine’s Day gifts that should tickle your fancy.

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Take a Wellness Vacation at these retreats

Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa - Meditation at The Peak
Picture courtesy: Hilton Shillim

Whether you want to take care of your body, soothe your mind, or just indulge in some rest and relaxation a wellness holiday is just right. Nivedita Jayaram Pawar lists the various benefits of a wellness getaway and lists the top three resorts for a mind and body recharge.

Continue reading “Take a Wellness Vacation at these retreats”

Edible Flowers – Smell the roses and eat them too

Duck and Orange Salad (2)Flowers aren’t just for vases anymore. These pretty things are landing up on elaborately plated meals in fancy restaurants.  I spoke to renowned chefs on ways to bring some of that same decorative flair to your next dinner party.

Continue reading “Edible Flowers – Smell the roses and eat them too”

Gan Island – for Serenity Seekers

gan islandI had always daydreamed about watching the sunset on an island where palm trees cast slender shadows along a stretch of bone-white beaches with luminous blue waters… well you get the picture. A recent trip to Gan Island in the Maldives brought that fantasy alive.

Maldives means ‘garland of islands’ in Sanskrit and you only need to peep from your aircraft window to see why. Sprinkled 15,000 feet below are dozens of azure coral specks with names that sound like something one might say while tickling a baby: Dhiddhoo, Kudadhoo, Funadhoo, Nilandhoo, Goidhoo… I am on board the first international flight from Colombo to Gan Island in the Maldives. Prior to the Srilankan airlines flight one had to take a rickety seaplane from Male to reach Gan.

There’s a whiff of history in the frangipani-scented air at Gan. During World War II, Gan island was used by the British military as a naval base due to its strategic location. From 1941 to 1976, Gan served as a strategic outpost for the British Navy and later the Royal Air Force. Much of the military infrastructure remains intact, including the runway. Reminders of the British influence can still be seen today in the landscaping and in the style of buildings.

Canareef - Beach 5.jpg

A short 20 minutes exhilarating speed boat ride lands me at Canareef Resort where a sunset villa bang on the beach with spacious four-poster bed and a private Jacuzzi awaits. Before diving into a leisurely seafood lunch, I wander out to claim my own scoop of beach on this talcum-shored island, stretch out in my hammock and listen to the surf. This is good life. The beach is scattered with Adirondack chairs, perfect for greeting the morning sun or the evening sunset. Fortunately, there are no snoozing sunbathers as I trek down to the water. If you are a stickler for solitude, Gan would be hard to beat. The island claims a population of only 30,000 which means the chances of finding another set of footprints on the beach are quite rare.

Things to do at Gan island

Watch the dance of the dolphins

Maldives is home to several species of dolphins, including Spinners, Bottle-Nosed dolphins and pilot whales. One way to enjoy the island is to go in search of these wild yet extremely friendly dolphins around the island while watching the sunset. I was amazed to watch them jump and race with our speedboat almost as if performing for us while frolicking in the ocean.

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Discover the jewels of the ocean
Many a ship has met a watery grave on the shallow reefs of Maldives. This has led to some spectacular wrecks on the ocean floor of this tropical diving paradise. One such enthralling dive site is the British Loyalty Shipwreck that came to rest in 1946. Built in 1928, this 5.583 ton oil tanker was torpedoed twice during the Second World War. It was left in Addu Atoll after the British withdrew from the Gan Island. It’s fascinating to witness how marine ecosystems adapt to and takeover these sunken rusty relics of human civilization. Coral reefs growing over the hulls of wrecked ships, create a magical home for local marine flora and fauna. Living symbiotically among the coral are parrot fish, clownfish, wrasse, angelfish, triggerfish and turtles.

Grab rod and reel for some fishing

A fishing trip on a modern speedboat is a great experience for any wannabe Hemingway. Head out during the day for tuna and sailfish, or go at night to catch grouper, snapper, squirrelfish or barracuda. Live bait in the form of trigger fish, sprats and mackerel are scooped out from a large tank beneath the boat and hooked on the line and dropped over the side. Round off the trip by barbecuing the day’s catch. Sadly I caught none.

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Learn how to windsurf

If you are up for some adrenaline ride the winds and negotiate strong waves at Gan. It is a great feeling to glide across the water – even better if you could do this for hours on end. It is just you, your board, the ocean, and the wind on your face. The season for surf lasts from March-October.

Watch the sun sink on a boat cruise

A sunset boat cruise aboard a dhoni, the wooden boat that is the Maldives’ standard mode of transport, is a blissful way to end the day. You can cruise around uninhabited islands, where you’ll be served drinks and snacks while local musicians play their traditional bodu beru drums to attract dolphins.

Canareef - Arrival by Dhoni

Witness life under the waves

For years I heard and read about scuba diving – the thrill of seeing colorful fish, the peacefulness of being in the water and so on. The wet-suite, flippers, swimming goggles, inflatable jacket, oxygen tank… diving is a bit challenging but definitely stunning. Even as seawater fills my throat and fog clogs my mask I am thrilled with the scenery and the opportunity to swim with groupers and turtles.
Note: The key is to keep your breathing nice and steady, and use calm, controlled movements. And be conscious not to touch, knock or stand on any coral – it took thousands of years to look as beautiful as it does!

Island tour

When you have had your fill of the sea and its treasures head out to see some World War 2 relics near the beach area. You can cycle to the next island of Meedhoo to catch the oldest cemetery in the country, Koagannu. It was built about 900 years ago for the burial of the island’s first Muslims, and it was here that many of the ancient rulers of the islands are buried. The perfectly preserved low-rise, pale-blue buildings are where British soldiers were housed. Astra, a gorgeous Art Deco cinema that still shows films is a must visit.

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Getting there: Gan island is just a hour and twenty minutes flight from Colombo. SriLankan Airlines operates four flights per week to Gan International Airport.

Where to stay: Canareef Resort is at a short 20-minute speedboat ride from Gan International Airport. Choose the sunset villa which comes with great ocean views, Jacuzzi and an open to the sky bathroom. Call: +960 689-6677.

Best time to visit: January to April is the nicest time with average temperatures of 28 degrees. July to October is the wet season with slight showers but still pleasant.



Salmon Soirée  

A recent dinner hosted by the Norwegian Consul General H. E. Torbjorn Holthe at his residence in Bandra was a revelation in the simple and quick ways salmon could be included in a meal. 

Passionate foodie and home cook deputy Consul General Yogi Shergill rustled up a simple meal of Salmon filet with sour cream, red chilies & soya sauce, Grilled Salmon filet with Tandoori marinade and pan fried COD filet. 

Vegetarian options included a ceaser  salad (Yogi, you need to give me the recipe for it) and aloo gobi. 

Tandoori marinated Grilled salmon

The evening rolled off with some fine wine and appetisers – smoked salmon on toast with a drop of mayo and mustard. Light,  easy and hugely yummy. 

Salmon fillet
Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon with mayo
Smoked salmon on toast with mustard

The evening was a revelation in more ways than one. I didn’t know that salmon is anadromous. They are born in fresh water, migrate to the oceans and return to fresh water to reproduce. Folklore has it that they return to the same spot where they were born to spawn. Interesting, isn’t it. 

With the Norwegian Consul General H. E. Torbjorn Holthe

The dishes truly captured Norwegian love for their favorite Salmon and the counsel general does hope that we give it some love and attention as we do to our beloved pomfret and mackerel. 

With deputy Consul General Yogi Shergill

Nivedita Jayaram Pawar 

Escape to Saj By The Lake

Should you need a nudge to get out of Mumbai and expand your sights, let me introduce you to a young resort just three hours away. It goes by the name Saj by the Lake and it’s warm and welcoming.Continue reading “Escape to Saj By The Lake”

5 things you must do at Aamby Valley

I love the rain. It’s my favourite weather. The smell of wet soil just when it begins to rain is not only sweet, but brings new hope and makes you look forward to the rainbow and sunshine. So when life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles! Or better still head to Aamby Valley a picturesque resort nestled amidst mountains and lakes, just 23 km from Lonavala.

chalet at Aamby Valley
The Aussie Chalet I stayed in

A visit to this scenic and mammoth resort was long overdue and thanks to Food bloggers Association of India (FBAI), it finally happened last month. So here’s a first person account of the five things you ought to do at Aamby Valley.

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Vegetarian? Try Juno’s Pizza

masterchef PIzza - 1Hot or cold, thin or fat, round or square, cheesy or saucy – there is nothing like a pizza meal. What’s not to like about a hot, freshly baked pizza, with its crispy edges and soft centre, moist with tomato sauce?

Just the smell and the heat radiating off a pizza makes me hungry. This simple dish of bread, tomatoes and cheese could probably be Italy’s best gift to the world.Continue reading “Vegetarian? Try Juno’s Pizza”

Are you guilty of these Skincare habits? Get rid of them now!

skin1While we all have the best intentions when it comes to taking care of our complexion, we sometimes sabotage our skin without realizing it. Daily habits make a major difference when it comes to preventing damage and premature aging. For my story for The Week Smartlife June issue, I spoke to renowned dermatologists for an insight in to the 10 most common skincare mistakes and how to fix them.

Continue reading “Are you guilty of these Skincare habits? Get rid of them now!”