Workstation holidays in times of COVID
Now that the concept of work from home has been added to our list of the new normal, the best way to break your travel fast is with workstations, a combination of constructive work balanced with a bit of vacation.
They are the ideal way to turn around your cancelled summer plans for the year, allowing you to combine both business and leisure. Since the quality of creative output is directly linked to the environment one is in, here’s a list of handpicked stays at easily drivable locations from metros, where you can maximise the benefits of flexible working options while on a long holiday.
In the middle of Doon city, a valley in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, owners and friends Ruchi and Kaylen have created an unlikely oasis in an otherwise busy, business centre. Ruchi Sharan, an erstwhile designer, and Kaylen Whitmore, an American and Indophile, turned their friendship into partnership with this haven. Their cross-cultural influences are reflected well in the finer details of the place, from nuanced designs of the various spaces to the variety of guests at the dinner table. True to its name, a striking mango tree stands in the middle of the courtyard. The bright blue of the doors and windows pops out of the neatly whitewashed walls to recreate a Mediterranean feel, and MTC, it’s easy to believe you’re marooned on a plush island.
An old, colonial bungalow, Chapslee is the residence of Rani Pronoti Devi and her late husband’s family that has its roots in the legendary royal family of Kapurthala. Staying here is the equivalent of being in a museum, where the stories of British Simla still linger in every artefact and anecdote. Built-in 1830 as Secretary Lodge of the East India Company and renamed Chapslee in 1848, this historic house has been witness to the signing of the Simla Manifesto and has long held the status of one of Shimla’s finest residences. Kanwarani Pronoti Devi and her husband Kanwar Ratanjit Singh opened their exclusive home as a heritage hotel in 1976. Ever since Chapslee has been known as a window to the past, and staying here transports you to a bygone era.
Other than us humans, our lovely pets also deserve a much-needed break in these wearisome times. One of India's first accommodations founded exclusively for pet travel, this boutique stay was created by owner Himmat Anand who struggled with finding pet-friendly places while travelling with his pet labrador. A travel industry veteran, he recognised the need for places that were not only suitable for such travels and also decently priced, but also beyond just the label of ‘pet friendly’. The quest ultimately led him to launch A Dog’s Story in Jaipur. Ideal for a weekend getaway from Delhi with your pets, this stay welcomes its four-legged family with garlands, a plunge pool for them to splash around in, and a ‘wags’ menu curated especially for the pet. The popularity of ADS Jaipur has now led to the upcoming launch of two more in Corbett country and Mussorie foothills respectively.
Shillong B&B, Meghalaya
An old Shillong house converted into a traditional yet chic guesthouse, this bed and breakfast is run by William Diengdoh. Owned by his wife’s family, Will as he is popularly known, restored this structure to its original beauty. Will also runs the Shillong Café with the B&B; a die-hard music lover, he brings together musicians young and old, rising Shillong artists, and music aficionados together through his café that is frequented by none other than the legendary Lou Majaw. This joint brimming with music also serves great northeast fusion food, overseen by Will who is an authority on Khasi culture. From Meghalaya’s matriarchal structure to its traditional foods, its homegrown bands, and the live music scene, he is an affable host who is a treasure house of local knowledge.
The conservationist father-son duo, Amrut and Aditya Dhanwate, that runs this lodge can be credited with unofficially putting the Tadoba tiger reserve on the tourist map. Of the 30 acres they purchased decades ago, they used only two to build on and converted the rest of the wasteland into a buffer forest for the park. The property consists of independent cottages and swish tents ensconced by the surrounding forest, home to sambar deer, nilgai, wild boar, and even tigers and wild dogs, as seen on the camera trap footage monitored actively by in-house naturalists. After a day of uninterrupted working, unwind in the evenings under the stars with fresh, wholesome meals as you listen to the hosts and their success story called Tadoba.
A cosy bed and breakfast in the hills of Kumaon in Uttarakhand, this charming place is run by Nitya Budhraja who relocated to the hills from New Delhi and made Sattal her home, taking forward the project her late father had started. A birder’s paradise, the cottages, and rooms are also named after the avifauna here, and overlook the Saattal valley. Nitya personally oversees the comfort of her guests and the cooking at Babs Cafe in the Woods, the in-house eatery, along with taking care of the entourage of resident dogs forever trooping behind her. An amateur photographer with a love for nature, she captures the daily essence of her life and shares it wonderfully both through her images and her enthusiasm with her guests.
Sitting on the banks of the Ramganga River in the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Vanghat is the brainchild of conservationist Sumantha Ghosh. Vanghat was born out of his desire to regenerate the waters and land of this beautiful but exploited valley. His efforts to resuscitate the region revived the famous golden mahseer population that had been nearly wiped out due to overfishing with explosives and chemicals. Starting a unique scheme of shared revenue for game fishing, he empowered the local communities alongside reviving the land. Slowly, Ghosh added mud and thatched bungalows to his stone cottage to invite fellow nature lovers. As a top naturalist, his birding walks and interactive journeys that take the focus away from tiger-centric tourism remain the top experiences of this place.
At Meena Bagh, get ready to roll up your sleeves, and get dirty. This beautiful orchard stay is not just for luxury but also to learn a lesson in farming. Eco-entrepreneur Sanjay Austa runs this delightful place amid farmland, where he practices permaculture and encourages his guests to do the same. Pick from a variety of trees to be planted, and learn about the diversity of this ecosystem. In your wanderings across the farm, you will encounter sheep, dogs, kittens, and roosters, among other inhabitants. Learn about rainwater harvesting, watch documentaries on conservation, and end the day in the comforts of the accommodation conversing over wholesome meals with this passionate journalist-turned-farmer who also invites volunteers on plantation drives and other activities, just as he has done for locals during the lockdown.
Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
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