In today’s stressful times when your body screams and says enough, it’s time to listen. I decided to take a break but where? A well travelled friend suggested that I head straight to the Nainital to a quaint little gem of a place called Abbotsford Prasada Bhawan. You won’t regret it were the last words.
I got off the train at Kathgodam and then set off by road to Nainital. As I climbed towards Nainital I started having second thoughts, the number of cars resulting traffic jam, everybody trying to make their way up was this what I was looking for to unwind and relax? Though seriously tempted to turn back I prevailed.
Away, up a winding hill, beyond the hustle and bustle of the town, is Abbotsford or Prasada Bhavan as it is now known, a four chimney cottage with red roofs and fireplaces out of a Enid Blyton’s story book. Not a simple hotel but an exclusive heritage homestay for people looking for an immersive experience.
Built in 1876 and brought in 1903 by the Prasada’s the homestay beautifully marries old world hospitality with modern day conveniences. Take your pick from a choice of rooms in the main house, Juliet’s Room, Kings Room, Princess Suite, or in the newly built Wordsworth Cottage the ‘Wordsworth Suite’. The rooms in the main house are carefully preserved with antiques all around. Art deco pieces and miniatures from the Kangra School of Art can be seen. The eclectic interiors with high wooden ceilings, pinewood flooring and carefully collected artifacts of times gone bye are all over. Also lovely personal touches, like the family photos across generations on the wall and in the lounge area, books and ornaments. You can even see the original title deed for the property, I did.
The Café Chica (named after the cute pug Chica) set amidst the mountains offers an excellent choice food. The homemade croissants, pasta, lava cakes and fried fish were a treat and I indulged shamelessly. In the evening I opted to dine with the family, you can dine in your own room if one wishes to do so, and was thoroughly entertained by both the food and the anecdotes. Food is serious business here with influences of Bengal, Punjab and Himachal cuisine all creating an absolute mix of delicious food. In fact one of the ancestors married the Princess of Kapurthala, who was renowned for keeping one of the best culinary tables in Oudh. In all you can’t go wrong with the food here.
Not wishing to just lie around I decided to walk, justification for my indulgence, options were plentiful. Play golf on a 14 hole golf course at the Governors Golf Pavilion, see the tunnel built by a dacoit to escape capture which runs parallel to the course, sadly closed, or just take in the views from the top. Sadly the effects of environmental damage can also be seen. Also went to the Governors residence built on the lines of an English Castle. Ah nostalgia!
Next day an early morning walk in the crisp air to Cheena Peak, there are so many variations of why this name, one of the many trails around Abbotsford. The views were superb, clear and the fresh air a bonus. Icing on the cake was the piping hot coffee and fresh ham croissants. Mountains always give one an appetite.
Evenings over a bonfire, and a drink it was time to linger in the past with anecdotes of the Prasada family from Kunwarani Kanta Prasada, mother of Janhavi Prasad who runs the place. A distinguished family tree, which traces its lineage to India’s poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the Royal House of Kapurthala, was part of the freedom movement and its continued close association with the Congress Party to this day. Janhavi Prasada daughter of the illustrious family who owns the property herself is a multifaceted person. A complete foodie, who also has a passion for art and literature, Janhavi has brought all her skills together to create a home stay with a touch of Royal life style.
Next day as I left to head back feeling refreshed my body and mind in holistic balance I blessed my friend for the suggestion. Visit Abbotsford and feel your soul and spirit fly.