Travel as we know it is changing, almost as surreptitiously as the world rotates on its axis. Gone are the days of romanticising manicured lawns, clinical rooms with uber-modern fittings, marbled and carpeted floors and accommodation that's characteristic of star hotels. There's a longing to return to the old and experience food, stay and travel that's more meaningful, conscientious and curated.
It's one of the reasons why we keep going back to villas under SaffronStays, a boutique travel company and your hallway pass to a long list of fully serviced, luxury villas, spread across Maharashtra, Goa, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. After our visit to their villa in Karjat earlier last year, this time we headed to a luxe property in Alibaug. And I'll say this at the outset: their homely, familiar food prepared by in-house staff is a welcome change from the fare served at most hotels and chains and a standout factor for sure.
Most Mumbaikars are no strangers to Alibaug, which is best known for its beaches, forts and coastal food, alongside being a great weekend getaway option, made even more popular by the Deepika Padukone-starred Gehraiyaan. Just in case that reference is lost on you, let me assure you that you don't need Bollywood's stamp of approval to be Alibaug-bound at all. And here's why.
Situated at a plot 25-minutes away from Mandwa Jetty is SaffronStays Gardenia, a gorgeous Kihim-based villa, which is surrounded by large swathes of green, putting you instantly at ease. Large doors welcome you into a naturally well-lit room, the sunlight filtering in through the wall windows and glass doors. Walking straight ahead you are taken to a cosy sitting area, which is the perfect place to curl up with a coffee in the wee hours of the morning. On the left of the entrance is the dining area. And the most important element of your getaway is bang opposite the dining area—the pool! The villa has four rooms—one on the ground floor and three on the first floor—all guaranteeing spectacular views of different parts of the villa and surrounding beauty. The villa also has a game room, and if table tennis or pool/snooker is your jam, it's likely that you'll be spending a lot of your stay in this zone. Each room is equipped with queen-size beds and attached balconies, overlooking the pool, the facade of the building or the garden—a well-rounded villa, with basic, but thoughtful amenities, making it ideal for family getaways.
And then, there's the food, which you must agree can make or break a travel experience. Plus, I believe in the adage, when in Rome and it's applicable to food when travelling. What's the point of being in Alibaug, if a large part of it isn't about sampling local delicacies, right? In Alibaug, that would mean tucking into crispy-outside, soft-in-the-centre kothimbir vadi or fighting over the last piece of freshly made and juicy modaks, alongside other Konkan and Maharashtrian treats. And that Gardenia's in-house chefs are masters in this regional cuisine is an added bonus good enough to lure you out of the pool. Simple, homespun and served at times suitable to you and your travelling mates, the meals at Gardenia are packed with flavours. Though the menu allows you to opt for new-age or global offerings, like pasta and salad, we'd strongly recommend you try the local food. Right from the humble jhunka and bhakri to the ambrosial prawns, to the misal pav, masala fish fry and an amazing barbecue, the taste and textures are bang on.
So, if you're looking for a stay that's comfortable, but also luxurious, punctuated with long naps by the pool and good food made with a lot of love, this one's a sure thing to lay your bet on, trust me.
Natasha Kittur is an aspiring writer. Her love for anything with cheese and spice is profound, but a white sauce pasta always tops her list. In her free time you will catch her reading or watching crime books and shows or go on and on about psychological experiments and theories. She aims to write a book in the fictional genre someday.