We weren’t sure until the end how long we’d be staying in Delhi, so by the time we were ready to make reservations for hotels for Mumbai and Goa, the places we picked from Lonely Planet were all booked out. After a good deal of internet research (thank you Roman! :-)) we managed to book what turned out to be two gems – although at gemstone prices compared to what we’ve been paying.
Lonely Planet had warned that both locations tend to be pricier than the rest of India, and booking so late in the game during the holiday season also means we were paying top dollar. We’ve also had a tough time with train transport – most of the trains we’ve tried to book have also been completely. Luckily we can afford both plane tickets and to be flexible in our planning, so we were able to sort out a route in the end. However, if you’re ever planning to travel in India in December, I’d recommend booking ahead.
Chateau Windsor in Mumbai (Rs. 5,000 / USD 110 per night)
It’s not nearly as posh as the name might imply, but Chateau Windsor had two things going for it.
Number one: The service was just great. Everyone on the large staff was SO friendly and helpful – without being overwhelmingly so. They were always smiling and there when you needed them, but didn’t hover, which was the case at some of the upscale places I’d stayed at during the group trip. Really excellent service.
Number two: I’m not sure what the standard rooms are like. We ended up at some place different – room 526. It looked nothing like what is shown on the website. It was relatively clean and quirky – funky color scheme and the room was made to feel bigger by the inclusion of two massive mirrors on the walls (one of which I am convinced was a two-way mirror. Needless to say I kept on my best behavior in the room, just in case! ;-)).
But what was great about it was the fact that it was the only room on the roof – our own little penthouse! The hotel’s roof is massive, and there is a beautiful garden of potted plants complete with tables and chairs that was our very own private rooftop terrace.
The rest of the building was quirky-charming too, with the reception on the fifth floor reminiscent of the office at my high school and one of those old-fashioned open-cage elevators complete with elevator operator (also more quirky than posh).
The room – check out the massive mirror to the left!
Our private rooftop garden!
View from the roof
The crows that joined us for breakfast on our rooftop terrace
Ciaran’s in Palolem, Goa (Rs. 3,600 / USD 79 per night)
We really lucked out with this place. To quote Lonely Planet, ‘Most of Palolem’s accommodation is of the simple beach-hut variety, with little to distinguish where one outfit stops and next door’s begins.’
While the different hotels were literally back-to-back along the entire coast, I do think we were at possibly the nicest one on beach. Ciaran’s grounds were just beautiful and its bar and restaurant with paper star-shaped lamps were lovely. We heard a lot of club music, house and techno, coming from other spots as we went on our after-dinner beach strolls. Happily for me, Ciaran’s sountrack was much more chilled out – perfect to suit my mood – playing artists like Zero-7 and Nora Jones and tracks right out of my own yoga classes.
Our beach hut was perfectly atmospheric. It was a simple structure (thin walls made of natural fibers meant that you could hear everything outside like it was right there, which was less than optimal when someone in the hut next to us was throwing up at 2 in the morning, but mostly great as the crashing surf was just lovely to fall asleep to at night) and clean enough. I’ve come to understand and accept that stained sheets are just par for the course in India. 😉 I know it’s purely psychological, but being out in the middle of nature though, the dirt in the beach hut somehow seemed more fitting than in hotels in the city. 🙂 The room was also very cleverly decorated, with low, warm lighting (a wonderful change from all the unforgiving fluorescent eco-bulbs at most hotels) and black stone floors and bath towels, all of which hid a multitude of cleanliness sins, no doubt. 😉
Inside the beach hut
View from the beach hut’s roof terrace
Eating in Mumbai and Goa has been such a treat. For the foodies out there I just have to share. Yes, I realize I am obsessed. 😉
We were so happy at Ciaran’s in Goa that we didn’t bother eating anywhere else. We went seafood crazy. Highlights included the Goan prawn curry and freshly caught barbecued red snapper. Delish!
In Mumbai, we stuck to all Lonely Planet recommendations, and were not disappointed. We did take a bit of break from Indian cookery though and indulged in some of the international fare on offer in the city.
Mocha Bar, right down the street from our hotel, became our regular stop for decent coffee (although Barista’s espresso still cannot be beat as far as Roman, the resident expert, is concerned. :-)). You can smoke hookah pipes indoors, but we stuck to the breezy, open, street-side room which, with it’s cute, mismatched second hand furniture and good taste in music was a lovely place to start to our day. We ate lunch there during one of our visits, and the cottage cheese (think paneer, not health food), veggie and pesto Panini was so good that it honestly made my entire day. 🙂
The breezy front room
The Panini of my dreams on the left. The hummus and tsatziki platter was good too
Lonely Planet recommends Trishna as quite possibly the best seafood in Mumbai. We had nothing to compare it to of course, but the king crab I had with butter, pepper and (above all, tons and tons of) garlic sauce was melt-in-your-mouth divine. A totally decadent treat. Roman tried the dish Bombay duck, which actually a deep-fried white fish – good but not as exciting as my king crab in my opinion. 🙂 The restaurant itself felt a bit touristy, but was nice enough.
Honestly it felt like we could have been in Manhattan when we went to dinner at Baslilico. It’s in a cute, quiet neighborhood in Colaba. The restaurant looks and feels understated-chic with cute red fairy lights on the tree outside and a simple but elegant décor inside with chill, low lighting. The salad starters were simple but tasty and the design-your-own pasta we ordered was just great (they had set pasta dishes as well, but it was nice to customize the ingredients. My spaghetti with veggies and pesto was exactly what I was craving). Only my dessert was a disappointment – Oreo cheesecake that tasted neither like Oreos nor cheesecake. But their dessert was worth gambling on – Roman’s chocolate walnut cake with vanilla ice cream was blow-your-mind amazing.
Chocolate walnut divinity