January 8th – Launceston – Lavender farm and COVID lockdown

Normal start to the morning, breaky with the gang and the normal laughs, however it was on the way back to the room when we sported a news flash on the TV next to the foyer – Brisbane was going into a 3 day lockdown due to a positive case of the COVID UK strain who had been out in the community.

Finding out about the Brisbane lockdown

We were all like, phew, we had made it out in time and were all good. Little did we know that this was going to play havoc for us in Tasmania…..

Continued on with our plans, all met in the foyer and headed on to the Lavender Farm – was already around 10:30 by the time we left.
For this drive, we arranged the cars by the gender, girls in one and boys in the other – done for no apparent reason, but it came in handy towards the later part of the day.

Drive to the Bridestowe Lavender farm was uneventful, we reached there in about 45 minutes. At the last corner before arriving the farms, the first glimpse of the lavender covered plains were visible – wow, this was amazing, entire plains all painted PURPLE by the Lavender.

Had not realised there was an entry charge for all NON-Tasmanians, paid that and entered the Bridestowe farm.

We were greeted with amazing landscapes and out came all the camera’s clicking away πŸ˜‰

Bridestowe Lavender Farm

There was a larger farm further back, but first we wanted to grab a quick bite, kids and ladies were getting peckish.
To the lavender cafe – with the menu being very limited for us, we opted for the Lavender Scones and Lavender Chai Teas.

Lavender Scones

Post the light snack and some shopping at the lavender boutique, we headed to the Lavender Plains. It is amazing to just stroll these plains and absorb the natural beauty.

Around 1 we finished the walks and pics, time to try the Lavender Ice Cream – WOW, you so have to try it. A tip – do not try the flavoured ones, just the plain LAVENDER is the best!!

It was just post 1pm we started all getting SMS’s alerts from the Tasmanian Government warning us that we could not enter Tasmania if we had been in Greater Brisbane from the 2nd of January.
Well, we were already in Tassie so that did not apply to us!! Still it made everyone a bit nervous. Me and Vik were still confident that as per the SMS we were ok and convinced all to simply carry on.

Next stop was the Wineyard in Tamar Valley. Back into the cars, and headed to the Tamar Wineyard. All the way the three of us were discussing what could happen next and Doc was convinced it was only a matter of time before we would be required to isolate since Tassie Government was targeting the message to anyone who was in Brisbane from the 2nd of January !!

Got to the Stoney Rise Wineyard, it was a very picturesque hillside Wineyard.

Stoneyrise Wineyard before we got rejected due to COVID lockdown in Brisbane

Doc was leading the pack and entered the Wineyard – getting in and scanning the COVID QR code, the very first message that flashed on his screen “are you from GREATER BRISBANE !!!”. At that very moment we all get another SMS from Tassie Government stating exactly what Doc said may happen, anyone who had been in Greater Brisbane since the 2nd of Jan and who were in Tasmania had to ISOLATE :(… Oh no, that was a bummer.
The lady behind the counter asked us the same and said she could not let us in. Fair enough, cannot really blame her, after all it was our QLD Government that declared the GREATER BRISBANE a hot spot.

Now it was plan B – well it was time for us to make plan B!! Back to the cars and on to our phones!!!

We were headed back to Launceston, and the plan was to get to a COVID testing centre to prove we were all negative, hoping the government would let us then go about our travels.
The drive was still a good 30 minutes away.
Doc meanwhile was trying to get through to the Tassie Health services hotline that was included in the SMS – and he was on hold for a looooooong time.

We got to the COVID testing centre at around 3:15pm, there was a bit of a queue, were were the third car sticking outside the testing yard. At around 3:25pm, the person directing all the cars comes to us and lets us know that we need to come tomorrow, this centre was closing at 3:30pm and we have no way of getting in today. Turns out there were no other testing centres here at all :(. We tried our best to convince him to let us through – all to no avail.

All this while Doc was on hold with the Tassie health services, finally he gets through just as we are pulling out of the testing centre. They inform us that the COVID test for us would make no difference, negative or positive – we all would have to isolate for 14 days, and also we could leave for Brisbane today as long as we did not go places and kept isolated till our flight!
That made things very clear for us.
Next was a call to Flight centre, got the 12 of us booked on the Virgin flight that evening – we were lucky we got seats – the plane was filling up fast. Flight centre also did inform us that we were going to get a refund of all the unused Hotels and Cruise bookings & the return flights would be credited- so a small bit of good news in all this mess.

Got to the hotel and as instructed by the Tassie Health person, we had to now wear masks to enter the hotel and keep to ourselves. Everyone into their rooms to quickly pack up. It must have been the fastest packup we all did. In less than 15 mins we were back in the cars and luggage loaded.

Arrived at the airport with an hour before the checkin counters opened. Parked the cars at the rental returns bay and sat around munching on the chips that Meeta had bought earlier and some snacks that Doc’s mum made for all to share – thank you Pushpa kaki :)…… we sat and just replayed what a day it had been :(.

why did Greater Brisbane had to be declared a HOT SPOT 😦

Checkin process was quick, seemed like a lot of Queenslanders impacted by this issue were heading back, the flight was full.

In the departure lounge, it was time to get some food for everyone, flight was at 7:50pm and food on domestic flights were crap – and yes I am talking about buying onboard, it is so sub-par.

The two food outlets at the airport were nice, and we were able to get a good snack for all.

Flight left on time, and arrived in Brisbane just before 10:30pm. Farewelled all parties and then to the carpark to collect my car. First stop was mum’s home, she had prepped some food for us.

It had been one hell of a roller coaster today, this morning we were enjoying the lavender farm and its amazing ice cream and now we were back in Brisbane – holiday over. Wow, this is life in the COVID times.

So instead of getting upset at what we could not do, I look at the glass half full and see what we were able to achieve:
– I appreciate the 3 days that we got to see and enjoy Launceston & its sights and the good times we all shared
– and feeling blessed that we got to attend all of Dada’s last rituals that commenced the following week and be fully there

Till next time……..

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January 7th – Launceston Sights

Launceston was putting on great weather for us – clear blue sky with a high of 26! Today’s plan was to visit the Cataract Gorge on the first half of the day, then a free afternoon to roam about and do what every we wish…

Breaky done, all met-up in the foyer just after 9:30 am.

In the foyer – ready to head out

First stop was the Cataract Gorge – amazingly small place Launceston, we were there in 10 minutes – a stark contrast to the 2+ hours it took us to get to Cradle mountain yesterday. This was great :).
Getting to the car park did require driving through some winding very narrow roads, finally made it to the carpark – and were greeted with Peacocks roaming about… !!

Peacock spotting

The Gorge area was a steep walk down from our carpark through a great park land. Very nicely setup and great for picnics. The weather was holding up very well, it was not too cool, just pleasant that made walking around comfortable.

First stop the Scenic Chair Lift, to take us to the other side of the Gorge- we were not the ones to walk more, had done enough walking yesterday ! ;).
This Chair Lift’s total span is 457 metres, and interestingly it boasts the LONGEST SINGLE SPAN in the world – at 308 metres!

The chair lift passed the Gorge with is spectacular rock formations and the naturally formed basin. It did reach a decent height and at times may get you holding on to the rails a bit tighter than required.

Getting off at the other side, it was here you pay for the tickets for the chair lift, got the return tickets and started our Gorge walk, heading towards the suspension bridge.

Lots of walking or maybe we should say lots of pic taking!! Suspension bridge was nice and you did feel the movement and the weirdness of the floor moving when walking across.
Time to head back via the Chair Lifts to the car park – next stop was the Penny Royal amusement area near the entrance to the Gorge.

This place had a couple of kiddy rides, and some very cool zip lines to hang off. Not for the faint hearted. Prashil was daring enough to raise his hand to that! Unfortunately the next session was close to 1.5 hours away. As this was the last stop in the group activities for the day, that worked out ok, Doc could stay back and do that.
During booking the zip lines, ladies and girls went on to the DARK BOAT RIDE – come back very disappointed, apparently it was just a small boat on tracks with some slideshows happening on the sides :(.
That was enough time for the guys to head to a bar there and chilax with a few beers – weather was surely warming up now.

Being a free afternoon and Doc was still going to be here for another couple of hours, Vik and I decided to head out to a Winery near by. To make the most of the time, decided to have takeaway lunch, ordered some wood fired takeaway pizzas to eat in the car (drive to Wineyard was about an hour and this way we could do lunch whilst getting to the Wineyard). Once the ladies returned Vik and my family headed out in one car, Doc kept the other car as he waited for the zip line.

As with everything unplanned, things just keep moving around, Meeta suggested the Swiss Village. Checking on Google maps, Swiss Village was a mere 15 mins away, whilst the Wineyard was more like an hour…. easy decision.
Lunch in the car was great – these were some of the best Wood Fired Pizza’s we had.
Highly recommended Pizzas from Brady’s Bar at Penny Royal.

The Swiss Village turned out to be more of a resort, had a few cute boutiques, cafes and actives for all. Kids decided they wanted to do Putt Putt Golf, the 4 of them headed that way. Whilst Vik, Meeta, Nita and me headed to the local Cafe.
I loved the vibe at this Cafe, some very nostalgic tech – old cameras, radios and prints. Was amazing just sitting in there, we all needed a good break from the walking at the Gorge. Started with a couple of coffees and then moved on to the waffles which were to die for and then the Affogato – just wow!!! highly recommend this cafe. Kids returned back after more than an hour and joined in for some much needed milk shakes to cool them down.

Sitting around for almost an hour and half, we were chatting a fair bit with the cafe owner. Asked him for recommendations for any Wineries near by – turned out their was a Winery about 5 minutes away and a Gin distillery only 2 minutes away!! At the sound of Gin distillery, me and Vik looked at each other and knew what we wanted. Next stop was the Distillery.

As the guy said, the distillery was really only 2 mins away :). It was nestled behind the TamarRidge Cellar Door farm – Turner Stillhouse – producing the Three Cuts Gin! Getting out of the car and entering the place we were greeted with the best sign!

The sign itself got us in the right frame of mind, it was time to try these Gin’s that would lead us to having the FUN beGIN.

The guy at the counter showed us their 4 gins they did, we decided to do a tasting of all four. Dian and Neha also joined in, they stuck with trying just 2.
I had not realised how Gins could be different and these guys produced interesting blends, they had the norma London Dry but the other three were very different and great. We ended buying their Citrus range that both Vik and I really enjoyed!!

It was getting to 4pm, had taken in a fair dose of Gin for the day was time to move on. Decided to make the most of the available time and head to the Launceston CBD. Meeta informed us the main mall was Brisbane St – funny that!
We reached there in less than 10 mins, and it was EMPTY.
This was a Thursday and it felt like today was XMAS day where everyone just stays home!!! The place was desserted. Sure some shops were open but it was dead!!

Ladies did find a few shops to window shop and browse, gave us a chance to roam about this weirdly empty city. Pooja & Aaria found a book store where they could do some shopping. Just around 5pm the remaining shops were closing up and we also decided to head back to the hotel.
Launceston CBD was a sure let down – or maybe we just got there at the wrong time/day ???

That evening we all got together at the LEVEE Food Co Restaurant @ the Old Launceston Seaport Marina. This place was very nice and the seafood was amazing. Highly recommend this restaurant – try the SHOGA oysters – these are served natural with ginger and cucumber – were super duper!

At Old Seaport Marina

Had been a great day today, did a bit of sights and then topped with a great dinner with the gang!
Tomorrow it was off to the Lavender farm….

Neha’s VLOG of our day 2
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January 6th – Launceston – Cradle Mountain

Up and ready for breaky meetup at 8:30am downstairs. The hardest part in this routine was to get the kids up on time, the prior night they had been all up till after mid-night.

Breakfast at the hotel was nothing fantastic, not that it mattered too much to us, we were staying away from meats and our go to menu was Croissants, toasts and for me the mini cup cakes!!

It was then out into our transport, 2 KIA Carnivals. Doc and Tina decided to take all the kids (a brave undertaking!!), whilst me, Nita, Vik & Meeta were in the other car. First stop – Pharmacy and Woolworths to get some essentials, water, chips etc.

By the time we got out of Launceston it was already 10am, then it was hitting the scenic route to Cradle Mountain – going through some amazing Landscapes.

Ofcourse the route would need to have stops for photos!

After what seemed like forever, we finally reached Cradle Mountain – YAY!!

Getting out of the car, we were all greeted by the mountain cold weather!! Wow it was cold here. Everyone was into their jackets. The air was crisp and so fresh, so much better than the hot humid alternative ;).

First stop the loo!! And then it was to the visitor centre to get the park entry passes. These passes covered our entry to the park and the use of shuttle buses that took people around the key areas of Cradle mountain – did not realise how BIG this place was. Private cars were not allowed within the ranges.

Passes sorted and a Cradle mountain jumper for Pooja bought, it was time to get something to eat – was getting to 1pm – headed to the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, had read great reviews of that place. Took the shuttle to the first stop and then it was a short walk to the lodge for Lunch.

Lunch was super at the Tavern, had the best Seafood Pasta – highly recommended. Now to hit the road and make our way to Dove Lake. Quick walk to the bus stop to wait for the next bus.

Waiting for the Shuttle

Next Stop Dove Lake to commence our hike.

Dove Lake Shuttle Stop

We did a short route that was just under one hour, it was an easy to moderate walk, nothing too stressful.
The Walk and the views were very scenic and so pleasant. In hindsight, it would have been great if we had more time – would have loved to do the entire Dove Lake walk – which is over 5 hours, well something for next time.

Walk done, now back to the Shuttle to the main Visitor Centre – had planned for a Coffee break, however the Coffee shop there had already closed!! So sad, it was only 3:30 pm and they had shut. A last bit of organising, loo break and then we were back in the cars on our long drive back to Launceston.

Dinner was at the Spice on Charles restaurant at Launceston, we went direct to that place to avoid missing out on dinner – restaurants here close too early :(.

Food was amazing at this place – highly recommended for the food, not so the ambience.

Back at the hotel, it was time to call it a night and give all those tired legs some rest.

Neha’s VLOG for the Day.

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January 5th – Bitter Sweet Tassie Short break – Fly to Launceston

I have been debating whether to blog this holiday or not? It had been a bitter sweet week with Dada passing away and the family insisting I carry on with my holiday. This blog is after all my journal on all our travel experiences – both good and bad, it is something for me, Nita and the kids to remember all our experiences. So in the spirit of recording the experiences, I am blogging this and dedicating it to dada and my amazing extended family – love you all!!

Our first holiday since the India visit in Jan’20 and the first family break since our EU visit. Booked to fly out on the 5th of January with Vikash’s and Doc’s families.
On January 2nd my dada, Bhanabhai Kalyan passed away peacefully at the age of 97, only days short of reaching 98!
His funeral took place on the 5th and that very afternoon we boarded our flight to Launceston.
Was a very solemn time and going on a holiday was not at the forefront.
However the amazing family we have – Mum, Dad, and my kaka’s all encouraged us to continue with our holiday plans and celebrate Dada’s life.

Dada’s funeral finished around 2pm, all final rituals completed, we then headed off to the airport to catch our 4:35pm flight to Launceston.
Caught up with the gang at the airport, checkin done, flight was on time and after a quick snack for all, we were headed to Launceston – everyone wearing masks on board , the new way of travelling.

Landed to a COLD Launceston evening (per Brisbane standards).
Bags collected, 2 rental people movers sorted & loaded with all the luggage and we were headed to our hotel – Hotel Grand Chancellor.
Reached the hotel just after 8:45pm, was already getting late, and appeared most of the food outlets in Launceston were closed. The hotel kitchen had 15 minutes before it was shutting – lifesaver!

During dinner we raised our Glasses to Dada!! Cheers to a great man. Me and Doc talked about how Doc’s grandfather would be raising a glass with Dada tonight in heaven.

Cheers to Dada!

Time to call it a night, tomorrow was an early start – we were off to Cradle mountain.

This holiday in memory of our Dada
Bhanabhai Kalyan – 15th January 1923 to 3rd January 2021

Neha’s Vlog for Day 0

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Mumbai Day 11 – 15 (21 – 25th Jan)

Signs of laziness creeping in and forcing myself to finish blog for India visit in Jan. Since not much was happening during the last few days, am combining it all into one blog, hoping I do not miss anything…..

The next fews days was all about just chilling, watching movies and trying different foods, going for walks around Marine Drive, enjoying the Arabian Sunsets and obviously trying some amazing foods.

21st Jan

Today was a super relaxed day, first up was organising laundry with a local provider near by, they organised a pickup and drop off, offering full Laundry service including dry cleanings at a very small fraction of what hotels charge.
First stop today was Bhuleshwar – Nita wanted new outfits and jewellery for the Bhagwan murtis. Bhuleshwar took a good 2-3 hours.

Now off to Phoenix mall for some afternoon coffee – time to recharge.

Coffee time @ Phoenix Mall

Got back to the hotel and our laundry had arrived – amazing value for money and clothes were nicely pressed – NICE!!
Next to headup to the rooftop bar to enjoy the Arabian Sunset!

For dinner we decided to the Italian that was near Inox we had enjoyed heaps in our last trip….. sad when we reached there, the place had shut down!!! Closest thing was Pizza By Bay, decided to eat there. Food was good but nothing to scream about.

Pizza by Bay @ Marine Drive

22nd Jan

Today was the date of our Engagement Anniversary, there was one requirement from Nita, she wanted a good Chinese Indian fusion – she was off Indian cuisine for the whole trip – sure I could organise that!

First thing, off to a morning walk along the Marine drive. Lots of people on the walk.

Back at the hotel and Breakfast done.
First stop, midday movie at Inox to watch Ajay Devgans – Tanhaji.
It was funny to be the only persons in the cinema when we entered. Am glad a couple more people turned up.

Movie was great, next we headed to Colaba causway , always a great place to walk around. After a bit of shopping headed off the Cafe Indigo – behind the Taj Hotel – this place was one we visited multiple times in our last visit, could never fault it for a good snack & coffees.

It was then back to the hotel for a break, however not long after we headed out again – I wanted to take some dusk pics of the Churchgate Station – had not factored in the traffic – yikes!!! Still made it on time.

We walked around the streets a bit, lots of people and traffic. Both getting a bit tired, and it was dark – time for dinner. Had found Jia Oriental at Colaba, back to Colaba it was. Only found this place from Zomato, and it was a lucky pick – the best Fusion we have ever had – even better than Hakkassan. The Hot & Soup was to die for, most amazing dumplings and then the main stir fry – my only regret is we needed more people to allow us to try more of their menu!!! Unfortunately we did not even take any pics 😦 . If there is only one restaurant I recommend in Mumbai, I would put this on top – Jia Oriental @ Colaba!!

Finished off with a evening walk on Marine drive opp our hotel.

23 Jan

Today we were being tour guides to Nita’s mum and dad, they wanted to finish off some shopping and wanted Nita’s help and then we were all catching up for dinner with Dilip Kaka and Bharti Kaki.

First off to my morning walk. The marine drive walkways are always busy and something you do not tire off.

Back at the hotel, our breakfast staff knew us well by the third day, and knew my fav – sunny side eggs, they did this so well.
Next we booked an OLA to JW Marriott in JUHU – Nita had a hair saloon booking there. Whilst waiting, had a chance to take a pic with my fav reception crew, these folks helped us soo much, especially with the lost phone and all – just amazing.

Amazing crew at Intercontinental

We were then off to JW and to Nita’s hair saloon appointment.
Hair done…something I did not have to be too concerned with ;). we then met up with her parents and all headed out to Friendship at SantaCruz. Lots of familiar faces, had only been there a couple of days back, the mandatory Tea was provided soon and not long after the yummy Toasted Sandwiches!!! So love these!! No need for lunch when coming here.
Nita helped her mum with the shopping and racking up their bill πŸ™‚ – all done, now what, we still had a good few hours before the dinner, we suggested trying out the Myrah Massage place in Juhu. This got her mum very interested. Called them and luckily they could accommodate all of us .. time to take the OLA there.

The Myrah session was great for all – a good hour resting was what we all needed. Now all rejuvenated, it was time to head out to Hakkassan, the timing was perfect.

Met up with Dilip Kaka & Bharti kaki, was good to catchup and an added bonus, with 6 people dining, we had a lot more options to try – yay!!
Soup as always was great as were all the other dishes. It was a great night, from there we all split up, Nita’s parents were heading to Novotel, Dilip Kaka was in another hotel and we were at Marine Drive in south.

Dinner at Hakkassan Mumbai

Got back to the Intercontinental and the first thing I noticed as I approached our room – the DO NOT MAKE was hanging on the door – I was like …OOOOHHH SHIT!!!! Opening the door, yep the room was not made at all, and it was not anyone to blame other than myself. And ofcourse Nita was not the happiest at the point. Called housekeeping about my stuff up and if I could get extra towels, they guy on the other line, knew our room and said he come around multiple times during the day to see if he could make the room but due to the DO NOT DISTURB he waited. Instead of simply offering us new towels, he actually offered to make the room if we simply gave him 10 minutes, this was all happening at 11:30pm – I was like, you serious!! He insisted it was no trouble for him, so me and Nita headed to the roof top bar to kill more time.

This was a blessing in disguise, the DOME rooftop place was a great place to be around that time, nice tunes, Arabian Sea breeze and my fav Gin & Tonic. We both enjoyed up there and somehow I was again back in the good books ;).

Dome Rooftop Bar @ Intercontinental

Coming back down to the room, the housekeeper was gone but the room was spanking clean, and made up so nicely!!! WOW, the service!! At midnight we had our room made – this was over and beyond what we expected, all I had requested were fresh towels!! Simply love the service here.

24th Jan

Last full day in Mumbai, today’s schedule was simple, first a movie and then it was a visit to Shidivinayak mandir.

First a midday session movie at INOX, this time to watch Street Dancer 3. Got the gold class session – why not, good way to relax. Another empty cinema – that is one advantage of getting to the day sessions, cinemas are empty!! Well it was empty till it started and then a couple more people turned up, still very empty. Gold Class lunch options were great, you simply pressed service button and the guy was there to take our orders, got some yum snacks with a pizza – good way to lunch!

Movies @ INOX Nariman Point

From there we headed out to Sidhiviniyak Mandir, being a Friday, the crowds were not many and we breezed through. Nita was also able to find the Ganpati murtis that I had in my car, she wanted these and it was a good find.

@Sidhivinayak Mandir Mumbai

Headed back to the hotel to just chill and sort out our packing.
Packing done, now to the rooftop bar to enjoy our final Arabian Sea Sunset for this trip.

For dinner, it was a no brainer, last night in Mumbai had to be the best fusion, and it was Jia @ Colaba, did not dare to try a new place, we loved this place so much and wanted to try more of their variety.
Again the soup, dumplings and this time we ordered sushi – wow all just wow!!! So so recommend this place. A great way to finish it all off.

25th Jan

Early start, breakfast done and now to checkout and head to the airport.
Farewelled the amazing crew at the Intercontinental – this place may not be the biggest but these guys have the biggest hearts and the best service to date!! Will be coming here for sure again.

Drive to the airport was smooth with no traffic.
At the airport finding a trolley near by proved difficult, finally managed to grab a couple and then it was lugging the two trolleys to the correct checkin counters. All done and through immigration.
First stop was the Way out of India store in the departures lounge, this place had a lot of indian handicrafts. Nita ended up getting a few things along with a great Ganpati murti – now I wish I had bought the larger one – well next time.

From there we headed to the business lounge expecting a nice area we could relax in – not to be, this was not the same as other lounges – a bit of a let down. Headed back out to the food court area for a final round of Chaat.
There we caught up with Dilip kaka and Bharti kaki, they were also flying out today.

It was soon time to board, we headed our different ways, we were not on the same flights. Looking forward to home and seeing our girls.

The end to a short but amazing visit to one of our favourite foodie destinations! Looking back at this, we are soo glad to have done this, not sure when we will be going back to India again let alone going out of Australia!!
As the saying goes, or maybe it is our saying, what ever is done is done, things you have planned and left for tomorrow are in a place with no guarantees – enjoy today and lock in those memories whilst you still can….

Till our next vacation…..

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Mumbai Day 10 – 20th Jan

Restarting this overdue blog, got slack with COVID19!! Not sure if I can remember it all….. 😦

Lazy morning, todays plan was very simple – head off to Santa Cruz to collect shopping and then catch up with Doc & family for Dinner.

Breakfast at Intercontinental was at the Long & Short Lounge, a smaller scale than Novotel however variety was not sacrificed and the staff were super attentive & helpful. Whilst they did not have a hot station, all that was required was asking one of the crew members and eggs were brought to our table – cooked the way I liked (Sunny side). Service just kept getting better, I was at the bread station waiting for my toast, the crew member offered to bring it over once done! Did not at all feel like a buffet breakfast – super happy with this service.



Intercontinental Long & Short Lounge

Before heading out, asked the reception why my floor kept smelling of smoke – it was then I was told that we were on a SMOKING FLOOR !!!! Arrrgghhhh. Time to change please. Reception was super helpful and offered to move all our luggage once the new room was ready. Headed back to our room and packed everything into the luggage and left it in the room – fingers crossed they move us to a good room.

It was just after midday we headed out to Santa Cruz, the standard hour drive with the Mumbai traffic :(. Getting there, we diverted to the Khar Social, Nita wanted the signature khichdi – she loved that from the last trip!
Getting in there, the lower level was mostly empty, however it was the upper level that surprised me, a lot of youngsters working on their laptops – this was very different from our visit in the last trip

Khar Social


Food was great, never can go wrong here, the Khicdi was just what Nita needed, and my Chicken wings were very nice! Finishing off was with a nice touch, receipt presented in a cool box with the most appropriate title….

Receipts presented in this box @ Khar Social

Now to find a rickshaw to take us Station road in Santa Cruz. Nothing in sight and the few that went past were already full. We walked a bit away from the quiet street trying to find a main road with more traffic. Ended up at an intersection where more traffic was passing by. Waiting under a large tree, it was a now a waiting game.
Now something to remember with large trees, these things attract a lot of birds & birds do like to poop at the wrong times…..yes it was bound to happen. However it was not me but Nita! She got targeted and it was her hair that got it all!! Not the best of moments, it was a frantic wipe off as much as possible, however it was the warm feeling of fresh pooh on the scalp that was driving her nuts 😐  Finally got a rickshaw, now what, we needed to fix this hair problem, I knew there was a saloon on the same station rd, asked the driver to take us there.
Got to Enrich hair saloon and luckily the place were able to get Nita in without wait. Ok she was sorted, this allowed me enough time to head over to Friendship and collect the shoppings – Nita was in no mood to try them on 😦
Shopping collected and back at the Saloon, Nita was very happy with the service provided and her mood had turned brighter…phew πŸ™‚Β  Now to another collection that was just around the corner. He were ended up staying longer, ofcourse the mandatory tea was ordered and as was to be, more shopping:(Β  It was around 5:30pm when we finally got out of the store and headed back to the hotel.

Getting back, was pleased to be informed that our room had been changed to a non smoking floor and our luggage had all been moved!Β  Getting into this room, it just smelled so much better – NO SMOKE — YAY!!! The room was also slightly bigger – not complaining about that.

Now to just chill out and relax, we had a lot of time before we were to meet Doc & Tina @ 9pm.

Just after 9pm we arrived at Taj and what a coincidence, Doc & family arrived in the taxi directly in front of us!

Doc & family arriving at the same time at Taj hotel

First time for the essential photos at the Taj lobby area

Taj lobby

It was then off to the Golden Dragon, this is one place I have had soo many recommendations, was very much looking forward to this.

Dinner at Golden Dragon

Always an advantage to go out in a group, the food variety we could order was great, lots of options plus some great laughs.
The laughs continued and so did the drinks, it was close to midnight when we finally left the place – we were the last ones !

Review: Whilst food was good, it was not something that I would class as amazing, the highlight for me was the Hot and Sour soup – that was wow. Overall I am not sure if I would recommend this place 😦 .

It had been a great night, this was the final time we were meeting up with Doc & Tina in this trip – said our farewells, till we catchup back in Brisbane.

An interesting day it had been, with a great finish!

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Mumbai Day 9 – 19th Jan

It was a early start – we were on a 6am train to Mumbai – Flying Ranee.

Our car arrived on time – 5:10am, farewelled Mum and Dad and then it was off. Was about 10min and we were at the station, now the driver went back to collect Vishal – since the car was small, he had to do two rounds for this drop off!

Vishal arrived and then it was finding the right platform – which was not too bad but the confusion was around where to stand on the platform – these trains are super long and only stops here for 3 mins.

Located the place where out booked car would stop and then it was waiting.

Train arrived and as it had to be, the car did not stop where it should have, so a bit of running around to find the right car, got it and boarded all successfully. Located our seats, luggage stored nearby , now it was a four hour ride to Mumbai. Was surprised how full the carriage was – this was supposed to be first class.

Half way through, conductor comes around, checks my ticket and informs me, that this carriage had changed to a smaller capacity and I had been automatically upgraded – a higher class in front, apparently sms notification was sent out – seems like my luck, they did not send the sms to international mobiles πŸ™. It was to much effort to move now with the luggage, we decided to stay put – only two more hours.

Train got into Mumbai just after 10am, farewelled Vishal and then it was into a taxi to our hotel – Intercontinental Marine Drive.

Luck was not on our side today, Mumbai was hosting a marathon and streets were closed all over the place – resulting in traffic chaos! A ride that should have taken 10mins was taking us one hour. In addition to the delay – the last km, we had to walk with our bags as the entire road opp our hotel was locked out.

Finally made it to the hotel, wow what a relief to be in there away from the chaos outside! But it was not over yet , room was not ready till 2pmπŸ™ƒ! We were to meet Doc and family for Brunch today around midday and it was already past 11.

Their lobby bathrooms were quite large, we got freshened up there. This was the first time I was shaving in the lobby bathroom of any hotel, well who cares, people were a bit confused seeing me there just going about my shave but it all worked out ok. Quick change, bags stored with the concierge and we were in the taxi heading to St Regis in lower Parel.

Got there just after midday, first the mandatory pics at the magnificent stairs. Found Doc in the same area!

On the famous St Regis stairs
Ek selfie toh banta hai

Now to head to Seven kitchens for apparently the best brunch in Mumbai – as per online reviews!

All headed to the restaurant and got seated in the same place where we previously were for the New Years celebration !

The seven kitchens spread was wow, similar to what they had in New Years, so much to try and eat, at least this time I could enjoy the food! It was not long before we were on desserts β€” enough cried my belly!! There is a limit to what a human can eat, I wish it was not but even I had to give up πŸ€ͺ. Brunch done.

Got back to our hotel and phew, room was available now! Straight into the room for some much needed rest. We were on the 2nd floor and it did smell a bit strange – smoke but not quite the intense smoking smell??? Well we were too tired and hit the bed after a good hot shower. Room was amazingly large and the bed was soo comfy, in no time I was knocked out.

Woke up in a couple of hours and then it was just lazing around, we had a lot of hours to relax till we met Doc and family again at London Taxi @ 9pm for dinner.

Our OLA got in around 8:30pm and we were at Kamala Mills just before 9. This place is different, lots of great restaurants and bars, very different to other places.

Great looking Indian Restaurant! Mental note to self to visit this place

Got into London Taxi and it took me by surprise, I was expecting a restaurant, well this place was more like a night club/bar with food menu. Soon after Doc & family arrived. Got ourselves seated three tables from the dance floor which was filled with a private group dancing away. I was skeptical of the ambience however it quickly grew on me and in no time, was really enjoying it!!

London Taxi

Food was great πŸ‘, lots of small entree’s! Was not long before we all hit the dance floor and then back again for some desserts!

Lots of dancing, eating and drinking leaving us all a bit tired, time to call it a night.

Headed out to our OLA cabs back to our respective hotels, we were meeting again the next evening at Taj Golden Dragon, hope that leaves up to it.

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Navsari Day 7/8 – 17th / 18th Jan

Activities were very limited for the next two days, I got hit by some bug that may have got me from some eating and the toilet had became my best friend!

Quick visit to Dr. Sanjay B, he gave some homeopathic medication along with antibiotics – in classic India style, tablets were all loose and provided in small plastic bags! Had to remember which one was taken when.

It was then resting :(. Only made some short trips outside to catch the Navsari glimpse, eating out was now a definite no no!

Fruit market in Navsari

Dilesh & family all arrived on the 17th, house was now much more lively!

Just missing Bhavik!

Last day in Navsari was simply collecting and organising all the shopping, a couple of morning calls to stores that had not delivered our shopping by the time promised – luckily all arrived by the afternoon and we were able to get it to a freight forwarder on time before they closed for the day!

Navsari was mostly done, tomorrow morning we were headed back to Mumbai, getting a ride with Vishal to the train station – he had already organised a car :).

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Navsari/Surat Day 6 – 16th Jan

Early rise, our Surat car was booked for 9:30, aim was to get back quickly and not waste time visiting malls and unnecessary places – learnings from last trip!

It was just mum, Nita and I going, Dad decided to stay back – not the shopping guy, this actually did work well for mum, no one to rush her !

Driving to Surat, a normal sight here, Highway is blocked by bulls…

Car was there on time, by 10:30 we were in Surat in the Lal Gate area, first stop was Vivah and then Paris. Not many times you are the first ones in the store- this was one of those moments, the shutters were just opening and we were there outside, felt very weird waiting for the doors to open!

Shopping commenced. Just after midday we finished off Vivah and we’re heading to Paris, when Nita and Mum saw a fruit seller – sorry no idea what that stuff was but it did taste good!!(I saw need to record these names)

It was Paris next and it finished just after 2. Still had not had lunch, found a Udupi restaurant close by, headed there – I remembered the great Udupi place in Valsad that we had been to in the prior trip!

Getting to Udupi, it was not the same great environment but we were in no mood to find another place and needed quick refueling.

Ordered a couple of Dosa’s, masala and Mysore. We opted for the butter cooked option for the extra yumm taste – never tried that before – will see if that is actually any better or just a money making exercise?? Mum requested the masala be provided separate and not inside the dosa, this was a good idea as I found out later, kept the Dosa’s so crispy!

The Dosa’s were soooo soooo good!! Two Dosa’s were perfect to share between the three of us. What a tasty and fulfilling lunch, and the cost was so so so cheap!!!! Do not judge Udupi at Lal Gate based on looks, food here is amazing ⭐️.

Took an auto back to outside Vivah, our driver was coming to pick us from there.

Whilst waiting for our car pickup, noticed a street side vendor selling men’s kurti’s and he had a yellow one. Cost was only 300INR!! Bharti kaki had mentioned something about all being dressed in yellow for one of the days during the wedding – whilst I was not too keen on it previously, at $6 AUD, this was a no brainer. No trial rooms there, simply tried it on the streets and even though the largest size available was slightly tight, decided to buy it and convinced myself of loosing some weight before the wedding – well that is the plan, not sure if I will stick to it though??!

Next was a visit to a Jewellery store, a place Nita and mum enjoyed!

Around 4:30pm, we were all done and returned back to Navsari.

Dad was surprised to see us back in Navsari during daylight, all our previous visits to Surat always had our return post dinner – this was a good change πŸ‘.

Coming early allowed us to quickly go out to enjoy Neha & Pooja’s favourite chaat wala – Raju Samosa!

This place is sooo amazing, Pani Puri to die for and the Serv Puri was wow!! Chaat fix done, now for a quick walk through the bazaar.

On the return leg to home, Nita wanted to stop by at her Aji’s place – it was a good thing, we met up with her Masi and Masa from Toronto and Rupal Masi and her daughters!

Whilst there, got to try some fresh bhajiya that Rupal & Vanita masi had made. Was nice catching up with them all, tomorrow Rupal masi and family were heading back to Mumbai.

Got home and saw Doc and family arriving next door to his Aji’s home, and just then we could hear a load wedding procession going through the streets near by, we all ran there and danced a bit in that “Baraat” – no idea whose Baraat it was but who cares!!

Doc then forced me to come over to his Aji’s place for some drinks. Was good just chatting with Doc, Tina, Pushpa kaki and Doc’s Aji – she is super nice, still remember the first time we came with kids, our first meal was at his Aji’s place and my girls so loved it – something’s you just do not forget!

Got home soon after and mum and Nita had finished cooking dinner – fish was on the menu – yumm.

Around 9pm, the fire truck came by to refill our water tank – the joy of Navsari and its water problems 😬.

It was then time to call it a night – tomorrow we could sleep in, no rush!

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Navsari – Day 5 – 15th Jan

Lazy start – Slept in a bit – recovering from the big night at Jayesh’s place. Not many times I get to have a relaxed breakfast with mum, being in Navsari together, these moments were treasured 😍.

For lunch it was off to Ramanand restaurant, for us, a visit to Navsari is not compete without a meal here. Highly recommended place!!

The Serv Puri was amazing, next was the sabjhi and butter roti – just wow !! I could became a vegetarian here 😜.

Recharged, now for some local shopping, off to the recommended new outlet – Chandni, this place is big , over 3 levels! This is massive for Navsari. It has everything, menswear, ladies wear, electronics, personal items and lots more – a first true department store here.

Nita got into browsing the ladies wear and we ended staying there for a while. It was funny, Nita would try on an outfit and I would say – “yeah that looks good, is that for Neha or Pooja?”. This continued without me really realising what was happening and turned out at the end she bought a lot for the kids and only a couple for herself πŸ™, Doh!!

Enough shopping , and it was back home, mum & Dad had invited Dilip kaka and Bharti kaki for dinner.

Dinner was good, lots of chatting around how each ones visit had been so far.

Finished off not too late, tomorrow was an early start, off to Surat….for more shopping 😬

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