Do you usually stay in hotels when you travel? Increasingly, I prefer to rent apartments rather than stay at hotels. You have the luxury of space (no matchbox-sized rooms), you don't have to rush to make it to the breakfast buffet and it's pretty much a home away from home. If you plan well, you can actually save some money and have a better holiday experience. We rented apartments in Europe last year and one of my favourites was Residence La Medicea in Florence. It was just nicer coming back 'home' after a day of traipsing around Florence - sitting on the terrace with a glass of wine and writing, as the nearby market wound down and the setting sun casting long shadows on the dome of the Medici Chapel opposite our apartment...
Apartment rentals are big these days, with AirBnB being a popular 'marketplace'. TripAdvisor too has recognised this niche and now offers apartment listings. An apartment of your own is a luxury, so imagine having an entire villa at your disposal! Last week I got a chance to check out a villa in Kashid (near Alibaug), courtesy the good folks at The Weekend Plan. So I rounded up three of my girlfriends, we piled into a car and had a short, fun girlfriend getaway, right in the middle of the week :)
We had planned on an early start from Mumbai, but the rain was literally bucketing down. We eventually left at around 8 a.m. and after a couple of stops, reached Alibaug around noon. The drive itself is quite scenic and the countryside was bedecked in various shades of green, thanks to the monsoons. The last 'mile' to Kashid was slow progress, as the road conditions are quite bad. At one point, near Nagaon, the road was actually flowing like a river. And then of course, Google Maps gave up on us and we got a little lost finding the villa...
|La Dolce Vita|
Our villa-for-a-day was La Dolce Vita, set in a 2 acre space, which it shares with another villa (Raintree), a large swimming pool, 2 dogs, a rooster and several chickens, not to mention a staff of three. La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) is a large villa, spread over two levels - a huge living room, two fairly large bedrooms and bathrooms, a patio+dining area looking out over the grounds and an upstairs covered terrace, which also has a large dining and bar area.
|The Living Room|
We did a recce of the place and really loved the way the entire house opened out - step out of the living room on to the patio; both the bedrooms too opened out to verandahs. The master bedroom is done up in pleasing shades of green and looks out on more greenery. The bed can easily accommodate three people (and it did, but more about that later). The main bathroom is enormous, with an open shower area. Both the bedroom & bathroom are furnished really well; the owners seem to have an eye for beauty and good taste, judging by the way the villa is done up.
|The Patio, where we had our meals|
Now coming to the second bedroom - it was quite large, with a 3-person bed, and an attached bathroom. The drawback was that it was quite dark and smelt musty & mouldy. One of my friends, J's allergies started acting up and it was really not a pleasant experience being in the room. We wondered if any of us would be sleeping in there.
We had arrived at lunch time, so the two cooks whipped up a yummy meal for us - okra, stuffed aubergines, chapatis, rice, dal and a delicious fish curry. I'm not a big fan of aubergines, but these ones stuffed with a spicy coconut filling were awesome. But the real star was of course the homestyle fish curry.
|The Shower area|
Since we had just a day to spend at the villa, we had made no particular plans of venturing out. So the afternoon was given over to reading & siesta - except my friend R who went off on a stroll down to the beach (it's a short walk from the villa).
Tea arrived later and then the avid swimmer that C is, she headed to the pool, while the rest of us lazed about, opened a couple of bottles of wine (it's BYOB) and watched the sky turn to gorgeous shades of pink and purple.
Dinner was another homely affair, this time with fried fish and two veggies, and of course some more wine; I finally uncorked the Chianti I had lugged back from Tuscany last year! After a long game of Taboo, we headed to bed. Initially, I tried sleeping in the musty bedroom, but gave up after ten minutes. Eventually, three of us took the master bedroom and the fourth slept on the couch in the living room...
|The Beach, pic courtesy Rakhee|
The next morning we were treated to a breakfast of champions - fluffy omelettes, scrumptious poha with peanuts, juice and tea. Happily well-fed, we headed back to Mumbai, stopping on the way to buy some vegetables, and local snacks and condiments - white onions from Khandale, a massive pumpkin that we split four ways, purple glistening aubergines, kokum (tart fruit from the mangosteen family, used as a souring agent in curries) and sandgi mirchi (stuffed dried chillies that go perfectly with curd rice).
Overall, it was a good experience with The Weekend Plan. Barring the musty room, the property was quite lovely and well-maintained. The staff was excellent, especially the two ladies who cooked. The Weekend Plan has more than 400 properties, many of which are in Maharashtra - apart from Alibaug, you can rent a villa in Lonavala, Pune, Igatpuri, Panchgani etc. They also have properties in other states - Rajasthan (Mount Abu & Jodhpur), Karnataka (Coorg & Kabini), Himachal Pradesh (Kullu & Manali), Goa and more. Take a look at their website for more information. Many of the villas are also available during the week, so if you can take off in the middle of the week, do check out The Weekend Plan!
And speaking of girlfriend getaways, have you watched my little video for Yahoo Lifestyle's Fab & Fearless? Take a look here :)
So where will you be heading for your next weekend getaway?
Disclosure: We were guests of The Weekend Plan at the villa. Views, obviously, my own.
Labels: India, Review, The Weekend Plan, travel, weekend getaway