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Lovedale is for lovers!
A magpie chuffed about chattering in alarm as we sat on the embankment overlooking the stunning vista of Lovedale. We were waiting armed with my camera, to shoot the delightful Toy train that chugs between Udagamangalam (Ooty) and Coonoor, sitting in the Hill Country Resort that we had booked for a romantic weekend. The delicate smell of profusely flowering roses and fuchsias intermingled with the ferny fragrance so evocative of the hills, enveloped us as we sat looking out for the train. It’s a heady fragrance which is guaranteed to calm the most stressed and harassed mind and which can be experienced only if you shut out the world and let mother nature take over your mind in the hills. The view of Lovedale is breathtaking and unlike Ooty still emanates the pristine charm of yesteryear, when the British founded the town in 1812. A church bell rang in the distance and a pair of noisy Bulbuls was the only sound that intruded on the silence of the place.
Suddenly the cooo- cooo of the train whistle echoed in the valley and the little narrow gauge Nilgiri Mountain Railway train appeared over the crest of a hill. UNESCO conferred World Heritage status on the train in 2005 and opened it in 1908. It chugs past the resort at a max speed of 33km per hour and disappears into a tunnel which resort manager Gope assured me runs right under the resort. Passenger’s wave out to whoever they pass quite unaffectedly, sticking their heads out of the little box like windows of the train painted a bright blue! The track is 46km long and the little train starts at Mettupalayam at 6159 ft above sea level and rises to 7228 ft with an intriguing rack and pinion system to climb the steep gradient.
Ask Gope the resort manager, to wave his magic wand and book your tickets to ride the train. It’s a romantic ride which takes you through untouched countryside right upto Coonoor. Don’t try and buy them yourself as the ride at any time of the day is crowded with excited passengers waiting in enormous lines to buy tickets. Since the ride costs just Rs.54 or one $, there are crowds waiting to experience it. Everything about the ride, from the tickets to the train are still in a heritage time warp harking back to the British Raj. All the stations too are beautifully maintained with their old fashioned monkey tops and kadapa (local stone) stone flooring.
Hill Country Lovedale, like George Koshy’s other resort based in Kodaikanal, is an established resort, being in business for over 12 years. With just 20 rooms on hire, the resort is never overcrowded and makes a wonderfully romantic getaway, no matter what time of the year you choose. All the rooms were booked back to back when we were there, since the famous Lawrence School which is in Lovedale, had its 152nd Founders Day celebrations on. Several old students and their families stayed at the resort coming from all across the world to attend the celebrations, so we met several interesting families over dinner or breakfast.
For a romantic weekend the cleanliness of the room is decidedly important and in Hill Country the freshness of the linen and the furnishings are ‘mucho belissimmo’! In fact every time we came back from a jaunt into town, we looked forward to the innovative ways in which the room boys would put out our fresh towels on the beds, woven into intriguing birds or lotus patterns! Even the ‘eyes’ of the ‘swans’ were cutely improvised out of marigold petals! Their romantic touch extends into the little vase with flowers, or the fruit basket which fruit lovers would enjoy, or best of all, the hand made chocolates left in the room which Ooty is famed for!
Ask for local delicacies in the restaurant. The chefs being local, their Badaguru Koi Udaka ( Badaga Chicken Curry) and steamed rice, finished with Tuppathittu (Banana Pancakes) are a must have. Those who find spicy food hard to handle, a variety of cuisines including regular continental soups and bakes are on order. In the cold, we always ordered their delicious Sweet Corn/Chicken soup with freshly cut celery added straight from the garden.
Remember Lovedale is chilly any time of the year, with the clouds coming into the rooms to welcome you, should you leave your windows open. It’s the perfect place to re-ignite your honeymoon passions or leave it to the staff at Hill Country the liberty to make your honeymoon something you will treasure forever.
For details contact:
Hill Country Hotels and Resorts India Ltd.
New #22 old # 9 Jaganathan Road, Nugambakkam, Chennai – 600034,
Tamil Nadu, India.
Phone: 91 44 28236217/0877
FAX: 91 44 28282157
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