‘Incredible India’, it wouldn’t have taken the Indian Tourism Ministry long to conjure up that slogan. One look outside the office window and it is easy to see how one word superbly compliments the other. From the cool, calm green of Goa to the brilliant sparkling white of Agra, there are no shortages of experiences to stimulate the mind and body. Finish off with a riot of colours in Jaipur, why not? Life is for living and India provides the canvas.
Luscious green rice fields perfectly frame the Alila hotel in southern Goa. Rice fields tend to add a mysterious, spiritual feel to any location and this is no different. The brushed wooden beams and wicker chairs strewn in the lobby exudes the exotic feel of paradise. The spices wafting tingle the senses and you feel yourself inhaling deeply and thinking ‘Ahh, I’ve arrived’.
Meandering through the open walkways to the rooms, your head is swimming with Goan architecture, the courtyards add to the vista of the lush paddy fields and the wide verandas beg you to rest with a cool gin cocktail. Brass lanterns light the way past the tranquillity pool to the Diwa Club, the resort within a resort. Heavenly light décor in pale creams is contrasted by the heavy wooden lattice screens that separate the free standing bath from the rest of the room.
The rooms have various levels of lighting to match your mood, and delicate sweets and chocolates left each day stay perfectly in shape in the air conditioned room, no melting here.
The sparkling jewel in the Alila’s crown is the Spice Studio. Having been voted The Indian Times best Indian restaurant in South Goa for a number of years its reputation precedes it. Like the banyan tree that it is wrapped around, the food is warm, spicy and comforting. It feels like getting a big culinary hug. You can choose from cuisine from all over India; however the Goan speciality is seafood and it would be rude not to indulge.
The Alila offers ‘experience packages’ of which learning to cook seafood Goan style is one. You are taken to the local fish market, banter and barter with the local fisherman and choose the seafood of your choice. The head chef and his team will then discuss with you how to prepare the delicacy into a masterpiece. You are then privy to a master class in fish preparation, compiling marinades and eating deliciously cooked fish, all caught and prepared by your own fair hand.
If you want a nibble before dinner, try the Chaat Dhamaka, street food. It is served in the early evening in the garden, just enough for a sample along with the well-priced Goan beer at the Edge bar.
To round off, treat yourself to a massage in the Alila Spa. The setting is in perfect harmony with the surroundings, a waterway guides you to the treatment rooms. Here you can try an ayurvedic treatment such as the Shiro Abhyangam under the watchful eye of Dr Siddhartha. This Indian head and neck massage will revive your scalp and leave you relaxed and at one with the world.
Alila comes from the Sanskrit meaning surprise. As you leave the airport and mosey along the quiet lanes, slowing only to tip a nod to the cows meandering in the same direction as you, you don’t envisage you’ll be surprised by the end of your stay. You will. The approach at Alila is surprisingly refreshing; you’ll learn new skills, relax and be pampered all at the same time. It’s a type of surprise that everyone should experience at least once.
Tel : +91 832 274 6800
Getting There, The Virgin Atlantic Way!
The captain cheerily booms over the tannoy ‘sit back, relax and enjoy the flight’. How often have you heard that and thought ‘if only you knew the gauntlet I’ve just ran to get to this seat’. Sweat and tears, blistered feet, sore hands from hauling the overweight case, which in all likeliness cost the price of an extra ticket in excess baggage. Now that I’m in the seat, I’m guaranteed, squashed knees, an argument with the person next to me over cabin baggage and the thought of 10 hours in what feels like a body brace position.
Not with Virgin Upper Class.
From the second your chauffeur picks you up you know that your days of airport harassment are over. Waltzing smugly through the private security channel, after a seamless check in, you arrive at the Clubhouse. A resort in itself. Heathrow Clubhouse has a spa, cinema room and food worthy of a top restaurant.
Finish that cocktail at your leisure, you are in no hurry to rush for the flight, everything is taken care off. Although once on board you wish maybe you should’ve hurried a little faster. Champagne on arrival, pyjamas and in-flight dining to suit your body clock are standard.
The flat beds are roomy and comfortable, seems a shame to sleep right away though as there is so much to do. Not usually the word you hark on a long haul flight. The bar, decked in the distinctive Virgin colours of red and purple beckons. There is over 300 hours of entertainment; films, games and TV, including power points for laptops and a roomy table to conduct work if you so wish.
As the captain announces’ ten minutes to landing’ you feel almost a like sad that your flight has come to an end, until that is the return flight, when you get to indulge in this luxury all over again.