Yoga, food, surf & sangria – back by popular demand!

Posted in: Uncategorized

We love yoga. We also love food, Tarifa, understated luxury and a chilled vibe (with Spanish gin measures). So we planned a holiday.

Tarifa-Yoga2nd

Our Tarifa yoga holiday is back by popular demand. 22-26th October 2015. Click here for all info including what you’ll be eating, where you’ll be staying, cooking classes, food tours, and prices. And on The Essentials, for why you say you love us, getting there, check-in and what to bring. Alternatively, scroll through the Travel & Yoga page, where you’ll also find reviews on Tarifa and the palace that awaits you, Riad Lolita.

Yoga, food, surf & sangria

I love yoga. I also love food, Tarifa, understated luxury and a chilled vibe (with Spanish gin measures). So, I joined forces with my most inspirational (and fun) yoga teachers and planned a holiday.

Green-juices-&-morning-yoga

Located in Spain’s most southern tip (the mountains in the picture are Morocco), Tarifa life revolves around the cafes, chiringuitos (beach shacks), kite and wind-surfing. We’re yet to meet anyone in Tarifa who either, hasn’t been before, or isn’t planning their return. It really is very special.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

Yoga & Meditation

Two daily 90 minute yoga classes led through vinyasa with a more energising sequence in the morning and a softer practice come sunset. Optional daily pranayama and mediation. All classes with The Dream Team: inspirational Jivamukti yogis Molly Harragin and Stewart Heffernan.

Tarifa-skylinetarifa-yoga

A palace (almost)

Our own 19th century luxe ‘palacete’ Riad Lolita, in the heart of Tarifa’s tiny, yet lively, white-washed old town. THE place to be, with cafes, shops and the beach on our doorstep.

Riad-Lolita,-upstairs-sitting-roomRiad-Lolita,-South-RoomRiad-Lolita,-family-suiteRiad-Lolita,-hallwayRiad-Lolita,-terracetarifa-streets,-spain

Wholesome Seduction

Wake-up green juices and energy bites, followed by post yoga brunch (lovingly prepared by yours truly). Plus a wholesomely seductive welcome supper around our kitchen table on the 22nd (ditto).

granolaIMG_7257Kale,-ricotta-&-chorizo-rosti

Food tours and fiestas

Because no-where loves eating out, and the night, quite like Andalucia, I’ll take you on a tour of the town following our first morning’s yoga, ensuring you’re armed with the best restaurants, beach bars, shops and must see spots. We’ll also sample sunset beach cervezas, flamenco and my pick of the town throughout your stay. Budget around £15 a head for a (big) meal with wine. Note: Cerveza’s often cheaper than water.

Tarifa-churrostarifachiringuitosTarifa-Mojitos

WHEN & HOW MUCH?

22nd – 26th October 2015. Yoga runs 23rd – 26th. Prices from £475 per person based on 2 sharing. Triple rooms and suites also available.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Airports Gibraltar (40 mins away) and Malaga (11⁄2 hrs away) run countless daily flights. For all info on buses, taxis and car hire go to: The Essentials.

ANYTHING ELSE?

An (optional) Wholesome Seduction cooking class, so you can take your brunches home! Kite surf and windsurfing courses also available.

Wave-BanditsValdevaqueros-beach,-Candy-Kites

TO BOOK & FOR FURTHER INFO:

Drop me a mail: clare@rootlondon.com
Click here for more info on Tarifa, here for our ‘palacette’ Riad Lolita and here for Getting there, check-in and what to bring.

 

Travel Pick: Riad Lolita, Tarifa

Worthy of it’s own post, Riad Lolita is one of my favourite Tarifa guesthouses. And I’ve ticked off my fair share of accommodation across multiple visits to Spain’s most southern tip – the mountains in the picture are Africa. My obsession with Tarifa can hardly have gone unnoticed (see Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia). I may even have renovated my own little white washed Tarifa holiday house: La Casita Melo. My penchant for understated luxury may have been hinted at once or twice. Moorish mansion, Riad Lolita is the cherry on the cake. Here’s why:

Tarifa-skyline

Built in 1893 for the town mayor, this shrine to nineteenth century luxury retains the granduar and original features of its past: Marble floors and staircases; Moorish courtyards and tiles that prompted me to scramble for my credit card; and light flooding in from every angle through the seemingly endless windows and patio doors.

Converted from a private home last year (the layout remained the same), Danish interior design goddess Pia sourced most of the furnishings from Morocco. Synonymous with chic Tarifa, Pia oversees the creative direction of Tarifa’s more stylish apartments. A celebration of her paired back Scandi style with the architecture of the casco antiguo (old town).

The really good news? Pia believes that to keep people happy, “you need to give them more than they expect.” So, Riad Lolita is incredibly reasonably priced. Incredibly.

Riad-Lolita,-upstairs-sitting-room

Riad-Lolita,-courtyard

Riad-Lolita,-hallway

The upstairs living room, hallway and Moorish courtyard.

Moroccan suite

Riad Lolita was full when I travelled but Pia very kindly moved things around so I could spend 5 nights in this little beauty. It didn’t disappoint.

Riad-Lolita,-Moroccan-suite

Moroccan-suite,-bedroom2

Riad-Lolita,-Moroccan-suite,-sitting

Moroccan suite 2 has two rooms: living area and a bedroom with further seating area and open plan bathroom. As with the rest of the house, large windows are in abundance; a godsend during hot summer months, though all rooms have AC. Both Moroccan suites have the advantage of their own entrances onto the street; ideal for nipping out for your morning cortado.

Pia sourced most of the furniture from Morocco; the headboard is covered in a rug and the carpet, a design The Rug Company would drool over. Needless to say, I’m now planning a Tangier van haul so I can replicate all of the above in my South West London basement bedroom. Minus the extensive windows, light and sunshine. Humph.

A double room

Riad-Lolita,-South-Room

North and South rooms have an interconnecting door, should you go with a group. The tiles (and 70 euro p/nt price tag) got me in a heartbeat.

The family suite

Riad-Lolita,-Family-room Riad-Lolita,-family-suite

The master bedroom and kids room in the family suite, which comprises of four rooms, to include a living room and bathroom. Rarely are triple rooms this stylish. Take note, long lost travel buddies with babies!

The Penthouse

Riad-Lolita,-Penthouse

The Penthouse kitchen and master bathroom.

With two bathrooms, two bedrooms (or a double bed and sitting room), a kitchen and terrace, this is incredibly good value at 130 euro per night. As with the entire house, design hasn’t been compromised; mosaic tiles, a mix of antique furniture and comfort are in abundance.

The terrace

Riad-Lolita,-terrace

Bang in the centre of el casco antiguo (old town) with views of Morocco. A sangria spit away.

Shared spaces

Riad-Lolita,-kitchen

Riad-Lolita,-shared-living

Riad-Lolita,-courtyard-sitting

With two sitting rooms, a large kitchen, terrace and even chill out hallways, Riad Lolita has ample living space outside of the bedrooms. This is actually quite unusual for Tarifa and  as such, it’s an ideal and very reasonable (500 euros per night for 9 bedrooms / 22 people) option for groups.

For prices and how to book, contact: Riad Lolita or Tarifa Beach House.

For why and when to go: Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia

Reasons to visit Tarifa (other than for Riad Lolita):

Bar-El-Frances-tapas

Valdevaqueros-beach,-Candy-Kites Los-Lances-beach-sunset

I’m yet to meet anyone in Tarifa who either, hasn’t been before, or isn’t already planning their return. It really is a very special place.

Travel Pick: Tarifa, Andalucia

 

Happy Christmas & New Year from Cape Town

Posted in: Travel, Uncategorized

Mandela-Christmas

Granted it’s potentially a little late in the day to be dishing out festive goodwill, allow me to explain. This Christmas and New Year were spent much like any other, eating, yet this time with the not insignificant addition of sunshine. The Garcia, Woodroffe, MacGillivray and Spurrier clans united to take over a vast, light flooded Cape Town house made for family cooking and entertaining. The bottom line: I’ve been busy ‘researching’ as opposed to reporting. Here’s what we got up to.

Christmas-Cooks2     Roast-tatties NYE New-Year's-Day

And that was just Christmas and New Year. Here are some other things we did, (inevitably) revolving around food. Cape Town eating is exceptionally good; just about anything is available, ingredients and eating out. Not to mention cheap.

granolaMountainsTable-View

We breakfasted on (and fought over) Almond, orange & cranberry granola. Then climbed and marvelled at mountains, while my sibling surfed and kite surfed his way round the coast.

Townships1   Townships2

We learned the importance of teaching gender equality in townships. And were blown away by the welcome from the kids and their mentors.

The-Dynasty-Shot

We  buzzed on Paranga’s espresso martinis. #yesweusedafilter #80shues

The-Watershed-shopping-&-eating Watershed,-Famke

We shopped in the expertly curated and designed Watershed Market, a mecca of African start up food and craft concepts. Then ate some more. If visiting Cape Town, hover over the images for a list of my Must Do guide; click to be connected to the site:

Fish-&-Chips Hout-Bay-Market The-Vinyard Raw-&-Roxy Healthy-Living Healthy living is pretty much endemic to Cape Town. Raw, vegan and allergy friendly options are standard, even the local (Woolworth’s affiliated) petrol station showcases coconut oil, rice milk and gluten free abundance at the till. A far cry from our Mars and sugar shrines. Given health insurance companies incentivise customers with cash back and 30% off airfares for tick list shopping trolley items and gym memberships, it’s hardly surprising.

Polo

Ostrich

We watched polo from an ostrich farm, where we ate prego rolls (steak sandwich on crack – it’s in the sauce) and ostrich kebabs washed down with sauvignon blanc from one of the player’s vineyards.

We even got engaged! LaPetiteFerme,Franschhoek Eating-&-drinking Nick-and-Sally Not me. Little brother, Nick and the lovely Sally. Who returned to Franschhoek (post sealing the deal), family in toe, on the promise of La Petite Ferme’s painfully good wine and food. It didn’t disappoint.

We’re all now so in love (with Cape Town), we’re plotting emigration, or at the very least, another 2015 trip.

Formula 1 Fever 2013

When it comes to restaurants, socialising and style, I sit firmly on the side of fuss-free, authentic quality. Fluff, glitz and bling aren’t my thing. One would assume then, that a UAE Grand Prix Paddock Club wouldn’t be on my bucket list. Not so. I doubt even an Isle of Skye Presbyterian minister could resist F1 Fever. Allow me to demonstrate:

F1-Paddock-Club,-Abu-Dhabi

Yas-Marina-Circuit,-Abu-Dhabi

Grand-Prix-VIP

I’m blessed with handy friends who take it upon themselves to equip me with VIP passes and uber luxe hotel stays that could bankrupt a Sheik. Lucky girl.

The Pit Lane

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Force-India,-Tire-Change-2

Force-India-

Red-Bull-tire-change-pit-stop

Relentless pit stop tire change sessions of Force India and Red Bull. 13+ men, 4 tires, 2 seconds.

Yas-Marina-Circuit,-F1

Manish-Pandrey,-SENNA-

Ferrari, McLaren and the super talented and magnanimous, Manish Pandey, writer and producer of the heartbreaking and critically acclaimed docu-film, Senna. I was so moved by this masterpiece (and a tiny bit in love with F1 demi-God, Senna) I blogged it in 2011. Manish is my new best friend, I may have followed him around all weekend. *Hangs head in shame*

F1-team-villas-&-Yas-Hotel

F1 team villas. Apparently Lewis Hamilton walked within a hair’s breath of us here. I of course, was oblivious. #fail. And Yas hotel, so well located it straddles Yas Marina Circuit.

yacht-parties,-F1

Where we cheered Man City against Norwich. Yup, we watched football at the Grand Prix. From the club owner’s boat no less, which thankfully, was much more civilised than the neighbouring party buses. And we had oysters. I like oysters.

Where to stay

Rosewood-Hotel,-Abu-Dhabi

Originally destined for Yas Hotel, my (ADORED) friend was forced to move me to Rosewood at the last second. And glad am I. Due to it’s perfect location, Viceroy status and hosting of celebrities and drivers, Yas lobby, and the yachts, are the heart of party F1. With that unfortunately comes Dubai on steroids: Formaldehyde faces, bling, Pick ‘n Mix perfume and pneumatic breasts the size of Timberland’s head – one of the weekend acts with Jay Z.

Abu Dhabi’s latest luxe hotel, Rosewood is the epitome of style, tranquillity, comfort and quality. I’m ashamed to admit, this may have been the highlight of my trip. That and seeing my ADORED friend.

Rosewood-Hotel-Rooms

Rosewood-Hotel

Rosewood-Hotel-Bath

Galleria-Mall,-The-Rosewood

Rosewood even hosts Michelin starred restaurant, Catalan and the prohibitively pricey Galleria Mall. L’occitane is as ‘high street’ as the planners have stooped to; Zara doesn’t even get a look in. From an architectural and design standpoint, however, these are undoubtedly some of the most impressive shop fits I’ve set eyes on.

What to do (other than F1)

My VIP sports whore brother used to live in Abu Dhabi and given my frequent trips to see him, I have lots of friends in the area, being awarded the title of honorary ex-pat. Free time revolves around water sports, brunches, ladies nights (yuck!) and pedicures (yay!).

Abu-Dhabi-beaches-&-boatsAbu-Dhabi-boats

Abu-Dhabi-weekends

Being on the water is is essential in summer: 45C+ and 90%+ humidity. It’s therefore virtually unheard of not to know someone with a boat.

Jones the Grocer

Jones-The-Grocer,-Abu-DhabiAbu-Dhabi-life,-Jones

Five years ago I ranted relentlessly on the need for Root (my cafe from a former life) out here – call me crazy, but sometimes I’d rather a Kiwi barista coffee over a champagne chaser. When Jones appeared a couple of years later, ex-pats and Emiratis heaved a sigh of relief. And my brother called to incredulously announce someone had opened Root and re-named it. Any attempts to resist the Wagyu burger are futile.

Officially, there are five Jones’ in Abu Dhabi. In fact, there’s a sixth in the Crown Prince’s palace. If it’s good enough for royalty…

For more Grand Prix pictures, go to my 2011 Formula 1 Fever post.

Eating out: Brixton Village

Posted in: Featured, Reviews

On throwing Brixton Village into the brunch option mix recently, I was met with one or two objections, finally settling on I can only assume, a fear of slashed car tires. This multi-cultural, covered (cue: wet weather socialising) market is home to some of London’s most authentic and interesting restaurants and street eats. Even the Chelsea set now concedes there may be more to Brixton than riot police and KFC with a side of spliff.

Brixton-Village-Header

BrixtonMarketFood

Wandering aimlessly, trying everything on offer is part of the point of street food but as many of us have no doubt discovered, results can be hit or miss. And there’s a limit to how many meals even the most dedicated among us can shove down. So, mindful of my Anti-diet eulogies on portion control, here’s my pick of the best Brixton Village eats.

Brixton-Market-Cafes

Honest-burgers

Meat patties

Bukowski’s burger joint which cut its teeth in Shoreditch’s Box Park: The simple, commercial brainwave of filling disused, prime real estate with a pop up of shipping containers.

And Honest Burgers: patties made with 35-day aged Ginger Pig beef and cased in a brioche bun. Of course. There’s even a wheat and gluten free bun option from neighbour WAG Free bakery.

Star attraction: Topped with smoked bacon, mature cheddar and pickled cucumber, The (£8!) Honest Burger steals the show.

BrixtonMarketShops

Franco-Manca

Ms-Cupcake

Etta’s Seafood Kitchen and ever expanding South London (bloat free) sourdough pizza co. Franco Manca. Ms Cupcake’s vegan Peanut butter & banana muffins are worth a trip south in their own right. There’s definitely room for more peanut butter pudding embracing in the UK. Similarly, while I’m evidently not vegan, the zero animal product clan nails cakes: less sugar, more goo.

Brixton-Mkt-Rosies

Rosie’s Deli Café, social eating hub and testbed for rave review recipes of the Spooning with Rosie cookbook.

Child-Friendly-Brixton-Market

Brixton-Market,Sunday-AM

For the record, our 2 year old companion meant we arrived on the early side; Brixton Village doesn’t wake up before 10.30am at which point, queueing for a table is inevitable. As it turns out, the floor’s clean enough to eat off, should you feel that way inclined.

Brixton-Market-shopping

Other top picks

For Beijing street food try Mama Lan. Plates for a fiver, tried and tested by mama in her supper club and blog.

Kaosarn Thai restaurant which gets Jay Rayner’s seal of approval.

Jerk chicken shop, Take Two Grill, where dishes are still cooked over coals in a kettle drum as opposed to the oven.

LAB G (Laboratoria Artigianale del Buon Gelato. And breathe!). Where I get my post Portofino gelato fix.

When, where & how

Mon-Weds: 10am to 6pm. Thurs-Sat: 10am to 10pm. Sun: 12pm to 5pm
Atlantic Road, Brixton, London SW9.
Closest tube: Brixton.

As with any street market, most places don’t accept cards so be sure to take cash. Food’s so cheap, though, a tenner should just about do it. What you save on lunch, you can put towards re-touching the paint on your car.

Courgette & feta fritters

Posted in: LF, S, SF, Uncategorized, V, WF

Bowing to yogi petitions for veggie fritter recipes on a recent Italian yoga retreat, here’s an option which uses the last of the summer’s British courgettes and involves minimal effort. I have it on good authority (my favourite yoga teacher, Molly) that having followed this recipe, dinner party plates were licked clean. Note: don’t be put off by the word ‘fritter’, just enough oil to stop the batter from sticking is all you need; these are skinny!

Courgette-&-prawn-fritters

Makes 12 fritters, feeds 4

INGREDIENTS

150g chickpea flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric (for gut health)
black pepper
2 limes, juice of
½ red Kashmiri chilli, chopped
8 spring onions, chopped
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
2 courgettes, grated
100g feta, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil. Or your choice of oil.

METHOD

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. In stages, add 100ml water and the lime juice and stir until you get a thick batter, removing any lumps.

Add the spices, salt, chilli, spring onions and herbs, followed by the courgette and feta.

Dollop coconut oil into a frying pan and set over a medium heat. When very hot, add your mix (1 heaped dsp per fritter) and flatten to 2cm thick.

Cook for 2-3 mins on one side and 1 on the reverse. Or until your fritters are a reddish brown. Coconut oil gives a lovely crispness, and countless health benefits in the process!

Serve hot.

Continuing in the spirit of all things Italian, dollop with Basil pesto, avocado and cottage cheese or Labneh (hung yoghurt) from the Larder. For the meat eaters among us, it’s hard to beat the bacon, avocado & Pitt Cue Co. chipotle ketchup combo.

zucchini-fritters-&-avacado

Podere-Conti-Yoga-

Gorgeous yogi gurus Molly and Gabby. My inspiration.

For London gourmet yoga pop-ups click on Secret Yoga Club. Gabby dedicates all of her time to organising (far too reasonably priced) yoga evenings hosted by renowned yogis, washed down with a meal by equally respected chefs. Trullo and The Little Cooking Pot to name a few. Gabby’s resourcefulness and energy never fail to blow my mind.

For more info on Tuscan Travel Pick and agriturismo see Podere Conti here.

 

Edinburgh Eating: The Lowdown

Posted in: Featured, Reviews

I’m a big Edinburgh fan. Growing up in the Highlands with a large chunk of our relatives effectively defecting to the Lowlands, week-end trips south were a formative part of my childhood. Edinburgh’s not only one of the most beautiful cities architecturally, it’s also hugely inspirational from a food perspective. Independent restaurant concepts have long been embraced here and as a result, you’d be hard pushed to get through my pick of the best fuel stops in two days:

Timbaryard,Edinburgh

Timberyard’s Armani does Ski lodge style compelled me to congratulate the affable and obliging staff within approximately 3 seconds of entering the building.

Timberyard-Tartan

Provenance and the Slow Food philosophy are king so expect Scottish ales and local ingredients; some from Ben (In House Forager); some from the back garden.

Urban Angels

WholesomeSeduction.UrbanAngel

Urban Angel’s chain of Wholesomely Seductive cafés are my breakfast, supper or train journey packed lunch staple.

Top picks: Smoked haddock, poached egg, hollandaise & tattie scone. Cooked to such creamy perfection I’ve since questioned why more cafes don’t feature as an alternative to the ubiquitous Eggs Benedict / Florentine clan…

UrbanAngel

The Goat’s cheese, caramelized onion quiche skimps not on the good stuff: Abundantly cheesy with sweet onion and a deliciously substantial pastry base. Lightened by the addition of fresh tang and crunch from Pineapple, fennel & sultana slaw. Not to be missed: Almond & honey Florentine. Trust me.

Ship on the shore

The Ship on the Shore  in Leith (seaside Edinburgh) manages to impress not just Little Miss Fussy, but Hippy Mum and even the more traditional, OBE decorated, Edinburgh Great Uncle. Fish and shellfish at its best. With wild garlic, haggis mash, in a pint or just about any way you like it. This is a must tick when visiting Edinburgh. #intelligentcooking

While Starbucks is inevitably prevalent, it’s far outweighed by the long established and increasingly popular coffee shops who’s look is anything but that of a cookie cut corporate. And their coffee strong and smooth enough to cause a discerning Antipodean barista to weep.

Brew Lab

Brew-Lab-Edinburgh

A stone’s throw from the university, Brew Lab leads the way, even securing colleague Paul’s much coveted high praise. Paul’s title reads: Gather & Gather Coffee Guru. And he’s Australian, of course. Following in the trend for ‘We’d Serve You From A Urinal If EHO Allowed It Styling’, Brew Lab’s exposed brick makes Havana’s perilously pinned together buildings look positively pristine.

Brew-Lab-counter

The fresh mint tea (with egg timer) resulted in much jubilation from a non-coffee drinking colleague and the ridiculously tasty and rich Almond & cherry cake inspired me to covet my personalised Spanish version no longer. Next week I’ll bring you Orange, almond & chocolate cake: Uber moist; sophisticatedly sweet and tangy; distinctively almondy. A cake for grown ups.

Other Edinburgh hot spots: The Gardener’s CottageThe Dogs, Peter’s Yard.

 

Travel pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala

Posted in: Featured, Travel

Typically a two day stopover on the way to the Backwaters, Munnar’s tea estates or Kerala’s beaches, most people I chat to in Old Harbour Hotel’s (granite) pool site Fort Cochin (and the hotel) as the best part of their holiday, wishing they’d factored in longer. Like me, many return to do just that.

Fort Cochin is what I term chic, cultural India. Easy and safe enough even, for the most All-inclusive inclined, delicate tummed or toddler minding among us. Kochi’s people take great pride in their town’s 600 years trading history. Home to ancient Chinese fishing nets, a 16th century synagogue, mosques and a crumbling mix of Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial architecture. Fort Cochin is a cultural melting pot of art cafés, prawn curries, boutique hotels, antiques, pashminas and Zen kindness. And that’s just the town.

Thanks to India’s famous railways and super cheap taxis, zipping to other parts of tropical Kerala are just a few rupees away. Because pictures speak a thousand words, I’ll take you on a visual tour with bullet points.

WHERE TO STAY

Old Harbour Hotel

Highlights:

Understated luxury, Dutch colonial architecture adorned with Indian art and antiques, impeccable service and a pool that breaks hearts to leave.

It’s worth noting service in India can at times be challenging. The propensity to employ an army to fix a light bulb, along with an apparent inability to say no, tends not always to be entirely conducive to speed. Not to mention personal space or uninterrupted dinner party chat.

Old Harbour Hotel owner, Edgar Pinto has made it his mission not to be tarred with the same brush. Well, maybe not the giant workforce bit. Vineetha and Jude are on hand to manage said army, anticipating and attending to their guests every whim.

It has been intimated that the aforementioned may be the reason ‘Madam’ (read: yours truly) considers Old Harbour Hotel her Indian home and appears incapable of breaking away.

Our soda and lime mixers came hand delivered to the hotel’s bijou house (a great option for families and only a few minutes walk away), complete with a week’s supply of cut lime and bottle opener. Making the two minute trek to the local bar (where a very large G&T is approx. £1.20) was just too strenuous.

Leaving no stone unturned, even the restaurant is one of the best in Fort Cochin. Serving Keralan specialities alongside the odd western dish sampled on Edgar’s travels and returned to his chefs. Thanks to a Madrid city break, you can follow tandoor kingfish (from the Chinese fishing nets in front of the hotel) with poolside Chilli spiced chocolate & churros.

All this and there’s free WIFI and morning roof-top yoga, plus a mini spa for Ayurvedic massage. With art cafes and shopping on your doorstep. Given many a supermodel and Bollywood diva (so demanding they make Naomi Campbell look like Gandhi) keep coming back for more, it’s not just Little Miss Fussy who’s hooked.

HOW

A member of Small Luxury Hotels, there are countless sites to check reviews, pictures and to book securely. See also TripAdvisor and Old Harbour Hotel.

I’ll blog my tips for around the town next week. On the off chance you find the strength to drag yourself away from the pool. Did I mention it’s granite?

For all Holy Cow posts, click on Popular Tags on the right or on the Reviews page.

 

Travel pick: Fort Cochin, part 2

Posted in: Travel

Part 2 of post, Travel Pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala, here are some ways to pass your time in and around one of my favourite holiday picks in the world, when not lolling by the pool.

WHAT TO DO

Fish markets & Chinese fishing nets

Highlight: Fort Cochin’s fish market where ancient Chinese fishing nets are still in use. Go around 7.30am to witness fishy bartering in full swing.

How: The town is built around the nets and market so you’d be hard pushed to get lost. Head for the sea.

Jew Town:

Highlight: Antiques, pashminas, once tried, forever essential oils; jewellery, spice markets and a toe dip into real life India.

How: A 15 minute rickshaw fairground ride from the town centre or Chinese fishing nets.

WHERE TO EAT

The Teapot

Highlight: A banana pancake and masala chai must do for every Fort Kochi visitor.

How: A two minute walk Fort Cochin’s tiny tourist town centre.

Shantilal

Highlight: Demolished food. Because Gujarati’s are the master sweet-makers. And samosa chefs, it would seem.

How: Tell the rickshaw driver to drop you at Shantilal opposite the Guajarati school. My friend Vineetha takes me and I’m yet to spot another westerner or tourist. It’s completely safe, don’t worry!

Kashi Art Café

Highlight: Another uber stylish hot spot serving dishes with a western twist by the Old Harbour Hotel team. Breakfast is a must. My favourites: Try the seafood roti wrap and coconut iced coffee. Kerala means Land of Coconuts, after all.

How: A two minute walk from the town centre or fishing nets. Just about everything is a two minute walk. Ideal for an unwind holiday in my opinion.

The Seagull

Highlight 1 : A down to earth café on the water. Read: respite from often stifling humidity.

Highlight 2: THE BEST Fish Moile and paratha (pancake like bread).

Highlight 3: Gin & Tonic. Raj sized measures (big).

Highlight 4: The Seagull is where just about every well-heeled local eats and gets the thumbs up from my fussy Indian family so not to be missed.

How: Less than a five minute rickshaw ride from Fort Cochin’s town centre.

Old Harbour Hotel

Highlight: Breakfast and lunch chef, Rahim’s cooking. Thanks to him I’ve consumed almost every Indian breakfast ever concocted and now know how to make my favourite dish, Green mango curry.

How: Stroll in, kaftan clad from your room. Or dine by the pool in your bikini. That would be my advice. Take it or leave it.

KERALA & AROUND

The Backwaters

Highlight: It would be a sin to visit Kerala without spending time on The Backwaters. One or two nights on a houseboat with skipper, cook + an/other on hand to guide and feed you through sleepy waterside villages could well be the most relaxing and fascinating experience of your life.

The houseboat tick box has become a bit of a factory procession tourist trail. Somehow it still manages to be worth the effort. I guess it’s not hard to see why when you look at the pictures.

How: The boats leave from Alleppey, about 1 ½ hrs away from Fort Cochin by taxi (£15 fare approx.). Book your trip in Fort Cochin with the countless travel agents, or through your hotel. Expect to pay a premium if doing the latter.

Munnar

Highlight: Tea plantations, cool air, home cooked meals, 1950’s flower gardens and butlers.

How: You can do a day tour, leaving very early from Fort Cochin or spend a night. Unless you’re going hiking, you probably won’t need much more than a day. The town isn’t up to much and once you’ve seen one tea factory, you’ve probably seen them all.

Cherai & Madurai

Highlight: Both have beaches and some very stylish boutique hotels popping up, so my sources tell me. I’m incapable of leaving Old Harbour Hotel, remember?

How: Two – four nights should be good unwind time, depending on the length of your stay. The hotel would be the decider for me.

Goa

Parts of Goa are described by The Lonely Planet as India’s answer to Blackpool. I went under duress. Ten minutes inland by scooter, however, and you’ll find an entirely different (non-beer drinking for breakfast) crowd. Exceptional restaurants and yoga; Portuguese colonial architecture; and a multi-cultural night market to inspire London’s finest street traders.

It’s worth noting that Goa was a Portuguese protectorate until 1961 and as such, its cuisine and customs are quite different to the rest of India. Think tangy tamarind and Indian shoulders on display.

How: Domestic flights are excellent and frequent between Cochin and Goa. Book planes and trains through Cleartrip a wonderfully efficient service. You can even cancel and get a refund. Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) bless India.

Mumbai

Highlight: Stay in Colaba for Raj style hotel luxury with Victoriana. You’ll be spoilt for choice with galleries, street life and Bombay cafes on your doorstep. Try the Mumbai branch of Trishna, London’s Indian fish restaurant with style. You’ll find the original somewhat different in terms of design – old style London tube upholstery features – but the food is outstanding. The Colaba night market is well worth a visit; a drive thru diner for rich Mumbaikers.

How: Most flights stop over in Bollywood capital Bombay or the Middle East. If taking the former, it’s worth spending one or two nights on the way there or back.

This post is part 2 of Travel Pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala Click on the link for more India tips.