What is your most cherished childhood memory? Mine are mostly linked to summer holidays. Much as I loved going to school (yes, I was the geek in class), I looked forward to the annual summer vacation with my family. Some years we’d pack our bags and head off to Kolhapur to my nana-nani's place (read my food & travel guide on Kolhapur in BBC Good Food). More often we’d plan a trip to a new place – maps would be unfurled, routes would be marked out and we’d set off, looking for new adventures.
This year, a wedding brought us to Delhi, so the husband and I decided to venture further north and spend a few days at our home in Almora, Uttarakhand, with my in-laws. It's been an idyllic summer holiday.
Summer is tourist season in the mountains, but you rarely get a glimpse of the Himalayas. Unless it rains, which it fortunately did the day after we arrived. The snow-clad peaks gave us a sneak peek before getting shrouded in the mist again.
The jacaranda trees are in full bloom everywhere, as is the massive bougainvillea on Mall Road, which is somewhat of a landmark.
Speaking of Mall Road, numerous sweet shops have put out copious number of sweetmeats. From pahadi chocolate and balmithai to singhaudi...
Almora's bazaars are narrow stone-paved alleys, lined with tiny shops. But the most striking feature of the markets are these colourful windows and galleries, right above the shops.
Summer holidays are meant for lazing around, eating good food, slurping on kulfis, reading books, wandering around the town and watching gorgeous sunsets. Check, all of the above!
Summers in the mountains bring a bounty of fruit. So I have been gorging on plump, juicy peaches, little khumani (apricots) that burst and release their sweet juices as soon as you pop them in your mouth and tiny, still-sour plums - all from our garden. Not to mention, kaphal (bay berries), those sweet and sour, succulent, pink-red berries typical to the lower Himalayas. Taste-wise, they reminded me of the karvanda we get in Mumbai. Devoured handfuls of these!
To quote Ruskin Bond from The Lamp is Lit (a collection of essays and stories from his journal), "At first light there is a tremendous burst of birdsong from the guava tree in the little garden". That pretty much sums up my mornings in our garden.
Sparrows, bulbuls, sunbirds, barbets all tweeting (the real kind) away...
... butterflies flitting about, bees buzzing, fat garden lizards doing push-ups (no, really!)...
... and monkeys dropping by to invade the fruit trees and to take a sip from the water bowl!
And all this before I finish my morning cup of coffee. I feel like I'm living in one of Gerald Durrell's books :)
My summer holiday is almost at an end and Mumbai, the monsoons and work beckon. So long, until the mountains tempt us again...
Did you go off on a summer holiday this year? Where to? Leave me a comment below - share your stories, photos and blog posts.