I came to the conclusion that life is made up of moments, happy sad, challenging , defeating frustrating. You name it . It’s a pot of so many random things thrown in and we never know what the actual outcome is going to be.
My Mona Moments are my often happy experiences while I am travelling. I am curious. I like to stick my nose into everything and almost try everything. With years and year of travelling all over the world from seemingly random places like the San Blas Islands or sipping tea while freezing in Darjeeling my travels have made me a inquisitive traveller.
I like the best. The best is not necessarily the most expensive or luxurious though sometimes it is. The Taj Palaces are simply a definition of pure luxury and grandeur. The Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad takes service to completely different level. From the pick up to the airport to the horse carriage ride that takes you to check in. All done with a natural ease that is neither stuffy or overbearing.
At the other end you have the Dliphu river lodge in Kaziranga National park Assam where the service is just as exemplary while the lodges on stilts by the river are simple. The whole atmosphere is one of nature and togetherness. Both experiences were just as memorable and wonderful.
My criteria is based on many factors. Sometimes what is unacceptable in one place is ok in another. Its ok that the electricity and water pressure were weak at the Dilphu River lodge. Because its an eco lodge and its part of the place. It would not have been ok at a grand 5 star luxury hotel. For me its about the senses , the people, the colours. I am not writing reviews but more about experiences for people who like exploring , are open to different places and ideas. These are highly subjective pieces and I believe will highlight to like minded people where to next venture.
My views on a particular place are formed primarily on how warm the welcome is and how the hotel restaurant staff receive you. I remember when we went to Osteria Francescana in Modena. We had been so so excited to get a reservation . We stood patiently outside the restaurant too nervous to go in before our time.
When we finally plucked the courage to walk through the slick doors we were met, I kid you not, but what seemed to be mass of uniformed people. For an instance I could feel my anxiety level rise but this was dispelled in a flash because while formal the staff were so welcoming that they made us feel at home. Likewise there is a 2 star hotel in Lisbon Albergaria Senhora de Monte …. That is somewhat Fawlty tower like with a mismatch of furniture but one of the most breathtaking views in Lisbon. Their terraced suite is one of favourite places to just sit laze make our own picnic and enjoy the world.
I have never been particularly interested in going on a Safari and I sort of went half heartedly to South Africa. But the moment I stepped off at Skukuza airport it was love at first sight. I was just enthralled. I thought Hamilton’s Tented camp was pure magic while Londolozi re defined the word luxury. Different experiences. Different price ranges but both equally fabulous.
This was really brought home to me when we were staying in Pisa. A friend suggested we try La Pineta on the coast. Luckily I booked though in all honesty I had no idea about the place but I trusted my friends advice. We arrived parked the car walked through a deeply scented forest and arrived at this beach shack right on the water. It was deceptively simple. Inside though packed with people and typical Italian noise, the table were beautifully laid with superb glass ware. Dish after dish from the Carpaccio of fish to the pasta were just beyond fabulous. We thought that maybe we had over imbibed as there were twins identical waiters and we thought we were seeing doubles. It was sonly afterward that we realised this was a Michelin star restaurant owned by Chef and fisherman Luciano Zazzeri. It was not cheap but worth every euro. I raise it here because the next day we were just tootling along the coast were we stopped at a restaurant on the road. I kick myself for not remembering the name but we had the most divine fried calamari and the best paccheri a fat stripe pasta with lobster ever. Ever. We paid a fraction of what we spent in la Pineta but both were equally memorable and excellent.
So to me my definition of best is a mixture of welcome, service, rooms, views and yes often luxury, as well as location and I think also about how much fun we had. To me its about the passion of the owner, its the chefs that really care about their ingredients in equal parts to their diners. Restaurants don’t always get that. Memories are made of moments.
Travelling weekly I also realised it makes sense to join all the free memberships of hotels, airlines and car services as it almost always results in upgrades or late check outs. At Munich airport the lines to Avis were so long , some people had been waiting an hour but as a Preferred customer you have a separate desk. Some of the ones I belong to are SLH (small luxury hotels,) Relais & Chateau. British Airways, Avis Preferred, Four Seasons, Hyatt Gold passport and the Taj group.
I would love it if you come across a hotel, restaurant café experience that you loved anywhere in the world and tell me about it.