A recent trip to India gave the JJ family a chance to seek respite from the heat and humidity of Chennai in the foothills of Ooty. Ooty is reached by a short flight from Chennai to Coimbatore followed by a three hour drive up winding roads.
My siblings organized a nice getaway for a couple of days for all our families. They chose the Accord Highland Hotel in Ooty for our stay. Although it is situated about 20 mins away from the center of Ooty, the beauty of the hotel environs and a good deal on the room rates were sufficient to lure us in. The hotel travel desk arranged a 12 seater van for our families to ride in.
The JJ extended family took the IndiGo flight from Chennai to Coimbatore on a sweltering Monday morning. The temperature had been swinging between a humid 95 to 100 degree F. It was all we could to stay cool and dry and the chance to get out of the heat was welcomed eagerly.
After an uneventful and quick trip to Coimbatore, we were met by our driver, who first took us to a nearby vegetarian restaurant, Sree Annapoorna, for lunch in a large air conditioned hall. Then we piled in to start the journey upwards into the mountains. Our group members ranged in age from 5 years to 80 years and there was a lot of enthusiasm on the drive up. The van was just comfortable enough for all of us. The scenery was captivating the higher we went. The driver wove expertly around the traffic and the winding topography to get us to the hotel.
A trip such as this one is normally fraught with nausea and vomiting spells for those with motion sickness, like my children. But this time, they were so caught up in the swing of things that they were hindered by neither.
Just after 4 pm, we were at the hotel. Situated on a twelve acre land along a sloping hillside, with the mystical Nilgiris in the distance and a fertile valley in between, the Accord Highland Hotel is a charming building. Said to be South India’s highest hotel at about 6700 feet above sea level, the hotel was small yet cozy. Despite the crisp 62 F when we landed. The temperature change was a shock to the body after the heat and it was time to pull out jackets, layers of clothing, socks and shoes.
The hotel has rooms spread over two floors and ours was on the second floor (first, per Indian terms). The one drawback with this hotel was the lack of elevator access to the rooms. And with our parents on the trip, it was a cause for concern. However, the steps were not too steep and they were able to make the trip, up and down, a couple of times daily, without too much trouble.
After a warm welcome tea and registration, the bellhop took our baggage upto the rooms. We were assigned four superior rooms, on either side of the hallway and adjoining one another. The rooms were large and comfortably appointed with a sofa and and an ottoman by the large windows, a dresser/ writing table opposite that, a kingsize bed and a wall mounted television, a closet with a safe and ironing board, a minibar and a luggage rack. (Sorry, inexplicably, I did not shoot a single photo of the hotel room but the hotel website superior room photo is an exact likeness)
As the cool air seeped into our bones, we freshened up and headed to the biggest attraction of the hotel, the Tea Kadai, (the tea shop). The Tea Kadai is situated along the hilly slope of the hotel with fantastic views of the surrounding valley and mountains. A small, one room shack, it quicky became our favorite haunt.
There were two young lads, about early 20s, who made and served fresh, steaming masala tea (spiced tea) that brought alive the tastes of ginger, cardamom, pepper and cinnamon. There were an assortment of biscuits to go with the tea. But I preferred the warm sundal (steamed and spiced dry beans) that went perfectly well with it. The snack and tea more than made up for the cool weather. The tea and snack were complimentary to hotel guests.
The Tea Kadai is situated on a wide expanse of lawn with a batting cage for cricket players, a trampoline for young children, a badminton court, small swings and slide for the young ones. There is also a recreation center for indoor activities like video games, table tennis , air hockey, carrom board, fish therapy center, books for borrowing, board games, a play pen and a small activities area for toddlers, among other things.
After spending some time enjoying the fresh outdoor air and the tea, we moved inside to play board games. My sister and I hadn’t played in ages and it was fun to try different childhood games again.
One of the issues with the hotel set up was that transportation wasn’t available once we returned to the hotel, usually around 5 pm. Ooty does not have Uber or Lyft facilities. I did not see any public transport nearby. This restriction didn’t bother us much as we were otherwise occupied with the family.
The hotel offered several fun activities like a pool table, Karaoke, etc which we took advantage of on other nights. The grounds of the hotel were vibrant with color from well landscaped gardens. It induced me to spend some time taking photos of the many beautiful flowers that flourished there.
The area opposite the main hotel is reserved for individual cottages that are under construction. But we were not harried by either the work or the noise from the construction site.
The room charges included a breakfast plan. The hotel has an all-day restaurant for both buffet and a la carte dining. It features Indian and multicuisine options. The first night most of us chose buffet option but it soon became apparent the quantity we ate did not justify the bill. Subsequent nights, we chose a la carte.
A word about the breakfast, which was really one of the best we have tried anywhere in the world. A good mix of traditional Indian and continental options, the dishes were varied and very tasty. I particularly enjoyed the millet/ragi koozh or stew and the congee, a rice gruel, both immensely healthy options, but not much sought after.
Join us tomorrow as we explore first Ooty and then Coonoor on this getaway.