A holiday in Ooty, the Queen of Hillstations, has for long been one of my dreams. My last visit to the place was a fleeting one which lasted a little more than two hours and I hardly got to see the place. This time though I was there for two days.
I arrived at Ooty at around 5.30 pm on Christmas day with three of my family members. The 6-hour drive from Bangalore to Ooty had been most enjoyable. I especially loved the second half of the drive because we passed through Bandipur and Mudumalai Tiger Reserves. The climb up the hills with 36 hair-pin bends offered picturesque views of the Nilgiris and to top it all was the sweet smell of mountain air.
About Lymond House
Lymond House, our residence for the next two days, was every inch a large bungalow from a fairy tale. I was bowled by the beautiful flower garden with its endless varieties of flowers and lush green lawns. To add to the aesthetics were two swings, a barbeque in the shape of a stone well with a tiled roof, a gazebo, a canopy, a fountain and a bird bath. A great place for children I should say.
Lymond House was built by Henry Dawson in 1850 and was bought by the Sait family in 1890. The Saits still own the property. The original bungalow, which was called Dolce Villa, had only three suites, two Victorian drawing rooms and a sit-out. Three garden suites were built later. We stayed at one of the garden suites.
Geetha, one of the caretakers of the bungalow, showed us to our suite. The inside of the suite was as charming as the outdoors. The floors and the false roof were done in wood. The walls were coloured white and red. The portions in brick were painted red and were adorned with porcelain plates, period photos and paintings, and plants. The colonial furniture complemented the old-world charm of the bungalow. The large ornate windows were dressed in long raw-silk curtains. The doors had glass panels with frilly curtains. There was a fire-place and elegant lamp shades.
After a brief recce of the suite we were treated to a cup of tea and Paneer Pakodas. I then ventured out into the lawn with my camera. There were pretty views aplenty and I went click click click. As the evening wore on, the lights were switched on. Since it was Christmas Day and with New Year around, Lymond House was decorated all over with blinking lights adding to the ethereal feel of the place. But I couldn’t stay out for long because the atmosphere suddenly became very chilly. I later learnt that the night temperatures at Ooty touch 0 degrees celsius in winter which is much lower than the temperature back home in Bangalore. Luckily, I had carried my jacket with me.
As the night wore on, I realised that to beat the cold I would need more than one jacket. Unfortunately, that was all I had. As darkness enveloped the bungalow, the view outside with all the blinking lights looked very romantic and I couldn’t resist going out for a walk. I walked around the place with my niece for company. Later we decided to check out the old portion of the bungalow, the one which was built in 1850. All around there were antiques galore arranged meticulously. The two large fireplaces in each of the two drawing rooms had doors and looked very attractive. Antique lampshades in various designs looked eye-catching. One of the fireplaces was lit up for us. Close-by were a lot of books and magazines neatly arranged on shelves. My niece picked up a ‘Famous Five’. I had got along with me Anna Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’ from home. After a good 15 minutes at the fireplace we walked backed to our suite.
I started reading ‘Black Beauty’. The poignant beginning of the novel made me emotional. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for horses. So engrossed was I in the book, that I realised I had been reading for two hours when I got a call for dinner. A sumptuous spread greeted us at the dining hall at the old building. There were Chapatis with Aloo Jeera and Aloo-capsicum curry and rice with dal. After dinner, I was back with ‘Black Beauty’. I hit the sack at midnight. In Ooty, the beds are made differently. Over the mattress is spread a counterpane and above the counterpane is the quilt with all its sides except the one near the pillow tucked below the mattress. So when you sleep you are cocooned inside the quilt. A novel way to beat the cold!
As early as 3am, I could hear crows cawing. I wonder why? At 4am I was awakened by Ayyappa songs probably from a temple nearby. It felt nice to hear them.
Flowers of Lymond House (slideshow)
I was up at 6am. The air was drowned by the cries of sparrows, there were a lot of them around. I could also hear bulbuls, sunbirds and wagtails. And for the first time, I spotted fan-tailed flycatchers. My niece spotted a couple of Oriental White Eyes. At 8 o’clock, I was out in the lawns clicking away merrily. The grass was covered with dew and the flowers looked lovely. I couldn’t get enough of them. Two well-looked after cows were grazing on the grass outside the gates. Unlike in Bangalore, I noticed that in Ooty, cattle had ample green space to graze.
After a breakfast of Dosa and Idli, it was back to photography. My niece had a good time on the swing. It was a sunny day and soon I kept my camera aside and continued reading ‘Black Beauty’, this time on the lawn. Around that time, a man walked in with a horse and offered to take children for joy rides. Here I was reading a novel about a horse and got to see one from such close quarters. What a coincidence! We were later in for another pleasant surprise. There were rabbits at the place! A portion of the property was reserved for rabbits. And no, they were not being reared for commercial purpose but purely as pets. We had a good time feeding and stroking the rabbits. We thoroughly soaked in this ‘awww moment’.
In the afternoon we left for Ooty Lake. After taking boat rides, it was time for lunch. We stopped by at the Curry Leaf restaurant for a simple lunch. The owner of the restaurant has a fetish for vintage cars. He had one parked just inside the entrance. And he had a large aquarium with an equally large fish swimming inside. After a wee bit of shopping we headed back to Lymond House. There were a couple of rabbits running around the lawn and I was back with my camera. I then resumed reading ‘Black Beauty’ and continued to do so after dinner.
Like on Day 2, I woke up early to the chirps of birds. Breakfast consisted of papaya and fluffy Puris with a yummy accompaniment. After a round of photography and then some time with rabbits I was back to reading ‘Black Beauty’ on the lawn. At noon, we embarked on a trip to Emerald Lake, about an hour’s drive from Ooty. We again encountered hairpin bends and savoured delightful views of the Nilgiris.
Emerald Lake is stunningly beautiful and a great spot for a picnic. An atmosphere of stillness surrounds the place. This is Nature in one of her best forms. So charmed were we, that we didn’t feel like leaving the place. The pristine beauty of Emerald Lake will forever remain etched in my mind.
Lunch was again at Curry Leaf restaurant. I got to see the vintage car again and also the big fish in the aquarium. After yet another pleasant evening at the lawns of Lymond House, it was back to reading ‘Black Beauty’. I finished reading the book in another hour. Dinner was delicious with Pulao and Chapatis accompanied by lip-smacking curries.
After spending yet another freezing night at Ooty it was time to pack up. I felt sad. In spite of the freezing night temperatures, I loved my stay. I would love to come back though not in winter. I would miss the lawns and the rabbits the most.
On the way back, it felt nice going down the beautiful Nilgiris and then again driving through Mudumalai and Bandipur. I look forward to more such enchanting trips to the ‘Lap of Nature’.