A year ago, we visited the tea gardens in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu (South India). The weather in May was gorgeous. You get plenty of sunshine but because it’s a hill station, it was dry and still cool enough to trek and busk in the sunshine.
We were fortunate to stay in the lovely and tranquil La Maison – a homestay nestled within the tea gardens. The owners of La Maison, Benoit and Anne (whom we unfortunately did not meet as she had to be back homefor family matters) had clearly taken great care to refurbish the heritage bungalow and to lovingly furnish the heritage bungalow with locally sourced items. The garden was lush and Benoit took us on a garden tour, proudly showing off the different plants he had cultivated. Animal lovers (like us) will delight in this property as there are pet dogs, cats and ducks roaming, and rabbit and birds kept in good-sized cages. They also have a great team running the homestay and a wonderful cook who conjured up delicately cooked Indian and French cuisine. On one of the nights there, we even helped out in the kitchen to prepare Singapore Chicken Rice, also known as Hainanese Chicken Rice.Yup, that’s right. Chicken Rice from scratch.
There was a French twist to this dish though. When I explained the concept of how we typically cook the chicken rice at home (using chicken stock to replace water in a rice cooker), Kanchana, the innovative chef decided to cook it risotto style! That is, she toasted the rice in a pan first, and then added the stock ladle-by-ladle to the rice, stirred continuously until the rice was cooked. It was SO GOOD. I’ve got to try it one day :) The chilli came from a bottled chilli sauce and we added fresh ginger and garlic paste to make it more authentic.
We spent most of our days just lounging around the beautiful property, soaking in the sunshine and breathing in the wonderful fresh mountain air. On one of the days, Benoit took us out on his jeep (along with Maggie the dog) and the four of us had a great afternoon trekking through the tea gardens and getting gloriously sunburnt, Heh. But I LOVED it.
That’s the perfect holiday, at least in my dictionary. A clean and comfortable homestay, warm hosts (animals included) that make you feel at home and share their lives and stories with you whilst still giving you the space to do your own things, cosy spaces created for you to read and take catnaps, fresh air and beautiful climate. I miss this place and would love to visit again one day.
Where: La Maison, The Nilgiris, Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu, India
How to get there: We flew in to Coimbatore airport. From there, La Maison is a 2.5 hours drive away.