As you drive in from the airport, Goa seems to be turning brown. Tall trees and small hedges, offer a brown and dry look. “There is no rain, monsoons are yet to arrive, so the salt from the sea breeze is drying the trees”, comments the Taxi driver. The drive is long and I look out of the window to see fields, the Zuari river, grassy tops, small hills and smaller markets. I am amused to see the different colours of houses, from bright ink to a dark purple, even canary yellow and crimson red. It’s a fun loving place with good people and great food, besides a zest for life. And above all Sussegado!
Finally after an hour, we drive into the imposing gates of Taj Holiday Village or Vivanta. The first greeting itself puts a smile on your face, “Welcome Back, we were waiting for you.” Efficiency, warmth and humility are the hallmarks of this hotel, which I have been frequenting, since almost 20 years. If leaders set the pace, the hotel has been fortunate to have GMs like Sushil Tandon (now in Dubai) and Ranju Singh, who took over from him, 7 months back.
The hotel looks the same (except brown leaves, on some trees) since I came last, almost an year back. The charm of small villas, drives on golf carts, huge view of the ocean, mango trees, quaint pathways, migratory birds and smiling folks everywhere, place you at ease….all seemingly saying, “Welcome home”.
Goa enjoys drinking, though premium whisky is only beginning to be appreciated. Whilst, the local residents, buy from the retails shops and enjoy at home, hotel bars are well stocked and most in-house guests appreciate and enjoy fine malts at these bars. It is a common sight to see groups of friends, breaking jokes and cracking single malts, in bars or fine dining outlets.
Goa is also a wedding and corporate event destination; therefore spirits and whiskies in particular, are high in demand. Most of these are destination events as such consumption is within the premises. Besides, there is no driving back, one is in a holiday mood and above all relaxed.
“We get a high base of discerning guests, who select a range of premium wines & whiskies, for the large destination events.” Commented Ranju Singh, General Manager of the Vivanta Holiday Village.
Caravela, the popular Bar and Restaurant, shaped like a ship, offers a great setting to enjoy premium whiskies. I decided to enjoy whiskies as this popular spot. With clouds beginning to finally make an appearance and a wide view of the ocean, the setting was perfect. I stood on the Moon Deck and took in the breath-taking view of the ocean. Just for a change, I decided to open the evening with a JW Black Label, the most liked & popular whisky in India and across the world. 2 cubes of ice, a generous dram of the whisky in an old fashioned glass, was a nice beginning. The whisky started the conversation.
Taj Holiday Village is a visit down memory lane. I am sure everyone who has stayed there has something nice to share or a tale to tell. From 40th Birthdays, to post class12th secret bashes or silver anniversaries to Honeymoon or just getting married there, the hotel holds a treasure chest of precious experiences. The tall trees or neatly rimmed hedges, dark pathways to bright mornings, all have been witness to memories being created. We had our share of moments to share!
With the mood relaxing, it was time for Lagavulin 16 YO, as some other preferred The Glenlivet 15 YO. The peaty and smoky Lagavulin 16 YO had a quiet elegance to it, almost enjoying the stories & being a part of the entire conversation. Spicy Prawns and BBQ chicken were great companions too!
As the evening wore into night and the stars stepped out, we found ourselves still relating the same stories, all over again and by then had switched on to Laphroaig 10 YO, a whisky we had immensely enjoyed at a friends celebration in 2012, at the Holiday Village. Chef Rego`s cooking, the cuisine at Beach House, the long conversations opening up to each other, mid night walks on the beach to share “seacrets” or simply soaking in the ambience, lying down next to the pool, were threads that bound us together again and the common platform was the Taj Holiday Village. The place has a soul!!
As everyone went back, I found myself holding a Talisker 10 YO, looking out at the sea. The tide was high and the waves were beginning to lash on the walls below, with an occasional wave spraying me on top. Talisker and I have spent many a special moment together and this one was one of them.