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Words, Horizons, Journeys, Epiphanies... A reservoir of the past, a celebration of the everyday, a harbinger of things to come... Perhaps most pointedly, the pursuit of a little thing called Bliss. From the pen and persistently frayed suitcase of Poet/ Novelist Siddharth Dasgupta.

MONSOON, MIST AND MYTH (Pt. 1) | Le Meridien, Mahabaleshwar

MONSOON, MIST AND MYTH (Pt. 1) | Le Meridien, Mahabaleshwar

A visit to the hospitality giant’s first Resort & Spa property in the country allows Siddharth Dasgupta to unlock a few of Mahabaleshwar’s rarest gems

A certain romance-laden confluence is afoot. I see it when I step out onto the balcony adjoining my plush suite and am immediately engulfed by the very natural presence of jamun trees in abundance; I breathe it in when I come face-to-face with the stunning Infinity Pool and then watch with disbelief as it seemingly plunges without warning into the arms of the Sahyadri Mountains; I sense it when I drop off to sleep and am kept company right through the night by the curious symphony of crickets; and I certainly gauge it in the small fact that despite being at a Le Meridien property I’m not ensconced in some formulaically business-oriented high-rise, but instead am right at home in the throes of a verdant 27-acre property.

 Photograph: Vikram Bawa

Photograph: Vikram Bawa

IN THE MIDST OF NATURE’S PROFUSION

At Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa, a collage of villa-clusters bearing individual rooms, stand-alone luxury villas, a gamut of recreation options, and a small but proficient dining hub all fall under the sway of the trees, forests, and grass fields that first called this land home. In many ways, the resort has paid due deference to this fact by shaping itself around its hosts: you’ll find walls and roofs moulded around decade-old tree trunks, you’ll stoop down to escape the low-hanging branches that greet you at the entrance to your villa, you’ll be kissed by dew and small sprinkles of the vividly green moss that attaches itself to nearly every branch and bark in this weather. It all makes for something rather rare.

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UNLOCKING A NEW DIRECTION

All of which is a far cry from the fairly stodgy Le Meridien of old, of course. From an undistinguishable business hotel chain, the brand began to position itself as a more creative home-away-from-home destination nearly eight years ago. Recently though, this flagship of the Starwood Group has taken steps to improve upon even that philosophy, and has come up with the ‘Destination Unlocked’ brand signature – a new direction meant to create, cultivate and nurture a boutique-style ethos that encourages an immersive, experiential experience for the guest, one filled with insights, interactions, trips, and flavours of every local destination. It is as much a cultural quest as it is a culinary one, it is as much as a matter of discovery as it is one of hospitality. And all of it is right up my alley.

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Part 1 of a 3-part series. An alternate version of this story first appeared as a Lead Feature in Travel + Leisure (September, 2015). http://travelandleisureindia.in/meandering-in-mahabaleshwar/

MONSOON, MIST AND MYTH (Pt. 2) | Le Meridien, Mahabaleshwar

MONSOON, MIST AND MYTH (Pt. 2) | Le Meridien, Mahabaleshwar

THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE POP ART PALACE (II) | Jaipur

THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE POP ART PALACE (II) | Jaipur