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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

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Time travel in the hills
Isha Jalan, Hindustan Times
September 21, 2013
First Published: 10:59 IST(21/9/2013)
Last Updated: 11:35 IST(21/9/2013)

Just a three-hour drive from Chandigarh, Shimla has always been the easiest weekend getaway for tricity residents. But there’s more to the city than the mall road and the ridge.

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This time, I visited pre-independent India’s British capital and witnessed the city the Oberoi way—and boy was I surprised! From romancing the dense cedar forests to rubbing shoulders with the misty mountains, this was the city I had never experienced before. Clearly, it was the British capital for reasons more than one.

Ever wished to travel back in time? With wooden fireplaces, classical music, ballrooms, vintage furniture, attics and the more than 100-year old Cecil building, everything about this place takes you back into the late ’80s. Arpit Pant, manager of The Oberoi Cecil, shares why the place has remained special in Shimla’s history. “We have a growing number of international tourists, especially from the UK. They come here to relook at their parents’ or grandparents’ past and feel a special connection with the place,” he says, adding, “Shimla as a destination attracts a lot of families on special occasions such as honeymoons, anniversary or birthday celebrations. The holiday season is expectedly the busiest, when most Indian travellers are open to exploring. But now, we get guests in all seasons as the city has so much to offer. Shimla is a year-round destination.”

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A perfect family vacation spot, The Oberoi Cecil in Shimla has elaborate arrangements to keep you and your children happy. Telling us what’s in store for the kids especially, Pant informs, “The hotel has a fully developed children’s activity centre to help keep the kids engaged in a productive way. The centre has games for kids of all age groups, a pool table, facility for playing table tennis, ample books and video games. These activities are designed to help children learn while they stay at our hotel.

We even organise activities termed ‘junior chef’, ‘junior bartender’ and quiz shows. It gives kids a chance to win prizes and also gives a lot of time at hand to the parents.”For music lovers, a live pianist plays in the lobby in the evenings, transporting you back to the good old times. Another highlight of the trip was a special walk in the woods arranged by the hotel in the Glen valley. A comfortable trek from the hotel, the valley takes you into the wild. A perfect picnic spot, tourists are not familiar with the place, making it even better.

Away from the hustle-bustle of the Mall road, one can sit here in a pensive state for hours altogether. For your company—the best that one can have in the woods—is a warm hamper with coffee, cookies, sandwiches, the famous Himachali apples and some quick snacks. For the history lovers, a heritage walk starting from the peaceful Vice Regal Lodge to the other end of the Mall road is both informative and entertaining.

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Those looking for a romantic getaway, a 45-minute drive further uphill takes you to the Wildflower Hall–another Oberoi property.

The perfect abode for nature and spa lovers, one can relax in the outdoor heated jacuzzi, while being enchanted by the view in the hills.  The well-placed windows in the rooms give you a soothing view of the snow-capped Himalaya’s. Not only does the place leave you recharged for months, it has a lingering effect that stays even after.

The writer’s trip was sponsored by The Oberoi Cecil, Shimla, and Wildflower Hall—an Oberoi resort near Shimla


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