I’m a firm believer that road trips are good for the soul. If we’re being realistic, holidays are too decadent. We have no time, no money… lives to carry on with.

But road trips?

A tank of gas, good company, a few hours and a killer playlist is all one needs to rejuvenate a weary spirit. You never know what’s around the bend, and the feeling is exhilarating.

I, for one, have a constant need (you can call it ‘itchy feet’) to be in a place where I don’t know the roads like the back of my hand. I was telling Beverly Dee just the other day that I need to go somewhere. Anywhere.

And just like that, out of the blue, a sudden road trip was planned overnight. *Flashback to Hampi!*

Destination: Udvada!

A couple of friends and I left on our road trip at around 10 am. Smooth roads and very little traffic (after a point) helped us make good time. On entering Gujarat, we stopped for traditional Parsi breakfast at Ahura, comprising of Sali per eedu (grated, deep fried potato topped with a fried egg), akuri (almost runny scrambled eggs) and strong tea.

Like Ahura, which is just off NH8, you can also choose to stop at Atithi, which is a little before Ahura and is the older of the two restaurants. We left feeling stuffed and stayed that way until we entered Udvada at 1:45 pm.

I’m no stranger to wandering through narrow lanes and drowsy villages. But Udadva makes you feel like you’ve taken a trip in a time machine. The teeny tiny town is considered exceedingly sacred by the diminishing Parsi community and this pilgrimage site is famous throughout the world. Yet, it still remains as quiet and calm as ever – no traffic, no noise and as clean as can be.

So clean, in fact, that even the stray dogs are skin and bone thanks, to the dearth of garbage to rummage through for scraps of food.

This guy happily walked with us for a bit and was too happy to pose for pictures!

Most of the houses lie vacant and are slowly decaying. There are only a handful that have been renovated and people can be seen relaxing in the front galleries overlooking the road.

The Atash Bahram fire temple is the chief attraction here – open to only people from the Parsi community. The sacred fire has been brought from Iran and has been continuously burning for the last 1280 years.  A Parsi friend I went with told me that there isn’t even electricity in the temple – electricity is considered impure and so the temple is always lit with oil lamps that are brought down with ropes, filled with oil and hoisted again.

We walked through the little town and marvelled at the doll-house like architecture. The entire place can be walked through multiple times in a single day – and there isn’t really anything else to do there, except look at charming houses and relish the silence.

And of course, eat!

Udvada is the perfect place to sample popular Parsi fare since most of the dishes are still cooked on a chulavati or a wood- fire hearth. There are plenty of hotels to lunch at, Hotel Mek being one of the more popular ones. We lunched at Dharamshala – a place that not everyone can eat at, unless you have Parsi connections.

We feasted on a traditional Parsi lunch of fried fish, chicken curry, vegetable curry, rice, papad and Sali (potato sticks) The thing about Parsi food is that it is rich in flavour without the spices being overpowering. Whenever I eat some, I can’t help but compare it to a warm hug that says ,”everything will be okay.”

Next, we moved on to my favourite part! Ice cream! Apparently, the only dessert you’ll find at Udvada is mango-flavoured Sancha ice cream. And God, how delicious it was! Hand churned and ultra creamy, it was mind blowing. By the time we decided to have another scoop, the ice-cream guy had vanished, taking his delicious mango ice cream with him.

Before heading back, we made a stop at the Udvada Museum. This well-maintained, airy, villa-like structure is a treasure trove for those wanting to know more about the Parsi community. You’ll need maybe half-an-hour to read through the boards on various rituals, clothing and customs. Trust me, after a heavy lunch, I was in no mood for history, but I found it immensely interesting. Give it a shot!

A replica of the holy fire similar to one at the Fire Temple.

P.S. Loved the way this security guard opened his eyes, looked at us and went back to sleep again. We turned on all the lights and fans, walked through the museum, turned everything off and went back while he happily snoozed away. Ah! Simple, village life!

With a  town as small as this, everything is a must-visit spot. Our last stop was Irani Bakery, a couple of streets away from the fire temple. When I heard ‘Irani Bakery,’ I pictured the nice sit-down ones we have in Mumbai with its range of biscuits, bun maskas and teas – but this one was quite tiny. We picked from among their limited biscuit selection to take back with us

If you’re looking for a long drive, some divinity and dhansak, take a trip to Udvada. It’s simplicity is pretty refreshing!

Ever been to a tiny town before? Tell me about it!

Don’t forget to subscribe to That Goan Girl and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more random adventures! Here’s one I think you’ll love – Phoebe’s Farm

Till next time

Jade

Hey hey hey!!

I’m back with another post on the #TGGFinds series (I’m super stoked that so many of you loved the last one on Goa!) Seems like everyone gets the romanticism of sipping a coffee or having brunch in quiet, little known cafés.

So here’s a list of cosy places that deserve to be known and visited in Ahmedabad! This is all I could cover in a weekend, so if you have one that you think should feature, let me know in the comments below. All I need is a reason to go back.

Apna Adda (The Kafe Keetli)

In a city like Ahmedabad that has colleges at every corner and a prohibition on alcohol, the need for a cheap hangout with excellent coffee is the need of the hour. The city is full of cafes – some with free wifi and buzz of coffee brewing and others with a cleaner, contemporary ambiance.

Apna Adda has none of that. It’s literally a coffee stand under a tree by the highway. Not the best in terms of hygiene, but the coffee was the best I had in Ahmedabad. It was tall, dark, rich, strong, handsome… ok, maybe not handsome, but you get the drift. It sure looked good, though! Loaded with chocolate hand-numbing-ly cold, it was was just what I needed on a hot day, out and about.

And taste-wise, it can send franchise coffee shops on a run for their money! They also do a good kulhad tea/coffee with light bites like sandwiches, pasta and pizza.

I hear they’ve opened a new outlet with indoor seating but I’m not too sure where that is.

The Project Café

The quirky yellow bungalow helps in making Project Café instantly identifiable in Ahmedabad. Art lovers or those in search of collectibles will have a fun time gazing around at the assortment of paintings on the wall, scarves and clothing on display and knick knacks from stationary to leather bags.

Each room has a mix of college crowd chatting, corporate folk grabbing a quick lunch/dinner and the occasional loner on his laptop. While it can be a little cramped and loud, the homey feeling helps to dismiss all of that. Adding to the “feels like home” factor is Parul, the host who hovers from room to room making sure everything is as it should be. I was telling the peeps on Twitter how she would appear at the table ever-so-frequently to ask how the meal was and when I assured her it was good, she would say ‘Really? Or are you just saying that?”

Much to my embarrassment, she also took me to various spots in the house to pose for a picture or twenty 🙂 Cute lady!

I ordered the French Crepes and Mexican Rice, both suggested by Parul as the house specials. It was pretty delicious and if I had some space in my already stuffed tummy, I’d have definitely tried some more. The menu also has a mix of small plates, mains, wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts. Everything is vegetarian, like in most places, which I had gotten used to by now – after getting stares on casually asking if a dish had chicken in it.

Varietea  

At first glance, Varietea isn’t very impressive. The entrance is just beside the main road under residential apartments with a pretty dusty front window. But when you descend to a floor below, it opens out into an expansive lounge with various seating options.

The ambiance is perfect to spend some leisurely time in. A huge bookshelf laden with books and board games coupled with a massive menu of every tea you can imagine make it a great spot to escape a hot afternoon or rainy evening in. I love the tea-related quotes on the wall, too!

Some of their signature teas are the choco-coconut tea, Christmas tea, energitea, birthday tea and silver needle tea. The menu also features ice teas and coffees, with accompaniments like French fries, nachos, sandwiches and options by the dozen. I opted for the Ginger Tea (my favourite) which came in a teapot containing three servings and a cutting-chai glass. Tasted just as good as the roadside one in Mumbai. Price wise, it is very reasonable! Also in the picture below is a cold coffee in a milk bottle and watermelon iced tea.

The staff seemed a little lost which is probably due to the fact that one needs to call them by ringing a small bell on the table. It results in them looking in the general direction of the ringing bell without knowing where to go.

One thing I’d wish they’d change is the sofa seating – they’re in desperate need of a revamp or at least some decent upholstering.

Now that I’ve been back in Mumbai for a week or so, I’m really starting to miss Ahmedabad. The lifestyle is much slower paced than it is here, in Mumbai. People really take their time to enjoy their coffee before rushing to their next engagement.

These cafes are pretty popular among people in the city so while they aren’t really hidden gems, they’re definitely worth a visit if you’re ever there.

Do you have any favourites? Share ’em with me in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe!!

See ya next time!

What’s happening, everyone?

I’ve had an action-packed weekend at Ahmedabad and I want to thank all my Twitter and Instagram followers from there for the tons of inside-tips on things to do in the city! It’s the first Tier 2 Indian city I’ve been to and I can totally picture myself living there.

Why?

Because it’s clean, has minimal traffic (although not very good traffic sense) and I love the feeling of space. Not to mention, total value for money in terms of food and accommodation – that’s not something I can say about Mumbai and Goa! AND DUDE! Havmore ice-cream!

I spent two days eating to my heart’s content and checking out famous + little known places, yet still didn’t get to tick everything off my checklist. I know, Ahmedabad isn’t a tourist destination, but as I said in my post about Quick Weekend Getaways, it’s pretty cool to spend a few days exploring the city.

Although I did a little reading before the trip (yes, yes, I’m a nerd), I didn’t come across the fact that there are 7 bridges all through Ahmedabad that connect the old city to the new city across the Sabarmati River. Old Ahmedabad exuded charm and it’s easy to get caught up walking or riding down Pols (narrow, maze-like lanes and bylanes that hold a world of age-old stories)

Anyways, enough of the chitter-chatter! I want to tell you all the cool places I visited!

Siddi Sayyed Mosque – You’ve probably seen the IIM Ahmedabad logo of the half-circle with weird-looking tree inside. That’s been inspired by the Tree of Life Jaali or stone lattice-work done on one of the curved windows of this mosque. It was built way back in 1573 and now stands calmly as a round-about on a street full of honking traffic. Being female, I couldn’t enter the premises, but that didn’t prevent me from admiring the beautiful aesthetics and delicate stone-work from the outside.

House of MG – MG is short for the house of Mangaldas Girihardas, and this gorgeous heritage mansion was built in 1924 but was later converted into a hotel and restaurant.

Old pictures of the family members and modern décor make it an interesting place to spend time in. The architecture is simply stunning and the house is interspersed with old statues, paintings, furniture and royal-looking swings.

The thali here is said to be EPIC and no trip to the city is complete without a meal at Agashiye, the rooftop restaurant. For Rs. 699, you’ll get an unlimited thali to die for.

Manek Chowk – By day, this city square is full of jewelry shops. But come 9 pm, and it transforms into a street-food hotspot that needs to be seen to be believed.

Long communal tables and chairs are placed in the centre with food stands all around. There’s so much to see, smell and eat that it’s a feast for all the senses – like those crazy Indian markets you see on TLC!

A waiter will take your order and shout it to another waiter-and another-and another- until it reaches the specific food stall who sells the cuisine/dish you want. The food then makes its way to you through this same passing-the-parcel system!

From chocolate sandwiches, to Chinese food and dosas to kulfi, the tiny, crowded market has everything and one must experience the madness if you’re ever in the city. The quantity of food you’ll be served in one dish is enough for 3 people and it’s so cheap!

Yet another cool thing about Old Ahmedabad is that everything is so close to each other. You can walk or maybe hire a bike and roam around the city with ease. If you have the time, here are some more things you can plan to see (none of them take more than twenty minutes)

  1. Sabarmati Ashram
  2. Sarkhej Roza
  3. Teen Darwaza
  4. Bhadra Fort – I passed it, but didn’t know what it was and just took the picture below. Again, the Instagram guys were quick to point it out!

Stay tuned for more exciting stories about the city. If you’ve been to Ahmedabad, live there or just heard something cool about it, I’d love to know! Subscribe and comment below!

Bubye!