The Verandah in the Forest

9th Sep 2017

Verandah in the Forest by Neemrama Hotels always occupied a very prominent place in my wishlist. Even though Matheran lies a mere 90 km away from Mumbai, it is only last year on my birthday that P and I finally reached there. A 19th Century Raj era bungalow, this mysteriously majestic house is now converted to a "nonhotel" hotel. Officially known as the Barr House, this was the second house to be built in Matheran and was built by Captain Barr.

The Verandah

Photo of Matheran, Maharashtra, India by Mayuri R

We travelled till Neral by local train and from there took a shared taxi till the drop off point. From there one has the option of riding a horse or hiring a hand pulled rickshaw or the most exciting option of getting into the toy train. The year we went, toy train was not running. Otherwise we would have loved to take that option. We opted to walk. It was just after the monsoons, rains were scarce but the tracks still bore the reminiscent of the monsoon just gone by. We enjoyed the walk along the railway track. There were many like us. Matheran is India's only hill station which is completely pedestrianized. Even though we would have preferred a quieter walk just enjoying the beauty around, since it was a weekend that was not possible! We reached the "mall area" after about 30 mins of walking. By that time we were hungry. Verandah in the forest lies beyond 2 km from the main town. The main road is lined by hotels, shops, "resorts", restaurants. There are many " view points" around this road. We stopped at one of the points and totally loved the view of open sky and the mountains that it offered. We had lunch before continuing our walk further to our final destination. As we crossed the town and started our walk through the greenery, we realised what Matheran could have been in the bygone days. Occasionally crossing tourists on horse backs, we enjoyed the much quieter walk.

Finally we were there. At The Barr House / Verandah in the Forest The huge colonial bungalow standing tall amidst the trees reminded me of my childhood summer holidays at my aunt's tea garden bungalows. Huge rooms, huge bathrooms and a long verandah to run around! All the rooms in the Barr house are named after famous persons, we had booked Sassoon named after Albert Sassoon.

I and P only wanted to be there doing nothing. So we were not planning for these many points or that many points sight seeings at all. That way we had all the time with us, just to be!

Evening tea was served in the Verandah with cookies and pakodas. The watchful staff kept a keen eye out as monkeys also turn up looking for some tea-time goodies. Nothing of that happened even though there was a monkey around in one of trees. After chai pakoda, P and I walked till the Charlotte lake and sat there for sometime. There is an ancient Shiva temple called Pisarnath temple at one end of the lake. There were not too many people around as it was getting dark and most people staying near the main area were leaving already. Once darkness falls, crossing the jungle to reach the main area can be quite intimidating. Even though Matheran is full of spooky tales, we didn't encounter any such experience.

These carry spooky tales within

Photo of The Verandah in the Forest by Mayuri R

The evening dinner was at the main dining area called Malet hall. It was a candle light sit down buffet. Just before the dinner, P brought out a cake he had kept hidden and arranged it right on the Verandah for to me to cut. We found out that another lady staying there, was celebrating her birthday too. We asked her also to join in the cake cutting. As both of us cut the cake, our husbands clapped and other guests merrily sang "Happy Birthday". It was a happy birthday indeed.

The dinner was a continental affair. We had opted for non vegetarian and we loved the food. There was a family sitting across the table. We could make out from their expressions that they were not very happy with the vegetarian options! After dinner we browsed though the many books in the sitting hall. There was no TV, no network on our phones. We just sat, read and talked. By 10.30pm the lights were off. The guests had retired to their rooms. We sat on the armchairs outside our room enjoying the silence. As the night watchman walked over switching off the last of the lamps, we went inside our room.

Candle light dinner

Photo of The Verandah in the Forest by Mayuri R

It was a wonderful feeling getting up the next morning to sounds of chirping birds. It had rained at night. the whole area wore a fresh look in the bright morning lights. P and I went out for a walk around the woods.

The breakfast was spread in the Verandah . Again the staff were ready with their slingshots for monkeys. But to our luck, I would say, none came!

Magical Matheran

Photo of The Verandah in the Forest by Mayuri R