Bang Bang Barcelona in Manali
We’ve always just popped by Manali. It’s either been a pit stop to drive on to Leh or it’s been a diversion on the way back from Gusheni when all other roads were jammed. It’s never been a place we actually planned to go - for a real holiday! But this time, I was doing the planning. And I’ve always wanted to experience Manali. Not just hurry past the market to pick up my quota of fresh apricot oil, but to actually amble across to the Hidamba Mandir, take a dip in front of the powerful Devi, ask for the impossible, buy some fake Northwest jackets on the way back and eat ginger cake at one of the many German Bakeries there which have nothing German about them whatsoever!
We did all of that - and more! My little 13-month old has just begun to walk and it was fun watching her trying to make her way uphill from Casa Bella Vista - our stay for the three nights we spent there. It’s an all-wood, green ivy covered series of cottages built on top of a hill and managed by a vibrant Spanish lady, Martha and her husband Giri. It had all the three Cs in my book to make it the perfect place - comfort, cleanliness and cuisine. Especially the cuisine! Mediterranean food, salads, calzone, finger-licking thin crust oven baked pizzas, pasta - and oh goodness, you’d have to stay there longer to explore the menu any further!
To explore Manali, you need to be innately lazy. If you’re one of those hurry-hurry-need-to-see-everything type of a person, you’ll be a real bore for those around. Manali has to be inhaled (and there’s lots to inhale!!), imbibed, and often inured. From the messy, filthy, main market area to the magical winding back roads lined with apple orchards on the left bank, there’s a lot to explore. Thankfully we never went to Rohtang at all - I never understood why people would make their way to a no-oxygen zone (well almost) littered with black filthy snow only to get caught in a bad traffic jam on the way back. Nope, we didn’t do that. We went to Solang instead. Did a zipline across a valley enroute (Rs. 350 in season and Rs. 200 off season), went up the freshly minted French-made cable car to 10,000 feet, kissed the clouds, had chai and ambled back.
The word “amble” is key to enjoying Manali. Amble across to Johnson’s Cafe for breakfast (waffles and cream, and then a side of crepes:-), amble across to Chopsticks for a Thupka lunch (Tibetan soup for the uninitiated) and don’t move a muscle from Casa Bella Vista (if you’re staying there) for dinner, because there’s Bang Bang Barcelona - the spiciest, chilliest pizza this part of the universe just waiting to be devoured! And if you’ve still got some energy left, amble across to The Club on the right bank for a rave party without noise - yes, you heard that right. Three DJs play their choice of music, you plug in with a set of headphones, choose any of the three tracks your heart desires and …amble!