Rummaging through old pictures, this travelling mom revisits memories of her first road trip with her daughter to the beautiful town of Landour in Mussoorie. She tells us why travelling is a great way to raise a child to become independent, and bond with them too. By Ruchi Jain
The onset of monsoon unfurls the desire to explore vast landscapes while we still struggle to cope with the uncertain times. For my partner and I, the mere mention of travel rekindles the adrenaline rush. It’s not the usual travel couple scenario but a mother-daughter duo making memories, and dwelling on life’s happier moments.
Challenging as it may sound, unlike large families, couples, group of friends or solo travellers, it was just the two of us exploring the unknown. We started travelling together three years ago when my daughter, Arshia, was just nine years old. However, our first trip to the fascinating little cantonment area in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, enriched our bond like never before.
The wind in the pines, the barbet’s call, mountain flowers rambling over the hillside, beauty of the countryside, unhurried walkers passing the homes of eminent writers and film personalities, local food and bazaars, old-world charm, starlit skies, the warmth of the hills, and the soothing silence of the deodars — the beauty of this quaint little town in Mussoorie, called Landour, was timeless.
The Planning Stage
While looking for a lesser-unknown and sparsely crowded summer destination on travel portals, I came across Ivy Bank guest house in Landour. The place was small but had scenic views and seemed home-like. I called the humble owner, discussed the dates, the financial bit and confirmed my booking. I was thrilled for my first trip with my girl. As I shared with her a few details of the adventure awaiting us, she was overjoyed, and I was relieved.
Rules of travelling with your child — turn roadblocks into learnings
Rule 1 – Teach your child all about travel essentials; be it safety, hygiene, or medications required en route.
Rule 2 – Guide them through the process of boarding, whether you are travelling via air, road or train. They are fast learners and adapt easily to new situations. This will evoke a sense of independence in them too.
Rule 3 – Speak to them before finalising the itinerary. They will feel involved and can even leave you surprised with their novel ideas.
As we reached Dehradun from Delhi, we quickly hopped on a cab, and with travel songs on our lips, we left the plains behind, stretching towards the horizon, in the lap of the hills.
Ruskin Bond has rightly said, “The feeling of space – limitless space – can only be experienced by living in the mountains.”
We reached Landour in about three hours. It was love at first sight. Nestled in the foothills of Himalayas, the place welcomed us with open arms. Dandelions blossomed since it was the flower of the month, June. Happy faces walking on narrow curvy lanes, Langoors gliding on deodars, crisp mountain air and cluster of rustic huts — all invited us lovingly. Amid the whispering pines and floating mountains, the gorgeous Ivy cottage was waiting for our arrival, the antidote for fast-paced lives. We checked-in, crashed on the bed, and ordered some home-cooked delicious food. We spent the day relaxing in the garden, sipping evening tea, star gazing, and finally, wrapping up the day with a quick read in our cosy warm bed in the gorgeous brick cottage, overlooking Ruskin Bond’s Home.
When we extend the love for travel in our kids, they get inspired to explore the unknown at an early age and embrace it as a way of life. Imbibing the same spirit, I traversed this pretty hill town with my ‘mini-me’ through its charming bazaars, bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and more. The furry friends in the mountains followed us everywhere as if guiding us through the beautiful pathways. Landour can easily be covered on feet as it is a walker’s paradise.
Eating heart-warming breakfast of buttery paranthas and freshly baked waffles with a hot cup of honey-lemon tea at the renowned Chaar Dukan became a ritual for us. Chaar Dukan is known for its delicious menu and stunning views of the hills from its patio.
We walked for hours every day, up and down the road to the hilltop – Lal Tibba; said little prayers at the St Paul’s Church, and returned to Cafe Ivy for delectable luncheons. Cafe Ivy is a fascinating dining spot started by the owner of Ivy Bank, Ashish, with his co-partners Kamal and ML Sharma.
There is something so therapeutic about slow travelling, being present in the place without a concrete itinerary. One fine day, when we were climbing up the hilly lanes, we came across a glorious heritage property called Rokeby Manor. This boutique hotel is resplendent with character in its elaborate bricks and arches, intricate stone walls, real wood flooring and beams, cosy fireplaces, and a beautiful tea garden. The setting was straight out of a book. We checked out Emily’s, its famed restaurant designed in true English fashion that serves wholesome meals prepared with freshest ingredients. We tried Naanzas – the Landour version of pizzas, some Ratatouille, and their soul-soothing one-pot meal. The meal at Emily’s was nothing short of heavenly.
We also found a quaint place further up Rokeby, called Sister’s Bazaar, which acquired its name from the nursing sisters who used to live nearby a British Military Hospital in the early 20th century. It houses the popular Prakash store loved for its home-made jams, peanut butter, variety of cheese, honey, chutneys, and organic preserves. I asked my daughter to pick her choice of preserves, cheese, and chutneys. Then a strong whiff of delectable bakes took us to the Landour Bakehouse, a bakery by Rokeby Manor. My little chef who loves to cook and bake was excited to see the menu featuring fresh crepes, cinnamon rolls, lemon tarts, carrot cakes, and more deliciousness. We savoured our favourites, relaxed beside a window viewing lush deodars and read witty one-liners scripted on the walls. Moving back to Ivy, we tried catching the clouds and then, just like that, it started to rain like a dream.
Never go on an expedition on a deserted lane in the hills when you are not aware of the surroundings, especially when you have a child along. Although Landour is completely safe even at dusk, there is still the fear of the wild. Remember, the mountains are mysterious!
Put a water bottle, an umbrella and some snacks in your child’s backpack. Walking on the hills doesn’t come easy to city dwellers and you can sometimes find yourself on long stretches, so a comfortable pair of sneakers is a must too.
Some people touch our hearts in unique ways when we are on the go. A few guests next to our cottage at Ivy Bank made sure both my girl and I had a memorable time. The profound violin music by Caroline Willett – a violinist and a doctor in the making from America, made sure our evenings were magical. We jammed with Tushar Negi and Aayan Sharma, fellow travellers from Delhi, post dinners. Further, games of carom and UNO cards, quick connect over books, or just stargazing concluded our days.
Little joys enrich our lives and when you teach this to your child, they start valuing these moments. It was surprising how a small town had so much to offer amidst deep silence and long walks. As the sun went down every evening, we enjoyed taking long, slow walks. On one such evening, we chanced upon a Tibetan restaurant called Domma’s Inn. Its decor was intriguing with walls adorned with Bollywood movie posters in bright colours. The owner played the guitar while guests indulged in sinful servings of momos, soups, noodles, and other delights.
Our holiday was coming to an end. While saying our goodbyes, Arshia got to shake hands with her favourite author, Ruskin Bond, at his home, and she got some books signed too. This fan-girl moment was simply magical for the young reader.
As we bid farewell, these words echoed in our minds — “If Mussoorie is the queen of hills, then Landour must be the fairer princess.”