When exploring is all about simple things
- Insider tips are definitely more reliable than guidebooks or brochures
- Make sure that the visits are unique and memorable by contacting close friends in the country
If Sourabh Chattopadhyay’s proposal to his then going-to-be wife, Srimoyi Bhattacharya, on a cool Koh Samui evening in December 2009 is anything to go by, he’d have a lot to make up for over the decade. Despite the evocative sunset, he needed her forgiving sense of humour to salvage the evening. “The ring was a tad too small, and our celebratory bottle of Champagne nearly broke before it was popped open. I was inadvertently given the gift of a lifetime supply of taunts to Sourabh," laughs Bhattacharya.
The couple’s travelling history since then has been largely without glitches. In fact, they’ve managed to find their rhythm in simple things while exploring the world.
Both Chattopadhyay and Bhattacharya are partial to France, since the latter was born there. Of their six to seven travels in the year, one trip is decidedly about landing in Paris and exploring a part of the France they’ve never seen before. Their heart is stuck on the Luberon Valley, a patchwork of villages perched on hilltops, countless vineyards and weathered abbeys that look down on the rows of fragrant lavender fields in Provence. They often rent a car and don’t chalk out the itinerary and let the road decide between afternoons of an idyllic vineyards, or weekly markets that prop up to sell olive oil, honey or lavender.
In their 2018 pilgrimage to Luberon Valley, Bhattacharya and Chattopadhyay parked themselves in Gordes, a small town in the region that is often called the “Parthenon" of Provence. Despite being one of the smallest and most unassuming villages in the south of France, there is ample to see here. The Church of Fermin built over a 12th century Roman, one is exceptionally beautiful and history enthusiasts often flock to the abbeys constructed in the same time period. “Typical of our travel style, we did anything but rush from one sight to another. Instead we strolled through the labyrinth of calades (narrow lanes), hopped between cafes and took the opportunity to slow down," remembers Chattopadhyay. “It was so refreshing to just linger through the markets to shop for fresh olives, cheese and wine," adds Bhattacharya.
Back in Delhi, life isn’t too kind on the hours. Bhattacharya is the founder of Peepul Consulting, a public relations firm and Chattopadhyay is a partner at Wellesley, a search and recruitment service spaning Asia Pacific. Naturally, time taken to travel is deeply treasured and carefully planned by the duo. “Srimoyi is a pro at picking the right hotels and places to eat, while I am in charge of bookings," says Chattopadhyay. “The only point of contention is time spent on shopping and being a tardy co-pilot. During our last trip to the sublime Tuscany region in Italy, we drove everywhere. I managed to miss a sign while entering a heritage village, and got fined for parking, too," admits Bhattacharya.
Bhattacharya makes sure that the visits are unique and memorable by contacting close friends in the country or city they are visiting. Insider tips are definitely more reliable than guidebooks or brochures. “The Mr & Mrs Smith blog is our go-to place for independent boutique hotels that the platform lists. Each holiday is a mix of fixed agendas and ‘going with the flow.’ Exploring a beach, being riveted to a museum for hours and sampling local food are equally important, as long as the trip is rejuvenating for us," says Bhattacharya.
Of all the places they have travelled to, France holds the top spot in mentally untangling them from work commitments. “For us, it’s the perfect opportunity to slow down, and savour each moment—especially local food and wine. We’d recommend the Wine and Truffle House (Maison de la Truffe et du Vin), located inside a 17th century townhouse, in the village of Ménerbes. This is where Peter Mayle wrote his best-selling memoir, A Year in Provence," says Bhattacharya
“While the Luang Prabang, the UNESCO heritage site was unforgettable, our hearts (and palate) was more excited about the French inspired fusion cuisine in Laos. The Vientiane neighbourhood was lined with upmarket and local restaurants with great cuisine. If there is one place that comes close to France in ticking off the heritage, nature and food boxes, it’s Laos," recommends Chattopadhyay.
This year’s summer has already been locked to a small Greek Island, which is also the venue of Bhattacharya’s brother’s wedding. It gives the couple a perfect excuse to pack their bags and see more of the country. And the wedding will be the ideal place for Bhattacharya to wield her “lifetime jibe" story of their proposal.
Travel for Two is a series in which couples walk us through their favourite trips, measuring their travels in most memorable moments and not miles.