The pandemic changed a lot around us. The regular 9-5 took a backseat, and remote working became commonplace. I was recently asked to return to Mumbai for a hybrid work situation, while many chose to stay back and work entirely from home. As happy as I was to be back in Mumbai — a city I’ve been calling home for the past 7 years — I knew I’d miss being in the office and around my colleagues.
Days passed and our team grew. New people entered the world of MW, and a rapport was built with my colleagues as we navigated the challenges of a virtual workspace. However, there’s also no refuting that everyone wished for a real-time connection. And as we discussed this over a call on a balmy afternoon, I chanced upon this beautiful property by SaffronStays. Nestled in the beautiful valley of Kamshet Ghats, the standalone property was spread across serene 70 acres on the banks of Andre Lake in Kamshet. My editor saw this as an opportunity for all of us to meet, and I was totally game.
Lonavala and its adjacent towns have been popular weekend getaway spots for Mumbai residents. In spite of being a Mumbaikar for years now, I’d never gotten a chance to experience the beauty of the Western Ghats. I, for one, was very excited to see what SaffronStays Foresta By The Lake had to offer. I had checked the information provided by the property on their website, and I was impressed to see that the estate was prettier than what I’d googled.
After a long drive with multiple vada pav and chai breaks in between, we landed at Foresta at around one in the afternoon. The monsoon season was in its last leg, so it was an ideal time to visit the spot. I was equal parts anxious and excited to meet my team in person. The awkwardness vanished the moment we met, and before we knew it, we were bantering about who’d get which room in the gorgeous villa. The property boasted three cottages. Cottage 1 had a single bedroom, cottage two had two and the third one had three.
We obviously chose the one with three bedrooms. Adorned with 100-year-old artifacts that belong to the Royal Palaces of Gujarat, the room was dimly lit with rustic interiors. The room was replete with state-of-art amenities, including a fluffy bed that would make one fall asleep the minute you’d crash on it. Sunlight streamed through the glass windows upon opening it, and everything felt so right as the fresh breeze caressed my face.
After a quick stroll around the estate, we sipped on refreshing coolers and sat down for some ‘work’. Yes, we weren’t spared from filing a couple of copies before getting to enjoy the perks. But I did not complain because the view beyond the laptop was nothing short of stunning. The property is flanked by water bodies on either side. There’s also enough lush around, thanks to the presence of tall eucalyptus, ficus, and mango trees. So when you look up from your screen, you are seeing the ghats, the lake, nature, and a small gazebo. Now, what’s to rant, really?
I quickly wrapped up work. While I waited for others to finish, I spotted a small swing suspended by a tall tree. The next thing I knew was being plopped on it, while soaking up the beauty of the wilderness around me. The WFH situation had us all cooped inside our houses, so it really felt rejuvenating to be surrounded by nature for once. A gentle tap on my shoulder by a colleague brought me back to the present. It was lunchtime.
We were famished, and the staff did complete justice to our hunger pangs. Foresta only offers freshly cooked vegetarian preparations using greens that are harvested from the organic gardens. And, if you are a meat eater who’s probably wondering if you’d ever enjoy these vegetarian meals at the property, let me tell you that you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The food hit the spot, and I did not miss my chicken curry at the lunch table. From pav bhaji to rich and creamy dal, to pasta and Thai curry, the food feels great on the tummy, and on your plate too (if you’re looking for some great pictures for Instagram).
After a short break, it was time for us to dive into the pool. The best part is that you’re mostly by yourself at this secluded property, so there are no constraints as such. You can enjoy the property the way you wish. To make it even cosier for us, the staff amped up the vibes with great music and even allowed us to stir up some mimosas by the pool. That’s where the real talking began. We stayed by the poolside for hours, getting to know each other, challenging each other’s swimming skills, taking pictures, and of course, enjoying the delicious mimosas. It was time for us to get out even though we did not want to. Turns out, another surprise was in store for us.
We were asked to take a 15-minute stroll for our evening tea. While the idea of walking was not ideal for us after the long hours in the pool, we instantly realized it was a great idea. The manager took us around the forest area, which was covered with greenery. At the end of the walk was a table set up by the staff. A scrumptious spread was set for us to dig into, and the view of ghats and pristine water bodies that surrounded us was nothing short of surreal.
Most of us decided to sit by the lakeside to just be. We soon returned to the property and spent the rest of the evening watching the sunset from the gazebo. With work colleagues who turned into friends in no time, this was an evening to remember and cherish.
From the moment we arrived at the property, what intrigued one of my colleagues the most was a small library located at one of the corners of the beautifully lit property. He spent copious amounts of time there before dinner, while the rest of us sat in the living room area to chit-chat. We did not even realize that it was dinnertime, for which special arrangements were made at the al fresco dining area. The table was lit with candles, flowers, and a lot of food. A hearty meal later, we decided to visit the game room and play some games before bedtime.
While the boys got busy with snooker, the girls sat down for a game of Jenga. After missing some rounds of Jenga and intense rounds of pool, it was time to finally get to bed. The day was so packed that I really couldn’t soak in the beauty of the room. As the sun went down, the dim-lit room bore a regal vibe, given its old-world vibe. The soft cotton-candy-like bed was more than cosy after a tiring day. We hit snooze the moment we hit the bed, concluding our one-day trip on a satisfying note.
Saying goodbye to the property was hard, but this workcation was a success as it led to some real team bonding. Sitting behind the screen, I never really got to see their real selves, but now I certainly know that the shy one isn’t shy at all, the one who’s the most adventurous hates to get into the pool, the “quiet” one has the best taste in music and the boss had some life-changing advice for us.
On my way back, I wondered if vacations are really an escape. We are all familiar with staycations, weekend getaways, and the much-needed breaks, but switching off from the mundane, even if it’s an hour away from the city, with colleagues can make a world of difference. Sometimes it’s good to disconnect and travel, but quite often a quick trip also helps you get closer to your work family.
For more details about the property, visit: https://www.saffronstays.com/view/foresta-by-the-