Lush environs at La Maison
LA MAISON KOTAGIRI
USP: Tryst with Nature
He stood at the door of the colonial villa. Some three feet from the ground, pristine white feathers plumped. This red-necked turkey gobbled at us, till our hostess Anne-Helene rushed out of the homestead, La Maison. In some trepidation, we asked if the turkey was being threatening. No, our hostess assured us, he gobbled to welcome guests.
Throughout our visit, it stood guard outside the parlour windows, making sure we were feeling at home.
More than a century old, La Maison is set in the midst of about six acres of tea gardens, hedged by steep hillside, with its very own waterfall. It's in the Hadathoray Paradise Valley, which means all the usual things in these parts of the Nilgiris — wildflowers aplenty, thick white mist creeping up on you stealthily, and then drifting off just as suddenly, and air spiked with cool purity.
The French couple has been here for just about two years, but has regularly sighted gaur, bear, leopard and deer.
When they weren't coming face-to-face with Nilgiris' wildlife, Benoit and Anne-Helene were hard at work renovating their stately bungalow, laying a running verandah all along the house, setting up a greenhouse, a herbery, bee hives and, most recently, getting up an open air brick-and-granite sauna.
Anne-Helene is justifiably proud of her greenhouse and garden, and guests get to taste the vegetables grown at La Maison and nearby organic farms. We sampled some brown bread hot from the oven, followed by chapattis, nicely grilled pepper chicken, a couple of sauces, white and brown, some lightly-flavoured rice and grilled veggies. The meal concluded with ice cream, home-baked cookies, some fruit and a deep blue borage flower as flourish. There was some mellow Chardonnay and a red wine, too, on offer.
La Maison has four bedrooms with attached bathrooms with four-poster beds, deep wardrobes and heaters. No television, announces Benoit happily, but reluctantly admits to having WiFi.
They arrange for guests to go on trips to nearby tourist spots such as Catherine Falls, Lamb's Rock, Coonoor and Ooty, as well as tea-tasting sessions.
As for the turkey, he gobbled disapprovingly at us as we left. Either he had taken a shine to us, or he loved guests!