A Christmas Break to Darjeeling and Calcutta
I’ve always taken my morning cup of tea for granted – dunk a tea bag in a mug of boiling water and splash in the milk. That was until we visited Glenburn Tea Estate, nestled in the hills just outside of Darjeeling. The first thing we learnt was that adding milk is sacrilege. As is the tea bag. However, we learnt so much more than that from Sanjay, the enthusiastic estate manager, on a morning tour and tasting session. For example, their famous Darjeeling brew will have a subtle difference in its taste depending on the time of year it is plucked (plucked, not picked), the elevation and the aspect on which it grows.
Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling, India
But Glenburn is so much more than tea. A working estate since 1860, there are 8 beautiful guest rooms which retain the original charm of the era. At Glenburn you are made to feel at home and during our stay we were pampered from start to finish. Neena is the perfect host; always on hand and somehow able to gauge what you’re in the mood for whether it be a cup of tea (of course) and a chat, or a stroll and a picnic or simply a bit of solitude in the lovely garden.
The views from the bungalows are wonderful with Darjeeling perched on the hill across and valley and spectacular views of the mountains on the other. Although sitting on the veranda with a good book is an idyllic way to pass the time, there is plenty on offer to tempt further exploration of the area. The surrounding hills are perfect for day hikes and I did several during my stay. I walked to the local village, passing the tea pluckers busy at work and down to the river where a delicious lunch was waiting. Food is one of the highlights at Glenburn Tea Estate so the walks are a great way to justify tasting all that is on offer including the homemade bread and cakes as well as the home-grown vegetables and salads. It is also possible to visit Darjeeling as a day trip from Glenburn, but the danger is that once you arrive at Glenburn you just don’t want to leave!
The perfect spot for a cuppa!
But all good things do come to an end and after a few days we headed down from the hills to Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is now known. Calcutta is a city that is well-associated with the British but what I didn’t realise is that the city was built purely for the British. Before Job Charnock decided it was the perfect trading post the area was marshland.
Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India
In response to guest feedback, Glenburn are now offering their experience and expertise in this historic city and we spent the day exploring places that most visitors don’t even know exist. It was a fascinating day and I learnt so much more about a city that I have visited twice before and a country I have been to over twenty times. We began with an early morning visit to the flower market, continued on foot past historical buildings and churches, stopped by street vendors and had lunch in a family home. The day ended perfectly with a cruise on the Hooghly River, watching the sun set over Howrah Bridge and enjoying a nice cup of tea – from the Glenburn Estate of course. Whether you choose a guided tour or not, Calcutta is a great city for exploring on foot, the Bengali’s are extremely friendly people and the famous Fairlawns Hotel is a great place for a cold Kingfisher beer at the end of a busy day!
Here are a few of our favourite Calcutta pictures but if you’d like to see more click here.