2 nights: Fly Mumbai to Chandigarh, 3 hour drive to Shimla
We travelled to Shimla in September (2012) and we thought it was a great place to go. Basically David was 8 weeks old and we had major cabin fever having moved into our Mumbai apartment at the beginning of the monsoon, we had no friends (all expats and the few friends we had met had fled the country to avoid the rains).
At the time our children were 5 and 3 years and 8 weeks old. We stayed at the Radisson but I would not recommend this place, the hotel was lots of steps (not great for pushchairs), the food wasn’t good and they didn’t really cater for children. If you can afford it I would go with the Oberoi Cecil. We had lunch there and it was a lovely old established hotel and the service was very good – even when we managed to deposit 2 leeches on their floor! During lunch and whilst chomping on a club sandwich our daughter exclaimed “Mummy there’s a worm!”. When I looked it was a leech inching its way across the beautifully polished wooden floor of the lobby café. It was moving away from my foot. So I investigated further under my jeans and around my ankles and found blood where the little critter had been feasting on my ankle! Aaargh!
We checked ourselves again and my husband also found one on him, luckily nothing on the children. Don’t worry we didn’t get the leeches from the Oberoi! We’d just been on a fabulous walk to Chadwick Falls which was listed in the Lonely Planet and recommended especially after the monsoon. Luckily it was a beautiful day and walking down the hill and through the forest was beautiful and clean air was something we were all craving especially after being “cooped” up for so long in Mumbai. The walk took about 1 hour round trip and our baby boy was in the Baby Bjorn and slept the entire walk as new borns do which was great. But perhaps we lingered a little too long at the falls and the leeches decided to hitch a ride to a 5 star hotel for lunch!
The mall in Shimla town is all pedestrianised which is brilliant for strollers and lots of old buildings and monkeys to watch. It really is a pleasure to see all the old buildings from the time when the British Government based themselves here escaping the heat of Calcutta from 1864 and then Delhi during the hot summer months. To think they built everything and moved there every summer with the aid of bullocks and mules before the train route was completed (1903) is amazing, the terrain must have been very difficult – just goes to show what how desperate the British were to escape the heat back then. Now they flock to it!
We visited the old Viceregal’s Lodge where Mountbatten last lived in the summer. We just got tickets for the garden, it was lovely to look around the grounds (we didn’t go inside as thought the kids wouldn’t be welcome!) There is a little cafe there which is just ok. But it really is a bit like Hogwarts and quite bizarre to find a beautiful substantial building (in need of repair) perched on the top of a mountain. It was definitely worth visiting. Which is more can be said for the Himalayan Bird Park across the car park from the Lodge. This has certainly seen better days and I wouldn’t recommend it.
There is a bizarre lift which the public can use to get up the steep incline from Cart Road up to the mall which has all the shops, restaurants and buildings. Unless your hotel is already located on the mall itself it is necessary to use this. 2 lifts which are tiny, but seem to be well used so I am hoping they are serviced regularly!
We left on our third morning very early (I think it was about 5am) loaded with snacks and tried to head down the mountain and beat the traffic in order to catch our early flight back to Mumbai. We did – it all worked out well and we were back in time for Sunday lunch and a swim at Waterstones Club which was well deserved for the kids who did so well in the car (thanks to iPads)!
We flew to Chandigarh from Mumbai, it was our baby’s first ever flight and he was great, thank goodness for dummies (which I recommend for babies especially if you are going to travel a lot, we’ve never had problems with ears popping with our children). A 1½ hour flight was easy on Indigo (I love their little tins you can purchase – they are great snacks for kids, biscuits, crisps, nuts and you can keep the tins for lots of stuff, we have a whole collection of them!).
From Chandigarh we arranged a car to drive the 3 hours to Shimla. I have heard you can get the toy train up to Shimla (4 hrs) but that its slow and apparently after 30 mins the novelty wear off! The driving isn’t great though with terrible overtaking and speed. Also very windy so if you or your kids get travel sick the train may be the better choice, however, the train times were also not great to connect us for our flights.