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Head in the stars (or not)

To make my favorite Indian dream a bit, I decided to surprise him and celebrate his birthday under a starry sky – it has kind of become his thing, stars, since we watched Cosmos on Netflix!

To begin with the beginning, I googled “best places to watch stars in India” and fell upon this:


Super excited (especially since this place was somehow accessible), I searched how to visit this thing at night. But they don’t do night visits anymore, only in daytime. It did seem kind of weird to watch stars in broad day light but in India everything was possible (and why else would they have daytime visit?), so my brain didn’t dwell too long on this issue. All the more because my colleague confirmed it was a great place and you could see the stars there!

I had to fill a form online, and be aware, you must do so at least 30 days in advance. Exactly one month before the D day, between two market visits, I managed to do it and good for me because the website stopped operating for the next two weeks! (I visited it regularly to see if my request had been accepted.) 

The next step was to book a room not too far from Nainital. Especially not in Nainital, a small crowded bustling town that is not really charming for my taste. Fortunately there are a lot of ‘boutique hotels’ in the area. Soulitude knew how to seduce me, by its name, by its website mentioning ‘star gazing’ as an activity and by its room which had glass ceilings to see the stars. And there was only one room left when I booked three weeks in advance, I saw this as a sign!


Finally the day came to go on our trip. We managed pretty nicely the 9-hour drive separating the mountains of Uttarakhand from Gurgaon. A smooth trip, with baby Samurai quite quiet. Immediately upon arrival we went for a walk; and I was a little worried because the sky was quite cloudy. Okay Indians can do impossible stuff but even if they manage to see the stars with the Sun, I was pretty sure that clouds would be an obstacle!

The next day, the sky is a bit clear and we drive two hours to go to the Observatory. At the time of the appointment, not one living soul in sight. Ah wait, I see a guard. Who, even if he doesn’t seem to understand what we are doing here, tells us that the team is having lunch and that it might take a while because they have no car and that the dining hall is pretty far. So we offer to do the taxi.

The Chief Scientist assigned to us isn't here. Instead we have an assistant computer engineer. Showing us a little video on the history of the Observatory. Then he takes us to the beast. And... voilà! In fact of stars we got to watch a telescope. No comment.

The hotel had no human scale telescope; as activity, they had just a guest coming regularly with his own material to take pictures. But the sky was beautiful, more than in Gurgaon. Even if the end of the winter (mid-February) is not the best season to go, as clouds form with the warming of earth.

And also Soulitude is mostly just a name: it is built between two other houses, and work is ongoing. Nevertheless the hotel is very nice (especially our room a bit away from the main building), the staff helpful and the food very good.

We both love the mountains of this corner of the India, so no regrets, it was a great weekend, one of those who comes with a price (namely a 2 day drive on Indian roads)!

PS: Come to think if it, I must have mistaken between an Observatory and planetarium? 

Kumaon Hills

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inde,uttarakhand,nainital,observatory,étoiles,kumaon hills

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Uttarakhand, what else?? Garwahl

We left Kumaon from Kathgodam and embarked on a night train journey to Derhadun.


(On a side note: the 4th passenger of our cabin came in at around 20:30 when we had already switched off the lights. He settled down, had his food and then lied down. Half an hour later, he received a phone call and talked for like 20 minutes, totally undisturbed (but damm disturbing), comfortable on its berth. My mother finally asked him “hey, you could be polite??” Obviously the type did not give a shit and went on talking loudly for the next 10 minutes. And I think he did not even understand the remark of my mother!! Where in the Western world, “our freedom stopped where that of the other starts”, in India, our freedom does not stop…)


And here we are, catapulted on the heights of Rishikesh, in a “trendy” hotel-spa, Ananda in the Himalayas. With a program: spa treatments, yoga, meditation, pramayana, ayurvedic consultation, healthy food and green areas as far as the eye can see. The children below 14 are not allowed: calm guaranteed!!

It is a little odd to see all the guests walking around in white salwar-kameez provided by the hotel to ensure a maximum of comfort. It certainly is comfortable but you feel like you are in a psychiatric hospital!!


My pictures are below:  


Garwahl hills, Uttarakhand - Août 2011


Thank you Ananda!!


Uttarakhand, what else?? Kumaon

As soon as we left Kathgodam station – my parents slowly recovering of their first night train journey in India –  and began our ascent (in the car) towards Ramgarh, I felt transported to the universe of Tarun Tejpal (see in my list of books The Alchemy of Desire). And I was not mistaken! When I checked this morning, I found out that Ramgarh is just about fifty kilometers of Jeokilote…

I wish I could quote the book here, but I read it in French…


The head in the clouds…

With 1.700 meters of altitude, our bungalow, perched on a hill, offered a view from above on the valley. With white clouds as cottin balls coming up and invading us every here and then we really felt “cut from the world.”


Rest of the soul…

Nothing else to do but eat, play, read, practice yoga (I am quite focused when I start something), trek – with the risk of getting caught by a torrential downpour. What more serene and beautiful than rains in the mountains??


Incredible gardens and orchards (peaches, apples, apricots, strawberries, plums, pomegranates and many more fruits), an exceptional flora, superb odors after the rain… “We were smelling, we were looking around, we were listening, we were existing.”


My pictures are below:


Kumaon Hills, Uttarakhand - Aout 2011


And since Tarun Tejpal recommends to go up there listening to Mohammad Rafi, here is one of his songs: Aa Zara Mere Hamnasheen : 



Thank you Neemrana !!


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