ADVENTURES WITH THE Q5…

The second generation Q5 was Audi’s first launch of the year. Launched in 2011 the Q5 ticked all the right boxes for SUV buyers, making it an instant success. In the last few years SUV’s have become an important category for every luxury car manufacturer. We Indians love SUV’s. And Audi gets it right each time with their Q series.

COLLAGE First.jpgThe 2018 Q5 is taut, sleek and more compact in its appearance compared to the previous model. The one-piece square grille and headlights with the LED DRL’s is what you first notice when viewing the car front on. There is a sharpness to the crease where it joins the tail light, which is new compared to the old Q5. The all-LED headlights are brilliant while driving in the night and offer very good illumination.

The moment you step inside the cabin you are greeted with a familiar looking steering wheel, 3 zone air-conditioning and a huge 12.3-inch instrument cluster display. The views which can be switched around, are superb to look at and use. The 8.3-inch display that sits atop the dashboard comes without a touchscreen feature which is good, as it one less thing to distract the driver while driving. The resolution is crisp and sharp. One must use the rotary knob on the centre console to access it. MMI scribble pad with 8 short cuts are on offer as well to use the screen for the on-board navigation.COLLAGE 5.jpgThe cabin has very good noise insulation. The air-conditioning has a smart feature, that it can detect which part of the SUV is getting direct sunlight, thus adjusting the temperature accordingly. Safety is always of the highest standards in Audi cars. The Q5 comes with 8 airbags, park assist system and a 360-degree camera. Seats are plush looking and extremely comfortable which is fantastic when driving long distances. But only the driver’s seat gets a memory function.COLLAGE 4.jpgNowadays luxury SUV’s in India come with huge sunroofs. The Q5 has one of the largest I have seen. Something one can use in the winters while driving on empty highway roads. Lots and lots of legroom is on offer for both front and rear passengers. Recline the rear seat back and you get even more comfort. The boot space is 550 litres. Fold the rear seat back, and one gets an additional 1,000 litres to play with!COLLAGE 2.jpgCOLLAGE 3.jpgThe Q5 has an inline four cylinder, 2.0-litre diesel engine which offers 190PS and 400Nm. Step on the throttle slightly and the Q5 responds with brisk acceleration. Power delivery is smooth and refined. Driving it on the expressway early in the morning with practically no traffic gave me a first-hand experience of the power that’s available. O-100kmph was very fast, making one forget that you are driving an almost 2-tonne SUV!

The Audi Drive Select offers Dynamic, Comfort and a dedicated off-road mode. In the off-road mode, the moment you go off the tarmac the engine performance changes. Throttle response becomes duller, one can see a marked improvement in the traction. Quattro also helps the Q5 put its power down better, thereby enabling better acceleration and improving grip levels. The adaptive suspension gets taut in Dynamic mode in regard to handling, while in the Comfort mode the ride quality is far plusher. Steering feedback is very good, engine performance, responsive transmission with an adaptive suspension that handles bad road easily make the Q5 a very impressive SUV

We visited Della Resorts in Lonavala, a well-known and popular resort for weekend getaways out of Mumbai. Started in 1996 Della has become one of the must visit resorts in the region. Jimmy Mistry a renowned architect is the driving force and inspiration behind the resort. Della is well known for its adventure and adrenaline filled activities and is India’s biggest extreme adventure park. There are 50 plus adventure activities on offer.COLLAGE 6.jpgDella offers India’s only Swoop swing (100 ft.), India’s Longest Flying Fox(1250ft.), 5 kinds of zorbing and 700cc Yamaha raptor ATV . The other activities one can partake in are Archery, Rocket Ejector, Motocross dirt bike riding, Buggy Ride, Paintball and Rappelling.

Driving the Q5 on empty roads in and around Lonavala over the weekend on all sorts of roads made me come back with one realisation. If anyone is in the market to buy a plush midsize luxury SUV, look no further. The Audi Q5 is the SUV for you.COLLAGE last.jpgThe pricing starts at 55.27 lakhs for the Q5 35TDI Premium Plus Diesel and the Q5 Premium Plus 2.0 TFSI Petrol. All prices are ex-showroom Mumbai.

SKODA OCTAVIA – The “CULT” FAVOURITE

When the Skoda Octavia was launched in 2002 it changed the game for performance sedans in this country. Prior to that if an enthusiast was looking for something exciting he/she looked abroad, or modified the existing cars available then. The Octavia since then has gone on to develop a massive cult following. When Skoda announced their latest face lift of the Octavia last year it was met with lots of enthusiasm. Worldwide, Skoda has sold over 50 lakh units of the Octavia.COLLAGE 1.jpgThe Octavia has a split-headlamp cluster called the Quadra LED headlights. The reason for this name is because they are split into four compartments with the low and high beams being separated. LED daytime running lights and fog lamps on the bumper are part of the kit. There is a chrome strip running across the bumper which gives the car a premium finish. The grille is glossy black, with some creases across the hood which weren’t there in the earlier version. The front fenders are far more sculpted adding to the muscular look of the Octavia. The tail lamps at the rear are LED units with a rear bumper that has been revised too.COLLAGE 2.jpgOne of the new features the Octavia gets is the Park Pilot. Once you activate this, the car manoeuvres itself while parking. The driver still plays a role applying the brakes whenever necessary. There are proximity sensors all over the car with the customary reverse parking camera.

Step into the car and the first thing you notice is the new 9 inch infotainment scree with capacitive touch. The interface is very smooth and fast with a resolution ratio of 800×480. The Octavia comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link to pair your phone with. Skoda has an app called “Boss Connect”. This app lets owners who usually sit in the rear seat control the infotainment system from there.COLLAGE 4.jpgThere’s ambient lighting with 10 colours on offer as well!  One can increase and decrease the brightness of the lights in the footwell and doors. A panoramic sunroof is also part of the package. Two USB ports for rear passengers below the rear AC vent are there as well. The interiors are extremely plush and classy with soft-touch plastics and a beige/black two-tone colour scheme.  Lots of leg room and space in the cabin make this a very comfortable space, where one can spend long hour driving or being driven around.COLLAGE 3.jpgThe Octavia comes with two engine variants, the 1.8-litre TSI and the 2.0-litre TDI.  I drove the diesel variant and boy or boy what an engine. All the Skoda cars I have driven in the past have been amongst the best driver cars in terms of performance. So much power is available through the power band.  This comes with the legendary 6 speed DSG gearbox. If there was a lifetime achievement award given to a gearbox, the DSG would win it hands down. That’s how good it is. The power and torque output is 140.8 bhp and 320 Nm. The claimed mileage is 19.3 kmpl.

Safety which is hallmark with all VW family cars sees the base trim of the Octavia get 4 airbags. The top trim gets 8 airbags with dual airbags upfront and at the sides. ABS, EBD and traction control are standard across the variants.

We drove with the Octavia to Kamshet. It’s located 120 kms from Mumbai along the Mumbai – Pune Expressway.  Driving the Octavia on empty roads early in the morning was the perfect demonstration of the handling prowess of the car. Acceleration is rapid, before you realise it, the Octavia is touching three digit speeds. To get to Kamshet one must take the 2nd Lonavala exit and get on to the Mumbai – Bangalore Highway.COLLAGE 5.jpgIt’s a picturesque hill station in the Western Ghats, which is renowned for paragliding and flying schools. Kamshet is regularly featured in the top 10 must visit destinations adventure junkies. Driving in these natural scenic surrounding on narrow roads was a refreshing break from the highway. In Kamshet one can enjoy the surroundings and have a closer look at the village life of India with muddy huts and village markets. The area is surrounded by paddy and sunflower fields and it provides an awesome view while you are enjoying the world class paragliding facilities here.

After spending a day of taking in the sights it was time to head back. This was a day well spent driving one of my favourite car to a location that is still untouched by development.lastPricing for the Skoda Octavia starts at 18.91 Lakhs for the 1.4 TSI Ambition Petrol Manual and 21.79 Lakhs for the 2.0 TDI CR Ambition Diesel Manual. Prices are on road Price (inclusive of GST), Mumbai.

 

Florence’s “cucina povera” is deliciously rich

“Oh, my poor darlings,” cries the proprietor at Da Nerbone, a butchers’ stand in the heart of the San Lorenzo Market in Florence. “You’ve been waiting for such a very long time.”

Tara Isabella Burton

Blog by Tara Isabella Burton- Travel Writer

He shoots me a wink. Da Narbone is one of the most famous purveyors of Florence’s famed lampredotto: tender, broth-infused tripe made from the fourth stomach of a cow.

On this spring afternoon, the lines – an equal number of suitcase-toting tourists en route to the nearby train station and agitated locals – snake out the market door for this classic example of cucina povera(“kitchen of the poor”): traditional Florentine peasant cuisine now reimagined as the paragon of local Florentine fare.

Despite the hordes of tourists, Da Nerbone has never raised its prices; for around 5 euro, I get a crusty rose-shaped bun moistened with broth, several forkfuls of sizzling lampredotto, and a piquant chilli sauce. I eat it walking out of the marketplace, elbowing past so many other tourists, workers, stall-sellers of Florentine leather and Chinese toys.

My lips burn from the peperoncino – but boy, it’s worth it.

Above article reposted from TRVL.com 

OUT-Ventures Dope : 

What is Cucina Povera?

“Cucina Povera”, which essentially means “peasant food” (literally “poor cooking” or “poor kitchen”) are mostly always made using super simple recipes, containing a minimal of ingredients. Usually, the products and seasonal and locally grown. As you would probably guess, those ingredients must be the best quality. There’s nothing to hide the lack of flavor otherwise.

Cucina povera recipes are the antitheses of American “Italian” chain restaurant’s dishes. If you enjoy this type of  menu, that’s totally fine, just know that there is essentially nothing on it that is truly Italian.

dishes of food at Il Contadino cucina povera recipes

Traditional Italian food is not smothered in sauces, tons of cheese and/or “lots of herbs and spices”. Those are American concoctions. Authentic Italian dishes are mostly light, include lots of vegetables, very little cheese (even on pizza) and are very healthy/nutritious.

If you wish to know more on Cucina Povera recipes, please visit :
https://www.christinascucina.com

Beach Bumming in Phuket

In all my 15 years of traveling to South East Asia and of which 12 years to Thailand, I can only say that I have fallen head-over-heels with this Land of Smiles and especially its beaches. I simply cannot get over the sunsets over the Andaman when viewed from the western coast of Phuket and so much so, it has led me to buy my own home on the island. Though the following listing is in no order of preference, I do have my personal weaknesses for a few of them, and I am sure you will feel my leaning towards them in my blog below;

1. Nai Thon Beach

Nai Thon
Nai Thon, Pic Courtesy: Surajit Mitra

Starting from the north of the island, and just about 10 minutes from the airport is Nai Thon Beach which is closest to peaking on my list.  A narrow stretch of sand fringed with leaning coconut trees makes up this very pristine beach, usually frequented by the residents and guests of the few condos and resorts nearby. Definitely not featuring on the touristy listings handed out by hotels and agencies, this beach can spoil one’s senses just by the color of its water and its white sand. Freckled by few nice restaurants and massage shops across the parallel road, the area has only a handful of commercial joints to get bothered by. The best way to reach here from the main Phuket strip is through the lush jungle road connecting the beach to Laguna, another premier Phuket area.

2. BangTao Beach

bangtao
Bangtao, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

Driving into Laguna from Nai Thon, one should head to BangTao Beach & Layan Beach, which again are god’s gifts to beach lovers like me. BangTao in particular is a favourite amongst the expats living in and around Laguna and hosts world class beach clubs like Catch Beach Club etc. This beach is also one of the reasons why many expats choose to buy properties in the area and due to its non-commercialized nature, provide the much need peace and exclusivity, unlike the Patong Beach in the entertainment zone of Phuket. BangTao is also one of my favourite beaches for a sundowner and some fresh seafood but one has to accept the slightly higher prices of F&B which have been kept keeping in mind the clientele visiting.

3. Kamala Beach

kamala
Kamala Beach, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

Although rom BangTao, further down south of the island, one would pass Surin Beach first,  and I choose to give it a pass. Not because it is not pretty, but due to the fact that it’s slightly more commercialized. Therefore, my next stop is Kamala Beach which is, by far, the most sought after address in Phuket today. Due to the beautiful waters, long stretch of sand and a lovely view into the bay, it has become the favourite of many high end resorts and condo developments. However, it is not surprising to note that even at almost a 100% premium on real estate prices here as compared to rest of Phuket, there are hardly any available inventory to buy. Very aptly, the Millionaires Mile which is a winding beach hugging drive peppered with the swankiest of resorts and residential properties, is a must pass-through for anyone driving through. Kamala also has many bars & restaurants on the main road, and the famous Phuket Fantasea show is right there as well.

 4. Freedom Beach

freedom
Freedom Beach, Pic Courtesy: Surajit Mitra

A short drive from Kamala brings you to a very non-descriptive point on the road, where only the initiated will know of a rough path leading up a hill. Drive for around 10 mins on a bone-rattling path, to reach a gate where the local caretakers of the zone will ask for 200 baht (foreigners) as entry fee. If you see, none of the other beaches charge a fee but Freedom Beach demands it. The most hidden and private beach in all of Phuket is a golden strip of sand with calm lagoon-like waters with very very (I mean very few) visitors at all. It requires a walk down a steep gravel path to reach the beach and is also accessible through the sea from Patong as well. There are loungers available for 100 baht and a small restaurant serving beers and basic Thai food. One can spend a few leisurely hours here without any vendors bothering you with their wares and also the calm clear waters allows for a swimming pool experience and also is a great place to snorkel as well. Be prepared for a sweaty trek back to the parking lot where one gets rewarded with a free bottle of chilled water to replenish ones energies. Clearly one of the best I have seen so far in Phuket.

5. Karon Beach & Kata Noi

karon
Karon Beach, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

My next stop would be Karon Beach & Kata Noi. Passing the maddening stretch called Patong, one drives through some beautiful hilly roads to reach Karon Beach, an ideal wide beach for summer bummers and also for surfing. This beach is one of the few where one can surf with waves coming in as mountains. Lots of summer umbrellas and lots of parking spaces makes this an easy visit. The main road is stashed with eateries and shopping areas, and my favourite here is the fresh food market. There are few live music bars where a few beers with Pink Floyd playing to the retreating sun is an experience hard to forget. Stay back for dinner at Kata Noi area where there are amazing fresh food joints serving OMG sized lobsters and the likes. Kata Noi is also a relatively smaller beach, where one, during the day, can spend time lolling around in calm clear waters.

Kata Noi Beach, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

6. Nai Harn Beach

nai harn
Nai Harn, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

Further down south, one reaches the southernmost tip of the island and at Nai Harn Beach. This gem of a beach is inside a nook and thus doesn’t get any major waves or currents. I read somewhere that it features amongst the top 5 beaches in the world. Well, it doesn’t surprise me at all as the beach itself is like a painting, allowing you to take in the sights and sounds while sipping on a San Miguel in one of the few lovely cafes on it. Very few tourists and mostly sun-loungers as visitors, it makes for a very family friendly visit. There are also very few hotels or residential complexes around so much lesser crowds as compared to many others.

Apart from the above there are many more beautiful beaches like Mai Khao, Nai Yang, Paradise Beach etc in Phuket but I have always enjoyed by visits to the above listed few and will continue to visit them in the years to come. No wonder Phuket is called the Pearl of the Andamans and I will vouch for every letter in that description.