Visiting The Ffort Klub At Raichak

I never knew The River Ganges is so wide and beautiful here till I visited this place which I had never heard of before. After my visit I quote: If you are looking for solitude this is the place for you. It is right on the banks of this river and hence the name: “Raichak on Ganges.” It houses 4 resorts, 5 restaurants, a spa and a huge activity zone, 6-7 swimming pools, all encapsulated in its 100 acre stretch. Built in Anglo-Indian style, the Ffort Holiday Klub is a Dutch fort converted into a five-star property. We went there in September 2012. A two-hour drive from Kolkata warned us of the bad traffic snarls. But once we entered the resort the ambience and the property ingredients of the entire complex felt serene and tranquil. It refreshed body, mind and soul. You need to just synchronize your pace with the flow of the Ganges which looks sublime in its moods of rain and sunshine.

And, now is the time to take you to our lovely holiday experience. The first shot from my camera was of the majestic uninhibited drive on a 1.5 km driveway with imposing tall trees on either side that led to The Suites. We are always in awe when we share our holiday experiences with friends. This couple wanted to have a feel of one such holiday with us, so this time we booked a holiday in the East. My husband and I arrived there a day before our check-in date. Next day the four of us set out to a 55 km journey from here. For the people living in Kolkata, it is a place where all the big conferences and fashion shows were held. They had heard about the place but they knew nothing beyond that, and hence they wondered how a week at one place would be like? Their trepidation was to the extent that they advised us if they did not like the place they would cut short their trip. (Wait, what they said in the end!) For a moment, their wavered thoughts clouded my mind though we were sure that a lovely holiday awaited us. With our car trunk full of bags we left around 2.30pm.

Day 1: A board with the resort’s name and an entry arrow to the resort brought the first glow on our faces. It was 4.45pm. I had the first welcome note when I heard a gurgling sound of running water just outside the corridor. What a therapeutic effect! As we entered apartment the furniture came alive and said a non-verbal hello. Soon we got settled and with our huge stock of ready-made snacks we all enjoyed a hot cup of coffee. The dinner at the restaurant was a huge satisfaction. The decor was warm and staff was friendly. After-mint was so tasty, that I had my palm full! It was a weekday so the guest number was thin.

Day 2: There was no hurry to leave the bed. However, you cannot sleep till late when you are in the East India. I woke up at 5.30am and headed for a walk. No sooner did I take a few steps away from my apartment, I heard the cooing of birds. I cooed in return. And, that was fun! It was a joyous sight to see the volume of the rejoinder rise with every successive mimic. I got myself familiar with surroundings. The resort is huge with lovely in-roads and greenery in plenty. We walked down a straight road and believe me the bungalows and apartments on either side were so inviting that I gave a hell of a time to my cervical spine turning left to right, and right to left. Wish I had a chameleon’s vision!

I cannot do without my laptop and internet connection. Even on a holiday I need it. Besides the daily picture upload, I do not allow my passion of journal writing part with me. Reliance mobile modem connectivity was not so efficient, so while in the apartment we just chatted, played cards and watched my friend paint. Post breakfast, we requested for a golf cart to take us around the vast spreading resort for it could not have been easy for our happy feet. The cart glided noiselessly through the property.

Nestled in the greenery and natural habitat, our first destination was Ganga Kutir. This resort left me in trance. The virgin natural beauty of the place just on the banks of the river, with dominating presence of mangrove vegetation. Armed myself with camera I got myself photographed sitting between its infinity pool and the river. I gazed at the river rolling by and silently murmured a nature poem. I also had fun watching two ducklings floating graciously on the pond. A cow shed was a rare treat for the urban eyes. I wanted to go close but the wet grass refused to take me there.

Ganga Sundarawasalais was another beauty packed pocket of cottages. An amazing assemblage of pool cottages where you just open your apartment door and take a plunge! Phew! Isn’t it worth being there? What an experience! O My! I just kept imagining a cool lap in that serene pool.

A yet another collection of theme based country homes in its premises were GangaAwas amidst green surroundings. Imagine a private pool with every apartment. Want to buy? You decide, while I count how many pools are there on the upper terrace. I counted three here and seven pools in the entire resort, all beautifully done. These upper terrace pools overlooked the Ganges and clearly defined the concept of infinity pools. All along the pools a vast area was laid out for dining. We stopped for lunch at one of its restaurants.

The beauty of this restaurant was such that you have to go there to believe me. Sitting in the restaurant I almost felt I was being part of The Ganges. There was a constant flow of slow-moving cargo ships and you have the waves joining in. Coupled with it were lush gardens and the happy smiles of the staff who served sumptuous food. It was ecstatic to find a blend of nature and artificial beauty. The chilled beer was another shot in the arm. The day rolled into a quiet evening. We rested for a while in our room, watched TV. The mock-tails and cocktails with sumptuous fish were like icing on the cake. I was as happy as a clam.

Day 3: The portable modem did not work well. So, they complied with my request and the service staff shifted us to another apartment. Since it was our second ‘home’ in the same resort there was a new vigor and cheerfulness. I organized my things. The 3rd day flew with wings. With playing cards and room service menu card by our side and chicken snacks to go over a glass of chilled beer, I felt like a ‘yummy mummy.’

Day 4: This place acts as a link between the metro city, Kolkata and Haldia which is a commercial town on the other side of the river. It is a major trade port for the metro intended mainly for bulk cargoes. The ferry point is 1.5 km from the resort. We took our car, parked it near the jetty point and got us into the launch. The resort’s Ferry boat was under maintenance so we took the one which was the life line of locals there. In 20 minutes with a breeze on our faces, we cruised at 30 mph and reached Haldia. We hired a cab for Rs. 1200/- that picked us from the jetty point, took us to 27 mph long drive up to the port and left us back in the evening at the same point. It was fun to witness the hide and seek of rain God. By the time we reached back we were dog tired and preferred skipping dinner and retired to a deep slumber.

Day 5: Even on the fifth day, there was still much left to explore. A collection of swimming pool area, the vast gym capsule, lounge area, and a fun zone coupled with the massive floor chess at the entrance was good fun. An orient restaurant on the pool side served sinful Chinese, and a souvenir shop with good visual merchandise had besides books, a rich assemblage of apparel, hand crafted curios, and wall paintings from Bengal and North East. Having played indoor games, we ended the day with another dinner. What one marvels in the beauty of this resort was its landscaped greenery against the backdrop of the river. Constructed on an old fort theme, it houses a well laid out museum. This entire structure has 130 year old narrow bricks which are typical of historic forts giving it the look of a beautiful 18th century fort. The spa bore a perfect image for my camera lens. Overhead bells at the gate and the wonder creation in a water bowl with floral motives bunched into an intricate pattern was something I admired. The creator definitely deserved an award for this. However, the services at the spa were a trifle pricey.

Day 6: We luxuriated for five days, it was the day devoted to the last-minute photo session around ‘The Suites.’ My camera was constantly in action since the scenic beauty was so vast that it wanted to click almost every ten steps of the area! I marveled the greenery of different foliage and stopped by to appreciate the various sculptures interspersed around the pocket gardens. This day we had also driven past Diamond Harbor. The Ganges is very wide here for the picnickers delight to watch river at its most serene with vastness. You could see as far as your eyes could go. However, the ice-cream on the road tasted like mud. As we drove further into interior villages, we saw a long stretch of ponds all along the two sides of narrow lanes which is a very familiar sight in suburbs. Greens seemed to have just bathed in the rain. We took glimpses of villagers getting ahead with their daily lives. While someone was weaving, another could be seen sifting wheat, and the third carrying a child on the waist. A four-wheeler was an alien to kids.

Day 7: It was time to say good-bye. We felt a sense of pleasant pain of parting with resort’s grandeur, the lush gardens and the charming hospitality. Even after a gap of four months these are still vivid in my mind. I stitched together my wonderful memories, and tried to paint the account on this canvas with a hope that just like our friends who await to holiday here with their American kids, you too would book a holiday here. And, if you still ask how I rated this resort, I would say you were joking.

Turning Stone Casino And Resort Review

Turning Stone Casino is a venture run by the Oneida Indian Nation. The primary premises opened up in 1993 with 130 table games, Ruby Buffet restaurant and a coffee shop. The Casino employed about 1,800 people at that time. More or less 500,000 people frequent the new attraction for the first two months of operations. In 1995, the gaming floor offered 50 instant multi-game machines, which replaced the standard slots. In 1996, the gaming floor expanded with the construction of new hotel, restaurants and retail shops.

In 1997, the new hotel opens to the public which include numerous new restaurants Emerald, Crystals Diner, Forest Grill Steakhouse, Pino Bianco Trattoria and Opals Confectionery became new dining destinations in the resort. An additional 147 table games and 1,200 instant multi-game machines were added. Also, the workforce increased to 2,850 workers. In 1998, poker room was opened at the main area of the resort.

In 2003, a 2-year $308 million expansion program starts with the development of phase I. This expansion includes a 98-suite hotel, a luxury spa and 2,400-car garage. Turning Stone Casino is located between Utica and Rome, Central New york and is regarded as the fifth largest tourist attraction in the state of New York. It has some 4.5 million visitors yearly mostly from United States and Canada.

From its humble beginnings as small bingo parlor in 1979, it has become a major gaming and golf destination in the states. Offering high stakes bingo, live poker, 103 table games for players. Casino games include craps, roulette, blackjack, pai gow poker, mini Baccarat, Cashless instant mutli-games, video keno and pull tabs. In order to be able to gamble you need to be 18 yrs. old and above.

There are twenty two poker tables available for up to two hundred plus poker aficionados. Four different types of poker are played. The Casino also sponsors poker tournaments and special events. They also offers high stakes bingo. Turning Stone is in fact one of the top ten bingo halls in the entire America, with bingo games offered from morning until night, range from $10 to $60. For level 1, the payout starts at $250 and go as high as $3,000 for level 3.

The Don Cesar Hotel – the Pink Palace

On a recent December visit to the Don Cesar Hotel and Resort, our group met with Resort Host and Certified Concierge, Ronald MacDougall. As concierge, Mr. MacDougall assures that each guest has the finest experience during their stay at the Don Cesar. In his position as concierge, he has assisted many of the VIPs that have visited the historic pink hotel on the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg, Florida. Those guests have included Mariah Carry, Carole King, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Buffet, as well as many of the visiting Presidents.

Our private tour began in the main bar and lounge, which at this time of the year is beautifully decorated for the holiday season. The majestic dark wood bar, couches and large leather chairs make this the perfect place to sit back, relax and imagine yourself in another era, the early glory days of the Pink Palace.

The story of the Don Cesar Hotel or Pink Lady, as Thomas Rowe liked to call the hotel, begins at the beginning as all good stories do. It was a vision of Thomas J. Rowe to create a monument to a lost love.

This part of the story begins in London where rumor would have it that the young Thomas Rowe, while attending a university, attended the opera “Maritana” where he became infatuated with the female lead, Lucinda, a beautiful Spanish opera singer.They met each night after her performance beside a fountain in London.

Plans were made to elope. On the night that they were to leave, Lucinda did not show and Rowe was left waiting by the fountain. Her parents were made aware of the pending marriage and forced Lucinda to return home to Spain. Lucinda was reported to have died at a young age, but sent this letter to Thomas containing this passage. “Time is infinite, I wait for you by the fountain to share our timeless love,…our destiny is time. ” Well, if it didn’t happen that way, it should have.

Returning to the United States, Thomas Rowe built commercial buildings in New York. He later moved to Norfolk, Virginia, there he met Mary Lucille, the daughter of a rich landowner. Thomas married Mary and began the life of a socialite.

At the age of 47 with his health declining, Thomas Rowe elected to relocate to a more hospitable climate. Leaving his wife in Virginia, he decided on Florida and in particular St Petersburg, Florida, which was experiencing a real estate boom. Arriving with $21,000.00, Rowe began purchasing property.

Real Estate development was hot in the early 1920’s and Thomas Rowe partnered with another former Norfolk socialite and land developer, a Mr. Page. He and Page formed the Boca Ciega Land Company for the purchase of land.

Mr. Page developed the land on the north side of Johns Pass and the family still lives in Madeira Beach.

Rowe amassed a small fortune and while visiting an isolated stretch of undeveloped beach in the area known as Pass-A-Grille. Pass-A-Grille was named for the 18 century “grilleurs” who dried fish on the white beaches. This was a very remote and rugged landscape. Access from the mainland was by a wooden bridge. On these white sands beside the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico, Thomas Rowe envisioned his dream resort. Against the advice of many in his circle, Thomas Rowe purchased 80 acres on these shores. Soon a residential subdivision was built and each street was named for a character from the opera Maritana.

In 1926 construction began on his dream resort. Rowe hired architect Henry DuPont to design the project. One obstacle that had to be overcome was the massive structure would be sitting on sand. A floating foundation was devised and its success is reflected in the fact that the foundation has not shifted in the past 82 years.

Another obstacle was transporting construction material. The bridge as earlier mentioned was older and manned by an older bridge keeper who was not always reliable, opening the bridge when he was in the mood. Construction material was placed on a barge and brought to the site bypassing the bridge.

A railroad strike that year drove up costs of construction and after finishing the exterior and interior of the resort, Thomas Rowe ran out of money to furnish the hotel. A backer was needed to save the venture. H.P. Churchill would provide the money, but he had a stipulation. He would name the manager. It was agreed and the Don Cesar had its Grand Opening in 1927, with the some of the wealthiest people in America attending.

It was lavish and plush in the Grand Lobby. Thomas Rowe had constructed a replica of the fountain similar to the one where he,as a student, would rendezvous with the beautiful Lucinda. The fountain would be the first thing that guests would see after climbing the entry stairway into the lobby and was the center- piece of the resort. Modeled after the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach, the Don Cesar Resort was a vision, standing on the sands of Pass-A-Grille. Thomas Rowe liked to call the hotel the Pink Lady.

The main entrance into the resort was on Gulf Blvd. with two lion statues and a sign stating “Come All Ye Who Seek Health and Rest. For Here They Are Abundant.” The original staircase is hidden, but is located where the Ice Cream Shop is now situated on the first floor.

As luck would have it, the timing could not have been worse; the economy entered what became known as the Great Depression. Fortunately for the hotel, an agreement with the New York Yankees baseball team was secured for housing the players during spring training which helped the resort stay solvent.

Thomas Rowe moved into one of the two penthouses in the Don Cesar. Everyday Rowe would station himself in a chair in the lobby, talking with visitors and staff and taking stock of the guests. Guests who did not meet a certain standard of dress or manners and speech were asked to leave the hotel. It was not an era of political correctness.

Then in 1940, Thomas Rowe collapsed in the lobby. He refused to be taken to the hospital, so he was moved into adjoining rooms 101 and 102. There he stayed until his death. Rowe attempted to get a will witnessed by his attended nurses, but they refused. This reported Will would have left the Pink Lady in the hands of the staff. As it happened, Thomas Rowe’s wife, Mary, gained control of the Don Cesar. The resort fell on hard times. Then in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a vacation at the beach was not as attractive. People became afraid of attack from the ocean and soon the guests stopped arriving. The U.S. government purchased the Don Cesar and converted the resort for use as a convalescent center for members of the US Army Air Corp. suffering from shell shock and injuries from the war.

One casualty of the transfer of ownership was the fountain in the main lobby. The manager of the converted building was concerned that one of the visitors would trip over the fountain and ordered it removed.

Later the Don Cesar was used for government offices and was finally left abandoned and fell into disrepair. A movement began to have the resort leveled and removed. A counter movement lead by local resident and activist June Hardy Young began to restore the Don Cesar. The later movement was successful and a new owner for the resort was located. William Bowman purchased the resort and in 1973, the resort was reopened. During the remodeling, a replica of the original fountain was placed on the fifth floor.

Our tour included the penthouses, which were vacant at the time of our visit, and the Presidential Suite where every President has stayed since 1940. The penthouses have a spectacular view of St. Petersburg, the gulf beaches and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Of course if you decide to stay in one these penthouses, it will set you back around $3500.00 a night.

The Don Cesar is a beautiful resort with two swimming pools, exercise room and a new spa. Opened just recently, the 11,000 sq ft Spa Oceana is a state of the art spa. Guests can have a massage, get in the whirlpool and sauna, and then have a lunch on the roof of the spa building overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

If you go, ask the reservationist if there are any specials. On our visit, we received a preseason rate and were very happy with our stay.

The resort is co-owned and operated by the Loews Hotels chain.