Perfect for a 2-3 night stay, Citrus County can be used as a connection from Amritsar to
Dharamshala (100Kms) or heading further up to Manali.
Ambience & Accommodation:
You'll feel yourself relax as soon as you are greeted by the hosts, no one can slip away from Harkirat's charm and easy attitude. Laid back and low key, the estate is spread out and it seems like the hosts have been doing this for years - but in good way. The main villa that houses the family and 3 guest rooms stands at the entrance shielding the large lawn that has 9 comfortable tents facing the main house.
The tents stand on a raised, cemented embankment and are equipped with all modern amenities that one may require - warmly furnished, cozy beds, air-conditioners and heaters, kettles for tea and coffee, a writing desk, a large well lit attached washroom (with hot and cold running water) and private sit-outs for morning tea or to just read. Having stated the comforts in the room, it's probably correct to mention that during your time in the estate (after your activities), the hosts are wonderfully engaging and will have you entertained and interested enough to keep you away from your tents. If conversations and stories on Sikh history, biking tours, farming development and travel stories are not particularly your cup of tea (or going by the setting, glass of orange juice!), the inviting pool on the other side of the tents and villa will tempt you for a few dips and to an afternoon of lounging while sipping on their signature freshly squeezed citrus and vodka cocktail.
For those who would like the idea of a contained stay, there are 3 guest rooms on offer on the first floor of the main villa. The rooms are larger and also come with an added amenity of a television set and is recommended for guests who would like a more intense interaction with the family (there are a few who prefer the rooms to the tents here) but if one of to pick, the tents are better suited for the experience and are also offer more privacy.
Service & Cuisine:
The adjacent open dining tent is renowned for its traditional gourmet menu and cook-outs on slow traditional fire that often spill over to late night conversations over coffee or wine with a cindered bon-fire on the side. Kebabs, saag chicken, curry mutton, palak paneer, local fish, channa pindi, fresh seasonal vegetables are part of the menu along with home-made pinni, puddings and orange cakes. Both Harkirat and his wife Jasveen are superb cooks and manage the kitchen with locally trained staff but it is Harkirat’s father who is the actual ‘battrie de cuisine’ here, a die-hard foodie he is often seen discussing menus with Jasveen and will often send his delicate preparation of meats and biryanis for the guests to sample. The food is so fabulous that you should leave any intent of following a diet plan at home and wholeheartedly indulge.
The service is simple and charming; a break from the routine hotel management staff, Citrus County has a retinue of efficient girls who have been trained by Jasveen for house-keeping and kitchen duties. The rest of the estate is looked after by a set of staff who have been with the family for generations now.
Travel-addicts, Harkirat (also an avid biker) and Beeya believe that the steady flow of guests to Citrus County / Farm is what keeps them grounded to living in Hoshiarpur for long stretches. The well-heeled couple genuinely love their interaction with guests and it is fascinating to see how they seamlessly integrate and involve a guests stay into the daily-about of their lives. A must mention – Harkirat and his father are compulsive cooks and much of the early part of their day is about planning the day’s meals and as testament to the passion, the senior Ahluwalia always runs a successful DHABA on the main highway, serving traditional Punjabi cuisine.
The MECH Review:
If Hoshiarpur does not conjure up images of verdant farm lands and miles of mustard flowers, it is time to go back to see those some ‘evergreen’ Bollywood flicks. We always have a ready list! Presenting, Citrus County -a 70 acre citrus plantation with plenty of sunshine, happiness, hearty Punjabi food and conversation. When you meet the hosts you will know why ‘happiness’ is a big part of Citrus County. Punjab is essentially known for its rich agricultural reserves, cuisine, hearty hospitality and celebration, all of which is exemplified beyond glorious perfection at Citrus County.
Disembark in the sleepy station of Phagwara (2 stations short of Amritsar), a 20 minute drive on the main highway through a regional agrarian economy on the cusp of urbanization takes you towards Chhauni Pind (Pind meaning village), on the edge of Hoshiarpur town. But as you turn off the highway to drive for another 10 minutes, the story and views change - gentle winding tracks, cyclist riding in no particular hurry and acres of cultivation is all you see till you stumble upon a small roundabout beyond which is a handsome gate that opens to welcome you. This is Citrus County, a modern bungalow villa, on the edge of a 70 acre citrus farm.
Harkirat Ahluwalia's family were the principal landowners in this district, a chunk of their land was handed over and donated to the government and villagers right after India's independence. It was then that Harkirat's family decided to convert their remaining farmland into a lucrative citrus plantation. Today the family continues to act as bastions of the genteel culture and also of the adjoining village and is still highly regarded and respected for the contribution to the villages and the shelter they extended to refugees during India and Pakistan’s partition ( 1947).
Experiences and Activities:
Essentially a farm stay, the experience along with the activities on offer will also appeal to the culturally inclined and the adventurous. With large open spaces within an enclosed estate, and an adjoining farm that offers fresh produce the stay is also perfect for yoga and cuisine groups. Highly recommended to families, small groups and for event celebrations. The destination is also gaining popularity among the writers and photographer’s community for the Holla Mohalla festival that happens around Holi.
Citrus County is also a great weekend getaway from Delhi especially for city-dwellers (and families) who want to understand and embrace the country life.
During your stay one can pick from activities that are varied and can be customized for guests. Other than the farm visit, picnic and biking in the farm other activities include - village walks, Sikh history trail, cooking demos, day excursion to Pong Dam for birding, visiting the local school ( supported by the family) and for the more adventurous the 4X4 off-roading experience on dried riverbeds on the base of Shivalik Range / forest.
The MECH effect: The Hearty hospitality, spectacular cuisine, Holla Mohalla festival.
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