Goa had been on my bucket list for the longest time, for almost three decades from the time I graduated from university. But Goa kept getting pushed to the backburner as we holidayed at places that were not on the bucket list.
The Goa trip finally happened early this year, with me in my mid-fifties and my husband a solid sixty. But no regrets about that, this was the first holiday the husband and I took alone since the arrival of our first child some 28 years back.
And it worked!
We were in Goa for five magical days. I had heard a lot from people about the place–and from that, we had formed images of sun-kissed tourists dressed in lovely beach wear, drinking feni and indulging in PDA firmly entrenched in my mind. We landed in Goa all prepared to be the proverbial uncle-ji and aunty-ji, but soon realised that the place just lets you be yourself.Half the charm of the holiday was that we stayed at my husband’s cousin’s place, a retired civil servant who, very wisely, bought himself a very cute villa in north Goa post retirement. He stays half the year in Goa and the other half in Delhi. The six months he is in Goa, family and friends make sure he is never alone.
When we were at his place, his younger brother (another retired civil servant) was also staying with him. Their housekeeper is a very pleasant Nepalese woman who makes the most awesome food. I finally mastered the art of making upma from her, as well as the thinnest and softest moong daal chillas. A young boy, forever smiling, serves as their Man Friday.
Our daughter, considering herself a Goa veteran, had made a detailed day-wise itinerary which included the ‘must see’ spots as per her and her friends. But when we returned from our holiday and exchanged notes, she had a blank look when we mentioned the places we had been to. That’s when I decided to pen my own my list of ‘must-visit Goa spots’ for all kindred souls who want to experience this charming state away from all the normal touristy spots.
These are the places we ate at:
Café Chocolatti is on Fort Aguada Road in Candolim. It is a charming place with outside seating and the sun peeping in through lush green palms and other tropical foliage. We visited twice, both times for our mid-morning coffee. The service is unobtrusive and the atmosphere so sinfully laid back that one is tempted to just sit here for hours.
Amavi by Sumera
Amavi is a fine dining restaurant in Calangute. We visited the place for dinner on our second night. One walks in to the strumming of guitar strings and live singing. The design and decor is very modern and the sitting area spreads endlessly, giving each table enough space and privacy. Chef Sumeru has crafted a detailed European menu and there were interesting dishes even for vegetarians like the four of us.
The Lazy Dog
The Lazy Dog is located at the back of Mandrem beach and is the perfect location to view the beautiful beach. It has comfortable settees and chairs for drinks or dining. The varied menu offers light snacks to a full meal. We sat here for a longish time, watching the setting sun dip into the waters.
A must visit, Mum’s Kitchen is in Panjim. When you enter the place, you feel you are entering someone’s well maintained residence. On both sides of the stoned pathway leading to the restaurant there are narrow, winding ponds, full of pretty fishes and green flora.
Mum’s Kitchen is a celebration of Goan legacy. The recipes have been handed down from one generation to the next. The owner, an elderly, genial gentleman, wandered upto all the tables by turn and indulged in pleasantries with the customers. The kitchen is now run by his son and daughter-in-law. The place also has an extremely well-appointed washroom, proving that small spaces too can be done up well.
Bhojan in Hotel Fidalgo
Fidalgo in Panaji has a restaurant serving authentic Gujariti and Marathi food in huge thalis. Bhojan is a no fuss place with amazing food, which just keeps on coming. Go here on an empty tummy.
The place is located in a forested and well landscaped part of Assagaon. The cafe at Mojigao offers delectable vegetarian and vegan items on the menu, with fresh fruit juices and delicious desserts. This eco haven in Assagao is an essenetial experience.
Places we visited and recommend:
If there is an address to die for in Goa, then it is Altinho Hill. It has a picture-perfect location and offers a splendid view of the city from the hilltop.
It neighbours Panaji and houses the Archbishop's Palace, the house of the Chief Minister, the All India Radio Station and Government Servant Quarters.
Reis Magos Fort
The Reis Magos Fort is located in North Goa. The short walk up from the main road is a delight to traverse. It was originally a fortress, and later used as a jail. The fort is extremely well maintained and probably offers the best views in all of Goa.
Museum of Goa
Another memorable part of our trip to Goa was our visit to the Museum of Goa, a private museum conceptualised by artist Subodh Kerkar. Art exhibitions are held here throughout the year. The day of our visit, Kerkar was at the place, happily mingling with visitors and answering questions. We purchased a lovely print from the souvenir shop. The girl at the shop got it framed in wood for us within fifteen minutes.
Friday Night Market at Little Vagator
The Friday night market is again a must visit, if only to soak in the ambience and atmosphere. It has great live music with DJs and the whole works, food, shops/ stalls. It’s a paid entry, though parking is free. The whole thing is very well organised. What struck me was the disciplined behavior of visitors, none of the rowdiness one may have witnessed in one’s own Delhi.
Mario Miranda’s Gallery
The Mario Gallery in Calangute was an absolute delight. The artist’s body of work is on display, as are curios, posters, cushions, lamp shades, prints etc.
We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours browsing through Mario Miranda’s vision of Goa.
Fab India Gallery in North Goa
We went to Fab India because our host wanted to pick up some spreads. The place is on my list only because it is one of the most well-appointed Fab India outlets, comparable, if not better, to any Fab India outlet in Delhi.
The Fontainhas Walk by Make it Happen
This walk definitely has to be one of the highlights of our trip. Fontainhas is not only the oldest but the largest Latin quarter of Asia. The walk guide was a young, enthusiastic Goan who took us through the whole walk without losing either his smile or his energy.
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Immerse yourself in history as colorful hues guide your path. With @makeithappen.co.in explore Fontainhas, the Old Latin Quarter of Goa. Colorful homes here are a testament to the perseverance and courage of Goa holding a little bit of its history even as centuries change. #picoftheday #postoftheday #tbt #thursday #heritagewalk #fontainhasgoa #goa #musician #localgoan #culture #beverage #flavours #architecture #love #smile #laughter #togetherness #travelleisure #travelgram #instapost #guests #presenters #startup #business #ecotourism #goatourism #panjimgoa #colours
On the walk we saw heritage, Portuguese architecture, met some wonderful people, ate delicacies from the oldest bakery in Goa and met a renowned Goan musician who played Fado and Latin music for us. The Make it Happen guys are definitely doing a good job.
We also did these:
>> Saw ‘Jimmy’s House’ from far. Jimmy apparently was another Vijay Mallya type tycoon who entertained film stars and politicians at his lavish parties. Also, apparently, the movie Hasina Maan Jayegi was shot in his house.
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>> Took the Dolphin ride (comme ci comme ca), saw quite a few churches (beautiful), indulged in a spa session (expensive), saw the old and the new light house, drank fresh sugarcane juice, went for morning walks and ate fresh pois (a popular Goan bread) every day. If food is religion in Goa, then it starts with paos and pois from family-run bakeries. In fact, poi can be a meal in itself with fresh salad vegetables tucked inside its pita-like pocket. We had them slathered with melted butter and sinful garlic cheese. The poi delivery boys (called ‘poder’) cycle to every house at dawn and dusk, announcing their arrival with a ringing of the cycle bell.
I also ‘did’ a weekly local market. It was quaintness and sweetness personified. Tables were set up in the square and locals/nearby residents had set out their home cooked/home prepared ware. I was there for almost an hour and was amused to see the table owners hopping across to other tables to sample and purchase stuff.
What just didn’t work for us in Goa:
If there was one thing which really didn’t work, it was that there is almost no system of transport for people like us. Used to Uber in almost all the places we had visited in the past few years, we just took it for granted that app cabs would exist in a tourist hotspot like Goa. But no, forget Uber, there is no taxi service worth its name. Yes, Goa Miles is there, but we soon realised that it is highly unreliable and almost always cancels a trip after taking the booking. The local cabbies have mastered the art of fleecing and charge very pocket unfriendly rates.
Advisory: Carry your driving license (which husband did not do!!) and hire a car.
Would I like to visit Goa again? Yes, definitely yes. Fingers crossed that the second trip doesn’t take another three decades!
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