Last week, after almost 9 months of being locked within the confines of my home, I found myself on a flight to Goa for a short weekend break. After all these months of complete travel deprivation, where a trip around the corner to the grocer’s seemed like a luxury, the prospect of escaping to another city was nothing short of a luxury. For someone from Mumbai, could there be anything more predictable and cookie cutter than Goa?
This time, though, it was different. I eschewed the standard five-star hotel fare, the legendary Goan beach shacks and decided to go completely under the radar. As a result, I found myself, booked in a gorgeous Airbnb villa, Casa Tina, replete with five bedrooms, a large backyard garden and a private pool. The ownership of this stately Portuguese home, over 400 years old, I am told, changed hands several times, before an immaculate restoration.
What’s it like to spend a Goan weekend, locked away in a heritage bungalow, minus the nightclubs and noisy beach sundowners? I absolutely loved every minute.As an architecture and design geek, I spent endless hours admiring the iron trellis work on the balcony, the gorgeous geometric Portuguese tiles across the house and, of course, long cups of coffee on the traditional colonial balcao. And then there was the modern side to it — the backyard, which, in Portuguese times, would have been reserved for fruit and vegetable trees is now a massive private swimming pool, replete with a gazebo lined with sun beds. The common living room is dotted with heritage furniture, gorgeous chandeliers and instantly transports you to the halcyon colonial era gone by.
High ceilings and long passages characterise this beautiful space, where five bedrooms are neatly arranged, at different ends of the bungalow. My bedroom, as it were, was understated and unpretentious, with gorgeous antique furniture, a four-poster bed, and large doors that opened out onto the balcao. Interestingly enough, as I discovered, the traditional, spacious balcony is a standard design element in Portuguese villas as sitting out and watching the world go by is an element of Latin culture that still exists in Goa to this day. Hence, spending hours on a balcony, reading or having a drink, is my way of enjoying slow travel, and immersing myself in a truly cultural experience.Most importantly, as is the trend these days, this heritage villa has been fitted with all the modern creature comforts like decent WiFi and great air conditioning, thanks to which I managed to squeeze in some Monday morning work in a delightfully relaxing setting, in keeping with the ongoing global trend of live anywhere, work anywhere.
Be that as it may, I was glad to be back in North Goa. For starters, in Vagator, one is literally at the heart of all the action, yet far removed from it all. Vagator and the area around it boast a buzzing F&B scene. You can choose to visit places like Mahé for high-end coastal cuisine, Jamun for seafood thalis, Mojigao for its hipster chic vibe and smoothie bowl breakfasts or the trendy Mediterranean-style Antares for champagne sundowners. Speciality coffee joints like Bean Me Up, G-Shot and Kefi are a short drive away. If you do choose to dine within the confines of your villa, like I did on several nights, most major food delivery apps will swing by with fare from the most popular eateries in the neighbourhood.