City secret

City secret
Photo Credit: Outlook Traveller
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Whether you're a guest, a regular or a first-timer, Cidade de Goa serves up a familial feeling to all

Nayantara Patel
March 18 , 2014
07 Min Read

The first half of November was a good time to be in Goa. The weather was lovely. The end-of-the-year revellers were, well, waiting for the end of the year. And if you, like me, happened to be spending time with folks who have anything to do with the tourist trade, which on this coastal stretch is anybody who’s not living off his spouse, there was a pleasant anticipation of enough money to be made shortly so that the rest of the year could be spent in a dreamy state of susegad.

But, of course, the first half of November was followed by a horrid second half of November. And the siestas are anxious. All across the country, the trade is reporting cancellations from inbound tourists. To anyone with a sense of our geography (and history and politics) that may seem a bit extreme, not to mention unfair. But there’s no point whining — those travel advisories are out, they’re being heeded and in any case the package tourist is a sheep.

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I’m being gloomy. But that’s because I’m having to write about a holiday resort in Goa that’s packed with the warmest, jolliest, friendliest people you’ll ever meet at a holiday resort in Goa. Of all the Goa hotels I’ve visited (several) in my years at OT (too many), I can think of only one other that even tries to serve up this kind of familial feeling to all guests, regulars or first-timers.

Nothing that I’d heard about Cidade de Goa had aroused particularly high expectations. The website is only slightly short of laconic, the travel guide entries on Cidade lukewarm and user reviews on the Internet mixed. But there’s that’s nice thing about low expectations, and I’ve come back feeling like I’ve discovered an excellently kept secret that needs to be revealed without delay.

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Cidade de Goa is, in many ways, the archetypal family holiday resort. Built in the 1970s, according to a master plan designed by the legendary Charles Correa, the resort began its existence as an ITC-managed hotel. Some six years down the line, its owners — Auduth and Anju Timblo — decided they’d prefer to run the hotel according to their lights; and so it is that the Cidade remains a family business. Now in her late-middle age, the still-spry Mrs Timblo remains managing director of the hotel concern, but her sons and daughter-in-law are closely involved in the hotel operations.

The strong sense of the familial only grows as I meet the rest of the staff, remarkably akin to meeting a bunch of talkative aunts and cousins. General manager Neeta Sen is enthusiastic about everything from favourite authors to weight-loss strategies. Communications manager Sujay Gupta chats about the book he’s writing, old Goa homes, his twice-weekly music gigs (incredibly, at my other favourite Goa hotel). F&B manager Kevin Rodrigues unostentatiously, almost absently, punctuates our Saraswat thali meal with titbits of information about coastal food. Only the elegant Vinni Timblo’s young assistant Clarisma Gomes seems truly business-like, but how efficiently so — right down to ensuring I’m carrying correctly legible credit card photocopies for my flight.

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If one striking aspect about Cidade is its people, the other is, well, the resort itself. The approach is along a gentle hill, past handsome gates, down a further sloping road that finally stops at a well of land embellished with what seems like a modest-sized building bearing the legend ‘Cidade de Goa’. Enter the lobby (past a metal detector, note, even pre-26/11) and the world is no longer to be received in miniature — a large, open-to-the air lobby that leads off into multiple spaces (reception desk, coffee shop, steps up to the guestrooms, steps down to the lawns), all of it framed by beach and sea beyond. The quiet beach is only a few steps away

If it were possible to arrive at the resort from the sea, it would facilitate an understanding of the layout. From this perspective, the 40-acre resort will look surprisingly compact: in the centre is the lobby, restaurants and other public areas; to the left is the very attractive residential wing that so clearly displays the stamp of architect Correa; and to the right is the newer residential wing that echoes Correa’s boxy design with its square window-framed rooms. And in a contiguous corridor of land between building and Vainguinim Beach, are set the swimming pools, outdoor restaurants and bars, and a series of small and big party lawns.

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The third remarkable feature is the hotel’s vast inclusiveness. This is a character trait that extends across everything from the range, size and aesthetic of the accommodation on offer, to the number of restaurants and bars (an astounding eight — five restaurants, two bars and a 24-hour patisserie), to the variety of entertainment options (apart from the standard water sports, spa, health club, there’s also a casino, theme nights on four days of the week, a complimentary kids club and a whole slew of excursion options including a free open-bus shuttle to Panjim every day).

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Two days is not quite long enough to make your acquaintance with anywhere near all of these choices. But I was lucky enough to experience two very different kinds of rooms: the first night I was in a Classic room, generously sized, with an equally good-sized balcony and outfitted with all five-star modcons. I was beginning to feel a little wistful about not being housed in one of the Deluxe rooms, part of the older, ‘heritage’ wing — and although considerably smaller, more atmospheric, with sweet sit outs leading straight to the beach and a more boutiquey feel.

But I lucked out beyond my expectations (see how those low expectations can pan out?) when I was hesitantly asked if I minded shifting to a Junior Suite for my second night. No, I didn’t mind, and I minded even less once I was actually inside: the suite turned out to be a delightful apartment with a bed in a nook surrounded by windows, elegant and comfortable seating spaces set off by brightly coloured walls and genuinely lovely antiques. It’s hard to be more charmed than this at a big fat Goa beach resort.

The information

Where: Vainguinim Beach (10min from Panjim), Goa
Accommodation: 210 rooms & suites, including Premium, Superior, Classic, Deluxe rooms and Junior Suites and Suites
Tariff: from Rs 8,000 per night (min. stay of 3N). Includes breakfast, airport transfers, 20% discount on F&B, health club and spa, activities.
Contact: 0832-2454545,
www.cidadedegoa.com


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