Behind the high gates, past St Michael’s Church, greenery and Mangalorean tiled roofs top off the stucco-finish walls of a cluster of private rowhouses in the villa style, each spread over 500 sq ft. Off the car park, is a verdant vine-draped little porch to climb up to the front door of your Aalia villa.
The entryway splits off the porch level to go down to a sprawling living area with a communal dining table and benches and a partially open kitchen with breakfast bar to pass things across easily. This is where breakfast is prepared and served by your assigned member of staff each day, offering poha, eggs, juice, fresh fruit, toast and such—amounts are ample and service is quick, discreet and smooth. (Your assigned assistant will be available on mobile throughout your stay, as will the manager.) You will also find a bouquet of snacks, candies, salad dressings, and breakfast foods to get you started. The kitchen can be shuttered off too, if you wish to have the staff working there while you enjoy privacy for your party in the living space. Inside the kitchen is a fridge, microwave, gas hob, small sink. Read up the house rules: you do need to provide your own washing-up supplies, and you do need to do the washing up before you go; garbage needs to be carefully segregated as indicated.
Speaking of segregating, you might see a few fights in the extended family over sleeping downstairs with easy access to the pool and kitchen versus upstairs with more space to spread out. Only, be prepared for a little quailing from the younger children—or indeed, anyone with vertigo—when they need to walk across the transparent floor of the hallway upstairs that looks down on the living area. There’s floor-level seating here and a small desk as well, for those who want a little quiet versus the full-family feature downstairs. The futons can double up as extra beds as needed too, though more than six persons in residence will cost you extra.
Bedrooms have a small pair of tables and chairs, as well as a chest of drawers and side tables, and one has a large attached verandah overlooking the L-shaped pool at the back of the villa.
Family-sized bathrooms, with full-sized closets and showers or tubs open to the elements but carefully screened for privacy, allow for changing and showering en masse with the littles or even rinsing off before and after the pool. Towels are ample. Brightly lit by day, the one catch is it is best to keep the lights off at night, lest the space fills up with bugs. The bedrooms are restful, no TVs here—which means the young ’uns can nap even as the adults catch up on their movie marathon or cricket telecast.
When you’re ready to head out and forage for food, just pop out of the gate and go right to Larry’s grocery store or left to the Café Cotinga at the Tamarind hotel to order an excellent meal. You can also order off local restaurants’ menus placed on the dining table beside the overflowing fruit basket, or select online off the various delivery apps. I just ordered off cafecotinga.com myself and the prawn biryani was plentiful and flavourful, without being overly spiced, the kingfish rawa fry perfect with the curd rice. They also do excellent breakfast pizzas and smoothie bowls, quite an assortment of burgers (from chickpea to kingfish), homemade ice creams and sorbets, and an exceptional pair of cheesecakes and a banoffee pie. Another time I ordered the Baba’s (beef) keema from Pink Chilli in Anjuna, the delightfully vegetable-loaded Pink Chilli dal (included omelette too) and the coastal pumpkin curry in coconut milk. They do a mean keema pau plate with eggs and salad as well as a beefsteak in pepper sauce and a pulled mutton raan. Interestingly, there is an absolute surfeit of North Indian options around, with scantier evidence of the West and the South, geolocation notwithstanding. Almost everyone seems able to find the villas readily, no problem. Thai and Japanese restaurants are a short drive away; an excellent (beefy, porky, shroomy and chickpea-y) Burger Factory too. For a little Italian, the Ciao Bella over on the Assagao road has local draft beer as well as a good wine list, and more than just (excellent, homemade) pasta and pizza. Which reminds me, you need to bring your own booze to Aalia—that’s one service they cannot provide, though they are happy to find you the necessary mixers and the barware is in place already.
To venture further afield to the beach or just tour the countryside, pop over to the church again—you can hire a cab or bike right there. The Anjuna beach is about 20 minutes away, if you want to cycle over. There’s a waterpark and go-karting nearby too, if that’s indeed your speed. But the country roads are close enough to town for a good ramble as well as pretty old homes and quieter lanes to explore—which was more mine. One just across the street brings you up 400 steps and past 14 stations to the Miraculous Cross’ amphitheatre; another will land you in the bustle of the flea market.
And what’s amazing about a stay at Aalia is being able to retreat to starry skies and silence after a frenetic day at the fleas, and soaking in the Jacuzzi without even the buzz(kill) of other hotel guests partying in the pool or down the corridor.
Three 3-bedroom villas, each sleeps a maximum of nine people; no smoking is allowed indoors