Thursday, 12 March 2020

Travels in India, 2020 - Glorious Goa



After ten days of travelling around and immersing ourselves in the incredible beauty of Rajasthan, we headed to India's west coast, to bask in Goa's 32°C heat.


In the twenty years we've been visiting Goa I still can't get enough of these old colonial houses decorated in wild colours, a hangover from Portuguese rule which forbade all buildings but churches to be painted white.


As usual on our travels, the plan was no plan. Although we knew we'd end up in Goa at some point we didn't book accommodation beforehand. Luckily, over the years, we've got to know several families who run guesthouses so we split our three-week stay between two cheap and cheerful basic rooms on the main beach road in Benaulim.


Our days took on their usual Goan routine, an early morning walk along the beach, a pav bhaji breakfast at a roadside canteen, wandering the village lanes admiring beautiful homes & gardens and gossiping with the locals whilst buying fresh fruit from the street. Sometimes we'd catch the bus to Margao, South Goa's principal town, getting lost in the maze of stalls at the indoor market and popping into Cotton Cottage to stock up on artisan-made block printed organic cotton clothing while the winter sale was still on. Other mornings we'd walk to the nearby resort of Colva to browse the animal charity shop, rarely buying but always leaving a donation to help the street dogs and cats.



Afternoons were always spent on the beach - shunning the touristy beach shacks for a quiet spot on the pristine white sands of Sinquerim beach. There we'd feast on fresh fruit, play in the waves and read until the sun sunk into the Arabian Sea.


After hot showers (yes, even the cheap and cheerful rooms now have solar panels) we'd sit on our balcony drinking white rum out of enamel mugs, watching the fruit bats dive bomb the palm trees before heading off for dinner and beers.





On the way to the airport last year we'd spotted San Thome, a privately owned museum in the neighbouring village of Varca, a 6km walk away. We were amazed to get there and back without a single blister!


The museum has all manner of quirky exhibits including the anchor from the Titanic.








After a couple of weeks, we decided to take a break from the beach, packed a bag and joined the queue for a bus ticket to Panjim, Goa's state capital. Last year we'd enquired about taking a taxi and were quoted £40 for a one-way fare (a distance of 39km), the bus cost us £2.40!


We checked into our hotel and set off to explore the city.


Our first port of call was Sunaparata, Goa's centre for the arts, where we took in an exhibition & strolled around the lush gardens before lunch in the gallery's gorgeous open-air Cafe Al Fresco.


While Panjim enjoys the same temperature as the beach villages, without the benefit of the sea breeze the humidity is around 90% so most of our time was spent wandering on the shady side of the streets with frequent stops for refreshments.


While the city centre is lovely, the faded splendour of Fontainhas, Panjim's atmospheric quarter is where our hearts belong.











When it comes to eating, we're spoilt for choice in Fontainhas. Our favourite restaurant is Venite, located upstairs in an ancient colonial-era house with rickety chairs, quirky decor and tiny balconies that just about accommodate two adults. 


Although there's a chalkboard of daily specials, Jon ordered barracuda fillets he'd ordered last year, pan-fried in millet and served with home-made chips. There's always plenty of choice for vegetarians, so I'm happy.


We absolutely loved Panjim's science museum and at 50 rupees each (50p) it was brilliant value for money even if we had to share our visit with a hundred over-excited school kids. We laughed ourselves silly with the exhibition of mirrors.


The museum was a 4km walk from Fontainhas so we made lots of rest stops along the way, admiring the street art and, of course, popping into some of Panjim's incredible shops including FabIndia which inevitably led to a cheeky purchase.


Standing in the heart of Panjim, and stacked like a fancy white wedding cake, is the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, built in 1619 over an older, smaller 1540 chapel. When Panjim was little more than a sleepy fishing village, the church was the first port of call for sailors from Lisbon, who would give thanks for a safe crossing.













Some of the food we ate in Panjim: Uttapam (fermented rice flour pancakes served with sambar and chutney), Jon's pan-fried Baracuda, Upma (semolina porridge with chillis and dried fruits), Vegetable vindaloo (cooked the Portuguese way with palm vinegar and red wine), Vegetable xacuti (a Goan dish with poppy seeds, grated coconut, and dried red chilies)




The Panjim Inn was the heritage hotel in Panjim, a former family mansion tastefully restored and crammed with antiques. I fell in love with it 20 years ago not daring to go inside for fear that they'd chuck us, scruffy foreigners, out. Last year we'd visited daily for drinks, basking in the breezy courtyard garden and envying the residents. To our delight, when Jon looked online at rooms, we discovered that they'd slashed their midweek room rate by 40% so we were able to stay there.





This was our room, complete with a balcony with views across the Mandovi River.






Round the corner from the Panjim Inn is the Viva Panjim restaurant, occupying the downstairs of the heritage home of Linda and Michael De Souza. It's been voted restaurant with the Best Indo-Portuguese Cuisine in the whole country by The Times of India for the past 13 years. Their vegetarian vindaloo is worth the trip to Panjim alone.








Three days later we caught the bus back to Benaulim...



For a few more days of beach life, paddy fields and rampaging water buffalo.






Our 21 nights in Goa sped by, it was time to pack our bags and move on.

Next stop, Mumbai!

For all our Goa photos see HERE.

50 comments:

  1. India seems to have everything anyone could want! Beaches, beautiful buildings, cheap transport; amazing food and of course I know the people are lovely. Both you and Jon look fabulous and so relaxed. The church was magnificent as was your hotel suite - such luxury! Such decadence!

    I loved the tin of spam on what looked like a picture of a Western saint complete with halo!

    What was your cheeky purchase? Do tell...
    xxxx

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    1. Thanks, Vronni! You're right, India really does have everything, we're spoilt for choice, no wonder it takes us ages to decide where to go every year.
      The FabIndia purchase was for Jon - I'll have to do a separate post with our cheeky purchases, there were rather a lot! xxx

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  2. Your bed in the Panjim Inn was incredible! I can see why you wanted to stay there, such an experience! I know you often go for ultra cheap beachside rooms but once in a while a little luxury is ok. You look so relaxed. I am sure by September things will quiet down and you will get to go back to Greece - we are still debating if we should go to Mexico (very safe there, just the issues of the flights and airports) but as of right now it is a go. We will not make a final decision until a week from now as exactly 2 weeks from now we are supposed to depart. It may be a year to ramp up your ebay selling as a backup plan. Being self employed is not for the faint of heart, is it?

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    1. I thought you'd approve of the bed, I know you like dark antique furniture as much as I do!
      I'm hoping you get to Mexico. My brother & his friend aren't having much luck, they were supposed to fly to Luxembourg in a week's time but the airline went bust, they managed to get a refund, rebooked with another company and are now playing the waiting game. Nightmare! xxx

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  3. Looking through your photos and reading about Goa is a tonic, especially with the current nightmare (as one determined not to panic buy and having run out of loo rolls it took 5 shops for me to find any!). Everything looks warm and beautiful and you both look so happy.
    The spam looked a bit incongruous though! x

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    1. 5 shops?! It's ridiculous, isn't it? Jon bought two huge multipacks of loo roll before we left for India - he must have known something!
      The tin of Spam did make me giggle - Indians reuse everything! xxx

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  4. After twenty years visiting Goa must be like coming home, and I can totally see why you fell in love with it. I love all those colourful colonial houses, and from your description of your days, it must truly be paradise. Panjim looks gorgeous too, and how amazing that you were able to stay at that incredible Panjim Inn. Can't wait to find out what the cheeky purchase was! xxx

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    1. It does feel like home - we feel instantly relaxed as soon as we arrive although I inevitably forget to pack something crucial!! xxx

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  5. Looked to so much Fun! Loved the picture with the Spam, wasn't quite expecting that!

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    1. It was! That's India, expect the unexpected! xxx

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  6. Panjim Inn looks amazing, the food in Goa looks exciting and it's such a colourful place, we visited about 30+ years ago, looks like there's plenty more to see and do.

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    1. The Panjim Inn's well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Goa. That was a basic room - some have rooftop jacuzzis!!
      The Goan government are absolutely hopeless at promoting the state's attractions, almost everything we've been to over the last 20 years has been stumbled upon by accident or by doing research on Trip Advisor. There's some amazingly good museums and the heritage houses would give the National Trust a run for their money! xxx

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  7. I am from India and I loved these beautiful pictures. Well written.

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  8. What a wonderful long holiday you had (and just in the nick of time, too!). Goa must feel like home to you by now! I loved the colourful buildings, the blue Gandhi, Jon's head on a plate (HA!). But I have to know...what was your cheeky purchase??

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    1. I know - wonderful and long (although it flew by when we were there!) I'm so glad we went when we did, India withdrew all tourist visas last week so nobody can go for the foreseeable future.
      The cheeky purchase was Jon's - I'll have to dedicate a post to our India buys! xxx

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  9. Your daily routine of walking along the beach followed by a relaxing breakfast sounds like the perfect way to start your mornings before wandering through the villages. There is so much beauty in all those colourful, weathered homes/buildings. The Panjim Inn looks amazing. All those dark, sturdy antiques really have presence, don't they! Both you and Jon look like you're having a sparkling time. Hope to see more of your holiday posts. Have a good weekend.

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    1. I dream about our Goa routine, I just love it! xxx

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  10. dreamy.
    wonderful photos of wonderful places....... i love your "slow traveling" - it relaxes me by only reading about it. and those colors - marvelous!
    xxxx

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    1. Thanks, Beate! I love how colourful Goa is! x

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  11. for those of us forever stuck at home your holiday snaps are always something to look forward to

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    1. Thanks, Kate! Reality isn't worth contemplating at the moment, is it? x

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  12. what a wonderful holiday, totally fabulous atmosphere, amazing architecture and museums, and delightful food too!. Loving every picture and every detail!
    besos

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    1. Thanks, Monica! Goa is so close to my heart even after all these years. xxx

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  13. How fabulous! Love the colourful buildings and the Panjim Inn looks stunning, how fortunate they had cut their rates. Your travelogue is a wonderful antidote to current real life!

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    1. Thanks, Carole! I've purposefully extended my travelogue this year, anything's better than facing reality! xxx

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  14. I have serious India travel envy from your posts, Vix. Goa looks 100% amazing. You actually look like you "belong" in India (land of my heart)

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    1. Thank you so much! Goan may be touristy but it's still beautiful with bucket loads of culture. xxx

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  15. Wow! That hotel! That bed! The food! The views!
    Don't know how you managed to drag yourselves away.

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    1. I know - it was hard not to stay for longer! x

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  16. Oh what a dream to wonder around the “faded splendour”.
    I adore the white church, it looks like a fantastic castle.
    The Panjim Inn looks fantastic – I like the look of the red verandah and mosaic floors.
    Looking forward to your Mumbai post. X

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    1. Thanks, Jess! I love an elegantly wasted exterior! x

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  17. The Panjim Inn and its elaborate (rosewood?) furniture evokes images of vintage films in glorious technicolor featuring stars wearing crisp white linen and odd hats. Bless Jon for checking those rates!

    And I, too, was fascinated by the can of SPAM offered to the santo. Which saint? and why SPAM?

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    1. I think it's St Anthony, he was born in Lisbon and much loved by the Goans of Portuguese heritage. The tin of Spam made me giggle, it's typical of Indians, they reuse anything - even if it seems at odd with a Catholic shrine! x

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  18. I so enjoyed the Virtual Tour, what Beauty... and the Spam offering made me Smile!

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  19. Goa is indeed glorious. It's fun to travel virtually with you. I love architecture in Goa. The mixture of colonial Portuguese and local is very interesting. The colourful houses are very pretty. How fascinating that only the church could be painted white. The church does look beautiful. Such an imposing and beautiful building.

    I also like the museum you visited and that restaurant looks great. You look fabulous in your maxis. You really do belong in India. It seems like you two enjoyed your visit as much as your previous visits. It is great you could visit without making the reservations before hand, somehow it makes it more spontaneous and fun. It is lovely when you get to know the people who rent and own apartments and know you will be able to find good accommodation. The beaches there look so beautiful!

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    1. Goan architecture is so different from the rest of India, the colours make me happy!
      I do love travelling without a plan, life can be so regimented, it's so much fun just to go with the flow. x

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  20. I love all the color everywhere. That's the way life should be, instead of the current obsession with white and muted neutrals.

    That room looks fabulous too!

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    1. Tell me about it! The UK looks even more grey and bland when I return from India. x

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  21. Your time in Goa looks so relaxing (except for those 4 and 6km hikes to museums!). The photos are wonderful - so much beauty. It must be such a shock when you return home to the UK after so much time surrounded by all those colours.

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    1. I know, Goa is especially colourful. I hate the flight back home, looking out over Birmingham and seeing the endless rows of identical houses shrouded in cloud! xxx

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  22. *sign* such beauty - even the random can of Spam!
    xx

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  23. So glad I saved up your posts to read now that we're pretty much in lockdown in New York City. My heart skipped a beat when I saw your photos of the Panjim Inn – was lucky enough to stay there in 2001 while in Goa for a friend's wedding. Lovely memories. As always, thank you for your detailed, informative posts. You and Jon are marvelous travel guides. I could almost taste the uttapam....

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    1. Hello Brikka! I've just been hearing about NYC being declared a disaster zone. Stay healthy and indoors.
      I was so excited to stay at the Panjim Inn, the staff were so friendly and isn't it gorgeous? xxx

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    2. Agree! Panjim Inn was truly one of the most hospitable and beautiful places I've ever stayed. And thanks for the good thoughts, Vix – we're sheltering in place here and doing well. Looking forward to catching up on your most recent week of posts <3

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  24. I have bookmarked the Panjim Inn - that looks like just the sort of place Pete and I love to go. (We're supposed to be going to Malaga in May, but I'll be very surprised if it goes ahead... at least we haven't booked a 'big holiday' this year.)

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    1. You would love the Pnajim Inn. There's a brilliant restaurant and bar scene in Panjim, it's like a tiny Mumbai! xxx

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