Discovering Goa Differently
I’ve never been a beach person, truth is, I was once voted worse than a man to take shopping and worse than a child to take to the beach, that was 25 years ago, nothing has changed. It came as quite a surprise therefore that Goa was my choice of destination for my birthday three years ago. It helps that I’d been offered a villa by a client who wanted is assessing for it’s tourism potential and has also mentioned that I could take some friends along. It seemed churlish to refuse. I’d like to think that my chosen gang would have travelled to Goa with my for my birthday regardless of the free accommodation, but I let that nugget sink in and let them get their flights booked full of visions of palm fringed beaches and chilled beers, before breaking the news of our agenda, itinerary, whatever you want to call it. You see, I may have relented on Goa but I wasn’t about to head to the beach. This was a journey to discover a different Goa, away from the mainstream and expected. They were surprisingly tolerant, at first.
Day 01: Discovering Fontainhas on a walking tour. This was my recording of the experience:
Utterly charmed on the walk this morning, exploring Fontainhas, Goa. A place where the older generation still sit behind barred, glassless windows, watching the world go by. Traditional fruit and veg sellers stroll by, large baskets on their heads, selling their wares from window to window, gossiping as they go.
Two ladies sitting by the roadside were sorting rice, picking out the stones, bagging it up and selling it alongside coconut oil in whiskey bottles, used for the hair and the body, or so they told us. They had beautiful smiles, which are always hard to capture; locals often ask to be photographed but feel they must be serious when faced with the camera.
An occasional piece of street art, the modern side of India, somehow blended into the tropical surroundings almost unobtrusive, being overshadowed by the colourful buildings which line the narrow, crooked streets of this one time capital of the state.
It seemed that every street had an exquisite example of a wonderfully maintained church, the imposing white walls, brilliant against the cerulean sky. Posters of Jesus offering free Bibles in the adjacent street to Joseph’s, the local’s most popular bar. Such charming irony.
The Portuguese culture was still evident here, hanging on, in spite of modernisation. Most people skip this area, heading straight for the beach. They really do miss out.
- Who knows why the houses are traditionally painted blue, yellow, green or red?
- What were the windows, still found in the area, traditionally made from, which allowed the light to penetrate but not the stares of nosy neighbours!
Day 02: An early start for a birding tour. This was my recording of the experience:
Ok, are you ready? In one breath:
Woolley necked stork, pied bush chat, blue kingfisher, ashy drongo, painted stalk, red whiskered bulbul, red vented bulbul, white bellied drongo, bronze drongo, rufus tree pie, black-hooded oriole, Indian golden oriole, golden-fronted leaf bird, white cheeked barbet, coppersmith barbet, small minivet, chestnut-tailed starling, coucal, blue-tailed bee-eater, little green bee-eater, purple sunbird, ashy wood swallow, oriental magpie Robin, spotted eagle, Brahminy kite, common kingfisher, purple heron, pond heron, black headed ibis, glossy ibis, pied kingfisher, common sandpiper, marsh harrier, black drongo, long tailed shrike, stone chat, chestnut tailed starling, little cormorant, Indian cormorant, booted eagle, pond heron, red wattled lapwing, cattle and great egrets, ashy prenia, little grebe, paddy field pippet, black-hooded cuckoo shrike, pied bush chat, yellow wagtail, bronze wing jacana, grey heron, plum headed parakeet, Nilgiri flower pecker and an Indian roller.
I make that 56, not bad for a three-hour birding tour. Where? Goa of course, the forest and water bodies in and around the Soccorro Plateau. This plateau, incidentally, is made up of volcanic rock, now where did that come from?
I am very proud to say that this was a personal best for our guide, Rahul despite the fact that he wouldn’t let me count the white chicken I spotted. I even offered to come with a fancy name, white-flecked snowy jungle fowl or similar. He wasn’t budging.
For more information on nature and birding tours with Rahul http://rahulalvares.com/bird-watching-wildlife-goa/
Day 03: There was a mutiny. It was beach or die.
We managed three hours of sunbathing before I dealt my trump card, the temptation of a chocolate thali. Game, set and match to me!
This was the Goa three-day foodie trail that was a part of the itinerary.
Day 01: Vinayak Family Restaurant, nr Assagao
A place for locals, and those in the know, serving typical Goan chow, though pretty much only sea food. It was pretty darn good and excellent value for money. Wondering what to order? Try their legendary fish thali, batter fried calamari or bombil rava fry) Would definitely recommend and revisit if the opportunity arises.
Day 02: Baba’s Wood Café, Holiday Street, Calangute, Goa.
I wasn’t wildly excited by the prospect, I mean, an Italian Restaurant in Goa, why? Then there was the issue of the name and the address, which nearly brought me out in hives. And let’s face it, we can and do get pizza and pasta wherever we may roam. What could be so great about this place? Well let me tell you, ALL of it! As ever, I am happy to be proved wrong and in this case I certainly was; the burrata, the cheese plate, the carpaccio oh that carpaccio!! Even the pizza was in a different league and as for the pasta with clams, I am sure it had a fancy name, but sigh…….. Honestly speaking, I don’t ever remember having Italian food this delectable even in Italy. It’s in a different league. Highly recommended.
Day 03: La Plage, Mandrem, Goa. Located on the beach, so it was a great compromise for us, great location, feet in the sand, chilled beer and a menu of French delights extensive enough to keep everyone happy. Some of the restaurant attire left a little to be desired, some leopard skin trunks that didn’t leave nearly enough to the imagination came a little to close to head height but, that aside, it was worth it for the chocolate Thali. A little gimmicky? Perhaps, but every girl’s dream for sure. Though given that there were a few of us, we did sample a couple of their other deserts too and their best plateful of indulgence, was their salted caramel ice cream. D.Vine!
Goa, an area I knew very little about, turned out to be so much more than expected. A gamble as it was somewhere that had never appealed, and yet it proved to be the perfect destination for a very successful birthday weekend.
We crammed in culture, birding, beach, old friends and new, excellent food, great accommodation and a bottle of bubbles or two. I feel a return visit coming on, so much more to explore.
My book, Escape to India, is available on Amazon.com/.co.in/co.uk