Goa – A Land of Churches and Culinary Delights

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Photo of Goa – A Land of Churches and Culinary Delights 1/2 by Suheil Patel

My journeys are born on excel sheets, conceptualized through multiple cells linking and calculating resulting in a fruitful memories that last a life time. Call it my ADHD but everything in my life needs to be planned. That holds true for my travels too. However, my adherence to follow practices combined with my impulse to burn every memory on the flash drive of my mind helps me balance my urge to stick to a timeline and take that impromptu turn to discover something random. My road trip to Goa this summer was filled with those planned excursions and toss of a coin decisions that made this trip sizzle like the weather in Goa.

Photo of Goa – A Land of Churches and Culinary Delights 2/2 by Suheil Patel

The bookings were done a fortnight ago and I found this nice secluded (not so deserted) place at Anjuna by St. Michael’s Church. The Tamarind looks like an archaic structure, remodeled with colors we come across in everything inspired by Greece. Décor is largely white and blue with large stone structures instead of painted walls. Rooms are cozy and well equipped and the one that we took was with a nice verandah overlooking the swimming pool. Unlike most north Goa resorts, Tamarind is green, peaceful and has rustic charm that somehow reminds us of the Goa of the old.

We drove down to Goa and began our journey at 4:45am, trying to beat the traffic and find a clear road. My nagging of getting my wife out of bed early worked as our road till Nipani was free and I could cover more than half of the distance in no time. We took the SataraKarad – Kolhapur – Nipani road giving us a straight no-nonsense way without any hindrance. A right turn after Nipani, followed by Amboli ghat and Sawantwadi and we had reached Goa in 8 hours flat. It’s advisable to leave early and touch Nipani as soon as possible as the road after that is pretty much one lane and would be advisable not to speed.

Photo of Anjuna, Goa, India by Suheil Patel

My itinerary mostly covered places in north Goa and Panaji as my wife had not explored Goa like a true tourist and I wanted to get that out of the way before my next trip to South Goa, a destination most travelers, barring the psychedelic crowd, nowadays prefer. 

After resting for a couple of hours we headed to Chapora Fort or more commonly known as the ‘Dil Chahta Hain’ fort. It was just 11 kms from our hotel and after parking at the base of the fort it was a 10 mins walk to the top. (Tip: Wear good sneakers, for guys and gals, with formidable grip as the path is full of small stones that make it slippery and slightly perilous). 

Once you reach the top, it is a barren land with most of the walls of the forts filled with people admiring the Vagator beach on the left and the much secluded Morjim beach on the right. Sun gave us the skip that day much to our disappointment as we were looking forward to becoming philosophical and to see the sun go down on the horizon.

Next on the itinerary was the famous Souza Lobo at Calangute beach, 6.7kms away from our hotel. Opened since 1932, this seaside sea-food specialty place has sumptuous supply of sizzling, scrumptious, succulent Goan-style cooking. A must when you are on this side of Goa.

Photo of Calangute Beach, Bardez, Goa, India by Suheil Patel

Day 2 started with our planned trip to Fort Aguada, 15kms away from Tamarind and about half an hour drive. The fort provides with some fascinating view of Panaji and the Arabian Sea. Rich in history and still quite well maintained, the fort gives you ample opportunities to click some fabulous pictures. 

We then headed to Baga Beach for some water sport activities and the only thing on our minds was the parasailing. At 1,300 for the both of us and a measly 5 mind of ride, you would think what a waste of money! But hey, that’s the price you pay for commercialization. We headed back to the hotel to rest our boiling heads and bodies. 

For dinner, we headed to Vagator as Thalassa (11kms away from hotel) was on my list for quite some time. As romantic as restaurants go, you could not ask for more, probably a slightly better music collection. But still that music, that location, add to that a vibrant crowd made that a must-visit place. Set right at the beach, you need to get there by 5 to catch a place near the edge of the hotel to have that uninhibited view of the sea engulfing the sun. Greek cuisine dominate the menu with dishes high in cheese and mushrooms (two things me and my wife love!!). As the sun slowly set in the background, its light was replaced by miniature suns kept on each table that just added to the ambiance. Slightly heavy on the pocket, this place is a must if you are with that special one or your friends that mean the world to you.

Day 3 and we had a long list Old Goa monuments on our list.

  1. First up Chapel of our lady of the Mount, 25 kms away from Anjuna but located slight atop a hill giving you a lush-green view of surrounding chapels and nature at its best and mind you this was summer. This place would be a treat in December, not to mention monsoon. A winding road leads you to the chapel with staircases filled with nature’s carpet that give this place a warm feel.
  2. Next up lying in wait for us for Church of St. Catejan, just 5 mins away, this one is architecture at its very best. The ivory-white church surrounded by lush green and colorful garden with classic roman interiors makes this church on top of your visit-list. I understand Basicila of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral to have more relevance and importance from a religious point of view but solely from a tourist point of view the Church of St. Catejan takes the cake.
  3. Right next to it is the Viceroy’s arch, known to be the entrance to Goa in its heyday. Another old architecture reminding us of the history that Goa holds.
  4. You then have the Se Cathedral nearby with its distinctive statue of Jesus with a curved tree that just makes you wonder at nature and its originality. (Tip: You could park your car in front of Se Cathedral and cover St Catejan and Viceroy’s arch together)
  5. A short drive to the other side of St. Catejan and you can visit Chapel of St. Francis Asisi and Basilica of Bom Jesus. The former has a quaint little garden with Church of Catherine and collection of grinding stones kept for display.
  6. Basilica of Bom Jesus stands tall and firm and is a sight to behold with its rustic exterior and that woody feel. Apart from being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it contains the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier along with the usual church interiors you will find across Goa.
  7. Last up on our visit to Old Goa was the ruins of St. Augustine church, built in 1602 and abandoned in 1835. All I can say that it gave me the chills.
  8. At Panaji, we then came to the famous and most often seen sight in Bollywood movies, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Got a great picture of the pristine white church with clear spotless blue sky in the background.
  9. A random turn from there took us into Fountainhas, old colorful streets and pathways resembling tiny streets of Portugal, still preserved and still hold that time that has passed the rest of the world. We were quite lucky to see this part of Goa. I truly believe, that there are no wrong turns when you are exploring something new.

Dinner on the 3rd and last night took an unexpected turn as while trying to find a specific hotel, we landed at La Plage on Ashvem beach. This place put Thalassa on the backseat in terms of ambience, location and a strong loving vibe that you receive from the people there. Run by a French lady and her partner, this place is known for its French cuisine and Chocolate Thali (yes, you heard me right!), But more than the food, its location which is right on the beach along with décor which is simplistic and minimalist yet efficient, makes this one of our favorite restaurants to visit. The best feeling is to lose your footwear and let your feet relax in the naturally therapeutic sand with the hymns of the waves crashing on the stony shore nearby. (Just heard recently that it is temporarily closed, wonder why?)

Photo of Thalassa, Vagator, Goa, India by Suheil Patel

Day 4 and after a refreshing breakfast, it’s time to leave. Goa for us is a combination of some amazing culinary experiences, many monumental and architectural destinations, soothing and relaxing resorts and not to forget sun, sand and the soulful sea. We bid adieu and hope to return back, this time to the sights and sounds of South Goa.

This trip was first published on https://aframeatatime.wordpress.com/.

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