These are a few of my favourite things (to do this Christmas in Goa) … says LB Nayak, with a nod to Fraeulein Maria:
1) Indulge in the unforgettable plum-cake from 31st January Bakery, the oldest one in the heritage zone of Fontainhas, which makes the best traditional Goan sweets like bebinca / dodhol and remains an integral part of every Goan’s Christmas itinerary while shopping for goodies.
2) Take in the imposing architecture at Old Goa. There’s the St Francias Xavier’s Church, which is holding (possibly the last) exposition of this famous Catholic saint. Don’t Miss!
3) Take the ferry across the Mandovi River. This is quaint because apart from ferrying people across for free, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find scooter & cars climbing aboard. As the ferry sluggishly chugs across to the other bank, the capital city of Goa, Panjim, unfolds slowly and you enjoy glimpses in an unrushed manner. Late afternoons is nice, watch the sun set.Don’t miss a photo-op at the fish-market when you alight from the ferry at Tonca. The fatty-‘bai’s in their traditionally-tied sarees, paan-stained teeth and ample bosoms, screaming out their ‘catch-of-the-day’ at the regulars. Observe the incredible array of fresh-fish on display and the whole process of working women selecting, bargaining and picking up their selection of sea-food and dash off home to prepare the night meal… all in a day’s work !
4) Catch a performance of drama or dance at Charles Correa’s superbly architectured Kala Academy…some food for the soul too. On the banks of the Mandovi River.
5) Drive down the broad boulevard right till Dona Paula and stop to reminisce about the lovelorn Portuguese girl who, unable to bear the thought of seperation from her desi-Goan lover of humble origins, met a watery grave. Great water-sports here under the aegis of Goa Tourism, hence safety is ensured.
6) Discover the marvellous architecture of the 400-year-old vilas in Fontainhas, the site where the Portuguese landed 400 years ago. Narow by-lanes, red-tiled-roof vilas in charming yellow-orchre or bay-blue, grand old dames in their frocks doing crochet in their bakcaos, pretty sights indeed for the tired soul. Check out the artifacts shops and the little sit-out eateries that offer you the tastiest authentic Goan cuisine in the whole of Goa.
7) Give in to your secular side and enjoy a Sunday mass at the Panjim Church, a familiar sight in numerous Bollywood movies (Amar, Akbar, … Amitabh’s delightful Antony Gonsalves !) with its stunning organ-music and full-throated choir.
8) Drive down to the strip at Candolim where the King of Good Times has his flashy Spanish Kingfisher Villa; a nice part of Goa’s beachfront with lots of action, very many beach-shacks and most importantly, a good and eclectic mix of tourists who do not “stand-and-stare” at the woman on your arm. Relatively clean and peaceful.
Spend a lazy day, drinking beer, listen to Santana and the like, watch the aimless waves, the setting sun dip into the watery, enjoy the seafood, doze off undisturbed in your chair .. wake up refreshed and press the back-button !! Pack-up time is 11pm under the new dispensation. Sossegaad at its very best.
9) Ask your local guide to score a bottle of village-brewed cashew-feni, the best spirits money can buy ! Drink it with Limca (repeat Limca) or on-the-rocks for a sublimely tasteless high that doesn’t leave you with the usual headbangers’ ball next morning.
10) Stay at the Mitaroy Goa Hotel, run by Mihir Ignatius, a Tourism Professor in Bavaria Uniy, Germany. Renowned for its bespoke service, its uncluttered antique interiors, Spanish restoration of an old-Goan-tiled vila, shattering silences which allows you to find yourself once more. The place has been tastefully restored and gives you an insight into the lifestyle of early Goa.