Having Blast in the Goan Capital
Somewhere along the way you suddenly find yourself with two days to spare and the feeling that you really don’t want to do your chores. Kick off the mundane and don’t settle for reruns of Breaking Bad and How I Met Your Mother. Instead, pills get out and rediscover those memories of skipping class for hot samosas, pill pedaling furiously down back lanes or sneaking off with a teenage crush to a quiet spot. This time, we’ve picked Panjim.
Kick it off with some puri bhaji at Café Tato in the beating heart of the city. Everyone’s got their favourite spot for bhaji, but with Tato’s you can’t really go wrong. Follow it up with a plate of mirchi bhajis. As one of the city’s oldest and most popular cafés, you’re sure to spot someone familiar.
Take a walk around Panjim – you don’t have to go too far to browse through the stores. You would agree that the shopping here is far from the best, but you never know what new belt or random t-shirt with a quote about feni might catch your eye.
You could either walk down 18th June Road and enjoy the bustle under tree-lined streets, or weave your way through Fontainhas and São Tomé. It is evident the early fathers didn’t spare much thought for the traffic of the future and the cramped lanes in Panjim’s Latin quarter could make walking a slight hazard. But frankly, it’s quite worth it.
You’ll find some interesting curios at the Velha Goa Galeria to add to your collection, and the walk up to the Maruti Temple provides a neat view of life below. Cycling around these streets is even more enjoyable as it lets you cover greater distances without missing out.
Stop at the General Post Office and send some snail mail to a long-forgotten friend.
The perfect start to an afternoon could only be in the centre of Fontainhas with some delicious home cooking at Viva Panjim. It’s best to sit inside on a hot afternoon, particularly when you’re not too keen on having a local whiz by on his bike inches from the al fresco seating. The food here is reasonably priced and unpretentious, and will bring back dozens of memories of the times you have shared with friends and family. If you’re lucky, they might still have a tipple or two of this year’s urak.
Spending the day off at home in Goa is made fulfilling with an afternoon siesta. If you live close to the city, sneak home for an afternoon kip. If not, head to Miramar beach and you’re sure to nod off under one of those palm fronds. Catching up on reading at the beach makes for a delightful way to spend the afternoon alone.
When the heat has dissipated a little, it’s time to bring out your swimmers and hit the beach. Make the most of the closing of the summer, taking the short drive to Vainguinim beach at Cidade de Goa in Dona Paula for a few hours of wading in the shallows.
You could join in a game of football, should some of the locals be kicking one about. Or let out your inner child and build a sand castle or sculpture. The sinking sun steeps the myriad faces of stress out across the darkening sea and there’s nothing like a swell dinner to make the rest of it magically disappear.
Panjim’s latest entrant on the bistro circuit is not one to miss. Black Sheep Bistro has made the cut and raised the bar with some fine twists on Goan classics and a nice selection of spirits and wines to go along. It’s open for dinner, and keeps it home grown by using only locally sourced ingredients. So you might want to take a rain check on that beef roulade craving since most of our buffalo meat comes from out of Goa.
Dinner done with, hop across only a furlong away to Café Mojo for some groovy tunes and a few drinks. If you’re looking for somewhere a little less cramped, Butter in Patto has a little more elbow room.
You certainly cannot be expected to wake up bright and early after a night on the town. But for those of you who are supernatural and do hit the road running, take a walk on Miramar beach, or by the fields – the last of them anyway – in Taleigao.
If you’d like to get reacquainted with a higher power, a visit to the chapel at Raj Bhavan in Dona Paula is a beautiful way to start the day. Even if you do forget to register your car number in advance, there’s a lovely look-out spot close to the entrance of the Governor’s Palace where you can soak up some energy.
The Goa Marriott Resort and Spa lays out a lovely brunch on Sundays, the ideal way to squeeze out any remnants of a hangover. You could also opt for the less expensive offerings at Not Just Omlettes on 18th June Road.
A good brunch could either perk up your spirits or slow you down. For a case of the former, pop into the gaming arcade at Caculo Mall in St Ines and unleash your bowling skills at the alley, drive like a maniac in the bumper cars or try your luck at pinball.
To cure a case of the latter, you could catch up on some reading at Kala Academy or under the shade of the trees in the Campal garden. There could be an interesting play or tiatr being staged at Kala Academy, so you can buy a last-minute ticket and enjoy a bit of Goan entertainment.
As evening jogs on, take a slow walk down the Panjim promenade. Look closely at the heritage buildings as you pass by – the old Goa Medical College, the State Bank of India building, old Secretariat – and visually wipe out the present. Imagine life in black and white when residents mostly walked and the annoying sound of today’s vehicle horns were replaced by the chirping of birds.
Close the evening with a ride on the ferry across the Mandovi River to the rooftop tables at Terry’s. There’s not a sight more beautiful than the twinkling lights of a city you have called home, served alongside the wash of the river down below and some fresh catch from the sea.