It was a Sunday morning, and we (a group of travel bloggers) were up at 6 am.
Some out of will.
Some at gunpoint.
So who gets up early on a Sunday morning in Goa?
WE of course! (And all those who feel Goa is beyond the beers and beaches)
To explore all those hidden little beauties this wonderful state has to offer beyond the clichés and stereotypes, we decided to explore Fontainhas, the Latin quarters of Panjim.
Now picture this:
Lanes with brightly coloured cottages washed in yellow, orange, blue, red with a foliage around the old wooden windows and quaint Portugal style houses with arched wooden doors.
Fontainhas is straight out of a fairly-tale based somewhere in the by lanes of Lisbon. The name Fontainhas is derived from ‘Fonte Phoenix’ (Fountain of Phoenix), which was a reservoir of water built during the Portugal era.
We take a bus from Miramar and get off at the end of the jetty. Fontainhas is the Latin neighbourhood of Panjim, surrounded by the Ourem Creek and the Altinho hill.
The streets are almost empty. The shops are yet to open and people are yet to start their daily chores.
The perfect time to click shutters, doors and windows!
Fontainhas has its own old-world charm, as if it is a link to Goa’s heritage past. The houses are scattered, and there isn’t a pattern or order. However, like there is beauty in chaos, there is a certain magic in this disarray.
Some houses are dilapidated with broken windows and withering paint, while some are freshly painted, very modern and chic yet blending perfectly with the rest because of the spectacular shades.
There is a certain serenity in these streets. As if everything has come to standstill.
A placid calm away from the hustle bustle of the parties and the tourists that flank Goan beaches.
I’d gladly prefer this Sunday walk and wander away in these tiny winding streets to partying away at a shack in Anjuna.
For the catholics, a chapel was built in the honour of St. Sebastian in 1818. There is also a beautiful Maruti temple (Hanuman temple) atop the Altino hill, where a feast is held annually called the Maruti Zatra.
Gorgeous views of Fontainhas can be seen from this temple.
The History of Fontainhas:
This area belonged to Antonio Joao de Sequeria, a well-to-do Goan expat who had returned from Mozambique in Africa in the late 1700s. Sequeira developed Fontainhas as a coconut plantation area and the locals (mostly fishermen and sailors) engaged in the oil extraction process.
Later, the land was handed over to the Convent of Our Lady of Carmo at Chimbel.
1810–1839 saw deadly outbreaks of Plague in Goa, on account of which the Govt. headquarters were shifted to Panjim and Fontainhas was developed into the residential area for the administrators.
The lack of town planning led to the disorder in the order of houses.
Rupal, one of my Instagram friends, gets nostalgic about Fontainhas when I ask her about it. She used to walk through it daily to reach school; “I used to grab a bite at the JB bakery (which had amazing pattice, breads, and cakes). I have fond memories of the temple feast (Maruti Zatra), which would bring people from all over Panjim, and everyone would dress up in their finest wear, strolling through stalls of street shopping, sweet treats, and games.”
There is a whiff of art and history in the lanes.
It has an assortment of art galleries and arty cafes. We visit The Gitanjali gallery and the cafe opposite the gallery. The entire place has a vintage feel to it.
The service is a tad bit slow, but we don’t really mind it as we soak in the silence of the place.
As we head back to the din, the ‘touristy’ part of Goa, I lose a little bit of me in the lanes of Fontainhas.
Or maybe I take back a little bit of this place with me.
Fontainhas is 25 km from Goa International Airport and 20 Kms from the Tivrim Railway Station.Best way to explore is to walk.
Where to Stay :
There is no dearth of hotels in Goa. There are quite a few home stay options in Fontainhas as well.
The Miratroy heritage home stay is one of them, famous for its colonial architecture.
In the heart of Fontainhas lies the WelcomHeritage Panjim Inn, which is among the oldest colonial mansions in Fontainhas and is famous because every room is uniquely done with carved and antique furniture.
This is right opposite the Gitanjali Art Gallery.
Where to eat:
The JB bakery is an all time hit. One of the oldest bakeries in Fontainhas which serves traditional Goan sweets. Famous for its bread buns and traditional Bebinca (Layered cake)
Viva Panjim is famous for its Goan and Portuguese food.
Baba wood cafe near the Maruti temple is famous for its wood fire pizzas and home made gelato.