Goa, it isn’t just beaches anymore.

11 Nov

Panaji is one of those places that people tend to overlook when they travel in Goa. It is far from the airport, crowded, semi-expensive, and hey, let’s face it, people just want to get to the beach. However, it is a mistake to miss Panaji- it isn’t much, but seeing the Portuguese influences on architecture- not your typical Indian concrete bomb shelters, and city layout- beautiful squares, parks, and fountains that actually work, and restaurants that serve something besides the expected masalas that you find everywhere else, you begin to realize you have stepped into a place that is totally different from other places in India.

As you walk through the narrow city streets you see buildings that look like they are straight out of Portugal. Brightly painted in beautiful turquoises, tranquil greens, canary yellows, fiery oranges, pastel pinks, and electric blues, the houses and buildings lend a character to the city that is unmatched elsewhere. Buildings here are very well taken care of and as Astrid and I strolled through the city, we noticed many structures were undergoing renovation. There are churches on every other block including the impressive Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (below) which overlooks the Municipal Gardens near the Fontinhas area of Panaji. This church was originally consecrated in 1541 and was the first stop for sailors from Lisbon to give thanks for a safe ocean crossing before heading to Old Goa about 17 km away.

One thing you shouldn’t miss if you come to Panaji is the food. It is an excellent mix of traditional and Portuguese and the flavors are amazing. We went to a restaurant called Viva Panjim right around the corner from our guest house and was introduced to Goan/Portuguese cuisine from a fantastic woman that has been running this restaurant for the last four years. Although she is a baby in the industry, she has already received awards and accolades from her fellow chefs all over the world. Try the chicken xacutí which is a brown curry made with coconut milk and aromatic spices. It was divine!

We also had a meal at A Ferradura (Horseshoe) near the Old Pato Bridge and managed to offend two religions in one meal. We had the chouriços (a spicy pork sausage) with Goan bread for an appetizer and breaded steak served with salad and chips for our main meal. Our Hindu waiters cringed a little when we ordered it, but it was fantastic. For dessert I had the caramel custard and Astrid had the Bolo San Rival, a cashew cake that was absolutely incredible! Definitely our most expensive meal of the trip, but all told it came to $12 USD!

From here we head 15 km north to the beaches of Baga, Calangute, Candolim, and Anjuna for about a week. We’ll post more later.

Cheers!

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