Avisit to Panjim’s Fontainhas neigh­bour­hood in Goa is just like walk­ing into a pic­ture post­card of an old Euro­pean city. It’s a story of Panjim that’s freely told but rarely heard by vis­i­tors, the beauty of the past lin­ing the streets hid­den in plain sight. A her­itage walk around the charm­ing dis­tricts of Fontainhas and Sao Tomé will have you gawk­ing in awe at just how beau­ti­ful it is. Add an ex­tremely knowl­edge­able lo­cal guide who un­veils her his­tory with fas­ci­nat­ing tales, and your day will turn out to be quite an in­ter­est­ing one. One of In­dia’s most re­laxed state cap­i­tals, Panaji (Panjim), crowds around the penin­sula over­look­ing the broad Man­dovi River, where cruise boats and float­ing casi­nos ply the wa­ters, and ad­ver­tis­ing signs cast neon re­flec­tions in the night. It wasn’t un­til the late 18th cen­tury that Panjim started to flour­ish and that too only af­ter the fall of Old Goa as the erst­while cap­i­tal. Prior to that, Panjim was a fish­ing vil­lage, a marshy land de­void of the ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders of to­day. The city’s old­est her­itage build­ing, and a beau­ti­ful one at that, is the river­side Idal­cao Palace, which was built by Yusuf Adil Shah. It was later taken over by the Por­tuguese, turned into res­i­dences for the viceroys and, even­tu­ally, be­came the (for­mer) Sec­re­tar­iat Build­ing. A glo­ri­ous white­washed church lords over the an­i­mated city cen­tre, a broad leafy boule­vard skirts around the river, and grand colo­nial-era build­ings rub shoul­ders with arty bou­tiques, old-school book­shops, state-of-the-art malls and back­street bars. But it’s the tan­gle of nar­row streets in the old Latin Quar­ter that re­ally steal the show. Nowhere is the Por­tuguese in­flu­ence felt more strongly than here, where the late af­ter­noon sun lights up yel­low houses with pur­ple doors, and around each cor­ner you’ll find re­stored ochre-coloured

man­sions with ter­ra­cotta-tiled roofs, wrought-iron bal­conies and arched oys­ter­shell win­dows. The old­est, and by far the most at­mo­spheric, Por­tuguese-flavoured dis­tricts of Panaji are squeezed be­tween the hill­side of Alt­inho and the banks of Ourem Creek, and make for at­trac­tive wan­der­ing with their nar­row streets, over­hang­ing bal­conies and quaint air of Mediter­ranean yes­ter­year. Fontainhas, said to take its name from the Foun­tain of Phoenix spring, which stands near the Maruti Tem­ple, is the larger of the two dis­tricts, com­pris­ing pas­tel-shaded houses that head up Alt­inho hill. The land here was orig­i­nally re­claimed in the late 18th cen­tury by a re­turn­ing self-made Goan, known as ‘the Mos­mikar’, so-called for the riches he had amassed dur­ing a stay in Mozam­bique. This lit­tle throw­back of a place, with its colo­nial aes­thet­ics, wind­ing nar­row lanes, tilted gable roofed houses in spec­tac­u­lar shades of red and blue, green and yel­low, is an open door to Goa’s Por­tuguese past. Lo­cated to the north of Fontainhas, the tiny area around the main post of­fice is known as Sao Tomé. The post of­fice was once the to­bacco-trad­ing house for Panaji, and the build­ing to the right of it was the state mint. The square that these build­ings face once housed the town pil­lory, where jus­tice turned into spec­ta­cle when ex­e­cu­tions took place. It was here that sev­eral con­spir­a­tors in­volved in the Pinto Re­volt were put to death, for plot­ting to over­throw Por­tuguese rule in 1787. Though Fontainhas can be cov­ered in two or three hours, to do more jus­tice to these al­leys, pen­cil in some more

walk­ing time. A day or two in Panjim’s Latin district is an es­sen­tial part of the Goan ex­pe­ri­ence.

Wood framed Indo-por­tuguese houses in sat­u­rated colours in these hap­haz­ardly de­signed nar­row streets pre­dom­i­nate the area and the 17th-cen­tury Church of Our Lady of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion stands like a jewel in Fontainhas’ Latin-style crown. Set atop a hill, it glows like a gi­ant torch of faith guard­ing the aes­thetic riches of the neigh­bour­hood. Built in 1541, it is be­lieved to be one of the old­est churches in Goa. Its four tiered zigzag­ging stair­way was added three cen­turies later. The mag­nif­i­cent bell of the church weigh­ing over 2000 kgs is sec­ond only to the golden bell of the Monastery of St Au­gus­tine (now in ru­ins), in Old Goa.

The small but pretty Chapel of St Se­bas­tian, built in the 1880s is an­other gem you can visit in Fontainhas. Mediter­ranean cul­ture per­vades every street – houses are painted in bright, cheer­ful colours, with beau­ti­fully writ­ten name­plates out­side homes, gal­leries, neigh­bour­hood bak­eries, churches, blue petal curls drawn in white ce­ramic tiles and res­i­dents greet­ing each other in Por­tuguese. Fontainhas is full of such de­lights, to be ex­plored at leisure.

Old wooden bak­eries tickle the nose with the aroma of Goan breads, of­ten

dou­bling up as a works of art from a by­gone era and small cafes beckon at the cor­ner of an al­ley where one can sit and en­gage in ca­sual chat with res­i­dents over some home­made sausages or a glass of port, with Goan mu­sic in the back­ground and the wel­come of a world which is un­ex­pect­edly open to strangers. Sam­ple the street food, where ev­ery­thing is ac­com­mo­dated in push­carts, from sweet beef samosas, prawn cut­lets, squid soup to grilled ham sand­wiches or pop into some ran­dom bar or old tav­erna with live mu­sic, great food, and ran­dom strangers ready to open up to you for a cheer­ful chat.

There is a kind of amus­ing his­tory over­flow in the streets – there is a Rua 31 de Janeira (31st Jan­uary Road) street which re­lates to the date of Por­tu­gal’s in­de­pen­dence from Spain in 1640 and the Bustling 18th June Road named af­ter a date in 1946 when Ram Manohar Lo­hia (an In­dian in­de­pen­dence ac­tivist) called a meet­ing that led to the end of Por­tuguese rule in In­dia. So if you find a dif­fer­ently sound­ing street name or a street named on a date, don’t hes­i­tate to en­quire about its his­tory.

Art Gal­leries are an in­dis­putable rea­son to visit Fontainhas. One shouldn’t miss the Gallery Gi­tan­jali, ad­ja­cent to Panjim Inn. It has a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art and Scan­di­na­vian lith­o­graphs, lino prints and etch­ings from the 1950s and 1960s, plus it of­ten dou­bles up as a cool venue for po­etry read­ings, art dis­cus­sions, launches, movie screen­ings and nu­mer­ous dis­courses on movies and art, with a cafe to re­fresh body and soul.

Velha Goa Ga­le­ria is an­other beau­ti­ful place to stop by to shop for gor­geous tra­di­tional hand-painted ce­ram­ics,

in­clud­ing azueljos (tin-glazed ce­ramic tiles). A lit­tle to­wards the main city is the Gallery At­tic, where pe­riod fur­ni­ture, pot­tery and an­tique glass­ware are painstak­ingly re­stored to their orig­i­nal glory. Mar­cou Ar­ti­facts is an­other small Fontainhas shop that show­cases one-off painted tiles, fish fig­urines and hand­crafted Por­tuguese and Goan ce­ram­ics.

And the food – Ah! How can one miss it? While the small, wind­ing streets of Fontainhas are an open in­vi­ta­tion to shrug off your beach laz­ing and ex­plore; the aroma of cook­ing from decades-old es­tab­lish­ments perched in old build­ings, pro­vides an in­vi­ta­tion im­pos­si­ble to re­sist. It is said in Fontainhas past and present live un­der the same roof.

One must-stop should be Hospedaria Ven­ite, marked with its graf­fiti-laden walls, beer chan­de­liers and au­then­tic Goan and Por­tuguese cui­sine. On 31st Jan­uary Road, Ven­ite is one of the old­est lodg­ing and board­ing es­tab­lish­ments in Panjim. With its cute rick­ety bal­cony ta­bles over­hang­ing the cob­bled street, Ven­ite has long been among the most at­mo­spheric of Panaji’s Goan restau­rants. The menu is tra­di­tional, with spicy sausages, fish curry rice, pep­per chicken steak and seafood, but Ven­ite is pop­u­lar with tourists and prices are con­se­quently in­flated. Drop in for a beer or shot of feni (Goan spirit) be­fore de­cid­ing.

Well known to tourists, Viva Panjim is a lit­tle side-street eatery, set in an old Por­tuguese house and with a few ta­bles out on the laneway, which de­liv­ers tasty Goan clas­sics at rea­son­able prices. There’s a whole menu page de­voted to pork dishes, along with tasty xa­cuti (a spicy chicken or meat dish cooked in red co­conut sauce) and caf­real (a mar­i­nated chicken dish), seafood such as king­fish vin­daloo or steak, crab xec xec, siz­zlers and desserts such as be­binca (richly lay­ered Goan dessert made from egg yolk and co­conut).

It is the old, an­ces­tral home of Linda D’souza, tucked away in a rather small, unas­sum­ing cor­ner of Fontainhas. The place re­tains its old world dé­cor, rich dim in­te­ri­ors, pop mu­sic of the 60s and 70s, and makes din­ing here an unique ad­ven­ture. From the ta­bles on the pa­tio you can see all the ac­tiv­ity on the street.

Con­feitaria 31 De Janeiro is a any­time visit for sweets and savouries. The old­est bak­ery on 18th June Road in Fontainhas, it is fa­mous for its sweets, pav breads and the de­li­cious Goan cake called Be­binca.

It’s well worth a trip up to Alt­inho Hill to visit Cafe Bodega, a serene cafe­gallery in a laven­der-and-white Por­tuguese man­sion in the grounds of Su­na­paranta Cen­tre for the Arts. En­joy good cof­fee, juices and fresh-baked cakes around the in­ner court­yard or lunch on su­per piz­zas.

Shar­ing in­ter­est­ing premises with a wood-craft gallery, Baba’s wood café is an up­mar­ket Ital­ian restau­rant in a quiet street near the Maruti Tem­ple, which has a lovely lit­tle al­fresco din­ing area and a menu fea­tur­ing more than 20 dif­fer­ent pasta dishes from ravi­oli to

car­bonara. Piz­zas are wood-fired and pasta home­made, while desserts in­clude tiramisu and choco­late fon­due. The colo­nial at­mos­phere, the earthy ap­peal of the dé­cor, the rare Ital­ian wines straight from the Mediter­ranean and above all, the en­tic­ing aroma of the wood oven piz­zas is ir­re­sistible. Good for a splurge.

Panjim Inn – achingly serene and steeped in his­tory – is per­haps the best place to im­merse your­self in a nev­erend­ing love af­fair with Goan cul­ture and charm. On 31st Jan­uary Road, over­look­ing Ourem Creek, this is un­doubt­edly the pret­ti­est build­ing in Fontainhas. Sit on the breezy bal­cony, in its first-floor Ve­ran­dah restau­rant and soak in the in­ti­mate in­te­ri­ors, with just a hand­ful of finely carved ta­bles, Fontainhas street views and snappy ser­vice. Pork ribs and king prawns are highly rec­om­mended.

For ac­com­mo­da­tion too, Panjim Inn should al­ways be the first name on your list, a her­itage prop­erty with every room in a dif­fer­ent style and dé­cor and a prom­ise to take you back cen­turies.

La Mai­son, with only eight pri­vate her­itage rooms, prom­ises you a place all to your­self. The el­e­gant in­te­ri­ors, in­for­mal at­mos­phere and spa­cious rooms with ex­pres­sive works of art and grace­fully min­i­mal­ist decor, makes La Mai­son a good place to set­tle into.

Want to ditch the ho­tels al­to­gether, wel­come to the Old Quar­ter hos­tel, light on the pocket and eclec­ti­cally on par with its Euro­pean coun­ter­parts. In an old Por­tuguese house in his­toric Fontainhas, this flam­boy­ant hos­tel of­fers slick fourbed dorms with lock­ers as well as pri­vate dou­bles in a sep­a­rate build­ing, along with the Ur­ban Cafe, arty mu­rals, good wi-fi and bikes for hire. Brighten your hol­i­day with lively smil­ing faces, back­pack­ers from dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the world and a re­fresh­ingly laid­back ex­pe­ri­ence. At the lit­tle or­ganic café, a wide as­sort­ment of teas and morn­ing yoga classes are on of­fer. So, sink in, take a break, sniff the aroma, and share rooms and smiles with strangers. The Sao Tome-fontainhas Her­itage Walk: Treat your­self to a leisurely one­hour ram­ble through Goa’s in­ex­tri­ca­ble Por­tuguese an­ces­try. Take-off point is Casa da Moeda (House of Coins) in the midst of Panjim’s his­toric To­bacco Square. Go past the 400-year-old Sao Tome Chapel via cob­bled al­leys flanked by brightly-hued homes, pop into an an­cient bak­ery, peer at tra­di­tional ce­ramic name plates, cov­ered porches, art gal­leries and much else be­fore end­ing at the char­ac­ter-ooz­ing Panjim Inn for a well-de­served cuppa. Con­tact Jack Sukhija (+91 9823025748+91 9823025748) for de­tails. You can also take a guided tour with res­i­dent ex­pert Luis Dias, whose neigh­bour­hood walks are laced with lo­cal trivia and anec­dotes. Al­ter­na­tively, book a guided walk at Panjim Inn, the 19th­cen­tury colo­nial man­sion con­verted into one of the city’s best her­itage ho­tels.

A lane in Fontainhas

17th-cen­tury Church of Our Lady of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion

Roof top view of San Se­bas­tian chapel

Beau­ti­ful vil­las in Fontainhas, Panjim

Wood framed houses in the nar­row streets of Fontainhas

Velha Goa Gal­le­ria

Walk­ing through Fontainhas, Panjim

Por­tuguese style house

In­te­rior of_velha Goa Ga­le­ria

Panjim Inn

Ho­tel Venitte, Fontainhas

Ve­ran­dah restau­rant, Panjim inn

Beau­ti­ful Panorama of Panjim Church

Gallery Gi­tan­jali, next to Panjim Inn

City view of Fontainhas and alt­inho Panjim

Vasco de gama arch, Old Goa

Rain­ing in Goa

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