The sun is slowly setting in the cloudy Fontainhas sky bathing the red and yellow buildings in a subtle glow. In the distance we hear the sounds of mass in the Latin quarters’ St. Sebastian Church, but our attention is drawn instead to the mournful sounds of a violin coming from a house nearby.
We follow the the sound passing an old wishing well on our left, crowned by a pair of roosters, a recurring symbol in houses across Goa. On a side street a group of children are engaged in a game of football as an old lady dressed in a floral frock leans over the balcony of her home, which is done up in traditional deep tones of orange and yellow, talking to a friend in what seems like a mix of Konkani and Portuguese.
We finally locate the source of the music. A dishevelled man, dressed in clothes that had seen better days, stands at the window of his home playing his violin it seems to no one in particular, or perhaps he was playing for the the handsome cockatoo in an elegant cage sitting by his front door.
We wave at him as we pass by and he smiles in acknowledgement, drawn momentarily from his melancholy tune.
The mass is ending now and we follow the small crowd streaming out of the Chapel down the narrow streets lined with colourful Portuguese style homes to a vendor who sells hot local delicacies including beef cutlets, mutton samosas and roast tongue. We line up for a taste but we are late it seems, most of the good stuff is gone and we resolve to come back the next day.
There is a slow drizzle starting now and we decide to head back; the light is fading and our stomachs rumble, awakened by the wafting aroma of roast tongue. We head through the narrow lanes to our new favourite hangout, a charming little bar on the first floor of an old Portuguese mansion, where we can sit on the tiny balconies, sip on a drink and watch the world go by.
Some Useful Information:
When to Go: Anytime is good, just add a couple of days to your Goa beach holiday to take in wonderful Fontainhas and the nearby Churches of Old Goa. The monsoons are particularly nice when Fontainhas and the surrounding areas are quiet and peaceful but if your are looking for some action visit during the annual Goa Carnival in February when the old latin quarter is particularly festive.
Where to Stay: Panjim and the Fontainhas area have a number of nice places to stay but our pick would be the lovely Panjim Inn an old Portuguese bungalow converted to a heritage property, bang in the middle of the quarter.
Where to Eat: Food is a huge part of the Goa experience and Panjim and Fontainhas are no different. You’ll be spoilt for choice! Our favourites in no particular order: Black Sheep Bistro for modern Goan / European fusion food. Viva Panjim for classic Goan fare. The quirky Venite’s Bar (Hospedaria Venite) for a drink, a good steak and some top class people watching from their charming first floor balcony tables. The Sunaparanta Café for its wonderful ambiance, excellent cafe fare and the best Cheesecake for miles.
What to See: Fontainhas is not about places to see but more about walking around and taking in the vibe, so just get out there and explore. The Panjim Inn can help you with a map for a lovely self guided heritage walk around the quarter’s historical buildings.