Old world charm of Fontainhas in pictures
One fine afternoon my homestay lady asked me if I would like to go out with her to Fontainhas, to drop her son for ‘Art classes’ in Gitanjali. I was not aware what’s been waiting for me in the ‘Latin quarter’ of Panji, so far Goa has been single-mindedly chase the sun-and-sand-scene in previous trips. I decided not to miss on heritage experience of Goa and we hopped on the taxi. The monsoon taxi ride from Parra, through Saligao was refreshing to make my creative energies aligned and made the sleepy shutterbug inside me fully awake to look, observe and capture. A quick lunch savoring the layers of ‘Hell boy’ burger in Route66 on the way, soon we dropped the kid in Gitanjali. We were energetic after being high on meat and ready for a self-guided heritage walk that had us gawking in awe at just how beautiful Fontainhas was.
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. Fontainhas is filled with romance and remains cocooned in an old world charm. It’s suspended in a state of colonial limbo – reflecting shades of Portugal and yet retaining a flavourful character that’s quite its own. The Portuguese built most houses here in the early 18th century. They were then handed out as rewards to enterprising Goan merchants and loyal officials for their services to the colonial regime. They still stand strong to foretell the golden history of Goa.
As soon as I started walking from Gitanajali, I observed the foreigner tourists in the area and some of them were from Portugal, paying homage to an important part of their history. I was standing at St. Sebastian Chapel Square, chatting with the lady who was supposed to go for a wedding, taking quick cues about the place and later she happily posed for a shot. Records say that the original chapel was located at a site opposite the present chapel and was dated 1818. What compelling reason necessitated the relocation of the chapel to the present site in 1888 is unknown.
Walking a few meters, my eyes fell on Afonso Guest house covered with flowering hibiscus and I asked the owner if I could have a look at it. I found Afonso a great option to stay to live at the beautiful confluence of ancient and modern times. I started to walk mindlessly observing the details on these heritage building; the large ornamental windows and the plaster mouldings. Columns or pillars flanked the railings and front doors of the houses were breath-taking.
The bold and dramatic colours on the houses and the various faces from different part of the world made me walking on the streets for few hours before I decided to stop and have a coffee at Panji Inn to relax my muscles. Even in the earlier periods bright colours were used on the exterior to draw attention and make a sensational statement. The colour washes used originally were made from natural dyes. They made the house look “well-dressed” and fancy, indicating the wealth and well-being of the family that lived inside. Not much has changed as I still see, yellow, red and purple colours on the wall, to brighten my day.
I am exploring Goa beyond ‘beaches and beer’ this month. Would love to know your recommendations?