Thursday, 12 January 2017

Beaches Galore! (and catch-up with friends)

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Well, with the New Year celebrations over it’s almost back to normal in Candolim. Very strangely, the Goan government has put a curfew, until the local elections on Feb 4th, on alcohol sold after 11pm! (There are serious fines and licence withdrawal for breaking the law). However, there are more fundamental issues at stake for some - when we visit the beach one of our “friends” usually sniffs us out! Julie is very old (about 16 years or more!) She reminds us so much of how “Oscar” got – sight and hearing almost gone but still plodding on. She comes to us for her biscuits.

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Doug’s got himself a part time job – ‘tea boy’ at the barbers shop! (something else to add to the CV!) Our barber boys are Muslim so they drink hot sweet milk. Doug and James drink hot sweet coffee. Basically, whatever you have comes hot and sweet!

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We occasionally hire a scooter for a couple of days at a time. Our barber friend Asraf took this pic and sent it via Whatsapp. Since he got one of our (kindly donated) phones he’s now on Facebook and other social sites and his English has improved so much in just a few weeks. He’s so happy!

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A few days ago our friend Julroy came up from South Goa to join us for the day. As we had a scooter, and Julroy had his fabulous Royal Enfield, we rode up north to Arambol. James, of course, took the invitation to be pillion on the back of Julroy’s bike! We had a lovely relaxed lunch in a beach shack.

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Doug and Julroy on the very pretty Harmal Beach at Arambol

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Julroy gets cold easily! Phew! 32 deg C.

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Nice headland at Harmal Beach

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This is the ‘bike park’ at the end of the street in Arambol. If there’s not enough room then you slide things about until there is! Notice the sign – we see very few Indian people smoking.

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Another day another beach as we’ve said before. Goa has the most amazing beaches and the further north you go the quieter, and prettier they seem to get. The other day we took the scooter up to Morjim. This is Turtle Beach (for obvious reasons) looking towards the ‘busy’ end.

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Turtle Beach looking the other way where the Chapora River joins the Arabian Sea.

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Our reason to head towards Morjim was to meet up with friend Sherwin who now has a job managing a Yoga retreat. Sherwin’s chef, Ashwin, made us the most (THE most!) amazing mint/lime/lemon drink. The colour is very dark green and the taste is like nectar.

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Here’s James with Sherwin and Ashwin. We met Sherwin while he was working on one of the Chapora River trip boats which we’ve booked to go on again soon. Hopefully Sherwin and Ashwin will be able to visit us one evening while we’re on the boat.

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…… and a selfie - (James seems to be getting better with smiling and pressing the button at the same time!). James, Doug, Sherwin, Ashwin and ‘Babu’.

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After a lovely catch up with Sherwin we popped down to nearby Ashwen Beach for an hour or so. We had a good mile-long walk along and back …..

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….. and, fascinatingly, the beach was dotted with these starfish (about 3” dia). they seem to manage to cover themselves with a thin layer of sand. The breathing hole is clear of sand in the centre. It’s an optical illusion but the starfish sits in a recess, the same shape, and slightly bigger than itself. The starfish are white before they get covered in sand. (Unless someone knows different to all this?)

Thursday, 5 January 2017

New Year Celebrations–Goan Style.

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The flurry of activity continues unabated in Aguada Homes! – as 2016 nears it’s end.

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On New Year’s Eve we took a very crowded bus ride on the very crowded road to the very busy Calangute Saturday market.

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It’s quite normal to barter and buy from the comfort of your scooter!

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A father and his son preparing cauliflowers – chopping off the leaves before presenting them to look their best.

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Garlic and Ginger  ……

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…… and Limes, Lemons and Oranges.

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The dried fish section of the market. In 35 deg of heat there’s little chance of the fish being anything else but dried!

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After buying some curtains for the bedroom (yes, that’s Doug for you!), a melon, some bananas and cucumbers and then a very hot and slow return bus journey (of 3 kilometres) there was nothing else for it but to carry on the pace of life back “home”.

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After taking it easy for an hour round the pool we then needed to take it easy on the beach for a bit. This is our “official” New Year’s Eve portrait. (James hasn’t yet got to grips with taking a selfie without pulling stupid faces!)

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After returning home for a wash and brush up we were back down to Ryan’s Shack (we do go to other shacks sometimes!) where James was asked to help launch a series of Chinese lanterns for other people. He tried to explain that his height made absolutely no difference to the success of the launch but it was received as just more hot air!

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Ryan’s Shack looked really good with all it’s lights and lanterns ……..

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………. and the whole beach looked a sea of people and lights as far as we could see.

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As 12 o’ clock approached we raised our glasses to toast friends and family everywhere ……….

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……. and the night exploded in a cacophony of noise and light as fireworks from all the beach shacks were set off together.

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It was an amazing sight and our first experience of an Indian (Goan) New Year.

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And then the partying started! ………

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……. and the icing on the New Year cake for us was that our barber friends, Talib, Asraf and Hashim, came down (after they’d finished work at 11:30!) to wish us a Happy New Year. As we’ve said many times before, the sincerity and friendship we receive from these lovely people is overwhelming. 

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The last pic goes to Talib and Doug –barber and customer, friend and friend!

As we enter 2017 we send all our followers, friends and family our very best wishes for the best possible year ahead for you all. Also a big “thank you” to all our readers as, back in November 2016, the blog received it’s 1/2 millionth hit!!!!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Our Goan Christmas and a Family Party

After a pretty hectic first 3 weeks in Goa we managed to arrange a meet-up with friends Dev and Rajaa who are always a wonderful help to us during our times in Candolim.

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So, we took a Tuk-tuk up to Calangute (next to Candolim) to meet up with them both. The road looks uncharacteristically quiet but it just happened to be a rare smooth bit where we could be steady enough to take a clear pic!

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We met up with Dev and Rajaa in a bar in the Calangute Fish Market where we’ve previously enjoyed some happy evenings with them. It’s a very dimly lit place and generally only frequented by the local workers.

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Rajaa, Doug, James and Dev enjoying the tremendously good food, drink and company of everyone around.

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Christmas came to us (5 1/2 hours before our family and friends in the UK). We had a lovely cake given to us by our friend (and Doug’s masseur) Manog.

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Our Christmas Tree and gifts were very minimal this year. A palm leaf in a plastic water bottle and 4 gifts to James from Doug (because Doug did the “dirty” on James and snuck off with Manog to buy them after we’d agreed we wouldn’t!)

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On Christmas Day morning we celebrated the love of our family and friends in all corners of the world. It was so hot that we had to wear our slippers as the veranda floor was burning our feet!

After a wonderful couple of days enjoying our “beach Christmas” we took up the very kind invitation to join a friend and his family on a special occasion.

P1010650 The journey, by bus, took us through Old Goa (the original capital city of Goa) and we spent a couple of hours visiting two very popular religious sites before continuing our journey.

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The ‘old’ Basilica of Bom Jesus is a gorgeous building constructed between 1594 and 1605. The frontage is a riot of Corinthian, Tuscan and Ionic styles.

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Inside the first impression is of great simplicity but further study shows a much more elaborate celebration of function (James isn’t copying this from a pamphlet by the way!).

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The barrel ceiling of the high alter is stunning in it’s detail but we couldn’t get close enough for a close up pic (even though we had a gentleman guiding us around!). There’s 145 kg of gold leaf adorning the alter reredos alone! To the side is the chapel housing the marble tomb of St Francis Xavier. 

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On top of the tomb, which was sculpted by Giovanni Batista Foggini in 1698, is the coffin containing the relics of St Francis Xavier. The solid silver casket between the two black caskets contains a finger from St Francis (which probably fell off at some time!) and is accessible during church services.

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The beautifully preserved body of St Francis can be clearly seen through the crystal ports in the coffin. The poor old boy doesn’t seem to get a lot of peace these days as the Basilica is a major attraction (and free to enter – take note Anglican Cathedrals in the UK!)

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The saint’s original coffin was a simpler affair secured by three locks with differing keys which were held by three separate individuals (a bit like the button for nuclear warhead activation!) The lid could be completely removed to allow the relic to be seen during ritual Expositions.

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Every ten years the lovely ‘old boy’ gets taken down from his normal prominent position and is carted across in this open coffin to the “new” Basilica across the road. Last November was one of those ten year “expositions” and Doug went with some Indian friends to Old Goa during the event. The place was besieged by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and there was a four hour wait to see St Francis!

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The cloisters of the Basilica are peaceful and relatively cool and, incorporating at this time of year, a really smart Nativity scene.

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This is Doug at the approach to the ‘new’ Basilica (built not that long after the ‘old’ one) and next to a gorgeous row of his second favourite flowers -Canna lilies.

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In distinct contrast to the ‘old’ church the new one is painted brilliant white both outside …….

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……… and inside.

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Again, the initial plain appearance hides some remarkably beautiful detail.

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After our visit to Old Goa we resumed our real goal for the day which was to reach the delightful little village of St Estevam where our friend Hemant and his family live. The bus journey there was fascinating – dropping us off at it’s final stop and then disappeared into the distance (the conductor had got off several stops back and left us the only passengers!). All alone, we looked vacantly around and then heard a voice call out from a house: “Are you looking for Hemant’s house?”  Well, that’s India for you! – the conductor had phoned ahead to the village to let them know that two Englishmen were about to arrive!

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Hemant’s lovely house, and the narrow street outside, had been turned into a party venue ready for 200 guests to celebrate the first Holy Communion of his eight year old son Elsten.

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Every wonderful Indian family celebration we’ve had the pleasure to be invited to has had all the stops pulled out on the hospitality front!

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As family and friends gathered we had a little ceremony for Elsten to cut his cake, after which he gave a lovely speech thanking his mum and dad and all of us for coming. He’d taken Holy Communion at 8 o’ clock that morning.

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Hemant’s house is quite large but not large enough to get all the guests inside at once!

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The party in full swing. As we’ve experienced before the gardens are transformed into another ‘room’ with sun shading and printed back clothes.

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The party takes up the road outside as well as the garden and the house!

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The “Man of the Moment” – eight year old Elsten Afonso.

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Hemant is a Bar Manager for P&O Cruises and he very quickly became a friend after our first meeting. Dolriech (left) is a Bar Waiter for P&O and also became a firm friend soon after our first meeting. They live close to each other in the lovely rural area of Cupa and, luckily for us, both are enjoying a few months off duty with their families.

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Here’s us with Hemant’s wife’s sister’s husband Aquino. He’s a police officer in Dubai, again home on a month’s leave and, despite the rather complicated connection he treated us as ‘family’. We felt so privileged.

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Hemant, James and Doug (trying to oust James from the group!)

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Many of the men of the family wanted a group photo with us!

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Truly privileged we were asked to pose for a photo with Hemant, his lovely wife Elida and Elsten. There very pretty daughter Lindsey, who’s a minx, was nowhere to be found!

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The last photo of a most wonderful day goes to “Children’s Corner”!

Yet again we’ve been humbled to take part in one of our Indian friend’s special family celebrations and, as always, the welcome and hospitality has been overwhelming. Thank you Hemant, Elida, Elsten and Lindsey for your kind invitation and making it an unforgettable day for us.