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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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!)


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.


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.


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!).


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. 


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.


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!)


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.


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!


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


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.


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


……… and inside.


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


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!


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.


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!


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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!


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.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Two Island Trips and a Friend to stay


Life in Goa is not all hard work. Occasionally we get a chance to laze about in the pool outside our apartment!


We recently met up with a British couple Tony and Carol, on holiday for a couple of weeks, who expressed an interest in coming with us on what we call “the island trip”. Little did they know how much fun they were about to have!


During the trip, after the cooking equipment and sunshades are off-loaded on one of the many islands off the Goan coast, (for the beach bbq and buffet later in the day) we set off by boat again to drop anchor off another island where we could swim, snorkel and fish. We made friends with three lads on holiday from Delhi. James helped one of them to learn to swim (and, with his new-found confidence, he was happy to then splash about outside this pic!) but here are Aman and Himanshu, happy to be part of the photo!


Aman, Doug, Carol, Tony and Himanshu after the swimming.


Here we are again on our way to the island for the beach buffet.


The beach buffet in full swing. Wonderful food, sunshine and the lovely company of the “Delhi Three”.


After a day of imbibing beer and rum and coke and a belly full of gorgeous Goan food the trip back back home was party time! Here’s Carol and Doug doing their combined “Kate Winslett” routine!


…….. and, after “Kate Winslett”, they take a rest!


We’re happy to report that everyone returned safely from the island trip and, after 40 winks we met up with Tony and Carol again to finish the day at Santa Lucia bar (where we met for the first time). It also happened to be the birthday of Tushar, the bar manager (a lovely, welcoming and always helpful man) so we invited him to join us for a birthday drink.


On the way home Doug helped a couple of bar staff to feed one of the many sacred cattle that roam the streets. This one is partial to a bit of naan bread (well, quite a lot of it actually!)


Our friend Emmanuel flew out to join us for a week and we had some great moments showing him around. Next to where we are at Candolim is Siquerim, where many of the traditional boats are based and where you can get a thirst quenching coconut milk drink.


Further on from Siquerim, at the headland, is Aguada Fort (which we’ve visited many times) but we also explored to the very end of the road and to the gates of the now disused Aguada Jail. The statues at the entrance gates were quite interesting!


A camera shot through the gates show just a little of this grim place which only closed three years ago.


We took Emmanuel to the Arpora Saturday (all night) market which has a great atmosphere. There must be a thousand stalls there selling just about anything you can think of.


The market is situated on a hillside so there are trees and steps up and down to the different “streets” of stalls.


Just as an aside – we took a local bus the other day. Not in very good condition - you could see the road in several places through the floor!


We’ve recently got to know a couple of market traders (Sachin and Manog) who recently invited us to their home to meet their families and to have a meal with them. Manog and Sachin live quite close to each other,are good friends and work together. We eagerly took up their kind invitation and took along a few gifts for the children. This is Manog’s charming 18 month old little boy who was thrilled with the bubble gun we gave him.


They took us into their “rain house” which they usually use in the monsoon season but they also live and cook outdoors in the winter months.


The single room dwelling is very small with a small kitchen area where Manog’s wife and mother in law were preparing the food for us. We were given their mattress to sit on while the rest of the family sat on the stone floor.


The food was delicious – chicken, lamb and rice with ‘puddi’.



This is Sachin (left) with Manog’s extended family members who also wanted to meet us.


This is most of Manog’s family (we also call him ‘spice John’ as he sells herbs and spices). John’s in the centre with the dark shirt and his wife is front left.


After we’d spend a quite a while with Manog and his family Sachin wanted us to go to his home to meet his family. Again we were greeted with the most wonderful welcome and enjoyed a cup of coffee with them before leaving.

We were totally bowled over with the generosity and welcome we received from these lovely people. Both Sachin and John had poor educations but both are determined to work hard to give their children a good education as they know how important it will be for them in the future. It was a real joy to spend so much time with them. 


We went on another “island boat trip”, this time with friends Dev and Rajaa who help us a lot with organising trips. This is James’ very poor attempt at photographing Dolphins. This large pod came quite close to the boat and some of the Dolphins did some wonderful summersaults out of the water.


This is Rajaa at the bow of the boat just before we dropped anchor and did some swimming.


After swimming and snorkelling the boats took us for the beach buffet on another island.


The boat crew erect sun shades to give us ‘delicate souls’ somewhere comfortable to eat. In the midday sun the sand is too hot to walk on!


We had arranged to meet friends Dolreich and Hemant in Panjim on Tuesday this week so, riding our scooters to the ferry, we attempted to get aboard! They certainly like playing ‘sardines’ on the ferry – so much so that Doug managed to squeeze on and James was left high and dry! So he decided to take the long way round and over the bridge and was only 10 minutes late!


Dolreich is a wine waiter for P&O and we’ve known him since our first cruise. Hemant is a bar manager and we’ve also known him a while. Both, very fortuitously, were on leave from their ships so we had lunch with them at our favourite eating place (Down the Road) in Panjim.  Here’s Hemant, Doug, Dolreich and James. It was so very good to catch up with them both and we shall see them both again quite soon.


On Tuesday evening we took Emmanuel to “Thallassa”, a very popular Greek restaurant perched on the cliff at Vagator in North Goa. It’s renowned for the fabulous views and sunsets ……


……. and it certainly did not disappoint on that score!


The dinning experience was terrific and we hope to go back again one day.


And, as the sun tucked itself below the horizon, we took the chance to have a photo shoot with the most amazing background.