Reis Magos , Goa

On the banks of the river Mandovi , in a village named Reis Magos , near Panjim in Goa , stands the Reis Magos Fort right next to the church with which it shares its name. I was expecting it to be crowded owing to its proximity to the bustling capital city , but we were the only ones inside the fort.

Reis Magos Church

Reis Magos in Portuguese means ‘ Three wise men’ . This is the oldest fort in Goa . The once impregnable fort was used as a prison and a hospital before it began falling apart and was abandoned in 1993. The restoration that began in 2008 has restored parts of the fort and transformed it into a cultural center. It’s a short trek to the fort , but there is a free van pick up for senior citizens and parents with infants.

The first thing one sees as one enters the fortress is the death hole.

Death hole

The death hole was used to shoot or pour hot oil on enemies who had breached the gates. A little ahead is the  hole in the wall that was once a solitary confinement cell.

The solitary confinement cell
Inside the fort 
This is currently an information center
Wooden model of the fort 
Laterite walls
View from the cannon gallery
The village cemetery and the church roof top 
Prison cells
Something interesting from the loads of information on display
TOP – The frontpage of the TOI the day Goa was liberated 
Taken through the glass panels installed so one can get a glimpse of the view without the fear of a steep fall !
Walking down 
Time to head back

In the above picture you can see a banyan tree that began to grow as a parasite on a coconut tree that stood there once and eventually strangled it. The dead coconut tree caught fire in 2008 , the banyan tree was held in place with steel ropes and is now supported by a concrete pillar . What stories this place has to tell !

The art gallery just before the exit

There are seven galleries , each dedicated to an artist or theme. I loved these by Mario de Miranda .




So this is Reis Magos , a lot of history , a fort with an awesome view , a quiet place to spend a few hours and some lovely pieces of art.


Fontainhas – Quaint and colourful Goa

The old Latin Quarter in Panjim city , pretty heritage homes in happy colours , windows that are lined with shells , people speaking Portuguese as fluently as the local language (Konkani), serene lanes that invite you to explore , early morning walks through the winding lanes with church goers and school children eager to chat and help, remnants of Portuguese architecture and the little fountain from which this place derives its name – Fontainhas ! It has been a little over three months since my stay in Fontainhas and a post long over due .

Afonso Heritage home

I have always lived at home in an obscure village in Goa and this was the first time I was in Goa but staying away from our ancestral house. I decided it was going to be a beautiful heritage home converted into a warm inviting guest house – Afonso Guest house. This was our first trip with our nine month old baby and the place had to be sparkling clean with a touch of homeliness. That’s exactly what we found inside this bright yellow immaculate home away from home. To add it to it , the freshly baked bread by the owner for breakfast was the cherry on the cake .

The blue house next to the chapel
The chapel next door
Home and hues
Pretty nooks and corners

As we rambled for the next few days , we saw colours everywhere .

Check out the rooster , the balcao ( verandah ) ,tiled roofs
Another heritage home owned by Linda – the owner of Viva Panjim




Most homes are brightly painted , have red tiles on the roof , are surrounded by lots of plants and the names of streets and house owners are displayed on Azulejo tiles (Portuguese ceramic tiles).

Street names on Azulejo tiles
House names on tiles too
And flooring too !

My chats with the owner, Aunt Jeanette, revealed that back in the day it was mandatory for every home to be freshly painted after the monsoon season, however , the rules are not so stringent today .



The main street here is the St. Sebastian Road , named after the St Sebastian Chapel – the only white structure towering amidst a burst of colours.

The Chapel . Looked forlorn to me amidst all that colour 

Next to the Chapel is a page out of a fairy tale , a wishing well , with roosters perched on top , begging for some love ( a fresh coat of paint may be !) . Defunct and lots of weeds growing inside , how it got its name am not quite sure , but even though the it resembled an ageing woman with disheveled hair and in need of some grooming , it had a charm of its own.

The wishing well
Am calling these the rainbow stairs 

The rooster which is an important part of Portuguese architecture can be spotted on roofs of homes and uniformed police figurines also adorn the exteriors of some homes . I read that the latter signifies the home belongs to a freedom fighter , but there was no way to verify it.

Rooster perched on the wishing well
Rooster on roofs
Cop like figures places on exteriors of some homes



Shell lined windows made me sing ! They looked so pretty , so ingenious and let in the right amount of light .  An owner of a pretty cafe told me how it is now illegal to be selling these shells and heritage homes that are renovating can only salvage a few that hey have or source it from other heritage homes that are being demolished to make way for modern ( not so pretty ) hotels .

Shell lined window pane – Afonso home


Pretty , no ?

The place is fab , the people are warm and the food is super too . Viva Panjim is a good option for some authentic Goan cuisine but the real super deal and steal for me was the little cart that dishes out beef delicacies – tongue , rolls , chops , curry , croquettes ! You cannot miss this one right next to the  Library ( another bright yellow structure ).



On my last day here , I walked to the other side in search of what remains of the font after which this place is named . This is all I saw with no information or sign board in sight . I walked back , this time slower , wishing I had more time to spend here .

I couldn’t sign up for a heritage walk but have no regrets . Wake up early , talk to the locals and they will tell you stories of the past and how their beloved Fontainhas is a font of happiness , love and colours .


Spices , feni and more

Sahakari spice garden , Goa.

After our guided tour and a delicious lunch , we were allowed to wander about in the spice garden . A look at what we saw ….

A large centipede . The largest I’ve seen till date
Flowers of a love apple tree add a lovely dash of pink . 
Coffee bean plant
Peri peri chilies  

A little section of the garden is dedicated to explaining how Feni – a locally produced spirit which is made out of cashews or toddy palm is distilled. Fermented cashew juice is distilled thrice to get what is sold in the market as feni.

This was definitely an afternoon well spent.

A spice garden in Goa and grandma’s concoctions

Goans love spices and we use a combination of many in most of our cooking. I have been to a spice garden in Kerala a few years ago and was quite fascinated at the time . This visit to Sahakari spice garden in Ponda was quite interesting too .  We saw some of the locally grown spices , fruits and nuts and were given a detailed explanation of how they can be used in simple home remedies for every day health issues.

As the chirpy guide went on from one spice to the next , I kept thinking of my Mai ( grandma) who always had (and still does ) a magical concoction for stomach ache , nausea , cough , cold , congestion etc for all of us at home. She would explain, as she roasted caraway seeds, that inhaling a little of it would keep the cold away or she’d tell us proudly how her siblings and she would gulp down glasses of cumin flavored water and had never complained of griping aches like we did . With a dearth of doctors and medical facilities in the primary health dispensary in the neighbouring village , my grandma had learnt from her mother how to utilize spices for more than just flavor and aroma. What we learnt at the spice garden was a reiteration of grandma’s spicy tales !

I enjoyed listening to some new bits of information , walking around and of course the lovely meal . The entry is INR 400 per person which includes a 30 minute tour and lunch. There are atleast three spice gardens that I’ve heard of in Goa and there must be more . So if you have a couple of hours and want to see a side of Goa away from the sea and sand , head to any of these spicy treats . 🙂

Pepper corns

Pepper corns are grown in our garden in Goa and the first thing I can think of when I see black pepper corns is ‘jeerem meerem’ ( jeerem – cumin , meerem – black pepper corn).Jeerem meerem is a simply spiced but delicious fish curry that any Goan would vouch for . This is a curry that ditches the coconut ( which is an integral part of most of our curries ) and instead is a lighter , well balanced curry that goes well with rice. So yes , we love pepper 🙂

Banana – the flower is supposed to have many medicinal properties 
Coffee bean plant
Cocoa -where birds have had their fill 
Fresh turmeric . It is called the sister of ginger ( am not sure why ) but my grandma swears by a cup of turmeric and ginger tea 
Betel nut /Areca nut 
Areca palms 
A betel nut palm climber shows us how it’s done

Jumping from tree to tree , plucking from about 30 to 40 palms in one go , these are super heroes without capes !

and where there’s a modern day Tarzan swinging , there ought to be an elephant , no ?

More to follow in the next post  🙂 Until then , keep it hot and spicy !





Palolem – South Goa

South Goa is quieter , cleaner and less crowded as compared to the beaches of North Goa. Palolem is one such coastal village in Cancona, South Goa. Travelling to the usual spots  from here is expensive and time consuming , making this a not so sought after place to stay and that makes it perfect for those who want to have a peaceful holiday. DSC_0700DSC_0729DSC_0869

Butterfly conservatory in Goa

Goa – our first trip in 15 months and our first with the little one. This is also the first time in 33 years that I didn’t stay at home but chose to live in South Goa and then in Fontainhas, Panjim . Most of my posts in the weeks to come will be about Goa and all things Goan . I hope you enjoy them .

I begin with the butterfly conservatory in Priol , Ponda. This one is just 25 km away from my ancestral home and I had not heard of it until a couple of months ago. On our way to the spice garden ( Sahakari spice garden) in Ponda  , we managed to find this small butterfly park . This is a place not on the regular tourist circuit and many might not find it worth the travel. It is an open park so you might spot many butterflies on a given day or a few , but it still is a pretty place for nature enthusiasts .The place has been started and is maintained solely by the efforts of a passionate couple who’ve painstakingly converted this barren piece of land into something worthwhile .I quite enjoyed my time here.