I dread the usual Goa’s beach and beer stories. Which is why I always protest the ‘Goa-plan’ mooted by the daughter and the father at home. But for this Easter weekend, there wasn’t any other option — by the time my leaves got approved, flight and hotel rates had touched the stratosphere! The writing on the wall was clear — if you want to go out of Mumbai, Goa is the only option!
Well then, made it clear to the hubby and the daughter that there had to be more to this trip than just the beaches, beer bottles and fishes. They were OK with anything as long as it’s Goa! And so, we drove off…for a good 13 hours…to reach India’s perennial ‘Holiday State’!
For our stay, we had signed up Vivenda DosPalhacos, a heritage homestay (Read: Review of Vivenda ). I asked Simon, its owner, if he could suggest to us any beautiful and quaint church, not much frequented by tourists, a quiet place, and others such. Sensing our love for ‘not the usual itinerary’, he advised us to go visit heritage homes instead, adding that they were magnificent, rich in history and that, they didn’t figure on a regular tourist’s itinerary. Better still, Simon told us that one of the heritage houses served an elaborate 5-course Goa-Portuguese lunch if you booked in advance. Did we need any further details? Nah! We were sold. He called up the owner to book a table for 3 for the next day. And with that, we went heritage house-hopping in Goa….
Figueiredo Mansion in Loutolim: The Figueiredo Mansion is located deep inside the Loutolim village. That was a good 45 km drive from Majorda where we were staying. Good news is, feed Loutolim in your phone, and you will reach the Loutolim Church past paddy fields and hamlets across a good stretch of road with almost no traffic. Once at the Church, stop to ask any local passer-by for the exact road, and be surprised how you are directed right to the mansion’s gates by smiling locals.
Grand by all accounts, we stood outside the ‘mansion’ gates for a while, admiring the tall windows and the flight of stairs, even as we wondered what lay inside. Once inside, Catherine, the grand-daughter of theFigueiredo family came out to say hello and showed us to the waiting room past the library. Granny will join us in a while, she said. That 10-15 minute wait gave us the time to peek into the garden from the little balcony, study the photographs kept here and there, admire the pieces of furniture, the massive doors…and think to yourself what stories must this mansion own too. That is for Maria to tell you. Maria LourdesFigueiredo de Albuquerque. Vibrant, bubbling with the stories of a different era, looking stunning in her crisp shirt and black trouser, matching earrings, silver-grey hair brushed back, red lipstick, Maria took us around her majestic home talking about every room, every piece of furniture, painting, flower vase, crockery set. Pride and authority that comes from years of living a fine life, and with the memory of an elephant, Maria told us how her ancestors build the house, how Indira Gandhi and subsequent governments have expressed the desire to take over the property, how various museums around the world have wanted to buy a chest or a bone-China set…the lady doesn’t tire. Deeply grateful that she gave us the time and allowed us to take photos (with a strict instruction to not click individual pieces lest they should attract cheats and thugs), we left leaving a modest amount in the donation box and taking with us a rich tale of the house…
A section of the Figueiredo Mansion has been turned into an inn called, Old Heritage Inn. Here are the contact details should you want to stay here. Further, considering her age, it would be nice if you called her in advance to confirm if you’d want a tour of her mansion.
Palacio do Deao Mansion in Quepem: Our next heritage stop was the Palacio do Deao, a mansion built in the late 18th century by the Portuguese noble man, who first built a chapel where the house stands now, and then went on to build a Church, thereby paving the way for the Quepem township. A charming one-storeyed mansion set in a sprawling garden, it had fallen into complete ruins until Ruben Vasco da Gama and his wife restored the house and its ornamental garden three years ago, and opened it to public for viewing as well as for a 5-course Goa-Portuguese lunch in its beautiful patio.
Ruben showed us the house while speaking effusively about its history and all what it took to restore it to its past glory. From the ‘pre-restoration’ photos, you can tell the amount of work that had gone into repairing not only the house, but also the garden. Filled with flowering trees and birds, the ornamental garden of Palacio is supposedly the only ornamental garden in Goa. We strolled around admiring the balustrades, stone bird bath, the many layers until we were ushered in for lunch. Prepared by Mrs Gama herself, this was really an elaborate affair what with the Kokam sherbet (they have an alcoholic option), soup, 3-4 starters comprising prawns, crabs etc, salads, main course comprising fish, breads, vegetables, and then a choice of desserts. Took us about a good two hours to wrap up the spread….and then, wereloathe to drive back 45 kms back to Vivenda. We got back, hit the bed and dozed off for the rest of the afternoon. There’s no way you can dodge the overpowering sleep after dining at the Palacio!
Remember, you need to book in advance if you want to have luch at the Palacio. Here are the contact details — +91 (0)832 266 4029
+91 98 2317 5639, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org