Hello everyone! How are you?
Those of you following our Instagram feed will know I've been in India the past few weeks. It's the reason why there have been SO few posts over the last month - I felt I really needed a break and some downtime. It's been a lovely, slow-paced time so far and as the time to return to Frankfurt nears, I'm slowly looking forward to jumping into things again.
Our holiday in India kicked off with a family trip to Goa. It's one of those places you can do all manner of things and since parties and crazy crowds weren't on our list, we picked quieter South Goa to stay at. I pulled out my copy of the Goa edition of the Love Travel guides - these books are such great help with planning Indian trips. I’ve previously used the Delhi and Rajasthan guides and am quite in love with these beautiful and very personally curated books. They’re almost the equivalent of sitting down with a friend that’s been where you want to go and having them share the things they did and loved.
Through the guide, I found the Vivenda dos Palcahos, a beautiful heritage Indian home set on an acre of land in Majorda, South Goa. Lovingly restored by its owner Simon Hays, it has seven rooms that are each named after Simon and his sister Charlotte’s favourite Indian cities. We were lucky enough to be able to get rooms there and pulling up to the gate in our taxi, my first reaction was 'wow!'. It has that rare ability to be unpretentious yet sumptious, put together with so much attention to detail that you can spend hours wandering around taking everything in.
What really makes the Vivenda special is that it feels like a home more than a hotel and that it's so easy to start conversations with the other guests, all of whom had really interesting stories. The dining room is straight out of an old British novel: a long wooden table with many, many chairs where breakfast and all other meals are served. The bright and quirky Lorry Back bar features the customised back panel of an Indian truck as the counter: we spent quite a few evenings here, sipping something yummy and chatting. The poolside area is another gem: set off from the main building and surrounded by palms and all manner of tropical greenery, it's perfect to spend a few hours lounging with a book. There are verandahs all around the house with little tables and chairs to just hang out and relax and the main living room is another beauty, filled with Art Deco-esque furniture and art. Each of the seven rooms has a completely different style and my favourite was Konnager - a grand setup with antique Indian furniture including a four-poster bed and a freestanding clawfoot bathtub.
Simon was around mornings and evenings and is absolutely lovely to chat with: he's also full of tips for things to do, places to visit and to eat at which was quite invaluable. Another lovely detail was the little antique cabinets scattered around the house: Charlotte’s Cupboards, as I later discovered they’re called, featuring all manner of textiles, jewellery and art from Goan and Indian designers and artists to buy. It's a lovely touch and really makes exploring worthwhile.
We had a very relaxed time with a low-key agenda whilst we were there. We didn't do shopping, though there's lots of that further up north. Here are my top five things to do in the area:
/ Exploring the beautiful, secluded and completely natural Majorda beach. No beach chairs, no hawkers, nothing / 15 minute walk
/ Walks through paddy fields ringed with coconut palms / start from 5 minutes away
/ Ayurvedic and international treatments at the luxurious spa at the beautiful Alila Diwa hotel / 10 minute walk
/ Exploring the Figueiredo house in Loutolim, a lavish Portugese mansion dating from 1590, still in possession of the family and presented as a living museum / 20 - 25 minute drive
/ Sundowners and delicious (sea)food at Zeebop by the Beach, a Goan restaurant right on the beach / 5 minute drive
Getting to Vivenda is a half hour car ride from Dabolim airport and there's a lot to do by foot in the area. Taxis are also very easy to organise, as are cycles or motorbikes to get around.
The four days we spent in Goa were beautiful, languid and fun - lovely locals, quirky tourists, delicious food and incredibly lush greenery made it a paradise of sorts. It's definitely on my list of return destinations!
Images: Vatsala Murthy