Its all about the Goa beat – slow, sweet tango, coming straight at you from the open paddy fields, endless winding roads running close to forest trails, and brown mountain tops with breathtaking windows to the sea from all sides. You want a room with a view, the Western Ghats chuckle silently to themselves. And you get the joke. Finally.
As you lean out of the four-wheel drive you have spent the last ten long hours in, and watch the quaint little inn come up in the distance with a sign that says “Granpas Inn” with a rocking chair painted underneath it, Sheryl Crow winding road takes on a whole new meaning. All songs were written for some day in each of our lives, is what I believe. This one, today, is all mine.
Bougainvillea Hotel, as it is also known by, charms you and takes you by surprise – much like the delight of finding an out-of-print limited edition Asterix title amongst the commonplace ones sold in every bookshop. With a 300-year old history behind it, now owned and operated by an excitable, energetic and business-like woman called Betina who also happens to be the grand daughter-in-law of the original heir to the property, the hotel, rather the B&B is everything a B&B should be and more.
Quaint sunlit courtyards, yellow and red painted stone walls, wooden doors with antique brass knuckles, cool red earthen floors, hibiscus flowers that seem to sprout out of every room and every window, arched doorways throwing long shadows that open into yet another secret garden, and wooden bookcases housing fiction in German, French and English, in unexpected corners. Ask Betina what her husband’s ancestors did for a living to be able to afford an estate like this, and she says “oh he was in the post” – as though it was the most natural occupation that allowed one lifestyle licenses like this! She never heard of the term “going postal” I imagined! I chuckled silently.
Ambling through the sprawling gardens of bougainvillea and hibiscus that surrounded the estate and the Brahmani Yoga center (attached to the inn), I made my way towards the back which housed the pool (a modern day addition), where people were busy burning themselves well done in the sun, and on to the suite of rooms which was going to be ours.
With an outdoor patio made of red stone and clay (reminded me of that poem, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, somehow), the thatched high-ceilinged suite had a private open backyard with an outdoor shower, for the more adventurous and risqué folks, yours truly confesses to being a big prude in that area! Imagine my delight, though, at finding a tub next to the French windows that looked on to the open backyard, with trees, lizards, butterflies and clinging ivy for company and not much else! Needless to say, the next three days were spent soaking mercilessly in that tub whenever I got a chance, for no less than an hour each time with a bottle of King’s beer and holiday reading. Follow your bliss – yeah, pretty much!!
Time to hit Goa’s European eateries, part of my secret interest in Goa is housed there – the Yorkshire pudding at a little cafe in Candolim could easily be the closest to the real thing. After all, the stomach is the way to a woman’s heart too – whoever said food wasn’t on the list, surely had never met me nor any of my friends!
Lunched at the Lila Café enroute to catching up with the rest of the folks who were arriving later today afternoon. The sauerkraut was not quite what I had hoped it would be, and the sausages were also just about okay, but it was nice to know that you could get sauerkraut around here, if you so desired. Lila Café, run by an expat German couple, who migrated to Goa about thirty years ago, is almost a landmark of its own on the Anjuna stretch. Facing a river, the café is housed underneath a huge canvas tent of sorts and white sheer curtains tied to wooden beams that support the tents, flap gently in the sweet frangipani laden breeze. It is unreasonably easy to kill close to three hours in that place just gazing out to the river beyond. Took many mental pictures and filed them away for later cataloguing.
Customary halt at the Cavala Inn on Baga and several cups of coffee later with its manager (whom I have come to know pretty well by now), met up with the rest of the usual suspects, who had finally made it in, after several stops on the road to accommodate someone who just couldn’t keep it all in! Every hour was a winding road alright for them, haha!!
We proceeded to wind our first night off with a candlelit dinner at the beach, disrupting much hand holding, foot stroking and eye gazing of other couples, by way of our loud laughter, bad jokes, 8 drunken friends who had nothing much to say in general, chairs that sank two inches in the sand, three hungry dogs who kept up their end of the bargaining for food, lots of silly pictures, and a race to the edge of the water and back, on a full stomach. All of this interspersed every few minutes by the general bitching about the folks who had the sheer good luck to be born in Goa.
Finally wrapped it all up with a midnight swim at the B&B with four other equally drunk and silly friends– the water delicious and warm – and another hour-long soak in the tub, after which the hands on any clock seemed pretty purposeless. Can’t think of a better way to lose one’s purpose in life. My phone’s battery was on its way out and my own was just coming to life. Let the slow sweet tango begin. I’m ready to learn the steps all over again.