- Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Aldona, Goa: An Authentic Goan Treat !

I know a lot of people who are guilty of travelling to Goa at least once every year. In fact some, like me, might travel more than just once a year, if able to seize an opportunity. And, if you are reading this article, chances are that you too have been there more than once.

So what makes us visit Goa again and again, yet never get tired of it. For me the answer is simple- Goa offers me something new and inspiring every time I visit it. I have even worked upon this argument to counter some Karnataka-beach-snob friends. To their and a lot of other people's surprise, there have been few trips when I have not set foot on a beach at all, instead spent all my time exploring life in villages of the state. 

Earlier I have done a small story on Offbeat Getaways in Goa, this time I thought of covering a village called Aldona and a lovely guesthouse (pretty much a home stay) situated in its heart, called Cancio's House.

Situated in Bardez, North Goa, Aldona has also become home to various famous artists and writers, one of them being Amitav Ghosh (if that impresses you). It has an old world charm, with much of the village retaining its nostalgic air, yet not primitive in any way. 

Cancio's House is a gorgeous 500 year old Portuguese bungalow and a heritage home in true sense. Its one of those rare heritage properties that have been maintained over the years to keep up its old world charm yet not restored to an extent that it starts giving a heritage hotel vibe. Its a home, and not a hotel. Rooms and things in it, in the main house, remain as orderly or disorderly, as it would in our own home- if that explains better.

Home to a lovely family- Roberto Amaral, his wife Raquel Amaral, Roberto's mother and 3 lovely children. They also have 2 very friendly dogs, a couple of cats, a pig and lots of birds stopping by their garden. They have built a 2 room outhouse with all modern amenities, in the same property, to have guests. I will not get into details of what rooms were like and amenities available, because I feel this gem of a place must remain a surprise upon first visit. But I am definitely going to write about some aspects of this house, which make your stay not just memorable, but eco-friendly and responsible one. 

1. Hand drawn water from the well - To each other's relief when we first met the Amarals, we discovered how much we both hated use of plastic water bottles. And that pretty much was our conversation starter when Roberto proudly showed us the earthen water pitcher kept in our room and that the fresh water was drawn from an old time well in the background- ready to drink. That very moment, I knew I am going to love the place.

2. No Air Conditioners - Heat is naturally controlled through high walls with slated roofs having sufficient space for natural ventilation and big windows opening out into the garden as well as on the opposite side of the room into the back open space.

3. Traditional Food Practices - Or perhaps Organic is the correct word to explain. Food is always cooked fresh, from produce of one's own garden or sometimes purchased from the market. There is sort of zero-wastage understanding among the family members, so whatever little is left over, if can't be fed to the pig, is used in the compost to prepare manure for their garden. Raquel is a true kitchen queen- she  makes her own jams, pickles using fresh fruits and without any preservatives. Words will fall short to describe her cooking skills at savouries and desserts alike. From traditional Goan dishes of Chicken Xacuti to more continental ones like baked vegetables to desserts of various kinds- there was no reason for us to eat anywhere else while staying with them. She even shared recipes for a No-Bake Cheese Cake, Fresh Fruit Jam,  and Goan Pickle with me, while trying to convince me how easy these dishes actually are. I tried the jam, as soon as I was back and it turned out just like hers ! 

4. Home Full of Stories - Its a home full of interesting stories and lovely family who loves sharing it. Roberto and Raquel are both very passionate people, take utmost care of their property & guests and indulge themselves almost selflessly in showing 'real' Goa to their guests. We talked about politics, environment, travel, history, little anecdotes from family's past- everything. If your even slightly open to conversations, be sure to come back home enriched with a new set of incredible friends in Goa.

5. Elevated Sit-Out Area - On one corner of the garden is an elevated sit out area (another one is just outside the guestrooms) for that solitude or reading or nature watching time.

There is way more to this place than I can explain in words, therefore its highly recommended to experience it for oneself.

Aldona is just about 25-35 minute drive away from busy calangute-candolim-baga sector. A drive to Panjim might take about 40-45 minutes. Its just far enough to not let noise of commercial tourism from shoreline seep in, yet close enough to enjoy a couple of outings to beaches and come back without fretting too much over the distance. But if you live in Aldona, there are enough places/ activities within the village to explore. The family also has a scooty in top shape with working fuel tank indicator (Goa regulars know how rare that is) which can be rented out at nominal rates for rides. If Roberto is free, he will happily take you out to show around the village. Few things to do can be:

1. Visit the traditional bread bakery in the village. Fresh batch is rolled out every morning at about 4:30 am and then in evening at around 4:30 pm. Pick up warm fresh breads and eat it with Raquel's jams. Nothing to beat that.

2. Hire Roberto's speed boat for a dolphin watching out in the sea, or if you seek more indulgence then charter out his gorgeous yacht called Lady M to explore the seas. If none of this, then there is always a little speed boat ride through the backwaters within the village.

3. Walk around the village by the Mapusa river and beautiful St. Thomas Church built atop a plateau with perfect river views.

4. Visit Corjuem Fort on the outskirts of village. Not really looked after by the authorities, this magnificent fort has almost been left to ruins but if you are going there with Roberto, he will have plenty of history about it to share.

I am sharing some pictures from Aldona, few of them have been taken from the guesthouse page. I personally did not take too many pictures, as I was too busy chilling. :)


Inside One of the Guest Rooms



The Guest House

Sit Out in Front of the Rooms

Fesh Breads Baking in Traditional Bakery

Luxury Yacht Lady M

That's Antonio, Roberto & Raquel's Second Son,  on the Yacht

Backwaters of Goa- in Aldona Village


3 comments:

  1. Love your article... Thanks for sharing!

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  2. "Dear Richa,
    Goa is such a crowded place that I am generally not very enthusiastic about visiting it. I changed my mind after reading you blog. I love how you have mentioned the offbeat places which are not crowded. I will certainly take your recommendations and look forward to the visual treats. "

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    Replies
    1. Priti, Goa had lot of hidden gems like these. One just has to look beyond the obvious tourist trail. :)

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