As I write, I am munching on the sweetest chickoo I have ever tasted; plucked from a grand old tree rooted right in the centre of the courtyard. The walls of this home are freshly painted with a sun kissed yellow with creamy borders and an ancient wooden roof. 300 years of culture, history and art flows through the veins of Casa Menezes; a heritage homestay in Batim village, in the north of Goa.
I was done the beach and booze trips of Goa during my college days, I had also explored the not-so quaint-any-more south. Road trips with Reddy and Shankar, my college besties (I was forever the itinerary maker in our trio) meant driving around and exploring the northern coast, admiring the breath taking view and laughing away to Goa’s favourite cartoonist Morparia’s comics at Rees Magas fort and then heading onwards through Ashwen upto the gorgeous Tericole fort; that’s now quite a fancy resort. Exploring the back waters and the spice farms was a super special experience. Travelling to Goa with the tourism board to witness Sao Joao – the festival welcoming the monsoons – that too was something special.
As I drove across all these memories, what left me spellbound each time was the ancient colourful Portuguese homes, big sprawling cottages and bungalows in various colours of the rainbow framed by equally ancient, kind looking trees. You’ll see a city version of them in the famous Latin Quarters in Panjim. Left then for me to explore solo were the quaint little villages with long winding, quiet roads lined with the tallest coconut trees. In the village of Batim, I finally managed to discover such an ancient Portuguese home to live in.
I believe travel should be immersive. I relish the feeling of soaking in the vibe, culture, songs and food when I travel. Hence my solo travels are rarely if ever rushed. And the people I meet, in most cases envelope all these together to form the secret ingredient. They are the ones that I owe most of my magical travel stories to. In Casa Menezes, I was lucky to find a 300 year old legacy of Goan history and modern luxuries and in Ralph D’souza I found a brilliant storyteller, a fellow Bandraite and a lovely new friend.
The Food.. Oh The Food
I am deeply missing the food, it is the best I’ve ever tasted in all my trips to Goa. During my eight-day stay, I was in food heaven at Casa Menezes. From a variety of dishes in fish (the stuffed King Fish is too yummy! Oh and the fish curry with tefla berries!), to the lightest of soups and salads to the yummiest vegetarian Indo Portuguese renditions. While at home I am a vegetarian, I make sure to sample all the local food when I travel. In most cases non vegetarian food is seeped so deeply into the stories of a culture and I always felt I was missing out on half the stories by not having sampled the cuisine. So while that’s the story of my turning non-vegetaran on my travels, David made sure I was well fed with the freshest variety of fish – friend, stuffed, curried or any way I please! While some of my meals were outside during my stay as I went onwards to Seolim to meet Rosie and Peter at their farm; all other meals during this trip felt way too grey in comparison to the food I was served each day at Casa Menezes. meal. Oh the stuffed king fish, the red salad!
Stories of Goa
I was lucky to be there when Ralph (uncle to the owner David) was around, during every conversation he would launch into a new story weaving around the history of Goa, or his childhood memories at the house.
My Pool and The Room
The best thing about living in a homestay like Casa Menezes is you really feel like you are home. The pool felt like my own personal one, I could use it all day long with no one around. My room was spacious and very comfortable; but for most of my stay I was either soaking up some sun in the courtyard or listening to vinyl records in the family living room.
The bottom line: Luxurous property, Brimming with stories, magical people, good wifi, my best Goa stay yet.
It has just been a day since I’ve been away but I am already missing cycling around the quite roads and long walks around the lakes of Batim. I cant wait to go back there and some my time with this beautiful family again.