Panjim and the Dudsaghar Falls

Our next tour, a couple of days later was to the capital, Panjim, followed by a trip to the Dudsaghar Falls a couple of days later.  Panjim or Panaji is the new capital of Goa, and our tour started at the old capital, Old Goa (Velha Goa in Portuguese).

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Old Goa was the capital from the sixteenth century until the eighteenth century, when it was abandoned due to a plague.  Our guide told us that there are a number of churches in close proximity in Old Goa.  The first one that we visited was the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this church is that is holds the remains of St Francis Xavier.  It’s one of the oldest churches in India, work started on building it in 1594.

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Basilica of Bom Jesus

Across the road is the Se Cathedral, dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria.  We were unable to enter the cathedral on the day we visited as a wedding was taking place so we had to content ourselves with looking around the outside, and making the most of the lovely gardens.

Se Cathedral
Se Cathedral

From here we went to Panjim.  Panjim is built on the banks of the Mandovi river, which is a lovely backdrop as you look across.  There are a number of boats moored in the river, including a New Orleans steamboat.  It transpires that these boats are casinos.  I don’t know what the law about gambling is in India, but I suppose there is something quite glamorous about going out to a boat to play roulette…

Back to reality with a bang, we went to the covered market.  Very similar to the covered market in Margao, but with a larger, more open area in the middle.  Sheena and I bought the spice tins we’d been seeking here, and once we’d done that we went back into the open, looking for somewhere to have a drink.  As we only had an hour before the coach picked us up again, we didn’t want to venture too far inside the city, so we just wandered around.  We managed to find a Body Shop on our travels…

The coach took us to a nearby Marriott Hotel for lunch, which had a stunning view across the river.  Lunch was a buffet with India food one end, salads, fruit and cold meats.  Plenty to eat for everyone.

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After lunch, we were taken for a tour in tuc-tucs, which included a visit to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1541.  It looks huge from the outside, but isn’t, so a bit like the Tardis in reverse.

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The following Monday, we took a trip with our friends David and Madhavi to the Dudsaghar Waterfalls (which translates to Sea of Milk).  These are also on the Mandovi river, but whereas Panjim is near to the estuary, these are much further inland, part of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park.

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We had planned on going by train, but were advised to go early in the morning, before it got to hot, so as the train wouldn’t have got us there until about 3pm, we went by cab to the nearest town.  From here, we got a four-wheel drive to the falls.  It was funny how people kept trying to sell us nuts and bananas to give to the “friendly monkeys” at the falls, yet when we got there, there were signs all over the place telling us not to feed the monkeys.  We hadn’t bought anything anyway, we all know better than to feed wild animals, which was just as well, since we saw a chap who had bought some bananas have them snatched out of his hand by a tiny little thing that moved faster than the speed of light.  No gentle feeding of the friendly monkeys then!

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The falls are a four-tiered waterfall that is rather lovely, especially when we saw the Chennai Express trekking along up high behind the falls…  That’s a train journey I want to do one day.

The whole trip, including the four-wheel drive, cost us about £20 per head… Excellent value!  We managed to get ourselves back at the hotel by early afternoon, in time for lunch a couple of hours on the beach.

That was the last of our tours in Goa.  We had a couple more days before we had to come home.  David and Madhavi came over for drinks on our veranda before we came home in the early hours of Thursday morning.  Just as well as my suitcase was overweight so Madhavi agreed to bring some things home for me when she comes back in March.

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So that’s the end of my trip to Goa, this time anyway.  Here’s looking forward to the next time.

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© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sahakari Spice Farm

On Thursday we went on an organised trip.  A coach picked us, and other tourists up from the hotel, then we went to a few other hotels and then off to a Hindu temple., the Shanta Durga Temple in the village of Kavalem in Ponda Taluka then onto the Sahakari Spice Farm.

As with so many temples in Goa, the original Shanta Durga was destroyed in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese in what the Goans call “the Inquisition.”  Basically, the Catholic Portuguese wanted the Indians to convert to Christianity, so they destroyed almost all of the temples, a la Henry VIII in the Reformation.  The current temple was built in 1738in what is known as a fusion of Indo-Portuguese architecture.

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The temple has some of the most beautiful chandeliers, which put me vaguely in mind of Delboy, Rodney and Grandad trying to clean the chandeliers in a stately home in Only Fools and Horses…

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From here, we went on to the Sahakari Spice Farm.  We were greeted at the Spice Farm with a bowl of cashew nuts and a banana.  The significance of the cashews became apparent later…  I saved my banana for what was coming next, when we walked up a hill to have an elephant ride.

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Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love ele-bums.  Have done ever since I first saw them being bathed at London Zoo when I was a child, and the more I’ve learned about them as I’ve got older has just made me like them more.  So I was well up for a ride.  Sitting on a moving elephant is an interesting experience, not so much because of the way the elephant walks, but because its hips and shoulders rise and fall as its feet are planted on the ground.  It doesn’t look much different from any other quadruped but it feels quite rocky, a bit like being on a boat in a rough sea.  Still, it was fun.

I asked the mahout whether I could give our lady my banana, he told me to wait until the rides were over.  As luck would have it, Sheena and I were the last to go.  I now understand why he told me to wait…  I got the banana out of my pocket and started to peel it.

“Don’t bother with that,” said the mahout.

Not that I had the chance to peel it, she just pushed out her trunk and took it from me!  I’d forgotten how strong those muscles are!  She then proceeded to frisk me for more food!  It was just like being at home with my girls (although not, obviously with bananas).

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After that little adventure, we walked through the jungle with our guide who showed us the various spices growing.  I had no idea that the vanilla plant is part of the orchid family.  Nor did I know that there are few natural pollinators for vanilla, and even if then, there is only a 1% chance of successful pollination.  In Goa, it is all done by hand (vanilla is not a native to India).  I was beginning to see why it is so expensive.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, cloves (I didn’t realise how much cloves are used in Goan cookery), chilli, curry leaves, turmeric and ginger are all grown here… and cashew nuts.  The photograph below is of what is called the cashew apple; the cashew nut itself sits in the darker part at the bottom.

Cashew nuts
Cashew nuts

I didn’t realise that you can’t eat the cashew apple raw, because they contain something that causes skin irritation, and it is apparently very unpleasant.  However, in Goa, they use the apple to make an alcoholic drink called Feni.  When we went back to the restaurant for our lunch we were given a glass of Feni.  It put me in mind of what I think rocket fuel would taste like.

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

M Victoria Street

Last week, my friend Anne Germain and I visited M Victoria Street.  Sue Hill was supposed to join us, but was unable to do so (get well soon Sue).

 

Anne Germain
Anne Germain

I had no idea what to expect in M, although I now know there are a couple of branches, I hadn’t seen one before; the Victoria Street branch has only been open a few months.  It’s situated on one of the regenerated sites in Victoria Street.

 

Dining room in M
Dining room in M

The top floor is the wine shop – very tempting, but we managed to resist the urge and go straight downstairs to the restaurant.  It’s not a huge restaurant but very stylishly designed.  The ladies’ was particularly stunning with black embossed wallpaper.   And they have a Japanese toilet that heats the seat, and a few other things…

The ladies
The ladies

Ok, it doesn’t look black here, but….

The Japanese toilet in the Ladies at M
The Japanese toilet in the Ladies at M

The restaurant is the creation of Chef Michael Reid, who trained at Le Gavroche and also with Gordon Ramsey.  He opened the Threadneedle branch of M in December 2014.

There are two menus in the restaurant, the Raw and the Grill.  Anne and I went on a “free-flowing Prosecco” deal, so had a mixture of both.  And a very fine Prosecco it was.

 

Ooh la la!
Ooh la la!

Anne and I both have a number of food allergies, and I don’t eat red meat, so it can be challenging to feed us when we go out, but they managed very well at M.

 

The set menu included Puffed Beef – sort of Prawn Crackers but with beef, which looked delicious but neither of us could eat the wheat, so we passed on that one.  There were also Edamame Beans with Firecracker Sauce, so we doubled up on these instead of the Puffed Beef.  Anne and I both love edamame beans and the Firecracker Sauce was a delicious addition.  It really was a firecracker.

We both had Cured Trout with Pears for starters, Anne without the buttermilk sauce.  I suppose the clue is in that this came from the raw menu, although I didn’t know that at the time.  I may have had raw trout before, in a Japanese restaurant, but this was very special.  I really enjoyed it and it made me want to go back for more.

The Hake
The Hake

Anne went for steak for the main course, while I had Hake with beer-battered mussels and poached clams.  And Anne’s chips.  The Hake was delicious but the beer-battered mussels were even better… I could have had a whole plate of them.  Anne told me that her steak was great too.

 

Anne, Cesar and Natalie
Anne, Cesar and Natalie

We decided against dessert, we had had quite enough food.  I can’t write about this without mentioning our lovely waitress and waiter, Natalie and Cesar.  They were so friendly and helpful, and helped to make our visit even better.  When it quietened down we had a very friendly chat with them both.

We stayed drinking Prosecco for a bit longer before going home.  Anne and I had a lovely day, and will be going back to M.

Thank you all at M Victoria Street for a great day out.

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

 

A Trip to Goa – Margao

On our first Tuesday in Goa, Sheena and I decided to take a bus trip into Margao, or Madgaon as it is sometimes known, the second largest town in Goa, and the commercial capital.  The local language spoken in Margao, and Goa, is Konkani, although the dialect is different here from in North Goa.  Most people also speak Hindi, and, fortunately, English.

The bus ride cost us 20 rupees each – about 20p.  It probably took an hour to get to there, so it was really good value.  There are no bus stops, you just wait by the side of the road and stick our your hand when the appropriate bus approaches.  All the buses are privately owned in India, there is no public transport.  The bus ride itself was an experience.  The “air conditioning” was open windows, and there was a sign at the front of the bus that said, “No smoking, no alcohol, no spitting.”  There were also signs saying that the right hand side of the bus was for women, although no-one seemed to take any notice of that.

View of Margao from a bus
View of Margao from a bus

Margao was described to me as a slightly tired, grand old lady.  It is the main travel hub in that part of Goa – if you want to travel by public transport to the capital, Panjim, or one of the other major towns, Vasco da Gama, you go via Margao.  It houses Goa’s busiest (and biggest) railway station.  For me, it was a very typical Asian town – broken pavements, dust, lots of people, lots of noise, and heat.

One of the main tourist sights in Margao is the covered market (Closed Market as it is called locally).  This type of market is still common in India, although they are becoming less so because of the fire risks.  Nonetheless, this one was bustling.  There was just about everything you could have wished for here: from shoes to mops, flowers to food but it was very hot and very crowded, with it’s labyrinth-like paths branching off at intervals.  It would be very easy to get lost there.  Quite scary, I should imagine.

Sheena and I met an Indian lady whose name was Sarah, she told us she came from Rajasthan.  We got chatting to her, and I think it took her all of five minutes before she pulled a silver bracelet out from her sari and asked if we’d like to buy it.   We told her we’d come to look for her stall, but we wanted something to drink first, so she very kindly showed us to a nearby bar.

We did try to find her when we went back to the covered market.  We met another lady on the way, asked if she knew Sarah (which brought forth some sort of expletives about Rajasthanis).  She followed us all the way round the market!  We never did find Sarah’s stall, which is no surprise to me now I’ve been there.  I wouldn’t have found my feet had they not been attached to me.

Courtesy of Photobucket
Courtesy of Photobucket

There are other tourist attractions in Margao – there are a number of churches and temples, but perhaps more importantly, the town square, which houses a pretty amazing library with books in Hindi, English, Konkani and Portuguese!  There is also the town hall which is really very European (or do I mean English?), opposite which are the Municipal Gardens, laid out very much like typical municipal gardens in the UK.

After a couple of hours, the heat had taken its toll on us so we returned to Cavelossim, by bus again, which was even more interesting since the conductor got off before our journey was complete!  Somehow, we passed the test and alighted exactly where we wanted to!

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Next week, I will tell you about our next outing.

 

© Susan Shirley

Sisterhood of World Bloggers

Sisterhood of World Bloggers

 Dear Gianni of across the hogs back

(https://acrossthehogsback.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/the-sisterhood-of-world-bloggers/comment-page-1/#comment-1191)

nominated me to be part of the chain of posts about the Sisterhood of World Bloggers.  Admittedly, it was a couple of weeks ago, but I was having internet problems, so better late than never.

I like women bloggers, in the most part, anyway.  Ok, I like men bloggers too, but they are different in the way that they write.  Somehow, I think it’s more polarised than in books or magazine articles.  Or is that just me?

Anyway, there are some questions I have to answer to keep this going, so here we go:

 

  1. What is your all-time favourite destination?

    Mm, that’s a really difficult question because I like different places for different reasons.  I love different parts of the UK because of the countryside and the architecture.  I love Cornwall, I have so many fond memories of being there, especially with my parents as a child, and with my friend Lynn.  I love India.  I think it’s an amazing country, although there are lots of things I don’t like about too.  I love Normandy, it reminds me of Devon.  I love Marseilles, again, I suppose, because of fond memories.

    My least favourite destination is Thailand.  I was mugged on my first day in Bangkok and it took months to recover from the injuries.  (Months and quite a lot of money to put the bits back into the right places.)  I never want to go there again.

    I’ve enjoyed most of the places I’ve visited but there are loads more on my list, so maybe I should come back to this one in 20 years time?

    The Shard taken from the Walkie Talkie
    The Shard taken from the Walkie Talkie


  2. Which post are you most proud of?
    Another difficult question. I write them and forget about them.  My sister-in-law likes the more personal ones, I like the more factual ones, where I have to do research first, but that’s because I like research.  I don’t think there is any one I am most proud of.
  3. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party, dead or alive?
    Elizabeth I and Margaret Thatcher. Two women who’ve had a huge impact on this country, I’d be interested to see how they interact.  Churchill and Napoleon, to see how two powerful men get on.  And Byron, I’d like to meet him, just to see whether I would have fallen for him.  Rupert Brooke because he’s really the only poet that I like.  That’s it, I’m not cooking for more than that.

    Lord Byron
    Lord Byron
  4. Do you have a favourite travel app?
    Not really, although a calculator is always useful for currency conversion since I seem to lose all ability to do even basic maths outside the UK. I agree with Gianni about WhatsApp though.  When I can get an internet connection.
  5. What’s your favourite thing and least favourite thing about blogging?
    My favourite thing is the writing (and research, where appropriate). My least favourite thing is website problems.

    Courtesy of Pixabay
    Courtesy of Pixabay
  6. Is there anything you like to do anytime you visit somewhere new?
    I like to get to see some of the place I’m visiting, not just the hotel or the beach. I do not see the point of travelling even a few hundred miles and not setting foot outside of my room.

    I like to try the local food, although the big caveat on that is that there are lots of things I don’t and won’t eat.  I don’t eat red meat, wheat or citrus fruit, which sometimes makes things difficult.  I don’t want to eat bugs – I did try one in Thailand (yes, just one).  I don’t fancy sweetbreads, etc, and I rather think that now, if I don’t want to, I don’t have to eat these things.  I’m sure there are more things I don’t want to eat, but I always find new things to try.

  7. Where is somewhere you’ve been or something you did that you didn’t expect much of but ended up loving?
    I’m sure this has happened to me many, many times, but the most recent occasion was my visit to Goa. I haven’t been on an all inclusive holiday since I was a teenager and was a bit dubious, if I’m honest.  Mainly about the food in the hotel.  I was worried that it wold be very bland.  How wrong was I?  It is true, the wine wasn’t great, but I managed to cope with that…  J

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  8. What’s your pet peeve?
    How long have you got? I hate it when banks make a mistake and then the person at the end of the ‘phone isn’t interested in doing anything to put it right.  Actually, that doesn’t just apply to banks…  I had this recently, Bank of Scotland “lost” £500-odd of my money and didn’t want to take any responsibility for it.  Thanks to First Direct and my persistence, I got it back, but it was hard.

  9. What’s your most treasured possession?
    I’m not sure that possession is the right word, because I’m not sure you ever really own cats, but my girls. I love them dearly.  They are my friends.  They are so clever and bring so much joy into my life.

 As for my nomination, well, I only know two women bloggers, and one of them nominated me, so I can’t nominate her back, so I nominate Julie Hayward.

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to Goa

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Goa.  I’ve been to India before and was captivated the first time round, so when I got the chance to go again, I jumped at the chance.

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Dona Sylvia Beach Resort

We’d booked the holiday some months earlier, Sheena and I, and were so-o looking forward to going.  The flight to Goa from Gatwick is about eight and a half hours so although we left the UK at 13.25 we didn’t reach the hotel until about 07:00 Goan time. In any event, we were having breakfast in our hotel by 07:30.  It’s about a ten-hour flight coming back home, which is a bit of a drag (no pun intended).  The difference in time is something to do with the tail wind.

Dona Sylvia Beach Resort
Dona Sylvia Beach Resort

Dona Sylvia beach resort in Cavelossim had been recommended to us and we were not disappointed.  If I have a complaint to make about the hotel, it’s that there are a lot of switches in the room and no guide to tell you what they all do.  Maybe we should have known, or maybe we should have been more systematic in our fiddling with the switches but we did struggle for a few days.  We had the ceiling fan on every time we turned on a light and got the lights to work at sometimes, and not at others….  Sheena and I have both travelled quite a lot and can usually cope with these things so I’m inclined to think that there should have been a manual.  The hotel is going through a refurb so hopefully it will all be easier next time I visit.

 

Seagull Restaurant, Dona Sylvia
Seagull Restaurant, Dona Sylvia

For us Brits, eating out in India is very inexpensive.  In fact, pretty much everything is inexpensive.  There are some things in the supermarkets that cost more, such as baked beans, and I suppose if you are a Brit abroad for a few months, you might want them, but the local food is so fresh and well-prepared, I’d rather eat that.

The beach is a short walk through the hotel, although, surprisingly (to me, at any rate) it doesn’t have any rights to it.  Some of the hotels do and I rather think the Dona Sylvia has missed a trick.

 

The beach at Cavelossim
The beach at Cavelossim

On our first day on the beach, we met a woman whom we affectionately called “Dog Lady,” although I now know her name is Jane.

Lying on our sun beds, white as a magnolia painted wall, it was probably a bit of a give-away, but she said,

“Are you English?”

“Yes,” came the response in unison.

“There’s a dog under the sun bed next to you.”

We both looked.  There was.

“They are going to come and take him away.  There’s something wrong with his eyes and he needs treatment.  It’s just it’s not very nice, the way they do it, and if you are animal lovers, you might find it distressing.”

It transpires that Jane has an association with the Goa Animal Welfare Trust,

https://www.facebook.com/gawt.goa/?fref=ts

a charity that helps to neuter, flea, worm and generally look after the many stray dogs in India.  The guys from the charity turned up soon after and caught the dog easily so off he went to be looked after.  We saw this happen a few times while we were there, but I must say, I didn’t think it was at all cruel.  Of course, it probably helped with the Brits feeding the dogs a few minutes beforehand…

The beach at Cavelossim
The beach at Cavelossim

We had stray cats at the hotel too, although they are apparently nothing to do with the hotel.  One was an albino who was sitting on a chair in our veranda when we got home one day.  Blondie was very talkative, and wanted to come in.

“No,” said I, when Sheena popped to the bar, “You’ve probably got fleas.”

I did weaken and got her a Pringle, which she seemed to think was ok.  Good job she just walked around me and didn’t sit on my lap; she did have fleas, and so did I when she’d left.  We had a few visits from Blondie during our stay, and for a tiny little thing, she made a lot of noise.

The beach at Cavelossim
The beach at Cavelossim

We had a few trips out while we were over there, and saw some beautiful sights, about which I will tell you over the next few weeks.

 

© Susan Shirley 2016