- January 8, 2021
- Posted by: Planet Goa Team
- Category: Stories on Goa
Quaint painted bungalows, churches and charming cafes keep the Latin magic of Goa alive in Fontainhas. All in all, a walk through this enchanting neighborhood is a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon. A historic journey awaits…
TUCKED away in a tiny alcove of the capital city of Panjim, Fontainhas is a world in itself. A visit to the quaint Latin Quarter feels like a journey through a postcard of a pretty street in a European city. The winding alleyways are adorned by tiledroofed houses in spectacular shades of blue and reds. The houses, some dilapidated, others standing solid, untouched by the onslaught of time, bring alive Goa’s Portuguese past. In the early eighteenth century, an affluent Goan expat named Antonio Joao de Sequiera established Fontainhas on reclaimed land. The residents of this area were mainly sailors, fishermen and locals. Fontainhas is beautiful not only for its architectural design, but also for its natural surroundings. It is bordered by the Ourem creek on the east and Altinho hill on the west. There are noteworthy legends behind the street names in this historic precinct. The 31st January Road or Rua 31 de Janeira in Fontainhas was named after the independence of Portugal from Spain on January 31, 1640. The 18th June Road was named after freedom fighter Ram Manohar Lohia, who launched the civil disobedience movement, which eventually led to the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese in 1961.
We begin our journey from the famed Fonte-Fenix. Fontainhas gets its name from ‘Fonte- Fenix’ or the Fountain of Pheonix, a natural spring reservoir constructed during the Portuguese regime, which yet exists at the foot of Marutigad. The Boca-da Vaca fountain, the renowned heritage tourist attraction in Panaji, was connected to this fresh-water spring through an underground tunnel. The hill houses a grand Maruti temple in the Hindu area of Fontainhas named Mala. A walk through the narrow bylanes of Mala and Fontainhas is like traversing the time machine to the golden bygone era. Another significant monument in the vicinity is the famous St. Sebastian’s Chapel, built in the year 1818, and rebuilt in 1884-1888.
The main attraction of the chapel is the Inquisition crucifix kept there. The chapel holds a grand Sunday mass prayer meet, which the residents attend with great regularity. After a slice of history, we head to the Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro, for a slice of their delicious pastries, puffs and cakes. Run by the affable Ms. Gletta, the tiny bakery tucked in a small bylane oozes a dainty old world charm. For a hearty meal, head to Venite Restaurant, known for its interesting interiors, with shell encrusted walls and graffiti art. The restaurant specializes in delectable steaks and exquisite Portuguese food. For a wider variety of Goan and Portuguese cuisine, there is no place like Viva Panjim, an award-winning restaurant set in an unassuming bylane of Fontainhas.
Converted into a restaurant from the hundred and fifty-year-old ancestral home of owner Linda D’Souza, it is designed and decorated in such a manner that constantly reminds you of just what it may have been like dining in an era so long ago. One of the prettiest buildings in this area, which stands out due to its intricate architecture, is Panjim Inn, which dates back to the late nineteenth century.
Though managed by the Welcome heritage group, it is owned by the descendants of the same family for five generations, and they show deep concern for preserving both the building and the distinctive charm of the neighborhood. The interior is tastefully adorned with intricate pieces of carved wood furniture and charming old world artworks. Just across the street, stands the Gitanjali Gallery; this has a sizeable collection of books and art collection – a mix of folk, modern and contemporary art. For a dose of shopping we head to Velha Goa Galleria and Marcou Artifacts, which are the best bet for exquisite traditional tiles, vases and ceramic souvenirs. Every year in February, Fontainhas hosts an art and culture festival, organized by the local Goa Heritage Action Group.
The colourful festival has musical shows, dances, art display and cultural festivity. The area is tastefully decorated and each house looks like an art gallery displaying the Goan heritage. A walk through the grand old bylanes of the Latin Quarter is a delightful and unique experience, like no other, one that is steeped in history. Fontainhas, truly awakens us to the culture, customs and traditions of the tiny beach state. William Darlymple rightly calls Fontainhas “a small chunk of Portugal washed up on the shores of the Indian Ocean”.