A visit to Goa is incomplete without visiting the famous Bairro das Fontainhas or the Latin Quarter in the capital city of Panjim. This quaint neighbourhood built in the 1700’s with its heavy Portuguese influence is a treat for the eyes. Reclaimed from the bed of the River Mandovi, it was originally named “Palmar Ponte” but later renamed “Fontainhas” after the “Fonte Phoenix” natural spring that bubbles through the area and used to provide water to the city. The picturesque community lying on the banks of the Creek de Ourem and in the shadows of the Altinho Hill evokes sentiments of nostalgia amongst those that discover this blissful Shangri La. The narrow cobbled lanes dotted with pretty old European styled houses in varied hues of pastel colours (like the traditional Portuguese yellows and blues) make you feel like straight out of a 1960’s film as the surroundings effortlessly blend into the people going about their daily chores.
Soak in the history and culture or simply admire the architecture as you discover long winding lanes and hidden alcoves and fascinating alleyways. There is a surprise awaiting you at every nook and corner of this mesmerising area.
Lying on the banks of the ancient Ourem Creek, this laid-back area is one of the best-kept secrets of Goa. Away from the hustle and bustle of Panjim City, this Heritage Quarter, with its Mediterranean influence and laid-back culture, will offer you an authentic Goan experience. Architecture lovers are spoilt for choice. There is the wonderful Hanuman Temple at Mala on the Altinho hillside that affords panoramic views of Panjim City lying on the banks of the River Mandovi.
The ancient Chapel of St Sebastian is famous for the magnificent Crucifix that once adorned the Palace of Inquisition in Old Goa and the almost life-like Crucifix of Jesus with head raised and eyes wide open (unlike other statues) was rumoured to have put the fear of God into those interrogated by the Inquisitors.
The 164 year old Sao Tome Chapel in Panjim’s oldest ward of Sao Tome was constructed close to the Panjim Jetty to symbolise the arrival of St Thomas in India where he preached the tenets of the Christian Religion. The Sao Tome ward was earlier known as the Tobacco Square where the building that now houses the Post Office served as a tobacco trading hub. Close by was the town pillory where public executions used to be performed. The attractive building that houses the Fundacao Oriente hosts exhibitions and cultural programmes and also undertakes restoration and conservation of the heritage buildings in the area.
This charming and colourful Latin hub is a photographer’s delight and the best time to capture the essence of the place is on a lazy afternoon as the locals retire for their daily siestas and one can proceed along the Heritage Walk at a leisurely pace past heritage sites, enjoy hot samosas and tea at the neighbourhood cafes, wonderful bakeries selling freshly baked cake and cookies, art galleries, souvenir shops, majestic churches and chapels and of course the Portuguese styled cottages with their red tiled roofs, high ceilings, pointed arches, overhanging wooden balconies with cast iron railings and the Azulejos tiles and traditional floral motifs reminiscent of a different era.
Heritage and art lovers can experience a blast from the past. You will see little old ladies peering up at you from the traditional wooden balcaos snug in their rocking chairs watching life and time unfold around them, their wrinkled faces breaking into a smile as you wave and greet them, friendly locals catching up on their daily cuppa chai as they read the morning newspaper, or hurrying along for morning mass at the local chapel catching up on the latest gossip along the way. Sounds of the melodious violin and young children singing will drift along the narrow alleyways. Wait up for the omnipresent Goan “poder” or baker who drives by every afternoon tooting his traditional horn that invokes a Pavlovian response to the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread! You are transported into a different world, a different time, and a simpler time as you experience the magic of this enchanting neighbourhood.