Fontainhas & Sao Tome

Location : Panjim, North Goa

A stone’s throw from river cruises, roulette tables in Goa’s floating casino and the Kadamba Bus Stand is a place that time, thankfully, forgot. Step into the Fontainhas heritage precinct and it’s like stumbling into a picture postcard. But for the friendly and warm locals who live here, you might as well be in any Mediterranean town. Charming, to say the least, this old quarter at the northern tip of Panjim showcases life just as it must have been a hundred years ago.

The houses are built in classic Portuguese style and painted in all manner of bright hues as well as pastel shades. Their red-tiled roofs, overhanging balconies and beautiful balustrades have an irresistible charm. Stroll through the cobble-stone streets and bylanes in this old quarter of Goa and you can almost hear the clatter of horse-drawn carriages while the café owners serve up tidbits of yore.

Fontainhas is tucked between the Ourem Creek and lies at the base of Altinho Hill. It took its name from the natural springs on this hillock. At the northern end is São Tomé. Much smaller than the main precinct, Sao Tome is built around what is now the General Post Office of Panaji. Back in time, this building was a tobacco trading house while the adjacent one was the Portuguese mint. For the next sight, you will have to rely solely on your imagination. Across the street was the town pillory, where justice was handed out in the form of executions. The last one apparently took place in 1843. To erase this gruesome image from your mind, wander into a traditional Goan taverna and down a peg of feni.

When in Fontainhas, it’s hard to believe you’re in Goa. Considering how the state has been redefined to suit tourists’ tastes, it’s ironic that the ‘real Goa’ should seem so out of place. Tip: Take a walking tour.