A typical Portuguese-era building in Fontainhas
Set back from the Ourem Creek in Goa's capital city Panjim or Panaji, is a small neighbourhood called Fontainhas that has now acquired a heritage status. But a decade back, it was almost an unheard of corner in a state known for its beaches and churches.
It was a helpful staff at a bookstore on 18th June Road in Goa's capital city Panjim who first told me about Fontainhas.
Following his directions, I soon entered into a neighbourhood that would have seemed utterly familiar if it was not for the architecture.
The narrow and twisty lanes with old residential buildings standing cheek by jowl, the red sit outs outside many homes, the pressing against the wall to let an automobile pass, people stopping to chat while buying something from a small dark shop crammed with goods -- typical scenes that reminded me of home -- of north Kolkata (in West Bengal).
Known as the Latin quarter, the Fontainhas, located at the base of the Altinho Hill, takes its name from the hill's natural springs, though there is little to remind us now.
According to some, the name is derived from ‘Fonte Phoenix’ or the ‘Fountain of Phoenix’, a water reservoir located ahead of the Maruti Temple in the Mala area.
According to local people, the Fontainhas was built on reclaimed land in the late 18th century by a Goan expatriate, known as Mossimkar, or one who made his fortunes in Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony.
The Fontainhas is not your typical tourist attraction.
It is a walker's town, a place to explore on foot. It’s quiet charm acts like a balm for frazzled nerves. So, I decided to check out of the tourist lodge and check into one of the quaint heritage hotels in the area.
The hotel had an overhanging balcony, one side of which opened into a side street lined with colourfully painted houses.
Walking down the maze of lanes, I found most of the houses had red tiled roofs, overhanging balconies and red stone sit outs (locally called balcoas) sporting the Portuguese architecture and aura.
Pink, red, blue and yellow seemed to be the most popular colours for painting the outside. Some buildings still contained traces of the once popular blue Azulejos tiles.
Some of the buildings were run down while some others were able to maintain their looks. The lucky few got converted into hotels and homestays.
Towards the southern end was the Chapel of St Sebastian, built in 1880, the site of the annual street festival, the Feast of Our Lady of Livrament. Right next to it stands the Wishing Well.
At the end of a twisted lane, I found myself looking up at the white sprawling church dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. The Church, lit up at night, looks pretty.
With a little guidance, I located 31st January Bakery or the Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro, said to be the oldest bakery in the area. There are also a few galleries in the area from where one can buy the blue ceramic tiles.
Information: The Fontainhas area is about 25km from Goa Airport and around two km from Goa Tourism's Panaji Residency. The new commercial complex of Patto along with the main Kadamba bus stand, lies just across the creek from here. With the increasing popularity of the area, several tour operators now run walking tours to Fontainhas.
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