Before I mention what happened after I landed in Goa, it seems appropriate to mention our internal flights in India. The country’s Jet Airways is now one of my favorite airlines. They have spotlessly clean jets, offer lots of leg room, have a great on-time record, offer superb Indian food, and they feed you even on a one-hour flight (always with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options). The airports in India will make you crazy (at least three security points to pass through for every flight), but this airline, at least, makes internal travel a delight.
And now, Goa.
Goa was Portuguese until 1961, which means it was controlled by a European power after all the rest of India had gained independence from Britain. A few years later, Goa was invaded by hippies who didn’t want the ‘70s to end. Signs of both groups were abundant, from Portuguese cathedrals to hippy tie-dye and head shops.
The buildings in the photo above are the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on the left and Se Cathedral on the right. Se Cathedral is the largest church in India and one of the largest churches in Asia. It is actually larger than its counterparts back in Portugal.
Our hotel, the Fort Aquada Taj Resort, is built inside an old Portuguese fort and has a spectacular view of the ocean. We enjoyed the remains of the old fort as much as we enjoyed the beauty and amenities of the lovely beachfront hotel.
There was a good bit of interesting history in Goa, which I enjoyed, and the contrast of Indian culture and European architecture was interesting. However, it is not a place one visits primarily to become immersed in Indian culture. The signs are all in English, the locals carry Portuguese passports, and when you throw in the aging hippy population, it looks kind of like something someone from another planet would have cobbled together after a brief visit to Earth. However, it’s a gloriously beautiful place, with lots of ocean beaches, broad rivers, and lush vegetation (including thousands of coconut palms); the people are charming; and the food is amazing. It is a place where visitors come to relax, to hit the beaches, or to indulge in the local spas (which we managed to fit in, too). So it was a good “airlock,” helping us transition from the richly exotic India we had experienced elsewhere into a somewhat more European setting, in preparation for our departure.
Far too soon, it was time to head home. Most of us boarded the plane already making plans for a trip back. Southern India was an absolutely magical destination, a place of profound beauty and rich culture. It is also a place of gracious, friendly people who always made us feel welcome. I can’t wait to return.