Growing up in Australia, there is something about camping and tents that is (sort of) engrained in my DNA. I can remember making Dad help us pitch his old army tent on the lawn of our childhood home and after twenty minutes of ‘sleeping’, my sister and I would run scared witless into the house to the comfort of our real beds- away from the screeches of possums and the hooting of owls. I can’t say that I spent long holidays camping in rugged places and travelling with a caravan from beachside town to beachside town- but there are memories of overflowing houses and tents being pitched on seafront lawns, the freedom of sleeping under the stars in a swag on the edge of country racetracks, and a year at school with a focus on outward bound, where we slept under the groaning arms of snow gums at the top of the stunning peaks of the Victorian High Country.
Planning this trip to India has been nothing short of enjoyable, and from the heigh ceilings and beautiful bay windows in the hangover from the Raj that is the Imperial Hotel in Delhi, to the chic and simple tent structures made on the sand framed by banana leaves and tropical palms (and from where I write this on Turtle Beach in North Goa), I have met some incredible characters, witnessed some mind blowing situations and most of all, continued to be connected by the neverending bushtelegraph that operates throughout this enormous and overwhelming country.
After two nights in the madness that is Bombay, we were so excited to land in Goa- a place I’d hardly dreamed of ever visiting, but one that I’m so grateful that I’ve found. We made our way out of a pretty frantic airport filled mostly with extremely white people boasting Viking heritage and accents belonging to the British Midlands or the south of Ireland, skipped the taxi queue and spoke with a man running the tourist office with just three fingers on each hand and an assistant named Sanjay. Sanjay took us to a car waiting out the front and with that we were off- bound for Vivenda dos Palhacos in the south of Goa, and a place we were to call home for the next two days.
I found Vivenda in the Travel section of the Gardian last year, and just knew we’d love it. Framed by overhanging palm trees and situated down a narrow dirt track off the main road on Majorda beach, we were dropped at the most peaceful Portuguese villa lived in and styled by a beautiful English woman named Charlotte, and her brother Simon. The main bar where we were sent upon arrival (and where all the business is done) was made from the back tray of an old Tata lorry and still has the original painted instruction seen on the back of all Indian trucks ‘horn please’. Sipping fresh lime soda and taking in the furnishings, the neat piles of books, the high ceilings, the shuttered windows that remained open at all times and the photos that adorned the walls- many of which dated back to Charlotte and Simons grandparents time living in India during the Raj- I was completely taken aback by the detail, the colours and the themes restored and kept, and so in keeping with the Portuguese history so embedded in this incredible part of India.
Two magical days were spent at Vivenda and the hospitality was warm as the green cool waters of the house pool were freezing and the perfect treat at the end of a long day exploring the red dirt beach tracks alongside Majorda beach- dodging house chickens, pigs, dogs, children, scooters, cars and a huge bus named Shane.
Charlotte was the perfect host and her team of people who helped with the day to day running of the house were so beautiful- this is a place to which I will most certainly return.
One afternoon after a delicious Margherita in the courtyard, I organised a massage with a woman recommended in the bible that sits on the bedside table of each room and filled with local recommendations. Sarjit was strong as she was tiny, and she pummelled my legs, my back and my head, removing all of the fluid from my hugely swollen ankles that had suffered greatly from the shock that is arriving in 30 degree heat after a freezing cold winter in Paris.
‘Mamamia,’ Sanjit cried as she pulled me up and sat me on the edge of the bed before taking me through a breathing routine – Madam and her diet of croissants, baguettes, curry, dal, naan, gin and tonics and Margheritas, almost broke Sarjits back, but never in my life had I felt more alive and healthy and I am pleased to say that my ankles now have bones again.
We were sad to leave Vivenda, but excited to arrive in North Goa last night after weaving along tiny roads dotted with Christian churches and amazing Portuguese architecture. We had a brief stop at an Indian/Portuguese restaurant followed by a stop at an incredible boutique recomended by Charlotte (when in Panjim, please visit Sachas Store), before arriving at Paros, a tiny village of tent structures built on the sands of Turtle Beach and one of the most beautiful places I’ve stayed in my life. Alex, a handsome Frenchman and his wife have lived in India for over 15 years and they divide their time between Delhi and Goa and the detail here is chic and simple, and so totally (seemingly) effortless featuring white awnings dotted through clean sand and green tropical foliage- it is so very French.
Whilst Paros is totally different to my time spent in a tent as a child, I am loving life with a fully functioning bathroom, a split system that spews freezing cold air out the door to a beautiful dark wood veranda – as my newly thin ankles and I look out to the Arabian Sea, I can hardly imagine ever wanting to leave.
It is so simple here, and this is the most perfect end to an amazing eight weeks which I will never forget.