Thursday, 7 February 2013

Life's a Beach

The first time we went to Goa, we stayed in Candolim in the North because we didn’t know any better. Drunken, sun-burned Brits staggered about in the hot sun and Russians in two sizes (miniscule or massive) sat around in bars drinking beer and vodka for breakfast. You could select your menu option in most restaurants from a laminated photo and enjoy a BOGOF bucket of Long Island Ice Tea with your meal.

We got wise after this and picked the brains of long-term expats in Mumbai: Where’s the best place to go for a beach holiday in Goa? After a lot of cajoling we finally managed to extract, from good friends, the name of their secret Goan destination.  I can’t tell you where it is or I will have to kill you. Oh, alright then, it was Agonda Beach in the South. We loved it so much that we stayed in the same ramshackle beach house the next four times we visited Goa. The kids spent the days digging a hole in the sand and Mick and I read books or played Scrabble on the verandah, occasionally looking out to sea and wondering if it was too early to pop next door to Madhu’s for a beer. We would have carried on like this every time we had a few days off, but when Hugh shipped off to boarding school, Polly decided we couldn’t go to Agonda without him so we had to come up with a new short-break destination. As luck would have it, I was chatting to beach wear designer Sophie Paget Stevenson, when she mentioned her pop-up shop, Beach Candy, on Morjim Beach. She told me Fashion Designer Jade Jagger had a chalet in Morjim and also a boutique on the beach. As I am the sort of person who is very impressed by this level of name-dropping, my decision to go was made then and there.  Sophie said she always stayed at Palm Grove on Ashvem Beach so this was duly booked within the hour.

The journey was almost too easy. Getting out of Mumbai and arriving in such an idyllic spot really should take more than a few hours door to door –but it doesn’t.
Palm Grove is a small boutique resort run by a Swedish couple, who looked as though they’d arrived in Goa 20 years ago and made the decision to stay on and make a living for themselves in Paradise. It was a bit pricier than our place in Agonda, but hey ho, it was a lot more glamorous.
Our new home for the week ‘Honey Bunny’ was a large, half-brick, circular house with a palm frond roof and en-suite shower room. The majestic four-poster bed was rather romantically swathed in mosquito netting and fragrant candles were placed about the room.
Having set off from Mumbai mid afternoon, by the time our bags were brought to the room, we decided to pop down to the beach restaurant for a swift half and to watch the sun set.
After a few swift halves and a magnificent light show from Mother Nature, I nipped back to the room to use the loo. It was dark but I could make out the white toilet seat by the light of the moon slicing through the roof fronds. I had earlier noticed a large spider at the base of the bamboo wall facing the toilet so I thought I’d better just find the light switch in case it had moved. It’s a good job I did because there on the loo seat sat a shiny red frog. I dread to think what might have happened in the dark. By this time I was desperate so I banged the bamboo wall and the frog jumped to the floor, just as the spider leapt forward. They stood facing each other an inch apart. I don’t particularly like frogs but I am more scared of spiders. Especially this one as it was very big. The three of us stood there rooted to the spot until, rather spectacularly, the frog shot out its tongue and whipped the spider into its mouth and started chowing down on its big, black, hairy legs. It was the best thing I have ever seen in my life. I sat down and marveled at the wonders of nature and then kicked myself for not filming on my phone which was all the while in my hand. It would have gone viral! I couldn’t wait to get back to the bar and tell Mick and Polly how exciting my trip to the loo had been.
I wish this was a video clip of the frog eating the spider - soz

That was the highlight of the week, which suited us just fine! I spent the rest of the holiday collecting shells and building sand castles with Polly while Mick read his book and slept around the clock. We tried sun-bathing on the beach one day but felt too inadequate next to the bronzed and athletic bodies of professional beach people, mostly Russians. One of the knick-knack sellers on the beach asked me why I was so white. You wouldn’t think I’d lived in India for four years! I guess I’m just not the tanning type.
And so, every evening at sunset, Mick would wake from his day’s sleeping/reading and accompany us to one of the many beach bars so we could enjoy a cocktail and a piece of fresh, meaty fish and watch the hippies do yoga poses on the beach. I suppose they will have to get a job one day, we muse to each other as the sun goes down.
There are definitely some upsides to living in Mumbai and this is one of them!

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