We booked Goa with flight prices in mind. We knew we wanted to go somewhere for our November half term but didn’t want to spend too much (more trips away to book soon) or fly too far (I would be seven months pregnant). Flights to Goa from Dammam with Jet Airways were reasonably priced, although with a fairly long layover in Mumbai, and so we booked our last trip for 2017. Our last trip as a family of four! It actually was four plus one as my sister Harriet decided to meet us there for the week too.
A couple of weeks before heading to Goa I had a small scare with the pregnancy and was put on bed rest for a few days. There followed a lot of questions about whether we should still go and whether I would be able to fly safely. Would the food be safe, where would I go if anything happened? My doctor gave me the go ahead to fly though. We had also never intended this to be an “adventurous” break, more a restful week with sunshine and good food. Having my sister there would also give us an extra pair of hands to help with Arthur and Eirlys. So, with everyone’s fears allayed, we packed and headed for the airport!
I have to be honest, I had been a little anxious about flying with Jet Airways. I figured it was going to be very basic, budget airline style. I had also assumed that Mumbai airport would be very big and busy. Proved wrong on both counts. Although fairly no frills, the flight was pleasant with good food and entertainment. On every leg, the crew bent over backwards to ensure that my giant bump and I were comfortable and that the children were happy. Mumbai airport was also amazing. Some really stunning artwork throughout the terminal, great shops and food options. So, despite being half asleep and a bit cranky after the first leg of the journey, we were happy.
Touching down in Goa was so exciting. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that feeling when you arrive somewhere new. The airport is very small and you instantly feel like you are in a different country. Having never been to India before, we were in proper tourist mode. Tom and the children were falling asleep on the taxi ride to Candolim but I was just staring out of the window as we rushed past paddy fields with water buffalo, colourful Portuguese influenced architecture and views of hills and the sea.
Pulling up at the Novotel Resort and Spa, we quickly knew we had picked somewhere perfect for this holiday. Welcoming staff gave us drinks, cold towels, told us how to book activities and showed us to our suite. Remembering our own toddler travel advice, we had booked a suite with balconies. Harriet would squeeze in downstairs with Arthur and Eirlys and we each had a balcony and a bath room, plus the upstairs bedroom gave us another space to sit while the kids went to sleep early. The hotel itself was beautiful and we were by the pool (perfectly set up for children and lazy grown-ups alike) enjoying the view of the paddy fields as soon as we could manage it!
Our Goa holiday was meant to be about relaxing together as a family so, honestly, we spent most of our time in the resort. This can be a risk as, until you arrive, you don’t quite know if it will work out. Fortunately, it really did! The hotel’s location, activities and especially food, made it feel like we were on a luxury break but still felt like we were in India. The buffet breakfast introduced us to Indian foods we had never heard of before and I would be happy if I could start every day with one of the chef’s fresh dosas with chutneys and a masala chai. Similarly lunch or dinner (we were on half board) was a succession of new curries and dishes that we hadn’t experienced before, and the chefs and staff were all so keen to explain everything to us. Most of the food was cooked in two outdoor kitchens so you could watch the chefs at work on the tandoor and burners. My sister and I booked in for a cooking class and were shown how to make Chicken Xacati (a Goan curry). Harriet and Tom did a cocktail making class where they were introduced to a local spirit made with sugar cane. Foodwise, things could not have been better!
My sister and I also tried out the Warren Tricomi Spa in the hotel. Again, perfect service. We were welcomed with drinks, slippers and our treatments were wonderful. Harriet also had traditional henna done during her stay.
For the children, it was also the ideal spot. The staff were friendly and happy to make any sort of food they wanted. The shallow area of the pool was huge, giving them plenty of space to play without us needing to be right next to them the whole time. There was also an indoor play area and children’s activities each day.
We did venture out of the hotel, albeit not far. Whilst I felt fine when lying by the pool not doing much, my bump was getting big and walking far was not the most comfortable option!
We headed down to the beach for a morning. Candolim beach is lined with food shacks, bars and sun loungers. The waves were pretty rough but we had great fun running away from them up the beach and laughing at people being knocked over…Harriet included! The only downside was all the people selling jewellery and offering foot massages. They were pretty persistent, although very polite. Possibly had we been at the beach at a busier time there would have been less attention on us and a massage might have been more welcome.
Our main bit of history/culture on the trip was a visit to the Fort Aguada. The fort is Portugese and was built in 1612. Not only was it important for the defense of the area from the Dutch and Marathas but was the site of a freshwater spring and was capable of storing a large amount of water, hence the name Aguada. There is also a lighthouse in the fort, built in 1864. The lighthouse itself is not open to the public. We enjoyed a walk around the fort, peering into forgotten spaces and taking in the view over the sea from the walls. Unfortunately, Eirlys was in a foul mood. It was made all the more stressful as a lot of friendly tourists from other parts of India wanted to say hello and take pictures with the children. Not so much on the smiling front from her!
Candolim itself is fairly small and touristy but was worth a small walk through. There is a little food market with vendors selling fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. Cows are wandering around the town, miraculously not being hit by the mad traffic. A number of shops offer traditional handicrafts, fabrics and souvenirs. My sister and I grabbed some matching bronze earrings and anklets and little gifts. Along the strip is also range of local bars and restaurants making for a chilled, busy atmosphere.
This had turned out to be the perfect couple of days for us, even with the relatively long layovers and dodgy flight times. Slightly less exploring done than usual for us but as a time to recharge and be together as a family it was absolutely fantastic.