Take a break from the humdrum routine of everyday life to explore destinations in a rain-washed season and experience a slice of refreshing life in Goa and Puducherry, says Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. As you walk down the promenade in front of the waterfront in Puducherry, you can take in the local architectural styles even as you cool down with the spray that the sea splashing against the beach/shoreline is likely to drench you with as it gets into monsoon mode. The evening hours, when the road is cordoned off and no vehicular traffic is allowed, offer the perfect time for a leisurely stroll down the area. You can dive into the by-lanes and discover many restaurants that offer a variety of cuisine – French being the most popular!
It tends to pour in Puducherry, so do take your brolly and raincoat along. As you walk down the waterfront, you can sit in Le Café, a small, yet popular eatery, that offers you a magnificent view of the sea.
As we stroll around, we find that Puducherry is replete with trees and shrubs – orange flame-of-the-woods, pink and white plumeria, and richly scented frangipani. So as one passes, breathe in the air to enjoy their refreshing sweetness. Walk along South Boulevard to reach Mahatma Gandhi Road and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.
No trip to Puducherry would be complete without a visit to the Aurobindo ashram. Step inside, after leaving your footwear outside, in complete silence. And experience the serenity of it all. The quiet overwhelms you and leads you to introspect – believer or not.
Make the time to drive out to Auroville – which was founded as an international community in 1968. Today its residents come from more than 35 countries and live in dramatically varied settlements.
In Puducherry, temple elephants are friendly. To encounter one such, visit the Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple. The elephant – Lakshmi – who stands just outside its entrance, accepts your offerings in her trunk and then raises it to bless you on the head.
And of course, you can visit other landmark monuments and shop in the city’s marketplace. And indulge in spicy seafood and vegetarian fare as the rains come down outside.
WHERE TO STAY?
Zest Big Beach, Puducherry
Drive in to the gated property of the Zest Big Beach and cruise down the winding road to alight in front of the welcoming reception area. The property is beautifully located on a scenic beach – the vista that can be seen as you walk a little into the lobby is immensely attractive.
Couples with young children will find this the perfect stay as there is a great deal to keep them occupied, even during the rains.
If the skies stay clear, a buggy ride will enchant the children. Or else, there are dancing sessions, sessions of pottery making, games like housie and of course, the play area that has many games for the children (and adults alike)!
And for those who want to unwind holistically, walk across to the spa in a separate cottage for a session of relaxation. Indulge in a treatment of your choice to emerge refreshed.
The rooms are spacious, staff extremely friendly and efficient. And the food is a delightful blend of local fare with universal favourites. Feels like, to use an oft-repeated cliché, a home away from home.
Although Goa is visited popularly for its beaches and sandy stretches and its Bohemian lifestyle, it has its own unique appeal during the monsoons. Having been there when the rains have turned it lush green and verdant, it becomes easier to state that the popular sunny state is also a monsoon lover’s delight. You can spend hours walking on the beaches while it drizzles gently overhead or sit in the lounges overlooking the waterfront, sipping your favourite drink and dipping into the bountiful seafood offerings that have morphed into a gourmet’s delight.
While there, you can explore Goa’s many monsoon attractions. For those who love exploring nature, do make a trek to the wildlife sanctuaries that remain open throughout the year. The most accessible is Bondla which has a mini zoo and a deer safari park – perfect if you are holidaying with children. Other popular sanctuaries include the Mollem National Park and the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. If you do plan a trip to the Mollem National Park, a halt at the renowned Dudhsagar Falls, located on its fringes is a must. As the water gushes down from a height, the view is incredibly beautiful, capturing nature at its best in the rainy season. The Netravali, Hivrem and Kesarval Falls also put their best flow forward during the rains. So, take your cameras and click away.
Another great place to visit during the monsoon in Goa is the acclaimed spice plantation in Savoi, reached by an enchanting drive through dense jungles and hills. An evening boat cruise up the Mandovi River from Panaji is enjoyable, and Goa’s historic character-filled buildings provide much interest.
For those with a yen for local culture and celebrations, check out the many festivals that Goa boasts of during the rains. The most popular festival, Sao-Joao (the fertility feast of Saint John the Baptist), is celebrated in late June. The feast of Saints Peter and Paul, at the end of June, has people sailing up the river on rafts and as they do so they perform plays and sing songs. In late August, the carnival-like Bonderam flag festival is held on tiny Divar Island, off the coast from Panaji. And last but not the least Ganesh Chaturthi is also observed with fervour in the state.
WHERE TO STAY?
Emerald Palms, Goa
Located between the beaches of Benaulim and Varca, this charming Portuguese styled resort boasts of 106 fantastic rooms. Equipped with the best facilities and state-of-the-art amenities, this is a must-visit destination for those who want to let their mind and body unwind in serenity.
And let the creativity of your children take flight. The property has umpteen activities for them to indulge in as they sit indoors, ranging from pottery, painting, art and craft to finger painting and canvas painting.
Club Mahindra Varca Beach
It is but a 45-minute drive from the airport. The popular resort is built in a characteristic Goan architectural style and boasts of 200 plus spacious apartments, 2 swimming pools, 3 restaurants, a recreation centre, a state of the art gymnasium and a spa. Each suite comes with a private balcony – the perfect sit-out area to relax with a cooler and snacks. One can also take a dip in the pool or relax at the Harmony Spa – Svaastha. The Dune Shack restaurant on the beach with exquisite Goan cuisine offers a mouthwatering treat. Truly a paradise within a paradise!