I didn’t have much to do than roaming around Benaulim after breakfast. My lazy nerves were not so willing to ride long distance. After much consideration, I suggested my travel buddy about a visit to the Latin quarters of Fontainhas.
A short while after we started for Panjim, a sudden realization dawned upon us…. We were soon to run out of fuel. After asking around and much to our horror, we were 7 kms away from the nearest petrol station and with the amount of fuel we had, it would not have let us reach anywhere beyond one kilometer. How we managed to arrange for petrol and reach till the petrol station is a separate tale to tell altogether. For now, I mustn’t digress.
A distinct side of Goa beyond hippies, beaches and beer is its quintessential history and architecture. Fontainhas – the oldest Latin quarters reflect a perfect confluence of the old and the new worlds lending a unique character to this quaint neighborhood. Though positioned at the heart of bustling Panjim, it seems untouched by the din, dispelling the notion of an otherwise crammed and carousing Goa.
The settlement of Fontainhas was not considered as a residential quarter until mid to late 18th century when the outbreak of plagues between 1810- 1839 in Old Goa, the then capital of Portuguese administration, almost made survival impossible. The capital was shifted to Panjim and administrators were conferred with portions of lands located by the west of Altinho hill. The residential settlement was named Fontainhas, due to the presence of a natural spring by the bottom of the hill, the name derived from Portuguese word, “Fonte Phoenix” or “Fountain of Phoenix”. The Fountain of Phoenix is still present in Mala area, just before the Hanuman Temple.
As we walked down the erstwhile European bylanes, we were left in awe of the bright colored homes, few of which have now been converted into guest houses, boutique hotels or cafes. The buildings painted in bold colors of red, yellow, blue, green and purple was something that made the neighborhood more attractive. I just wondered how refreshing would it feel to take a walk around the area during monsoon. I made a mental note to return here once again during monsoon. There were quite a few guest houses to stay over too.
I was also intrigued about the names of the roads in the neighborhood. On inquiring with a local nearby, I learnt that the names of the roads bear significance to historical events. Like the 31st January Road or Rua 31 de Janeira, commemorates the Liberation of Portugal from Spain on 31st January, 1640. Whereas, the 18th June Road is named after the Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and Dr. Juliao Menezes on 18th June, 1946 against the dictatorial regime of Salazar to gain back civil liberties for Goans. The movement eventually culminated in the liberation of Goa on 19th December, 1961.
We then moved forward towards the St. Sebastian chapel. It looked freshly white-washed and did manage to impart peace and serenity. The winding roads were quite confusing since we managed to end up at the same place even after taking different routes couple of times. The sightings were not disappointing though. A rusty vintage Chevy here, a black cat duo there… a closed door here, an open window there, a wishing well, a boutique hotel and number plates displayed on Azulejo (typical of Iberian architecture).