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Weekend getaways: Goa.

Summary: In cosmopolitan Goa, all you have to do is move from one village to another, and the world appears on your plate.

Food: Gastronomical Goa

Where: This trail runs through the various towns and villages of Goa.

What: In cosmopolitan Goa, all you have to do is move from one village to another, and the world appears on your plate.

How: The best way to follow this trail is to hire a car from Panjim and then stop by at the various bakeries, restaurants and cafes and eat along.

Why: Start your day with pao and pui, two varieties of Goan bread, and a cup of tea at any local cafe. And then, feel free to build your itinerary the way you like it, building in our suggestions: eclairs at Jila Bakery, Loutolim, Ambora; gadbad (ice-cream in many flavours with fruits, slivers of nuts--all in one bowl) at Hanuman Soda, Mapusa Circle; Beef Rolado and Sorpotel Sanna at Nostalgia's, Salcete; Wasabi Prawns and Smoked Duck at A Reverie, Calangute; thin crust pizzas and paella at Fiesta, glazed tuna steak at Hidden Gourmet, Pantnem (next to Palolem); mustard fish at Sublime, Saligao; prawn and crab curry at Britto's, Calangute, and brownies and apple pie at Pink Orange, Ashwem.

Good to know Season: If you also want to taste what the shacks on the beach offer--usually beer and finger foods--you have to plan this foodie break in either summer or winter. Activity: Take a Goan cooking class at Siolim Cooking School; www.cookingclassesgoa.com Stay: Base yourself in North Goa for this kind of a break. We suggest Casa Baga in Baga: Rs. 12,000 for 2 in season; www.casaboutiquehotels.com Pair it: While you are on the food trail, why not try some fruity local wines. Choose from banana, apple, cashew & coconut. Vinicola & San Andreas No 7 are ports you can try.

Wellness: Bhakti Kutir

Where: Near Palolem, 80 km from Panjim.

What: Bhakti Kutir is not an ashram, though it is all about the well-being of the mind, body and, therefore, soul, but not in a way that demands you to adopt saintly ways of life. Tucked away behind the beach at Palolem, Bhakti Kutir has more than 20 cabanas, each with a narrow flight of stairs that leads to comfortable rooms. An ayurvedic centre here offers invigorating massages. The wellness quotient is further pushed up by yoga classes, organic food, nature walks and group discussions with the founder, a Goan-German couple.

How: It's a 90 minutes drive to Palolem from Panjim.

Why: When wellness comes without guilty pleasures, there is hardly anything better. No one casts disapproving glances if you have not signed up for early morning yoga or pranayama. Despite that, given the idyllic surroundings, Bhakti Kutir has inspired even the most unfit.

Good to know Season: November to April is peak season at Bhakti Kutir and yoga and meditation sessions can get a bit crowded. Must-know: Toilets at Bhakti Kutir are Indian-style and there are no overhead showers. Eco-friendliness is the mantra at this resort. Carry: Mosquito repellent cream and keep covered. Stay: Bhakti Kutir: Rs. 500 for 2 (offseason rate); www.bhaktikutir.com

Leisure: Beaches of South Goa

Where: An almost 25 km stretch from Cansaulim to Mobor; Cansaulim is about 30 km from Panjim.

What: This stretch offers uninterrupted white sands for kilometres, making it ideal for you to walk from one beach to another, swim in the clear waters, or just lie back with a book and watch the days go by.

How: The drive from Panjim to Cansaulim takes about 40 minutes.

Why: The south still gives you a sense of vintage Goa. There are churches among paddy fields, crumbling Portuguese mansions, acres of farmlands and, of course, superb beaches of which Bogmalo, Benaulim, Cavelossim, Agonda, Varca and Palolem are the six you must visit.

Good to know Season: The tourism department ad claims that Goa goes for a "beauty treatment" in the monsoon. Do the beach trail in the rains and you will find enough substance to second that claim. Winter is peak season in Goa and even the quieter beaches of the south fill up now. Activity: A walk up to the Cabo de Rama fort, also known as Cape Rama. Lord Rama is supposed to have taken shelter here during exile. Interestingly, a chapel exists inside the dilapidated fort. Stay: Arco Iris, a homestay near Margao, has been notching up great reviews for its food and decor. Rs. 5,500 for 2; www.arcoiris.in

Nature and adventure: Dudhsagar Falls

Where: About 60 km from Panjim, near the Goa-Karnataka border.

What: 'Milky Way on Earth'--that's how these thundering cascades have been described. Come monsoon and the flow of water picks up pace and Dudhsagar gushes down the ghats with reckless abandon. A visit to these falls reveals a side of Goa that is a world away from its hippie image.

How: Dudhsagar is less than two hours from Goa and the thrill of the train ride is unmatched. From Panjim, drive about 40 km to Madgaon station and board a train to Kulem (about an hour away). From Kulem, there are taxis and buses to Dudhsagar (less than 20 minutes away).

Why: Whether you trek or drive to Dudhsagar, the views are equally amazing. However, the sense of accomplishment that comes from trekking, crossing tunnels and bridges and getting drenched in waterfalls, is something that you will not to able to forget.

Good to know Must-carry: Locals use diesel to get rid of leeches. Carry a small bottle; leeches are most active during rains. Safety: It may be a tempting idea to go swimming in the rapids at the base of the falls, but don't try this unless you are an expert. Stay: Dudhsagar Spa Resort: Rs. 9,000 for 2; www.dudhsagarsparesort.com

Heritage: Portuguese mansions

Where: In Loutolim and Chandor, both picturesque villages in South Goa.

What: Figuerido Mansion and Braganza House are like a beacon of hope for those who think of Goa as a slice of Portugal in India. Most of Goa's grand palacios are dilapidated and these two mansions are the only ones to have been restored and are open to public, taking you into the world of antique furniture and porcelain.

How: Hire a car from Panjim; the drive to Loutolim and Chandor will take you about an hour. Retain the vehicle for the weekend.

Why: Private chapels, embroidered garments in Chinese silk, 17th-century crockery, handheld fans in silk, palanquins, crystal chandeliers, silver candelabra--if you have watched Shyam Benegal's Trikaal, a film based on the life of a Portuguese family, you will know what we are talking about. A far cry from glitzy restaurants and luxury hotels, these mansions are simply vintage Goa.

Good to know Must-try: The owners of Figuerido Mansion lay out an elaborate Indo-Portuguese buffet for visitors, served in the centuries-old family crockery. Tel: (0832) 277 0728 Trivia: Braganza House has one of the biggest private libraries in Goa, with a collection of over 5,000 books. Must-visit: Mario Miranda's house in Loutolim. Stay: Casa Susegad, a beautiful heritage villa in Loutolim. Rs. 6,000 for 2; www.casasusegad.com

Arts and culture: Cultural trail

Where: Across the towns and villages of Goa, this trail takes you to many galleries, museums and cultural centres.

What: Time to get into the skin of Goa. Throw in a little bit of refinement into this holiday to add a different aspect to your Goan holiday.

How: Hire a car from Panjim and retain it for the next two days to take you across North and South Goa.

Why: Here are some options: Goa's charm lies in its sense of history and that's what the photography tours of Goa Centre for Alternative Photography bring out. This Calangute centre also conducts workshops and competitions (www.goa-cap.com). Tucked away in a leafy lane of Calangute, Art Chamber is where both lovers of painting and sculpture, and music will find food for thought. There are exhibitions as well music recitals to check out (www.goa-art.com). The International Centre Goa in Dona Paula is where you should go for a brush with the literati. The Centre also organises the Goa Arts and Literary Festival in December every year (www.internationalcentregoa.com).

Good to know Tip: Plan this holiday in November, when film lovers and makers from all over the world congregate in Goa for the International Film Festival of India (www.iffigoa.org) Stay: Art Escape, the lovely art hotel in Benaulim. Rs. 1,600 for 2; www.artescape.in

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Publication:India Today Travel Plus
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 1, 2012
Words:1463
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