9am we bundled ourselves into the Innova and the driver we had hired for the day set off into Old Goa to meet Vimal for a day exploring.
We met Vimal at the Basilica of Bom Jesus which is one of the most famous churches in Old Goa. It’s bigger than it looks from the outside, which was partially obscured by the scaffolding being erected for seating for the upcoming festival. The church was built by the Portguese between 1594 and 1605 and in 1946 it became the first church in India to be elevated to the status of a minor basilica. It’s three storeys high and built from the black laterite stone, which also makes up the courtyard entrance.
The relics of St Francis Xavier are kept in a crystal and silver casket in a tomb in a chapel at the south of the church. The chapel is decorated with pictures depicting the life and miracles of the Saint. The original casket was wooden with three locks. This was removed and the lid opened every year at the festival of the Saint and people from all over Goa would come to touch the saints relics. Now the Silver and crystal casket is sealed and the relics can be seen through the side of the crystal casket.
We wandered through the corridors at the back of the church and out across the road to the Se Cathedral.
The Se Cathedral or St Catherine’s Cathedral is larger than any church in Portugal yet is empty. Clearly a lack of funds to maintain the cathedral has affected it. We headed next door to the interesting Archeological Society of India Museum displaying artefacts.
After everyone (except me) had a cooling off with a Baskin Robbins ice cream we headed over to the Church of Saint Augustine ruins.
It was getting hot (35C) so it was a welcome relief to get back into the air conditioned Innova to head over to the Ancestral Goa Museum and ‘Big Foot’ exhibition. The first part is being guided around an ancestral home of a wealthy family. There is a pre recorded commentary and guide pointing out the exhibits being described.
The second part is an outdoor model village which showcases traditional occupations and social classes. There is an automated commentary as you walk around explaining about the lives of fishermen, farmers, the village market, distillery, hairdresser etc.
Also here is the ‘Big Foot’ exhibition where a shape of a foot of a pious man called Mahadar was found embedded in a rock. Mahadar gave away all his possessions to the poor and needy and was left with nothing after his wife died. God took pity on him and asked what Mahadar wanted – he asked for a rock to pray on. Mahadar stood on one foot and prayed night and day until he was taken to heaven. Now the rock with the embedded footprint is on display here. Legend has it that if you place your right hand on the rock, make a wish and if you are of pure of heart and don’t tell anyone your wish may be granted. Zahra had a go and was bursting to tell me what she wished for – my heart broke a little bit more when she said she wished Yasmin would be found.
We were all getting hungry by now so headed off to find a local restaurant. Vimal asked our driver to recommend somewhere. We pulled up outside a roadside restaurant called Anna Maria that looked so unlikely. Vimal sensed our hesitancy and suggested we take a look inside and then decide. We wandered in and it did look a little ramshackle but the chalk board menu looked good so we decided to give it a try.
Zahra and I ordered Goan prawns, Rez and Vimal ordered the local Kingfish. Oh my gosh it was the best prawn dish I have tasted – truly delicious. Rez and Vimal like the Kingfish too. They all came with a salad and Zahra had some rice. Three large bottle of Kingfisher beer later and we were suitably refreshed to head off. The entire bill came to £13 – an absolute bargain.
We headed off to the most haunted church in Goa called the Three Kings church.
It was time for the beach. Zahra had been so good all day but she was super excited at the prospect of heading to the beach. We headed over to Majorda beach.
Majorda beach is in the Salcete taluka in the south of Goa. It’s a beautiful beach with palm groves and lots and lots of star fish. The local children were collecting them in large piles to take home! The sea water was lovely and warm – again like bath water- with large waves crashing to the shore. It was fun and invigorating. We had a good swim whilst Rez remained on the beach taking even more photos of the MiG29s flying overhead.
As dusk fell it was time to head back to the hotel. It was a lovely relaxing day out exploring Goa with Vimal who is a very knowledgable guide.