Thursday, 21 June 2018

Christine Weber - a Swiss writer dreaming in our Blueberry room

Christine Weber - Swiss Writer dreaming in our Blueberry room

As the monsoons descended over Goa in early June, Swiss writer Christine Weber came riding the rains all the way from Switzerland to cosy up in our Blueberry room with open terrace. (Joe and Marietta’s Guesthouse, Calangute, Goa).

Christine - outside the Blueberry room

She had booked for 4 nights (June 6 -10), but was so charmed with her stay, she extended it to 10 nights. “I see your guesthouse; it is so wonderful. I have seen dirty rooms in other places,” she said. By the way, she judged us a "EXCEPTIONAL"  and gave us 10 out of 10 in her review of our guesthouse on Booking.Com. See screenshot -

Born in Berne and living in Lucerne, 48-year old Christine describes herself as a “journalist-writer” and runs her own “small agency” called WORTUNDOHR, which she says translates to WORDS AND EAR. “It means speaking and listening,” she said.

“I am a journalist-writer. I write short stories about drama in life. What I observe in real life, I fictionalise. I publish my stories in a literary blog (Alas! It’s German!) Now I am trying to publish a book – compilation of my short stories”, said Christine.

Putting her dreams on laptop
She is in India with a friend - a lady who is a Swiss national of Indian origin. She was given for adoption to a Swiss couple at birth. Now, 28 years later, and for the first time, she has come to the land of her birth. She has no clue about the woman who gave her birth. Nor does she hope to find her parents. She is here on a very private pilgrimage of sorts.

Christine said, “She knows nothing about her mother but she wants to know more about India, its people, its culture and how the city Bombay moves. She was very happy to see Bombay; she loves India. I will write about her India experience and publish it in a Swiss magazine.”

Monsoon mojo for Christine
Before turning to journalism and writing, Christine got a degree in teaching. Her father Paul (82) and mother Evi (77) were both teachers. Now retired, they live in Lucerne where Christine visits them sometimes.

Christine never married. “I had no time. I am married to my business and my stories are my babies. Now I can do many things that I would not have been able to do if I had married,” she said.

She came to India 10 years ago. Besides Bombay, she remembers visiting Agonda beach (South Goa) and Hampi in Karnataka. She enjoyed her visit then. Among things Indian, she likes mushroom curry, vegetable biryani and paneer but is rather pained about the garbage situation in India. “Juhu beach was very beautiful then. Now there is too much garbage,” she said.

Christine and Marietta - Alamanda Eves
What makes Christine tick? “I am hoping to find more free time to write. Now I have to do other work to put food on the table. My dream is to be a famous writer. That would be great! To write a best-seller that would be translated into Hindi and made into a Bollywood film…..(laughs heartily).”

Incidentally, she has already chosen (tentatively) a title for her book – one of her short stories. It’s called “The Dark Space”.

If Christine hires me to translate her book into Hindi, I have already chosen a title for the movie – “Anderi Raat, Pakda tera haath!” (Too good, nah?) O Bollywood! Here we come! Christine and I!

Friday, 15 December 2017

A rock musician with a sage soul

A rock musician with a sage soul: Roque Lazarus is a man with an entrenched passion for music. Having spent most of his life with music in different capacities, the man is synonymous with rhythm. Café takes a peek into his life

Monday, 15 May 2017

Pine Tree shack, (Gaura Vaddo - West), Calangute, Goa


Now, wine and dine at the Pine Tree shack, Gauravaddo (West) Calangute beach, Goa through the year. You can shake your booty too, as Savio Gonsalves, owner of the Pine Tree shack provides an eclectic blend of music to his guests.

As if the sea, sun, sand (and sin) from October to May-end, as dished out by the Pine Tree Shack was not enough his guests, Savio says the shack may not shut shop during the rains from June to September. It appears, he wants to give the good life to his clientele of gourmands, gluttons and other pleasure seekers, all through the year.

Savio first erected his shack under the pine trees way back 2001. Since then, he has cooked and served good food for 16 long summers. He claims his speciality is Goan food – chicken and beef xacuti, pork vindalo, fish and prawn caldin, fish recheado, Ambott tik, drool, drool, etc. He also serves continental and Chinese. Among his drinks, the Pine Tree Special – a cocktail of caju feni, coconut feni and fruit juices – is a big hit on guests.

Among the celebrities who have savoured his cuisine include singer Katy Perry (Savio says she binged on prawn balchao), Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma and politician Salman Khurshid. The last-named owns a home nearby.

“I am very happy with my clientele who are very happy with us. So I may decide to keep the shack open right through the year,” says the young bachelor, who is also a ward member in the Calangute Panchayat. Before that, he was the deputy Sarpanch.

Savio earlier screened movies at the shack but has now stopped. Now, he offers karaoke and can set it up instantly for his guests. Also, barbeque can be set up in a jiffy. Plus, Savio offers cook-your-own-meal facility to demanding guests. Or guests can instruct his cooks to cook the way they (guests) want. Making everything a breeze for guests, are Savio’s dozen disciples – faithful staff.

Another service the Pine Tree Shack offers is home delivery. If you are living in Calangute or around and want to enjoy Savio’s delicacies, order his food on the phone. Savio says Pine Tree prices are on par with other prominent shacks in Calangute.

The only problem with the Pine Tree shack is the narrow access. To reach here, you first come on the Calangute-Candolim road. After the Tarcar Ice factory, you take a right turn near the small Piedade chapel and go straight down towards the beach. Then you walk on foot for 3 minutes or so. “If I get a wider access, I will make it a very happening place – have a live band, fireworks and all that jazz.”

Yours truly and friends partied at the Pine Tree shack recently. We sang, we danced on the tiled flooring inside the shack, we played games in the sand and we ate, among other things, Savio’s chicken xacuti.

When will he marry? “When I meet Ms Right,” said Savio with a wicked smile. Katy Perry and Anushka Sharma came and went. Who knows? The next diva who comes along may just choose to stay; at the Pine Tree shack and its genial owner.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Our friends from Yorkshire

“Joe, would you have us here back again?” asked Stephanie Waterton.

That line, or its variants, spoken by our guests at Joe and Marietta’s Guesthouse, are delightful to hear; it means our guests were happy with us and would like to return.

Tanya Miles seemed equally delighted to have stayed with us. English Roses Tanya and Stephanie (Steff), along with their respective spouses and their sons, stayed at our Palm 3-bedroom apartment for two weeks this February. They left for England on Sunday, February 26. The two families hail from Leeds in Yorkshire.

Craig, Tanya’s husband and Patrick (Paddy), Stephanie’s husband, were gracious and very profuse in thanking us. We cannot but think the same way about them, especially Tanya, who was thoughtful enough to bring us biscuits all the way from England, even though she had never met us earlier. It was Tanya who did the booking and communicated with us all along before their arrival here in Goa.

Tanya and Craig Miles are avid travellers; they have toured Cuba, Mexico,
Greece, Cyprus and other tourism hotspots of the world. Curiously, the Miles have never been to other parts of India, though this is Tanya’s sixth visit to Goa. Asked what brought her to Goa, the accounts manager from Leeds told me she loves the people, the freedom and the food. “We feel safe when we are out and we enjoy the beach shacks,” said Tanya.

For Craig, “the food is very, very nice; the people are very, very nice.”

“The pools,” quipped Frankie, Tanya’s six-year old son. Tanya had enquired and ensured that the children would get access to swimming pools during their stay here in Goa.

“It’s been perfect,” said Stephanie, a first-time visitor to Goa, who works in account administration in Leeds.

They also stayed at the beaches of Agonda and Palolem in South Goa and Arambol beach in the north. The group also splashed in the pool of Froggy Land”, a water park at Nuvem, South Goa.

Tanya and her family have a special affinity to Goa. Tanya’s mother has lived here for many years. And around this Valentine’s Day, Tanya’s sister Amy married a Calangute boy, Justin. It was a beach wedding in Calangute; memories of which the group will relish for long years.

You may think that the two families were in Goa only for the beaches, the food and the nightlife. No. In the middle of their holiday in the sun, the families also took the trouble to spend time with the less fortunate. They took their four small sons to visits the Mango Tree, a home for disadvantaged children in Mapusa town, about seven kilometres north of Calangute. There, the two couples and their sons gave their time and clothes to the children of the home.

All we can say is - it was lovely meeting you Tanya, Craig, your sons Frankie and Logan; and Paddy, Stephanie and your sons Jake and Ashton. Marietta and I wish you all happiness. Deu Borem Korum (God bless you).

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Joe and Marietta's Guesthouse, Calangute Goa

Friends, foes and Donald Trump,

Happy to announce the launch of the new website of Joe and Marietta's Guesthouse, Calangute, Goa, today.

Our new website is complete with online booking facility and online payment facility. All photographs, text, captions given by me - Joe and I have Marietta's permission to say so.

Also note that Joe and Marietta's Guesthouse is ranked no. 2 out of 216 speciality lodgings in Calangute on Tripadvisor.

There is more to this space!

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Aguada Fort

THE AGUADA FORT: So what is there is see within say 5 km of Joe and Marietta's Guesthouse other than the beach? That is one frequently asked question we have to answer. This post seeks to adress that query.
The fort atop the Aguada hillock about 4 km south of Calangute is worth seeing. A board displayed near the entrance tells the fort's story and reads like this:
The fort Aguada built in 1612 comprises the lower fort with bastions all around and an upper fort. It skirts the seashore and ascends the summit of the bare rocky, upland called the "Aguada Point." The upper fort was built as a vantage point to serve as a fort and a watering station to the ships, while the lower fort offers a safe berth to Portuguese ships. The upper fort comprises of moat, an underground water storage chamber, lighthouse, gun powder room and bastions.

ENTRANCE: Bridge over the  moat
The word "Aguada" means watering place in Portuguese. The storage capacity of water tank is 23,76,000 galons. It has five divisions with a support of 16 huge columns and a staircase to descend. A lighthouse at initial stage used to emit light once in seven minutes. In 1864, it was updated to emit light creating eclise every 30 seconds, however it was abandoned in 1976. (Archaelogical Survey of India).

The Old Lighthouse

This old lighthouse is no longer in use. They have built a new one just outside the fort grounds, almost on the edge of the hill, overlooking the expanse of the Arabian Sea. From there, its beams of light sweep the ocean, guiding sailing ships. But the odd courting couple seated on the hill's edge could not care less. 

The new lighthouse

The site offers mouth-watering views of the ocean, the Mandovi river and Panaji town - Goa's capital. On the northern side of the hill is Goa's first 5-star hotel, Fort Aguada and on the hill's southern side, down by the water's edge is Goa's first jail, the Aguada jail, from where, many notorious inmates escaped with ease, including the infamous smuggler Sukur Narayan Bhakia. And on the eastern side is the church of St Lawrence. 

St Lawrence church
Army of Angels

Christ the Redeemer

The Aguada fort is where a number of Hindi movies have been shot including the Amir Khan starrer Dil Chahata hai. There used to be peacocks roaming on the hill some years ago. Now, there are tourists by the busloads, coming to watch a piece of Goa's history.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Ottis! Ottis! Dolphins!


Water sports at Baga beach

Most of our guests (Joe and Marietta’s Guesthouse) make it a point to enjoy water-sports at Calangute or Baga beach. Baga is just 3 km from our guesthouse and dutifully, I get them whatever information I can on the water sports available at the beaches. But truth be told, the only water sports I ever experienced was a short boat ride in the sea offered by a friend.

Yesterday (Friday, Feb 26), I was at Baga beach at 8:45 a.m., ready to embark on my first dolphin ride. Camera slung around my neck, I and a Pune-based family of 5, waited in the 12-seater boat while the 2-men crew unravelled the ropes which tethered the boat. I hoped to get as many pictures as I could for my blog.

Wet and Warm..Together!
My apologies then, for getting so few. Our journey had not even begun when disaster struck. A huge wave lashed our boat drenching us to the bones. As the boat moved, I noticed my camera was dead. I thought I would use the camera on my mobile phone; it was dead too. Then I noticed that I was no longer wearing my reading glasses. The crew recovered them from a water-logged corner of the boat.

Soon we had sailed maybe 3 or 4 km into the sea and the shore was a distant haze. We saw the dolphins then. Not like in the movies; shiny-smooth, squealing mammals that interact and cavort with humans. The dolphins in the sea are shy. They gave us only fleeting glances of their snouts popping in and out of the water, their backs and tails arching as they tumbled in a confetti-splash of water drops all around. Then there was a pair frolicking together; twirling and gambolling side by side. Lovers playing the game of seduction?

Splish!! Splash!!
The other sightings were brief but magical. Every time we sighted a dolphin, the Pune family members exclaimed “Ottis! Ottis!” with childlike glee. I asked, and was told the ‘Ottis’ means ‘There’ and they were speaking Sindhi.

A slight breeze wafted towards the land. I saw only one seagull gliding above. The water was like olive-green, its surface undulating softly with small waves. One of the Sindhi brothers bent and trailed his fingers in the water. It was 9:15 a.m., but the sun was a hammer in the clear sky.

All around, the water stretched for miles and miles. Wearing a life jacket did not stop me from feeling small and vulnerable in the vast immensity of the ocean. Our boat had a green shade on top giving a semblance of cover, shelter. There were a few other boats of dolphin watchers. They were small (one was just a 2-seater) and looked fragile. I wondered what would happen if that huge wave lashed at us now. Our crew took us in circles, a dolphin snout here, a dolphin tail there and more shrieks of “Ottis! Ottis!”
My companions..
We sailed north towards Anjuna beach. Our crew pointed to Curlies Shack and other pleasure dens around. On the return journey, they pointed to “Island beach,” the secluded cove behind the Retreat House, where someone has built a shack. The Retreat House, the crew members, both non-Goans, described to us a “church.”

Action at Baga beach
Alighting at Baga beach, I said goodbye to the two Sindhi brothers and learnt their names were Bharad and Mukesh. I was still wet and cold and poorer by Rs 300 from the boat ride. My Nokia phone and Nikon camera were dead. But I felt no loss; only light and elated from my first date with the dolphins.

Note: Some other water sports activities offered at Baga include Banana Ride, Bumpy Ride, Jet Skis, Parachute, etc.