Not just a Quarter!

Sun, sand and the beaches may be synonymous with Goa, but it’s the colonial Latin Quarter that charms Gajanan Khergamker

Fontainhas aka the Latin Quarters

A small pocket of heaven tucked along the western coast of India in the Konkan region, Goa, is a traveller’s delight. A perfect blend of cultures and civilisations that ruled and influenced the region makes Goa one of the most sought-after tourist destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists. 

Goa has been known mainly for its beaches, cheap alcohol and Portuguese churches. But, following a few visits, especially off the beaten track, gets one to realise that there was a lot more that has either not been explored or is not so popular among the ‘fun-loving’ tourists. The smallest state is home to five national parks, numerous temples, heritage structures, ancient caves and rock-carving sites and more.

Why, Panjim or Panaji (Nova Goa), the capital city of Goa, located on the banks of Mandovi River, is a treasure trove of history and heritage. Known for Portuguese homes, terraced hills, promenade along the river, bridges and the famous baroque-style Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim has more, a lot more to offer.

Fontainhas or Old Latin Quarter

It is a brightly-coloured, cosy enclave built on reclaimed land and flanked by Altinho Hills on one side and Rio de Ourem — the Ourem creek on the other. Also known as Bairro das Fontainhas in Portuguese, these Latin Quarters have significant Portuguese influence especially in architecture. The precinct has well-preserved old houses, small villas built in the 18th and 19th centuries, lining the narrow picturesque lanes and paver-block
footpaths. The Portuguese influence is evident in the projected balconies of these villas and buildings painted in bright hues of yellow, blue, red, green, often with hanging flower pots, that leave you spellbound and transform you to the era gone by.

Another common sight is the bushes of bougainvillea with bright pink and white flowers lining the winding streets. Little wonder then that the Hindi film industry, enthralled by the quintessential lanes, continues to shoot every second movie here. Ek Villian, Aashiqui 2 and you name it. Deriving its name from the Portuguese word for ‘little fountain’, Fontainhas was founded in the 18th century by Antonio Joao de Sequeira who used this land for coconut plantation. Later, due to an epidemic in Old Goa, the
Portuguese government shifted its headquarters to Panjim and
the small village gradually grew into the largest urban agglomeration in Goa.

The zone is speckled with art galleries, cafes, bars, bakeries and very old churches. The 1880 Chapel of St Sebastian, located at the southern end of Fontainhas was once the venue for the annual street festival of the Feast of Our Lady of Livrament. 

Ponte Conde de Linhares

The Count of Linhares Bridge or, better known as Ponte de Linhares, is a causeway along the Mandovi River in Panjim connecting Ribander to the main city of Panjim. Built in the 17th century under the-then Viceroy of Portuguese India, Miguel de Noronha, 4th Count of Linhares, the 3.2 km long road was the longest causeway in Asia.

The road or bridge runs along the flood plains of Mandovi River estuary system with several salt pans in the surrounding areas. Originally designed for horse-drawn carts and other lighter means of transportation, the causeway is used for heavy vehicular traffic. The causeway has weathered several tidal fluctuations due to the original ducts along the bridge and later plantations of mangroves to ensure tidal control
mechanisms. Built on alluvial soil, the laterite-stone structure was stabilised with local timber trunks. The entire structure is supported with
40 Roman-style arches again made of laterite stone.

Old Patto Bridge

The Old Patto Bridge in Panjim is the extension or continuation of Ponte Conde de Linhares. The circular bridge is an architectural marvel built in laterite stone. After liberation from Goa, the Panjim side of the Ponte de Linhares bridge was known as Patto Bridge. A walk along the quaint bridge,
particularly during the nights when the streets are dimly-lit, is a
surreal experience. The Old Patto Bridge is a historic monument that has stood the test of time witnessing eras — the Portuguese and later the Indian control — and etching a character for itself in the vibrant Goan history. The Old Patto Bridge stands above Rio de Ourem or Ourem Creek and has retained the colourful hues of Portuguese era. The site is popular among tourists and locals as the Mandovi River offers a quaint and calming experience. The cruise ships and casinos on the river offer a spectacular view. 

If you are visiting Goa during the International Film Festival of India which goes on till Nov 28, do visit this part of the town to experience its diversity.

 

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