Sunday, June 07, 2015

25 (somewhat) useful things in Goa, Mangalore and Bangalore



In April this year, we drove. Quite a long way. From Mumbai to Mangalore to pick up my parents and take them to Goa for a week. Then back to Mangalore to drop them off. On to Bangalore for my cousin Sherine’s daughter’s First Communion. Finally, the long drive back to Mumbai, with a halt at Kolhapur.
That, Google Maps tells me, is 948km + 387km + 387km + 373km + 980km = a grand total of 3,075km. Oh, and let’s add to that another 400km for the Arpora-Kolhapur-Arpora trip Kevin and I did to check up on some home theatre he was setting up.
Much was learned on the road trip – including the fact that I’m still waiting for the Beam-me-up-Scotty transportation system to materialise. I’ve divided the learnings into sections, so that you find something useful – in no particular order – among the rantings.

On the road
1.      That your in-car repertoire must include a sipper glass and Red Bull supply for the driver (Kevin, in this case) and a dustbin bag for fellow (younger) travellers who cannot live without Lays wafers in assorted flavours on road trips. Both these are key to sanity as the hours go by. We like sandwiches made with Hungarian salami from Gourmet West as our between-meals snack on the road.
2.     That the roads in Karnataka are way better than the ones in Maharashtra, even on NH 4. That said, we were slowed down by road-widening work every few hundred metres in Karnataka, but, once those roads are done, they’re going to be a joy to drive. (And, ladies, sometimes the ladies’ loos at the truck lay byes on the side of the road are quite usable.)
3.     That it’s useful to keep a bulldog clip handy in the glove compartment to hold together the innumerable toll receipts you collect on a road trip – especially because many of them must be shown again to avoid paying the same toll twice.
4.     That Google Maps is generally awesome. However, it was more fun when the firang voice told me how to get somewhere; the new Indian one calling Calangute ‘Culangat’ really gets on my nerves. 

In Mangalore
5.     That, if you are ever in Mangalore, you must visit an Ideal Ice Cream Parlour. The best of them is Pabbas, on MG Road in Lalbagh. The classic here is Gadbad, a sundae from long before sundaes became famous – but we’re now also rooting for Sandy Nuts (I know, I know), vanilla with nougat and biscuit crumbs, and Beehive, which is drizzled with honey, and only to be had if you really like honey.
6.      That your visit is also incomplete without toddy – best drunk in the morning when it’s still sweet. Ask a local you trust. The chakna (bar snacks) at these little dives is also addictive.
7.      That Mangalore’s Tannirbhavi Beach is now almost brilliant. It has changing rooms and showers. So rare in India. ‘Almost brilliant’ because said changing rooms have no door locks or lights, but they – and the other advantages of privatisation – are coming. Go, if you are in Mangalore. This beach gives the Goa beaches a run for their waves.
In Goa
8.      That, among apartments in Goa, we like Riviera properties over all others. We’ve tried quite a few, but the Riviera lot – booked over www.ownersdirect.co.uk – is the best in terms of facilities and class. Of these, our best stay has been at IN62 at Riviera Residency – the pics on the site are bad, and don’t do justice to the place, but you’re literally 20 steps from the pool, and, as a bonus, Teresa Air is lovely. You do, however, need wheels; none of these are near the beaches.
9.     That other (non-apartment) properties we like include Casa Praia (www.casapraiagoa.com), 250m from Candolim Beach, and Presa di Goa (presadigoa.com), down little village roads in Nagao. Try for the Family House and the suites at Casa Praia, rather than the annexe rooms, and for the duplex cottages at Presa di Goa.
10.  That we don’t care much for the beaches in Goa – at least not the North Goa beaches. Perhaps because we don’t get much joy from watching people watching other fully-clothed people emerge sopping from the sea.
11.  That my parents probably have more get-up-and-go than we do – our idea of a holiday is lying about, watching TV and movies, reading and going out to eat. I think they are quietly appalled at our inactivity.
12.  That food is what Goa is for us.
13.  That, while we’ve always enjoyed the fish thali at Ritz Classic on the first floor of a building on 18th June Road in Panjim, it was great not having anyone standing over your shoulder, waiting for you to finish, at the third Ritz Classic at Patto in Panjim (Ground Floor, Patto Plaza Gera Imperium-II, Patto Centre, Panjim). Same good food, slightly higher prices, but well worth it.
14.  That the food is consistently good at Fat Fish (Agar Waddo on the Calangute-Arpora Road; www.fatfishgoa.com) – especially the Special Goan Fish Thali, tuna salad and the roast pork. And the wait staff is cool. And there’s free wi-fi.
15.  That getting to the Bhatti Village restaurant in Nerul after three unsuccessful forays was very worth it. You eat in a house, the lady of the house cooks, the man of the house, Patrick, rattles off the menu of the day – four items in beef, four items in pork, all the fish you want, and some of the best feni you’ll have around. We loved the Pork Binda Sol, a light stew-like dish flavoured with kokum skins.

In Bangalore
16. That the joys of a large boisterous family far outweigh the mild panic I feel at being with so many people in a single room or even house. My Aunt Averil’s house has become Family Central in Bangalore – the equivalent of my grandmother’s house in Mangalore (both Granny and May Lodge are no longer with the family, sadly), where three generations congregate to fall over each other like puppies. There’s much cooking, eating, sleeping amid the pile of people you’re watching hysterical movies with, and, generally, enough family memories made to keep you warm for a year at least.
17. That mosquito patches are never available when you need them most. Stock up if you’re travelling, or rely on good old Odomos – the lotion is easier to slather on than the cream.
18. That Lan Thai at 5th Avenue Mall on Brigade Road still serves up great Thai food. Phew! Such a relief since I had recommended it in the Bangalore Insiders story some months ago. The caveat: Eat in, don’t order out – it doesn’t taste as good with delivery.
19. That The Tuckshop in Varthur is worth seeking out. This outlet store takes some getting to and needs a phone call to the irrepressible Raina, but my sis-in-law had clothes falling over themselves to be taken home by her – dresses, blouses, and party pieces (Gunjur, Varthur-Sarjapur Road, near S4 Supermarket, Whitefield; 11am to 5pm).
20.  That peeps who say, “Who goes to Bangalore to buy curtains?” have never been to Acacia Curtains at Safina Plaza. The guys at Acacia could easily have you believing that you could change your world, or your home at least, with their curtains. These are some of the best we’ve seen – in variations of cotton, that is (I can’t stand the shiny, synthetic ones) – and come in door and window lengths and some in panels that could almost make art installations. Best, or worst, of all, they are brilliant at placing any curtain you like in innumerable combinations with others that make you buy all the possibilities. It explains why we bought some 26 curtains in all.
21.  That the Bangalore Ham Shop continues to rule with its masala sausages. These are little explosions of peppery taste in your mouth – and across the room from the frying pan if you don’t follow the instructions on the packet. Try them.
22.    That, while having a car to get you from city to city is great, within a city like Bangalore with its often impossible traffic, hiring a driver to drive your car is such a good idea.

General road-trip observations
23.  That you should, if you can, switch off your fridge at home while you’re away. If you can’t, at least have no fish or meat in there – if you don’t want to know how I imagine a forensic lab would smell.
24.  That getting there is much more fun than getting back from there.
25. That there can be such a thing as too long a road trip.

PHOTOGRAPH: CHRIS ELWELL/123RF

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