Visit Aldona— And Meet the Amaral Family
No one can visit Goa just once. The beaches and shacks keep calling you back. But if you thought Goa was just about the sea, think again. Allow me to share with you my visit to Aldona — a village in the northern part of Goa. [Day 23 of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019.]
At my grandmother’s house in Thrissur, we had a large kitchen. As she cooked in the evenings we would all gather around and settle down in different corners of the kitchen. Fights would break out from time to time(mostly between me and my brother), the elders would pull us apart, arguments would break out over politics and movies, gossips would be shared, and in between all this my grandma and Mom would have started serving dinner — first to my grandpa and the younger ones ( me and my brother, again). There was no formal seating arrangement — everyone just grabbed a corner and sat down. The electricity would go off, the oil lamps would be lit and the cacophony continued.
The first time I walked into the kitchen+dining area of Cancio’s House — the family home of Amaral’s that goes back more than 500 years — I was reminded of this childhood scene.
A very large kitchen which was warm and cozy despite it’s size is the center of this household. The warm and comforting aroma of freshly baked chocolate brownie wafts through the kitchen as you sit around a large dining table. I rejected the chairs in favour of the half raised wall which runs on one side of the table so that I can lean against the pillar. I sit with my legs curled up under me — that’s usually a sign that I am super comfortable.
The kitchen opens to the unofficial living area where the choir practice led by Mr Roberto Amaral is going on. I am the most musically challenged person you will ever find but the soothing tones of the hymns, the music from the guitar strings and amazing vocals accompanying it makes it all so ethereal for me.
Gradually, the children and Chandu joins me at the dining table; followed by Mrs Amaral (Roberto’s Mom), Racquel’s mom and the other guests.
Some of the choir members also stay back for those melt-in-your-mouth brownies.
This was Day 1 at Cancio House. As someone who treasures privacy and solitude on vacations I would not have believed you if you told me how much I would love the days I spent at this wonderful home. But I guess that’s what makes the Cancio home so special — you are not categorized as a guest. You get to become one of the household as you walk in.
This wonderful heritage home carries with it a lot of stories. Roberto’s grandmother was a Russian who met his grandfather ( a very prominent man in the army) during a period of war. They married and settled in Goa. The wonderful story teller in Roberto will enthrall you with tales and it will seem that you know all these characters in his stories personally.
We visited Goa in the monsoons of 2018.
I have hesitated to write about the Amaral family , and their family home because I am not sure what to focus on. Should I write about the lovely couple who truly put “home” in “home-stay”? OR the most well –brought up young men I have ever come across? Do I write about Harisson who is wise beyond his years or Antonio the soul who is lost in books as I used to be at his age? Or Do I talk about Rafaelo and his love for cars? Perhaps I should talk about Nolli who have been a part of their family for 40 years and is still more sprightly than people half her age?
Viva Sao Joao Festival
This is a famous festival in these parts. This festival is all about — well, its about jumping into a well.
The feast of St John the Baptist:
The legend goes that Mother Mary visited her sister who was pregnant with John. He kicked around in his mother’s womb as he knew Jesus was going to be born soon after him.
It is in keeping with the spirit of kicking around in the womb ( within the amniotic fluid, I guess) that people offer wine, flowers and fruits to the wells and then jump into the well themselves. We missed the festival by a week.
Since we missed the celebration Roberto escorted us ( there were two other parties in addition to Chandu and I) to the well to give us a flavour of what it feels like.
It was drizzling. He escorted us to this well ( yes, it’s a well not a pond). And we jumped in. I thought I will do it just once but ended up jumping in thrice.
What would be more attractive to two hardcore foodies like us than authentic Goan delicacies!
The day starts with some locally made fresh ( and I mean, FRESH) bread and puffs. You are also given a selection of homemade jams and preserves. Do try the one made with “green grapes” — finger-lickin good!
Chandu and I are hardcore non-vegetarians. Hearing us rave about Pork Vindaloo (that we had from a restaurant in Goa), Raquel prepared her version of Pork Vindaloo for us.
I dipped the poee (local Goan bread) into the hot steaming vindaloo and tasted it. It was like heaven — hot, spicy, delicious heaven.
I nearly cried — it was, by God, the BEST vindaloo I have ever tasted!
I can go on and on about the mouth watering delicacies that is dished out from that kitchen — but a good way to sum it up would be to say that I came back 3 Kg heavier — and absolutely no regrets about that.
Roberto and Mammayi ( Roberto’s Mom) are a treasure house of information on long drives you can take and places you can visit. So if you are staying with the Amarals I would suggest that you ditch the pre-planning and just follow their advice.
Do visit the St Thomas church if you are there on a Sunday. And drop in to the cemetery. The tombstones there will share many a tales, if you would only listen.
If you are lucky, you will come across a few people in your life time whose generosity of spirit humbles you. Racquel and Roberto are two such souls.
When the floods ravaged Kerala, Roberto was one of the first people to check in on us and offered us their home till things got better at our place.
Perhaps it is this warmth that makes you form a bond with the other guests there too. When you visit this quaint little village in Goa, you come back with friends.
Mr Roberto Amaral: +91 98223 85885 ( Leave a message on whatsapp and he will get back to you)