Tag Archives: holidays

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

It’s been nearly six months since I blogged. Six months without my bon mots to get you through the dark winter nights and spring showers. How have you coped? Probably completely fine, I haven’t had anyone knocking down my door, begging for the latest installment in my little life.

It’s been a topsy turvy six months – I started a job,  I ended a job, I started another job, I’m soon to end another job. I am on the hunt for another job. We have an obnoxious tenant who we’re having to take legal action to evict. My cat still hates me. My dad was emergency hospitalised, he’s OK now, but that started January off on an extremely stressful note. So life has been stressful  (see job and tenant points above, I’m slowly coming to terms with the cat hatred) but not without some ups in amongst all the downs.

But the reason for my S&BB return is that I’ve realised I’ve been 40 for nearly six months now, and I’ve not had a complete breakdown. A round of applause for me. I’ve been wondering why my mid-life hasn’t involved a crisis (and when it does, I’d like to be in a position to afford a sports car please) though. I mean, I have the crippling pain of not one but two mortgages (thanks, obnoxious tenant), I have chosen poorly with my last two work contracts and thus need to look for another job to pay aforementioned crippling mortgages. I have a cat who hates me (OK, maybe I’m not as over this as I thought), I have a few marital woes, nothing major or that I can write about here (as it’s not just about me, you see – unlike everything else in the world). I have a sickly dad and he’s also old so there’s that constant spectre hanging over the door. What else?

I have been suffering with chronic eczema (due to work and life related stress and possibly because of the evil cat – I have a mild allergy, yet she still doesn’t find it in herself to love me – the bitch) for the last six months, leaving my back looking a little like a lizard. I have truly joined the realms of madness – I think I’m half lizard. Do cats like lizards? Maybe this is the reason for my cat hating me. I have yet to find a cure or anything to stop the incessant itching, despite giving up literally everything to see what is causing it – so I can only put it down to stress. Any cures/remedies – send them my way.

And the country is in the grip of a maddening referendum debate about the EU which has turned into crazy xenophobic scaremongering by the Leave campaign, which is making me feel like the country I was born and brought up in isn’t one that wants me in it. I mean who wouldn’t want an unemployed, scaly lizard person of the landlord classes being part of their country?

And 49 people got killed for their sexuality in Orlando. And an MP got shot for doing her job by someone who believes in Britain for the British (and his interpretation of British does not include the likes of me.) Jo Cox was a 41 year old woman who has done more with those additional 12 months that I have done in my 40 years on the planet. And that brought me right here to talk about my 40 something non-crisis.

From all the tributes, she seemed like an amazing woman – there has not been one negative word said about her, in any of the obits I’ve read. She was determined, committed, compassionate, kind, caring – she just gave of herself to make the world a better place.

And that got me to thinking about where I expected to be at 40 when I was 15. I mean 40 at 15 was a lifetime away. And at 11, I fully expected to be married and living in a castle with 450 screaming brats being looked after by their nannies, whilst I travelled the world and wore Dior and had a matching set of Globetrotter luggage. And none of those things have happened (and Dior doesn’t make clothes for people who have asses the size of mine).

The 25 years since 15 have been filled with a lot like meeting the man I fully intend to spend the rest of my life with (and several ‘frogs’ before him), buying two houses, travelling, building my career (to the heady heights of nearly unemployment now – woo!) and just generally meeting wonderful people who I am honoured and #blessed to call family. Or framily if you want to use a really ugly word. And my actual family – being the world’s best aunty ever takes a lot of work, but that’s work that I really don’t mind doing. Whilst the numbers may have gone up and down over the last 25 years, there are people I value more than life itself amongst my family and framily.

But what else have I actually achieved? That’s the sum total of my 40-something crisis, I think. I’d like to think I’d done good things but the reality is that I haven’t done bad rather than actively doing good. And I don’t really think I’ve ever had proper ‘goals’ (apart from castle, sprogs, Dior). So maybe that’s what I need to do, set myself some goals that’ll help the world be a better place and by doing so, I’ll finally achieve some actual good and go into the next decade with a 50-something crisis that involves more than still wishing that I had a set of Globetrotter suitcases.

The sum total of this post is, I want to do good things and whilst I’m not unhappy with my little life (in fact, I’d say I’m actively contented), I want to be able to do more with it. So watch this space, a change is coming. But not until I’ve caught up on the latest episodes of whatever’s on Netflix to binge on. Change takes time, right?

PS for want of better images, I’m using pics from recent holidays as I find holidays inspiring.

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Lovely Loutolim and Casa Susegad

I’ve mentioned it a few times but it deserves a post all of its very own so here’s week two in Goa and our stay at Casa Susegad. 

The entrance to Casa Susegad

Beautiful ornate entry

The wino and I require very different things from our holidays – whilst he’s happy to lie on a beach or by a pool for a solid fourteen days, moving only to dip in the pool or go to sleep, I get a little bored of this after… well, usually a good 12 hours. So we agreed that week one would be beachside and week two would encompass a little more culture. What I hadn’t put into this equation was how much Goa would make me into a gigantic beach bum and as such, I was quite happy to sleep and hang out on the beach and not do much else.

We’d booked our week at Casa Susegad based on the lovely i-escape review and amazing Trip Advisor comments and thought it would give us a different pace of life from Jamboree Creek and Mandrem.

And that it did. We got a car from Mandrem to Loutolim – it’s about an hour and a half away but the vibe couldn’t be more different. It’s in a little village where there’s nothing apart from monkeys in trees and a Friday market. When you’ve been in a place where it was rare to see an Indian face and even rarer to see anyone over the age of 40, it was nice to be somewhere that felt more removed from the tourist trail.

You’re greeted by lots of dogs (and Carol and Norman, the owners) and whilst I won’t pretend to remember all their names, my two favourites (ie the ones who paid me the most attention) were Basil and Lisa – just lovely friendly dogs that hung out with the guests all day long. Don’t fall for their food begging though!

The balcao

There are only five rooms at Casa Susegad but the house itself is palatial. All the rooms are situated around the pool, with the bar close by too. We were in the pink quartz room – and very pink it was as you can see below. The floor tiles were gorgeous too – discovered when the work was being done to the house and left in their original state. Loved them.


The terrace Glorious floor Pink room

Next door to our room were the turquoise room and the sunshine room. Norman and Carol live in private quarters in the main part of the house and in the opposite wing is a full size snooker table and a large dining room, as well as a lounge where you can escape the heat and read or watch TV. We shared a terrace with our turquoise neighbours and got to know them really well – fabulous fellas.

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Having spent most of the previous week just speaking to the wino, it took a couple of hours to get used to the openness at Casa Susegad – because the rooms surround the pool, you get used to speaking to your neighbours and having drinks with them and then sitting around the dining table to eat with them. And we loved this – it was so friendly, the owners are delightful and had old friends staying (who I mentioned before) so it felt very much like you were staying with friends. I wonder if I can say ‘friend’ another time in this sentence? Terrible grammar!

The pool is bordered by jungle – literally. You can see all manner of beautiful birds and families of monkeys jump across the roof to steal figs from the tree in the front garden. I’m sure there are creepy crawlies and snakes in them there woods but we didn’t see anything so I’m going to pretend they weren’t there. Oh, apart from a flying beetle that was the size of a small bird. That wasn’t terrifying at all.

The pool

Dinners at Casa Susegad are full three course affairs, with food whims taken in the morning and cooked up by Joanita to please all the guests. Admittedly, we hadn’t realised how little there was to do in Loutolim so whilst the meals are lovely and worth every penny, it’s best to budget as though you’re going to eat there every night as there aren’t many nearby places to enjoy a more cost effective meal. It’s great sitting around the gigantic dinner table, getting to know your fellow guests and shooting the breeze. Dinners can either be served on your terrace or in the main dining room – we mostly opted for the terrace it was slightly less formal but both are lovely experiences.

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Norman and Carole know the region really well so can happily help you plan days out and arrange drivers and recommend places to eat. With our turquoise room neighbours, we went to Margao for a day of exploring including a fantastic lunch at Longuhino’s. And as previously mentioned, Helen took me out for a day to Panjim which included lunch at Hotel Vineet, the home of the Goan revolution. The nearest beach is 20 mins drive away and worth it for a day out, it’s beautiful and the food at Zeebops is amazing.

Latin Quarter, Panjim Panjim Church DSC_0517

I’d happily go back to Casa Susegad – it’s a great location for chilling out, reading by the pool and enjoying some delicious cocktails and dinners. The staff are super friendly and on hand to help with anything you need. It’s also a small hop skip and a jump to the airport so even if you don’t want to spend a whole week in the jungle village, consider spending a couple of nights there before you fly, it’ll leave you feeling ever so zen. Particularly if you indulge in one of the massages, so very good.

And that’s my last Goa post. Sorry for being so indulgent but there was so much to share. Cannot wait for our next trip!

Private beaches and hammocks by the pool…

In the week we’ve been home, it’s snowed and I have been struck down with a terrible virus from which I may never recover. Well, OK, I’ve got flu and I’ll be fine in a couple of days I’m sure but right now I’m feeling utterly sorry for myself and the warm sandy beaches of Goa seem like a lifetime ago.

I’m hoping, however, that writing about it and looking over photos will bring back the warmth to my bones and a song in my heart. Or at least help stop the runny nose for a few minutes

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Because I love a good chronological timeline, I’m going to start with week one in North Goa.

The thing with Goa is that you can spend a lifetime looking at hotels on TripAdvisor and Hotels.com and i-escape and everywhere else and you can never be sure what you’re going to get. There’s a lot of truly awful looking places and lots of truly amazing looking places and a huge amount of places in between. So I set parameters…

  1. We’re not teenagers so Anjuna and the clubbing bits of Goa were no go(a)
  2. I wanted air conditioning (because I’m a big wimp)
  3. Marcel wanted a pool AND proximity to a beach (because he’s demanding)
  4. A maximum of one 1-star and two 2-star reviews on Trip Advisor (the three, four, five star reviews could be as many as possible)

So we looked. The hotel I loved the most was way out of budget.Turns out Brangelina stayed there. We are not Brangelina.

From there it was a hop, skip and a jump to Instagram to see if there were other nice places near Elsewhere. I searched for Mandrem + Pool and found two places that fit our needs – Lazy Dog and Jamboree Creek. And to be honest, because Jamboree Creek responded first, we booked it. And I’m so very glad we did.

The entrance to Jamboree CreekOur hut

Close up of outdoor shower

Jamboree Creek is equidistance between Ashvem and Mandrem beaches but far enough removed that you’re not disturbed by clubbing and traffic and other people. The hotel is made up of 11 thatched beach huts with incredible outdoor showers and cute little terraces. The rooms are basic but clean – don’t book here if you’re looking for ultimate luxury (for that, book Elsewhere and tell me how it is!) The creek is right at the end of the property, just past the pool. Turns out creeks are tidal (I’m guessing cleverer people than me already knew that) so whilst it’s interesting when the tide is out, it’s stunning when the tide is in – you can watch birds and fish and butterflies and all sorts of nature just being all nature-y and stuff (I’m not particularly outdoorsy, can you tell?)

The creek IMAG0996

There are hammocks and cushioned benches by the pool so you can while away hours, sipping on a hibiscus juice from the organic garden. So we did that a lot for our first couple of days, then we went to the beach.

jamboree creek pool hammock

Jamboree Creek shares a bridge to a private beach with Elsewhere so rather than having to negotiate busy roads and other people (ugh) we could walk to the bridge, cross the creek and arrive at a beautiful, quiet stretch of beach all to ourselves.

The beautiful bridge to the private beach Boats

We headed to Ashvem on our first trip which was a bit of a culture shock – banging techno or terrible trance which gave me significant flashbacks to my clubbing youth and had to leave after a very mediocre lunch (I’m not going to give up eating opportunities).

On our next visit to the beach, we headed right up towards Mandrem and this was a much more pleasant experience – we’d been recommended traditional Goan food at a beach shack called End of the World and whilst it didn’t end up being the best food we ate, it was definitely the best we’d eaten at that stage. I’ll do a whole separate post on the food in Goa because the thing we discovered is that food in Goa can be very hit and miss but when it’s good, it’s fantastic.

Sunset at Mandrem

This bridge was my nemesis. In that I fell off it into waist height water. It didn't come after me and try to kill me.
This bridge was my nemesis. In that I fell off it into waist height water. It didn’t come after me and try to kill me.

This was only the second season for Jamboree Creek but Priyanka (the owner who is only 25) and Vishnu (the manager) were both so incredibly helpful and good that it felt much more established. Couple of tiny niggles. It’s a lovely little boutique experience so we would have liked to see a menu that reflected that. Whilst the food was absolutely fine at Jamboree Creek, it would have been nice to see a little more flexibility, variety and local dishes – Russian salads are quite boring after a while. Our room had a TV and a four poster bed. Both great, but realised that when you lie back in bed, unless you’re both in the top most right hand corner, you can’t see the screen! But that’s about it – if you’re not a nature lover, you are very close to it (in that we had a lizard in our sink and a frog in our toilet on separate occasions) so it may not be the place for you. I am truly terrible with nature and insects and this was all fine for me.

Tiny frog in toilet Sink lizard

If you’re looking for a place that’s a little off the beaten track, with great service, a lovely pool and proximity to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (probably), then go here. I’d happily go back. Please, someone, send me back. Now. Please?

Us

Introducing Goa

Given the year of monstrosities that was 2014, we decided that we needed to start 2015 with a bang – and so we agreed to escape grey January in London and head to sunnier climes. Initially we were talking about taking a month off, heading on a tour of the southern hemisphere, ending with being hobbits in NZ, but then reality kicked in and responsibilities reared their ugly heads so we agreed upon a 15 night tour of Goa. I know, hardship, right?

I’ve been to India a few times before – when I was a kid, we did the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tour, my cousin lived in Bangalore for a bit, we’ve family and friends in Chennai (Madras) and I had a fantastic girls holiday to Kerala in 2007 (despite the gigantic cockroach inside my mosquito net on the first night that made me want to run back home screaming). We wanted heat, we wanted a chill out and so, making like we’re crusty hippies in the early 90s, we packed our backpacks with our finest tie dye (read: matching suitcases filled with subtle shades of white and grey linens) and off we went.

So, Goa. According to many people, it’s well past it’s heyday of the 1960s and the 1990s put paid to any semblance of culture, with dirty beaches and angry locals and bad tourists. And whilst I’m sure parts of Goa are like that, I literally spent weeks before departure researching where to go, where to stay, what to do and, most importantly, where to eat so we loved every bleeding minute of it (even the bit when we had a row in our less than soundproof hut in our first location that ended with the wino sleeping on a hammock by the pool! Again, poor us, fights in hotels, hammocks by pools. Tough break.)

The one thing I didn’t do, was really think about were the stopovers in Mumbai (on the way there) and Delhi (on the way back). Bejesus, hanging out in an airport for 8 hours (Mumbai) and 11 hours (Delhi) can really make you lose your will to live. Particularly if every time you try and walk outside to get some fresh air, there’s a machine gun armed security guard checking your tickets and passport.On the way back home through Delhi airport, we had to go through 12 different security checks before we got on the plane, from the entry into departures to actual boarding. And queues. So. Many. Queues. And Indians have a very different queuing sensibility to Brits.

That’s all I’m going to say about that. Although it’s probably worth noting that I did put on my best 1950s teacher voice on many occasions to explain ‘THE QUEUE STARTS HERE YOU KNOW’. Which I’m sure was hugely appreciated.

We’d planned a two location tour, the first week between Ashvem and Mandrem on our own private beach (sort of) and then our second week was slightly further inland and south in Loutolim.

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Overall, we loved our Indian experience. If you’re going, ignore all the haterz (innit) and do your research. Decide what you want from your trip and you’re sure to find it. Our only ‘must-haves’ were not too expensive but with a pool, not in clubland and near good food and beaches. And we found it.

Goa is like the rest of India – it’s busy. The traffic is insane, people drive like lunatics but it’s rare to see a car with a dent, going with the flow seem to work. Obviously, there are cows everywhere, monkeys can be spotted in the trees, goats on roundabouts and water buffalo in the fields. Oh, and frogs in toilets and lizards in sinks. It’s all good.

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The people are as nice as you could find anywhere –helpful, friendly, not put off by the rude tourists who appear in the peak of the season.

The food can be a bit hit and miss – and is probably worth a blog post all of its own. Our main issues in the North were trying to find a good Goan curry, more difficult than you’d expect. No problems finding chicken nuggets and burgers though. Not that we tried any of those though.

There’s some beautiful architecture but you have to go a little further inland to find it.

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So overall, don’t write off Goa – it’s an easy entry into experiencing India and will leave you wanting to see much more of this beautiful country.

More to come… I’ll try not to be too boring.

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