‘Half Term’ of family gap year in Goa

'I've had enough of this. It's too hot. I want to go home.'

That was Benji, last week in Goa. Truly, I didn't have the heart to tell him we don't have a home. Hmmm....

He's right about one thing though, the heat has cranked up even further and we weren't too keen to swim in the sea (no, not even on those idolised palm-fringed beaches of Goa), the reason being that a close friend's other half got stung by a Portuguese Man-Of-War (a very dangerous jellyfish) in Goa not so long ago. I know, I know, what's the chances of it happening to us? But still, only Lily and I went in the sea once, a lovely but brief experience.

But on the subject of Benji, let's just say he's going through a 'defiant' (that is putting it very politely) phase. It felt very sudden; almost as soon as we reached Goa, he was playing up, doing the opposite of what we asked him and often saying blah blah blah (accompanied by copious eye rolling) when Andy or I tried to talk to him. Yep, that's parenthood I guess, navigating a path through this kind of challenging behaviour. Perhaps when we are 'home' with more routine in our lives, Benji will settle down. To be fair, he's a seven year old boy whom we've plucked out of his life in Kenya, his school and his friends and he has nobody to play with apart from his big sisters so it's important we're empathetic to this less than normal situation. An example of Benji's sense of dislocation: doing some maths with him in an English maths book, he got really upset because he didn't understand the English coins. He knows Kenyan Shillings, and he was just getting his head around Indian rupees, but now...pounds and pence??!

The Family Gappers

Anyway...Goa! Here, we met up with Andy's parents Mike and Liz and a little later, Liz's sister Ruth and her partner Jo which was a real treat. We stayed in a couple of different resorts in the coastal village of Benaulim, which both had swimming pools we could cool off in, even if we didn't go in the sea.

Being with the Narracott's means lots of good food and Gin and Tonics + Rum and Cokes, the spirits carried around devotedly in plastic bottles in suitcases to magically appear at sundowner time. (Tee hee, Liz and Mike, I don't mean to make you sound like big drinkers, you know I enjoy it too 😉). So the first couple of weeks in Goa was swimming, sundowners, bike riding, great meals out and lots of reading. It also included my first bout of nasty Delhi belly (or should I call it Goa Flo-er...sorry, that's really gross) which made me realise just how lucky we've been this trip and how important it is we are all heathy for this family gap year to be able to work properly.

Lily and Maya taking a walk on the beach at Benaulim

Maya & Benji with their stash of pilfered soaps, shampoos and sugar!

Benji & Maya

The Portuguese influence is evident everywhere in Goa

Nannie Liz

Sunset in Benaulim

We spent Easter at the second resort. Because of the heat, we knew that chocolate Easter Eggs would end up as a choco-river within seconds, so we requested that Nannie Liz bring YoYo Bears, spirals of dried fruit. This may sound like a poor substitute for chocolate, but for three children who have spent five years in Kenya, believe you me - YoYo Bears are the height of exoticism. Instead of eggs, they had a YoYo Bear hunt which went down a real treat.

Hunting for YoYo Bears

Lily finding some YoYo bears up a palm tree

A rare photo snapped of the photographer!

What I loved about Goa above all else (because I can't deny I'm not a huge fan of the Goan beaches and touristy areas) were the beautiful old houses, many of them dating back hundreds of years and a number of them painstakingly restored to their former glory, such as the Palacio Do Deão we visited and had a delicious lunch at:

The 17th Century Palacio de Deão

Jo, Liz, Ruth & Mike in the gardens of the palace

After bidding farewell to Ruth & Jo, the rest of us headed away from the coast to inland Goa. We stayed in a tiny, traditional village in one of the most beautiful homestays imaginable called Arco Iris, one of these aforementioned lovingly restored homes. Arco Iris means rainbow in Portuguese, and each room was decorated in a different colour. Yes, it was Hot with a capital H, but we adored our time here; it really was a special place to stay, overflowing with beautiful corners to squirrel ourselves away to read and dream.

Arco Iris

Very happy to have got a shot of this tiny feeding sunbird in the garden

Liz reading on the terrace

A game of bat and ball in the garden

A lovely corner for Andy to read and write

The eating area

While staying at Arco Iris, we took a few trips out and about. One was to Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary where we saw for the first time cashews in their natural environment. The cashew fruit in Goa is commonly used for making feni, the local firewater, which knocks your socks off.

Cashew nut & fruit

Lily and I cooling down under a waterfall

A fascinating spice tour plantation

We learnt all about medicinal uses of spices such as mace & pepper

Goa is a very Catholic state with shrines everywhere on the roadside

Lost in time, the 17th Century Menezes Pereira Braganza House

The 16th Century Rachol Seminary, one of Asia's oldest seminaries

It feels really important, not just on this six-month trip, but in general to make the time to spend with the children individually. Boy, is it hard to find the hours to devote to ourselves, to our other halves and to each of our children on their own. In Nairobi, Andy used to rotate taking each of the kids out for a hot chocolate and croissant on Sunday mornings, but here in India we've managed nothing similar so far. So in Goa, with lots of family around and time on our hands, I decided to head off for a cafe, a walk and a bookshop with each of them separately. Most importantly by far for Benji (he is a boy, after all) is the cafe element. So one day Liz and I headed to the Goan state capital, Panjim. I'd heard there were some beautiful historical buildings, and as I'm a sucker for these, it was a win-win, as long as we headed for the cafe before Benji's patience expired. Not very surprisingly, as soon as we got him on his own, he was a sweet seven year old boy again, not a blah blah or an eye-roll to be found.

Smoothies & chocolate pancakes for Benji

A typical house in the old quarter of Fontainhas in Panjim

Exploring the old streets of Panjim with Benji

The chapel of St. Sebastian

Traditional Goan houses

Wandering through Fontainhas, I often felt like I was in Lisbon

Boys playing cricket in a colourful square

A beautiful house sign

A colourful corner of Panjim

This is the end of our time in the south of India, and we're over half way through this trip now, so Goa felt very much like our 'half-term'. It is going SO quickly...but plenty more adventures to be had up in the north and north-east. See you there ☆

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7 thoughts on “‘Half Term’ of family gap year in Goa”

  1. I love your photos especially of the old buildings and obviously of the family. Having thought what a wonderful experience it all has been for the family as a whole but I hadnt thought how to deal with a Benjamin problem . I am sure he will settle down again soon.
    I am now waiting for the next instalment.
    We are in Devon and I am just starting The Secret life of Alfred Nightingale!

    1. Hi Viv, lovely to hear from you! Yes, the old buildings are just stunning. It was so lovely to spend time with Liz & Mike. Enjoy Devon and I really hope you enjoy Alfred Nightingale 🙂 Would love to know what you think. Very best wishes

  2. Reassuring to know that good parenting skills are required for all of us, whether you’re in Godalming or Goa! Thanks for all the updates, keep them coming 🙂

    1. Hey Simon, big time, parenting skills (or attempted parenting skills…) required everywhere! Just wait till you read the next blog. We may be living the dream doing this but it definitely isn’t all dreamy!! 😆

  3. Love love reading all these. The pictures and even the names resemble some parts of Colombia. We have a city called Pereira! Thank you for sharing

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