On his first visit to the party capital of India, Kumar Shree discovers a historical side of the state during his stay at Le Meridien Goa, Calangute. By Kumar Shree
Before my maiden visit to the famed Indian beach destination, I saw Goa as a whimsical paradise: a dreamland for those looking for a bohemian way of life. My sojourn during Goa’s sultry summer would instead introduce me to its rich history and heritage.
My home for the three revelatory days, Le Meridien Goa, Calangute, sits on the bustling Calangute-Candolim stretch. With sites like Fort Aguada, Chapora, and Reis Magos Fort nearby, the property, which recently turned two, serves as a good base for exploring Goa’s heritage. My first impression of the hotel was suffused with tranquillity. The property takes the shape you want: a laid-back solo trip base, a business visit centre, or the site of a bonding family vacation.
The design of the hotel is simple and sophisticated all at once. There’s an ornate display of the state’s heritage, art, culture, and history in its corridors. It all starts with the porte-cochère, which chronicles the arrival of the Portuguese in Goa; it’s called ‘Embarked by The Port’. It sets the pace for the abundant artworks peppered through the property that effortlessly display the past in a contemporary setting.
The 146 rooms, five family studio rooms, and five suites at the hotel come with the signature Le Meridien beds. Each one features a private balcony—some overlooking the pool, others the neighbourhood. Kunbi design elements are easy to spot inside the rooms and washrooms. The wallpapers are inspired by the weaving patterns of the Kunbi tribe—one of the early settlers in Goa—which influence the floor and glass walls too. The lobby of the hotel too wears its tribal inspirations proudly. A giant art installation behind the concierge’s desk is a showcase of the tribe’s tools and everyday life. The corridors showcase monochromatic silhouettes of Kunbi women against a chequered pattern that’s typical of their traditional clothing.
There’s something for every traveller at the property. The Library Lounge and the rooftop Telhado are perfect for some alone time. You can read up on Goa’s history and culture at the Library Lounge and sip on sundowners at Telhado as dusk falls. The fitness centre with a dedicated trainer facilitates active holidays, while a kids club and swimming pool are ideal facilities for vacationing families. Tiracol, the dedicated conference room, enables you to hold a business meeting or event in India’s party capital.
The property’s four restaurants serve up delicious gastronomic adventures from around the world. The Latest Recipe, an all-day diner at the property, is an overachiever of sorts, dishing out world cuisine, an elaborate breakfast buffet, signature Goan plates of ros omelette, chorizo omelette, poached egg, and bebinca, and an authentic Goan thali with prawn curry, tambdi bhaji, dal varan, crispy fried fish, fresh Goan poi (bread), and sol kadi—all with equal flair. The Plunge Bar takes care of bite-sized comfort food and cocktails as you relax in the pool. Chef Ganesh whips up his magic here and at Jazz & Grills, Goa’s first whiskey bar that serves not only premium liquor but also performances by local artists and musicians. Longitude 73 is a lounge by the day that transforms into a sparkling bar by night.
On my trip, I also visit the Museum of Goa and Reis Magos Fort between leisurely strolls on Calangute Beach, a stone’s throw from the property. The Museum of Goa, a contemporary art gallery privately funded and owned by Goan painter, sculpture, and installation artist Dr Subodh Kerkar, introduces me to the foreign influences seen in Goa’s food, culture, and architecture. Fort Reis Magos, which now serves as a pleasant tourist spot and a towering viewpoint for staring into the vast Arabic sea, used to be an accommodation for the dignitaries coming from or going to Lisbon, and later served as a war prison. On a stroll with Dr Subodh Kerkar, he walks me through some more history of the erstwhile Portguese colony and the present-day quirks of the Goan way of life. As the waves kissing Calangute Beach wash my city-weary feet and steal the earth beneath them, they leave behind a longing that I know will linger for a long time after I’ve left this paradise. Rooms at Le Meridien Goa, Calangute start from INR 6,000 plus taxes.