Goa is second home, quite literally, yet, for some strange reason, I have never been there to witness the Carnival. I was determined to set this right in 2016 and thus planned a trip to witness Goa in all its glory during the Carnival and The Grape Escapade, organised by the GTDC and Department of Tourism Goa in the first week of February.
My excitement knew no bounds, as seated in the VIP gallery, I waited with baited breath for King Momo and his entourage to enter Panjim in the GTDC float. And then he did. Magnificent, colourful and majestic. Yes, the opening float was all this and more. The crowds cheered lustily as he addressed them. Poulami Ghosh, the star of Nachom-ia-Kumpasar, sang in her melodious voice, recreating the magic of Lorna, the heartthrob of Goans.
A steady stream of colourful and innovative floats from different villages of Goa, with music, dance and performances enthralled us all. What a spectacle it was and the atmosphere was electric, as the crowds danced in their seats and waved to the performers.
Local farmers with vegetables, fisherfolk, preserving the environment, football, weddings, washermen aka dhobis, were some of the unusual themes of the floats.It reflected the team spirit of the Goans as it did their creativity. Most of the floats were a great piece of art and craftsmanship.
Three hours flew by amidst merriment and gaiety. The Carnival struck me as exceedingly well-organised given the scale of the event. It surpassed my expectations.
Traffic was well managed, spectators were well-behaved and of course the quality of the floats was outstanding.
What is nice is that those who miss the Carnival in Panjim on the first day, can catch it in other cities like Mapusa, Madgaon and Vasco on subsequent days with local floats and entertainment.
This was just the beginning of fun and enjoyment for me, as I headed to the annual Grape Escapade, a food and lifestyle festival at the DB Bandodkar grounds in Campal, Panjim.
This fete of flavours aptly encapsulates the exuberance of Goan lifestyle by highlighting Goa’s multi-cultural influences and artistic passions, thus branding Goa as a “Lifestyle Destination”. After all Goa is truly that, isn’t it?
The weather was perfect and the mood eclectic. Live performances were happening on the large stage to enthrall guests and the stalls had on offer wines from Goa and across India, as well as local Goan food by restaurants, hotels and home makers alike.
The local wines were of great quality and spelt innovation. It is indeed a great platform for budding wine makers and entrepreneurs to showcase their wines. People were eagerly sipping the wines and discussing them amongst friends and family.
Goan delicacies like cafreal, chorizo pao, xacuti, Sanas, pork vindaloo et al were being lapped up by the crowds as the evening progressed.
The spacious grounds allowed place for everyone to roam around freely, sit and watch performances or even attend the wine appreciation session. There was truly something for everyone.
The highlight of the 4 day event was the fashion show and the selection of The Grape Escapade Queen 2016 on the last day. The huge installation at the entrance by Grover Zampa was equally astounding.
Goa is truly festive during this week of February and offers a charm that is unparalleled. I was extremely glad to have planned this trip and was grateful to GTDC for offering me such a culturally rich experience and glimpse of Goa. Viva Goa!