India - Goa: Anahata Retreat
What do you picture when you think of Goa? Is it white sand beaches? Palm trees and coconuts? Beautiful Portuguese-inspired architecture? Yogis and hippies? Seafood? Sunsets? Well, Goa is surely all of the above, and more.
I've wanted to go ever since my friend Jenn came back from a trip to India in 2002 and raved about it. In my head I somehow pictured Goa as the extreme south of India - I had no understanding of its geography. When my friend Vinay suggested we come visit him in Mumbai and drive to Goa, I thought "are you crazy?" Turns out, even though it's only a 45 minute flight from Mumbai, we did drive, overnight, and yes, it WAS CRAZY!
We pulled into the city mid-next afternoon, after a 13 hour drive, through mountains, parks, along vast highways covered in large transport trucks. I expected a "village centre" of sorts, but actually, the whole area is covered in towns, with linking, windy roads all throughout, just like a beach town would be. We went to Ashvam Beach, in the North. It was close to all the party beaches, yet quite and clean to enjoy some solitude.
Anahata Retreat - Paradise Found
We stayed at a new resort - Anahata Retreat. This place is unreal. Run by a chic couple from Delhi, and Switzerland, with loads of enthusiasm and with a great eat classic French rap. The place oozes style, yet is understated at the same time, with a warm and welcoming vibe. It's hidden off the main road, tucked in-between shady coconut trees lined with twinkle lights and hammocks, ready for relaxation.
There are a variety of accommodation options, from beach bungalows, to sea view cottages, ranging from $75-160 USD a night (off versus peak season). Yoga retreats and classes are on offer, along with meditation, jewelry-making, and other wellness activities. My favourite part is the proximity to the beach, as the resort is literally ON THE BEACH. They have an upstairs patio lit up under the starts, perfect for sunrises and sunsets. In the evenings, the place is packed with locals and visitors from other hotels, dropping by to take in the ambiance.
It's hard not to see why. The amazing staff put their heart and souls into running this boutique oasis in the heart of Ashvem. The restaurant L'Atelier at Anahata Retreat, has some of the most amazing food, ever. Like......EVER! All the food is fresh and full of flavour, highlighting some of the best ingredients Goa has on offer. Here I tried new flavour combinations which blew my mind. Try the watermelon, grilled halloumi and rocket salad, or the fried papaya with grilled paneer and pesto. Or wok-style calamari with chili, courgette and carrots. Or the king fish with pili pili. My goodness, the list goes on.
"At Anahata, we believe that food encompasses all the elements and steps that an artist follows to invent his art: passion, love and creativity"
You can taste the love that goes into each dish- Chef Julia and her team were cooking up a storm when we were there. The cocktails are fabulous, the wine cold. You can ask for juices made to order, smoothies, and of course - coconuts. We stayed over New Year, and everyone in the area went onto the beach at midnight with Chinese lanterns, which we released into the sky. I remember the wind whipping along past my face, picking up the lanterns, higher and higher into the night sky. We said goodbye to the last year, and it really felt like we could see the next year ahead of us, full of possibility.
If you need a break from life, try Goa. Rent out your place, or your room, or take that well deserved holiday. Go with an open mind, and open heart. You'll meet some of the most interesting people, from all backgrounds and nationalities. You can sit and breathe, feel the ocean air, sip a coconut and just fall in love with the world all over again. We certainly did. We loved our 5 nights at Anahata Retreat, and highly recommend it.