(Loreena McKennitt) Santiago Beach Resort, Calangute, Goa
Val and I visited Goa, with friends, back in the spring of 1999 as part of tour that included Kerala, but I thought it would be nice to return, a year after losing her after a viciously short and futile battle with Leukaemia.
The Hotel Santiago resort in Calangute looked like fun, so I booked a week, all inclusive.
I’d enjoyed a couple of days catching up with Gaz in Abu Dhabi en-route, so my journey was complicated by a four hour layover in Mumbai, a delayed flight and an iPad stolen from the overhead locker of my Abu-Dhabi to Mumbai flight; I arrived at the hotel late afternoon.
Check in was swift and efficient and I was shown to my room (159) on the ground floor, overlooking the pool, albeit from a low angle.
My first impression of the room was that Val would have turned around and demanded to be taken to the Hard Rock, Hilton or Hyatt. No matter, the room – while a tad gloomy (the windows are relatively small and frosted, which doesn’t help) – was clean.
There’s a sitting area with a fridge, day bed, TV and a ‘kitchen’ area with fridge, kettle and sink.
The bedroom and bathroom were sparse, but the mattress very comfortable. I had to turn the air-con off overnight as it was noisy and blasted cool/cold air onto the pillows.
Bedding is changed every two days, or daily if requested; I didn’t have a problem with every two days.
I unpacked, wandered to the bar and was greeted with a cold bottle of Kingfisher by the bar staff. It was explained that this (late October) was still low season and that I should ask if I wanted any western dishes, such as bacon and sausage with my breakfast.
No matter, the food – mostly vegetarian – was delicious.
On my first full day I met Max, the tailor and ordered some shirts, and the jeweller just outside the hotel gates – read on to learn if they were any good.
Subsequent meals were delicious, I’ve written before that I’m known by name in two of my local Indian restaurants, if Santiago’s chef opened a restaurant in Blighty then ’d be a regular at his place.
The waiters continued to offer me bacon and sausages at breakfast, but the freshly made masala dosas were delightful, so why not?
I don’t think they were serving any formal lunches during my stay, there were very few guests at lunchtime, and I was often offered a ‘snack’ – I didn’t fly nearly five thousand miles for a fish-finger sandwich.
It would be unfair to mention any staff by name, everyone, from the waiters, the chef, the hotel manager, and the pool guy were cheerful and friendly, most greeting me by name after the first day, and all happy to help. Others, such as cleaners and gardeners simply waved and smiled.
The reception desk staff were polite and efficient.
There was free WiFi provided, offering good coverage, even if it’s not the world’s fastest.
There are Tea and Coffee making facilities in the room, but it’s worth asking at the bar for ‘real’ milk, as the powdered stuff doesn’t cut it.
And, at breakfast, ask for ‘Black Tea’ as the locals drink a sweet milky concoction.
Also worth mentioning that the hot water is the hottest I’ve ever experienced in a hotel. The in-room booklet suggests it’s heated by ‘geyser’ – which I took to mean a gas heater – but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually geothermal!
Oh, and yes, it’s a ten or fifteen minute walk to the beach, I made the trip once and settled back near the hotel pool, it’s cleaner, with fewer hassles.
To follow up from my first day shopping, the shirts from Max were well made and fitted nicely, and the ear studs I’d ordered were nicely made. Both purchases were excellent value.
Earlier in this review I wrote that Val would have turned and left; she’d have missed a really friendly and enjoyable hotel.