Panjim Inn, India review: A charming colonial pad

Read our writer's views on this property below

Steve McKenna checks into a charming colonial pad in Goa's laid-back Latin-tinged interior.

WHAT Panjim Inn.

WHERE Goa, India.

HOW MUCH Doubles from 1620 rupees ($40) a night.

WHY GO In the holiday brochures, Goa seemed like a dream holiday destination and I'd been banking on its beaches providing some much-needed R&R after a fortnight exploring India's famously in-your-face cities.

Unfortunately, I hadn't bargained on them being clogged with beggars, hawkers, drug dealers, stray dogs and temperamental cows.

The peace and quiet I'm looking for only comes when I venture inland. Goa was occupied by Portugal between 1510 and 1961 and the state oozes a laid-back Mediterranean vibe.

The lush countryside is studded with beautiful whitewashed churches, while its chief town, Panaji, boasts winding alleys and streets of pastel-shaded mansions that could have been plucked straight from the Iberian Peninsula.

One is the Panjim Inn, a boutique heritage hotel that mingles old-world charm with modern-day conveniences and offers a superb budget-friendly base from which to enjoy this unique region.

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Built in the late 1800s by Francis Assis D'Silveira, a landed gentleman of Portuguese stock, the property has been in the same family for five generations and, architecturally, is arguably the standout of Fontainhas – Panaji's evocative Latin-flavoured neighbourhood.

This pink two-storey mansion evokes a bygone feel from the outside, especially with its old-fashioned first-floor, vine-strangled veranda. Inside it is homey, elegant and traditional, yet lashed with modern garnishings.

The walls are decorated with old family photographs and historic and contemporary works of art , while the light, spacious, airy rooms have antique furniture and swish cable television service.

My favourite spot in the hotel – apart from my comfortable four-poster bed – is the veranda. You can enjoy some spicy local dishes from the on-site restaurant or just watch the world go by.

The backdrop is small-town Portugal, with quaint buildings shaded in violet, lilac and lime, richly decorated in glazed azulejo tiles, draped with bougainvillea and endowed with Portuguese-sounding street names such as Fonsecas, Fernandes and Saldanhas.

Yet there's no doubting this is India. As I sip a soothing, frothy chai masala (spicy tea), a black-and-yellow auto-rickshaw zooms past, a cheerful woman bedecked in a bright red sari struggles by with a bowl of bananas on her head, while cheeky schoolboys bounce past carrying cricket bats.

FREE STUFF A buffet breakfast is included in the room rate and can be enjoyed on the veranda. There's complimentary internet access.

ADDED BONUS A 15-minute bus ride away is Old Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese colony. In the 16th century, it was a key trading post between Portugal and Asia, and had a larger population than both Lisbon and London.

Old Goa is a bit of a ghost town these days but a lovely place for a stroll, with beautiful greens and gardens dotted with coconut trees and postcard-pretty churches.

DETAILS Panjim Inn, E-212, 31st January Road, Fontainhas, Panaji, Goa. See panjiminn.com.