Castella de Aguada, Bandra (W)
On any given day my most favourite walk with my kids is one that is close at hand. If you get off at Bandra Bandstand — which starts with a pretty children’s park that many adults use to do yogic stretches — you can walk through the scenic sea face. The one km-long pretty walkway —which has places to sit, and is now embellished with the Walk of Stars and other Bollywood and installations — can be covered in 20 minutes.
Past the glitzy five-star hotel, and almost hidden from the average public eye is a small gate. On the right of this gate are steps taking you up to what a board says Fort Gardens. But right in front one spots what seems like ancient stone walls. The Bandra Fort-or Castella de Aguada (Portuguese: Fort of the Waterpoint) as it was christened by the Portuguese who built it — was built as a watchtower. You’ll know why once you get into the fort.
Wide, clean and stoic without carvings or other embellishments the Bandra Fort is the closest anyone can ever get to see the Bandra-Worli Sea link, today. Without this manmade structure arching in front of you it must have given unobstructed views of the islands that made Bombay.
Built and completed by the Portuguese in 1640, the Bandra Fort was meant to be a watchtower overlooking Mahim Bay, the Arabian Sea and the southern island of Mahim.
A plaque atop one of the Fort walls
The value of the fort must have increased after the Portuguese ceded the seven islands of Bombay to the English.
Bandra not being a part of the seven islands, the fort would have been an ideal, neutral space to watch the islands. I explain all this to the kids. During the Portuguese rule, it was armed with seven cannons and other smaller guns as defence. There must have been a freshwater spring in the vicinity, which supplied potable water to passing ships, because this is the only explanation for its name.
The Sea Link can be spotted from the Fort Gardens. Pics/Syed Sameer Abedi
The kids love to clamber up the steps of the Fort gardens and play hide-and-seek, while I look out at the calm blue-grey water swishing up the rocky banks. When we are done with the play we walk down the base of the fort to the open sea where fingers of rocks take you out there to men with fishing tackle. We sit watching while they pull out three-foot long fish, one after the other, and place them still alive in a basket.
It is our anytime-in-the-year place to go.
Where: Bandra fort, Bandra Bandstand, Bandra (W).
Getting there: Harbour and Western line have halts at Bandra station. It is also accessible via auto or taxi.
Timings: Daily, 6.30 am to 7 pm
Food: Yes. There are small coffee shops and food vendors that dot Bandstand. Burgers, sandwiches, corn and peanuts are easily available.
Restroom facilities: Yes, both at the Fort gardens and for the fussy, you can walk into the nearby five-star hotel!
What's Good: It is a picturesque location that one doesn’t get tired visiting. It is beautiful throughout the year
What’s not good: Avoid visiting the space with kids in the evenings. You’ll find every nook dotted with couples. After dark is a no-no.
>> St Andrew’s Church
>> Mount Mary Church
>> Jogger’s Park at the start of Carter Road
>> Old parts of Pali and Hill Road (older kids)
>> Patwardhan Park (younger kids)