23 February 2012

Uxua Casa Hotel : Trancoso, Brazil

While most of Brazil is recovering from the indulgence, celebration and samba of Carnival, my mind is on a different form of debauchery in northeastern Brazil, an extravagant indulgence of the senses in the tranquil hippie haven of Trancoso. Located in the state of Bahia, this former-fishing-village-turned-beach-chic village has been on my radar for several years now, but is quickly creeping to the top of my list each time I see a photo of the gorgeous Uxua Casa Hotel.

Like most of the places I seem to gravitate towards, Trancoso is not easy to get to. Flights from the US take you to Bahia via São Paulo and on to Porto Seguro, the nearest airport and where Portuguese explorers first set foot on Brazilian soil. From Porto Seguro, it’s a 90 minute car ride to Trancoso, which includes plenty of bumps, a ferry crossing, and the option of taking the old dirt track entrance.

As in most of Brazil, Native, European and African heritages have come together to form a unique way of life in Bahia. The hub of Trancoso life is in the Quadrado, or the town “square”, which was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The  large, car-free, open air plaza is covered in thick grass and framed by trees, colorful colonial houses, and the 2nd oldest church in brazil, Igreja de São João Batista.

During the day, the Quadrado plays host to a variety of cultural activities with the backdrop of a turquoise green Atlantic Ocean. In the evening, the area is lit by torches and candlelit alfresco restaurants and comes alive with music.

Many of the village houses along the Quadrado have been converted to boutiques, restaurants, and pousadas, including four of the accommodations at Uxua Casa Hotel. Book a stay in one of the 10 casas at this barefoot luxury property and prepare to spend your days watching horses saunter down the Quadrado and escaping all the happenings in the outside world.

The accommodations at Uxua are the epitome of rustic luxury. Owned and designed by Wilbert Das, the former Creative Director of the Italian fashion label Diesel, the collection of village houses is an oasis of minimalist design with the rustic warmth of handmade furnishings, local antiques, and Bahian folk art. The authenticity of each space integrates and highlights the surrounding gardens and natural beauty.  The houses vary in size and layout and can be booked individually (sleeping anywhere from 2 to 6 persons) or as a group for special affairs. Children under 12 years of age are only welcome during July, October and December.

At Uxua, days are spent lounging by the Aventurine quartz lined pool (a local stone rumored to have healing properties), strolling to the beach in your Havainas, and sipping passionfruit caipirinhas by the sea. Or if you are feeling adventurous, head out for a day of fishing, exploring local beaches and other rustic villages nearby, immersing yourself in nature along the Trancoso River… or just grabbing a book and finding a shade tree on the Quadrado, waiting to jump in on an impromptu soccer game.

In Uxua’s kitchens, organic meals have a local emphasis, paring ingredients from the hotel’s own kitchen garden with fresh fish caught using traditional techniques. If you imbibe, the beach bar is a five minute walk away from the casas and uses an old fishing boat as the cocktail hub. And each casa includes a kitchen, where you can try your own hand at Bahian cooking, with or without help from the local chefs. Bath and cosmetic amenities are created locally by Gahyia, mixing  raw ingredients from the Atlantic rainforest by hand in a small organic laboratory nearby.

Brazillian Paradise.

(photos by Fernando Lombardi)