Casa Da Graca: Out With The New And In With The Old

As published in Travel + Leisure:
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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
 I’ve barely left the airport and we’ve already taken the sharp right turn, down a dusty side road obscured from vision. As the wrought iron gates that lie before me creak open to reveal a definitively Portuguese edifice, I feel a sense of nostalgia for the future: I’d rather like to own a house like this too.

 

Matieu greets me with the effortless charm that only the French can muster. How was my flight? Anything for lunch? How about the Caprese salad? Bon appetite. An air of tranquility sweeps its way through the inner courtyard, welcome as an afternoon zephyr. As I sat out on a breezy terrace, watching the Zuari River ebb and flow away, so too does the babble of modern day life. This, I realise, is what they mean by susegad.

 

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

Formerly known as Villa Morgado, Casa da Graça is a passion project between owner and dreamer, Simran Kaur, architectural visionary Alex Von Moltke, and the indispensible contractor Abbas Sheikh. Working tirelessly together, it took almost three years for this inexorable triumvate to transform the unloved former home of the de Siqueira Nazare family, back to its current splendour. Over a century old, there are hints to the property’s grand past: the family crest greets guests as they enter, traditional blue and white Portuguese murals in the bathroom. An oasis like swimming pool in the courtyard is a welcome modern addition.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

 

Far from the maddening crowds of Goa’s northern beaches, Casa da Graça is located in the fabled ‘real’ Goa. That’s right it’s not lost, it’s just hiding. Just a short drive from colourfully tiled Latin Quarter of Fontainhas, with its independent boutiques and local cafes, and the church lined streets of Old Goa, few travellers bother to visit this corner of India’s smallest state. And that’s exactly why you should go here.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

Much like Goa herself, Casa da Graça is an exotic mix of different cultures and styles. The forget-me-not blue Moroccan pool house is the only place you will want to spend languid afternoon, whilst you let Malu massage away your aches and pains. Its Indo-French interiors and Art-Deco furnishing create an eclectic yet stylish aesthetic. Peace, small but perfectly formed, is the only room with views of the Zuari River, from its own private garden terrace; whilst Compassion and Devotion overlook the pool. My room, The Creation Suite, was palatial. Not misinformed travel-website “palatial”. No, getting something from the other side is to embark on your very own Camino de Santiago, palatial. Whilst in the bathroom there was a bathtub so enormous it probably warranted an on duty lifeguard. Goodness, I thought, deciding phone battery was not essential and I’d probably be safer with a shower; they must have had staff for this in those days.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

And they do. Matieu runs a small team like a family unit. In fact the property retains the feel of a well-run family home: like you’re staying with that wealthy, eccentric aunt you don’t have. He admits to not being a chef by profession, but he shouldn’t, because the food is superb. Kingfish steamed in banana leaf with fragrant jasmine, or their seafood linguine are their signature dishes. Romancing couples coo across candle-lit tables overlooking the pool whilst even the most ardent epicure with feast their eyes on the breakfast. Fresh yoghurt set the night before accompanied by homemade granola and crêpe Suzettes so delicate they could have been flambéed by Henri Charpentier himself. As much as possible is either made in house or locally sourced and everything is fresh and of the best possible quality. Mon dieu I’m glad the French are such snobs about their food.

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 

Casa da Graça’s mélange of styles and flavours is an immaculate reflection of the influence of Goa’s colonies over the years; executed with all the attention to detail of a labour of love. Its very walls whisper the message susegad where guests are lulled into a sense of blissful indolence, often garnered with proximity to the sea. And is that not, after all, what we are all in search of in the sunshine state?

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Image courtesy of Casa da Graca 
For direct bookings click here.

 

 

 

Keeping It Cool in Coorg: The Scotland of India

Keeping It Cool in Coorg: The Scotland of India

This day could not get any worse, I mused mid-way through my ‘wild-wee’. I was meant to be lounging by the infinity pool in the mid-day heat of the Karnatakan sun; instead I was squatting in a field with a pair of bovine beauties giving me the eye. Our car had broken down, five hours into our six hour drive; or, as I am still convinced had run out of petrol.

825     Making friends on the road

In a Howard Beale moment of “I’m not going to take this anymore!” R and I had booked two tickets to GetMeTheHellOuttaHere, located some 1400 miles from the torturous Delhi summer. Less than 12 hours later we arrived in the ‘Garden City’ of India, Bangalore, before driving onwards to Coorg. Famed for its beautiful people and aromatic coffee (two of my favourite things) and its temperate climate it seemed like the perfect place to escape to. Until the break down. Long weekend slowly slipping away both the repair party and our emergency hotel pick up arrived at the same time. Naturally. We waved a quick goodbye to our new four-legged friends before the convoy set off for the Vivanta by Taj, Coorg.

844    Pool with a view

Now, I am not one of those people who never leaves the resort but at the Taj’s property in Coorg you just don’t feel you can. With a list of activities from nature walks, cycling and even pottery (yeah, I made an ashtray!) it really is a impossible to leave the beautiful surroundings. In fact that is what the property is all about – the views. Built into a hillcrest every area, from the reception, to the pool, to the lift(!) makes the most of its stunning vistas.

834    Reception with a view

841   Everything with a view   

And there is the spa. Not content with yoga by the poolside every morning we made more trips than necessary. Taj properties are known for their excellent JIVA spas and with an on sight Ayruvedic doctor and this for an entrance, the one at Coorg is certainly one of the best.

830    Hoping this is not the disabled entrance

In fact the only time we did leave the property was on our way to the airport to buy coffee, for which the area is famous. About 3 kilos worth, enough to satiate even a caffeine addict like my self’s habit. Unfortunately there were no beautiful men to be purchased. In fact, one almost unwinds too much after a weekend spent here, resulting in us (accidentally on purpose) missing our flight and spending an extra night. Now, if that is not testament to a property’s perfection then I don’t know what is.