In June of 2004 I came for the first time to Trancoso by recommendation of a dear friend who had visited and said the place felt like my home.
I was traveling on my own and was immediately struck by the beauty of this quiet fisherman’s village, in fact it was so quiet that I worried about being bored. It turned out to be the complete opposite and after 10 days I left with the typical Brazilian saudade – a sort of nostalgic longing – and could not wait to return.
The next several holidays I came back to Trancoso and began looking for a place to have a home of my own. After a year of searching I came upon an old house facing the town’s Quadrado (historic square overlooking the sea) which had been converted to an Indian-style restaurant and pousada (small inn) with a beautiful but overgrown tropical garden. It was known as the Gulab Mahal, and was a bit of a mystery to most people in town because the garden was hidden from view except for its towering tree-tops.
I purchased Gulab Mahal from its Swiss owners who were former hippies who’d migrated to Trancoso in the 70′s. I started restoration work still thinking to make a home and possible design studio, but once into the project the idea took hold of restoring other houses around the garden to create a small community of homes with the services of a hotel, while setting a challenge upon myself to create something which would contribute to preserving Trancoso’s town center and its traditions.
Once we started down that path it became very exciting to put together a team of locals and we worked continuously for 2-years in the most satisfying way I have ever experienced; collaborating with the town’s artisans and artists in a free process which allowed them to express both their traditions and their creativity through this project. They amazed me constantly with their skills and contributions, and I feel really fortunate to have been able to work side-by-side with such amazing people.
Some of our decorative elements were made by Pataxó Indians who live on a reservation just up the coast from Trancoso. One of these loved the old trees and stunning variety of plants in the garden of the property and described the place with the Pataxó word for ‘marvelous’ – which was UXUA, which I borrowed to give the hotel its name.
Throughout the process of creating UXUA we stayed motivated by the idea of having guests staying next door to natives who still live in the Quadrado and who have been more then welcoming to us since the first day we arrived. I’m a very rational Dutch guy but for me the Quadrado has some magic power that I’ve only encountered here, it completely relaxes me and takes away all the stress the minute I step foot on it.
It remains a very special thing for me about Trancoso that there are so many people in the community, natives and gringos alike, taking their time and doing an amazing job in protecting the environment and aesthetic of the area.
For me this has become sort of my dream project, in line with all my values. And though this is really my first step into the hospitality world, by working in a town and a part of the world I love so much, it has sort of felt like coming home.
Hope to be welcoming you soon.