The Mack was incredulous when I told him that I was leaving Salvador and travelling a further 15 hours down coast. “But you’ve just flown a really long way to get there. Why are you going even further?”. I spoke to him patiently, like you would to a small, rather stupid, child. “Brazil is a very big country”, I said, “4th largest if you don’t count Alaska and Hawaii as part of the US. Everywhere here is far away.”
My longest bus ride. 12 hours overnight. I consoled myself with the fact that I was saving myself a night’s accommodation. Even for a skinflint like me, that wasn’t quite consolation enough. I’d optimistically thought that the bus would be like the one The Mack and I took from Sao Paulo to Rio, where we had little TVs in the seatback, neck support pillows and snack boxes and I had room enough to curl up in my seat.
Not exactly. The seats did recline pretty far back, but any comfort there was off-set by the fact that the guy next to me had no concept of personal space and spent the entire journey unapologetically sprawled over me. There was a movie on a screen in the aisle – some terrible rom-com with Uma Thurman. Did wonders for my Portuguese. Less so for my neck tendons as I craned to view the subtitles.
The bus dumped me in Porto Seguro at 8am. Then a taxi ride across town which, for a 4km journey, cost almost as much as the bus and made me very cross. Then a little ferry across to Arraial. Then another hour on a local bus to my actual destination, Trancoso.
I’d found Trancoso in my new fave online guidebooks, Moon. I picked it at random, but then it was endorsed by our hosts from Rio, so I took that as a good sign. I wanted to go on further to Caraiva, which is supposed to be an idyllic paradise lost, but the access is difficult in rainy season and I didn’t fancy getting stranded, what with my travel track record.
Just before I left Salvador, I happened to read in another guidebook that Trancoso is very popular with the fash pack. Mario Testino and La Moss holiday there regularly, apparently. That was nearly enough to make me cancel my bus. One way ticket to poseurville? No thanks.
But, predictably, I loved it there. The main hub of the town is the Quadrado, basically a village green, with a pretty church overlooking the sea and little shops, pousadas and restaurants all around the perimeter. The bastards tapped into everything I like. Ponies grazing on the grass. Coloured lanterns in the trees. Nice restaurants. Shops filled with beautiful, pointless things.
It’s difficult to describe the vibe. It’s chi chi but in an understated way (it reminds me of Primrose Hill many, many years ago before it went beyond bleurgh and disappeared up its own arse). It doesn’t feel wholly Brazilian – probably because so many of the restaurant/shop/pousada owners are Europeans, but it’s still really laid back and, in off season, pretty quiet and sleepy.
The beaches are nice, although not as spectacular as some I’ve seen (picky, picky), and it’s tricky to walk the length of the beach because the sand slopes really steeply into the sea, so you look like you have one gammy leg. However, if you’re lucky, like I was, you’ll find the still-gasping severed head of a barracuda on the beach. Thrilling!
If you were to ask me where to come on a coupley beach holiday in Brazil for a couple of weeks, I’d say Trancoso hands down. It’s sophisticated enough, but not showy. It’s not too expensive (and downright cheap in off-season – I paid £25/night for a lovely 2-storey bungalow in a pousada with pool and gardens) and you feel at ease there immediately. Plus, you can fly into Porto Seguro from all the Brazilian international airports, so you don’t need to brave the bus.
It’s very romantic. Which is great when you’re travelling alone. There’s nothing quite like going out for dinner à une only to see happy couples and families drinking and laughing together. Put me right off my food.
Happily, on my last day there, I made a friend. Romina, who lives in Buenos Aires, but who grew up carioca in Rio, loathes Argentina, and is fiendishly plotting her path back to Brazil for good. She confessed that she’d been so put off by being the only single person in Trancoso that she’d just stayed in her pousada every night. It also transpired that her pousada was a bit out of town, down some unsavoury-looking dark lane. When I made the journey to pick her up that evening, with my flashlight on full beam and twitching at everything that moved, I didn’t blame her one bit for staying put. I almost suggested calling for a pizza.
We crossed paths with an American/Czech guy who’d been given a trip as a bonus for completing an M&A deal. Ivan, too, was solo, but didn’t seem as bothered about it. At least not now that he’d seen Romina…
It’s been a while since I’ve played gooseberry and I probably should have engineered an excuse to leave the two of them together. But I was damned if I was going to give up English-speaking company.
Especially when Ivan described where he was staying, saying it was like nowhere else he’d ever stayed. And that with the money his company had paid for it, he could have bought a car in Cleveland, OH, where he lives. This I had to see for myself, gooseberry or no gooseberry.
falling in love is so easy to do
Um. I don’t have words to describe Uxua*. I only have an overwhelming sense in my heart that it is The One.
Through an unassuming stable door into the hallway, where the night guard courteously overlooks the fact that their newest guest has brought back a couple of girls who appear to be salivating. And straight into wonderland.
Everything was exactly right. The teal colours used throughout combined with the wood and concrete. The cracked enamel basins in the public bathroom. The aquamarine swimming pool. The magnificently planted and expertly lit garden, which gave each casita space and privacy.
Uxua’s made up of different residences, some are little houses dotted around the Quadrado, others are built within the gardens of the main pousada.
Ivan was in the Casa da Avore (the treehouse). It was spectacular. Swings and loveseats below in the garden. Wooden stairs up to the living area, with a huge muslin-draped bed, rustic bathroom and terrace with a sofa, hammock and bar. The full-height veranda doors opened with little wheels travelling along tracks above. Never have I been somewhere where I felt that everything was exactly as it should be. I fell head over heels. And that was before I found out about the private hot tub.
I felt privileged to spend time there. It’s rare for me to find nothing to criticise. Romina had to catch a bus at 6am to make her flight at 9. We left sometime around 3.30am, because we couldn’t drag ourselves away (although perhaps for different reasons…). Ivan took photos of us lounging at his place and emailed them to his friends. We let him – the man had the ultimate pimp palace – I just felt bad I hadn’t dressed for the occasion.
I, with my deep-rooted Catholic guilt, of course immediately confessed to The Mack that I’d transferred my affections to another. I explained that it was as if someone had climbed inside my head and created my dream house, where all of my possessions would fit perfectly.
“That’s great, babe”, he said, “speak to the owners. Tell them that you’ve got a load of stuff in storage that you think would be just perfect for them. We save on storage costs, and your stuff gets to live in its ideal environment…”
No soul, that man.
*Of course, it turns out that the man behind Uxua, Wilbert Das, was the former creative director of Diesel for 15 years. So maybe that fash pack connection isn’t all bad.