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A 350-year-old Goa bungalow just opened its doors

A 350-year-old Goa bungalow just opened its doors

Step into Saffron Stays Nossa Bela Casa and you may find yourself transported to an era of liveried waiters, fine porcelain and elegant gentry. The staff may not wear coattails anymore, but all that pomp seems intact at this 350-year-old bungalow, set on three acres of lush gardens in the sleepy village of Cuelim in South Goa.

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Along with age, Nossa Bella Casa brings with it a rich history. The house was once the home of TB Cunha, father of the Goa Liberation Struggle. Now, it has been lovingly restored into a six-suite boutique hotel by famed Goan architect Dean D’Cruz. You can see the vintage right from the arched entrance, all the way through the central hall decked with paintings and artefacts, and up the sweeping wooden staircase into the ballroom. The ballroom has tall French windows that filter the sun as it falls on ornate rosewood furniture, though it is the Belgian-glass chandeliers that steal the show. The ballroom leads to one of the six suites, which has a balcony with Baroque-style carvings on the balustrade. It looks on to the lawns and then the paddy fields and coconut groves beyond. It is from here that Cunha would implore to his friends and compatriots to rise against colonial powers.

All the rooms are actually suites, some converted from the original kitchens and cellar, and have been retrofitted with attached bathrooms and other modern amenities. As you walk to the other end of the house, you pass what would have been an inner central courtyard. Today, it has Cunha’s desk and large, antique blue-and-white Chinese ginger jars. This courtyard, with the small chapel attached, were the first parts of the house built almost four centuries ago. The spaces of the original mansion have been repurposed for today. One of the suites was a kitchen earlier, another a cellar. One of the two reception halls is now a dining hall for guests with high ceilings, antique crockery and sparkling crystal placed in ebony sideboards.

But it is the second chapel in the house, dating back almost 150 years, that is the pièce-de-résistance at Nossa Bela Calla. The statue of Mother Mary, imported from France, sits in a recessed space adorned with intricate carvings and gold mouldings with cherubs and other Christian motifs lining the arch. With tall windows on both sides, light shines through this otherwise austere altar space, giving it a sense of calm.

This is not to say that you spend all your time indoors. You can stroll to the beaches of Velsao or Cansaulim nearby. Or just take a walk around the village, whose delights include the St Thomas Church, built around the same time as the house, the village square, the local bakery and the septuagenarian resident toddy collector, who you can spot scampering up palm trees if you are up early enough.

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This article was first published on Cntraveller on 2nd May 2018

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