Our daily lives are cluttered with so much we can do without — and at the other end are the absolute essentials that we need for survival. In the latter category, I would put roughly five things: oxygen, South Indian food, beer, my wife and the occasional Goan splurge.
These are the thoughts that preoccupy my mind as the taxi makes its way to the steep embankment of the Chapora River where the posh Casa Colvale boutique hotel stands, like something out of a James Bond flick. I hesitate to call it a hotel, though, because it was originally built as a luxurious private villa. It has only twelve guest rooms, all with huge windows that share a view of an uninhabited island of grassy meadows on which water buffaloes graze and mangroves that normally are a hangout for crocodiles.
This week the crocs seem to be on holiday and I hear no sounds other than what I initially think is a woodpecker chipping away at its favourite coconut palm. It turns out to be a Goan frog practising its monsoon mating call on me.
I soon learn that the James Bond movie association wasn’t too wide of the mark. Bollywood has a special relationship with the Colvale, which has hosted movie stars, screenwriters working on their scripts and film shoots. It’s the home of the don in the action film Kaminey, and if you’re an avid follower of Big Boss, one season of which was shot here, you have virtually lived at the Colvale already.
Star or common man, James Foster, the convivial British-born manager, welcomes all guests and speaks of the Colvale as a “house party”. And I see what he means. If you think of that old hotelier’s adage, ‘a home away from home’, and then rate the homeyest hotels you’ve stayed at, Casa Colvale would be likely to score top marks.
With its cosily retro-furnished lounges, the place exudes a casual, laidback elegance. Rooms come in two categories, deluxe and favourite — the latter having been elevated in status by guest preferences, be it because of a spectacular sunrise view or for the fact that its doors open directly on to one of the two infinity pools or because it’s the cool corner room that has become known as the studio executive suite (the one to check into when your film project is stuck and you need to brainstorm with yourself).
All rooms are fitted out with original artwork by Goan artist Pradeep Naik and comfy designer furniture. To keep your living space uncluttered, they lack run-of-the-mill hotel-room standards, such as kettles, fridges and all that jazz. But there’s free W-Fi everywhere for those who can’t live without news updates and personal espresso machines are installed on request.
The staff does pretty much everything to ensure your wellbeing — the chef, Rohit Nair, with six years of experience on European cruise liners, loves to have food consultations with guests, and after one such session he ended up making me one of the finest four-course Italian meals I’ve had in decades (for the record: grilled zucchini salad, shrimp pasta, spinach-stuffed chicken breast, super-speciality sundae).
The secluded location is another plus; you’re unlikely to bump into millions of tourists, because the area has limited options in terms of tourist activities. There apparently used to be a fort but nothing is left of it. Nevertheless, Colvale is an extremely picturesque village. Around the church you’ll find one gorgeous bungalow after the other (there’s even one resident celebrity, designer Wendell Rodricks). By the bridge across the Chapora River, three booze dhabas make up the local entertainment options.
If guests want to eat out, James sends them to some of the hottest gourmet tables in North Goa, or if one wants a down-to-earth, honest-to-goodness hearty meal, he’ll recommend the classic Ritz in Panjim. “Too bad you’re leaving on Saturday,” he says, “or I’d have taken you for this private sit-down dinner that one of Goa’s best chefs is hosting.”
Ah well, but then I am rather content with the massive G&T that I’m served in the evening on the upper veranda under the Mangalore-tiled roof. And later I share a Goan-style dinner with James and his wife Nishitha. Serenaded by the frog that pretends it is a woodpecker and eclectic remix lounge compilations of Nineties pop, we end up telling stories late into the night.
When James reminisces how as a kid he used to be invited to Paul McCartney’s Sussex mansion on Boxing Day to drink mulled wine (they were neighbours), and does a funny imitation of Ringo Starr, it feels a bit like hanging out with old buddies. And that seems to be the trademark of Casa Colvale: here any guest is a friend.
Location 5km northwest of Mapusa and about 15km from the nearest beach at Vagator; 50km from Dabolim airport (1hr 15min drive)
Accommodation 12 rooms: 9 deluxe, 3 favourite
Tariff Rs 7,000 (deluxe), Rs 9,000 (favourite), including breakfast. Valid till December 27. Special offers include full board during the monsoon and pay for six nights but stay a week (except during peak season).
Contact 0832-2416737, casacolvale.com