Staying with the Amarals at Cancio's House, Goa
I had first read about Cancio’s House in Shivya’s blog while she was visiting Goa last year and stayed with the Amarals. When I won the Kissan contest, India Untravelled offered me a number of choices, spread through the country. All the locations looked equally inviting and I took some time to arrive at my decision. Finally, I chose Goa and Cancio’s House. It promised me a life beyond the beaches and the art of practicing susegad (Portuguese for contented). I deliberately refrained from reading TripAdvisor reviews about the place, lest it filled my mind with pre-conceived notions. I was determined to enjoy my vacation and my prize, you see. *Grin*
We were scheduled to spend 3 nights with our hosts, the Amarals, during the Diwali holidays. Since we wanted our son, my muse for the winning post, to enjoy his first tryst with sand and sea, we booked into a beach resort near Anjuna/Vagator for a night. By the time we reached Roberto Amaral’s house in the late afternoon the next day, we were well-tanned and caked with beach sand. Google maps had correctly guided us to the house, nestled in a quiet wooded area of Aldona.
The main house
Unfortunately, we had arrived at a time when there was a personal crisis going on in the family. Raquel, Roberto’s wife, had just lost her dear sister-in-law. But nonetheless, we were accorded a warm welcome and shown us our quarters. The cottage had two rooms, one for ourselves and the other for my in-laws, which suited us fine since we were assured complete privacy that way. The interiors were beautifully appointed – a spacious four-poster bed adorned each room while dark-wood antique furniture gleamed tastefully from the corners. The bathroom was spic and span and the towels freshly laundered. We were too tired to look around much and crashed soon after checking in.
Later in the evening, Roberto dropped in and told us about the story of his house. Apparently, it dated back to around 500 years, before the Portuguese had arrived and even prior to the establishment of the church in Aldona. Every generation had made some changes to the original structure and carried out renovations, making it difficult to ascertain the exact date and year of its foundation. There was provision for another room at the house, at the top, which was let out to repeat guests. At the time we were visiting, it was occupied by a solo-traveller who we almost mistook to be a part of the family, witnessing her involvement in the kitchen.
The quaint chicken shaped water pot, filled with crystal clear water from their spring-fed well
Roberto had apprised us of the places we would be interested in and the next few days were spent in discovering a completely different side of Goa. We would return dog tired and with immense appetites. Luckily for us, Raquel was a great cook who loved to feed, or rather, overfeed her guests. I still salivate at the thought of the chicken vindaloo that she had made on the first day and the spicy Goa sausage noodles, a recipe that she shared with me happily. Even the mixed vegetable she had cooked with coconut milk had turned out divine. Although she was still mourning for her brother’s loss, she did not let it affect her cooking.
We had our meals sitting at their dining table in the kitchen, trading stories while Donut and Jess (?) pottered about. Oh did I tell you that Donut is an adorable Labrador and Jess a German Shepherd? My son was thrilled to find the house filled with toys belonging to the Amarals’ three lovely, well-mannered sons. Passing through the house, we would steal a glance at Roberto’s mom bent over her work by the windowsill while another glance at the family photographs told us about Roberto’s Russian legacy.
On the last day of our stay, the heavens parted its curtains and sheets of rain poured down, washing out our plans for the day. Well, almost. Because, that day turned out to be the most exciting day of our Goa trip. In the afternoon, with the rains abating, Roberto took us to a 50-year old traditional bakery where we witnessed first-hand the preparation of various breads and patties, and also savored steaming hot katro (butterfly) bread, straight from the oven. After that, Roberto took us out on his speed boat which turned out to be a ride ‘of a lifetime’. Something which I will cherish for years to come. It deserves a separate post of its own.
Finally, our stay at Cancio’s House ended and we bade goodbye to the Amarals. It had been an absolute pleasure to have spent our vacation there, amidst a sociable family who had put forth their best hospitality even at a time of personal grief.
The beautiful family - Raquel and Roberto with their youngest one
If I were to suggest anything, perhaps a little variation and variety in the breakfast spread would seal it even more. Also, Shivya and Sifti, you guys at India Untravelled rock. Take a bow for discovering such hidden gems and preparing such an amazing itinerary.
So, here you are. In case you are like me and want to explore the ‘non-beach’ side of Goa, its backwaters and country life – you know where to stay. Take a look at Cancio House’s Facebook page here.
I will be back with more on Goa. Soon. Hopefully.