Lost in the interiors of north Goa, I nearly missed Cancio’s House, hidden demurely behind a thick grove of tall, dry trees. Inside this 500-year-old home where the third generation of the Amaral family currently resides, I was greeted by Maria and her two dogs, Jess and Doughnut.
There is green everywhere: in the lively garden, its abundant foliage, and even in the Cancio ethos of practicing responsible tourism. A solar geyser harnesses the strong Goan sun and supplies hot water to the rooms, while waste water is recycled and used in the fields and kitchen garden. The homestay has a compost pit, and plastics are not encouraged—drinking water is filtered and purified locally.
The homestay is managed by Roberto and Raquel Amaral, Maria’s son and daughter-in-law. Raquel, who loves cooking, indulged me by preparing the state’s delicacies, including tambdi bhaji (amaranth leaves) and the ever-popular Goan fish curry. There are plenty of toothsome delights in this home, but poee or the local Goan bread, stole my heart. Accompanied by homemade pineapple pickle and a cup of hot tea, it set the pace for my day. Somehow, the warmth of the Goan sun made its way into the food.
The Amaral household is full of stories. My morning hours were spent talking to Maria as she watered the garden (with Jess constantly interrupting), listening to her account of the stylistic additions and renovations that the house has under-gone since 1975. In the evenings, as I sipped on some homemade wine, the couple told me about discovering a sheaf of old notes and scrolls in an unfamiliar language in a part of the house.
Those interested in slightly more rigorous pursuits can explore other activities, such as walking through Aldona village and kayaking and yachting in the backwaters.
This was unlike the Goa I was used to: no beaches, no crowded discomfort, no litter in every corner. And the longer I stayed, the more I wanted to remain lost in its old-world charm.
Appeared in the May 2015 issue as “Goan Reverie”.
Cancio’s House has two rooms with a shared bathroom in the ancestral bungalow, and another two with attached bathrooms in the Mangalore-tiled cottage, which are on double and twin-sharing basis. The latter is more intimate, comfortably shaded by trees with acoustic support from chirping birds. The cottage has a quiet veranda and the rooms are decorated with antique flourishes like a four-poster bed and matted wooden chairs (Naicavaddo, Aldona, Bardez; 0832-229 3480/98223 85885; cancioshouse.webs.com; doubles from ₹2,000, including breakfast).
Aldona is in North Goa, 9 km/20 min from Mapusa, 45 km/1 hour from Goa International Airport at Dabolim (taxis ₹1,200 one way), and 17 km/25 min from the nearest railway station, Tivim (taxis ₹600 one way). Drive along the Mapusa-Moira-Aldona road and turn right at New Look Men’s Salon. From there ask for St. Sebastian Chapel, turn left opposite the Chapel, and follow the road until Cancio’s House.
Amrita Das is a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit her corporate job to become a traveller. She shares her off-beat and cultural adventures through her writing. She tweets at @Amrita_Dass.