Jan 24, 2009

Trancoso and Espelho, in Bahia: top 5 things to do

This top-five list is not meant for first-timers, since it doesn't include the obvious must-sees of Trancoso and Espelho, such as the beaches themselves or a stroll through the Quadrado for window shopping followed by drinks and/or dinner. Rather, this is a very personal list of the things I love to do when I'm there...

1- Spend a day fishing aboard the boat owned by local legend Calá
Calá is the legendary hippie who moved from São Paulo to his private paradise at Espelho. A ceramist and designer of amazing talent, he owns a stunning farm-cum-boutique-inn at Espelho das Maravilhas that is called, fittingly, Fazenda Calá. Perched on a cliff overlooking the azure sea, the whitewashed "casas" are reminiscent of Mykonos, if it weren't for the greenery surrounding them. All is decorated very tastefully, and rustically. What few people know is that Calá's boat is available for rent even for non-guests. After a day of fishing, the group can eat their catch for a late, lazy lunch overlooking the sea - sunsets at Espelho reflect on the water in a myriad colours and are spectacular, hence the name Espelho das Maravilhas, or Mirror of Marvels. The rental costs a mere 250 reais plus the cost of the meal, which is optional.

When you call, ask to speak to Anderson.
Fazenda Calá: tel.(55-73) 3668-5112

2- Dinner at Il Mercato
If there are at least ten choices of places to eat on the Quadrado, Il Mercato is certainly the one with the best ambiance. A small façade leads to an immense interior on descending levels, with, at the end, an open lounge with day beds and gorgeous sea views.

Lamb risotto is nicely al dente, while the caprese salad is equally satisfying. But let's be honest: this isn't top-rate Italian food. But in this kind of magical, lantern-lit setting, who cares?
Il Mercato: Tel. (55-73) 3668-2250

3- Dinner at Maritaca
During high-season, which ends after Carnival, dining at Maritaca feels like being in a posh São Paulo restaurant. Kaftan and Havaianas-clad beauties air-kiss and gossip and half the place seems to know the other half - a bit of a club, if you get me. However, even first-timers who don't know a soul will appreciate the impeccable pizzas, the ice-cold chopps and the warm, comfortable room, with fans humming and delightful pizza aromas wafting from the wood-fired oven.

Rua Carlos Alberto Parracho, tel. (55-73) 3668-1258

4 - A beer and an empadinha at Capim Santo
I love Capim - a Trancoso classic which started as a restaurant and grew to be a top-notch pousada. My favourite thing about it is the early evening drink I like to have by the pool. Usually, cold beer with a portion of empadinhas, delicious Brazilian pastries filled with shrimp or heart of palm. It's right off the Quadrado and the owners Nando and Sandra are absolutely delightful hosts.
Tel. (55-73) 3668-1122

5 - Pull an all-nighter
You don't know Trancoso until you pull your first all-nighter. New Year's eve is a good time to start, but throughout the high season great little parties happen here and there, unofficially, broadcasted only by word-of-mouth. The receptionist at your pousada won't know about them: you'll just have to get to know a few of the right people...

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