A Goan house older than the Taj Mahal just opened its doors for youSmriti Saxena
In the still-quiet village of Loutolim in south Goa, the Figueiredo House has pride of place. The house dates back to 1590, a mere 80 years after the Portuguese arrived in Goa. When its first occupants moved in, the world was a very different place: Shakespeare had just begun writing plays, Galileo was yet to argue that the Sun didn’t go around the Earth, and back home, Emperor Akbar was presiding over most of India. Forget the Taj Mahal, even Shah Jehan had not been conceived yet. Consider it a privilege then, that today, 400 years later, you can spend a night or three here, under the lovingly-restored walls that have seen a great amount of history.
The Figueiredo family has contributed immensely to Goa, with family members who were lawyers, diplomats, ambassadors, members of the Portuguese parliament and of Goa’s legislature. (Imagine the secrets that the house has kept!). You can get a sense of the family’s influence from the displays at the Figueiredo Museum. Several large rooms of antique furniture flow into each other with chandeliers of Belgian crystal, fine porcelain and carved furniture that take you into another era.
The Figueiredos have turned this grand house into a heritage homestay by opening five of its many rooms. As you step inside, the house wraps you in a warm embrace. Walk through corridors of stone or tile—old vases and jars stand at attention as you pass. The rooms are all generously proportioned, named after the illustrious ladies of the house. The ‘Georgina’ and ‘Elsa’ rooms have twin beds, while ‘Amalia’ has a double. The Family Suite combines two rooms (Especiosa and Graça). All rooms have high ceilings, antique furniture and an expansiveness befitting a place of this stature.
The family has renovated the five rooms to include air-conditioning and modern bathrooms. There are several common areas as well for guests to lounge around. Relax in a white-washed little courtyard, open to the sky, while sipping cups of coffee. Read a book in the garden or borrow one from the family library. And, along the way, admire Mario Miranda’s illustrations that deck some of the walls (his ancestral home is in the same village).
In the quiet of Loutolim, you can be fooled into thinking that Goa is still that verdant paradise it once was. Paddy fields in front of the Figueiredo house host buffaloes and egrets, while local fishermen try their luck over a little bridge upstream. Go for a village walk or enquire about trips to nearby spots of interest or further north to Panjim and Old Goa. Or just stay put and enjoy the grandeur and the stories of a truly historic home.
Originally published on CN traveller.