Joanna Lester-George

A blissful escape in Goa

KOKOindia the Travel Company | January 13th, 2018 | Visit the original article online

Ib champakali bedroom shot

A blissful escape for a solo female traveller ... or anyone who loves a relaxing getaway.

When my car drew up outside Champakali, the luxury ‘home stay’ that promised me a blissfully solitary escape for the next twenty-four hours, the first word that sprang to mind was ‘serenity.’

The next two were ‘fantastic taste.’

Tucked away just ten minutes from the thronging traffic of Old Goa and Panajim, Champakali is two beautiful homes on a hill in the heart of Old Goa. The fact it would have been impossible to find without spot on directions made it feel all the more special. After the team of smiling staff had greeted me, I was given a tour of the property with an iced tea welcome drink in hand.

Set facing two acres of rolling green lawns, the elegant colonial style villas gleamed white against a bright blue sky. The grounds offer an expanse of uncluttered space yet also host a spa, a swimming pool (just four feet deep, and so ideal for young children to play or for grownups to cool off) and hammocks strung between the Champakali and Banyan trees. As dusk fell and the sky turned a pastel pink, the trees lit up with trails of twinkling lights.

Champakali means sweet scented flower, and I found Frangipani from the garden delicately placed on soft towels, crisp linen and in pretty bowls. Little lotus ponds scattered the grounds and tables were simply decorated with tangerine stems of Birds of Paradise. Birds were also the inspiration for the six rooms, which have exotic names such as Kauwa and Kaboota, as well as little duos of hand carved Love Birds.

The two villas, Teak and Banyan, are identically styled and offer gorgeous living spaces - a lounge with comfy sofas, a spacious double bedroom with an equally huge bed, a dream of a kitchen for the use of guests with a mirrored island and antique dining furniture, and verandas galore. The interior decor is themed in hues of soft green, blue and pink, unostentatiously brought together in details such as beautiful coloured tiled floors, hand printed cushions and objets d’art from the owners’ travels around Asia.

Which brings me onto the good taste part. I was in luck that the charming owner Bindu Sethi and her son Gokul were in residence too during my stay. Whilst running an inspirational and international career from her base in Delhi, Bindu constructed Champakali as a holiday home for her family and friends. Although they all still love to get together there, it is only recently that Bindu partnered up with friend and talented hotelier Mathieu Chanard to open the villa doors to guests. Lucky us.

Champakali is clearly the perfect place for a family holiday, as well as for a romantic getaway (the two villas are very private) - and yet somehow it still remains a solo traveller’s paradise. I dined at a candlelit table for one on delicious smoked aubergine soup, butter chicken, vegetable curry, creamy raita and kachumber salad, all washed down nicely with one (ok, two and a half) chilled glasses of Sula.

Breakfast is served all day - a thoughtful option if you’ve had a Big Night Out. After a good night’s sleep, I chose to start my day with a gentle morning stroll up to the neighbouring iconic Church of the Old Mount, where the views over Old Goa shrouded in dense palm groves are genuinely breathtaking. I returned to a feast of exotic fruit salad, buttery scrambled eggs and bacon, fresh bread from the local bakery, homemade jams and the finest South India coffee.

When I later read through the website more thoroughly (I often wait to see if the experience matches up), I loved the use of the word “generous” to define the hospitality principles of Champakali. This was clearly evident throughout my stay - in the approach of the excellent staff (for whom nothing was too much trouble), in the leading lights of Managerial Team Bindu, Mathieu and Gokul, and in the sheer abundance of nature and all things good and organic to nourish the soul.

It was altogether a relaxed and refined experience, and one which I cannot recommend wholeheartedly enough for anyone looking for a restorative break from city life. If truth be told I could easily have stayed on indefinitely, just feeling utterly looked after and stress free. I had taken my laptop along to Champakali to combine business with pleasure, and when the Wi-Fi occasionally faltered, I found myself dreamily gazing into all that lush open space lulled by the chirrupy sounds of happy birdsong.

And of course why wouldn’t they sound so content? What a beautiful place to live.