I hoped it would happen. I was scared it wouldn’t. I thought maybe my expectations were too high but no, this place is more wonderful than I dared dream and I have fallen for Trancoso. I first read about this relatively unknown destination on the blog of another family who were travelling around the world and who were a big inspiration for me: https://somewhereslower.com/2015/10/23/slowing-down-in-beautiful-brazil/. When I looked on the map, I learned Trancoso is in the State of Bahia – which is in the North East of Brazil. I googled and found a couple of articles written in the last few years, each describing this heavenly land of peace and tranquility, that was still somewhat of a secret and I was intrigued.
At the time, I was searching for somewhere in Spanish speaking South America. My idea was for our family to spend a chilled out month, improving our Spanish, following our first 7 weeks road tripping in North America. But once I’d read about Trancoso, I was hooked. It seemed to be the most perfect place for us. We were planning to come to Brazil in any case, as I have family in Sao Paulo, so that was already on the ‘must visit’ list and to get here was only another 3 hours – nothing after some of the long travel days we’ve had.
You’ll find Trancoso described as ‘the best undiscovered beach town in Brazil’ with ‘laid back charm’ and compared to ‘Ibiza 30 years ago’. All of those descriptions were a big tick in my book. We knew we’d be visiting in low season, so not too busy, but a climate that was still warm enough for us to spend time at the beach. Although sad to let go of our ‘Speaking Spanish Month’, Trancoso was just too appealing to ignore. A quick search identified the perfect house for us and that was it. Decision made!
Most recently a fishing village, Trancoso was founded by Jesuits in 1586 as São João Batista dos Índios and its tiny 16th-century church (the image you will most often see when googling Trancoso), built by indigenous people, is apparently the second oldest in Brazil. In the 70’s the bohemian hippy set from wealthier Brazillian cities discovered it and hence forth the slow and gentle development of the village began.
Today the Quadrado (village square) remains the centre of all activity…although that activity doesn’t start until around 4pm and sometimes later…and sometimes not all (we can’t quite work out the opening hours of some of the restaurants and shops. It’s fairly random and the cafe serving only breakfast is never open until the afternoon!) The square is actually more of a rectangle and is surrounded by rows of brightly coloured shops and restaurants. In the evening all the trees are twinkling with fairy lights and invariably there is something going on to entertain. There is a larger, more commercial town a little way inland, where you can find restaurants and shops (much more for locals and so much cheaper!) plus a farmer’s market every Saturday.
We planned to stay here a month and on day two I tried to extend our time. I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about this place. Everyone is so welcoming and the slower pace is so easy to fall in step with. Sadly we can’t stay longer, as changing our flights to Rio was just going to cost us too much. So we are now two weeks into our four and we feel completely at home. The weather has mostly been perfect – warm sunshine of about 26 in the day and cool but still pleasant evenings so I can comfortably wear jeans to ward off the pesky mosquitos! We did have a couple of days of torrential rain early in our stay, which unfortunately coincided with my first experience of major home sickness. However, when the sun shone again and the Quadrado sprung back into life, I was reminded just how lucky I am to be on this journey and experience this beautiful corner of the world.
What has made Trancoso so special during our first two weeks are our daily routines and the friends we have made. Most mornings we stroll 10 minutes from our house to the Quadrado and pick up coffee, sometimes breakfast and snacks for the beach. We then have another 10 minute walk, through the square and down the steep hill to the beach. Following the same routine has given us the opportunity to see familiar faces and meet so many lovely people.
From Mike – who owns the house we have rented, to Xadinho (pronounced Sha-jeanio and actually short for Richardson (pronounced He-sha-g-som…so yeah we are going with Xadinho), who we met where he works at the rather fancy Uxua Hotel restaurant on the Quadrado and who has since spent lots of time with us sharing his life long experience of living here and tips for things to do. There’s the lady at the Tapioca stand serving up the best street food, to super friendly and English speaking Juan, who shares a Star Wars passion with Willow and serves us our Serra Malte beer at the Quadrado bar – Encontro Dos Amigos (friend’s meeting). We have also had some (not quite but nearly and much appreciated) home comforts in the shape of The Coffee Bar, owned by Dan, who hails from Sydney and his wife who is Transcoso born and bred. They serve an all day breakfast with the most amazing toasted egg and bacon baguettes (it’s Dan’s mum’s recipe for tomato relish that does it), heavenly banana cake and exquisite chocolate brownies. Dan also made me the best Caipirinha I have had so far. So a coffee bar serving all day breakfast plus tapas and alcoholic drinks in the evening? Those who know me well will know this is my idea of heaven!
Our days have been spent mostly at Uxua’s beach club – we have a regular spot, well a boat actually, that Pedro and Fernando keep for us every day. The girls boogie board, jump in the waves and we meet the many, many local vendors selling their handcrafted goods. On other days, we have stayed at home attempting to help the girls catch up with some school work. This has been…quite trying. (I think I will write a separate short post about this, as so often when people hear about our trip they ask how we will home school. Short story is we’re having a go and finding our way!)
We haven’t ventured much further and today marks our 14th day. We are super excited as my Brazilian cousin James from Sao Paulo will arrive tonight with his wife Amanda and two little boys. The plan was hatched over a delicious dinner in Sao Paulo as Amanda has visited Trancoso before and loves it, but James never had. They are staying with us for the weekend and leaving on the day of Betsy and their son John’s birthday next Tuesday! We have a full moon party on the beach tonight and birthday celebrations to conduct. Not bad for a weekend in October 🙂
So half way through our Trancoso time and I have fallen hard for this place. We do plan to venture further than the Quadrado and the beach in the next two weeks, so let’s see what that brings. We will also have another very special guest, my beloved Jane is working in Sao Paulo so making a trip up to discover Trancoso’s secrets!! I am so delighted to have stumbled across this corner of the world and Betsy loves it so much she wrote a poem yesterday. I am sure we will be back and I just hope that nothing much changes as more and more people discover its secrets.
Trancoso – by Betsy
Trancoso has been great.
There’s been several birthday dates,
Including mine, which I think’s fine.
In fact, I think it’s divine!
Since I’ve been here, it’s been exciting,
Except some of the wild dogs are very frightening.
There’s a pool and that’s cool,
But you definitely won’t find a mall – instead we have to do boring school.
I’ve loved the berries you can eat off the trees,
And I’ve loved the wonder in our garden with all the monkeys.
Willow’s found a new friend called Juan,
And Lola and I got some cool henna on our forearm.
Dan, Dan the coffee shop man,
He sells the best banana cake you’ll find in town.
Xadinho, Xadinho quite hard to say his name,
He’s nice, friendly and always plays a game.
Nearly everyday we go to the beach
But annoyingly mum and dad try to teach!
Most of the time there’s been lots of sun,
And we’ve been playing about having fun.
I will be so sad to leave this place,
You won’t believe what will come up on my face.
Betsy Ireland, age 8 (nearly 9)