The Capella constellation

No weekend destination story would be complete without Goa, but there’s more to Goa than just beach. Deepti Datt heads into the forests to a super-exclusive but homely B&B favoured by movie stars and celebrities. Just watch out for the monkeys.

Print Edition: Feb 8, 2009

The Forest Room in Capella
If you have been to Goa anytime in the past few years, you will have experienced the pleasure of a meal at J&A’s on the Baga River. Or, at the very least, you will have heard about it. A lot. This cozy little space has quietly served up its wood-fire oven basil and aubergine pizzas, along with various other luscious concoctions, to the illustrious palates of Kate Moss, Sadie Frost, Jade Jagger, Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, Kareena Kapoor and Shilpa Shetty, amongst other regular mortals for close to a decade now.

J&A is Jamshed (ex-merchant marines) and Ayesha, who was associate editor with Sanctuary magazine before they upped and decided to follow their bliss to Goa. And Capella is their beautiful home in the forested hills of the village of Parra, which they recently opened out to a select list as Goa’s first high-end B&B, and one that is slated for entry in many a sybarite black book.

Capella grew organically, as most things in Goa do, when Jamshed and Ayesha found themselves, having built their dream home, in a space that seemed far too large for their small family. As is usual in the Goan way of hospitality, it seemed natural to share their beautiful space with friends and acquaintances. As is also usual with the Goan way of hospitality, word travels fast. So, it wasn’t long before Capella became Goa’s best-kept secret, something you want to share—but with discrimination.

Breakfasts at Capella are healthy
A weekend at one of the two bedroom suites in Jamshed and Ayesha’s home is a whole new Goa experience. The Forest Room has a bay window that looks out into the dense trees of Capella’s jungled Parra backyard—it has to be just the most amazing meditation to pull up a lounge chair and sit in experience of the precious serenity. The Hill View Room looks out towards the paddy fields, and dawn and dusk will afford you church and temple bells in the muffled distance away in the fields. There is no swimming pool. But it’s not something you will even notice while there, occupied, as you become, with silence. There are airconditioners in the rooms, but you won’t need the electric hum with the gorgeous weather in Goa during season. Evenings can tend towards chilly, with light blankets and shawls advised.

A couple of perks that come with a Capella stay—bird-watching in the lush forests on the property and in the surrounding hills of Parra. Not to mention some of the other guests on the property, the crickets, porcupines and peacocks. If you’re not into animals, then maybe Capella isn’t the place for you. You’ll see monkeys marching across the tile roofs as they traverse the forest corridor. And two friendly Rottweilers, Skipper and Luca, have the run of the property, along with a couple of cats, Lilavati and Sampati. They may decide to join you for a nap in your bedroom.

The food is simple but delicious. Breakfasts are healthy and continental (if it’s Indian you’re looking for, upma is about all the kitchen can handle!). Most meals are home-style Goan, and are prepared for the rest of the family as usual in the kitchen—they’re available at a modest Rs 200 per head. And you can eat with the family in the common dining room, or privately outside under a tree, on the veranda or anywhere in the house or the grounds where Daisy, the housekeeper, can set up a table. You choose whether you want to remain in your private quarters undisturbed, or interact with the family. Though I must recommend my pal Zal, here, J&A’s cute young son, who is well worth engaging in conversation.

Park Hyatt Goa Resort & Spa
Four-poster beds and eclectic oneoff pieces of functional furniture are the work of Jamshed’s labour-of-love-shopping through Bombay’s antique bazaars. Ayesha professes herself a minimalist and continues, unsuccessfully, to curb Jamshed’s bid at a formidable collection. TV, DVDs in the hall, and an Honesty Bar with an interesting selection of choices are part of the common areas—just fill in the book, so it can be adjusted in your check-out billings. “The objective here”, says Ayesha, “is to keep it as informal as possible.”

Informal and green. Ayesha and Jamshed are no faint environmentalists, nor ones for the sake of trend—they believe in Goa living in its truest sense with a deep respect for the nature around them. Water, treated through a reverse osmosis system, is available free at Capella. And they’ve completely stopped serving bottled water in plastic containers, breaking ranks with the rest of Goa’s gazillions of restaurants.

Capella must be experienced. Named after a constellation in the heavens, it is also, poignantly, the original name of the small chapel at the entrance to the property, a chapel that Jamshed and Ayesha maintain, and to which residents from the village of Parra come for sunset prayers. Two rooms isn’t much and plans are afoot for Thai Huts in their forest backyard. But this is a slice of Goa that has been spared development, which is why, at Capella, you’re ensconced in the lively quiet of the forests, safe from the wheeze and crash of construction.

So, count yourself lucky if you can nab yourself one of those laid back, soul-renewing, weekends at Capella. You’ll be in rare company.

The information
Getting there:
Airport pick-ups and drop-offs and transport around Goa (scooter, bike or car/driver hire) are arranged at an additional cost.
Cost: Peak season rates (mid-December to mid-January)—Rs 5,500 per night; regular season rates—Rs 4,500. Breakfast included. Dinner at landmark J&A’s on the Baga River is discounted at 25 per cent on the food menu with stay at Capella.

Yabyum Resort
Or Alternatively… Here are a few other great options out of Goa.

. Yabyum Resort
Situated in Mandrem, on the beach up in Aswem, this is the organic luxury resort of choice—igloo huts, Ayurvedic everything, as private as can be and yet in the thick of everything. The beach here is extraordinary and all yours. Getting there: A 50-km drive from Goa’s Dabolim airport.

Cost: Rs 5,000 a night

. Noi Varo
A millionaire’s holiday home, Noi Varo offers 1,000 square metre of ultra luxury in a century-old river side bungalow. Three bedrooms and several more rooms, besides toilets by Philippe Starck, a pool in the middle of the floor, a tree house, wireless, flat screens, driver and a gourmet chef. Noi Varo is perfect for working holidays, creative workshops or family reunions. The author Vikram Sunderji is the aesthete behind it. Just once in your lifetime. Getting there: In Anjuna Bardez, 45 km from the airport (about Rs 1,800 in a cab).

Cost: m750 (Rs 58,500) a day (peak season)
Book: www.shunyachi.com

. Park Hyatt Goa Resort & Spa With 251
Indo-Portuguese pousadasstyled rooms and suites as part of an unique village set up within 45 acres of beachfront gardens, the Park Hyatt Goa Resort is extravagant, distinguished and the spa is spectactular. Getting there: Only 20 minutes from the airport by shuttle.

Cost: Rs 13,500 onwards
Book: 0834-2721234, http://goa.park.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels

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