“A beautifully-restored Hindu-Portuguese hacienda in the quiet village of Majorda, a short walk from south Goa's loveliest white-sand beach”
Each of Vivenda’s rooms has its own colour and style, evoking the places in Bengal and Tamil Nadu where the Haywards have lived over the years. Decorative details include red glass lampshades, black and white family portraits, art prints and bedside tables made of old Indian painted trunks. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms, fans and air conditioning (not that you'll need it before March or April); but don't expect TVs or phones.
Two of the largest rooms are in the Portuguese front part. Konnagar, the master bedroom, has a mosquito-netted four-poster, its own veranda and a huge ensuite open-air bathroom with a free-standing cast-iron bathtub. Alipore is a double room with a window seat overlooking the coconut palms, and a long, thin bathroom; being next to the dining room, it's not ideal for early-bedders.
In the Hindu back part of the house are 3 more rooms. Madras is a large double room in what used to be the storeroom, with a big bed and an outdoor stone bathroom. The small, twin-bedded Ballygunge is perfect for kids, with its terrazza bathroom and ancient Gujurati windows. The old kitchen has been transformed into an unusual white and silver bedroom, Ooty, with a built-in divan-style double bed rising out of the floor.
At the back of the house is The Chummery, a self-contained cottage with a double bedroom, an ensuite bathroom, its own little kitchen and 2 verandas. Nearby is Chandpara, a tented room in the young coconut plantation behind the pool, which has twin old Indian iron beds, camping furniture, a thunderbox in the ensuite bathroom, and an early version of a minibar. Most recently added is Darjeeling, located in the old garage, which has a double bedroom, a mezzanine area, and a private garden.
All told, Vivenda can accommodate 16 in comfort, with extra camp beds for children and 'spill-overs' nearby if necessary. The whole house can be taken by one party if booked early enough, with use of the staff.
A full breakfast is served outside on the dappled, 22-seater wooden table, looking out over the garden and pool. Enjoy fine Darjeeling tea, still-warm pau (traditional Portuguese bread rolls), fresh fruit and juices, tasty free range Indian eggs scrambled by Simon (a dab hand in the kitchen), bacon and sausages from an English butcher in Northern Goa, and what Charlotte and Simon claim is "the best coffee and marmalade in India" (they should know).
Al fresco lunches can be eaten by the pool, picnics can arranged for the beach, and snacks and children’s meals are available at all hours. Otherwise, there are myriad beach shacks competing enthusiastically for your business as you stroll along the shore. Zeebops (a 10-15 minute walk to the north) was our favourite, for its great food, laid-back style, freedom from hawkers and eclectic mix of music. Sip the local Honeybee brandy - a ridiculously cheap Goan nectar - and try the delicious stuffed poppadoms and the vindaloos, which are far tastier and less tastebud-nuking than British versions.
If you fancy dinner, you should book the night before to allow the excellent Keralan chef to buy fresh ingredients in the morning. He cooks a mean tandoor and calls his cuisine 'modern European with an Asian influence'. Starters could include gazpacho crowned with lobster and drizzled in paprika oil, or squid stuffed with garam masala risotto. Mains include tiger prawns marinated in jungle honey, or an excellent fillet steak on caramalised onion with wasabi mashed potatoes. And the chocolate mousse is not to be missed.
The bar, a quirky construction created from an old Tata truck, has a wine list chosen by Ivan Scholte, a former wine trader and current owner of the acclaimed Apsara hotel in Luang Prabang; for those who prefer beer, Haywards 5000 - a favourite with Northern Indian truckers and stronger than wine - is offered for free to those brave enough to risk it.
Close by in the village's main street are 3 very good restaurants - Crab Quay, Pentagon and Fusion (the latter known for its great steaks). Alternatively, 5-10 minutes away by taxi is the lively Martin’s Corner, a favourite with holidaying Indians and their families thanks to its regular live music and karaoke, and its warm bistro style.
Children are very welcome and Vivenda's staff are well known for being child-friendly. Please note that only well behaved children will be welcome in the sitting and dining rooms.
Konnager and Madras can accommodate 2 extra beds. The best options for families are Darjeeling, which has a mezzanine area that can accommodate an additional 3 beds, or The Chummery, which is a self-contained cottage with a kitchenette that can fit 2 extra beds and a baby cot.
Babysitting is available by arrangement. See Rates.
Baby monitors are available on request, with coverage through the whole property, allowing you to relax by the pool while your little people nap.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Food is great here: children's meals can be served when you want and there are plenty of beach shacks to explore if you want to eat out. You can also borrow a blender or microwave if you need it.
The pool isn't fenced and there are mosquitoes here in the early evening. It can be slippery during the monsoon season. There's a shop for nappies and baby/child food 5 minutes away by car.