As a fashion designer, what inspired you to run a boutique hotel?
Wilbert: “It was a reaction really. My plan originally was to build a holiday home but then over time the idea of turning it into a hotel came up. Analyzing it afterwards, I would say that it was a longing to create something that lasts over a long period of time. My professional background is in the fashion business and in fashion you are always making fast products that last a very short period of time. There is a constant process of creating something new. Because of the nature of fashion, things don’t need to last. And creating an atmosphere, a lifestyle or even a little village like Uxua is something much more appealing. Everything you make lasts for a much longer time.”
Why did you decide to go to Trancoso?
Wilbert: “I fell in love with it. As I said, I was looking for a place to build a holiday home and a friend told me about Trancoso. He just said, ‘It feels like your house’. So I was intrigued and went there to have a look. When I arrived it just clicked. Everything was perfect from my point of view. Trancoso has everything that I like about life, abundant and lush nature, the beautiful beach, the people, the food, the weather and the colonial architecture – I am not a big fan of the architecture of the past 50 years. Trancoso was almost cut off from the world until only recently, the village is very well preserved.
Trancoso has a certain hippie vibe. Before the first road to the village was built about 15 years ago, there were only locals and hippies living here. And they still have a lot of influence on village life today. At first, when we started Uxua, the locals were a bit unsure about this international fashion designer building a hotel in the village. But that perception changed.”
The name ‘UXUA’ means ‘marvelous’ in the language of the Patax Indian tribe. What is marvelous about UXUA?
Wilbert: “The Patax is a local Indian tribe living on a reserve not far from Trancoso. I had the chance to meet with their chief before we opened and I still visit them every time I am here in Trancoso. Their language is a spoken language only, but the chief prepared a dictionary and I immediately fell in love with the word ‘Uxua’.
I guess what’s marvelous about Uxua Hotel is that it is actually not a hotel. There is no central building, instead we have 9 individual houses, well 10 actually since we decided to rent mine as well. Some of them are right around the ‘Quadrado’, the big, grassy square in Trancoso where all local live evolves around. There are no signs about the hotel, we are completely integrated into the local community. It is as if you have your own house in Trancoso.”
How would you describe the overall style of UXUA?
Wilbert: “A journalist once called it ‘rustic modernism’, which I quite liked. In fact, it is a tribute to the Bahian and Indian influences. Throughout the 2 years building Uxua, we were working closely with local craftsmen using local and recycled material whenever possible.
And all of the guest houses are completely different, each filled with Bahian art and antiques that were salvaged from abandoned Brazilian farms and restored by local artisans. We have also designed and built the doors, windows, beds and much of the fittings such as the sinks and the wooden showers on site together with local artisans and the Indians from the Patax tribe.”
What would you recommend your guests to do?
Wilbert: “There are abundant choices really, depending on what you would like to do. There are all the beach activities such as volleyball, snorkeling and diving. Between August and December it is also the perfect time for kite- and windsurfing. Then there are countless small roads and trails to explore Trancoso and the surrounding area by foot, bike or horse.
You can dare to challenge the locals in a football game on the many fields. You understand how popular football is when even the Quadrado, a world heritage site, has a football field. There are tennis fields, two on the famous ‘Monkey Road’, where the courts are surrounded by forests filled with monkeys who occasionally interrupt the game. And of course there is a truly spectacular golf course above the ocean on cliffs with spectacular views.
Do you get to spend a lot of time at Uxua? And what is the first thing you do when you get there?
Wilbert: “I call Uxua ‘home’ more than anything else today and I am fortunate enough to be able to spend about 6 months at the hotel every year. There are many things that I do when I first get there. I love horseback riding for example and there is a river nearby where you can ride along a thousand buffalos, which is really amazing.
I also love to just sit on the Quadrado, the square, watching the people go about their lives with the church and the view of the ocean while the moon rises. It can’t get much better than that.
And finally I also always go to the Indian tribe. As I mentioned before, they are living on this reserve at the entrance of a national park about 35km from Trancoso. They have preserved their traditional lifestyle probably from the time the first Portuguese arrived here. It is always fascinating to talk to them, listen to their stories and see how they are integrating modern aspects of life into their traditional way of living.”