Bob Shevlin is the Co-Owner of UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa in Bahia.
Bob, why did you choose Trancoso as the location for your resort?
We weren't really planning to do a resort, but Trancoso seduced us. It is the only place we've found combining everything we love, great climate and pristine nature, strong historic preservation giving it a unique sense of place, and friendly people with dynamic culture which is actually thriving - not just a pantomime continued for the sake of tourism. The final ingredient which was present in Trancoso even before we came - even with the rustic atmosphere there was a quite sophisticated offering around in terms of dining and shopping (no t-shirt shops, just genuine artisinal products).
Where did you get the design inspirations from?
100% from Trancoso itself. The town was isolated from the rest of the world without even road access until 30-years ago, so all they needed they basically made themselves, and there was a natural instinct for recycling, objects and materials were repurposed repeatedly over centuries. All of this artisinal skill and the sustainable approach of reutilisation really inspired us.
Can you tell us how you support the local community of Trancoso?
There are three very impactful initiatives which trace to UXUA. We've financed a local school of capoeira, which is a dance form created by African slaves which pantomimes martial arts and is accompanied by traditional musical instruments and singing. Its roots are in Bahia. This school is a huge success in keeping alive the cultural identity of local youth, and because UXUA pays the salary of the professor, all kids can study regardless of their ability to pay for lessons.
Another area in which we've had an enormous impact is in creating in Trancoso an entire micro-economy around traditional artisinal skills to make furniture and decor. UXUA's creator Wilbert Das has collaborated side-by-side with the local artisnas here and taught them that keeping alive their methodology can guarantee them a great future.
Finally, we've recently been doing a lot to promote Bahian cuisine around the world, and in this effort we've involved all the different cooks, chefs, food stalls and restaurants of Trancoso. We just made a little film about these efforts and in May will host in London 3-nights of 'Taste of Trancoso by UXUA".
What is the most thrilling cultural activity that can be enjoyed in Trancoso?
Definitely practicing capoeira. It is a totally authentic experience. The sport was born right here in the South of Bahia and love for it can be really felt in the community. Lessons can be enjoyed in private at UXUA's spa (100% of the class fee gets donated to the public capoeira school), or our guests are welcome to join the free public classes taught by the professor whose salary is underwritten by UXUA. This is an intense emotional experience.
What is your favourite dish from UXUA's kitchen?
I'm going to have to go with Fisherman's Spaghetti, because it's both very innovative and also very traditional at the same time. We managed to merge in a very well-balanced dish two of the most important aspects of the diet here in Trancoso; fresh seafood and locally-grown, organic produce.
The dish is so popular among our guests we even published its recipe on our website.
For more information about the food in Bahia, check this inspiring video.