I don’t think I have ever spent so much time standing in front of a commode before. I couldn’t help myself. It wasn’t the commode that I was drawn to but the tribal art above it. A striking frame of a chunky bronze tribal necklace on a square piece of fabric in traditional Kunbi weaves. It’s something one wouldn’t usually find in a toilet. But Le Meridien Goa, Calangute can surprise you in unexpected ways.
Located in the busy Calangute Sinquerim belt, Le Meridien, at first, seems like any other star hotel. It has 146 spacious rooms with private balconies, some with a pool view and others with views of the town. Then there’s the swimming pool, the gym, children’s play area, banquet area and meeting rooms named after the forts of Goa (Tiracol and Margo). Not to mention the five restaurants, including a rooftop one, with curated menus to cater to varied palettes. It is also in a neighbourhood brimming with fashion boutiques and curio shops. A five-minute stroll down the Holiday street nearby will take you to a 15km stretch of Calangute beach from where you can watch the sun, set or rise. Yes, Le Meridien Goa is no different from any other comfortable hotel in Goa. Or so I thought till I was asked, “Did you look at the carpet in your room?” No, I hadn’t.
Usually, carpets are invisible requisites in hotel rooms. You don’t pay attention to it. But at Le Meridien Goa, Calangute, you should. Because they tell stories. The oval, grey-coloured carpet with concentric circles, dashes and squares is an abstract interpretation of the Kunbi tribe trekking through the hills. Suddenly, the rug under my feet became visible activated piece of décor.
The design details in the hotel are vivid haikus about the Kunbis, the early settlers of Goa. You can find it in the weave pattern on the wallpapers and the grid-line etchings on the glass partitions in the rooms. It is in the artworks – tribal Kunbi jewellery adorning black & white photographs of Kunbi women. Traditional Kunbi colours of blue, purple, salmon red and mustard are flaunted on the carpets, cushions and throw pillows which add a pop of colour to a neutral coloured room.
TRIBAL ART TRAIL IN THE HOTEL
The Kunbis are hardworking Maratha farming community with a rich tradition of art and culture. The design and décor of Le Meridien are characterised by the fashion components of the Kunbi tribe and to a small extent by the Portuguese who are ingrained in Goan history.
“The art and décor of Le Meridien Goa is a translation of the rustic tribal elements of Kunbi to Parisian chic, says Rosette Lobo Sardesai of Amit & Associates, a Goa-based architectural and design firm.
Weaving through the corridors of Le Meridien is like embarking on an art trail. And it begins with the ‘arrival art’, a signature art element.
In all the Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts across the globe, you will find the ‘arrival art’ on the ceiling of the porch. The art, of course, varies from place to place. At Le Meridien Goa, the arrival art is a topographical map titled ‘Embarked by The Port’ chronicling the arrival of the Portuguese. By the way, another signature design element of Le Meridien Hotels is the etching of the latitude and longitude of the hotel on the glass panels around the hotel.
The lobby is strewn with wooden art installations inspired by the farming and fishing tools of the Kunbi tribe. But it is the large artwork behind the concierge’s desk that catches the eye. Sand, dried and painted blue to represent the sea, is used as a backdrop to showcase over-sized grooming articles and several tools of the Kunbis — like q-tips, toothpicks, fishing nets, hairpins and so on. In the corridors are black and white photos of distorted silhouettes of Kunbi women in the backdrop of chequered fabric – patterns commonly found in Kunbi clothing. The functional fashion of the first settlers turns into art at Le Meridien Goa. Curated by Partiksha Tayal, the artworks throughout the hotel are a contemporary interpretation of the past.
In the far corner of the LM Hub or the reception area is Longitude 73 which is fashioned after a hanging pedestrian bridge. Longitude is a coffee bar in the mornings where one can indulge in Éclair making workshops, again a signature event of all Le Meridien hotels. In the evenings, the café morphs into a Sparkling Bar that serves cocktails & mocktails. Try the Cocum Blush, a cocktail that is unique to Le Meridien Goa.
MARK OF THE PORTUGUESE
It is only in the Library Lounge and the Jazz & Grills – a whiskey bar with live music – that one gets a mid-century vibe with Portuguese components. The Cimmerian interiors of Jazz & Grills has installations of old speakers and illustrations of jazz instruments. The chair legs are fashioned after drum-sticks, and the armrests are shaped like candle snuffers from old Goan churches. For the whiskey lovers, this is an ideal place for rumination over Scotch and jazz for they have a choice of 40 labels of whiskeys.
Rosette tells me, “A guest of the hotel should be able to take back home a context of Goa when they visit the hotel.” In that sense, Le Meridien Goa, with its refined décor in muted colours and gold trimmings, and inspired by history offers something about Goa other than beaches, bikini and feni.
Distance: 38 km or 60 min drive from Goa airport
Location: Aguada Siolim Road • Calangute, Goa 403516 • India • Map