Let’s open our presents un­der the palm trees

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Se­guro is the best in Bahia. From our view­point, on the ter­race of the ho­tel, break­fast juice in hand, perched on a head­land over­look­ing not one, but three pris­tine white beaches, we all breathed a sigh of awed re­lief.

The ho­tel it­self is charm­ing: a mix­ture of tra­di­tional Bahian build­ings with bright fur­ni­ture and peace­ful gar­dens, plus a stun­ning, more con­tem­po­rary, airy re­cep­tion and restau­rant, with white walls and dark wood rus­tic ta­bles. There’s a new pool with a healthy sprin­kling of comfy day beds and white cur­tains, which has more than a hint of Ibiza chic.

But the most strik­ing thing about Brisas do Espelho is its setting. When I hear the phrases “gated com­mu­nity” or, worse, “hol­i­day vil­lage”, I balk. And yet, that’s where we found our­selves, in a giant Brazil­ian-style con­do­minium with its own golf course and pri­vate air­port. We are talk­ing thou­sands of acres, with a scat­ter­ing of some un­be­liev­ably dis­creet and lux­u­ri­ous vil­las and a lot of vir­gin jun­gle. This ex­plained the gate house we’d dozily driven past in the early hours of the morn­ing, and the lit­tle pas­tel-coloured sign­posts show­ing the way to the shop, the play­ground, the beaches.

At first we wor­ried that we’d found our­selves trapped in a Brazil­ian edi­tion of Hi-de-Hi! but we soon re­alised why it had come so highly rec­om­mended for a fam­ily hol­i­day, and why all our fel­low guests and res­i­dents looked so chilled and smi­ley. It wasn’t just beau­ti­ful – it was un­be­liev­ably safe. Chil­dren from the age of six or seven were roam­ing freely. There were bi­cy­cles avail­able for any­one stay­ing on the es­tate who wanted to ex­plore, or reach the com­mu­nal ten­nis courts. Guests could use the rather swish beach club on one of the beaches – Outeiro, a breath­tak­ing swathe of empty gor­geous­ness, which you reach by walk­ing down a well-marked but wild jun­gle path from the cliff top, spot­ting birds and flow­ers as you go.

Groups of cool Brazil­ian teenagers emerged af­ter lunch and headed off down to Espelho beach round the head­land, which was buzzier, with pou­sadas (inns) and beach bars and sea kayaks to rent. I had the feeling that we were part of an ex­tended Christ­mas house party, a feeling that in­ten­si­fied when we re­alised that our de­light­ful hosts, Maria Fer­nanda and her Dutch hus­band, Paul, had over the past few years per­suaded many of their Sao Paulo friends to buy hol­i­day homes from the se­lec­tion of mul­ti­coloured cot­tages on the cliff.

Most nights, whether we were at our favourite restau­rant at Brisas – with its sushi chef flown in from Sao Paulo for the hol­i­days – or at a rus­tic

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