Thursday, 23 February 2012

Viva Vejer

The Mice don't get to see each other all together that often (what with one living 5995 miles away from the others), so when they're reunited it's always really special.  Last summer we decided to do our annual girls' trip in Spain and promptly set about scouring all our favourite travel websites for inspiration on where to stay, what to eat and where the best beaches are.


When we were little, we spent virtually every summer in Macaret, a little fishing village in Menorca, where we'd spend all day diving for shells and sea urchins, making friendship bracelets and playing with the children who lived in the village (they couldn't speak English; we couldn't speak Spanish, but we were more than happy playing away together for hours on end).  Meals would be chorizo bocadillos, baby squid, deepfried and eaten out of newspaper on the beach and that fluorescent orange Fanta that you only ever seem to get on holiday. At night we'd beg 100 pesetas from our parents, buy sweets from the souvenir shop and then run wild around the village square with our little Spanish friends until a bedtime hours past our usual home one.


Since those days, we've hardly been back to Spain and we wanted to make sure that wherever we chose this time wouldn't sully those happy, sunny Spanish memories.  We wanted to avoid anywhere where the restaurants have menus featuring photographs of chicken kiev and frozen vegetables and are frequented by men whose sunburnt faces match their Man United football shirts drinking pints of Stella with their girlfriends in Herve Leger knock-off bandage dresses and five inch stilettos.  We wanted somewhere that actually felt like Spain and after much deliberation and a lot of research we settled on Vejer, a little hilltop town in Andalusia.


And so, on a Saturday in mid-August last year, we all landed at Seville airport and scurried to find one another.  We collected our cases (numerous and heavy), picked-up our rental car (maroon and not quite the sporty, convertible we'd have picked) and set-off for our first hotel of the week.  After an hour of driving (but mostly screaming) in circles around Seville, trying to get used to the left hand drive and only driving where other cars in front were going….(a little difficult when this doesn't follow our handwritten directions and we haven't thought that maybe a map might be helpful) we got some courage together, made some correct turns, made it out of the city and hit the road out to Vejer.  Two hours later we took some scarily steep, narrow and windy roads leading to a hilltop chock-a-block with winding whitewashed streets full of cars parked at all angles, Spanish children laughing and playing and old ladies sitting out on stools.  We'd arrived.


We found a parking spot and called the owner of our first hotel, Nigel, who dashed down to met us in the old town square and help us and our many, heavy bags up to Escondrijo, the beautiful, boutique, guest house that he runs with his wife, Nettie.  From the moment we arrived, we knew that we'd made exactly the right choice.  Every tiny detail of the hotel has been thought through, from the honesty bar downstairs in the indoor courtyard to the living room full of CDs, books and DVD's to borrow. The house is beautifully decorated, every nook and cranny is packed full of character with walls covered with framed photographs telling the story of Nigel & Nettie's family and each step of the winding, whitewashed stair case lit with candles and lanterns.


The hotel has 3 rooms - Hammock, Wood Burner and Luz. We stayed in the Hammock room, a beautiful mezzanine room with a hammock on the mezzanine floor that leads out to its own private terrace complete with perfect views for sunset gin and tonics and flicking through vogue (which was perfectly placed in our room for our arrival).  We all excitedly dashed around the room taking photographs, unpacking random bikinis and phone chargers and gabbling about how happy we were.  The room's little kitchenette was quickly rifled revealing a fridge stocked with delicious olive oil, freshly ground coffee and chilled cava.  If someone designed a hotel for the Mice, this is exactly what it would be like. 

We spent three perfect nights exploring the gorgeous town, spending hours discovering treasures and bargains in little boutiques, sunbathing on beautiful, long and generally empty beaches and eating and drinking until we could eat and drink no more.  We loved the tapas and sangria at Casa Varo - set on a sweet cobbled street just down from the village church, we sat out on streetside tables and whiled the hours away whilst plate after plate of incredible Tapas arrived - Iberian ham, tuna carpaccio, croquettas and even our Menorquian favourite, baby squid.


Nigel could not have been more helpful, recommending restaurants and beaches, drawing maps so we wouldn't get lost and offering to lend us sun umbrellas to take to the beach so that we wouldn't get burnt.  On our first night he booked one of the restaurant highlights of our trip, Quatros Gatos - where we devoured a delicious three course meal, cocktails and wine (all for around £15 each) looking out across orchards and orange groves as the sun set.    

And we couldn't finish a review of Escondrijo without mentioning the breakfasts….completely out of this world!  Each evening before dinner we filled out our breakfast slip and the following morning at our specified time, a feast would be cooked-up and delivered to our rooftop terrace by Nigel. Big pots of tea or freshly ground coffee, divine freshly squeezed orange juice, the BEST homed granola we have ever tasted layered with fresh sliced fruit, yoghurt and toasted hazelnuts, followed up by fresh bocadillo with either cheese and serrano ham or tomato and oil olive, or the most heavenly scrambled eggs on toast.  And as soon as breakfast arrived, so did the family dog, Dunas (the Spanish word for sand dune where she was found and rescued by Nettie and Nigel when they first bought Escondrijo).


With heavy hearts, on day four, we packed our cases, jumped back into our hire car and out onto the scary windy roads to set off to hotel number two, Casa La Siesta.  To our great delight, we found Casa La Siesta with minimal wrong turns in less than 10 minutes.  After our perfect stay at Escondrijo, we really couldn't imagine that our second hotel could even begin to measure up to the first, but drawing up to the big iron gates around a large sand-coloured house with rolled reed matting shutters, we wondered whether maybe we could have managed to discover two gems in one week.   

And it turned out we had.  Casa La Siesta was a total contrast to Escondrijo but was still completely heavenly.  Surrounded by miles and miles of green countryside, not a sound to be heard but crickets, with the smell of fresh flowers from the garden and of the feast being whipped up in the kitchen...seriously amazing.

We were taken to our room, one of seven in this little boutique hotel - every detail again had been thought through to make your stay completely perfect. There are big woven straw beach bags to take to the pool, an ipod loaded with music to play in your room or to take sunbathing with you down to the huge pool set in the fields behind the house.  A wet room with amazing Ren beauty products, thick white dressing gowns and candles littering every surface.  Our room had beautiful rustic touches everywhere, exposed-beamed, high ceilings, stone floors and a roll top bath at the end of the bed.  French doors lead out to a little terrace with a sweet wrought iron table and mismatched chairs, a new location for our sunset gin & tonics. Our favourite touch was that whilst eating dinner our bed was turned down, chilled water bottles were placed on the bedside tables and candles were lit all around the room - everything possible was done to make it a slice of heaven.


Over a welcome Cruzcampo from the tap at the bar in the L-shaped courtyard restaurant, Blaze, the manager explained that all soft drinks and beer from the tap were complimentary during our stay and that meals would be served using ingredients fresh from the gardens three times a day (apart from a couple of exceptions when he said there were some great places nearby that he could suggest that we tried).  Exhausted after our ten minute transfer, we decided to head down to the beautiful swimming pool to relax and soak up the sun. Within minutes, freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice was brought down to us, along with ice cold water with slices of lemon and we were instructed to relax and take it easy...we wondered whether it was possible for the holiday to get any more perfect.


But it turns out that yes, it could.....the FOOD!  As we lounged by the pool we were delivered a litte scroll tied up with rafia from the chef invinting us to a barbecue that evening. We can safely say it was the best barbecue we've ever been to.


Tables laid with starched, white tablecloths are set out in the courtyard which was lit by strings of fairy lights and candles. We were served up refreshing mojitos (which turned out to be as deadly as they were delicious) and then the food was brought out.  Plates of steak, lamb, burgers and chicken cooked in the most incredible marinades. This carnivorous feast was accompanied by a table heaving with amazing bowls of fresh homemade dips, salads, tomaotes and mozzarella, roasted vegetables, cous cous...the choice was endless and each dish was even more delicious than the last.


For the next four days we did little more that eat, snooze, sunbathe and eat a bit more.  Breakfasts were to die for (to the point where I would wake Melissa and Natalie up extra early so that we could start our day of eating) homeade granola, yoghurt and honey, fresh tomato with olive oil, creamy chunks of avocado, homemade bread, scrambled egg from the chickens on the farm next door and bowls of juicy fresh fruit.  Lunch would consist of homemade gazpacho like we'd never tasted, followed by a salad (different everyday - from fresh fig and serrano ham to feta, tomato and grilled aubergine).  One afternoon, a woman from Vejer came in to cook her family-recipe Paella (rumour has it she shouted at the hotel kitchen staff and insisted on cooking alone) which was the most scrumptious Paella we've ever had.  We literally scraped our plates clean.


Every lunchtime a blackboard would be brought out with the evening menu chalked onto it and we were asked to decide whether we wanted to reserve a table or not - for us it was ALWAYS a 'yes'!  On one of the nights that we were there, the hotel restaurant was closed (from memory I think it is closed twice a week) but the hotel recommended a restaurant that we had read great reviews about, Restaurante Patria.  The restaurant offers a free taxi service from the hotel and is around ten minutes away up in the hills.  Dinner was delicious and we were even given blankets when we got a bit cold after the sun went down.  

After one night staying in the hotel we were moved into the hotel's Casita (it was occupied for our first night but moving rooms was no bother at all, our bags were moved for us and placed in our new home all while we were soaking up the sun and drinking Cruzcampo by the pool). The Caista is a private villa attached the hotel.  It has two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a private garden complete with a pool, dining area and verandah with big comfy sofas. Beautifully decorated with just as much attention to detail (even more if possible as this was where the family lived when they first opened the hotel) and a true hideaway for complete luxury and relaxation.




We could still enjoy all the luxuries of the hotel - those incredible meals, the free pool bar and anything that the staff could do to help was still no problem. One of our favourite afternoons was spent by our private pool, relaxing together drinking Casa La Siesta's amazing Sangria, chatting and reading stacks of magazines....Bliss!


Vejer truly is a little corner of heaven and both Escondrijo and Casa La Siesta are the perfect places to enjoy it.  It was one of the best and most special holidays that we've ever been on and we're already dreaming of going back and especially of the food...



Escondrijo
Callejón Oscuro, 3
Vejer de la Frontera
11150 - Cádiz
+34 956447438
http://www.escondrijo.com/

Casa La Siesta
Los Parralejos
Vejer de la Frontera
11150
+ 00 34 956 232 003
http://www.casalasiesta.com/en/casa.html

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Hey! Your blog is great, and what a brill piece on Vejer and Casa la Siesta! I love that place too (I found you via LLG blog). My sister is getting married at Casa la Siesta this summer, I can't wait to go back!

    Lucy x

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    1. Ahhh your sister's wedding will be SO amazing - we said when we were there that it would be the most idyllic place to get married! Thank you so much for your comment and we've just checked out your blog which we absolutely love (and will keep bookmarked just in case any of us get engaged anytime soon!)

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  3. We live a couple of hours away on Estepona but escape to vejer's beachy area of el palmar whenever we can. Just love it. Great post by the way. You can see some of our favourites on http://www.charlotteswebspain.com

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Charlotte, so jealous of you living in Spain and we'll hit your blog up for suggestions next time we're back near Vejer!

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  4. Thank you for sharing this information. I really found it very informative. I am a regular visitor of the site and always good to know something very interesting. Keep up the good work. Hoping to learn something new every time ..
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