Vejer de la Frontera - an Andalucian hilltop gem
Our journey to Vejer takes us through Jerez, the smaller and less extroverted Andalucian city compared to it’s capital Seville, famed for its palomino grape sherry and Flamenco. We find ourselves sat outside this unassuming restaurant, the sunlight only just starting to creep past the castle-like walls surrounding the cobblestone courtyard we are about to eat in. At 2 Euros a dish, and with eyes bigger than our stomachs, we undoubtedly over-order, and what a wonderful mistake this turns out to be. Tapas is, clearly, everywhere in Spain, and yet something about the food of this particular place stands out amongst all the others, which explains why it makes the list of Jose Pizzaro’s favourites.
Fast forward 45 minutes, and we swap the warm embrace of a perfect sunlit Spanish lunch for the mettle-testing, nerve-wracking drive up the old, narrow Moorish streets of Vejer de la Frontera, a small hilltop town overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar. Our home for the next two nights is the Hotel V…, hidden away amongst the white-washed walls at the very top of this once-Moorish ruled hilltop municipality. We foolishly ignore the clearly laid out instructions from the hotel, venturing further and further up narrow cobblestone streets in our tiny rental car in the belief that driving to the hotel trumps the hotel’s recommendation of parking in the town below and grabbing a taxi for the final leg of the journey. Why would we hire a taxi when we just hired a rental car? This is the thinking that finds us sandwiched rather comically between two buildings mere millimetres wider than our car, before we concede defeat and gingerly reverse our way back down the road that would be tight even for a Tuk Tuk.
A short taxi ride later we arrive, and what an arrival it is. As we enter through the main doors of the hotel, we walk past an oversized picture window that peers into the sun-draped, sandy-walled lounge below. Checked in, we’re brought through the 16th century courtyard, past the song birds in their teak home and up into our open plan suite. Despite what was clearly a very intricate and thoughtful renovation project completed over 10 years ago, such is the beauty and quality of the work that we could be fooled into thinking the renovation just finished. Small touches hint at the history of the place, like the meticulously renovated wooden beams that have been left exposed above the bathroom, to the stunning arches that criss-cross the room. The overall effect is a very clever one, as it leaves you feeling both at home in the luxurious modernity of it all, as well as in awe at the sense of history splashed all around you.
Breakfast. We need to talk about breakfast. Hotel V have perfected that holy grail of all good things in life - balance. In this case, providing just enough of the beautiful, fresh, local produce to leave you wanting more, and not too much so as to make you lose your appreciation for what’s in front of you. We spend more time here than is probably normal, but that’s what happens when you’re sat in a 600 year old courtyard with the birds chirping all around you, a pot of good coffee to one side and a plate of jamón to the other. Even the children seem to understand, as they finish off their breakfast and then quietly sit drawing pictures of the Spanish bulls that adorn the paintings on the walls. Any hotel that can serve up a stay as memorable, a breakfast as comforting and two children as contented as this is a winner in our books, and we can't wait to come back.