Exploring Andalucía in low season is a real pleasure. Holiday crowds and traffic are a distant memory, yet the days are clear, sunny and cool. The seasonal winds and showers clean the air which in summer can be heavy with dust and even sand from Africa.
So at this time of year the views from Andalusian hilltop villages like Vejer de la Frontera , in the province of Cadiz, are truly ‘impresionante’!
From the narrow, winding cobbled streets of this ancient citadel one can see out across the pine clad sierras, over farmland towards the Mediterranean and Africa beyond. Looking out one can't help but relax; the feeling of space, light and tranquility is a natural remedy like no other! So, that's why last weekend we ended west to escape daily life and enjoy 48 hours in Vejer de la Frontera.
As its name implies, Vejer was on the frontier between Europe and Africa and the changing frontier between Muslim and Christian cultures. As was much of the peninsula, Vejer was under Muslim rule for over five centuries, so even now there are many features,like the architecture of much of the original fortified town that echoe a typically Moroccan village. In fact Vejer is twinned with Chefchaouen in Morocco, as the wife of the founder of Chefchaouen, Sidi Ali ben Rasid came from Vejer.
Last weekend we were lucky, as it was the village’s ‘Puertas Abiertas’ – Open Doors weekend, so all the public buildings including museums, the castle, the town hall, the debating chamber, convents and churches were all open for free, allowing an unprecedented insight into the village. Even ‘patios de vecinos’ – houses with a shared internal courtyard – were open for us all to have peep. In addition, the centre of the old town also had a market, adding to the lively atmosphere. We spotted a Tio Pepe girl, as the Cadiz based Bodega was part of the vibrant market.
We stayed at the Hotel V, at the very top of the village; a plush boutique hotel. Take a look at my review. The village is well served with smart hotels including one of the village's first boutique bijou hotels, The Escondrijo as well as the popular , Hotel La Casa del Califa.
The courtyard restaurant of the Califa, ‘El Jardin de Califa’ is a magical place in summer, with all the Moroccan lanterns lit and the stars above. James and his team are sure to make you feel welcome.
Thanks to upscale tourism, the place has more than its fair share of good quality eateries. On the village's beautiful central square, the Plaza de España, is the Restaurant Trafalgar that serves upscale tapas and menus.
We had a splendid lunch at Restaurant La Vera Cruz, steps away from our hotel. It’s set in a converted 16th century chapel. My accompanying short review gives more information.
Cadiz is presently holding a tapas festival and last weekend, Vejer was buzzing with its own ‘de tapas por Vejer’ tapas route; where thirty or so of the town’s bars were each offering a signature tapa and beer or wine for 1.50e. to 'tapeo' is always one of the best ways to explore any town, meet some of its people, discover regional flavours and generally eat and drink well. Our experinece in Vejer was no exception, so in my accompanying post I publish a few pics of tapas I captured on my iPhone.
There is a great deal to see beyond the village too; with the stunning ‘Las Breñas’ Natural Park, home to thousands of hectares of Mediterranean pine forests; and the stunning wild beaches of El Palmar and beyond. We ended our weekend with a stop at Cape Trafalgar, where out at sea, Nelson’s fleet defeated the French and Spanish in 1805.