I’ve been away on summer holidays following in the Spanish footsteps of Mandy by staying at Number Six, The Castle, a beautifully restored Moorish house in the World Heritage town of Vejer de la Frontera, a pueblo blanco in Andalucia. Mandy was there a few years ago and said ‘you’ll love it’ We did.
Perched at the very top of the town, the house, Numero Seis dates back many hundred years. You can see that from the wonderful cobbled entrance, the ancient cooking stove and the old well, essential in the days when the village came under siege.
Today it makes a very special holiday home that sleeps seven in a series of small rooms on different levels up and down time-worn stone staircases but with mod cons of cooker, dishwasher, shower and washing machine and a delicious plunge pool within the house’s shady inner courtyard.
It’s all very laid back, a clever and beautiful restoration job by the owners, the journalist and broadcaster Robert Elms and his photographer wife Christina Wilson.
The décor is artfully simple: wooden beds and muslin drapes, old wooden tables and rustic stools, terracotta urns, Moroccan lanterns, kilims and cushions, day beds and loungers and a courtyard planted with banana palms, vines and orange trees.
Walk out of the front door and you are in the heart of Vejer, one of a series of fortified towns making a border between Christian Spain and Moorish Al Andalus.
Among the cobbled streets and squares are enticing bars, restaurants and boutiques and although it is well visited by tourists in summer, you don’t hear many English voices.
The beaches are about 10kms away at Conil, El Palmar, Canos de Meca and Zahora and they are wonderful. The development is low key and if the Costa de la Luz is windier and the sea brisker than the Med Costas there are also long, unspoilt stretches of clean, golden sands and thrilling rollers. The beaches are happily free of ‘beach clubs’ and rows of pricy sun beds and loungers. We just took an umbrella and a towel and the sun and surf were ours for free.
When the afternoons got too hot and salty we retreated to one of the shady wooden shacks on the roadside and feasted on calamari, boquerones, sardines and razor clams and wonderful crisp shrimp pancakes – tortillitas de camarones, washed down with ice cold Cruzcampo beer.
Follow the posts about the food, especially in Seville, now we’ve shaken the sand out of our shoes. But before you go, we commend to all British seaside resorts the man from Canos de Meca who trudged the beach with a bell and an ice box full of hefty Mojito cocktails at 3 Euros a throw.
Take a look at the website of Number 6 the Castle, from where you can also make a booking: www.andalucia-house-vejer.com