Casa la Siesta
The black silhouette of Andalucían hill town Vejer de la Frontera in Cadiz is crested with a halo of streetlights. We’ve just driven from the tiny airport of Jerez and it’s a welcome sight at 10.30pm on a Friday night in Spring. Armed with a scribbled napkin map from a charming waiter in a chic Vejer taverna, we venture along country lanes, wind down the windows and treat our lungs to clean spring air loaded with the scent of sweet jasmine and new grass shoots.
Hidden on the pitch-black country roadside is a small signpost for Casa La Siesta. There’s a welcoming glow from the butterscotch stone walls of this impressive country residence. Mrs Smith grapples with the intercom and soon we’re through the gates, crunching down the gravel drive. Engine switched off, we hear the mesmerising purr of crickets and frogs in chorus.
At the entrance to the property is a diminutive figure; we carry our bags towards her as she beckons ‘Hola! Me llamo Maria Jose,’ in a thick Andalucian accent. In the distance, a donkey bays and the hillsides ricochet with barks from a pack of restless farm dogs. Weary from a week in London, but dizzy with anticipation, we make our way into the gorgeous biscuit-toned interior of Casa La Siesta. Mrs Smith and I look at each other, drop our bags in the terracotta-tiled room, gawp at the flickering candles and the farmhouse-chic furniture and we smile. Goosebumps are riding up the back of our necks.
Too excited to go to our room, we follow Maria Jose into the L-shaped courtyard on tiptoe, so as not to disturb the other guests. At the bottom of the garden, amid lush grass, is a spectacularly lit, large turquoise swimming pool. Rosemary bushes billow from the herbaceous borders and white-cotton curtains dance in the night breeze under a festoon of illuminated bulbs.
‘I’m sure a black cloaked, sword-brandishing Antonio Banderas is going to jump down from the roof any second,’ says Mrs Smith. Well, it does feel like a filmset inspired by a Mexican hacienda and an Andalucían cortijo. Maria Jose steers us inside and shows us a help-yourself fridge packed with ice-cold baby bottles of Cruzcampo and gestures to our room-key dangling from a wooden wall chest. We skip upstairs, open the door and we are greeted by another candlelit scene.
Vases burst with pink, blue, yellow, purple, red wildflowers from the grassy meadows. There’s a Cleopatra-style antique bathtub in the middle. After inadvertently spraying the bedroom floor Mrs Smith decides on a rainforest shower in the terracotta-tiled alcove. I fling open shutters to reveal an intoxicating view of Andalucia by night. As I focus on curious white lights in the distance, a rush of fresh Atlantic air stirs the many palm fronds.
Casa La Siesta’s interior design feels like a spread from slick Spanish magazine, Casa Campo. An unpretentious mix of blonde woods, pretty reclaimed antiques, stone floors, sage shutters ¬– it’s what us Brits call homely. Barely an hour after our arrival and Mrs Smith is plotting to take over the place for her birthday in September, convinced it’s perfect for a party.
After a deliciously deep sleep in expensive cotton sheets, we’re woken by the drum of a spring thunderstorm, crowing cockerels and the jangle of goat bells. A shard of dawn sunlight streams across the room. It’s time for breakfast.
A scattering of small white-clothed tables greets us downstairs in the main room where young, debonair guests talk in low voices. A parade of tiny dishes arrive including perfectly ripe avocado chunks drizzled in luminous-green virgin olive oil and freshly baked bread – heaven, surely?
Behind us a young chap dressed in shorts and a white Lacoste tee is smiling from behind a desk. Mrs Smith strikes up conversation and he turns out to be the mastermind behind this boutique gem. He is Lee and his wife, Amelia, is outside pushing their baby in a pram. Disenchanted with London the two moved to Vejer to learn Spanish. A few years later they’re living the dream in Andalucia, with ample space to raise a family.
Lee and Amelia’s attention to detail, style, proportions and sense of space has created the type of property you wish was your own home or country escape. Mrs Smith is so excited that she ask the former barrister where she can buy similar pieces of furniture insisting that Lee open a shop so that guests can plunder their chic.
Mountainous national parkland and spectacular views across to North Africa’s Atlas peaks is next on our agenda. After an introduction to Ringo the black pooch, we speed 30 minutes east along the coast to one of my favourite spots in the world: Tarifa. Kite-surfing across wind-blasted cobalt ocean occupies the day, capped off with ice-cold beers on the grass at Valdevaqueros beach. We get so carried away that we miss our massages at the hotel.
Under a violet sky, we head back at 9pm. A quick shower later and we jump into our car again and scoot to a nearby restaurant up in the hills. Blink and you’ll miss the tiny eatery in the unexciting hamlet. Blessed with sweeping views of the Andalucian countryside our dining experience in the tiny and wonderfully modest La Patria is outstandingly good. So much so I furiously file off stories about this gem owned by Ose and Thomas from Copenhagen, to magazines back home.
Thinking of selling up, taking up Spanish and living the Andalucian dream too now? It’s been a soul-uplifting getaway – but if you fancy following in Lee and Amelia’s footsteps, go with your eyes wide open. These guys work deceptively hard to create their seemingly effortlessly chic rural retreat. Lucky for us.
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Smith extra at Casa la Siesta
A bottle of local sherry