And breathe… Sometimes, all you need to hit reset is a stylish boutique bolthole in the Andalucian sunshine
Nestled among the rolling hills of rural south-west Spain is Casa La Siesta – a hidden gem bathed in the coastline’s famous golden glow that delivers so much more than the modern ‘getaway checklist’.
Famed for its sundrenched beaches and beautiful light, the eponymous Costa de la Luz (coast of light) faces out to the Atlantic towards Morocco and offers an unspoilt stretch of Spain for travellers looking to slow down and reconnect. Wandering the whitewashed village of Vejer de la Frontera, whose cobbled lanes lead to tiny taverns and crumbling church spires, is as soul cleansing as any self-professed ‘retreat’. Come out of season in April, May or September and you’ll practically have the place to yourself.
The hotel: Casa La Siesta
In a bid to really get away from the hustle and bustle of modernity, I’m staying 10km outside of the tiny hilltop village at Casa La Siesta – a gorgeously remote boutique hotel set in the chic Cadiz province.
The first thing that hits me as its traditional ‘cortijo’ architecture comes into view, though, is the wind. Literally. A strong gust of warm Mediterranean air tears at my curls as soon as I exit the cab; flecks of amber-coloured sand slapping my face with excited force, as if thrilled to have caught me off-guard. By the time I reach the hotel’s thick iron gates, my bob is a blustering nest of highlights. ‘It’s very windy here at the moment – it only gets this strong three or fours times a year, so in a way, you’re actually very lucky,’ smiles our host, the raven-haired optimist Mari Luz, who works front of house at Casa La Siesta and glides us through to the bright, airy living room.
To the left, a huge stone-encased fireplace roars its rustic greetings, while a soft jazz track accompanies the crackles; to the right, Connie, our chef for the weekend is busy rustling up plates of zesty calamari and meaty prawn salads for lunch, softly singing to herself in a kitchen beyond the cluster of antique wooden dining tables. As my friend and I sink into the pristine white sofas with our chilled glass of crisp blush rose, we’re immediately joined by the hotel’s absurdly friendly lap-cat, Sombra. And, cocooned from the warm gusts still whipping up a sand storm outside, a wave of deep relaxation hits. There’s no one here but us, Mari Luz, Connie and the cat.
Beyond the casa’s stonemasonry, I can see azure skies, a sun-drenched pool and a courtyard garden laden with orange trees and lavender, and strung with festoon lighting. This is why Casa La Siesta’s guest book is full of return bookers raving about its ‘lazy serenity’ and ‘family vibe’. This is restoration.
Strictly speaking, Casa La Siesta is practically a new-build. Not that you’d know it. Snapped up in 2007 by the founders of Bert & May – a brand synonymous with fine, honest craftmanship – the original farmhouse was replaced brick by brick in a way that retained the plot’s original charm and character, and replastered it with lashings of luxurious style. Cue in-room wood burners, freestanding bathtubs, huge monsoon showers, Ren-stocked shelves and, naturally, some incredibly chic, authentic Spanish tiling. Almost an ode to the Bert & May brand, Casa La Siesta acts as a tonic for the heavy of heart: its eight rooms are light, bright and surrounded by beauty. Set in acres of lush, green farmland, the air is perfumed with lavender and aromatic herbs; the farm-to-fork menu includes eggs freshly laid by free-roaming chickens you pass down the lane; even the wind, as it gently whistles through the pergola, is emblematic of Casa La Siesta’s ability to blow away the urban cobwebs spun with stress and strain.
What to do
Hunker down next the fireplace with a glass of wine and peruse the coffee-table tomes; hit the pool for a few laps and naps in the sun before lunch out on the terrace or grab a cab and wander the labyrinth of winding narrow lanes that cross-section Vejer de la Frontera for tasty tapas (try Trafalgar café for people watching), rich local wines (tap Palomita for cured meat pairings) and a plethora of boutiques for hand-weaved basket bags and jute rugs.
A guided cycle tour through the region with Guillaume and Francisco from BICIZ, who pick us up from the hotel, kit us out with bikes and helmets despite a fairly ominous start (I’ve forgotten to pack trainers. Spoiler: Birkenstocks aren’t the best substitute), and lead us through some of Vejer’s most scenic spots on an epic 25km cycle. In my ‘slow travel’ naivety, I’d pictured a gentle jaunt through the countryside, perhaps a rustic baguette and bunch of hydrangeas peeping out of a front-wheel basket en route to the deli. In reality, it’s a four-hour mountain-bike tour through some fairly tough terrain in gale-force winds that traversed sweeping town hilltops, the dense woodlands of Natural Park and craggy coastline of Barbate’s beaches before winding back along the river bank, its soft, muddy beds rich in birds and wildlife. In short, I absolutely adore it and I can’t imagine a better way to really get a feel for the place and its people.
Afterwards you’ll need a good stretch though, so book in with Carl from Lazybuddha to enjoy a 60-minute restorative yoga session out on the hotel’s lawn. His dulcet tones eased my aching muscles back into their sweet spot and I leave Casa La Siesta feeling invigorated, calm and completely rejuvenated. Slow travel proved a triumph in this stylish enclave in southern Spain. Maybe it’s always in the wind, but I’d like to think I was lucky.
Double rooms start from about £300 a night on a B&B basis. Visit casalasiesta.com to book.
A cycle tour with BICIZ and yoga and massage sessions with Lazybuddha are both bookable through Casa La Siesta; contact the hotel for up-to-date prices.