Cádiz Road Trip - Part 5 Vejer de la Frontera
Leaving behind Cabo de Trafalgar and Los Caños de Meca, we decided on a rural route to our next destination, in Vejer de la Frontera, passing a small and unexpected harbour and what appeared to be a graveyard for old ships’ anchors! As the road left the coast, we found ourselves driving through forests of Aleppo pine, over gentle hills and into beautiful countryside, reminiscent of the South Downs, but with many more trees.
Eventually, we spied the white tumble of buildings that make up Vejer de la Frontera and worked our way into the centre of the town, dodging a few road-blockages on the outskirts. Parking is not easy in the town, so best to earmark a designated car park as close to where you’d like to end up as possible. We had booked a night La Botica, a charming little bed and breakfast just above the main Plaza de España. This property used to be the town's original apothecary, and it has been restored to provide some straightforward bedrooms, but in a charming setting, arranged around an open courtyard and with a roof terrace that provides superb views over the town and out over the campo. The welcome we received was great, and we were quickly shown a variety of the best places to eat and drink in this really attractive town.
When I was last here, probably around 10 years ago, it was a fleeting visit and I didn’t really get further than the main square, but this delightful town has a lot to offer. Similar to Cádiz, Vejer was originally occupied by the Phoenicians, then the Romans before 500 years of Moorish rule. The old city walls are still very much in evidence and still form the boundary to the heart of the old town. There are references, throughout the town, to a cloaked female figure that, on first glance, is rather creepy and spectral. Indeed, there are images around every corner, as well as a statue. La Cobijada is a two-piece traditional garment worn by the women of Vejer until into the 1970s. There are similarities to the burqa, but historically, it is more of an amalgam of religious garments from all religions across the centuries, where the covering of the head was seen as a mark of respect. In the early 20th Century, such garments were banned as they were considered to be too useful for the concealment of weapons. In Vejer, they remained a part of traditional wear longer than in other parts of Spain, probably due to the poverty of the local people who handed down clothing from mother to daughter. History notwithstanding, images of La Cobijada lend a mysterious and ghostly atmosphere to the narrow streets.
The sun was just beginning to go down, so we headed to the side of town where we thought we’d get the best views of the sunset, and our hotel guide had mentioned a place called La Oficina - a bar-cum-art gallery that sounded rather tempting. En route, we stumbled across what is left of the old castle (guided tours are available here, if booked in advance). We ventured inside the gate into the courtyard, and a young woman (not wearing La Cobijada!), was standing in a doorway trying out a new pair of flamenco shoes. Excitement got the better of me, and I had to ask here where she was going to be dancing, hoping that there would be some display of local flamenco. It seems that there was a class going on in one of the rooms attached to the castle, so we trotted off in the direction of the walled gardens, to get a great view from the parapets.
On arriving at La Oficina, we discovered it was closed. We later discovered that it was closed until July, and then closed again in August, or something like that! Nice work if you can get it….
Back into the walled part of the town, and we supped large gins outside Casa Varo, had a couple of sherries in another bar, bought a pair of espadrilles and happened upon La Bodeguita where a blackboard informed us that, later that evening, there would be live rap! In Vejer….
We had booked a table for dinner at 10pm (we are getting to be quite Los Españoles!) at the recommended Restaurante El Jardin del Califa in the Plaza de España. This rather smart place, with a beautiful open courtyard and oodles of character, serves a fusion of Spanish and Moroccan fare, and we had rather a lovely meal with some very pleasant wine. Once dinner was over, we hot-footed it back to La Bodeguita with the live rap and people were spilling out onto the pavement. Inside, there were two DJs and 2 rappers and they were very good! There was, as far as we could gather, a lot of Spanish local political lyrics that were met with many a wry laugh from the audience. Those of you who know me will probably guess that I am no rap aficionado, but Andrew almost got carried away….
We loved Vejer de la Frontera, and enjoyed our stay in La Botica. As we walked back to collect our car, we both felt rather sad to be leaving; some places just have that capacity to charm. Mind you, it was the devil’s own job trying to work out how to exit the town, given that the main road out was completely blocked off. I had visions of being stuck here eternally, in the company of La Cobijada….