Vejer de la Frontera
We headed south from Trujillo, where it was hot, to Vejer de la Frontera, where it was hotter – approaching 100°. Vejer is a “pueblo blanco” – a white town, so named because it has been here for a thousand or more years and every building in the town is stark white, an effort to live with the hot sun here. There are many pueblos blancos in southern Spain and Vejer has been one of our favorites on two previous stays here. It was small, not overrun with tourists, quiet, with a hotel that we really liked.
This time: not so much. First, I made reservations at the hotel and chose to take an apartment the hotel offered. It looked beautiful in the pictures and had a private terrace overlooking one side of the city. Great…in theory. When we checked in we found the apartment was tiny (probably not more than 250 sq ft living space, on two levels); the bedroom had one small window that looked out, at foot level, on a busy pedestrian street and another window that looked onto the front door of a house; the stairs in the place reminded me of stairs on a ship: steep and narrow; and…well, it had several other problems.
We immediately went back to the desk and said we were not happy with the room, but the place was full (it has only ten rooms plus the apartment). So we were stuck. We said, “Well, let’s see how it goes tonight, see how we feel in the morning.” Then we walked out into the quiet town and found it was overrun with tourists. Our previous stays here were in September and now, in late August, tourist season was still in full swing. It was awful. (I am, of course, aware that two of this horde of tourists were Laurie and me, but we’re different, I’m sure.) At that point we knew we were not going to stay and I started looking on-line for alternatives. One that we liked: the parador in nearby Arcos de la Frontera – another white town that we’d visited years before and liked a lot – had rooms available.
The night was as bad as we feared. The bedroom was like a tomb, really. We couldn’t open the windows much, so it was hot-hot-hot, and claustrophobic to boot. Decision made! I went online and made a reservation at the Arcos parador, we packed up, checked out two days early (credit where credit is due: the manager of the hotel understood our concerns and was gracious and apologetic; she said she would help us find another hotel if we wanted and reduced the price on our room for the night we were there.)
Off we went to Arcos de la Frontera.
I’m not saying the streets in Vejer are tight, but the receptionist told me to drive down this road to a place where we could unload our bags. I got about a hundred yards down a steep hill on this very narrow street and found this car nicely parked. Now, I’ve become almost fearless about driving these streets, but I backed up those 100 yards rather than try to get around this car. Laurie kept her head between her knees the entire time.
The only nice thing about our 18 hours in Vejer: this view from our terrace.
Arcos de la Frontera
When we arrived at the Arcos parador, the nicest woman in the whole entire world (or so it seemed to us at the time) checked us in. We decided to opt for an upgraded room with a view and were glad we did. Here’s the view from our room’s balcony, which was about 6 ft by 20 ft.
We came to Arcos on one of our first vacations trips to Spain, maybe 16-18 years ago and enjoyed it. It also is a pueblo blanco, set on a high ridge, so the houses pour down one side and a cliff, on which our hotel sat, forms the other side. It’s a beautiful town. Going from a dump of a room to a beautiful room with a view didn’t hurt, either.
That first time we were here we stumbled onto a small bar/restaurant, Bar San Marcos. It was still there and still great. We had tapas for dinner there the first night and went back for lunch the next. That first night dinner was two tapas each, then two raciones (tapas but a much larger portion, and really, way more food than we needed) and a bottle of wine: $30. Next day’s lunch was three courses: a chicken and guacamole salad for a starter, grilled calamari for Laurie and pork steak for me for the main plate, and tocino de cielo (a wonderful custard) for dessert. With two beers each: $24. Really, $24 – not each, total for both of us. This wasn’t gourmet food, but it was good and tasty and well-cooked. $24.
We walked around Arcos and just took in the sights, doing nothing special. We’ll come back, even if just to stay in that beautiful parador again.
Arcos has some tight streets, too. This is the main street to the parador and a viewpoint at the top of the town. We saw a woman driving a small car stop, cross herself, and then enter this section of road. Really!
Many Spanish churches are of a style called Spanish Baroque, typified by extremely ornate and ostentatious decoration. We saw some of this in Zamora, none in Trujillo (too poor, I think) and lots in Arcos de la Frontera. The apogee (nadir?) of this style is in Santiago de Compostela, but Arcos holds its own.
Some sights from being out and about in Arcos:
Parking space was at a premium. Note that the two cars farthest away cannot move forward because there’s a foot-high wall in front of them. I have no idea what happens when one of those two need to leave. The most amazing thing is that we drove into this parking lot on our arrival and found a parking place right in front of the parador – legal, not blocking anyone, available for $7 per day paid at the parador.
A note about the “...de la Frontera” of these two towns. There are probably thirty or forty towns in southern Spain with “de la Frontera” attached to them. Eight hundred years ago the Spanish monarchs started to push the Islamic Moors from Spain. It took 300 years, culminating in the surrender of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabela in 1492. During that 300 years, the border – the frontera – continually and sporadically moved first south and then east. For years a town could be on that border and so add “de la Frontera” – “on the border.”
That’s it for Arcos de la Frontera. Although we did not plan to be here, we’re glad our Vejer challenge worked out as it did.