beaches of the costa de la luz

we are on our annual family holiday in Vejer and its hot, hot, hot….if you cant get up early, then the only time to go to the beach in spain is after 4pm in the summer;   but once you’re there, you can sunbathe right up til 8pm, then stay for sunset dinner on the beach.

my favourite beaches in andalucia are El Palmar – popular for surfing in the winter and the local beach to our village of Vejer de la Fronterra;   its quite a long beach and the waves can be strong, but the sea is fresh and exhilarating.  we tend to go to the far left of the beach by the chiringuito Guruguru, which is a little bit quieter.   Zahora, hidden away, this natural beach is within a bay, so a bit more sheltered than the wider open beaches and is perfect for children;  however, when the tide goes out, its very shallow with lots of rocks, but this beach is shorter and has been described as being in the caribean;  cabo de Trafalgar, is the famous beach from the battle of Trafalgar, totally unspoilt with nothing built on it – lots of kite surfers feequent this beach when the conditions are right for surfing – a finer sand its completely unspoilt;   Zahara de los Atunes is a  fishing village by the sea with a long windswept rugged beach, popular in the summer with tourists – there is a lovely bit by the old town and a long stretch further down towards the newer apartments;  we like to eat in the hotel Don antonio and then sit on that part of the beach after;  Canos de la Meca is  a smaller hippy beach, again a bit sheltered, but very busy in the summer – only worth going to out of the busy august period;  the far end is rugged with cliff tops but also attracts nudists.  Conil is more built up than the other beaches, but has a fantastic long wide beach and the sea is perfect for wave jumping – again, the end nearest Vejer has a bridge that takes you to a wilder non built up part, but the other end has 2 fantastic eating places right onto the beach;   Bolonia is a great beach with the added attraction of some Roman ruins, dunes and the odd cow or horse stepping out on the seafront; – if you go left its quieter with cafes on the cliff top, right are the ruins.  Tarifa is hip, young and a magnet for windsurfing and kite surfers, but also has the wonderful dunes nearby;  between Tarifa and the dunes is the beach Valdequeros, which has a fun beach bar;  La Barossa has more hotels around, more built up, but again a fabulous long beach; San Lucar de la Barrameda is an old fishing village by the sea, famed for its seafood – its one of our favourite towns in spain – not at all trendy, just full of locals from jerez and seville searching for the famous prawns.  Seek Bajo de Guia and eat at casa Bigote – classic traditional food that is always of a high quality.

making lists

i can’t live without lists –  i dont do them on my phone or computer, but just have an old fashioned hand written one by desk – in fact, i have a long ever-growing list that has long term wishes and to do’s by my computer, a new daily list of the most important things for me to do that day, all written very big just so that i dont forget!  i have a list of what house things need doing – windows repairing, door knobs falling off etc…  a list for the grocery shopping – i wonder if i have some kind of disease or obsession?  i get great satisfaction ticking or crossing off what i have achieved and re writing the new (and hopefully smaller list).    one thing that I have learned is that if you write a list of everything you want to do the next day just before you go to sleep, you tend to sleep better – i have been known to wake up in the middle of the night remembering something important and writing it in the dark, you remember the strangest things in the middle of the night!  i tried the reminder thing on my computer, but just found it annoying popping up on my computer, and automatically clicked it off!   i love that nature sends you little messages, these 2 leaves were hanging on the wall outside my kitchen window!

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loving this heat, though the only drawback is mosquito bites!  they are such a pain.  next time i go away somewhere exotic, i vow to try  taking b12 vitamins – apparently mosquitos dont like them.    we tried everything, from citronella oil, lavender and mosiguard but i always end up using jungle formula or mosiguard – so much for my natural organic products!  this year i am using avon skin so softly dry spray oil as an aftersun – i had heard that it really keeps the mosquitos at bay . unfortunately i dont have an avon rep (my mother in law used to do this), but you can get it on the internet and its very inexpensive.

for something natural to stop the swelling and itching, try a mixture of german chamomile, lavender and melissa oil – pour a few drops into some almond oil – it really does help.  otherwise good old benadryl and germolene cream definitely does soothe (it depends how natural you want to be).  taking the homeopathic remedy apis is a relief, the problem is you need to travel totally prepared and so your medicine bag becomes heavier than the rest of your luggage.  to go back to homeopathy, i now take a couple of pulsatilla pills as the plane ascends and descends and i find that this definitely helps with the pain in your ears.    high potency arnica is also a great remedy for jet lag. my whole family thinks homeopathy is witchcraft and a placebo, but as i have been homeopathic for over 25 years – i really do believe that it helps.  anyhow, they still pop the pills when i give it to them, so they must believe in something.

i have always seen carole ingram as a homeopath and caroline harper, who does these introductory courses in basic homeopathy.


one of my favourite little hotels is the hurricane hotel – its perfectly situated right by the sea, away from the bustle of Tarifa town with its own little beach and a short walk from the lovely beach of Valdequeros and the dunes.   the rooms are basic but just all you need – its the situation of the hotel and its lovely tropical style grounds and pools are charming.   there is a good buffet lunch with a terrace overlooking the sea and its a great spot to base yourself for travelling around the costa luz beaches and popping into Tarifa town.


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one of the least well known of the spanish cities -built on the atlantic coast, its crumbling buildings are reminiscent of havana.  fishermen line the coastal walls to catch their daily fish ;  you must visit the fish and fruit market – slightly spoiled through recent renovation, but still a wonderful sight to see the whole slabs of fish.  wander through the many stalls of locals selling their freshly picked home grown herbs and veg – anything from camomile flowers, chestnuts, sage flowers to wild asparagus.  its great to see that market life is still in abundance, when in many cities, the growth of the supermarkets has killed local trading.  i love the fact that spain still has shops that solely sell one thing – scissors and knives, tobacco and cigarettes.   its also a great place to buy the typical flat soled espadrilles – nowadays everyone seems to make them with high wedges. our favourite restaurant is el faro – faded old school tradition and a bit more sophisticated, its your chance to dress up and leave behind the flip flops.  on your way out of cadiz, stop at their sister branch, el chato but purely to take a late afternoon swim.

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have spent weeks looking for swimsuits – so difficult to find ones that fit well.  finally found one in j crew, they have a big range online, but not many in the store, but if you go and try on the sizes and shapes, you can then find your size online.   i really like the simplicity of the costumes from eres swimwear, but the prices are so high – its also about finding the right amount of coverage at my age – some of the ones in cos and top shop looked fine, but no support at all.  another company with great costumes is sea folly – their one piece costumes are quite flattering styles.   now i can’t wait to get into the sea!

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horse riding

more interesting things to do whilst in andalucia. what a great way to enjoy the sunset – horse riding along el palmar !  i only wish that i had the confidence, but the kids just love it.   i keep saying that next time i visit spain, i am going to book a course of horse riding lessons.  marian gives all the kids the freedom and enthusiasm for learning to ride and you can book 2 hour rides along the beach .  otherwise, you can try montenmedio, which is about 15 mins from vejer and they do a course of horse riding, plus lots of other activities.  they also have some interesting art exhibitions, so its worth a visit.  you can also do a course at casa siesta on their natural horsemanship programme, which also rescues horses – perfect introduction for those afraid of horses – a friend recently did the course and raved about it.


for an interesting day out – then go to  Sanlucar for the horse racing – start with lunch on the beach at Baja de Guia, in one of the many restaurants facing the estuary.   all the restaurants seem to have these modern water sprays which intermittently spray fine jets of water, making you feel that you are in a tropical jungle mist or in a sauna.   its a noisy and typical spanish day out – but great fun with the kids.

There are usually 4 races, with about 6 to 8 horses, and each one lasts not more than a few minutes.  its great fun, betting with the numerous kids who  set up betting shop;  you could bet with sweets or max one euro.  when you pay your one euro, you get an ice pop or a few sweets in return and a ticket saying what horse you bet on.  each betting station (quite punch and judy like) draws its own line on the beach, and its the first horse at that line that wins you your bet.   there are races coming up on 3rd august, so if you are around, you must put it in your diary. usually  start around 6.30pm, but it is dependent on the tide going out, as they clear that part of the beach to make the racecourse. its all very haphazard in spain, no health and safety barriers, just a plastic net dividing the racecourse from the sunbathers.

Afterwards, you must drive back up to the old town and sit in the lovely main square with its  fountains and palm trees;  people sit out all day enjoying the balmy weather.

my favourite hotel to stay in Sanlucar is the Posada de Palacio, right in the historic old town, its a converted palacio, and not too expensive.  It has beautiful courtyards and lots of arbabic influences.  another recommendation is  Palacio of Medina Sidonia – its  a hospederia.  Their website doesn’t really do it justice and you have to book via email , but a friend who knows the area recommends this.
Even if you don’t stay there it has a lovely garden with a cafe where the great and the good seem to go for their elevenses!  They also do tours of the Palacio – on Sundays til 1 pm