Before the first light of dawn bathes the rooftops of Vejer’s old town, I open my eyes. I reluctantly shake off the sheets and climb out of my warm bed in Room #5 of the exquisite boutique Hotel Plaza 18.
It’s not easy…the magical cashmere English mattress, a heap of pillows, each with its own character and warm embrace… It may be hard to believe, but few nights of love can beat the experience of sleeping here. I gradually start to get dressed, gently, like a slow click of the shutter on my Leica camera, letting myself be carried along by the odd peace that comes with the sunrise on the coast of Cádiz.
I grab my camera and walk out of the hotel gate. Outside, it’s wet, creating a melancholic, beautiful scene. The early morning clatter of coffee cups from the bar opposite provides the street with its own soundtrack, mingling with the birds that begin to wake in the Plaza de España. I begin my walk by at this characteristically local, enchanted-looking fountain. The frogs around its edge dance with its water jets, welcoming the new day. “Ding, dong, ding, ding, dong…” The bell tolls, announcing that it is eight o’clock.
I head up the façade of the town hall, ready to walk through the archway and plunge into the whitewashed maze of streets. Panting, I struggle to greet a woman who looks to be about eighty, who tosses me a cheerful Cadiz “good morning” while blazing past me at twice my speed. I think about my life choices and why, despite being barely a quarter of her age, I can’t climb the hill with her ease. I stop to catch my breath and step through the archway. The light cuts across the whitewashed wall, creating a poetic play of space and shadow worthy of a museum.
I look through my camera’s viewfinder, hold my breath for a second, and shoot. I continue my walk along the street with the church, down behind the Arch of La Segur. Life in Vejer begins to sparkle. Charming neighbours greet me as I stroll down the cobbled streets, giving me a nostalgic reminder of the humanity that is so scarce in big cities. I continue along the “Calle Alta” (as the locals call it) and stop at the San Francisco market to buy some flowers from Isabel. She always has a funny story to tell and a huge smile to share.
With the flowers in one hand and my Leica in the other, I meet with destiny. It’s a little sentimental, but it’s impossible for me not to dream of a “FOR SALE” sign on the balcony of a house snatched from the Corfu of Gerald Durrell’s novels. I trace the city wall around the whitewashed labyrinth, stepping into Trafalgar Street. Halfway down the street is my dear Juani Marchan’s shop. An iconic Vejer artisan, with her charm, her hands and her joy, she gives life to traditional esparto decorations with her unique skill. We laugh together, she shows me the new carpets she is weaving with her hands and I say goodbye to her with jokes and kisses.
The sun has long since risen, and the sun bathes Vejer. I don’t know if it’s because of its light, its mist, its sounds or the smell of home, but no one could remain unmoved by the scene. I finish my morning walk, but not before sipping a Moroccan coffee in the Jardín del Califa; I couldn’t do it any other way.
This is my special guide to this charming, bright village. Now, I invite you to find your own. Just one recommendation: take it easy and let the only clock that guides you be the sundial of your footprints on the cobblestones.