Saturday, 28 June 2014

Gaspar Sobrino and Kath Hockey - beautifying Vejer.

Returning to Vejer after a stay in London, I was happy to catch two Vejer events on my first day back, the re-opening of La Palomita delicatessen and Kath Hockey’s new show at Chokolata. Beauty needs no adornment and you might think that adding art to history and natural beauty is gilding the lily, but these two artists have contributed to the town's attractions in very different ways.
Gaspar Sobrino with his latest project.


La Palomita (Los Remedios), a popular delicatessen and supermarket for many years, closed last autumn, causing speculation that the business had been abandoned or sold, a disappointing prospect for those who relied on it as a convenient source of wine and gourmet foods in the centre of the old town. The news that it was not only to re-open, but to be reborn with a new design and layout by decorator Gaspar Sobrino, was very welcome.
Sobrino, whose long career as a interior designer includes contracts with fashion chains Zara and Massimo Dutti, has already made his mark on Vejer with his gloriously inventive designs for the restaurant Las Delicias and the remodelled Mercado de Abastos. His own Vejer house was featured on this blog a few months ago. Now he turns his attention to a retail space where he has created a practical design which nevertheless bears the unmistakable Sobrino stamp, a welcoming blend of fantasy and organized clutter where every inch of space is utilized and every glance reveals some
fascinating detail.

La Palomita has morphed from a small supermarket with a wine shop and a good choice of local hams and cheeses into a stylish delicatessen where shoppers can sit at window tables to sample the produce and watch the world go by on Los Remedios outside. Gone are the yoghurts and the frozen foods – the shop now focuses on the best of local and regional produce, served by attendants in smart new kit, complete with bow ties, and the meat-slicer is a focal point of the design. The shop will delight visitors and residents and adds yet another feature to Vejer’s unique profile.

The owners of Chokolata, which opened its new tea-house earlier this year, are well aware of the importance of good design, and the space is currently hosting a new exhibition by local artist Kath Hockey. Kath is a largely self-taught artist who also trained at Chelmsford College. Her calm townscapes, some of which are available as picture postcards, are now part of Vejer’s iconography, but Kath works in a variety of styles, often featuring animals or everyday objects in vibrant designs, notably the ubiquitous orange butano canister. Her strutting cockerels have been stencilled onto several Vejer walls. The work is well-priced, with prints from 20 Euros, and Kath’s designs are also available on cushions in two sizes.

Kath’s work will be on display for the next few weeks and visitors who visit Chokolata to see it will have the benefit not only of seeing some interesting art, but of ordering from a wide range of specialist teas and coffees and enjoying them in beautiful surroundings.



Thursday, 12 June 2014

Vejer de la Frontera - the prettiest town in Spain?. Photos by María Muñoz.

Since last year, publicist Sergio Lucas has been conducting an inquiry entitled 'Which is the prettiest town in Spain?' Online voters are asked to vote for their favourite town and Vejer is currently at number 6.
If you like Vejer, I hope you will vote.

Spain is crammed with beautiful towns, each with its own special charm lent to it by nature or the work of man. I love Montefrio in the Province of Granada, where the church is built on a hill-within-a hill, and you can look down on the spire as you drive into town. Baeza and Úbeda in the Provence of Jaen contain so many Renaissance buildings that they have been declared a World Heritage site and both Arcos de la Frontera and Ronda nearby are set in astonishing natural surroundings. I could name many others.

Nevertheless, nobody will be surprised to learn that in my view, Vejer de la Frontera is the most beautiful town in Spain. Its beautiful buildings, stunning views to all points of the compass and the charming intimacy of its winding streets give it an enchantment I haven’t found elsewhere.

Part of Vejer’s charm is intangible and comes from the warmth of its residents. Some of it derives from the care and imagination so many Vejeriegos give to their homes and businesses and the tireless maintainance of patios, window boxes and terraces which goes on all through the year. The Ayuntimiento also plays a part, encouraging residents to preserve the town’s characteristic whiteness and maintaining public buildings.

It might therefore surprise some people to know that until the 1970s, parts of the town presented a fairly dismal prospect. Many houses were empty and derelict, the walls and towers were in disrepair and some of the whites were decidedly grey. It took the imagination and dedication of one man to begin the process of reclaiming our heritage, and that man was  Antonio Morillo, the crusading Mayor of Vejer.
Some of the whites were decidedly grey.

Antonio Morillo was Mayor for seventeen years between the 1970s and 1990s and while in he was office,
The young Antonio Morillo
Vejer was transformed. His mission was to reclaim the architectural heritage of the town and to present it to the world as a homogenous example of a traditional Andalucían walled pueblo.

During this time, the walls, towers and public buildings were restored, concrete paving was replaced with cobbles and some of Vejer’s most attractive features emerged. The area around the Arco de la Segur, which contained a row of houses, was cleared, and the present mirador was set into the wall.

Not everyone was happy about this, as they were rehoused at Buena Vista in the new part of town, away from their familiar surroundings. Nevertheless, the new mirador has given pleasure to many people and has provided invaluable public space.

Since these improvements were carried out, Vejer has proved attractive to several generations of tourists, 
Morillo the author
and hotels, restaurants and hostels have sprung up meet their needs. Very few people who visit nowadays fail to be impressed. Once nominated the ‘Second prettiest town in Spain’, in 2013, Vejer was formally accepted into the network ‘The prettiest villages in Spain.’


Vejer has inspired artists, writers and photographers, and in this blog, I am grateful to Maria Muñoz for the opportunity to use some of her photographs. Whether Vejer reaches number one in the current contest or not, thanks to the efforts of many people to care for this beautiful town, it will always be the most beautiful to its many admirers and friends.