Jimena de la Frontera, nestled in the Andalucian hills of Spain is a quaint, rustic village with a unique charm. Situated within the province of Cádiz, the village is surrounded by the Los Alcornocales Natural Park and located 35km from the coast.
Within a few minutes of arriving in Jimena I fell head over heels in love with the place.
From the steady climb of the mountain road entering the village, you are greeted with local children playing tag in the village square below the bell tower.
As you navigate the narrow, winding roads, you pass by some older Spanish gentlemen sitting perched outside small tavernas enjoying cool cervezas. It was idyllic – it reminded me of the village of Macondo from One Hundred Years of Solitude, or how it may have been in this present day.
The heat from the beating sun was relentless but its glare highlighted the whitewash on village houses and was nothing short of beautiful.
The village sits atop some very steep and winding roads but my rented 1 litre Kia Picante did not fail me and I arrived safely in the village with only a few minor grazes to the wing mirrors.
My accommodation, La Vina de Linan was sheltered among thick trees at the bottom of the village and took some time to find – but, to say the very least, it was worth it.
I received a warm welcome from Moxy the cat, Chico and Sam the dogs and Cilla, the pig. Shortly behind were the owners Pat and Val.
Welcomed like an old family friend, I was invited to roam around the house as if it were my own, sample drinks from the honesty bar and relax in the pool observing the circling birds of prey high above.
The area is rather arid however, and in my walks I felt the need for a more suitable pair of hiking boots. Mine were rather thick skinned and kept me warm and sweaty most of the time. One of those lightweight desert boots would have been nicer.
I often escaped the heat to unwind in the custom wooden terrace which was perfect for squandering a few hours reading something from the villa’s book collection, accompanied by butterflies and wind chimes.
The pace of life in Jimena is slow and relaxed. I felt my worries and stress dissipate as I meandered up and down the village streets. The people are kind, relaxed and happy for you to set your own pace for exploration of the local sites.Luis and his Mama
If you visit Jimena, eating at Louie’s restaurant, Restaurante El Ventorrillero, is a must. Luis has come to an important realization, which many other restaurateurs sadly ignore. Customers appreciate the personal touch – it makes the food taste better!
As soon as I took my seat and drinks were ordered, Luis, the charming restaurant owner, approached the table. I was greeted with a warm welcome and a huge grin before he pulled up a chair and sat down beside me. He asked about the types of food I like, my favorite meats and vegetables and what kind of dishes I usually choose. He then detailed a range of delicacies that he recommended his “Mama”, the chef, make for me.
Luis spoke passionately of the local produce: wild boar, venison and wild mushrooms all from the surrounding region. I don’t know how he did it but he appeared to know my culinary palate better than I did, as every dish that he suggested was perfect. Pulling a black pen from his pocket, Luis scribbled his recommendations on the paper table cloth before disappearing to the kitchen. At no point did I look at a menu and I completely trusted Luis to tailor this gastronomic event.
It was the best meal I ate in Spain, and possibly one of my best meals ever. The food was cooked simply, delicately flavored with local herbs and Spanish spices such as pimenton. The deep fried manchego croquettas with apple chutney were unbelievably more-ish. I ate my meal leisurely while surrounded my village locals, singing and laughing, children playing outside the door on cobbled streets, whilst admiring the setting sun in the distance behind the hills. It can’t get better than that.I’m sure even Cilla would approve.