The vast continent of Africa almost touches Europe at the Strait of Gibraltar – the mountains of Morocco are tantalising close, and seen from the Andalusian coast, one feels as if one could reach out and touch them.
From here, the stunning ‘Costa de la Luz’ begins, running along the south west of Andalucía’s Atlantic coast – the Coast of Light.
So looking for a peaceful and relaxed weekend escape, we headed to Tarifa, a bohemian port city on this wonderful coast, a town that is the gateway to some of Spain’s most idyllic, unspoilt beaches. It’s been a favourite part of the world for me for over a decade, yet there are always new things to discover.
The Riad boutique hotel was one such recent discovery. Although at The Luxury Editor we certainly like refined elegance; and urban glamour too, but sometimes we also love some relaxed, bare foot, boho chic too! And The Riad fits the bill perfect perfectly.
Tarifa, in the southern Spanish province of Cadiz is at first a somewhat unassuming town – a slightly down at heel fishing and sea port that offers one of the fastest and shortest ferry crossings to Morocco. This is because it is at the southernmost point of Continental Europe, where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet.
It’s a popular destination for lovers of the undeveloped beaches of the Costa de la Luz, providing some of the finest wind and kite surfing in Europe thanks to the proximity of the European and African continents that often funnel and accelerate wind.
The town is easily reached by road from the nearby airports of Malaga, Gibraltar, Jerez and Seville. Its old town, with its original Arab medina city walls and traditional arched gateway, the Puerta de Jerez, has a real, authentic charm that hasn’t been eroded yet by upscale gentrification. The main street is lined with period buildings, and dominated by a simple, yet beautiful 16th century church. Tarifa has plenty to offer, from architectural sights to cool beach bars, eateries and small hotels. This is a place with plenty of individual style – with a vibrant, non-conformist energy.
Off, up a narrow side street one finds The Riad – aptly named as this ancient house, with its delightful internal patio courtyards perfectly captures the flavour of this part of the world, where North Africa and Southern Spain meet.
Welcome and Check-in
One of the great distinctions of small hotels is typically the team, and at The Riad that’s certainly the case. Serafin, front of house and also responsible for sales & marketing was there to greet me. He’s a wonderfully warm, friendly and funny Spaniard – who also speaks English. His colleague Montse is equally friendly and relaxed and together they provided a genuine welcome.
The entrance and courtyard were elegantly fragranced with incense.
A warm Moroccan tea was served for us in the cool patio courtyard. Stylish seating hugs the ancient walls, whilst low tables and embroidered cushions complete the Mediterranean/North African feel. A small water feature and plunge pool offers a cooling effect throughout the space. This light-filled area is open, up through the house to an automatic opening glass roof.
There are plenty of architectural and design features that give The Riad a truly distinctive and stylish ambiance. Yet the touches are not heavy handed – less is more. Fresh flowers, interesting furniture and simple yet elegant decorations combine to create a cohesive look.
The second internal courtyard features a beautiful vertical garden.
Whilst admiring the striking oxidised metal chandelier, I get talking to Serafin again and learnt that as part of his instrumental role in opening the hotel, he was also behind many of the key design decisions.
We were taken up to our room, climbing the polished plaster stairs, which at each open landing offered lovely glimpses down to the patio.
Our room was number 9, with window doors on both sides; one pair opening out onto a small Juliet balcony over-looking the very quiet pedestrian street; and another set opening out onto a Juliet balcony on the internet courtyard.
The space was cool, light and smart. The look, pared-back and simple. An exposed brick and stone wall provides interest and textural warmth, whilst the open plan shower room echoes the North African theme with its traditional, authentic tadelakt plaster.
The floor was of vintage style tiles that matched the coloured plaster of the walls.
There was air-conditioning, as well as wooden shutters on the windows keeping the room deliciously cool. Complimentary mineral water was in the room.
Free Wi-Fi provided in the room and in the hotel. There was limited hanging space for clothes.
The focus is also on the details that really count in a small hotel – a very comfortable bed with luxurious linens; thick towels and smart Korres bath and body amenities.
In-room yoga, and massage services are also offered.
Room 9 is one of the best rooms in terms of orientation. As is common in a Riad style property, most of the other rooms face inwards, towards the cool internal courtyard. Each one has its own identity thanks to different colours of plaster work, tiles etc.
The Roof Terrace
One of the wonderful features of this intimate property is its stunning roof terrace. Decorated with Moroccan style sofas, cushions, tables and lamps, the terrace offers views across the rooftops old town, from the ancient city walls, the church right over to the lighthouse and the ocean.
This is where we met the lovely Natasha, a bilingual team member that hosts guests during the weekend. As a trained interior designer she has also added to the look & feel of the hotel with some lovey details.
There is an honour bar – with a selection of beers, wines and spirits. It would have been good to have seen some gourmet snacks on offer too.
A traditional, relaxed and informal Spanish breakfast is served on the floor below, in the all-weather-terrace where in the afternoon there is also complimentary homemade cake, with self-service fresh coffee, teas and mineral water.
Breakfast includes rustic bread topped with gourmet Spanish ham, fresh tomato, jams, breads, cake etc. Freshly squeeze Andalusian orange juice, coffee and tea are also offered.
The Riad is a welcoming, friendly, and stylish boutique guesthouse/hotel for lovers of simple luxury in a boho seaside town that has thankfully escaped the attention of developers or mass tourism.
Bed and Breakfast is from about 90 euros.
Address: Calle Comendador, 10, Tarifa 11380, Cádiz, Spain
Tel: +34 856929880