As a cat stretches out luxuriously along the back of a sofa in the early morning sunshine, confidently at home, is the way I first see La Nava del Barranco. A terracotta house lounging atop the highest hill around. The house comes and goes, like peek-a-boo, through the trees, up and down dips on the long, leisurely drive from the road. I very much like what I see, somewhere very much at one with its environment.
Bouncing up the track, Jose Manuel, my driver is in his element, his home and natural habitat. Pulling out his Walkie Talkie he says ‘Cocina, cocina – kitchen do you hear me? We are arriving.’ A little odd I think but soon to be revealed.
Pulling into the large forecourt with an ‘Alhambra style’ fountain in the middle, (‘Alhambra style’ long and narrow), there´s a line of staff in tailor-made uniforms waiting to greet us at the amazingly huge and gorgeous, old wooden door. Hence the advance notice every time for personal welcoming.
I am the first of our press trip house party to arrive at La Nava in the heart of Castilla-La Mancha. My bag taken, I´m shown to my room shown. Forget unpacking my bag, it’s out with the camera to make sure I take photographs before my bag disgorges things everywhere. I’m never quite sure how that happens.
With a grand entrance foyer and lovely long corridor leading to big glass doors for tons of light, so many gorgeous little charming nooks and crannies, I don´t know where to start.
Every room is personally named, Señora Webb sounds so much more delightful than Mrs. Webb. With every door left wide open to receive its guest for the night, my camera was busy. Lots and lots of lovely, interesting items. Candles galore, family photos, as this is a family home too, and details, beautiful details. I take a peek in some rooms but then hear a scurrying of staff heading for the front door to greet more press trip arrivals, I go to do the same.
Arriving from Madrid the majority of the group ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ rather more loudly than I, they are Spanish. I have to admit it’s difficult not to be thrilled but I do so with British reserve so much less arm-flinging, vocal enthusiasm.
From smiling staff, the hospitality oozes, discreet yet there. A drink? Anything? A glass is barely empty before being refilled, not always a great idea! Look around inquisitively and there’s a uniformed member of staff waiting to please.
A brief explanation by Beatriz Pastrana the owner of Events of Excellence through which La Nava del Barranco operates we tour the house, and yes, I get to see every bedroom. Thank goodness I’d left mine tidy. Each unique, every one with glorious views of uninterrupted nature and lots of natural light which seeps into every corner. Pastel and earthy toned decor and earthy with pristine white sheets and linen everywhere. Understated, luxurious charm rules La Nava.
The lounge where Beatriz introduces herself, her company and the flagship property La Nava is entered by beautiful wooden doors onto a raised platform. So almost like floating down the stairs, one can survey the room which spans out on two sides, and decide where or who to head for before descending the steps to alluring comfort and dare I say it – lovely details. I like the entrance, pause a while, not for effect and to be seen, but for that very point of being able to choose which comfy corner I want to head for. Another extremely well thought out design, at which La Nava excels.
Through an enormous wall of glass I see a nothing but pure nature beyond the swimming pool. A view which draws me close. It’s very difficult not to keep repeating ‘Wow’ at La Nava. A stunning view greets me. I’m not unaccustomed to raw natural beauty. I live in the Sierra Sur de Jaén in Andalucía, yet, even after all the years of living in rural Spain its impressiveness doesn’t fail to seduce me. I´m looking practically due south towards home with a vast wilderness in between.
Man’s hand in this view is only the terrace and the invitingly serene infinity pool, the rest untouched, unspoilt. Pure nature, pure air, pure bliss.
With everybody together, glass in hand, still admiring the stunning views we drift into the beautifully appointed breakfast/meeting room, from where the views still mesmerise, for a cheese tasting. Everyone has heard of Manchego, cheese from La Mancha, but no two cheeses or producers are the same. We taste five very different, and all excellent, cheeses, but no more now, that’s for another post – Is Spain’s Manchego Cheese the Best?
After the cheese tasting, which having been a long time since breakfast, I eat it all, we go on a photo safari. Piling in the estate’s jeeps off we bump down tracks into the middle of nowhere. It’s a good job it isn’t me that has to navigate our return. Unspoilt nature abounds. Silent and raw. Startling many pheasants, taking tons of photos and seeing lots of deer but (happily) no wild boar in sight, we enter a clearing. …
And in pure La Nava style – Wow! A fully dressed table in dappled sunlight with twittering birds, uniformed staff and sparkling glassware. There´s an antique washstand for a pre-lunch wash and brush up although there is also a charming purpose-built toilet block with all the necessary toiletries. It´s hard to believe we are in the middle of nowhere.
With the stunning ‘Out of Africa’ scene, monogrammed director chairs and cameras clicking, the awesome service and meal begins. Salmorejo (always a favourite of mine, but this topped the bill with a crunchy Jamon garnish, a first for me, Chickpeas with Lobster (another excellent first) and a Chocolate Fondant Cake that wasn’t too sweet (another star!)
There aren’t words to describe dining al fresco in such style. Pheasants came close, the sun moved around the shady glen, wine glasses refilled and the stage set – a designers dream.
While happy to sit all day, it´s very early March and the sunshine, though beautiful was beginning to wane taking away that glorious early-year heat. So back in the jeeps we see more of the enormous estate.
La Nava ‘do’ style. Needs are catered for before you know you have them. A stop at the top of a hill to watch the sun go down with a table, complete with linen, more food and drinks. Sitting on top of the world, the sun (and heat) slowly sinking, wrapped in the blankets provided, looking towards my ‘homeland’ of Jaen, Andalucia just a few mountains away was idyllic, and still the day hasn’t ended.
Back to La Nava and our welcome committee. It´s time to change for dinner, blankets and caps off, finery on. To bathe or not to bathe, to shower or … hard choices at La Nava. Large walk in shower, seperate loo (with a door, always a preference of mine!) and a full bath with L’Occitane products. Very nice too, but I would prefer local ones or at least Spanish.
With curtains drawn (or door closed) the pièce de résistance unveils. The dining room has undergone a most glorious transformation. Another enormous wow factor. Beautiful, stunning, awesome, inspiring. What can I say. Just another perfect stage set. A sumptuously laid table with exquisite tableware, natural foliage, candles, monogrammed cutlery. A joy to behold, we sit and how romantic. I wouldn’t be surprised (or mind) if Mr Darcy (the original Colin Firth of course) walks into the dining room to join me, sorry – us.
Dinner, fortunately as we’d been eating all day, is as light as it is excellent. The service and atmosphere wouldn’t be amiss in Downton Abbey, all impeccable.
What a day, what a setting. La Nava del Barranco offers superb service, amenities, location and exclusive privacy. I didn’t get to see the private runway, the archery, stable block or quads. I could do with a few more nights to experience all that La Nava excels at. The games room and gym, Scalextric, snooker table and sauna will have to wait until next time too. The morning massage melts away the abundance of wine, and the short night in the very comfortable four-poster, and sets me up for breakfast with a view.
I choose a walk over horse riding and quads, then it´s back for a wine tasting (that’s another post) and lunch on the terrace, again carefully laid out, but we aren’t so lucky with the weather and beat a retreat indoors to the warmer comfort of the lounge for coffee and those incredible views from the inside the now closed glass walls .
All too soon the party breaks up, guests start leaving for reality of home and the all too brief ‘house party’ stay comes to an end. Hopefully it’s au revoir and not goodbye to a very special family and family house whose motto is
‘difficult problems will be resolved in a flash and as for miracles just give us five minutes.’
Thanks to all and to an excellent event by Events of Excellence.
La Nava del Barranco is a shooting estate, the shooting season is from October to the end of February, it is then open to private events, weddings, house parties and family gatherings only through Beatriz Pastrana and Events of Excellence. Thanks to La Nava and Event of Excellence who hosted my stay.