As a cat stretches out luxuriously on the back of a sofa, in the early morning sunshine, confidently at home, is the way I first saw La Nava del Barranco, a terracotta house lounging on the highest hill around. The view came and went through trees, up and down dips on the leisurely long track from the road. I liked what I saw.
Bouncing up the track, Jose Manuel, my driver was in his element, his home and natural habitat. Pulling out his Walkie Talkie he said ‘Cocina, cocina – kitchen do you hear me? We are arriving.’ A little odd I thought but soon realised that was the signal for the staff to go to the front door.
Pulling into the large forecourt with an ‘Alhambra style’ fountain in the middle, (‘Alhambra style’ long and narrow), there were several members of staff in tailor-made uniforms waiting to greet us at the amazingly huge and gorgeous ancient wooden front door. Hence the advance notice every time, a personal welcome on every return.
I was the first of our press trip house party to arrive at La Nava in the heart of Castilla-La Mancha. My bag taken and my room shown, I wanted to explore. Forget unpacking my bag (I always do) it’s out with the camera, I make sure I photograph my room before my bag disgorges things everywhere. I’m never quite sure how that happens. Maybe my husband can clarify that.
With a grand entrance foyer and lovely long corridor leading to big glass opening doors for tons of light, and so many gorgeous little charming nooks and crannies, I didn’t know where to start.
Every room was personally named, Senora 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, charming details. Candles galore, family photos, as this is a family home too, and details, beautiful details. I took a peek in some rooms but then heard a scurrying of staff heading for the front door to greet more press trip arrivals, I went to do the same.
Arriving from Madrid the majority of the group ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ rather more loudly than I did, they are Spanish, but I have to admit it’s difficult not to. I do so without quite so much arm-flinging enthusiasm.
From smiling staff, the hospitality oozes, discreet yet there. A drink? Anything? A glass is barely emptied before being refilled, not always a great idea! Look around inquisitively and there’s a uniformed member of staff waiting to please.
After a brief explanation by Beatriz Pastrana the owner of Events of Excellence through which La Nava del Barranco operates we toured the house, and yes, I got to see every bedroom. Thank goodness I’d left mine tidy. Each unique, every one with glorious views and lots of light letting nature seep into every corner. Pastel decor and earthy tones with pristine white sheets dominante everywhere. Understated luxurious charm rules La Nava.
The lounge where Beatriz introduced herself, her company and the flagship 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 where to go. Another extremely well thought out design, at which La Nava excels.
Through an enormous wall of glass I see a never-ending view which via a door draws me outside into the fresh March sunshine. 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 Jaen in Andalucia, yet, even after all the years of living in rural Spain its impressiveness doesn’t fail to seduce me.
Man’s hand in this view is only the terrace and 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 tasted 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 had been a long time since breakfast, yep, I ate it all, we went on a photo safari. Piling in the estate’s jeeps off we went down bumpy tracks into the middle of nowhere. It’s a good job it wasn’t me that had to navigate our return. Unspoilt nature abounded. Silent and raw. Startling many pheasants, taking tons of photos and seeing lots of deer with no wild boar in sight, I didn’t mind that, we entered a clearing. ….
And in pure La Nava style – Wow! A fully dressed table in dappled sunlight with twittering birds and sparkling glassware. There was an antique washstand for pre-lunch wash and brush up although there is also a charming purpose-built toilet block with all the necessary toiletries. Hard to believe we were in the middle of nowhere. No need for a tree pee here.
With the stunning ‘Out of Africa’ scene, monogrammed director chairs and cameras clicking the awesome service and meal began. Salmorejo (always a favourite of mine, but his topped the bill with crunchy jamon, a first for me, garnish, 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 was 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 saw 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 hadn’t ended.
Back to La Nava and our welcome commitee. 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 have preferred local ones or at least Spanish.
With curtains drawn (or door closed) the pièce de résistance was unveiled. The dining room had 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 sat and soon misplaced the perfectionism, but what romance, I wouldn’t have been surprised (or have minded) if Mr Darcy (the original Colin Firth of course) walked into the dining room to join me, sorry, us.
Dinner, fortunately as we’d been eating all day, was as light as it was 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 have done with a few more nights to experience all that La Nava excels at. The games room and gym, scalextric and snooker table and sauna will have to wait until next time too. The massage melted away the abundance of wine and the lack of sleep (an age-thing, when not in my bed..) in the very comfortable four-poster and set me up for breakfast with a view.
After a drive to a nearby waterfall, I choose a walk over horse riding and quads, then back for a wine tasting (that’s another post) and lunch on the terrace, again carefully laid out, but we weren’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 glass walls .
All too soon the party broke up, guests starting leaving for reality of home and the all to brief ‘house party’ stay came to the 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.