“A cosy small hotel in an undiscovered white village, with fabulous walking trails amongst mountains and forest, and Ronda just 18km away”
Extremely comfortable rooms come with the best beds (kingsize or twin), the crispest linen and simple white-washed walls. There are comfy rocking armchairs, terracotta-tiled floors and excellent lighting. Decor is fairly simple, but attractively so, with cast-iron mirror frames from Morocco and beautiful art throughout. Sylvia, who lives in the village and helps in the house, brings roses from her garden to add a touch of colour.
All rooms have balconies. One at the back of the house looks over the courtyard and up at the next-door church. The Best Room and Mountain View rooms at the front of the house have views that pour over village rooftops and out onto the valley; crack open a bottle of wine and sit out on your little balcony, mesmerised by it. There are no TVs - you won't want them here - but all the essentials and treats are on hand: bathrobes, fluffy towels, apples by the bed and minibars. Books are left in bookshelves and there’s tea and coffee making facilities. A couple of rooms have bathtubs, as well as the showers that are present in every ensuite, and the soaps, gels and shampoos are made from olive oil.
Responding to guests' demands, there are also sketching materials in every room so you can try your hand at capturing the inspirational views from your balcony.
The dining area opens onto a small whitewashed courtyard, where you can eat in summer, with pots of colour all over the place and the church bell tower gazing down on you. Breakfast is a real feast. You get homemade bread, freshly-squeezed orange juice, exciting jams, good strong coffee and local cheeses, plus eggs on request.
Dinner is the main event though. Di does slow food, whatever’s in season, much from the fields around you. There’s a daily set menu, but she'll talk you through her plans and make sure you get something you like. When we first stayed, we had grilled chicory with a Roquefort sauce and Serrano ham, duck in a Seville orange sauce with garlic mash, followed by frozen lemon cake. When we revisited in 2013, we had an amazing Chorizo Inferno (individual flambeed skewers of chorizo, served with a delicious Mexican salad), followed by melt-in-the-mouth magret of duck with pomegranate molasses and roasted root vegetables. Local strawberries with a divine honey mousse finished things off perfectly. House wines are extremely good - red, white and rosé; if you want something a little fancier, you can have it. We heartily recommend you eat here a couple of nights - see Rates.
Cartajima is tiny - church, shop, and a couple of bars. Bar Amalia is run by Baltazar, a local, who throws open his garden and turns it into a bar and restaurant. Here you can get simple yet excellent Andalucian food. They pluck produce from their garden, maybe aubergine and long green peppers, fresh tomato salads, then fish, meat and seafood. Visit the surrounding villages, such as Parauta for great Spanish country fare - wild boar, rabbit, and local lamb or Alpandeire for restaurant La Casa Grande which serves simple but sophisticated dishes. Or if you want something more refined, drive into Ronda (about a 15-minute drive) for a night on the town. It has loads of choice - Mexican, Italian, Chinese and of course some fabulous tapas bars. Di and John can recommend.