Beachroad Magazine head to the windy shores of Tarifa in Spain, a little piece of paradise in the lesser-spotted province of Cadiz. Tayla Russel shows us around her new hood. Words by @tayla_tails and beautiful photography by @hortensiodiasclaros
Nina Simone once sang “wild is the wind”, her haunting lyrics of a dangerous desire now come to mind when I think of my little piece of paradise in the lesser-spotted province of Cadiz.You can’t talk about Tarifa without mentioning the wind; the locals discuss it furiously on every passing corner. For me, it’s less the ferocity of the Levante ruining perfectly good surf session but more how it shapes its wild yet perfect coastline.
“Let me fly away with you, for my love is like the wind”
Nestled in the nipple of Spain, the most Southern point of continental Europe this pretty little-cobbled enclave of Moorish tiles, hidden courtyards and a labyrinth of backstreets and bars has become surrounded by a growing town of tenement blocks and shiny new condo developments.
Tarifa, from the word ‘Tariff’ is the first port in history to charge merchants for the use of its docks (other sources pointing to the Arabic word ta'rïf, as its original incarnation), Its long history includes Islamic and Roman conquests, besiegement and battles, but now maybe she has another fight on her hands?
What was once known only to wayward travelers and water sports juggernauts has quickly picked up recognition on the millennial radar. Previously offbeat, now hip, the council spies € signs. Those of us who’ve chosen to stay away from the gaudy lure of other Costas want to fight to preserve the very magic that brought us here in the first
place. How do we find that balance?
Rumoured shoe-in investors are eyeing up the mileage of undeveloped coastline. If Nikki beach lands here let that be the council's hangover. What makes Tarifa so bewitching is its gentle yet ‘no shits were given’ attitude.
That being said tomorrow’s fear of sun, sea and sleaze still seems so far away in a town where the weather changes in a heartbeat. People are here for the now. Whether digital nomad, van lifer or hippy without a cause there is still so much to sustain our infatuation, even if we do hear the rumbling of an Essex accent and the distant flash of a neon Linekers sign.
“Don't you know you're life itself
Like a leaf clings to a tree
Oh my darling, cling to me
For we're creatures of the wind”
Daily life in Tarifa is a slow ebb and flow of onshore and offshore activities. Sunny days are for glorious red-bellied tuna tapa and ice cold cañas (small beers) in chiringuito's (beach bars) dotted from Los Lances to Valdevaqueros.
A first time trip is not complete without a visit to Tumbao, a converted container, DJ hut and grassy knoll pumping out cocktails, bare-naked breasts and Radiohead remixes from May till October. The ‘we don’t have wifi talk to each other ‘ attitude of its staff may come off as aggressive, but it can’t be beaten for spotting an Aaron Hadlow (Kite surfing’s very own Cristiano Ronaldo) or Susi Mai.
Away from the Valdevequeros tourist trap, Tarifeñas (locals) choose to pitch up for the day in the more humble chiringuito's like Agua or Waves. These two bars in stumbling distance along the Playa de Los Lances Norte serve up simple beach eats and refreshing ‘claras’ (beer with fanta limon- a must try), with a side of handsome kite instructor. You’ll find no budgie smugglers here; this is strictly board-shorts only.
Saturday nights and their promising allure of adventure, laughter, and enigmatic bearded strangers are spent solely in the centre of Tarifa's old town. Packed to the rafters with chatter and good times. You’d be hard-pressed to not enjoy a summer’s night out. Taco Way will no doubt feature in anyone’s trip, not just the infamous mojito hot-spot but now the name coined for the square of bouncing bars, tourists and Tarifeñas socialising until the wee hours or the sun-rise call to Café Del Mar. Less Ibiza super club and more industrial estate club-cool for late night dance heads.
If your nights involve more vino than jagerbombs then Tarifa has an abundance of café bars and restaurants to linger over. Dinner starts past 9 pm in Andalucía, nothing quite says ‘guiri’ (white northern European) more that ordering Roija over Ribera at your 7 pm sitting.
Travelers, city slickers, and hip Madrid types flock here in the summer months, with the whole of Spain on holiday in August, traffic is nightmarish and a table at the renowned ‘Bar El Frances’ impossible. Skip the obvious and enjoy one of the towns more local spots like Ola Ola with its carb-a-licious spicy chicken montaditos, or the Atun En Manteca (Tuna in Fat) of the much-loved Dos Mellis (not to be mistaken with Otra Mellis, but equally as good)
Step out of the comfort of Old town and discover the less well-trodden foodie spots of La Burla and Mic Moc. Two-port side restaurant bars covering traditional to international. La Burlas pork cheek stew is a revelation as is its deep fried prawn and cheese pinchitos. Where a few doors down Mic Moc takes small plate inspiration from Africa to India and a treat of veggie options to boot.
Outside of lazy days spent eating; meeting and imbibing (my perfect way to spend a day) there are plenty of options for the more adventurous. In fact, it’s the outdoor activities that bring the tourists in the first place. With Kite and windsurf being the biggest draw there’s also wind kayaking, hiking, whale watching and horse riding as options. How about some life coaching in-between your kite lessons? The Maybari project offers this service and more, including yoga, medicine music, and meditation. Sure to make anyone feel their holiday wasn’t just a wasted haze of Cruzcampo and extra long siestas.
As Tariffa grows exponentially, it attracts more and more of the eclectic to what was once a sleepy little town. If it has the feeling of the 70’s Ibiza, how can we learn from the drunk Brits and package deals to keep our windy wonderland growing organically and not push it to the extremes? The wind already has that covered. “For wild is the wind”