Interview with Mercedes Ramírez, manager of Califa Casas: “I work to travel"
Today we chat to Mercedes Ramirez, one of the Califa veterans. Born in Cadiz, she lives in Conil, although she has lived almost all of her 44 years in Vejer. She is the eldest of three sisters. She has three nephews, two boys and a girl. First for her? The family, "especially her mother". Her father died when Mercedes was 22 years old. From then on, she remained the head of the family. That "made me even more family oriented,” she says.
She likes to eat and “a beer, if it's with a sunset, better". Her downfall is chocolate. Passionate about languages, she speaks English and German, a language she has been studying for five years. A hardened traveller and a restless soul: "I work to travel", she confesses. It is her greatest passion. She has visited several continents such as Africa, South America and Asia, although the latter is the one that has marked her the most. Why? The people there are very poor but very happy," she replies. "You don't have to have many things in life to be happy," she adds.
During one of her journeys to India
I love getting to know other cultures, tasting the gastronomy of the destinations I visit. Travelling is living and learning. It makes you more humble," she explains. She defines herself as intrepid and adventurous. "When I travel I like to rent a motorbike, get lost, run out of petrol, get fined...", she laughs. Mercedes is also committed to good causes and shows us her solidarity by telling us that she has been collaborating with the NGO Acnur "for four or five years".
Headstrong and constant and with a lot of willpower. “If you chase something you’ll catch it“, is one of her main mottos, "if not in one year in four". But "without haste, at this point I'm not in a hurry at all," he says. Mercedes Ramírez flees from routine. "I need something other than work, home and family," she says. That's why Mercedes dedicates her free time to hobbies like puzzles, “a big addiction" and crafts, "like dream catchers," she says as she shows photos of her latest accomplishments. “But I don’t sell them!“.
An all rounder
Mercedes looks back to talk about her career. She studied Administrative Vocational Training in Vejer, a training that ended with very good grades, "close to an eight", she says. "I would have loved to go to University", explains this Cadiz born woman at the same time as she remembers her first employment contract, at approximately 20 years of age, "in a furniture store in Cadiz". Her second experience was in "a supermarket in Colorado", where she ended up as the store manager.
Your pending subject? English. That's why when she was 27 she decided to pack her bags and leave Conil for England to learn the language, where she spent "more than a year in a factory working, occasionally as an au pair, in a theatre in London and even as a cook". An experience that is not exempt from the most varied anecdotes. In this last work she explains that it was in a kitchen that was in a very big house for people with mental problems, "every time I saw some of the patients arrive, I hid all the knives that were within my reach", she recalls humorously.
Fourteen years ago Mercedes returned from England to Conil. It was April 2005. Encarni, office and admin manager at the Califa, offered her the opportunity to be part of the Califa's staff as a waitress at the El Jardín del Califa restaurant. In spite of "not having taken a plate in her life", Mercedes accepted. It was the springboard of a trajectory that has only grown and evolved since then.
Mercedes with colleagues from the Califa in 2006
"I started as a waitress for three seasons. During that time I started taking care of the restaurant group bookings, doing some office work. In 2008, I was offered to go to the new hotel in Los Caños de Meca, el Hotel Madreselva, as manager and I accepted," she says.
Photo form 2009 at the Hotel Madreselva with one of the chamaeleons that frequently come down from the neighbouring Las Breñas Nature Reserve
After ten years as a manager at Madreselva, Mercedes is currently in charge of the Califa Reservation Dept. and is the manager of Califa Casas. An "all-terrain" worker, as Ramon Fenoll, the Caliph's HR manager, calls her. "I don't drop my rings for nothing," she says (an Andaluz expression!). She's been through all the company's departments, which she's happy with because she knows it all. "That would be ideal, that everyone went through all areas, to put themselves in the place of others," she says. 14 years of trajectory in total, "the same years that I have been with my partner", who is as adventurous as she is. He loves meeting people from other countries and dealing with the public. She confesses that she "has a good way with people. There are clients that I met when I was in Madreselva and they come to Vejer to see me and they even call me on my saints day“, she says with great satisfaction.
Mercedes during one of the first Califa management meals
Always learning, this is Mercedes' secret: "I like to learn new things. Throughout my professional career I've been learning constantly because all the challenges I've accepted were new to me," he says. Another secret, the sense of responsibility that “my mother instilled in me since I was nine years old". An evolution that has gone from the bottom to the top. "Very few people get where they want, not because they are not good, but because they don't work hard enough o get there”. The Califa is very important to me. They have trusted me and I will always be grateful. The best thing about the staff? With James and Regli you can talk about everything, they are very understanding," she says. "Mercedes is very good at public relations and administration as well. Everyone loves her, she's a hard worker," says James Stuart, CEO of the Califa.
Mercedes is responsible for the complete management of Califa Casas, from “dealing with the owners, through the organisation of maintenance & cleaning of the houses, supervising that everything is correct, changing the profiles and prices on the sales channels (Booking.com etc.) and meeting and greeting guests. Mercedes is also the Califa reservation manager managing the day to day pricing of the four Califa hotels in Vejer and Los Caños de Meca.
Califa Casas was born in 2018 due to the growing demand for accommodation for long stays. The initial idea was "more than five nights, although there are houses that we offer from two nights, depending on the time of year. Customers who want to stay longer in Vejer prefer to do it in a house instead of a hotel," says Mercedes. They are "charming" houses, located in the medieval centre of Vejer and chosen with great care by the team of the Hotel La Casa del Califa.
The difference with respect to other similar accommodations in the area? The service "is spectacular, the best in the whole world", says Mercedes with a smile. Attention is paid to the smallest detail, "from the moment the client makes the reservation. If they have a problem at the house, customers have my phone or the hotel phone and we are available 24 hours a day," she argues. "All with the peace of mind and guarantee offered by the Califa Group. Both the client and the owner of the house forget about headaches because we take care of everything," she says.
Califa Casas began with three houses. This year three more have been incorporated. So, at the moment, there are six houses with excellent views, traditional architecture and an interesting story to tell. Aljibe, Arco de las Monjas, Brigitte, Clara, Castillo and Las Cuadras, Ramírez's favourite. As for the origin of the clients, "there are a lot of people from outside Spain, but in summer there is a lot of national tourism".
A secret? Making reservations through the website ww.califavejer.com is cheaper.
* Your next destination is - Australia and Indonesia
* The least I can stand - the cold
* A challenge - getting my German language diploma
* She has a predilection for - maqluba, couscous and moroccan pastries.
* One of her best moments at the Califa - A trip to Morocco with colleagues in the early years of the job. And the company staff meals, always fun!
Mercedes on an excursion to Tangiers with the Califa team.