Living in Spain

We absolutely love living in Spain!

OK, so it hasn´t been a massive amount of time but we are loving it all the same!

It´s all very real now! I get up and go to work down on the coast and Matt goes to the land to work for the day! We meet at home, make dinner, repeat! Its all very normal, except the sun shines, the food is organic and fresh, people are happy and we are on our massive adventure!

Bryn´s nemesis!
Bryn´s nemesis!

Bryn is loving life! He hates the rain and would refuse to go out at home. Here, there hasn´t been many rainy days so he is in his element. He gets walked miles every day and has made lots of friends. He likes our land the best. He has an excellent view of the cabra (goats!) from the top terrace  and keeps his beady eye on them, warning off any that attempt to stray too close to his land! I think he thinks he is a goat, making daring climbs up ridiculously steep banks on our walks!

The scenery here is just amazing! Just walking out of the front door we have the Sierra Lujar on the left and the Sierra Nevada on the right. The constant chatter of birds is sometimes deafening, the music of the goat bells is magical and the mating frogs nearby are…well…loud! Owls hoot at night, the mules have a shouting match and there are only clear skies where more nights than not, you can see the milky way!

What can I say?
What can I say?

Yep, I think it´s safe to say that we are happy! We have met many lovely people! Some we´ve only spoken to once and others we see regularly. We have met people from all over. Who do all kinds of things. Everyone says hello in the street! We have had offers of help, and the lending of tools and time as well as lunch, coffee, cake and broken Spanish chats that have been truly enjoyable. We have loved struggling with the language. Gesticulating wildly in the street with the handful of words we know. We have branched out from individual words, to sentences and even full blown conversations! At least we think we have! Granted our vocabulary strictly contains words about gardens and tools, piping and plumbing but we are getting there.

We haven´t had much time to stop and miss everyone back home yet! We have had volunteers come and help us, an old friend come and stay, my parents come to visit, I´ve started a job teaching, met lots of new people, matt has been busy on the land and meeting new contacts, friends and like minded people, two of our best friends are coming to visit in May then more friends in June. We are so lucky to have support coming at us from all angles.

It hasn´t all been a bed of roses I will admit! The first house we stayed in was, let´s say, lacking in the cleanliness department, had been wired by god-knows-who! For a week I was getting static electricity shocks from everything, and couldn´t work it out! Turns out the house wasn´t earthed (which is just great for me with a pacemaker), the sewers backed up and all was looking a little dim (especially with the eventual lack of any electricity)! But then we moved to another place short term until our yurt arrived. Our yurt then didn´t arrive so we had to rent somewhere else….and then the yurt turned up! But, where we are staying is just beautiful, and if the yurt had turned up then we wouldn´t have had the opportunity to experience another part of town or countryside! We are living next door to a lovely Spanish couple with their young daughter, three dogs and two chickens!IMG_20160420_192614020_HDR

So this is our adventure story so far! I will update about individual projects we´ve been tackling when I get a chance. Life is getting in the way at the moment, and I don´t feel bad about that at all!

Hasta luego!

 

Looks like we’ve made it! Dog in tow!

Orgiva
Orgiva

So we have finally arrived! We are in Spain, in Orgiva, and it feels soooo good to be back. We have driven through four countries to get here (Wales, England, France and Spain) and in my humble opinion, was well worth the drive rather than flying or getting the ferry.

Bryn all cosy in the van
Bryn all cosy in the van

We had quite a long drive UK side to even get to the Eurotunnel but tootling along in our van with the dog in the back was a great option. We had time to enjoy the countryside the whole way down, stop when we wanted to, and when Bryn needed to stretch his legs every hour or so, we could stop when it suited us!

I was a little apprehensive about the drive as I was doing all of the driving. This is why we decided to take five days over the journey. But as it turns out it has been absolutely fine (dare I say, enjoyable?!) We travelled about 4/5 hours a day (apart from the initial push on the first day which was 7 hours) and we stayed in some beautiful places along the way.

Here’s our route.

Day 1 – South Wales to Eurotunnel, Folkestone. Onwards to Rouen.

A two hour drive (through heavy rain) to Rouen where we booked the cheapest hotel we could stay with the dog. We stayed at Ibis budget hotel in Rouen and it was perfectly fine (clean and basic) for somewhere to rest our weary heads after a long day before getting up the following morning to go again.

Day 2 – Rouen to Dirac (about 8km from Angouleme).

The drive took about five hours, not including any stops. We arrived in our stunning hotel about 7pm. We stayed at Relais de Silence Domaine du Chatelard near Dirac, and what a bloody treat!

Relais du Silence - quite the treat!
Relais du Silence – quite the treat!

For the price of a basic B&B in the UK we had pure luxury! We couldnt quite believe they would allow the dog in but they were really excited to see us (well, mainly Bryn to be honest). As it turns out, the restaurant was absolutely fantastic and we had the most beautiful meal (and lovely bottle of red) with fantastic service. It wasnt what we are used to, but as a treat, was amazing!

Oh dear god!
Oh dear god!

The hotel is surrounded by a beautiful lake which we walked around the following morning (and where Bryn got to display his epic swamp monkey skills) before setting off again in our trusty van.

Day 3 – Dirac to Salinas de Ananas (Basque)

Another five hour drive to a wonderful Casa Rural near the salt plains in Basque country in the north of Spain. We stayed in Madera y Sal which is a recently renovated casa rural. I can highly recommend staying in this beautiful town and fantastic casa. Zuri and her husband have lovingly restored this old building over the last 14 years and it shows that its all been done with such care and love. We had the whole casa to ourselves and had a superb breakfast to set us up for our journey ahead (Spanish omelette, bread, fruit, fresh juice, salsa and of course some of the local salt). Again, we went for a walk in the morning around the salt plains which has much charm in its ugliness.

Only photo we have - shame!
Only photo we have – shame!

The beauty of the landscape is a huge contrast to the salt works, but the village is stunning and the mountains, breathtaking.

Day 4 – Salinas de Ananas to Toledo.

Up until now the drive had seemed a doddle, but today, although the drive was four instead of five hours, it seemed longer.

View from roof terrace in Toledo
View from roof terrace in Toledo

We arrived in Toledo while it was still light and the sun shone the whole way down. We checked into Apartamentos Alarife which was five minutes walk from the cathedral, smack bang centre of Toledo. We had fantastic views over the city which was great as we didnt actually have time to explore the city. Matt had a terrible nights sleep so we got up early and set off again on our final stretch.

Day 5 – Toledo to Orgiva.

Again, the drive seemed long today. It was four and a half hours long but seemed much much longer. Saying that, we were so excited to cross into Andalucia and drive through the snow peaked Sierra Nevada that we forgot how tired we were when we realised we were on the home stretch. After Granada, I knew the way, and took great pleasure on turning off the sat nav to enjoy the drive. Before arriving in Orgiva we stopped off at our new house to walk Bryn along the riverbed at the bottom of our land. He seems to approve (which is always good). We then drove into Orgiva and stopped for tea in our favourite cafe (Baraka) before getting our keys for the house we will be staying in for the next few weeks.

And that’s about it. I can highly recommend the route we took. If we had the time and the money we would have preferred to stay in each place for more than one night, just to be able to experience each area fully (or at least more fully than we had the chance to). The Eurotunnel was easy, although a bit weird driving onto a train.

Driving onto the Eurotunnel
Driving onto the Eurotunnel

Also, by by taking our time I didn’t feel completely exhausted after our trip.

Bryn dealt with everything so well. He was comfortable in the back of the van (we took the window from the bulkhead so he could poke his head through) but we did worry about him as he didn’t eat for the first three days. He usually goes on hunger strike when we are away and we made sure he was drinking plenty of water but after three days, we weren’t happy. He was refusing his food so we bought him some meat and of course, he gobbled that straight up. This must’ve got his appetite going because he ate from that point on. We didnt take his bed into any of the hotels (Relais du Silence and Madera y Sal supplied a dog bed for Bryn) so that when we arrived at our final destination he would know, because we brought his bed in. This sounds so silly, but it did seem to work. He settled straight away in the house in Orgiva, whereas it took him a little while all of the way down.

So now all there is to do is enjoy Dia del Andalucia on Sunday/Monday and get stuck into our new community by enjoying shared paella and flamenco dancing before getting stuck in end of next week to clearing the land and visiting the local seed bank, starting off our summer veg and welcoming our first volunteers.

The endless move!

I always knew that moving house was super fun! I’ve moved more times than I’d like to remember. But this move…..

…This move has been epic!

Not only has it taken us longer than most moves as it had to happen in stages, but we also managed to turn it into some kind of weird comedy sketch show with me throwing out my back yesterday and having to drag Matt out of bed shivering and sweating with the flu to sort everything out with his dad and brother.

So this move started, really, back at the beginning of the year when we had to have major sorting times, decluttering times and massive downsizing times! These were the fun times (who knew at the time that this was the easy part!!!!? Not us…No-Sir-ee). So we shipped our relatively small amount of stuff to storage to be sent out to us in Spain at a later date! We were releaved to get this over with, now all we had to do was live like squatters with a matress as our bed, sofa and dining table, while sorting out the rest of the crap we had left behind! Easy-peasy! Pfft!

Where did all of this stuff come from?

I am very aware that most of the stuff is mine, not Matts. I had a huge room filled with teaching resources, arts and crafts things, teddies, puppets, laminating pouches, laminating machines, books, masks, Happy Birthday singing hats (yes, more than one??), reams and reams of velcro…and that’s just my teaching stuff! I had also managed to bring with me a huge bag of documents to be shredded from THREE houses ago (does it even need shredding anymore when the address doesnt match up to the name….good god!!!!) And so much other crap that there’s nothing to do but vow to change my ways!!!!! And I must change my ways!

On Saturday we hired a big van (as the doors on the back of my small van had miraculously decided to not open!) Cue sequence of events to turn our escapade into comedy nightmare! We moved LOADS! Two massive van loads to the recycling centre, a load to the charity shop, some stuff to my parents and other stuff to Matt’s dads. We moved all of this stuff while dealing with the most horrific flu we have ever experienced. Trying to lift heavy stuff when you feel too weak to lift your knife and fork is never a good thing! So we moved endless stuff while sweating and shivering, looking ghostly white and feeling like death but we did it! We HAD to do it!

By Sunday the house looked pretty empty…but its a big house. A big, deceiving, mean house that actually wasn’t empty at all! There are fitted cupboards everywhere and these were, yep, full of stuff! Stuff, stuff STUFF! So gradually, while Matt was left to sweat it out in bed, and me recovering from the evil flu, the house got emptied over the next few days and Wednesday was the day to clean and remove any last stuff that was hanging about, lurking!

Think Spain, think Spain, think Spain!!!
Think Spain, think Spain, think Spain!!!

By this point we were completely knackered, drained and pretty clammy! Our mantra has been ‘Think Spain, think Spain, think Spain’ it’s been keeping us going throughout the whole process. That and watching Permaculture documentaries, and humanure and greywater recycling videos on youtube (hey, whatever floats your boat right?)

We made an excellent start, upstairs the boys removing the endless stuff, me in the kitchen cleaning. We had music on, cracking on doing our duties and we decide we’ve earned a break! It was a nice day so we sat in the garden musing over our current predicament of the house not being as sorted as we’d hoped, when I get up to get back to it and BOOM! Holy fudge I’ve knackered my back!

 

Oh God! I had to lay down….I was out of the game! GAME OVER!

There was nothing I could do but be driven away to our temporary bed and to stay there stewing while the boys got on with it! And get on with it they did! What champions! I am so grateful to them and my friends who rallied together to help at the last minute!

So we are now out of the house. Our stuff has been stored ready for shipping and we have a few weeks of the nomadic lifestyle before we leave for Spain! It has been quite the adventure so far and we havent even left the country yet!

I am never, ever, ever moving again! Or at least if we do, then it wont be such an epic move as in our new house we are going to live an organised, minimalist, no-crap-laying-around, tidy kinda lifestyle that’ll be easy to pack up and move! Ha, yeah right, we can all but try! As my mother will probably say, “I’ll have to see it to believe it”, and I’d be inclined to agree!

Pre-move musings

I’m sitting here gazing out at Swansea bay. removal menInternational removal men been and gone! House is empty (ish) and Im looking out at our magnificent view wondering why I haven’t done more of this; just sitting and watching the tide go in and out! Our views in Orgiva are spectacular but I will really miss our views of Swansea. Within a thirty minute drive we can visit amazing beaches on the Gower, fantastic mountain walks, resevoirs, rivers, canals, and waterfalls. National Botanical Gardens of Wales and a shed load of castles!

Why are we moving again?

Ah yes, be able to live the life we really want (and be able to afford it), to be able to live off grid and become self sufficient! And the weather helps too! Plus we are exchanging good views with a-ma-zing views!

Wales is my home and always will be! I love it! I am Welsh through and through! And so are all my family! I speak Welsh and speak it every single day! I want our (currently non existent) children to be able to speak Welsh.  I will miss my friends and family so much but we really won’t be that far away! Plus, everyone wants free accommodation in the sun right?! So I’m sure we will get plenty of visitors!

Bryn house empty
It’s OK Bryn!

We will be sad to leave our house too! It’s been a happy three years living here! It’s been a really chaotic three years, but we have overcome so much here that we are also happy to be moving on. It’s bitter-sweet! It looks so empty at the moment that I now can’t wait to get moving!

As much as I’ll be sad to leave Wales, I am so excited to be diving head first into a new culture, country and language! I love that this is an adventure all of our own; just me, Matt and the dog! Its all ours! And so, if it all goes wrong then we only have ourselves to blame. Ha! On the other hand, we can claim major glory points WHEN it all goes well! I’m a glass-half-full kinda girl so I’m going with the latter option and all the glory points!

We have so much to do between now and getting to Spain, that our new home in Spain seems so far away (sigh!) I suppose I’d best get back to packing! It seems the story of my life at the moment. I think I’ll just finish my cuppa before getting up from this view though! I will miss this view!

 

When all your plans change…

 

IMAG3381

….kind of!

So we have many many changes to our original plan which was; get the builders in, we would fly down in February once they had done their basic work, we put in a kitchen, bathroom and tile the whole house and then its pretty livable. Then we were going to get our stuff delivered, then bring the dog down!

This isnt quite how things have worked out!

Best laid plans and all that….!

We’ve decided to drive down, through France and Spain with the dog and take 5 days over it. We’ve bought a small van to drive down with; and use for building materials when we are working on the house and I can get back and forth from work in it. We are hoping to rent a yurt for a month or two until the house is habitable.
I’ve given up on chasing buiders, im OK with the relaxed spanish attitude but I think we just need to be there to get anything done…which in hidsight is a much more sensible idea!
burnt windowSo we have decided to start clearing the upstairs ourselves when we get there. This involves, clearing the upstairs of burnt rubbish! Taking the render off the walls, pulling up floor tiles, cleaning the ceiling and getting rid of the burnt polystyrene thats stuck to the whole ceiling after the fire. While we are battling this we want to get in touch with our builder to do the downstairs work while we experiment with insulating with Hempboard and attempting to render upstairs. We are also going to tile the floors ourselves using natural terracotta tiles. We have chosen these tiles for a few reasons; they are the traditional flooring used in the area, they are ‘easy’ (ahem!) to lay and are more forgiving of a first time tiler. We will also seal the floors and so will be easier to keep clean. We are going to use the same tile throughout the house (upstairs and down) except in the bathroom where we will use decorative tiles.

Something like this?
Something like this?

We are not really intimidated by attacking the work ourselves, but there are some elements that we need skilled people to do for us. Like laying sewerage pipes and plumbing after removing the concrete floor downstairs, and cutting a hole in the ceiling to accommodate the stairs. I say we aren’t intimidated by the work but we haven’t got there yet so I’m sure it will be a shock. I am sure we will get there though. It will be slow work but actually it means we have greater control and can experiment with environmentally friendly materials other than the cement which was the only option given by the builder.
We are happier doing it this way, plus we will save some money (which is always good!) and be imensly satisfied with ourselves when we complete the project!

So, these are our plans. We still have to pack up our house here in Wales (we are very nearly there!!!) and be out of our rental house soon. So, as much as we can dream about our Spanish plans, we have a lot of work to do before we get there. This moving country malarkey is like a full time job!

Let the adventure commence!

After much to-ing and fro-ing we finally own our home in Spain!

We are so excited that the adventure is moving forward after many a set back. The Spanish law of ‘one more document’ couldnt hold us back! No sir-ee!

It’s now all systems go with getting the builders in….although the mañana mañana relaxed attitude (which I love) is probably going to drive me crazy when dealing with builders as we are kind of against the clock.

The basic building work needs to be completed by the end of February at the latest so that we have a month to get a bathroom and kitchen in, as well as receiving our (not yet) packed up stuff from Wales, before I start work in April.

I have been really lucky in getting four weeks work not far from where we will be living. It’s a good start, and a definite step forward from where we thought we would be work-wise!

So now all that’s left to do is pack up our home in Wales!
No easy task!
It’s not just a case of throwing everything in boxes because we don’t want to take most things with us! We have muchos crap! So we need to declutter our large three bed semi into 250 cubic feet (about the size of a quarter of a single garage) hmmm!!! This task is made even more difficult in that I cannot throw anything away…we will have piles for donation for refugees (SHARP in Swansea), piles for the local charity shop, things that don’t belong to us that have ended up in our house that need to be returned, and I’m sure I have friends who need my old crap…yes? There will also be a (hopefully) small pile for the tip. And we will need to sell some furniture and sellable crap.
I am not looking forward to this mammoth task. The problem is starting. I have spent hours looking on Pinterest on ‘how to declutter your home’ and ‘reorganisation hacks’. I am queen procrastinator. I know exactly how to declutter my home, I dont need pinterest to tell me. But the pictures are so pretty and its much easier to visualise the house being packed up rather than actually packing up the house. Hmff!

Well, I suppose there’s nothing for it but to get going on the ol’ packing!
Wish me luck!

Fire!!!

So, we received news that no first time buyer wants to hear! “There’s been a bit of an accident” – Oh God!

The sorry tale goes like this…

We’d had an offer accepted on the house after completely falling in love with it in the summer. It had lots of work to be done, but we were OK with it. We figured we could take our time with it while living in the upstairs flat while doing downstairs; the house is split into two flats but had been left half done.

Inside; before fire
Inside; before fire

But then we get an e-mail from our agent saying there’s been a fire!

A what now? A FIRE!

I won’t go into the ins and outs of how it happened, just know, that it definitely happened! After much inner (and outer) turmoil over what the bloody hell is going on we decide to go back to the negotiation table. New price settled, we book our flights back to Spain to asses the damage.

upstairs burnt main room

Yep, there was definitely a fire, but do you know what? We still loved the place, so we decided to carry on with sale. We must be bloody mad. Matt asked if I thought he was actually going crazy, but we concluded that if he’s crazy, then I’m crazy, so let’s go and be crazies together in Spain!

The damage is actually cosmetic. There was bare polystyrene on the ceiling and fabric on the walls so when the fire started it literally just went up. It didnt burn for long so the damage is cosmetic; even though it looks horrific! There are four rooms upstairs, they all look like this. But downstairs was untouched (as the flats are still separate) so that’s still as it was. Phew!

upstairs burnt view from bedroom into main room

So this is our new home. Isn’t she a beauty? It’s a shame about the fire, and I have been a little bit concerned about bad juju, but we’re going to make such happy memories here that any bad juju won’t stand a chance!

Just need to start the MAJOR cleaning operation now! That should be a few days of epic fun times!

The project

So…we’ve bought a house! And its a do-er up-per! In fact its a bit of a mess. The kind of house your parents see and have huge question marks appear over their heads as their faces look on blankly! Yep, that’s the kind of house we’ve bought… and its lush!IMAG3381

The house isnt connected to mains elecricity and neither does it have any sewerage so that’s high up on our list of priorities. It does however have a delightful ‘black hole’ toilet outside which I have nightmares about just lifting the lid let alone sitting on. So a flushable toilet is a need of mine. We had many a discussion over whether we should have a humanure toilet or not, but I have managed to convince Matt that if we recycle our grey water a flushable toilet is definitely my preferred option. He agrees, as long as we can have a compost humanure toilet in the garden…deal!
We are opting for an uber solar system. It’s going to be a fairly large financial outlay initially but will mean no bills, which is definitely the way to go for us. We will have a battery storage system and it will run our lights, fridge, computer and washing machine! This, I am excited about. We visited the guys that will be building our solar panels and they run their warehouse completely off grid, build the panels themselves and its generally an awesome set up they have there! They are confident that they can build us an expandable system that will eventually be able to run the electricity in the ruins too (we are planning to renovate the adjoining ruins into holiday accommodation for children with Autism, but more of that another time).

We have opted for a septic tank to dispose of our waste. Again, we also discussed a reed bed to filter our waste water but logistics and the way the land is set out means this isnt really possible. We do want to minimise how often the tank needs emptying by not flushing toilet paper, and there is also some kind of eco-ball (I havent done very much research on this) that you put in every month or so to help break down the solid waste.

12200852_10156312855120089_1300244934_n
Inside

The house at the moment is split into two flats, with no connecting stairway. The flat upstairs (where the fire was) needs to be completely ripped out; including the render on the walls and walls being knocked down. We need to cut a pretty big hole in the ceiling to accommodate the stairs, rip up the floor downstairs and level it.

Upstairs before the fire
Upstairs before the fire

Downstairs also needs the stairs to be built, and plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom. The whole place needs new windows and doors too. This is the work the builders will be doing for us and we will be finishing the rest; building a kitchen, putting in a bathroom, tiling, crafting internal doors, painting and finsihing off.
*As a side note. Anyone got any cost effective alternatives for levelling a floor apart from using concrete? Suggestions will be muchly appreciated (virtual hugs will be given!)

Once finshined, the house will have two bedrooms upstairs with a toilet, and downstairs will have one big room to include the kitchen and living areas and a seperate bathroom and storage area.

But these are all theoretical plans at the moment. I can see us turning up after the builders have left to sit in our empty shell in Spain and laugh…or cry and think ‘what have we got ourselves in to?’ but im also sure we will soon get over that and get stuck in to our dream project. Fingers crossed.

I’ll be updating this section as and when we do different projects on the house. Can’t bloody wait!