November Brings the Snow on the Mountains

Well after a very mild October November finally brought us the cold air and snow high up on the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  We managed to postpone the lighting of the log burner until 2nd November but then our resolve broke and we now have a warm snug lounge every evening when we light the fire.  The days continue to be bright and sunny with the odd day of rain but the temperatures have certainly dropped.  One minute we are walking about in shorts, t-shirt and sandles and the next we are in jeans and jackets!  The nights are drawing in now and by 6.30pm it’s dark so we make sure Ginger gets her walk before the light goes.

Work continues on the top floor and the landing area is nearly finished – Phil has worked really hard to get this done and we are off this week to get stair tiles ordered so he can carry on and fingers crossed by January we will have a completed stairway & landing to the top floor.  Then work commences on the 3rd bedroom & bathroom.  Fingers crossed by May this might be finished.  We are already starting to think about renting the rooms out and you may have noticed by our website that it’s been reconfigured with some info. about the Guesthouse posted.  This is a work in progress and subject to continual updates until we are ready to open but it gives an idea of what will be on offer.  So if you fancy a long weekend break or a few days up on the ski slopes give us a call and we will get you booked in.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS & BEST WISHES FOR 2010

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.  Hope you all have a great Christmas and our very best wishes for 2010.

We had a great time seeing family & friends at the beginning of December when we flew back to the UK for 4 days and enjoyed our stay at the Swan Inn in Mountsorrel – especially as it is our old stomping ground where we used to drink regularly when we lived in Sileby.  Phil made sure he consumed plenty of Theakstons Old Peculiar to make up for a lack of real ale available here in Spain!!!  We also sampled some excellent Christmas ales & Old Rosie cider at Weatherspoons in Loughborough!!!  It was lovely catching up with friends and generally having a chill out time away from the work on the house and the satellite work.

This December has been much busier with satellite tv work than previous years in the run up to Christmas and has kept us busy since our return from the UK.  Today (23rd) we have nothing booked in and so I am due to make my batch of 70 mince pies to distribute between our Spanish neighbors.  In the meantime Phil is carrying on with the work on the new guest bathroom which is virtually finished now and after Christmas I need to put a second coat of paint on the guest bedroom walls and then tidy it up and move the bedroom furniture in there from upstairs.  At least by the start of the new year we’ll have a new guest bedroom & bathroom finished ready for family & friends who want to visit.  The next job after that will be to remove the floor to the azotea (top floor of the house) and replace with a solid concrete & beam construction with new staircase.  The last really big messy job to do.  There is still lots to do but not quite so big as replacing a whole floor area.

As I type I can report that after a VERY dry autumn the rain has arrived with gusto – we’ve had nearly a week of solid rain and so far Xmas Day is looking dry (possibly) before more rain arrives.  The farmers are all sighing with relief and we are hoping that with all this recent rain the snowboarding conditions on the Sierra Nevada will be good for Xmas Day (if we can get up there – hopefully the roads will be cleared but we have snow chains ready if needed – not that we’ve used them before – not the easiest of things to fit, especially with cold hands).  We bought our Xmas Day steak back with us from the UK and went to our favorite family run butchers in Syston – Gamble & Hollis.  We panicked when we saw that their old butchers shop had closed but after walking through Syston we saw they’d moved to new, larger premises on the main road near the brook, and felt a waive of relief that they were still around (they are always busy and their meat is very good, the shop is always busy and so we were sure they hadn’t closed down).  We also have some parsnips now for our Xmas Dinner thanks to one of our regular customers who we went to do some work for yesterday – they visit Gibraltar on a regular basis and had some parsnips that they bought back from Morrisons and kindly gave us some.  We bought a Xmas pudding back with us as well as the steak and so now have everything we need for our perfect Xmas Dinner (you can get frozen brussels here so no problem there)!!!

Fred & Ginger are still with us and our neighbor Louis fed them for us when we were away and made a shelter for them to use.  They weren’t far away when we got back and were soon up the stairs to their comfy dog beds near the fire!  Since Ginger had here op (to prevent more puppies!) she’s put on weight and is looking good.  Fred unfortunately has been diagnosed with Leishmania (a parasitic blood infection which cannot be cured, infection carried by sandflies) and struggles to put weight on but he does eat so he’s keeping him self nourished.  He gets tired very quickly now and if he goes out running in the campo with Ginger for the day the following few days he spends sleeping and regaining his strength.  However despite his illness he’s doing well and we are making sure he is looked after well.  We know he won’t have a long life now but at least he’ll have a comfortable one compared to this time last year when they were sleeping rough in the campo.

Well that’s about all for now.  Hope you have a great Christmas and I’ll update the blog again in the new year.

Lots of love

Mel & Phil 😉

SUMMER IS HERE!

 

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since my last posting – where does the time go!  Well Spring arrived and the countryside was a riot of colour and smells – almond & orange blossom, lilac, roses, wild lavender to name but a few.  After such a cold wet winter the campo sprang into life once the weather warmed up and everywhere this year is so green and lush.  The Beznar reservoir is virtually full (not seen for many a year as there has been very little rain over the last few years) and the ski resort has had it’s longest and best season on record.  This years Fiesta de la Cruz at the beginning of May was full of colour with the locals in traditional dress and loads of decorated wagons (more than other years I can remember) and the weather was perfect.  The traditional free paella & beer went down well with the locals and the village was full of visitors.

We can now report that the olive press we donated back in May 2006 to the local town hall has now gone on display at the top of the village and we have been told that the full set of millstones we also donated will be used to form the new water feature/fountain in the lower part of the village.  We are so pleased everyone can now enjoy these as they are part of the villages rich history.

P came out for a week and the weather was just about right for her visit – not too hot and not too cold – just right for sunning on the terrace.  We had a nice trip to Seville and got to see the Plaza de Espana – very impressive, although the moat was drained of water so no boats on it but we did see the restored Wacky Wagons used in the 1992 Feria which are dotted all around the plaza.  We tried to track down some of the bars we visited on our last trip in 2006 but they seemed elusive to find so tried out some different ones.

One of the other places P and I visited was the Spa Baths in Lanjaron and partook of some of their treatments – very nice.

Phil’s been busy working on the new guest bedroom & ensuite bathroom on the ground floor and has also fitted the new flue for the new log burner/central heating system and some of the pipework.  He’s not sure he’ll get it up and working for this winter but will do his best.  We’re also working on the new entrance porch and front door which hopefully will be done by the autumn (there are other things we need to get on with during the dry months on the outside of the house so work on the inside will grind to a halt soon).  We’ve got nearly all the new windows in now and new balcony doors and they have made such a difference – no draughts and easy to clean!!

We’ve been semi adopted by two lovely local dogs (brother & sister & we’ve named them Fred and Ginger) who’s owner doesn’t seem to want them anymore, so between us and our neighbour we feed them and give them some love and affection.  If we are working in the house then they come inside and snooze on the mats and if I go for a run they sometimes come with me.  They are a cross between a spaniel and a hunting dog and considering they are street dogs they are unbelievably well behaved. Unfortunately the female is on heat now and has had all the local dogs after her so no doubt she’ll be pregnant before too long.  What will happen to the pups we don’t know – our neighbour might be able to find them homes.  As we haven’t got any land it would be difficult for us to take them on so we do what we can by helping to feed them and giving them some attention.

The temperatures are now on the up and after a couple of cool days this week we are now on the way back up to 30 degrees plus so can safely say Summer Has Arrived!

Well that’s all for now – hope everyone has a great summer and we’ll update the blog sometime in the autumn.  In the meantime any friends or family can keep up to date with us on Facebook and check out some of our photos.

Hasta luego

Mel & Phil 😉

Spring Has Arrived with the Almond Blossom

After having experienced the wettest and perhaps coldest winter for many years it appears Spring has arrived at last with the stunning sights and smells of the almond blossom in and around the village of Pinos.  Walking in the campo during February is a wonderful experience with the hillsides a swath of white and pink and the heady scent of blossom in the air – it lifts the spirits every time you venture out doors.  The orange and lemon trees are heavy with fruit and the olives are ready for harvesting.  The cooperative at the top of the village is busy with local farmers bringing their olives to the mill and cars are parked up along the road waiting to off load their harvest.  The countryside is waking up after the winter and starting to come to life – soon the locals will be harvesting the oranges and by April/May the countryside will be a riot of colour with the wild flowers in full bloom.  As we’ve had so much rain this year the hillsides are looking lush and green and the reservoir is well over half full and still filling up.  Once the snow high up the mountains melt it will no doubt be nearly full – relieving three years of drought the area has been experiencing.  Between now and May is, in my opinion, the best and most colourful part of the year here in the Lecrin Valley and if you are an outdoors person into walking, biking, birdwatching, painting etc. then this is the time of year to come and visit! We consider ourselves very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.

Almond Trees in BlossomAlmond BlossomAlmond Tree & Oranges

Direct Hit On The Hermitage

At the beginning of February we had some prolonged heavy rains (about the same time everyone in the UK was battling with winter blizzards and the heaviest snow for 18 years) and in the early hours of Monday 2 February the rain was accompanied by thunder and lightening, then suddenly just as we were dozing off to sleep there was a flash of lightening followed immediately by a loud crack of thunder and we both said “f**k that was close I wonder what it hit”.  Eventually we dozed off to sleep and it was only later on the next day that we discovered that the lightening had hit the hermitage above the village and totally destroyed the cross and the roof.  The following day I, along with quite a few other villagers, decided to take a walk up and look at what was left.  There was a sign at the bottom of the track advising people to stay away in case anymore of the building collapsed and there was a fence across the path, however this didn’t stop anyone as we all know where the back way up to the path is and soon there was a steady stream of villagers climbing up the hill (this climb isn’t for the faint hearted as it’s pretty steep and takes about 45 minutes but they’re a fit bunch around here).  When we finally arrived at the top of the hill we could see first hand the damage the strike had caused – I didn’t fancy climbing right up to the remains of the building and stayed at the bottom of the steps but quite a few took their life in their hands and went right up into the wreakage.   I took a few photos and thankfully only a few weeks before had climbed up there and taken some of the building in all it’s glory, so at least I have some before and after shots now.  Apparently the hermitage had been hit by lightening once before and had caused a crack in the walls but other than that it stood firm, however this time it wasn’t so lucky.  The local council have now opened an account at the village bank for anyone to deposit a donation towards the restoration of the hermitage but it sounds like it could be a year or so down the line before they have enough funds to carry out the work.  Due to the hermitage’s location and having no road access all materials have to be hauled up on donkeys, or on the backs of the builders and thus makes the rebuild costs all that much higher due to the amount of labour required.  Lets hope when they finally rebuild it they think to put a lightening conductor up there to avoid a repeat destruction!

Hermitage Before Rear View of Hermitage Before Lightening StrikeInside the Hermitage Before StrikeInside the Hermitage After the StrikeHermitage After Lightening Strike

Living In Spain At Last!!

Well here I am – at last living in Spain with Phil! I’ve been here just over a week now and still can’t believe I’m actually living here and not just on holiday! I’m sitting here on our roof terrace typing this entry up on my laptop – what joy not to be tied to a desk – the days I sat in my office looking outside at the lovely sunny weather and wishing I could move my desk outside – well I can now!! The weather as you can imagine is sunny & hot but as it’s a dry heat it’s more bearable and most nights cool down nicely so that you can sleep. Above our bed Phil has fitted our old ceiling fan we bought back with us from South Africa so we have a lovely circulation of air above us whilst we sleep – perfect. Brings back memories of our time living in sunny South Africa!

Went out with Phil on Monday to Mezquita (very flash builders merchants by UK standards) to source some materials for a bathroom refit Phil is doing for someone. Phil has already refitted their kitchen there and they were so pleased with it they’ve asked if Phil could do the bathroom too. Phil’s just about finished all the ripping out and refitting of the waste pipes and is now building the new walls for the shower area. Hopefully next week the tiles and sanitary wear will arrive ready for the next stage. Hopefully it will all be finished by the time the owners arrive in 2 weeks time. Phil’s also got to fit a new door to the bathroom and then re-tile the inner area area that leads to the roof terrace and also fit a new door to that too – so as you can see he’s being kept busy. We’re hoping to get started on the stable block to our place perhaps at the beginning of August – a lot of the work to start with will be inside replacing the floors and we’re hoping to get on to the roof refit by mid/late September. Fingers crossed it’ll be done by mid October. At least then the rest of the work is all inside so it won’t matter about the weather. One more job to try and get done will be the windows to make the house warmer during the winter – currently the old ones have missing glass and don’t close properly!

I’ve been keeping myself occupied this week by relaxing and wandering about the village visiting the local shops and chatting to our neighbourss – a good way to try out my Spanish. I also visited the local market on Tuesday and of course came away with another couple of plants (those of you who know me realise I can’t walk past a plant stall without buying something!). We also took a trip to one of the garden centres down the coast at Motril and bought a few more plants for the window boxes – so everything is looking nice and colourful now. I also spent yesterday clearing out the boxes from the front bedroom into the one at the back so that we can make the room into a proper bedroom for family & friends who are visiting us over the next few months. It’s a lovely room with a great view down to the lower barrio of the village with the church tower of San Roque and the mountains in the background. The next thing is to by a couple of single beds and some bedroom furniture – that might be our mission at the weekend.

Had a bit of a problem the other night just after Phil got home all dusty and sweaty from the demolition of the old bathroom at Chite – there was no water!!! After about half an hour I decided to go out and investigate to see if there were any notices advising us of any cuts (there’s work going in the middle of the village where they are replacing a lot of pipework and wondered if it had anything to do with this). I got as far as 200 yards down
the road from the house and met up with our neighbour (the one who ownes the grey donkey) and asked if he’d got any water (all in Spanish as he speaks not a word of English) – to which replied “no tengo agua tambien” – I don’t have water too. It turned out the water was out all over the village – it appeared someone had cut through the pipe!! Another of the local ladies joined us and we proceeded to have a long conversation about the lack of water and what we were going to do if it didn’t come back on later – consensus was we were all going to grab buckets and containers and take a walk up to the local “lavadora” – washing area, and collect the water from there – it flows from a natural spring. It’s not supposed to be drinking water but Phil says he’s seen locals drinking it. At least we could use it to flush the loo and have a wash. After about half an hour of chatting with our neighbour about this and that and making him laugh when I got some of my words mixed up and totally cocked up the context of the conversation (I twigged after about 5 minutes and got it back on the right track), I walked back home to tell Phil what was happening. We decided to have supper and then see if the water was back on – if not it was a walk up to the top of the village. As luck would have it water returned around 10pm so at least we were able to have a nice shower before bedtime!

Well that’s about all for now – hope everyone is keeping well and that you are not working
too hard!

Hasta luego

Mel 😉

Phil’s Surprise Visitor

Had 4 lovely days this week with Phil (11 – 14 June) and managed to surprise him by taking his mum along to see him. He didn’t have a clue and was so surprised to see her walking through the arrivals hall with me at Malaga! We were all a little tired as the flight was delayed by 4 hours and we didn’t land until 3am, so by the time we’d driven back to the house and settled down we ended up going to bed just as the sun was rising and the birds started chirping! Despite this we all got up around 11.30am and had a lazy day showing Bet, Phil’s mum, around Pinos del Valle.

On the Monday we took Bet to Granada and walked up to the San Nicolas viewing point to give her a view the Alhambra Palace. I think she was duly impressed! We then walked into the Albazin area and visited a great bar that we’ve found which serves a fantastic plate of assorted fried fish! After washing down our lunch with a few ice cold beers we headed back down the narrow streets and visited a few of the “souk” style shops on our way back to the car. We then headed across Granada to our solicitors office to collect the copy of our Title Deeds to the house and tie up a few loose ends. I think Bet was surprised when she met our solicitor as the following day she described him as “quite dishy” – I think she thought he’d be old, stiff & starchy – certainly not a way to describe our solicitor I can assure you!

The Tuesday was spent visiting a few of the valleys villages and exploring the narrow streets and sampling the local food and drink at the bars – very civilised way to spend the day. That evening we had our English neighbour and her friend over for drinks and tapas and spent a lovely evening chatting about the village etc.  They then invited us over on the Sunday evening for drinks and a tour of their house and it was lovely to see what can be created from what was a tumbled down wreck. The house is rented out as a holiday home and if anyone is interested in renting somewhere for a week or more in the village then I can certainly put you in touch with our neighbour who lives in the UK. I think she charges around £300 – £350/week and the house can sleep 6 people and has a pool. There’s a lovely roof terrace and views across the orange grove. As our B&B won’t be ready for at least 12 months this would be a great place to stay if you wanted to explore the area and be close to us. Just click on the comments link above and leave me a message and I’ll get back to you and put you in touch with the owner if you are interested in renting the house.

Wednesday came around all too quickly but before we headed back to Malaga we took Phil’s mum to Salobrena, the nearest beach resort, on the Costa Tropical, and had a walk down by the beach and then up through the old part of town to the Moorish Castle that stands high up at the top of the old town. Of course we had to stop off for liquid refreshment and some tapas and it so happened that Spain was playing their match against Estonia. Needless to say the sounds of cheers and whistles blowing in our ears made it an interesting experience and the Spanish were well pleased with the 4 – 0 victory!

Well that’s all for now – only 3 more weeks and I’ll be out in sunny Spain with Phil and getting ready to mix concrete!

Hasta luego
Mel & Phil

Easter in Pinos del Valle

Walking trailEaster week (Samana Santa) was lovely – 11 whole days spent with Phil and the chance to really get to know our new home. It was lovely to relax, go for walks, and ride the bikes in the local countryside (campo). Those of you that know us well will know that “ride the bikes” doesn’t mean gently rolling along country roads – more like some hard slogging up steep hills and then some serious off road downhill riding!!! At least our reward was to stop off halfway on the Sunday ride at Miguel’s bar in the village of Niguelas for a few well earned drinks and fantastic free tapas! We’d arranged to meet up with a friend of ours,John, who moved to the area from the south of England nearly two years ago and he brought along his English neighbour and friend who was visiting for a week or so from the UK. The drink flowed and we had a good laugh before they departed for their traditional “Sunday lunches” which the wives were busily preparing back at the houses. For us though it was the 2nd stage of our Sunday ride and a wickedly fast downhill section on some great off road tracks following the dried up river bed! After a few drink any inhibitions go out the window and you just “go for it”. After the downhill bit came a great section through the orange groves and then finally the bit we were dreading – a 5km uphill slog back to the village of Pinos del Valle where our house, Casa Molino, is based! We made it and even managed a quick blast down one of the village tracks before finally arriving back home for a well earned rest on the roof terrace!! The surrounding hills and countryside are so green at the moment as Spain appears to have received more rain than here in the UK. Not only is it looking nice and green but the wild spring flowers are in full bloom and the swathes of wild lavendar and other deep purple flowers mixed with yellows and the odd deep red poppy are a real feast for the eyes. The smell of lavendar and wild rosemary is beautiful and hits the nose as you walk or ride through the campo. The next smell to experience will be in May when the orange & lemon blossom appears – absolutely wonderful and really lifts the spirits. Easter week (Samana Santa) is very special to the Spanish people, being predominently Catholic, and many holy processions take place all over the country with many in the big cities being televised. We managed to get along to the Good Friday processions in Padul but only managed to last out till 10.15pm before heading home – they were due to carry on till 3am but as it had started to rain we decided not to hang about! However the few hours we spent watching the many processions slowly pass by was a great experience and there’s a link under the Photos page with a few choice photos for you to look at! Before we knew it Easter was over and it was time for me to fly back to the UK but at least I have my next trip to look forward to which is this May bank holiday weekend with a couple of days tagged on – roll on Friday evening when I land in Malaga and Phil is waiting there for me at the airport!! That’s all for now folks – keep logging on to the site for more updates.

Hasta luego Mel & Phil 😉

Link to photos available now on “Photo” page.