20. Has it really been two years!

On the 16th October 2017 we began a brand new chapter in our lives.  We were moving lock stock and barrel from Cyprus to Spain.  We landed in Alicante with 4 large suitcases thinking we had a plan!  Well… you know what happens to plans don’t you!

We had already purchased our hole in the ground, our total restoration project, in the Cuevas de Luna area of Benamaurel.  I had fallen in love with this cave from the moment I saw it in the distance as we were driving down the very long track towards Hablacon (or privately known as ‘Sue’s Rock’).  The plans I had made in my head and on the computer were many, this lovely hole would become a home with a difference – something special.

We knew that it would be at least a 12 month project what with planning permissions, architects and building works etc. So, in the meantime, we were happy to look for somewhere else to live whilst the work was being done.  When it was time to move into our dream cave we could then turn this second property into a holiday rental  giving us a little income during our old age.

If you have been following my blog you will know that we had a few twists and turns during the first few months of our new adventure in Spain.   Before we arrived in Spain we began the process of purchasing these caves in Rio de Baza however, the owners decided at the last minute, not to sell!  At the time we were devastated (and homeless) but, with hindsight, that was the best thing that could have happened!

To cut a long story short, (please read the previous blogs if you want to know more),  it was not long before we found another cave in Puente Arriba.  We moved in to our forever home on 29th November 2017.

Not that it started off as our forever home.  No, this was going to be our future holiday rental but, I fell in love, again.  I love the way the caves, (it was one and now divided into 2), went through the hill giving us two front doors, 2 back doors and lots of windows giving us light; we have lots of land around us which we are still trying to decide what to do with it all; I love the views we have of the river and valley looking across to Baza while we sit on our patios or roof terraces, I love the walks with our three dogs down by the river (I say dogs but I have a sneaky suspicion one is a polar bear), I love that we have neighbours but feel alone and private.   

In my next blog I will attempt to tell you about our favourite places to visit, to eat, to shop and those places where you can ‘just be’.   If anyone has any questions they would like to ask please get in contact and I will try and help – if not I hope I can direct you to someone who can.  It has been quite a learning curve for us both.  Well it would be wouldn’t it if you ended up becoming an 8 cave family!

Please take a look at our traditional holiday rental caves, (but with all mod cons), Cuevas de la Paz in Los Carriones at www.caveholidays.com and our second cave property Cueva Limon at Puente Arriba which has a more contemporary feel (with many hidden extras like secret gardens and private roof terraces) at www.caveholidaysspain.com. Both sites will  give you a taste of what cave holidays can be like.  I truly recommend you try cave holidays for yourselves but be warned – they can become addictive!

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Cuevas de la Paz is up and running and has proven highly successful in the 6 months we have been open.  We thought that now the main summer season was over bookings would slow down but they continue to come in.

 

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However, Cueva Lemon, although fully licenced, has not yet been advertised as we have to think about our three dogs.  We may need to advertise particularly to dog lovers until we can get our heads around the logistics of having someone on holiday here.  Plenty of time for that, it just means that family and friends can enjoy the open house a little longer.

Over these past two years we have had to jump over many hurdles especially when dealing with the authorities. Whether it’s your residency, driving licences, health, licences or permission to do certain works, we have certainly ‘been there and done that’.  Experience has taught us to go to the professionals in the area that you are working within.  There are too many ‘I can do thats’ here in Spain.  On two separate occasions we have travelled down the ‘I know a man’ route and both times it has caused more problems than it should have and both costing us more money because of it.  We truly believe in trusting your solicitor, accountant (qualified) and local Spanish builders to know what has to be done.   It makes life easier, less hectic, fewer worries, (although you cannot completely eradicate them no matter who you use), and we like to sleep easy at night knowing we have done our best to comply with all the different and varied rules and regulations there are around us.

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Another important factor for us here in Spain is friends.  We knew no one when we arrived.  I am proud to say that over the two years we have gained a good foundation of friends, both English and Spanish.  Over the last 18 months we have had family and personal problems that have been greatly eased by the support of good friends.  The kind of friends that drop everything to look after your dogs and home, who send messages of support, promise to bring gin (even if it isn’t quite up to scratch and I’m still waiting;-)) and those that you know you can pick up the phone to and shout for help without having to think twice.   We have been very lucky to have found you all.  You know who you are. 

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Would we change anything – categorically no!  I am a great believer in fate and this is where we were supposed to be.  However, if in the future fate decided that we have to move on to pastures new, then I am sorry but my heels are cemented well and truly in Puente Arriba.  We are here, end of!

19. Cuevas de la Paz are finally ready for guests.

 

What can I say…. it’s been hard work and it’s given me more grey hairs than I like to admit to but, we have achieved our goal and can now open the doors of Cuevas de la Paz to our guests.

When we purchased our own casa cueva we did not intend to buy anything else.  We had (and still have) lots to do to transform our large cave into a home and a separate holiday let.    However, whilst sitting with a cup of coffee, up pops the bargain of a lifetime on my Facebook timeline .   The selling price had been dropped dramatically and we had no hesitation in wanting to know more.  We quickly arranged a viewing for the next day knowing that others would be interested to.  We had been determined not to rush into anything but, once viewed, we soon realised that these caves were ‘too good to be true’ at the reduced price.  They were full of artifacts collected within the farming region and with a little TLC could be up and running quickly.  Once we had looked over each cave twice we both decided to take a risk.  We jumped in with two feet and the caves went off the market.

There are many quirky things in these caves but one ‘adornment’ in particular has people coming up with lots of ideas!  One cave has two iron rings above the bed!  We were told by the agent that these were used for the animals when the caves had been shelters for the local goats.  We will leave you to decide whether that is a true fact or an addition made by a previous owner for other uses!

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Our next decision was whether we left the caves as they were, (already a going concern but being trueful, they were dark, cluttered with various items and not that appealing), or should we give the caves a makeover.  After several conversations with my loving accountant husband it was decided to start with plastering (yeso) the lot rather than patch the walls up!  We knew that this would give a cleaner and a more pleasing look to the interiors.  Once you start looking around you find other things to do don’t you? – well we did!

The large expanse of barren car park appeared to be a waste of land.  So we decided to make a smaller car park at the top end with its own gated entrance and the rest of the area into a walled garden and seating area.

Then there was the bedding, toasters, towels, patio area and how about making the store room into a new gym.  To cut a long story short we have spent more than we intended to but, isn’t that always the way?

DSCF1040Gym? Well why not. Some people do like to ensure their fitness does not deteriorate during their holidays!  We have tried to cater for most tastes with 5 different machines – treadmill, rowing machine, bike etc and a small set of hand weights.

The immediate outside area has been stripped of its tangled ivy and replaced with seats.   We have added a budha or three to give a calming and relaxing feel to this outside area.  It is now an ideal place to sit with a morning cup of coffee.

We are now happy with the new revamped look of the caves and the area they sit in and any further work can be completed when and if.  I need to get my hair coloured and my back mended before we do anything else!

The area we live in is varied  and beautiful with great walking paths, magnificent lakes that we have around us and old abandoned caves to explore.  It is truly beautiful and so vast – you will have to return again and again to see it all!

To see the other transformations, especially of the interior of the caves, please take a look at the Cuevas de la Paz website.     www.caveholidays.com   Any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Thank you to all our friends and family who have given us encouragement and offered help during this time.  It has been much appreciated and we will never forget you.

 

 

18. What Are We Upto Now!

For those of you following our adventures in cave land we have, not one, but two pieces of exciting news to tell you. 

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If you recall we originally purchased a wonderful, awesome and peaceful cave that needed a total reform within the area known as Cuevas de Luna (Caves of the Moon).  The plans I had for that cave were endless.  However, as life sometimes does, we went off at a tangent.  We purchased a second huge cave which had already been fully reformed nearby in Puente Arriba.  We soon fell in love with this cave and the land that surrounds it (or should I say them!).  We have almost completed the transformation of turning our one cave into two caves – One side for us and one side to rent as a holiday let.  All we needed to do to this rental side was yaso (plaster), fit a kitchen and do the final touches to the large lounge and bedrooms.  It already has two fitted bathrooms (one ensuite) and a lovely log burner within the lounge.  

Now we are at the stage where the whole cave has been yesoed and the kitchen has been built so we are close to having the cave ready for guests.  We must wait for our rental licence before we can advertise and that is somewhere in the process within a Granada government office as we speak so we should be up and running for next year.   The rental cave will be known as Cueva Limon (Lemon Cave).  Here is a taster to what the kitchen will look like. Once the painting is complete, we have bright material at the shelves and the washing machine is in place I will quickly update with better pictures.

For those who would like to experience a different kind of holiday, cave living is certainly a great idea and if you are one of the 98% of the human race that has not had this experience I urge you to consider this as a holiday choice.  You may very well get hooked like John and I.

The cave will have access to 2 large and private roof patios and a front patio (shown above) for guests to sit and watch the sun rise from behind the hills and over the river.  There will be sun beds, hammocks and tables and chairs for those that enjoy the outdoor living as we do.   We would also be happy to share our own gardens with our guests where you can enjoy table tennis and boules.

To take advantage of the many wonderful sights and interesting places to visit in the area we can organise 1/2 or full day tours to suit your needs.   If you are considering buying a property we do urge you to tour around with someone that has a little knowledge of the different areas and we are always happy to pass on our own experiences to help you make the right choices for you.

As soon as the interior for the rental cave is ‘dressed’ I will update with more detailed pictures.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

info@caveholidays.com

NEWS FLASH

For those of you that thought we were mad to buy a cave in the first place…… we’ve gone and done it again!  Well, to be precise – we have just purchased 6 caves in all.  We are now an 8 cave family!

These caves are 5 minutes from our home and already have a licence in place for holiday lets. The caves are very different to our own and have a Spanish feel to them due to design and decoration.  We have a little work to do with yeso, lights and accessories but again, we should be up and running by early next year.  As we speak I am preparing a website for these caves so watch this space. They will be known as Cuevas de la Paz (Peace Caves).

I will be happy to provide pictures of the interiors and  any other information as soon as we are at the stage when I feel that we are ready to show the world.  

If anyone would like the experience of staying in a cave please get in touch.  You will have a holiday to remember – promise.  There is so much to see in the area from abandoned caves, fresh water swimming pools, beautiful cave villages and not forgetting the many mountains that surround us.  Whether you walk, bike or travel by car there is something for everyone. But… don’t forget to stop and say ‘hi’ to the local shepherds whilst they attend their goats.  I am always amazed at how the goats are herded by the shepherd and especially the dogs – usually by a nod of the head!  I am thinking of recruiting one of our local shepherds to train our 3 rescue dogs. We need it! 

As soon as the interior is ‘dressed’ I will update with pictures and share the new website for these beautiful caves.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

info@caveholidays.com

17. The Builders have left the cave!

DSCF4865.jpgThe builders have left the cave…. for a short while anyway! We do have other jobs on the list for them to finish but, for now, we have a respite. And, so do they!

I must say that I am extremely happy with the results so far. If you recall we have 8 separate areas around our cave.  So far we have concentrated the work on areas 3 and 5.  The rest of the land is work in progress!   The builders have worked from my computerised designs which have been tweaked here and there by me and/or Miguel (our Spanish builder).  Sometimes dare I say it, the tweaking has improved the overall look and/or enhanced the areas uses.

For now, within these two areas, all that is required is for me to add the finishing touches.  I’m not going to rush this final stage as we plan to use the areas and see what it is that is needed or desired.  Shade is one of the main finishing touches, especially in area 3 at the rear of the cave.  There simply is none but, you may have guessed already, I have a few ideas in my idea box located in my head!  The patio at the front has wonderful shade from the original trees and again early evening as the sun drops behind the cave and down from the sky.

Secret Garden (area 3)

The first picture was taken of area 3 (now named Secret Garden) when we purchased the cave and the second photo shows the rear of the cave.

Many changes have been made and the landscape has change considerably. The following pictures show how it is now.  We need to add extra grey gravel, there will be a few extra plants and trees scattered around over the next few months and, as I have said above, some shaded areas, but I want to live with it for a while and decide what type of plants and shade, where to put them and how many I want.   Then it’s shopping time again. Sorry John but…..

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Front Patio (area 5)

This photo was taken of the front area of the cave in its original state.  It was used as a large car park with a couple of trees overlooking the views.

Here I pictured three built up areas – one being the main area to be concreted and used as a seating platform and the other two for ‘show’. I was looking at putting cacti in one and pots and art in the other. The main patio was to be higher than the other two, but once I had marked the areas out with my trusted paint aerosol can, I realised that this main area would be too high.  We are already in an elevated position so any higher and we would be sitting with the Gods.  So after a little tweaking we came to the end results.

I am so pleased with the finished patio design.  It is the perfect place to sit and watch the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening, watch the bee eaters and the woodpeckers go about their daily duties and sip a long cool drink in the shade of the trees.

From here we have a beautiful, peaceful view where your eyes and imagination can wander, for hours, around the hills with their secret empty caves.  It is a great spot for our three dogs Charlie, Barney and Alfie to sit and look out for intruders (i.e. the farmer with his tractor or the shepherd with his goats).  Alfie is our new pup.  I say pup but he is growing at a good rate of knots.  At 10 weeks he was 17 kgs.  More about him later!

Whats next?

If you recall, our cave is in two halves.  The second half of the cave needs to be repaired and made good so that we can turn it into a holiday let giving us a little income.  This will be the next main project and will begin on Monday.  The builders need to yeso (plaster) all through and repair some of the walls that have saltpetre in them.  Once that is complete I need to design a ‘Spanish’ kitchen, shelves for the bedrooms and built in seats for the lounge and dining room areas.  The rental cave will have two roof patios which are now complete and will be used by our guests. They give wonderful views and privacy, I just need to furnish them to a high standard and add a few plants!

In the rental cave I am thinking along the lines of the designs below. The finished look will be different but it gives you an idea of what’s going on in my head!

When the yeso man has finished this side of the cave he will complete the work outside by coating all of the exterior walls of the cave in capa fina (exterior plaster) giving the outside a cleaner finish and new look.   Then…. we have other areas of land that we need to work out what to do with.  Do we have turkeys (2 were advertised recently and John was very keen!), do we have a veg patch (only if Chris is here to water daily!) or….. The list goes on.

But for now, I am happy to sit and consider how to advertise our soon to be holiday cave next door.  I need to look at why people would want to stay in the area, what they would be looking for and what their needs may be.  Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.  So far, I believe that people come to this wonderful area for one of four reasons.

  1. To experience living in a cave.
  2. Explore the wonderful area around and its many nature reserves, lakes and interesting villages.
  3. To enjoy tapas (well, that’s me anyway).
  4. To relax in an area of beauty and tranquility with a good book and a glass of wine.

Our cave is in just the right location to do all four and much more so hopefully we can provide something for everyone.  We are so lucky to have found this spot.

Once the next phase of the work has begun I will be happy to share the progress but for now it’s back to plans and measuring tapes.

Please, please, please follow my blog by adding your email on the top right hand side of this page.  You will then be alerted when any updates are made.    It only takes a moment – promise.  Thank you for reading and taking part in our cave adventure.

Love, peace and happiness to you all.

x

 

16. The builders have landed.

The builders have well and truly landed in Puente Arriba!

We have them everywhere. Front, back and sides.  Our land has been occupied by thousands of bricks, tons of sand and diggers galore not to mention concrete wagons.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, just the opposite.  Miguel, our Spanish builder, lives a stones throw from us in the village.  He knows more about our cave, and land around us, then we do.  He has been absolutely fantastic and we cannot recommend him highly enough.  My basic Spanish is growing slowly but I can now tell you the Spanish names for doors, windows, concrete, seats, etc etc.  It is amazing how much you pick up when trying to communicate what it is that you want.   Miguel has been sooooo patient. 

How does all this building work make me feel?  It’s a mixture of excitement, trepidation and all out fear.  Excitement as we see our plans taking shape and can now visualise the different areas and the uses of each plot.  Trepidation as we may have missed something out or should have changed/tweaked an idea, which for now, to late.  Fear of getting it completely wrong and that is something only time will tell.

I have experienced all these emotions several times a day over the past 4 weeks.  However, I do believe the fear has reduced and moved into trepidation.  Hopefully trepidation will soon begin to reduce and move more towards excitement.

The secret garden is looking great as I see my computerised drawings being formed.  My only trepidation here is whether we have enough concrete areas planned out but…..  my confidence is growing a little each day that we have.

The front area is in full flow with block work being laid, concrete being poured and garages being built, not to mention the patio areas above the garages.  My trepidation for this area of our land has, as of yesterday, been worked out.  It was not about the layout as I am very pleased with the shape and size but whether the seating area would have been too high.  The cave is already in an elevated position so raising the seating area by 3-4 blocks would take us up into the trees and nearer to God.  Luckily I relayed my concerns, with the use of a translator app, to Miguel and the seating platform has been reduced in height.   Concrete is now being poured as we speak and it’s looking great.

The garages for John’s bike and our car are both huge and will be wonderful spaces for us both to utilise.  John has been known to complain that I take over any past garage space with my ‘stuff’ (garden tools, power tools, items needing storage) so this is perfect. We both have our own garage space to do with as we please.  The roof patios are taking shape but I cannot take a look as yet as the concrete wagon is still pouring.  I’ll have to wait until they have all gone home and take a peek.  I do feel a little trepidation as to how they are going to look but……   I continue to enjoy our surroundings and especially the beautiful walks down by the river with Charlie and Barney.  I’ve just returned from the river walk, and as usual, have come back refreshed and smiling.  The poppies are out at the moment and are everywhere.  Just amazing.  We love Spain.

As you can see we are close to the end of our work outside.  I believe I have just seen Miguel punch the air with glee:-)  It will then be ideas time.  How do we fill the spaces we have created?  We already have a tennis net, a table tennis table, petanque set, sun beds, hammock, barbecue and a variety of seats to place in the areas not to mention the 3 mirrored silver display balls, 3 wicker cacti and a penny farthing!

Exciting times ahead.