21. What to do in and around the Altiplano’s cave land area.

In my previous blogs I have talked about our journey from Cyprus to Spain and hopefully given you an idea of where we are now and why we are an 8 cave family!  But, what is there to do in and around our area?

Well, the choice is wide and varied which is great when the family come to visit – we all have something to look forward to.  Here are a just a few ideas for you.

1. Mini Lake District.

We live in what is commonly known as the Spanish mini lake district.  Within 20 – 45 minutes drive you have Lake Negratin, Lake San Clemente, Lake Bolera and a little further on there is Lake Portillo, Guadalquivir plus other beautiful waterways.

Lake Negratin in one of my personal favourites.  The lake offers waterfront restaurants, viewing points, picnic and beach areas.  In the summer you can hire canoes and other equipment for water based activities.  You can always find a spot to be alone giving you the sense that you are the only people about (and usually you are!)

One of the more popular restaurants can be found on the southern bank of the lake (head towards Zujar and turn left heading to Freila).  The beach restaurant is on this road to the right – look out for the lake and then recreation sign.  Another good bar/restaurant is on the north west side of the water just over the dam.  If you go to the north side of the lake please take a trip to the viewing point.  It is very hard to find due to the lack of signage but here is a map to help (the right hand turning is 4.1km from the end of the dam – take the right fork and keep going).  It really is worth a visit just for the views but take a picnic and enjoy the area even more.

My second favourite is Lake Bolera.   Yet another beautiful lake in stunning surroundings.  We have yet to explore this lake in great detail but the visits we have made have been peaceful and inspiring.

Please do not think that the lakes are the only places to visit because we have rivers with secret areas to find and enjoy.

A new find for us is Las Presas Recreation Area in near Castillejar (approx 12 km away). It is a lovely picnic area that is used by the locals during the weekend.  Weekdays are very quiet.  It has tables, bbq’s, the river edge with pools of water and, in the summer, a kiosk.

There are other areas to explore as you follow the many walking paths.  If you find a personal best, please get in touch.

2. Cortijo Buho – Benamaurel

If you are looking for a new experience, or something a little different, you need visit Cortijo Buho.  You can spend time with owls, kookaburras, meerkats and lots more.   Cortijo Buho is a beautiful 11th century cave house where Laurence and Matilda are happy to share their experience and vast knowledge as you handle the beautiful owls and watch them fly.

Each of the birds have their own personalities and characters which is quite unexpected for anyone that has no or little experience of owls and birds of prey.  It was for me.  My personal favourite is Darcy but don’t tell the others.

You can meet the feathered team, Molly (crossed between a princess and a diva), Matty (European Eagle owl with a huge character), Mystic (who enjoys eating with you at the table), Darcy (a rare Black Barn owl who is one of 100,000 to be born and one in a million to survive and my favourite), Pippin (who has a personality of a bouncer – feisty and will square up to anything no matter what size), Sasa (a Harris hawk who is a fearless hunter).

Once you have been introduced to the owl gang you may want to say ‘hi’ to the wonderful Meerkats and their babies, Sydney the kookaburra, the polecats and the guinea pigs and the many other animals they have rescued and rehomed.

Enjoy a few hours of fun whilst you learn all about the different animals for €35 per adult and €20 per child or why not add a wonderful 2 course home cooked meal for €50 per adult and €25 per child.  I can highly recommend at least one visit but I am certain you will want to return as we do.  Call  0034 958065191 or 0034 634379786 or email cortijo.buho@gmail.com.  More information can be found at http://www.theiasgems.com

3. Baza town and its history.

The town of Baza was founded by the Iberians in the 4th century BC and was then known as Basti.   The Moors took over the city during 313-1489 and the town became an important commercial centre with a population upward of 50,000 making it one of the three most important cities in the Kingdom of Granada.  During the Granada war, the city fell to Queen Isabella 1 of Castile.  You can still see the remains of the City walls dating back to Iberian times and other remains of buildings from the Roman occupation.  

The Arab baths are a gem of a find although you do need to know the exact location as they are well hidden.  They are free to view and well worth it.

There are so many different plazas and places full of history for you to explore but again, if you do not know what you are looking at, things do get overlooked and passed by quite easily.

My advice is to do a tour with an expert in the history of Baza.  Danny is passionate about the area and is a wealth of knowledge.  The duration of his tour is approx 2 1/2 hours which we recently experienced.   We were amazed at the historical areas and Plazas that Danny took us to, which we had no idea existed.  It was a tour well worth the €15 per person as we really did get to know our local town and have more of an appreciation of its history.

Call Danny on 0034 684 456 722 and have a walk with ‘One Foot In The Past’ (Danny’s Facebook page where you will find further information).  You will not regret it.

4. Cascamorras Festival in Baza traditionally held on 6 September. 

The Cascamorras festival, or locally known as the black hand, has an intriguing history.  It is estimated that 20,000  people now take part, running through the streets of Baza covered in black paint/olive oil.  This also happens in Gaudix where they use coloured paste instead of oil.  Why, I can hear you ask!

Apparently it all started when a workman from Guadix (nicknamed Cascamorras) was building a church on the site of a Mozarabe Temple when he heard a voice asking for Mercy.  As he continued to dig he found a sacred icon of Our Lady of Mercy.   The people of Gaudix claimed the find as their own which the people of Baza refuted strongly.   The conflict was so bad that King Felippe 11 sent a mediator to decide what was to be done.   It was decreed that the statue would stay in Baza but, for one day a year, it could be taken to Guadix.  This was not accepted by either side.

A last minute attempt was made to take the statue to Guadix but the people of Baza foiled the plot so the workmen returned home to Guadix empty handed.   Baza declared that on Saint’s day, if a nominated person from Guadix was able to reach the Virgin on foot and remained clean, he could take the statue to Guadix.    Each year an elected Cascamorras tries to fulfill this pledge, but to this day has never succeeded.

525 years later the festival has grown to one of the most impressive and yet least known festival in Andalucia.

Part one of the festival is held in Baza.  On the 6th September people of Baza head to a nearby hill where they cover themselves with a mixture of black paint and ecological oil prepared by the Town hall.  At 18.00 a rocket indicates that Cascamorras has arrived on the hill protected by his towns people of Gaudix.  He begins to run down the hill into the town towards the El Merced Church where the statue of the Our Lady of Mercy is held.

The local people of Baza are well prepared to dirty the Cascamorras but he has a rubber ball tied to a wooden stick to defend himself in addition to his own followers.  The event takes place along a 6km route and can take 90 mins to 2 hours to complete. As yet the Cascamorras has never reached the end of the route, clean.  That’s not quite the end for the Cascamorras.  He becomes guest of honour for the town’s  next two days of partying.  He then returns to Guadix empty handed and on the 9 September he receives a further barrage from his own people of Guadix.  This is the second part of the Cascamorras festival.

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After the event you will find signs of the black hand all around  Baza.  It’s become quite a sort after piece of art.  All good fun!

 

5. Local Village swimming pools.

Most local villages have their own swimming pools which are open to the public during the months of July and August.  However there are a few pools around that stay open all year as they are naturally fed from rivers or springs.

Our local pool is in Los Olivos/Castillejar and is the best pool around by far.  It is clean, has grass verges around the pool area and a good restaurant on its doorstep. There are life guards each day to ensure everyone has a great time.

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These pools can be a quiet and relaxing place to spend a couple of hours or a day, for as little as a couple of Euros.

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Another good pool is in the cave village of Galera.  It is a good size with the added bonus of being right next to the Galera Hotel.  This hotel is great for food and also sitting on the balcony whilst taking in the views of the caves dug out of the hillside opposite.

The two main natural spring pools which are open all year round can be found in Orce and Heuscar (that’s if you fancy swimming with the fishes).

6. Moors and Christians Weekend in Benamaurel.

Many towns in Andalucia hold a Moors and Christians Festival.  In 2020 the date for the festival in Benamaurel will be 25 – 28 April.

The Benamaurel festival has many paradas and has a great family/party atmosphere.  It begins with several procession of the Moors and Christians, tradition food, a theatrical enactment of verbal attacks and a battle enactment with cannons and swords (held on the Sunday) and even more parades to end the festivates.  The parade that follows the main battle  on the Sunday is a wonderful site.  People work hard and pay large amounts of money to wear the colourful costumes.  You can see the pride in their faces as the parades pass.  It really is a great weekend to enjoy the atmosphere and have family fun.

7. Views, long drinks and free tapas.

You don’t have to do anything.  You can relax and enjoy the wonderful scenery around you whilst you read a good book, hold a long drink and enjoy a lovely local tapas at the many bars we have in the area.

The above ideas are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much to do and see from guided walks around our local hills, visits to the local towns, planned cycle routes (with bike hire) and ….  if you get in touch and tell me what you are interested in, I am sure we can find something just for you.

If you plan on staying in the area please take a look at our licenced cave rentals at www.caveholidays.com 

We hope to see you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

14. The decision has been made.

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The decision has been made.  We have both agreed to sell our original dream cave.  It has been a hard decision in many ways but after weighing up all the pros and cons it was not complicated or difficult after all.  We should sell and put our energy into the new cave home (Casa Cueva) in Puente Arriba.

At the beginning, some of our friends and family thought we had gone potty buying such a project as the original cave, never mind at our time of life.  In some ways they were right but nothing ventured……  As life has a habit of doing to us all, it took us down a different path.

Yes, we are of a certain age and I for one am not as active or as proactive as I used to be.
I would be a fool to pretend otherwise.  The meticulous planning that I have completed so far has been extensive and I will admit, exciting, but it has been mentally tiring too.   The other issues are with the usual stress we all go through with the red tape, local authorities and fighting with work men to achieve my own ideas for our home.  These issues  are just the tip of the stress mountain.  I really don’t want that in my life.  The dream – yes it was a great dream and I will never regret it but I am being realistic and want to enjoy the rest of my life, no matter how long or short, enjoying the Spanish life style and weather.  As I say that we are having snow storms and cold weather, but we know it will not last.  Cross fingers.

Our latest purchase in Puente Arriba is going to be our home.  All our efforts are going into making it as comfortable and homely as we can.  If you have been following our saga you will know that the cave is in two parts. The first half is in a fair to good state and is certainly livable in but the second half needs lots of tlc.  It is going to take time and a great deal of thought to get to the stage were two become one.  But, that is our aim.

Then we have the land around our cave – 10,000 sqm. in total.  I need to look at each area and every aspect of the different and varied layers to ensure that the land around us is used to its best advantage – that is to say for our best advantage.  Seating areas with views, to a secret garden, they all need to be carefully planned and thought about and then thought about some more.

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That is where I am at the moment.  I have ideas. Some will need to be tweaked and others discarded but that’s half the fun. The first priority is to fence our land, (shown here in red), so that our two  rescue boys do not wander off to say hello to the local shepherd and his flock or find food in the neighbours kitchens.  The fence will also curtail the numerous local doggie visits we get each day – leaving presents behind is fine but I must confess to not wanting those kind of doggie presents outside our cave door.

Saying all that the dog population are friendly and they all welcome each other and play which is kind of nice but I just don’t trust our two boys not wander off so….fence it is.

In my next blog I will take you through some of my ideas for the outdoor spaces and walk you around the land.  Hope that you are enjoying our adventure, our ups and downs and our new challenges as we continue or journey with life in Spain.  Thank you for reading.

11. At The Moment Life Is………

We cannot say that life over the past weeks has been boring or uneventful. Far from it. I’ve only just stopped spinning.

We have now been living in Spain for 6 weeks, rented 4 different properties and made endless phone calls and appointments trying to get all our Spanish paperwork in order etc etc etc. We have even had problems with a large bank here in Spain who, in their wisdom,  decided to block our account. Why? Well, the head office deemed Cyprus as a money laundering paradise and not bound by EU law!  We had been living and working in Cyprus for the passed 12 years we have all our residency papers, tax registrations and sales contacts for our home and apartment which we sold so that we could move over to Spain. Nothing we sent them has so far unblocked our account. They know where our money has come from and what we are going to spend it on but …no.

It really does not matter in which country you live in, there is always endless red tape and silly errors made by all government departments and head offices.  I think we have seen and dealt with them all (seems that way to us). Living in Cyprus we are used to things happening slowly and being far more complicated then is necessary but in Spain there seems to be another dimension to the mix. Government or local offices may start work at 0900 but at 1030 it’s breakfast at a local cafe, return at 1130 to finish for the day at 1400. That’s a good working day in anyone’s book.

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So, where are we now on the cave front? Let me summarise. Originally we bought our dream cave in the Cueva de Luna area to reform into a wonderful living space. The cave named ‘Cueva de Limon’ is still there and looking just as grand and exciting.

Then our plans grew. As we had sold both of our properties in Cyprus sooner than we thought, we decided to buy a second cave where we could live whilst our original cave was being transformed. This second purchase would give us a base for the short term and, when we moved out and into our dream home, we could rent it out giving us a small and hopefully steady income. After a week of full on searching we found this second cave in the Rio de Baza area. However, over the past few weeks, this second cave has become more and more problematic. The owners, although wanting to sell, would not set a date for completion. Why, I can hear you ask? Pass! After 6 weeks of waiting we decided to cut our losses and restart the search for a new second property.

This time we raised our cash limit and widened our search. We looked at cortijos (farmhouses) and caves. But this time we wanted something fully reformed giving us little or no work to worry about. And then….. last Wednesday, with lots of help from Chris, I found the ideal cave in the Puente Arriba area of Benamaurel. It is larger, fully

renovated to a high standard, has 6 bedrooms at least, 4 bathrooms, half of the rooms are fully furnished (minus a washing machine) and lots of land and secret gardens full with beautiful grape vines. In fact we have approx 2.5 acres or 10,000 sqm of land around us.  Much more cave for our money than the problematic cave – it was surely meant to be. Perfecto!

Today, exactly one week later, contracts have been exchanged and we are ready to move in. How good is that.  Is this a record?

The other beauty of this cave is that it can be used as a large home or can easily be divided into two properties by locking a dividing door. Each side would have its own separate entrances (times 2), a separate driveway and its own outdoor areas. The only work that would be necessary to divide the cave into two would be to fit a second kitchen (pipes are already installed in one of the cave rooms). The rest is all there. One room is so large it could easily be decided into 2 bedrooms with one being en-suite if required. My only reservation in making this property into two rentals is that we may enjoy living here so much we will want to make it our forever home.

357b3b9So, the plan for the near future – we are going to live and enjoy our time in this new cave
357b3b9and make our decisions in the new year. (Yes Chris, your advice was duly noted). We have choices and can be flexible. That is what life is all about – being flexible and making decisions that are right for you.

Life can be tough but it can also be good. At the moment life is……sorry not going to tell you as I really don’t want to jinx it. It’s also called Sod’s law and I really don’t know Mr Sod but he needs a good strong talking to.

Xx

10. We made it to Spain. Perfecto!

22728836_740099056178328_996893290030930417_nHow we’ve survived the last few weeks I will never know.  It has been seriously hard!  Chris, my son, asked me how and what was so hard and I just couldn’t put into words why we felt that way! Perhaps it is our age, perhaps our health or perhaps we underestimated the energy we would need to move lock stock and barrel to a new country, again.  Perhaps it was due to all three.

It all started with saying goodbye to some very good friends.  We have been lucky to have a handful of people we could rely upon in Cyprus.  The kind of friends that are there for you no mater what.  We all know that true friends are like gold dust and we truly feel blessed.  Bill and Sue, Dave and Doreen, Hercules and Effi, Gay, Christakis,  just to name a few.

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In the short time we had to prepare for our journey, we made detailed plans to ensure our move from Cyprus to Spain went as smooth as possible.  However, plans can only be as good as the people  involved.  If those contracted to do a job or made promises to deliver don’t, then your plans have to be adjusted.  Sometimes our plans got adjusted on a daily basis!  We have been so disillusioned by others being money orientated, power mad or just plain devious.  We are honest people and pay good money for a fair job – but it is not that straight forward sometimes, is it!

The only ‘plan’ that sailed through the process without hiccup or change was for the accommodation and transportation of our two dogs, Barney and Charlie.  We went ahead of the boys by 11 days.  Annie’s Animal Ark (Anne Parsons) made all the arrangements to get the boys over to Spain, resourced giant crates and kept us informed all the way.  Her fee for the work she did was  not just fair but brilliant.  Then there was Tony and Gina Potter.  Tony cares for visiting dogs in his own home and the boys simply love him.  For us to leave the boys with Tony and knIMG_0817ow that they would truly have a great 11 day ‘holiday’ was such a relief.  Charlie has one mission in life which is to clean everyone and is a fairly confident boy but Barney is, and always has been, a very fearful boy.  Walking  with Barney outside of his own safe domain can be a nightmare.   God forbid if there is a parked car on the street that is not normally parked there.  He would simply refuse to pass this highly dangerous situation and use all his strength to return to the safety of his domain.  Being 38 kilos and having a strong front end (having 2 operations on his back hips made the front half a power pack), if Barney wants to go, you go to.  This is all down to him having a bad start in life in Cyprus as a pup and we were very worried that he would not survive the journey but with Tony and Anne taking charge all went so much better than we could have imagined,  Thank you so much to you both.  You come highly recommended by us all.

 

We have now been in Spain for 2 weeks and each day we get closer to getting our paperwork and general life sorted.  We will have our new car on Friday, (fully insured with a tracker fitted hopefully), which will allow us to return the hire car – hooray!; with a good wind we will be official residents of Baza when we get our Padron at the end of the week, (we need an address which is registered with Baza town hall and, as we could not use our first cave’s address as it is not yet registered with them, we were stumped. However, we should be proud owners of another two caves by the end of week which are registered); and we will have internet in the new caves within a week – now breathe.

full_1535_18511If you recall one of the caves is fully reformed and is almost ready to move into.  This will be our home until our original cave is complete.  Once we are settled in we can work on the front area of the caves to transform it into an area of peace and tranquility with sun beds, hammocks and outside eating areas.  The second cave next door is unreformed, but once complete, will provide us with an additional rental cave for anyone wishing to stay in a truly amazing area.  These two caves will be known as Cueva de la Paz 1 and Cueva de la Paz 2.  (Cave of Peace).

When the contracts for the new caves are signed (we are crossing fingers for the 3rd November) we will have 5 days to clean inside and organise any small repairs that are necessary before we have to move out of our rented cortijo (farmhouse).   I then need to arrange for delivery of mattresses (bases are built in), a couple of chairs, microwave and bedding and we can move in.  Our container from Cyprus should be arriving sometime after 9 November (we hope) so we should have a homely cave by then.  More fun to look forward to!   Chris is flying out hopefully on the 16th so it will be all hands on deck.  Did I say he could have a holiday?  I lied!

We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our future in Spain can begin and I will work hard to ensure we enjoy every minute.  Hopefully the family can come over as often as their lives allow, which will be wonderful for me as I do miss them loads, and it will be something different for them.  New experiences to share and enjoy.

I am ending this blog now as my Cerveza Limon is ready to be consumed.  Enjoy, I know I will:-)

xx

 

 

 

9. It’s Happening…Goodbye Cyprus.

It’s happening.  We have sold our two properties in Cyprus.

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The sale of the house is going through ok after the many meetings and phone calls to get the house deeds amended.   The one missing piece of paper actually arrived and has been approved, stamped and lodged with the correct department.  That left us with the apartment still on the market.   Until, on the day I was flying out to Spain to view other cave properties,  I received a phone call to say an offer had been made on the the apartment. This offer was raised slightly and duly accepted by us both.   Wonderful.   My trip to Spain was starting off well.

In my last blog you may remember that we discussed whether to rent for 12 months in Spain whilst our own cave was reformed or whether to buy a second cave which was  ready to move into immediately. The later would give us somewhere to live for the 12 months and, when we moved out, would provide us with a rental property which would give us a little income.  Win, win.

Well, during my visit to Spain last week (with our great friend Dave Nelson), I found the perfect 3 bed cave for us to move into immediately and…..it has another 3 bed cave next door which just needs finishing off!   Two large caves, 6 beds, 2 lounges, 2 kitchen, 2 bathrooms and a large expanse of outdoor space all for a great price of €83,000.   The second cave even has stone steps that lead nowhere!!

The properties had been on the market for €135,000 but they had been reduced a matter of days before we arrived.  A great deal of interest had already been received by the estate agents in the area and I was not to sure whether we would be the successful purchasers but…. we were.  The phone call came from Sean at Spainish-Inland-Properties to confirm we were the proud owners, as I arrived back at Birmingham airport.

What a week that was.  Thank you Dave Nelson for going through it all with me, sharing the ups and downs and wearing out shoe leather.  I hope all the great tapas we endured went a little way towards compensation.

In less than 12 months we will have not one but two great and unusual rental properties. I am over the moon.

There may be a little work to do and a certain amount of planning of the outdoor spaces but that is going to be fun especially when we will be living there.  Inside needs a coat of paint in certain areas and each room needs a good clean . The outside area of the new caves is quite extensive. Part of the area has trees which will need to be cut back and hedges that need to be taken out. We will need patio areas, stone tables and benches, hammocks, four poster sun beds….. and maybe a pool? We are undecided about that, (sorry Dave), as a pool is quite work intensive, expensive to run and maintain and is it really necessary? Jury is still out.  We do have a few volunteers keen to help us get settled.  Chris, Dave,  Tracy… fancy putting your rubber gloves on??  Block you diaries for the second half of October!

But for now we have the hard work that only John and I can do.  The planning, arranging, dealing with solicitors, packing and moving contents of a large house and 2 wonderful dogs to Spain. I will admit that it is all rather scary as we do not have a sales agreement for the house signed as yet – apparently that happens on the day of exchange  which is to be 10 October.  This all happens a few days before we are due to fly out of Cyprus on the 15 October.

As I write this update we have had a couple arrived to look at our two cars.  Within 5 minutes they were sold and all within an hour of advertising them on Facebook.  One has been taken away and the other we can keep until the 13 October!  How good is that?  Only John’s bike to go now.  Help!  So far everything has had perfect timing ….long may that continue.

Thank you for following our exciting journey and I hope you will continue with us all the way. x

 

6. Off To Meet The Architect.

Friends have asked me, ‘How is the cave coming along?’ My honest answer is, ‘I really don’t know’.   We are making progress albeit very slowly with tiny steps.

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My latest trip to Spain was for a dual purpose. I needed to meet with the architect and builder to discuss alterations and extensions to the original plans we had been given when we purchased the cave but most importantly, to discuss the boundary of our land.  If you recall from my previous posts the deeds for the cave still have the original map detailing the plot as it was back in the Flintstone days.  Plots of land had been verbally exchanged, (farming land for extra scrub land), but nothing was put down in writing and no alterations had been made to the drawings.  This apparently happens a lot in Spain and according to our solicitor – nothing to worry about.   I sit here with crossed fingers!  The new updated drawings would then be attached to the deeds of the cave to make everything clear and legal.

As the builder spoke no English, (but had most lovely eyes), and the architect very little, Matilda agreed to meet up and help out. Matilda will be overseeing the reform of the cave when we are in a position to begin.

The temperatures were in the late 30’s as we walked around outside the cave, but as we went inside the cave, the temperature dropped to a lovely 20 degrees. That is what cave life is all about.  Cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

As we walked around it was getting more and more obvious that some of my plans for the reform would need to change. The builder was not happy with the idea of digging into the cave any further than had already been done which was rather disappointing. However, the lounge area that I had imagined to be on the left hand side of the cave was achievable pending planning permission. This is where we are hoping Matias, the architect, will be worth his money.  Matias was born in the area and worked within the planning department until recently when he moved towards the coast. If anyone can get plans passed we are hoping he can.

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The lounge area will be designed to appear as part of the cave apparently – I cannot wait to see the plans.

The urgency of the drawings to mark out the land has been put back slightly as the planning offices close during most of the month of August so it is unlikely that we can get anything finalised until September. Hey ho, so be it.

So yes, we have moved forward but….as I say, it does appear to be with tiny steps. But, as I always say, those tiny steps all add up and in this case add up to us living in a cave. The problem is that the older I get the less patient a person I am, especially when I have set my mind at something.

The second purpose for my trip to Spain was to give my granddaughter Megan a holiday. Megan has been revising none stop for her exams so I wanted to give her a break away (and for her to see the cave in person). Ryan (Megan’s twin) has also had exams but he had flown off to celebrate with friends on another Spanish island.

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So, it was decided to have a girlie week with me, Megan and Sharon (Megan’s mom). We had a lovely 4 days near to the cave. I did all I could with the people I needed to see and we toured around the area visiting villages and shopping centres!  We found a wonderful centre close to Granada which had every shop you could dream of in a surrounding that was second to none.  It truly was amazing and one that I will certainly go back to.  You could certainly make a day of it even if you don’t shop.  The last 3 days of our trip we decided to move nearer to Malaga Airport as we had an extremely early flight home.

We chose a converted nunnery about 10km inland, which was a lovely spot in the mountains, but I must admit to feeling a little pleased that we had chosen the Granada area to live.  When you are not so near to the coast you get great daytime temperatures, cooler nights and ….no humidity! Wonderful.

Now we wait for the drawings to be completed and continue to advertise the 5 bed house and 2 bed apartment in Cyprus.  Spain awaits.

Here is another little video we made during our last visit.  I cannot wait to show you a video when the work begins.  It will be amazing –  I hope.😉

5. The cave will be known as…..

Name for the cave will be……..drum roll!

IMG_3689You may think that naming a cave is an easy thing to do. Well, it’s not!

The reasons for naming our cave were discussed in blog 4 but in a nutshell…..because there are no streets, roads or avenues in the campo (countryside) especially in our area which is aptly named ‘Cuevas del Luna’ (Caves of the Moon). This particular area is vast and has many cave dwellings dotted around. Tracks meander around the plateau, some are fairly flat with a good surface but others are very weather beaten and only accessible with a 4 x 4.  We have to cross over a stream/river to get to our cave (no bridge, just wet wheels).

So, what do you need to consider when naming your cave? In my opinion there are three main considerations:-

1. Is the name unique in the area of your cave?  If there are other dwellings with the same name it will make postal deliveries, and the like, very confusing and will certainly cause you unnecessary difficulty.
2. The name may sound great in English but does it sound as good in Spanish? Do the words roll off the tongue and are they easy to pronounce?
3. Does the name suit the cave or the area? Some may think this unnecessary, but I am not one of these people. I believe the name should be a reflection of the area or there should be some connection to you.

I’ve received many great suggestions from friends and family for a name of our cave and each one has had the three points applied to them. One by one, each name failed on at least one of the points except for two names which I loved.

The first name which passed this three point test above was ‘Cueva Blanca’ (White Cave). After trawling the web I could not find any other cave within the area with the same name, the name flows in the English and Spanish language, the cave will be primary white in colour and, it appears to suit the area. Cueva Blanca was looking promising however, another area of Benamaurel/ Baza is Cuevas de la Blanca which may cause confusion in the future.  This is where my wonderful granddaughter Megan came into the discussions and threw a few of her own ideas into the ring.

One of Megan’s ideas stopped me dead. A name that, after a little research, was not found in the area, one that did roll off the tongue in both languages and a name that was one of my loves, both in food and aromas.  Cueva de Limon (Lemon Cave)


I love my lemon tree within my garden in Cyprus. Each fruit is free of pips, juicy and huge. Lemon curd, lemon juice, lemon slices, lemon drizzle cake, lemon for salads, lemon to remove lime scale from kettles – the list goes on and on.  Lemons have so many uses I am still learning of more each year.

When we eventually refurb the cave, and begin life in Spain, I can picture the lemon trees growing within the garden area and the smooth, white and curved interior walls of the cave accented with lemon colours and perhaps kitchen cupboard doors looking refreshing in a pale lemon colour.

The name is just perfect and one that I love so…..’Cueva de Limon’ it is!