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.

 

 

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

 

13. Something to cross off my bucket list.

If you are thinking of buying a shelf or a type of unit to house a DVD or Apple TV, you may think of visiting B&Q or Ikea.  I certainly have on many occasions.

fullsizeoutput_33c0However, when you live in a cave, as we   do, there are other options.  You could attack the cave wall with a hammer and chisel and carve yourself a shelf in the rock wall.  I debated long and hard about this option; the thought of how deep the recess would need to be to house all the electrical devices was not that appealing to me.  Chiselling out a hole in the wall is not an easy task especially as the rock can be very solid, a hammer may not crack the nut!  I have also been reliably informed that a small hole creates masses of debris by our lovely neighbour Steve.  He should know as he has a few recess shelves in his own cave.  So, what other option do I have?

The second option is to build out into the room.  It could be a shelf or a unit but no…..when you live in a cave the obvious thing to do is to build a rock to house your gadgets.

So, how to build a rock?  This is something I can honestly say I have never thought of before.  I have built steps, arches and fireplaces but never a rock!  I came up with a plan  to use breeze blocks and chicken wire.

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A visit to the local builders yard and a walk around the cave grounds gave me all the material I needed.  I haphazardly arranged my building material in the corner as near to the design that was in my head. Then I rearranged them and then rearranged them again. This went on for a few days.  Eventually I was content with the overall shape and set to work joining the full and half bricks together with a great deal of Yeso.  I wanted to leave two flat areas on the top so that I could place tiles to form a platform for the gadgets.  This was to be my cave shelves.

At this point I realised I did not have a tile cutter which was to be an important piece of equipment but a trip to our local town Baza sorted that.  Tiles cut and sited and the job was done.  It may not be perfect but I really don’t care because……I did it!

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Was it easy…no it wasn’t.  It was time consuming, thought provoking and a little back breaking but I would certainly take a few short cuts next time and I have learnt a lot about building a rock.  All I need to do is to finish the paint job on the wall.  Job done.

Something to cross off my bucket list.