29. SOLD – broken our own record!

How lucky are we!

Our success at selling properties started when over 14 years ago we decided to sell our cottage, office premises and 2 businesses back in the UK.  We wanted to relocate to Cyprus but imagined it happening in 6 months to 2 years allowing us time to sell.  However, fate had other ideas and everything sold within 2 weeks!   The cottage was sold unbelievably quickly,  it Soldactually went through within 11 days, that’s from viewing to final completion.   Yes, 11 days, honestly.  He was a well known footballer looking for somewhere to stay in the area whilst he was seconded to another local team.  Apparently…. the whole cottage could have sat in his lounge within his permanent home!

Then, after 11 years in Cyprus, we decided to relocate to Spain the same thing happened.  Both our Cypriot properties, Villa and the beautiful rental apartment sold very quickly,

within weeks.  It was brilliant but quite scary as we had nowhere to imagesmove into.  If you have been following our story you will know that we had purchased a beautiful unreformed cave.  A cave that was certainly not livable. So the search began for a cave in Spain that we could actually move into.

Now we are selling again but, I hasten to add, not our home.  I love my cave home far too much.  As I had explained in the last blog (28), we are looking to slow down and not work so hard.  I sometimes feel that I am playing catch up everyday and getting nowhere.  So, the decision was made to advertise our 6 rental caves on Facebook.  Well, I was absolutely amazed at the  overwhelming response I received within the first 24 hours.  It was a complete surprise.

186674951On the same day as the advert went live I answered a message from one couple who actually told me they were so interested that they were driving over as we “spoke” to take a look.  We agreed to drive up and meet them so at least they could look inside and….. they are now the new owners – or will be shortly. images Contracts have been signed today, deposits paid but, due to their work commitments abroad, they will be unable to take over officially until 1 April 2021 (may make that 2 April for obvious reasons!)

We cannot be any happier, for us as sellers and for Debbie and Bryan as purchasers.  They are an absolutely lovely couple and I have no doubt whatsoever that they will make a roaring success of the business.  The ideas they have will only help the business to continue growing making it even more of a success than it is now.   Please don’t forget that bookings for Cuevas de la Paz continue so if you would like to take a look please visit http://www.caveholidays.com.  When the sale is finalised I will keep you up to date with the new web address giving you choices for your future holidays in cave land.

How do we feel?  Being truthful… quite sad in as much as we have worked hard to get the business to where it is now but I also feel a huge relief as I can now put my energy and time into Cueves Limòn which is our rental cave next door to our own cave.  Up until now it has only been used for family and friends although it is fully licenced for tourists.  Our hesitation has been about our three dogs that share the outdoor space.  Should we separate the outdoor area or advertise for dog lovers only?   We decided on dog lovers only!  So, a new launch of the website for Cuevas Limòn will be happening very soon ready for the 2021 season.   This will keep me busy enough but in a more relaxed way if that makes sense.

Take a look at http://www.caveholidaysspain.com but please remember it’s not quite ready yet as there are lots more photos to add and plenty more to say.  However, it should give you a taste of what’s to come.

So… please bear with me as I finalise the website of Cueva Limòn.   I am truly looking forward to sharing our own piece of cave land with some great people.

Again, congratulations and a huge welcome to Debbie and Bryan.  We look forward to good times together.

Stay safe and keep following.

Sue

28. Semi-retirement? Yes please!

Lock down has made an impact on all of our lives and that continues throughout 2020.  Personally we have had time to re-evaluate our own lives, our workload and what we truly want for our future.

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I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed being at home, building benches, tables and pottering about trying to make our waste bank into something that resembles a rockery.  I have loved it.  We do have a rather large cave and lots of area around us so there is always something to be done.  My ‘to do’ list never gets any smaller.  As soon as one job gets crossed off another two get added.

I would never have dreamt that I would have said that at the start of this year.  We were working hard to build the rental business up at Cuevas de la Paz (CDLP) which were doing so well.  Rentals were coming in and I was kept very busy – all was looking great for 2020.  Then Covid-19 hit giving me time to sit and think.

It has made us realise what is important, what we need to live a comfortable life and what makes us happy.  We have everything we can possible want right on our doorstep.  We have a lovely home that has been reformed and designed to our liking, we have a second cave next door, (Cuevas Limón), that has been reformed and designed with the view of renting out for holiday lets and we have our wonderful life in cave land.  CDLP was certainly an extra bonus but its success has been our/its downfall.  This sounds a little odd but that is what has happened.

Cuevas Limón (our cave next door) has been fully licensed for a while now but because we have three rescue dogs that share the outdoor space we were in two minds of what to do.  We have now decided to begin advertising the rental from January 2021 but… only to dog lovers.  I am still working on the website so it’s work in progress but take a look and see what we have to offer http://www.caveholidaysspain.com

imagesWe are both of a certain age and want to look forward to a slower pace of life, as we had in lockdown.  So the decision was made 24 hours ago to advertise the sale of CDLP.

WOW.  we did not expect such a response so quickly.  We have had so many people wanting further information we were rather taken aback.   One couple came to look within a couple of hours of me advertising on FB.  We did really like them and talks continue.  Other messages have been discounted as we have decided against the ‘Rent to Buy’ option.  We have been warned by a few people not to go down this path as it can be very troublesome for both parties and that is what we are trying to get away from.   There have been other cash buyers wanting to continue with information which is great.  So…..watch this space… it’s all looking promising.

Would you say I was daft if I said that I wanted the CDLP to be bought by people that shared the same dreams  and passion as we had – well yes we are daft and a little mad but at our age we are allowed.

Stay safe, stay happy.

 

 

26. Lockdown within Cave Land – part 4

IMG_20200503_100635We are now in our 9th week of lockdown – 59 days to be precise.  What has that meant for us?

For the first couple of weeks we just got on with it.  What choice did we have?  But then there were days we lost our positivity and needed to kick ourselves in the butt.  Thankfully it hasn’t happened that often and as I have said before, and will say again, we are lucky to live where we do in such lovely surroundings and scenery.  It really does help to be able to sit outdoors and enjoy what we have around us.

We are trying to keep busy and that is not difficult at all.  The hardest part is finding the energy each day.  There is so much to do and our ‘to do’ list is never ending.  I have painted in several areas of our cave house, built two tables by the back door, we have a new front door step, everything in sight at the front of the cave has been jet washed  (including the cane furniture), made a pair of concrete wellies, updated the sign post and …. we are trying really hard to keep up with the weeding.  This last task is the one we mostly fail with. Weeds just grow anywhere and can be inches tall overnight.

 At the moment we are still unable to go food shopping together and we can only go to our nearest shop.  It’s not a deal breaker but John and I have different tastes and what I would purchase is not necessarily John’s first choice (or second come to that).  He is a vegetarian who likes ginger, marzipan and nuts (my worst nightmares) and I am a meat eater who enjoys ribs, marmite banana toasted sandwiches and chicken curries (Johns worst nightmares).   We are very different in our tastes that’s for sure.  So over the 9 weeks my solution has been to take pictures of the items I would like John to get for me.  Generally it’s successful but sometimes not….  it can be exciting to see what I get.  We are trying to stick to the rules and go shopping only when necessary not only because we have been told but because we feel safer not going out.

As of last Saturday I can join John on the daily walks with the dog.  We are allowed to go for a walk within 1km of home and to walk together has been good for us.  We do not have specific times to go out as we are in a small populated area so have the freedom of going out at a time that suits us.   It is good to see the spring flowers, especially the poppies we have all around, and to feel the warmth of the sun as we amble along with the three boys.  As fate has it we have rain forecast for this week but the sun will be back soon.

Other than not being able to take a drive out in the car, or go to our favourite bars and restaurants, its life as usual for us accept that our rental business has obviously been put on hold.   This year was to be our first full year and it started off better than we expected.  We had so many advance bookings we were over the moon.  However, from March the cancellations have poured in.  We have accepted that business will be slow for the rest of the year and money will be tight but so many others are in the same position.  We are not on our own.  Hopefully we can all enjoy our freedom and breaks away in the very near future.

If you would like to plan ahead, please take a look at our cave rentals.  Go to http://www.caveholidays.com and choose a cave that is right for you.   I will be happy to answer any questions you may have or pass on information about our area in cave land.

imagesStay safe everyone and one day we will look back and hold our heads up high and say we did it.  We got through it and came out of it.

25. ‘Lockdown’ within cave land – part 3.

download-2It’s now day 12 of lockdown in our cave home.  

We have had days when we have been happy, sad, worried, bored, busy and thoughtful but thinking about it, can’t we say the same for our normal everyday lives too.

As some of you know, I am usually out and about working hard getting our rental cave ready for guests to enjoy and ensuring they are well maintained.  However, I have not visited the caves, Cuevas de la Paz, for 12 days and that’s a strange feeling!   I miss them!   If, like me, you are forward planning to take a short break when this strange time is over please take a look at http://www.caveholidays.com. There are other great rental properties within our area where you can stay and I highly recommend you take a look at the places you can enjoy and the new experiences you can have within the Altiplano.  You may get an idea of what our area has to offer from the website. It is a beautiful place.

So, my time has been spent, like many others, doing the jobs that get added to the ‘when I have time’ list which in reality, would normally stay unticked.  I’ve emptied drawers, batched cooked, cleaned, sorted out clothes and generally slowed down.  This is not a bad thing but I do wish I could have friends around to witness how clean and tidy our cave is now. 

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When our doors are once again open, the house will have returned to the ‘almost tidy’, ‘as clean as you are going to see it today’ and ‘more dog hairs then I care to think about’ cave then I would honesty like but…. If you are friends you will understand (I hope).

I have also taken more time to read posts on Facebook, which for us living in a small community, has been a vital source of information during our 12 days. It has also on occasions given me a few great laughs with the funny words and videos that are out there.  It has also been the biggest source of rubbish just like our newspapers can be on occasions.  We do have to consider each post with care and decided if we believe it or not ( looking at the source of the post is a good guide for me).

I found this on FB recently which for me epitomizes what I mean about false information and I absolutely love it.

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Just a heads up The Ministry of Defence have been told to be on standby for complete UK lockdown as of Sunday evening at 6pm… No one is to leave their home’s unless you work in Front Line Retail or the NHS and have brown hair.

I heard this directly from my neighbour Trigger who is best friends with a guy called Boycey.  Boycey knows a guy named Del who drinks down the pub with his uncle Albert.  Albert was in the Navy during the war so knows his stuff.

Please pass it on.

On the more positive side I do enjoy the posts that make me smile or perhaps make me think (I’ve been told that using my little grey cells is a good thing).  I  found this on FB today posted by a friend and its is just perfect – could not have put it better myself!

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           Do we say ‘we are stuck at home’ or

           should we say ‘we are safe at home’. 

         One word makes so much difference.

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Today on day 12 the Horton household have chilled out.  Not doing that much, just pottering about and smiling at all the good things we have around us.  John’s highlight was popping to the chemist for my hayfever pills and his own prescribed medication.  My day was made even brighter when I spotted the crowd gathering around our bottom gate. 

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Now it’s time for a spot of TV for even more relaxation.  Tomorrow is another day when I may get started on the painting of the dining room walls…… or not….. I may just make these for the garden.  My choice is endless.

Thats day 12 in cave land.   Take care everyone and stay smiling.

24. ‘Lockdown’ within cave land – part 2.

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Today we are on ‘Day 8’ of our lockdown in cave land and … it’s Mothers Day.

My last blog was posted on day 4 when I wrote about how lucky I felt being in lockdown in such a lovely area with the room and space I have around me.  Now, 4 days later, my thinking has altered slightly.

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I am beginning to realise that it is not how big your castle is, how large your garden may be or the number of places you can hide in that makes lockdown more bearable.  On day 8 I am more inclined to say, although size does matter, it’s the state of mind we have that is my new number one.

As human beings we tend not to like being told that we cannot do the things that we have taken for granted all of our lives.  We all know that this lockdown makes total sense and may totally agree with the rules that we have been asked to abide by but…. deep in the back of our human minds we don’t like the thought of not being allowed to do the most normal of activities.  It is so easy to get into a negative frame of mind.  We are all human, it will happen, to some more than others.

What do I personally do to combat my own images-1human failings – especially on this particular mothers day?  Please remember, I am not saying my way is the right way but sharing what appears to be working for me …. so far.

1.   I am taking it day by day.  I am not looking towards the end of lockdown (now extended to the 12 April) as for me that appears to be too many days away from today.  In reality it’s not but…

2.  I am not planning my day’s activities.   Instead I give myself something to aim for.   Today images-4for example I would like to spring clean my bathroom.  You notice I said ‘like to’ and not ‘must do’.  This gives me a get out clause if I decided to do something else.  There is always tomorrow!

3. I am actively researching places I would like to visit when this is all over. images-12 It may be several months away but I am getting excited about the not so far off future when I can tour around.  I enjoy planning where to visit, where to stay, what to see, history of the different areas etc.  It doesn’t have to be far from home.  There are so many beautiful places to visit within Spain and I would love to see as many as I can.  A night here, a weekend there…. sounds good doesn’t it?

4.  I am trying to keep in contact with the outside world.  I try and talk as often as I can to family and friends by messages or phone.  I have images-6also enjoyed the many live events hosted on Facebook over the past few days.  I have watched exercise classes to great music sessions from people coming together, (not literally of course), from all over the world.  People are talking, performing, sending jokes, sending recipes – simply communicating with strangers.  One particular event yesterday moved me to tears reminding me that we were all in this together.

5.  For me personally, I do not want to stagnate.  Yes, it is great to have a sofa day but I images-7know that the more sofa days I have the less positive I get.  I need to see and feel that things are getting done.  It may be painting the dining cave walls or simply sorting out a drawer. Whatever the task – I do need to feel a sense of achievement.  Others may not need this but, I know that I do.  

6.  There is a lot of bad press out there.  We have all read it and have been affected by it.  However, there is also a lot of great news out there to.  images-9  Speaking to my son Chris today by phone – he commented how positive it was that people are thinking about others and offers of help are spreading far and wide.  I couldn’t agree more. The different ways that people are offering help and sharing with others is amazing and seriously makes my eyes leak.  It doesn’t need to be much.   A simple text to someone you have not spoken to for a while saying ‘hi’ may be all it takes to make that person’s day a better one.  We often have no idea what other people are going through, and  we may never know, so I try to be kind and reach out whenever I can.  But, again, we are all human and we must not forget to consider our own personal well being.  We should never be afraid to ask for help.  Don’t forget that. 

7.  I remind myself of the things I do have and not what I don’t.  My life is good and I don’t need to be reminded of that fact very often.  To whomever it may concern – A little less curve balls thrown in my direction would be good though – please.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, keep positive and keep planning for the future.  Most of all keep talking.  images-11

Hugs to everyone especially to all moms on this very unique Mothers Day.

23. ‘Lockdown’ within Cave Land

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The Corona Virus is affecting everyone all over the world.  The majority of people have had and will have more restrictions placed on their everyday activities as the days go by.  Some more than others.  We are presently on day 4 of our lock down in Spain.   ‘It’s not been that long’, you may say.  I would agree but it is harder for some than it is for others and we have to be prepared for the original 15 days enforced restrictions to be extended further.   This is not going to be a quick fix.

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We sit here in our cave discussing how this is affecting our lives and what hardships we will have to endure.  We will not be able to visit friends and family for a while, won’t be able to go for a meal at the local swimming pool in Los Carriones or a coffee at Emilio’s.   We won’t be able to go to the garden centre or my favourite mall in Granada.   We will not be able to go for a drive out to the lakes or explore nearby towns and villages or chat with the friendly postman as he sorts through the packages in the back of his garage.   Ok, so that is how it is going to be, for us.   Not to bad you might say.  Yes we are confined to our home boundaries (with the exception of going food shopping, vets, bank, fuel, (only one at a time and strict regimes in place when you get there)), but we are truly lucky to have what we have around us.  Our own personal hardship is not that great – so far.   

We then started thinking about how it could be affecting other people near and far who may not have the things we have.  

Why do we feel so lucky?

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We have a large cave in which we can spread ourselves around.   As our rental cave next door is empty we are free to use that space if necessary.  By adding both caves together we have in total 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 2 kitchens 3 lounge areas, one dining room, an office,  a gym, 2 garages, numerous patios and a huge wood store.   That’s enough space to find a quiet spot if you need one.

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There are many people in Spain who live very happily in their smaller apartments or homes.  However, being confined within that space can be hard for some, especially now.  In normal times people live their lives and everything is generally ok especially when you are happy and content with what you have and with the person(s) you are living with.  But, what if you are already in an unhappy relationship or the thought of not being able to leave the confines of your home is very limiting and depressing?  I cannot imagine how difficult that must be.   There must be many people in this predicament who, on day 4, are counting every second with dread.  All I can say to anyone who may be in that situation is to use friends via any communications method you have, find something to do that you enjoy or think about things that make you happy.  From me to you – I send you all a huge virtual hug.

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We have our own land around our cave so we and and our three dogs can freely roam and potter in the fresh air.  We also have the added bonus of lovely scenery all around us. 

Many people do not have that luxury and have little or no outside space in which to escape.  We have sometimes thought the land we have is a little problematic regarding upkeep and trying to think of ideas of what to do with it but … I am, on day 4, so pleased we have it.  Weeds and all.

With today’s communications network we can keep in touch easily with family and friends far and wide.  We use WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype etc etc which is all becoming increasingly more important as the days go by.  They keep us in contact with the outside world and obviously with our family and friends.

Some people do not have these luxuries.  They may have a mobile phone and tv but little else.  Don’t get me wrong, that is enough to keep in contact with people but we feel spoilt for the choices that we have.

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We live in a sparsely populated and rural area where few cases have been reported.  In fact, we have had no reported cases within our immediate area to date.  So far, we are healthy (relatively of course.  John still has his heart problems and I seriously need to lose  the weight which has piled on recently).  So why are we as worried as we are?  That is the question being asked by some back in the UK.   

Because we are!

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How many times have I heard ‘but it’s just like the flu’! For me it’s the same as people’s attitude to smoking ‘dope’.  For many it’s a case of feeling good for a short time while you enjoy your homemade joint.   Good for you!  That is your choice and you are free to do what you want with your life.  However, for others, and there are many, it causes mental health issues. hallucinations, horrid nightmares and paranoia.  I have seen it happen so many times to so many people around me over the years.  The same attitude is being applied to this virus.  This virus may just be a walk in the park for some but for many it has and will continue to be painful, disruptive due to being hospitalised and even in the worse case scenarios causing loss of life.

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We like most families have people we deeply care for who have a medical condition which this virus poses a great risk to.  We have good friends who need hospital treatment but cannot get it now as the hospitals have no beds or are closed to regular appointments.  It is causing such distress to those who need to carry on with the treatment they were receiving and now are in limbo not knowing if the lack and delay of treatment will cause them to get worse or halt their own recovery.   It’s not a happy position to be in.   I don’t want to lose any one of these people due to others not taking precautions and treating this virus as ‘the flu’.    I’ve just been watching on TV the scenes at a popular coastal area of Spain where Brits are acting as idiots and only interested in drinking themselves stupid while they happily socialise in the streets.  It does get to me.

Getting back on track,  we are lucky to be locked down where we are, but I do ask everyone to consider the consequences of what they do especially in the next few weeks.  The UK may not yet be in lockdown, but it is coming I am sure.

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So, day 4 comes to an end and I’ve planted the flowers I purchased last week, watered the trees, moved 3 pallets that you apparently can see on Google Earth, brushed the dogs, done the usual housework and washing and now I am going to sit down with a cold drink.

Cheers everyone and please please please keep safe.  For you and everyone around you.

22. ‘Semi retire to Spain’, they said!

Is it me or does anyone else feel that 2020 is racing towards 2021 at great speed?

It is now a full 12 months since we opened our cave rentals, Cueves de La Paz (Caves of Peace), to guests.  What a year that’s been!

Before we arrived in Spain we lived in Cyprus for 11 years where we had a modern rental property so we came here with a good basic knowledge to start us off – or so we thought!  I knew the first year, (and probably the next two after that), would be a steep learning curve.  We now know that the knowledge and wisdom we had gained in Cyprus was kind of useless to us here in caveland Spain.

Why?

Location – The apartment in Cyprus was close to several lovely beaches and had 180 degree sea views. It was located within a holiday hotspot. The apartment had two large bedrooms with spectacular views. Guests had use of a shared gym suan and a large shared pool with changing room, (being only a small apartment block the pool was often private).  It was contemporary designed with a roomy feel.   We were continually booked with UK guests looking for 7 to 14 days holiday accommodation each year.

Here in Spain, our cave rentals offer a completely different holiday.  Caves provide quite an unusual experience, (you need to sleep in a cave to find out why). We have tried to keep a traditional Spanish feel to the interiors whilst adding all mod cons.  As the caves are within the Altiplano area of the Granada province, the location has a completely different feel and provides a contrasting type of holiday.  The area is not particularly a holiday hotspot especially for the UK market as Benidorm or Malaga may be…I could go on but I think you get my drift!

Advertising – In Cyprus we received all our bookings from Owners Direct but here in Spain this particular site appears to be fruitless (again, perhaps targeting the wrong holiday market).   After trying several other companies we are finding that Booking.com gives us the majority of our bookings together with our own private advertising on facebook and blogs.

Amenities – In Cyprus the gym was very popular and was a booking incentive for many of our guests but not here in Spain.  The cave gym has been ‘played with’ for a few minutes but not actually used as a gym.  Guests were amused but not excited by the equipment.  So, we have now decided to relocate the equipment to our own home, I’m not saying it will get any more use now but all the good intentions are there.

The swimming pool in Cyrus was well used by most of our guest for 6-7 months of the year.  So, we have considered adding a swimming pool within the large garden area.  However, with the diverse weather we have here on the Altiplano we feel that the weeks in the summer where the pool would be utilised to its full potential does not justify the cost of installation and upkeep and would not increase our sales to take theses costs into consideration.  Instead we advertise the local village swimming pool which is minutes away and is one of the best in the area but, again due to the cool nights, it is only open from the end of June to the end of August.

Language – One of the main challenges we face, particularly with our guests is communication as the vast majority are Spanish citizens.  We are both attending lessons and can now communicate on a basic level which is ok however, we intend to improve our Spanish with each guest we welcome to our caves.  Our guests appear to appreciate that we do try which is great and we are thankful that they in turn try and help us as much as possible when explaining about jacuzzis and gas bottles!  

IMG_3690Maintenance – The general repairs to caves can be totally different to houses and apartments for obvious reasons. A cave is a living thing, it needs air circulating around and caves especially need to be lived in.   Ongoing maintenance is a must in most properties but without doubt one of the most important jobs when you have caves.  This keeps me very busy and I can honestly say that I do not have smooth hands any more!  Sorry John but that’s life!

But, the future is looking good – We have most certainly learnt a lot during the last 12 months and I know we have lots more to learn.  However, I will say it has been fun (mostly😎).  We have received wonderful reviews from our guests during the first year and had the honour of meeting many lovely people.   The lovely comments we receive keep us moving forward knowing that we are getting most things right.  Hopefully this will continue throughout 2020 as our diary begins to fill in.  Watch this space.

For more information about the cave rentals please take a look at http://www.caveholidays.com

 

 

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.