Before I venture any further with this story, it might be helpful to first explain why in the end we decided to focus on Spain rather than Portugal as a place to re-locate to. Having previously waxed lyrical about the Eastern Algarve and living close to the sea, we soon realized that we were about 100,000 Euros short of what we needed if we were to find anything that ticked even half the boxes on our new home list. We could have looked further in land and or headed up to Northern Portugal for cheaper property but, the lure of tapas, the beautiful towns and white washed villages of Andalucía, and the fact that Spanish is for us Brits, an easier language to learn than Portuguese are among the reasons why ultimately we felt drawn to Spain. I’m not going to lie; I like Rioja and Cava a lot too.
Ahead of my trip, Irishman and I spent long evenings discussing what each of us would most like in regards to a new home. Bearing in mind that this was to be the first house that we’ve bought together I felt a great burden of responsibility to get it right. This was not to be a holiday home but a permanent residence, somewhere to move to after our sojourn in Indonesia comes to an end. Fortunately we have similar tastes and aesthetics. Our mantra was the same. As long as it was habitable (had some sort of a roof on it) had good light, enough space to make a large studio, a fireplace and at least two bedrooms, we were half way to ticking the boxes on our wish list. Land would be ideal but we were prepared to sacrifice that if I found something that had all the other qualities that we were hoping to find in our new home. The only difference between us is that I can happily live on the side of a hill in rural isolation, but Irishman can’t. Whatever I was looking at had to be either in a village or within walking distance to one.
All these thoughts and more were running through my head as I headed towards Alcala La Real early that Monday morning.
Out of all the houses that I’d made appointments to view that first day, there was one that I was particularly excited about. I was convinced that it was going to be the right house for us despite the fact that I knew that it was in terrible condition and needed a lot of work to get it back to scratch. I’d even taken to stalking it on Google Earth. How amazing that from my desk in Jakarta I could make a virtual tour of the area, view the country lane that it was on and then as a bird, soar up and look at it from above? As we approached closer to the property I astounded the estate agent by giving her directions to turn right, follow the road and then we would see the finca up on the corner by the bend before you get to the village. I’m sure she thought that I was some sort of psychic.
It was indeed a lovely house. Set back off the road with an acre of olive groves behind it, it had the potential to become a very stunning home. I’ve never been fazed by restoration projects but I could see that this would be more of a challenge than I’d originally thought. The roof had an ominous sag in it, the walls all had cracks and it was clear that there was a serious damp problem. I’d looked at two other houses that afternoon but none of them came close to this one that I’d nick named ‘The Rabbit Hutch’.
Well, fate played its hand as later that day as it soon became apparent that The Rabbit Hutch was not meant for us. The vendor turned out to be a difficult man. Rather than snap my hand off with my offer for the full amount, he decided to put the price up another 6,000 Euros. Considering the house had been on the market for just shy of a year I couldn’t help but wonder if the man was bonkers. I didn’t burst into tears or blub. Instead I was quite sanguine. I had what is best described as an ‘Omm’ moment. My inner buddhist kicked in. Getting older has taught me that there is very often a reason for things. If, after my best endeavours this house was not meant to be, then I had to trust that something else would be around the corner. I was also secretly relieved that I’d been spared the job of turning up with Irishman a few months down the line and having to watch his face fill with horror at the thought of all the hard work that we’d have to do and no money to do it with. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise after all.
That night I slept badly. The only other possible contender that day had been a sweet little house perched up on the side of a hill. It was very cute but rather dark inside since the back of it was built into the hillside. There was definitely a touch of the troglodytes about it. Although it had some outside space which in the future could come in handy if we wanted to build a swimming pool, and stunning views all around, I couldn’t help but feel that it would be too isolated for the Irishman. As I tossed and turned, I wondered if this might be the best house of the trip and if indeed it was, then how could I sell the idea of something so isolated to Irishman. I had only one more day if I was to find something and get all the legal stuff sorted out.
It’s funny how things turn out. The following morning, the agent told me that she was going to take me to see a house that wasn’t on my list. The reason that she’d not thought to take me before was that it had no land, just a large courtyard. I wasn’t in the least impressed when I read the house details that she handed to me. In fact I was in two minds as to whether to tell her to leave it and go straight on to the other 3 that we had lined up to view later. How glad am I that I agreed to see it.
If you’ve ever been looking at houses to buy or rent, you will know that there is a certain feeling that you get when you’ve arrived ‘at the one’. It’s that sense of knowing, that feeling that you are home. This is exactly what I felt the minute that the huge double doors to the courtyard opened and I had my first glimpse of the house. From the street side the house looks quite tiny, the huge fig tree at the front disguises the fact that it’s actually quite a large L-shaped building. What I loved most about the house was the fact that it hadn’t been messed about with. All the original details were there, the doors, the floors, the traditional shutters, the simplicity of the place. The upper rooms were flooded in light and if I counted correctly there were 3 large double bedrooms and lots of choice of where to make a studio off the courtyard. I noted that the kitchen and shower room could do with some updating but aside from that it was perfect.
I never bothered to see the other houses. An hour after looking around, taking it all in, and getting a real feel for the place, Antonio the vendor, and I shook hands. As I wiped a tear from my cheek I noticed that the old man had one too. In a moment of panic, I asked the agent if he was ok, did he mind selling his house to an English couple? ‘Oh no Lottie’ ‘He’s crying because he says that he’s so happy that you love his house as much as he does. He knows how much you will love it here. He gives you his blessing’ and with that I couldn’t help but burst into tears. Against all odds, I had achieved what in moments of doubt I had thought might be impossible. In less than 2 days I’d found the perfect house for us in a beautiful village in Andalucia. The remaining couple of days were spent sorting out a new bank account, notaries, lawyers, NIE numbers and everything else necessary to ensure the purchase of our new house. Now all that’s left to do is to learn Spanish and find a way to make a living. I will be writing about this in the weeks to follow but for now I have a request – I will need a new name for this blog, has anyone any bright ideas of what I should call it once we move to Spain and start our new life there?