Category Archives: La Casa

Un día normal

Un día normal

We were really getting into the swing of this relaxed Spanish lifestyle. On this morning, Curt got up and met his cycling buddies. I was always interested to hear about which new place they would show him, because that usually meant we would be investigating it later. While he was gone I worked on my blog, but I was still so far behind at posting because we have no internet connection. (Bob was so kind to give me his password, but in all of my craziness, I somehow lost the piece of paper, and am too embarrassed to ask for it again.)

When Curt came back, he said that they had cycled by what seemed to be an interesting restaurant. The funny thing was that as he described it, I knew exactly what he was talking about. While back in the States and researching for places in Arboleas with free wifi, I made a list of several restaurants and bars in the area that had been recommended. Just because I’m so thorough (!), I also would scope out exactly how to find the place, even to the point of checking it out on GoogleMaps street view. As soon as he started to describe this restaurant which sat high on a hill overlooking the valley, and talked about its cement balustrade along a large patio, I said, “Oh I know that place! El Castillo! In Rincon!” Sure enough it was the same place. We decided to take a drive out there for a clara and some free wifi.

El Castillo Arboleas

Every restaurant has
a cute little napkin just like this

El Castillo bar

El Castillo has a nice little bar area where
just hanging out and using the wifi is normal

El Castillo views

What a beautiful view from the patio
of El Castillo Restaurante!

Does it get any better than this? A gorgeous sunny day with blue skies, a short drive to a great place to eat and relax… the aggravating events of yesterday were on the back burner… this is what it’s all about!

We stayed there for a while, made a quick stop at the store for a few groceries, then made our way back home. When we arrived, we found Pepa outside with her husband Antonio. We had not met Antonio yet, but after some quick introductions and a bit of conversing in “caveman Spanish” we were invited into their home next door. I was really sweating it out trying to keep up with Pepa’s rapid speech, and andaluz accent, but Curt thought I did really well keeping up. They showed us around and talked about how they are renovating this home, but live in another home in town. Pepa was so cute and would get excited and talk faster and faster. Antonio would laugh and pull me aside and say it all again much slower so we could understand. They are seriously the cutest little couple. (And when I say little, I do also mean that they are short in stature — I felt like a bit of an Amazon, although I am but 5’6″.)

We chatted for a little bit and then went to our house next door. The rest of the day was spent puttering around until we went back over to that other bar in town, El Campillo. This is a definite hangout for some of the locals — mostly British, but also some Spanish. They play cards, watch TV, and can basically hang around as long as they like. We decided to do the same, and then ordered some tapas.

Tapas Bar Campillo

Tapas from El Campillo

I almost forgot about taking a picture, but managed to remember before we ate all of the tapas. We chose the Spanish tortilla, patatas bravas, albóndigas (meatballs) with tomato and peas, and mushrooms with shrimp — all served with bread, of course. We stayed until well after dark, then made our way across the bridge back to the casa for a good night’s sleep.

Just un día normal in our Spanish village…

An evening drive

An evening drive

When we were house hunting, we had been ga-ga over a very remote house, but our low-ball offer was refused, and that is what led us to buy our current casa. Every day, as we are cooking in our kitchen, or enjoying the terraces, or waking up and looking out over the mountains in the distance, we say: “Aren’t you so glad we bought this one?” But today we decided to take a drive out to the other house, to look at it with different eyes. The eyes of owners of a wonderful spanish house, instead of the eyes of two crazy Americans who thought that buying a fixer-upper in the middle of no where would be a good idea.

We drove all the way out there and kept saying, “Oh my gosh, this is far from town!” The hamlet seemed sad and had just a few inhabited houses. The rest are vacant. Some were closed up and look like the owners haven’t been around in a while. There weren’t any people around. It was pretty quiet — not even barking dogs.

The countryside is beautiful out there, but seeing how kind of sad and dreary it was just confirmed that buying our reformed 300 year old casa on the edge of town was the best decision for us. After taking it all in, there wasn’t much to do, and Curt wasn’t feeling like walking among the houses, so we started to make our way out of the hamlet. We did pass by some grapes along the narrow road beside a house that had chained up gates, so I rolled down the window and let a few “fall in my lap.”

Grapes from Los Utreras

Grapes from Los Utreras

After this excursion, we went back to Albox and stopped at the Lidl. We wanted to go back to the beach before leaving Spain and were looking for an umbrella to shield us from the sun. It turns out that we hit the jackpot at this Lidl because not only did we find our beach umbrella, but also a shower rack that we had been looking for. Lidl is a grocery store, but in the center of the store they sell all sorts or random things like shoes, toasters, toys, etc. We picked up a few other food items while we were there. One thing I was so curious about was this melon. We had been seeing it in all the stores, but I had no idea what it would be like inside. It’s called Piel de Sapo, which means, literally, skin of toad. I guess the skin does really look like a toad’s skin!

Piel de Sapo melon

Piel de Sapo melon.
Similar to our Honeydew melon.

 

It’s a dirty job…

It’s a dirty job…

It was our understanding that José would be coming by in the morning to empty the septic tank, so we hung around and cleaned house all morning. We did some more rearranging of furniture and got the place spic and span.

Downstairs lounge

Cozy corner in the downstairs lounge

View from my upstairs desk where I work on my blog

View from my upstairs desk where I work on my blog

It was a good use of the day, but I was getting frustrated because as the day was going by and José was not making an appearance, I was thinking that we could have gone to the market in Albox that morning. People always talk about the “mañana” attitude in Spain… meaning that when you need something done, it happens “mañana.” Now whether mañana is actually tomorrow or not is debatable… I’ll be the first person to admit that I have a very loosey-goosey attitude about time and don’t like to live by a clock, so I was trying hard not to be too annoyed. Still, tick-tock, tick-tock. That’s the sound of our vacation passing by.

A knock at the door! Excitement! Was it José?? No. Theresia. She had come by to say that José had called her and when she asked if everything had gone well he said, “Oh I’m going this afternoon.” Obviously there was a bit of miscommunication somewhere, but he was calling to make sure he knew where our house was and to ask if we could meet him behind the grocery store and lead him to the house. He wanted to meet after siesta. That meant 5:00 that evening, and we wondered if he would arrive at five, or if he’d be casually late.

We were excited to drive over to the grocery store. We parked in the back parking lot, and sat in the car, craning our necks around at the slightest sound: “Is that José?” “Do you hear a truck?”

At 5:15, a tractor pulls into the parking lot. It was pulling a big tank type thing, which Curt called a Honey Pot. Seriously?? That is NOT full of honey, Honey. We waved to José and pulled in front of him, leading the way. Getting into our row of houses is a one-way operation, so Curt parked in what is a common parking area at the end of Bob’s house. (This was once a threshing circle, but now is just a grassy area for parking.) I went ahead on foot and motioned to José where the septic tank was. José realized that he needed to back the vehicle in, so he went back out of the drive and backed the tractor and tank in like he was maneuvering a Mini.

Emptying the septic in Spain

There’s no honey in that honey pot, Winnie!

I dashed upstairs to take pictures of this, our first major home maintenance activity. I wanted to document this but didn’t want to be like some freakish American paparazzi tourist, taking snapshots of this poor guy doing what I thought might be a disgusting job. Plus, I wasn’t too keen on being nearby when he opened up the lid of the septic. I was hoping that being on the upstairs balcony would keep me and my super sniffer far from any smells.

Surprisingly enough, while I was imagining myself retching in disgust, the whole operation was quick and relatively clean! He first opened up the main lid, gagged a bit, then opened up the interior lid.

Opening the septic tank

Opening the outer lid

Full septic

Eeek! Full septic!
**cough, cough**

The black bag in the picture was on top of the inner lid. I have no idea what is in it, however I do know it was not a dead cat or a big piece of liver! José said he thought it was on top of the lid to make sure it was not letting any smell out. We took his word for it. He attached the huge hoses to his transporting tank, put the other end of the hose into the septic tank, and turned on the pump.

Getting the septic tank emptied in Spain

Emptying the tank

Emptying our spanish septic tank

Chug, chug, chug…

In no time José was done. We paid him and he went on his way. We offered to let him wash sus manos, but he said he had more work to do, and said adios. We were quite happy to have gotten this accomplished because it was one of those things that we knew we were going to have to take care of, and thanks to Theresia, it was no problem. Hopefully we won’t have to get it done again any time soon. The problem with our septic is that it is not a “drain away” type because of where it is located. If it had a drain field, it would be draining into the back of our neighbor’s house, and that would stink — literally! But that also means that all the water we use goes into the septic tank. After this ordeal we will be a little more mindful of how long we take in the shower or just how much water we use in general.

Now that chore was done, we were ready to go out and explore. That’s the wonderful thing about summertime in Spain: daylight seems to last forever!

Theresia: A wealth of information

Theresia: A wealth of information

I returned from Humbugs and just a short time later (just after the five o’clock end to siesta) we received a visit from Theresia. Arboleas is a small town, and it hadn’t taken long before word had spread that “The Texans” were the new owners of property here in town. That is “Texans,” mind you, not “Americans” but “TEXANS” …and there is a difference, folks… be sure about that! I think that Theresia was quite interested in coming over to meet us, being that we were new to town, and we were happy to hear what she had to say.

Theresia has lived in the area for many years now and was a wealth of information! She is a city councilwoman and had previously worked for the tourism office of Arboleas until funding was cut and that office was closed. The office was located in an old train station which is right near our house.

Arboleas Visitor Information Center

The now closed Arboleas Visitor Information Center

It’s a shame that the visitor information center has been closed. I’m sure it would be an asset to the community, but as with all of Spain at the moment, funds are being cut and this is just a sign of the times.

Theresia knew exactly who we meant when we asked her to help us contact Diego about emptying the septic tank. The problem was, the number we had was not a correct number. Luckily for us, she was armed with a cell phone and fluent Spanish! She called someone else who called her back with Diego’s number, then she called the number and ended up finding out that it was not Diego but his son José who would empty the septic. No matter, we were just happy someone was going to do it! We arranged for José to come tomorrow morning.

After all that was squared away, we sat and chatted for a while with Theresia. She told us many stories about the locals and at one point she mentioned Pepper and we excitedly said, “Oh yes! We’ve met Pepper!” She looked perplexed and when we said she lived next door, Theresa said, “Oh, no, not that Pepa! Another one! That’s a very common name. Short for Josephina.” So then we felt like silly Americans again when we realized that we were hearing Pepa from everyone, but only thought it was their British accents which makes “Pepa” sound the same as “Pepper” to us. Ooops.

We heard all about yet another Diego who was born and raised in Arboleas and whose family worked on the railway when it passed through this area. We learned about the nearby town of Serón and the abandoned mining town of Las Menas. (You can read about it here on another blog) I took a lot of notes because I was very interested in visiting the abandoned mines and Curt was very interested in visiting and sampling the famous serrano hams that are cured in the town of Serón! We learned where to swap out our butane gas bottles and about the Spanish traffic law that will cost you a fine for driving with flip-flops on.

No flip flops while driving in Spain

No driving in Spain without wearing a full shoe!

And it’s not just flip flops, it’s any shoe without a back strap. This was good to know, because the last thing we want is to get a traffic ticket in Spain.

The most interesting bit of information Theresia shared with us, however, had to do with the septic. We were standing outside and she was telling us the basics, which we were already aware of, for example: don’t use an excessive amount of caustic cleaners, don’t flush random things that may not break down easily, etc… and then the conversation went like this:

Theresia: Now, I know this sounds terrible, but the best thing you can do is find yourself a dead cat, and toss it in.

Me: (Speechless.)

Theresia: I mean if you can manage to find one, they say it gets it all working. You just have to find one.

Me: I’ve seen a lot of cats here, but not any dead ones…

Theresia: Well, they say if you can find one, you just toss it in!

Me: (pointing to the lid of the septic tank) In there?

Theresia: Oh yeah, just open it up and toss it in.

Me: I don’t think I’d want to open it up, to be honest.

Theresia: Well then you can always use a big piece of liver…

Me: Liver?

Theresia: Sure. Liver. Then you could just cut it up into pieces and flush it down the toilet. They say that works, too. But not as good as a dead cat.

Me: What about those little packets they sell in the store? You know those packets that you flush to help build up the bacteria?

Theresia: Oh, those? They say there is no proof that they really work…

Fosas Sépticas

Fosas Sépticas bolsitas?
Third in line for effectveness…
after cat and liver.

Okay, so luckily Bob had already given us this package of Fosas Sépticas as a “housewarming gift” after talking to him about our septic troubles. He laughed with us that while most people bring a bottle of wine to new neighbors, he was bringing this. We had a good laugh with him about that. Now, just in case you think Theresa is the only person to suggest this dead cat treatment for the septic, or that it is uniquely a Spanish idea, I’m including a link so you can read more about it. Rest assured that we went with the bolsitas.

We bid adios to Theresia and she said she’d check back with us tomorrow to make sure that José made it over and took care of emptying the septic tank.

Even though it was nearing evening time, we took a little drive before dinner. We drove to the nearby town of Huercal Overa and passed through the little town of La Cinta where we saw these pomegranates, and passed though another community where we saw another Spanish gatita.

La Cinta pomegranates

Pomegranates in La Cinta

Spanish cat

“Sophie, eres tú??”

Then we went back home and had a nice dinner of pork fillets, rice, and vegetables. Earlier in the week we picked up this bottle of wine for 1,10 Euros. If you aren’t “current with the currency,” that’s crazy because that’s less than $1.50. Now, granted, don’t serve this at a dinner party, fancy or otherwise, because it was nothing to write home about; but it still is amazing how inexpensive bottles of wine are here in Spain!!

1,10 euro wine in Spain

How you say… El Cheapo?
(1,10 Euro wine)

We had to stop in at the Chino to pick up the wine opener. Ironically, I think it was more expensive than the wine itself.

 

 

Meeting our Spanish neighbors

Meeting our Spanish neighbors

After the big day of cleaning yesterday, which left me tuckered out and covered in mosquito bites (note to self: keep the screens closed as soon as dusk falls!), we spent this next day lounging around. In the afternoon there was some shouting and calling from the front of the house and when we went to see what was going on, we were happy to meet our neighbor and two of his friends. Our house is located in a row of four houses. From right to left, there is “The Spanish Lady’s House,” our house, “Juan’s house,” and “The British People’s House.” That’s how we’ve always referred to the different houses since we had never met any of the owners, but only heard who owned which house.

The man who came to visit was Bob (Yes! another “Bob!”) and he owns “The British People’s House.” He and his parents bought their house 15 years ago and had the house renovated. His parents had been living there since then, but now, because they are getting up in years, have returned to the UK. So Bob and his wife are going to do a little updating to the house and plan to use it as a holiday home.

He talked to us about “Juan’s House” which is really at this point just a ruin. The roof has fallen in and although Bob had offered to buy the place from Juan in the past, it doesn’t seem that Juan is too concerned about selling it, because after discussing one price, he proceeded to up the price to a ridiculous amount that he knew Bob wasn’t going to pay. Bob let us know that he had put in a denuncia (complaint) with the city hall, asking them to look in to the issue. We agreed that this was a good idea, because we have been wondering what will happen as the house next door gets in worse and worse shape.

Three houses in Arboleas, Spain

“One of these houses is not like the other…”
Juan’s House, Our Casa, & The Spanish Lady’s House

Bob said he was heading back to the city hall on Monday, and that we could tag along if we wanted. Maybe two neighbors having a concern over the ruin would be more effective than just one. We agreed and made plans to ride into town with him Monday after Curt got done cycling with his new buddies.

It was really nice to meet Bob and his two friends. Very nice people! We took the opportunity to ask them a few burning questions. One was: how to start the space heater? When we came to stay at the house in January, we nearly froze and couldn’t figure out how to start the space heater. It has a butane tank attached to it, and instructions and everything, and I felt like I was translating it all properly, but we still couldn’t get the thing to start! We got the lesson on how to operate it, so next time we are here in the winter, we should be toasty warm.

Heater

Ooops! We were supposed to flip that orange tab up to turn the gas on!

They also helped us out and showed us exactly how to change out the tanks. The gas stove uses a tank like this also and since we aren’t familiar with these at home, we wanted to find out all this important information before the tanks  became empty and we had to swap them out.

The other thing we had to find out about was who to call to empty the septic tank. Bob, not this Bob, but the other Bob — the last-owner-of-the-house-Bob — had left us a note to get the septic emptied every 10-12 weeks and to call “Diego.” He included a phone number and a handy list of phrases like: Puedes vaciar mi fosa septica?  and Cuando puedes venir? and Cuanto me cobras? Now, I am not 100% sure that is all grammatically correct, but even if it isn’t we really appreciated him leaving that information for us. The problem was that when we tried to reach Diego, we only got a voice mail and he never called us back.

Bob (this Bob, neighbor-Bob) told us that he really didn’t know about emptying the septic because his parents were the ones dealing with the house while they were there, but he said he would Skype them and ask.

We also asked him about where to access free wi-fi in Arboleas. He said that he wasn’t sure but that he had wi-fi and we could use it while we were staying here. How awesome! He said he’d be back with info about the septic and would give me the wi-fi password at that time. I am tickled pink to think that I can update my blog from the terrace!

While chatting with Bob, we heard more noises from the front of the house, and here was our other neighbor, The Spanish Lady! Turns out her name is Pepper and she was out for a walk with two children. Pepper and her husband Antonio live in a house somewhere in town and we had heard that Antonio was not keen on leaving the “in town” house because he liked to hang out with his buddies and play petanca. This is a bowling type of game known as boules or pétanque in France, and bocce in Italy. You can read about it here.

Pepper is super sweet, and super fast talking! My head was spinning in an effort to keep up with what she was saying. We were able to communicate enough to get across that we were, in fact, the notorious “Texans” that she had heard about. She was very concerned about whether or not we had a dog. She relayed to us how the previous owner’s dog liked to nip at her and she was quite happy to hear that we didn’t have a dog with us.

After a little bit we bid hasta luego to everyone.

That night for dinner, we cooked the chicken from the Zurgena grocery and enjoyed a leisurely evening at home. Tomorrow we were planning an excursion to Cabo de Gata and the beaches there.

Arboleas Coat of Arms project

Arboleas Coat of Arms project

As if I need to add another project to my never-ending list of projects… I was thinking that La Casa (we still need to come up with a name for it) needs a wall hanging of the Arboleas coat of arms. So I found a picture of the coat of arms…

…and created a layout of the design on some graph paper…

Arboleas Coat of Arms design

I think it has potential to be super awesome. I picked out the embroidery floss colors and am ready to get started. Let’s just hope I’m not still working on it when I’m in the proverbial “Old Folks Home.”

A walk around Arboleas

A walk around Arboleas

We spent the morning cleaning up around La Casa. The previous owner left a lot of things that we wanted to go through and reorganize. I lined the shelves of the upper kitchen cabinets (he had tiled the bottom cabinets — nice! easy to wipe clean!) We went through all the tools and what not that he left, and did some rearranging.

After that we took a walk over to Arboleas. The walk to the village takes us through a small olive grove and across the bridge which is surrounded on either side by lemon and orange trees.

Arboleas

Looking toward Arboleas

Olive tree

Olives

Lemons

Lemons!

Citrus groves

The groves along the bridge to Arboleas

Oranges

Oranges

Oranges

…just one, honest!

Arboleas is a small village, and while there are a couple of places to eat, and a few shops, it is a very low-key place. The narrow streets are winding, and it was a little confusing to find our way around.

Arboleas streets

Arboleas

There is a church and a Moorish watchtower, which are both very prominent among the other buildings, so we went to visit those. The Iglésia de Santiago was built in the late 19th century. The original church of Arboleas was built in 1492, after the expulsion of the Moors, but it has since been destroyed and nothing of that original church remains today.

Arboleas Church of Santiago

Church of Santiago

The Arboleas watchtower was built during the 15th century, but I don’t know much about it other than that.

Torre de Arboleas

Torre de Arboleas

View from the Arboleas watchtower

The view from the Arboleas watchtower

During our walk around Arboleas, we happened upon this interesting little park. It was full of these weird exercise machines. You just know we had to try them all out…

Arboleas exercise

Arboleas workou

Ooof!

Arboleas exercise park

Tony Little, eat your heart out!

There is a square in front of the city hall, and next to that is a small park with stone benches and a statue of Al-Arbuli. From what I have gathered, Arboleas was named after Abdalacis Ben Abu Al-Arbuli who was a 14th century Moorish scientist. Al-Arbuli was a resident of the city and he wrote a book (called Food Treaty) about the foods of Andalucia. The book is in the Spanish National Library, so it definitely holds some major significance.

Arboleas City Hall

The City Hall of Arboleas

Al-Arbuli Arboleas statue

Al-Arbuli

 

Dinner at Hostal Meson

Dinner at Hostal Meson

After getting our things all sorted out at La Casa, we were hungry for dinner, so we took the 5 minute stroll over to the Hostal Meson. We were the only people in the restaurant. There were some people in the bar area, but the lady actually had to turn on the lights to the restaurant for us. We chose the menu del dia, so we had to choose what we wanted for each course. Before we got our first course, the waitress brought us pan con tomate y aioli. This was so simple, but D-lish! The slices of bread were nice and crisp and were served with two small dishes of pureed tomato and garlic mayonnaise. It was a nice starter. I want to find a recipe for the aioli so I can make this at home.

Hostal Meson appetizer

Simple but soo tasty!

Next we had our first course. We had several different things to choose from. I chose a chicken soup and Curt chose entremeses variados which the waitress explained was some sort of assortment of cold meats and cheeses.

Soup and entremeses

Soup and entremeses variados

The next course that came out was our main dish. Curt chose a pork chop and I thought it would be good to try out some fish. There were a couple of types of fish to choose from and I honestly didn’t know what type they were, so the waitress did her best to describe them. I had to choose from merluza or cazon. Really I had no idea which to choose, but in the end I picked the merluza (I found out later that merluza is hake and cazon is dogfish, or a type of shark.) I apologize for not having a picture of the meal, but it was not so fab. The fish was full of bones and it had some fatty skin… bleh. And I’m not a picky finicky eater! I really wished I had chosen something else. Curt’s pork was fine, but like I said I was so traumatized by the plate of bony fish that I didn’t even think to take out my camera.

Oh well… we headed back to the house because we were pretty worn out. Keep in mind that this was January and the stone house had been empty for a bit. It was COLD in there! The owner had left a gas heater, but we weren’t going to turn that on and go to sleep, so we chose to plug in these ceramic heaters that we found in the upstairs lounge. Each of the rooms can be closed with curtains (the owner only put interior doors on the bathrooms) so we brought the ceramic heaters into the upstairs bedroom, plugged them in, and closed the bedroom curtain. I have to say I was glad that at the last minute I decided to bring the big, fluffy comforter because it was, as I said COLD. The ceramic heaters are like big tiles that get warm and then radiate heat, so it took a while, but thankfully the room got warmer and we were ready for a good night’s sleep.

Ceramic heaters

Brrrrr!

We were meeting Lucas and driving to the foreigner’s office in Almeria the next day, so we had to get up right and early. We needed to get my NIE sorted out!

Traditional ceiling

Ready for sleep!

New homeowners

New homeowners

We rode back from Vera new homeowners. How exciting is THAT?? Andrea took us back to the Hostel Meson. We gathered up our luggage from the front desk and thought we’d better stop at the store because we needed to get some groceries. If we went to the house first, we wouldn’t want to get out and shop, because we’d be too busy nosing around our new place! We drove over to Albox to the Mercadona. There is a smaller grocery store right beside the Hostal Meson, but the we were familiar with the Mercadona and since it is larger, we knew it would have everything we needed.

Mercadona

Shopping!

They have these funny little carts that look like baskets, but the handle pops up and you pull it along like a wagon. I kind of got a kick out of those. It was funny because when we were checking out, the girl asked if we needed bags for our groceries. I actually had brought some shopping bags with us, but they were still packed in the luggage, so we told her yes. So she pulled out one… then asked if we needed more… well, yes, we had more groceries than would fit in one, so we told her, yes, please… then she asked how many. Goodness gracious! She works there every day, we thought, can’t she guess what we might need to sack these items? It wasn’t until afterward that we realized that the store charges 5 cents for each bag, so it makes sense that she wasn’t just handing them out. Live and learn…

We drove back to our house, and took a few pictures of ourselves in front of the door. I had to put the camera on the top of the car to get a picture of the two of us, so it has a weird reflection, but I had to improvise!

New homeowners

In front of our Spanish casa!

Curt

For real, he isn’t always so serious…

Keys

“You have the keys, right?”
(sooo funny)

Unlocking the door

Unlocking the door for the first time

When we got into the house, it was just like it was when we viewed the property in September. The owner had left almost everything, including artwork on the walls, so it wasn’t as if we were coming into an empty shell of a house. When we went into the kitchen we were so happy to find plates, utensils, pots and pans, glasses, and even cleaning products! What a relief! I thought we might have to spend a day dropping a bunch of euros at the IKEA an hour away in Murcia, but now we wouldn’t have to!

After having a good look around, we unloaded our haul from Mercadona…

Groceries

About 30 euros

Washing up

Getting all domestic

… and we made ourselves a snack of chorizo, cheese, bread, and a clara.

Ready for tapas

I’m ready for tapas!

Lots of looking around ensued after that. We browsed through the photo album and papers that Bob left and we could see what the house looked like before and during the renovation. It was quite an amazing transformation! (I’ll post some pictures of that in the future.) I had brought one extra piece of luggage that I put in checked baggage. I filled that bag with sheets, pillows, towels, a gigantic comforter, and big bottles of things like shampoo and contact lens solution that I would leave at the house. I got to unpacking all that; getting sheets on the bed and towels in the bathrooms. It didn’t take too long to get the place all homey!

The Completion!

The Completion!

The next morning, we woke up and opened the curtains of our room at the Hostal Meson in Arboleas. It was cool to see the Spanish flag flapping around in the breeze right outside our window!

Hostal Meson view

Espana!

The hotel room was fairly nice and the hotel looked like it had been recently renovated. One thing we had a laugh about was what we called the Dr. Who Shower.

Hostal Meson shower

Shower or TARDIS? You be the judge…

We went downstairs after packing up our suitcases and were going to ask the front desk to hold our luggage while we were out for the day. We had coffee and toast for breakfast. We were intrigued by what was shown on the menu to be an “English Breakfast” because it was eggs and a side of what looked like Van Camps Pork and Beans. I wish I would have taken a picture of the menu, but I didn’t think about it at the time. I must say it didn’t look too appetizing, but that is probably because when I think of pork and beans I think backyard barbeque, not breakfast! A lot of the restaurants around seem to cater to the taste of the British expats because there are quite a few who have invested in property here.

Andrea met up with us, and she drove us over to Mojacar to the bank. On the way she mentioned that Bob, the owner, was going to be at the completion. We thought that was interesting because in the states, when you close on a house you never even cross paths with the seller, but here he was going to be at the completion with us. I was excited to meet the guy!

We also mentioned the crazy drumming that we experienced last night at the house, and Andrea said, “Oh, that’s Richard’s son. They live right below you, and he just gave his son a drum set for Christmas.” Richard is the owner of the estate agency she works for, so this was very ironic on two counts. One, that he lives in the house directly in front of us, and two that his kid was the drummer. “Don’t worry, he’ll tire of the drums in no time.”

Yeah. Let’s hope!

We got to the bank and met up with Lucas. We had wired the money over, but had to get our debit cards and online access set up, as well as get the money ready for the closing fees. What was a little crazy was that the fees were in cash. We mentioned that it was a little odd for us to present all of that in cash… that back home, people would expect a check or they would think you were running drugs to have that much cash in an envelope. They told us that if it’s cash then no one worries about it. If it’s a check people can worry if it’s good or not. So I put the envelope of cash in my purse, and figured: “when in Spain…”

From there we drove over to Vera to the notary’s office. Now let me explain about the notary: In the US a notary is a person who verifies that certain documents are signed by the person present, etc… they are typically a layperson, and it isn’t as if they need a huge amount of specialized training. In Spain, a person studies law and then gets further training to become a notary. The notary is a big deal because he or she deals with legal documents much like a lawyer does. They don’t just put a seal on something.

We got to the notary office a bit early and when we got there we met up with Bob and his friend Tony. We had met Tony when we looked at the house on our house hunting day. I’m not sure why he was staying at the house when we visited in September, but he was the one who showed us the property. At that point, Bob had moved back to the UK. They told us that their initial plan was to renovate and sell houses, but the housing market in Spain hit a lull and they had to put that business venture aside for the time being.

To kill time we went down the street for a cup of coffee. It was funny because Bob mentioned something about how, knowing we were from Texas, he wondered if Curt would be wearing a big cowboy hat. I asked, “Now Bob, is that the real reason you decided to show up in the end? To see if he had on a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots?” and he said, “Yeah, pretty much.” We had a good laugh over that.

While having our coffee, we got a chance to chat about the house. He said he was told that it was about 300 years old and when I asked what it was like before he renovated it, Bob said, “Oh, I left you a photo album in top of the TV so you could see what was done to it.” I was floored. An album?? This guy was awesome. I could tell he was a stickler for details, which was great when you are talking about someone renovating a house.

Finally Lucas came over and told us that the notary was ready. We went into his office. The notary was a big guy in a nice suit. He had on a lot of cologne and was seated behind a big fancy desk. Bob, Curt, and I sat in the chairs in front of him and our lawyers stood behind us. The notary looked through all of the paperwork and read it out loud. Thank heavens we had already seen a translation of the documents because otherwise we would have had no idea what was going on. It was a lot of rambling on in Spanish, a lot of shuffling of papers, a lot of nodding. Then Lucas said, “Do you have the envelope?” “Envelope? What envelope?” “From the bank. The Envelope.” Ohhhh The Envelope: The giant envelope of cash that I was carrying around in my purse like I was a shady character in some Lifetime Movie Network Pick-a-Flick… THAT envelope. I opened up my purse and handed The Envelope to Lucas. Was it just me, or was this office lighting quite dim? I expected a director to yell, “Okay, people, that’s a wrap!”

And that was pretty much it. Shake hands, shake hands, Gracias, Gracias, shake hands, walk out, get keys from Bob.

Wow.

We just bought a house.

In Spain.

 

 

Accepting the Offer

Accepting the Offer

We did go back and forth a couple of times, but in the end we were able to come to an agreement with the owner and he was willing to sell the house furnished!

When you buy a house in Spain, you need to put down a reserve of 3,000 Euros which is just the same as earnest money here in the States. It takes the house off the market for 30 days so the owner can’t sell it out from under you. This reserve is only refundable to you if something happens on the seller’s end. This would be, for example, if the property turned out to be illegal, meaning the deed and paperwork were not in order. There has been a bit of press about foreigners buying land in Spain and then building on it, only to find out that the land was illegal to build on. You can’t just build on any empty bit of land in Spain. Some land is designated as “green” and can’t be built on at all and some is slated rural and either can’t be built on, or only homes of a certain size can be built on a certain amount of land. Since our house (look at me, calling it “our house”) was built a long time ago, and then sold to someone, we had little to stress about as far as the illegal issue. So in this case, the 3,000 Euro reserve would be applied to the closing costs with no real worries.

The estate agent gave me the names of two Spanish lawyers, and we chose a man who had moved to Spain from the UK when he was quite young, studied law in Spain, and has been living and practicing law there since. We figured we needed a lawyer who was experienced in all the nuances of Spanish law, while still being able to communicate easily in English.

We received the Reserve Document, wired over the deposit, and kept waiting for the NIEs to show up in our Texas mailboxes.

Making the offer

Making the offer

After returning to the U.S. we had a lot to think about, and we decided to make an offer on the last house that we saw. (“The Fifth Little Casa”)

There was a lot of emailing back and forth between us and the estate agent in Spain…

Lots of emails to and from Spain

We really liked the location of the house because it is within 15 minutes walking distance to the town center, but not directly in town. A grocery store is within a 5 minutes walk, as is a small hotel that has a pretty popular restaurant with tapas bar. The house has been reformed in such a nice way with great attention to detail, it has three wonderful outdoor spaces (two terraces upstairs and one downstairs.) It would be a great lock and leave home for our Spanish adventures and we were ready to make an offer. If the owner would leave the furnishings that would really sweeten the deal, since buying a house full of furniture during our short vacations over seemed a bit mind boggling and more than we wanted to deal with at this point!

 

So we made our offer and waited for the response. Our estate agent, Andrea,  in Spain was awesome, and she always got back to me very quickly, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I heard one way or another.

The Five Little Casas

The Five Little Casas

This first little casa was tooo bland…

Grandpa's house

…but it had awesome views of almond groves!

 

The second little casa was tooo small…

…but again this one had a great view!

…and a playful gatita…

…and another handsome gato!

 

This third little cave casa had an awkward layout…

… and standing up in the shower would be impossible!

 

The fourth little casa was what brought us to this area, but it needed work…

… and apparently more work…

…and yet again, we LOVED the views…

We did make a low-ball offer which the owner did not accept. So that little casa was not meant to be.

 

BUT the fifth little casa was big…

… and renovated…

and had amazing outside space!

This fifth casa seemed just right! Maybe our house hunt was over…