Tag Archives: La Casa

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.

 

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!

In Arboleas

In Arboleas

We checked in to the Hostal Meson, and wanted to walk over to the house since it was literally a five minute walk from our hotel. It was getting dark, but we were eager to snoop around. We got to the house (Thank you GoogleMaps for allowing me to memorize the walk to the house!) and we were surprised to see lights on, and the shutters open.

Before continuing your read, I’d like to invite you to click this link to open up a new window and enjoy some background music… it will add to the experience.

As we walked up to the house (and I hope you are listening to the music!!) We heard drumming. Yes, drumming. You have got to be kidding. We buy a house in Spain, in a small village in SPAIN for goodness sake, and someone is practicing the DRUMS at night?? It was coming from the house directly in front of us. I was ready to scream. How could this BE?? Would we be tormented by the drumming every day? Every night?? We tried to block it out of our minds, but much like this Iron Butterfly Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo that you should be listening to, it just seemed to go on forever.

We had been curious as to what the owner was leaving with the house, because although we had an inventory list of all the furniture, we really had no idea if he was leaving small kitchen items and what not. We peeked in the downstairs bathroom window and could see that he had left all necessities (even toilet paper, hand soap, and a clean hand towel hanging on the rod!) This was exciting to see because we knew then that we might not have to buy everything under the sun for our stay. No one was in the house, so we were curious as to why the lights were on and the shutters open, but we were happy that we got to peek into the downstairs bedroom and bathroom! It was really getting dark, the drumming was continuing, and our stomachs were starting to growl, so we decided to take a drive over to Albox, which is just a few minutes away and get a bite to eat.

Triana is a little restaurant that was recommended to us when we stayed at Casa Olivos in September. It is open late and you can get a chicken dinner for right around 6 Euros! That’s a super deal.

Meal at Triana in Albox

Yum!

The first time we were there, Curt tipped the waitress, and I think she was super excited about that because she brought us an after dinner drink afterward. In Spain, it really is not customary or expected to tip. If you do leave a tip, it is typically your change to even out your tab, but it isn’t like here in the States. The server is not miffed to not receive a tip, but of course tickled pink (as our waitress was, because we were clueless.)

One thing we were tickled pink about was that it seemed as if the smoking ban in restaurants was now being enforced. There was a sign stating that there was no smoking allowed in the restaurant. Like I mentioned before, there are A LOT of smokers in Europe, and we are quite spoiled here in the US to be able to eat in a smoke free environment all the time.

We finished our meal and made our way back to the Hostal Meson. Lucas, our Spanish lawyer, had managed to get the notary to agree to do the closing with Curt’s NIE and not mine, as long as we would go to the foreigner’s office in Almeria and get my NIE and file it with the notary within 30 days. This was a huge relief because we would not be rushing tomorrow and stressing about getting the needed documents in time for the completion. Andrea was meeting us at the Hostal Meson at 10 a.m. and would be driving us to the bank in Vera to sort out our funds. We needed a good night’s rest because tomorrow was going to be a big day!!

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…