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Our Winter Home!

November 04, 2006

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We have been dreaming about this for a long time and now we are finally here! There is certainly
nothing like this in America and that is part of the appeal. We lived in and owned a 100 year old cottage in California with a unique history before our last owned home, which is very old for that area, but now we are living in a home that is MANY centuries old.

I suppose that is not much of a shock for Europeans as that is quite common on the this side of the pond, but even by European standards, this type of home is ancient and rare. It has also not been reformed or remodeled into something completely different as some do with ancient homes. Much of it is the same as it was in the days of the Moors. The Moors, meanwhile, had a sophisticated society here while most of Europe was still in the dark ages.

Immediately, upon arrival one could see all the quirkiness that comes with a home this old and we had eager eyes for all the exotic details. We arrived at a very interesting blue door amongst many interesting blue doors and then entered a tiled small foyer into another double door and bigger foyer. The tiled floors are crooked in many places, the stairs going to the third floor seemed carved out of stone with an old crooked log beam banister, the ancient log beamed ceilings, the stone steps going to the bottom floor,
the fireplaces and the thick, rough plaster. I asked about an interesting little boxy tiled thing on the
bottom floor and was told it was where the animals drank water in ancient times!

The closest we have to this in the States are the very old homes in New Mexico that we have visited and enjoyed, but these are different still and unique to this area. The fireplace in the master bedroom and beams reminded me of those similar things in old homes in Santa Fe and Taos, but many things are also different here and typical of Moorish Spain. The house is also decorated in a Moorish fashion filled with many antiques.

Mozart was thrilled to  be in a three story home. She has always wanted a three story home, so that pleases her no end. Somehow it seems a status symbol for kids her age, the more stories the better and she was very impressed that her best friend at home lived on a hill so had three stories. We had two stories in our last owned home, but she was “demoted” to only a one story home in our last rental.

The foyer, dining room, kitchen, living room (or lounge as they say in England), and terrace are on street level. The three bedrooms,bathroom and terrace are upstairs. They are all quite large with high ceilings and all connected by a door. The master suite has the bathroom closest by, a king sized bed and looks onto and  is connected to the top ocean & mountain  view terrace. It is a sun magnet with two sun loungers, table with four chairs and lots of plants. Down from the street level there is a large spare bedroom with a double bed and  lots of light, office area, hallway and laundry room.

Mozart has her own bedroom with two twin beds that is just a step up (large one) from ours with another bedroom beyond and connected to that one which has another two beds in it and will be her playroom so she is already plotting sleep overs! We have also put the piano and books in there, some on a big beam. Definitely a good set up for pajama parties and overnight guests. These two bedrooms look down over the main street with little balconies and she loves to watch and listen to what is going on outside as she reads or plays. She even moved a little table and stool in front of the window in the playroom so she
could watch as she does her homework and writing and such.

Luckily, they have a king size bed in our bedroom (which is another reason we chose this one) as that is where she sleeps snuggled between us as she has from her first moment on earth. She thought she would sleep in her room but old comfortable patterns are hard to break and we will take every day of sleeping with her that we can as it actually feels odd to have her anywhere but next to us now.There is no central heating in these village homes, so it will probably be necessary anyways on cold winter nights, but as long as she wants to sleep with us we will allow it as there is nothing quite as wonderful as your angelic sleeping child cuddled next to you and we know this will not last forever so cherishing these
days while they are here.

Out of all of our decisions as parents the family bed as been one of our favorite choices. We love to read together at night and cuddle and giggle the mornings in together. What a pleasure I get when my insomnia wakes me in the middle of the night and I have my two best beloveds to gaze upon. Sometimes we adults
do wake up earlier or stay up later, but there is just something comforting about rejoining a loved one who is blissfully asleep and I have always been one who has had my bed as the center of my universe. What would life be without pillows, covers, cuddling and reading in bed?

I like the view from this bed with the high beams to look at and small doors to the bathroom and another above that, the little step up door to her room and the little low window next to me and the fireplace. Rooms in these homes are kept on the small side so they are easy to heat (and shut off with doors) altho this and the other bedrooms are all  larger than I expected. There is a little teeny door out to the top terrace (which adults must bend down to enter) and the window is also small, very low and can be shuttered tight. The bathroom also has a shuttered, screened window and they all have fabulous views. As I shower I like looking out to the mountains framed by a grapevine. During the day we keep them open, but at night only the window part of the one closest to my side of the bed is left open as I like to look out at night at the lights and stars and see the morning light when it arrives. The window is shut tight, but the curtain is left a little open as it also is pitch black without that.

It felt a little bit cave-like to me at first even with the high ceilings (as they are slanted in the bedroom), but I am beginning to really enjoy this room. It helped to store some of the art away as it is a room that is best left very simple and sparse and open for our tastes. We even bought a bright duvet cover with a tropical plant pattern that was more cheerful even tho they had lots of linens. On weekends we cuddle up in bed and eat popcorn and watch DVD’s on our mac or home movies that we have put on DVD’s. At night the odd long Moorish light puts lovely shadows patterns on the wall and we light candles. Just this morning I was looking at the  thick texture of the plaster on the walls and thinking how much it pleased me. The doors and such are painted a lovely light bluish turquoise color that is appealing with all the white.

We rented this home from a family that has owned it for over thirty years who live in England and are rightly very attached to it and clearly love it a lot. They have never rented it out for the winter, tho an uncle from Canada has wintered here a few times and he was the who first purchased it and was the only non Spanish person living in the village then. It was passed down to two brothers when he passed on and for years they never rented it out.

They usually rent it out now by the week mostly in the high season and spend family time here. It was really by chance that I found this particular place while perusing the internet as its uniqueness caught my eye and just on a lark I contacted the owner and began discussions. It was way over our budget and much larger than the places we had been looking at, but by chance they were interested in a long term winter rental and accepted our low budget terms. It was the largest place and most centrally located  for the money, so that added to the attraction for us.

We debated quite a while when searching for a place, whether to get a truly ancient home in the old village or to go with a new one that is made to look older in the newer part of the village. Each had their advantages and disadvantages. The old ones appealed to us more because there just is nothing like them and we wanted to get as much of authentic Spain as possible. On the other hand, I must always consider culture shock issues as this is to be our home away from home and a time out of the camper, so a modern, new home with all those conveniences had that appeal as well. We had the ancient village, so we did not necessarily need the ancient home. Yet we did not feel like coming half way across the world to live in a place that might as well be one of the new cheaply built, cookie cutter town homes in Watsonville (a town close to us with a large Spanish Latin American community) or similar California community. We were looking for something soulful and unique, but on a tight budget and livable for the winter.

Most of the places are set up as weekly visits since that is common here as the rentals  are usually used as holiday homes. Those needs are different than ours since we will be here five months as we will tend to have more clothes, books, food and such for living, not just vacationing. Often even the new ones are spaced such that rooms are small with closet spaces more like a hotel with the bed taking up most of the room and just a small space for suitcase and a few hanging clothes. Thats great for a weeks holiday rental where you will be out of the home mostly enjoying the beach and sights, but we will be hunkering in for the winter and are avid readers, so need more. This home had more room than most that were available for the same price.

There seem to be plenty of winter rentals in Spain and someone suggested that we just find a place when we arrive as it is much easier seeing a place in person for making such a big decision, but we wanted to know we had a place when we arrived for the school and such. So we agonized over our decision for some time hoping we made a good choice. After a point, even the most patient person gets tired of answering questions, so you just have to hope everything works out as we paid for all five months in advance plus a security deposit. The owner was also a little nervous because they had never rented it out long term and I think felt a little deprived that they would not have access to it all winter long. They were also use to getting the weekly rate and we negotiated a low monthly rate for off season, so this is by far the least they ever got for a rental, so probably took a little getting use to.

They have a couple from the UK who are caretakers, who met us and brought us to the village house and who take care of any concerns that we have. They have been here eight years and do  property management for many places and have an adorable two year old daughter. They seem to be very nice people and I envy their stories about what the village was like when they arrived. All their friends are the Spanish natives and they are not too fond of all the influx of summer home owners as things have changed so much in the last five years.

I made the big mistake of asking if there were any earth quakes here when I arrived as I had neglected to ask that question before coming. There are a few and they have always been very minor,but coming from California, I must admit that made me a bit nervous my first night. DaVinci was not worried because this house and village has survived centuries of earthquakes and we were probably in more danger in California or would be in one of the newly built village houses. Sometimes I am a bit like that character in the movie “Series of Unfortunate Events” that we watched one of our first nights, who worries about everything.

The energy of the place was also much heavier than I expected and later someone said it was due to the moisture in the mountain as these old homes hold in all the moisture as they are literally carved right into the mountain. There were also too many old things, antiques and art work that appeared to be from flea markets that we put away for our sake and theirs. I like antiques and have some, but sometimes I find that I am sensitive to the energy (for lack of a better word) of some antiques and I am not exactly sure why. I did not sleep well the first night worrying about if I had made the right decision, but DaVinci and Mozart slept like lambs and were perfectly content.

I was actually in doubt the first few days because of the heaviness of the energy that made me feel ill. We liked it, but campers hold moisture too and I wondered if we should be in one of the new places. We were also suppose to have a brand new bathroom or so I was told before we left as they were timing it to finish before our arrival date, but that did not come to pass. The terraces were also very dusty from the garden construction and had dead plants since there is no one to care for them, tho the succulents and cactus plants were doing well. DaVinci got the terraces in good order very quickly because they are wonderful to enjoy when fixed up and we want to get some flowers soon. There were other things that were unexpected and not exactly as I had been told.

So there were a few disappointments as every home has its good and bad points, but after looking at a few new places and considering moving, adjusting to this place and finding ways to make it work for us, and getting some help from the landlord and caretakers, we came to re-think that this would be the best place
for us to call home this winter. We see why the owners love it and are embracing all the good here and deciding to make this the perfect winter home for us! The adventure continues even though we are in one spot as just living in this unique home and village is an adventure.

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