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For Better Or For Worse

Have you ever thought what might happen if your spouse or partner was suddenly taken ill and you had to deal with your joint affairs? If they needed to go back to your home country for lengthy treatment and you decided to sell up and go back to be near family you would be confronted with a serious problem if your property is in joint names. In order to sell property all of the owners would need to be physically present to sign. And what if they couldn’t be there? They could execute a Power of Attorney in, for example, the U.K. which would then have to be notarised, translated officially and certified by a Spanish consulate. This process is both lengthy and costly. Fortunately, there is an inexpensive, hassle-free and painless way to avoid this: the Mutual Power of Attorney.

A Power of Attorney gives someone the right to do things on your behalf, for example to sell your share of a property or to represent you in dealings with government authorities. As its name suggests in a Mutual Power of Attorney each person gives the same rights to another. It is particularly useful for husbands and wives or long term partners.

What do I need and what will it cost?

You need a properly drafted Spanish Power of Attorney, a good English translation and an interpreter fluent in English and Spanish to explain to you, in front of the Notary, exactly what powers you are conferring on one another. Once the Power of Attorney is executed you take it home, put it in a safe place and never look at it again. Hopefully. And it will cost you less than €200 between you.

What if we fall out of love?

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A guide to Granada's tapas...

The first thing that springs to mind when I think of Spain, is tapas. If like me, the first thing you think of when waking up is food, if you love trying new exciting dishes, watch Masterchef religiously and generally are a huge foodie, then Granada is most definitely the place for you. Whereas in the rest of Spain you pay for your tapas (and quite often an arm and a leg if in tourist spots!), here in Granada it’s on the house! Order a glass of wine, a cold beer or even a soft drink and within minutes a plate of delicious food appears in front of you to enjoy. From the traditional Patatas Bravas to the less traditional tapas, there really is something for everyone. With hundreds of different bars in the city, it can sometimes be difficult to know where the best ones are. TripAdvisor and Google will give you their own list and they are without a doubt worth looking at, however, some of my favourite bars don’t seem to get a mention. So here goes... my guide to Granada’s tapas bars... 

Cunini Located round the corner from Granada’s impressive cathedral this bar is on one of the busiest squares of the city. During the many sunny days you can sit on the terrace and enjoy the pop up flamenco shows. A glass of wine is €3 if sat on the terrace and is usually accompanied with a fish tapas dish: battered cod bites, garlic king prawns, fried fish, squid, calamari... The portions are huge, sometimes the barman even brings out two tapas instead of one. They are also very generous with their wine measures. I would 100% recommend, make sure to get their early though if you want a spot! Address: Plaza Pescadería, 14, 18001 Granada

Rincón De Rodri Another fantastic tapas bar that specialises in fish dishes is El Rincón De Rodri. Again, I highly recommend getting there early to get a spot, it is very popular with the locals. Some of my favourite dishes are their garlic king prawns, plancha squid, fried battered cod or paella. The star of the show is their homemade alioli that accompanies most of the tapas. The portions again, are huge, the wine is of quality and the beer is cold. What more can you ask for? Prices are pretty standard for Granada, €2 for a beer, between €2.50 and €3 for a glass on wine, €2.20 for popular soft drinks. Address: Calle Músico Vicente Zarzo, Granada

La Sitarilla This bar is the epitome of Spanishness. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the delicious smell of Carne in Salsa. The bar is very large, with two large additional seating areas, in case it gets very busy (which it always does). The walls are decorated with paintings of different landscapes of Granada. The food is absolutely incredible. Their Carne in Salsa is exquisite. My favourite dish is their Porra Antequerana, a sort of Solmorejo (a cold, refreshing soup). I often go to the bar just to order that one dish. Prices are very reasonable, service is quick and the atmosphere is fantastic...Address: Calle San Miguel Alta, 7, 18002 Granada

K-ito Located close to the University’s main campus this tapas bar is very popular with students but also with locals. There is a real mix of generations which is something I love about Spain. The great advantage of it being in the student area is that the tapas are HUGE (because students are always hungry, right?). Each tapas is accompanied with homemade patatas and alioli as well as a side salad. A usual tapas there is a marinated pork skewer. I can rarely eat more than two tapas before getting full. So for €4 you can eat a delicious meal. The bar itself is tiny but there are tables outside, so I would recommend going on a warm evening so that you can sit outside.Address: Calle Goya, 5, 19002 Granada

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Christmas Traditions in Granada: Los Dulces de Navidad

Around this time of year, in Plaza Bib-Rambla in the Albayzin, the air is constantly fragranced with sugar. Here you will find the epicentre of one of Spain, and Andalusia’s greatest Christmas traditions: los dulces de Navidad.

Casa Pasteles, situated on the Plaza, is one of the best cake shops in Granada and it is renowned for these handmade sweets and biscuits. During November and December, its bakery (just behind the square) makes thousands of these individually wrapped creations and it opens a special shop (on the other side of the square) to sell them. The classic Christmas sweet is bars of turrón, a type of nougat that traditionally only contains egg whites, honey and almonds. You will find this everywhere but the joy in Casa Pasteles comes from trying lots of their own creations. Many of the sweets start from a marzipan base: try the panecillos de limón (marzipan with lemon), the bocaditos (marzipan filled with fruit jam and covered with milk chocolate) or the delicias de naranja (marzipan filled with pieces of candied orange). 

Other specialities include individual turróns, some made with hazelnuts as well as almonds, some covered in chocolate. There are pralines, balls made of figs and raisins mixed with a little liqueur and chocolate-covered coconut. One of the most traditional little cakes are the mantecados, a type of shortbread biscuit. Watch out, if you are a vegetarian, because sometimes these can be made with pork fat (la manteca de cerdo).

If you are in Granada before Christmas, go and visit the Casa Pasteles pop-up shop and choose a selection of these beautifully-wrapped local specialities. Then, like many offices, businesses and schools, fill a bowl with them for your friends and guests to try over the holiday season. Eat your heart out, Willy Wonka.

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December Holidays: Día de la Constitucion and La Fiesta de la Inmaculada Concepcíon

There are four public holidays in Spain in December and the first is one of the few not related to religion. 

El Día de la Constitucion (or Constitution Day) recognises the moment when the country moved towards modernity. On the 6th December 1978, a new constitution was approved in Spain, thanks to a referendum. After Franco died in 1975, a new political system was required, there was a general election in June 1977 and the new government began to draw up a new constitution. 88% of voters backed the change, which shepherded in democracy, after years of being ruled by a dictator. It is now a national holiday, which means that most businesses and schools will be closed and transport services may run reduced services. This year it falls on a Tuesday, which means that many businesses will also observe a ‘puente’ and not work on the Monday either. There is another national holiday during the same week, La Fiesta de la Inmaculada Concepcíon (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) on December 8th. This is a holy day of obligation and many Catholics will attend special church services. It falls this year on a Thursday so, be aware, that if you want to get anything done that week, Wednesday 7th is your best bet!

 

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Spanish Property Prices To Rise By 6% Per Year


Spanish property prices are likely to rise 6% a year, for the next three years, according to Humphrey White, the head of Knight Frank estate agents in Spain. As Spanish Property Insights reported last week, White considers that this relatively low rate of increase means the price rises are ‘sustainable’. Underlying these rises are several factors: White stated that, post-crash, Spain is ‘leading economic growth in Europe’; recent global reports by Knight Frank show that Barcelona and Madrid are amongst the top world cities preferred by the super-rich, for living in, and Madrid is seventh in the world for foreign investment, ahead of Berlin and Singapore. What’s more, the combination of attractive cities with good transport links and property and a highly-qualified and professional workforce means that foreign investors are finding Spain an attractive prospect. 

Such economic confidence, at a time when many countries are not feeling quite so stable, whether financially or politically, is great news whether you are a resident or thinking of becoming one.

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City of the Pomegranate - True or False?

Granada is the city of the pomegranate…or is it?

It is pomegranate season in the northern hemisphere and, if you have spent any time in Granada, you will soon realise that this slightly grumpy-looking fruit is very much part of the city’s heritage.

Look at some of the beautiful painted pottery, and you will see a pomegranate is the main motif; look down and you’ll see pavement bollards are decorated with them, look up and you’ll see them hanging from the trees, especially in the Albaicín. Why? Because the city was thought to have been renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period and, now, it is Granada’s heraldic device (i.e. part of its coat of arms). 

However, the origins of where Granada gets its name from are in fact not quite so straightforward. The word ‘pomegranate’ in English is said to derive from medieval Latin, from the words for apple and seeded and in old French the fruit was known as the ‘pomme-grenade’ but the name of the city doesn’t derive from ‘grenade’ at all but from the Arabic word Garnata, which is said to mean ‘Hill of Strangers’. The original settlement was on the plain and therefore difficult to protect, so in the 11th century, the Berber ruler moved his home to one of the hills beside the Darro and the city that we now know was born. So, though the fruit is a wondrous image to have at the heart of a city’s identity, it is not the heart of its name!

 

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The Valley Of Happiness

One of the greatest draws of Andalucia is its geographical position. Apart from the obvious attractions of the heat and the sunshine, it also offers access to mountains (the Sierra Nevada) and the Mediterranean. And, if you want to find a property that is well situated to make the most of both of those, then it might be worth considering the Lecrin Valley.

Located south of Granada, and about 30 minutes north of the coast, it gets just as much sunshine in the summer as the rest of the region but, thanks to its position at the foot of the sierras, it also gets lovely cooling breezes. The name of the valley apparently derives from the Arabic word for ‘gateway’ but, according to some websites and locals ‘el Valle de Lecrin’ means ‘Valley of Happiness’ and that seems more apt. Sunny, yet not too hot, peaceful, yet well connected, rich in agriculture and wildlife, it is a perfect place for either a permanent retreat or a holiday home. And, thanks to being slightly less well known, it tends to be cheaper than the Alpujarra. 

At the bottom of the valley, you will find Lake Beznar, a man-made reservoir which looks like a natural lake (apart from the dam!). At 170 hectares, its turquoise waters can be seen from miles around and, if you don’t want to head to the coast, here you can swim, fish and go out on a (non-motorised) boat.

Famous for citrus and almonds, one of the best times to explore this area is when their blossom appears, usually at the end of January for almonds and April for citrus. Early autumn is also very beautiful and, since it is not as hot as the summer, it lends itself to enjoying this countryside through walking, cycling and horse-riding.

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Holy Days and Holidays

If you are from northern Europe and move south, whether to France, Italy or Spain, you will quickly become aware that there are a lot more holidays, or holy days, than in your own country. Sometimes they are connected to Catholicism, sometimes they are national holidays but they will all, without fail be celebrated in style. This week’s holiday, on Wednesday, is called Columbus Day in US English, El Día de la Hispanidad (the Day of Spanishness) or Fiesta Nacional de España in Spain and it commemorates the day that Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492. It is one of two national days (hey, why have one when you can have two), the other being December 6th, El Día de la Constitución, also traditionally one of the biggest days in the Spanish Christmas calendar. 

National holidays, in fact most holidays, in Spain are very much made the most of. Whereas in somewhere like Britain, they are often spent on motorways or slumped on the sofa, a Spanish national holiday always involves a party, a fiesta. In Madrid, there is a big parade and, since the 12th is also the Spain’s Day of the Armed Forces, a fly-past by the Air Force’s aeronautics team. 

In other parts of the country, work and study will be abandoned for a family get-together or a day out. Be prepared for shops and banks to be shut, as well as museums and sites of interest. It can be extremely frustrating, if you are used to being able to do things on a national holiday (in the US, for example, Columbus Day stops very little) but, once you live in Spain, taking the time to see people or have a party when everyone else does will make you feel completely en su casa.

 

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High Days and Holidays: August in Andalucia


Summer may be nearly over but we look back with fondness on exciting times last month. Unlike in countries in the North of the continent, here in Spain as in France and many other Catholic countries, the 15th August is a public holiday, a day on which no business will get done. For anyone used to a 24-hour culture of work, this can be extremely annoying but proper holy-days, as in days where everything is closed, are an extremely important part of Spanish life. Embracing them, and all the enjoyment they offer, will help you feel like a real resident, not just a tourist. The pace here is slower, and adjusting is key.

Here are some of the highlights in Andalucia. Be sure not to miss them next year!.

In Almería, from the 17-25th August, the region celebrates the Fiesta of the Virgin of the Sea, on August 20th, in Vejer de la Frontera, there is a night-time flamenco festival, Malaga’s horse-racing season continues until August 26th, in Niebla (in Huelva province) the theatre and dance festival starts in July and continues until August 28th. Later in the month, in Cadiz, enjoy the livestock market as part of the Feria Real de San Agustin (28th-31st) and, in Baeza, Jaen, from August 28th to September 3rd, the pilgrimage of the Virgen del Rosell, patron saint of La Yedra takes place: watch the Virgen’s statue being taken from her sanctuary in her village to the town of Baeza, and see the streets full of gypsy carriages and wagons. Finally, in Ronda, enjoy the Feria de Pedro Romero, which starts with a parade at 7.30pm on August 30th and continues to the 4th September.

You can find out more about festivals all year round in Andalucia here.  Most of northern Europe has lost sight of such traditions and festivals, except for a few key ones; in Spain they are a reminder that this is both a notionally religious country and, perhaps more importantly, one that takes celebrations very seriously indeed!

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Spanish Economy Booming?

Back in 2008 if you wanted your name written elegantly in Arabic it used to cost €3. With the arrival of the crisis the street calligraphers dropped their prices. By 2011 you could get the same thing for €1. Today, for the first time in at least five years, the price has doubled to €2. A sign of things to come.....?

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Spanish Property Transactions Soar

According to the June statistics from the Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas (INE) there were 36.856 property transactions in the month, which is the highest figure since January 2013. Even more important from our point of view is that the overall figure masks a fall in new builds. Excluding these, which make up less than 18% of total transactions, paints a much different, even more rosy picture. 

Sales of existing properties, which is our market, reached a level not seen since late 2007, almost nine years ago. June was the 28th successive month of increases in the number of sales of existing properties.

Total sales for the first six months of 2016, at 207.593 have reached a level not seen since 2010.

Author: Allan Hilder 

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Brexit - Cheer Up, It May Never Happen

It is annoying to hear commentators and politicians talking as if the U.K. is already in the process of leaving the E.U. Not so. All that has happened is that a non-binding referendum has been held which has split public opinion, roughly along age lines and with significant regional variation. It seems that politicians of all colours believe it impossible to regard the result as a protest, as a call for change, rather than as a desire to cut free from an economic and political union that has, on the whole, brought peace, prosperity and stability to the continent. 

Approximately 500 of the U.K.’s 650 MP’s, duly elected by the populace to govern them, believe that it would be contrary to the country’s best interests. These are precisely the people who, according to most legal experts, will need to vote positively to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. 

It would seem bizarre for them to do so when, barely a week after the referendum, 17% of those who voted Leave already believe it was a mistake, which would have tipped the result the other way, giving Remain a substantial victory. 

As the economic situation worsens in the coming weeks, this percentage is likely to increase. The benefits of leaving the E.U., if there are any, will only be felt in the long term. Meanwhile, the uncertainty is causing economic chaos, wiping vast sums off the value of pension funds and causing multinational companies from outside of the E.U. to reconsider their long-term investment plans.

Possibly the worst aspect (and there are many) of the referendum is that it was put to the nation as an emotional in/out decision (without needing a qualified majority). There was no concrete proposal to reflect upon in a rational manner. There were absurd promises of massive additional spending on the black hole that is the NHS (always a tear jerker) which were retracted the day after the result was declared. As was the promise to stop, or rigidly control, immigration from other E.U. states.. 

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Good Banks vs (Very) Bad Banks

When clients of ours buy or sell a property in Andalucia, we do all we can to make the process as simple, enjoyable, transparent and cost-free as we can. Unfortunately, sometimes we are let down by other players in the chain, as happened recently.

A vendor client of ours had returned to Germany to live and no longer had a Spanish bank account. When the sale went through the buyer's lawyer agreed to cancel the bank guaranteed cheque which had been issued that morning and he made a transfer in the same amount to the vendor's euro account in Germany. A straightforward favour, which should have cost little money.

Imagine our surprise when the vendor sent an email to say that Banco Popular had charged €1.227.51 to make a transfer of  €182.625.00. No exchange, just one click of a mouse to effect the transfer. Absolutely outrageous. And when it was challenged by the lawyer, the claim fell on deaf ears. His request for a refund was continually passed around from office to office. Delaying tactics, hoping that it would be forgotten.

Banco Popular will never again see an account opened by any of our clients. Whatever damage we can do to their business, we will.

The cheapest and most efficient bank is ING Direct. If you are happy to do your banking online they are by far the best and the cheapest. But if you are the sort of person that likes to go into a bank regularly they are not idea as they have few branches: one in each of Granada, Málaga, Sevilla and Cádiz.

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San Juan Fiesta del Agua y Jamón

Wherever you are in Spain, but particularly in Andalucia, you are likely to know the name of a small town in Las Alpujarras, even if you have never been there. Order a bottle of water in a bar, or buy one in a shop and the name you will mostly likely see emblazoned across it is Lanjarón, a place that is famous for water, in more ways than one.

This modest town was the first in Spain to bottle its spa water and you can still drink the water free of charge direct from the spring. There are also several fountains to be found throughout the town, where you can fill up your bottles before a walk or a day out. Lanjarón is also a spa town, and at the balneario you can find all sorts of treatments, from the cosmetic to the health-giving, that use the local water. 

But the one week of the year when you can really experience how important water is to the local community is from June 23rd, the Noche de San Juan, to June 26th. From midnight on the 23rd, everyone, old and young, resident and tourist, ready or not, will get wet as the biggest water fight in Spain, Europe and probably the world, begins. The aim? To soak and be soaked, before going off for a drink and a bit of a party. 

The biggest shock you will encounter is that a water pistol is not going to cut it; on the balconies of the main street you will see water hoses worthy of fire stations and the residents are not ashamed to use them. You can get your own back, at least a little, by buying a bucket before the fun starts (they are on sale everywhere), standing under a hose to fill it up, before throwing the contents at someone else. In less than an hour, the party has moved from one end of the town to the other, the main street is a river, and you will wish you had worn your swimsuit after all…

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Spanish Property Recovery Continues

Last week we wrote about how the resale market and house prices were definitely improving. But now, it seems, even the new-build market is finally recovering.

On Spanish Property Insight Mark Stücklin notes that since 2008 the building of new houses has dropped by 97%. And, once the recovery began, a lack of new housing meant there was nothing for sale to meet demand. But in April 2016, for the first time in two years, sales of new-build housing went up by 15%. This part of the business has been the slowest to recover from the crisis but, now, says Stücklin, it looks like joining the rest of the market in an upwards curve. This can only be good news for buyers, sellers and investors alike, showing that after eight years, buying a new or old property in Spain is once again looking like a solid investment decision. 

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How to Live like a Spaniard: el Paseo

An evening in Spain, in any part of the country and nearly all year round, begins with el paseo, a leisurely stroll through the streets, meeting and greeting friends and family. It is the dividing line between the working day and the evening, signalling a slowing down of tempo, a shift from activity to leisure.

In summer, this glorious tradition is often made even better with the addition of an ice cream and in Granada, you will find that the best ice cream comes from Los Italianos on Calle Gran Vía de Colón. Many a Granadino will tell you that the start of spring is not marked by the weather, but by the first day that Los Italianos opens, usually in April. 

And, a bit like the breakfast tradition we mentioned last week this gentle walk enables you, as a resident, to learn several things. In Granada, for example, head to Plaza Nueva which, on a sunny evening, will be thronged with just as many locals as tourists and take a minute to sit and watch. You will see couples, families and groups of friends strolling along with, it seems, very little direction. They will be stopping and starting, chatting and moving on, stopping and starting again.

If anything is likely to show you how the Spanish interact, and how important such interactions are, this is it. People don’t necessarily make appointments to see someone; they simply head to the same place, bump into someone, catch up, move on. Though the Spanish might seem quite formal, in that they will often greet you with a handshake, el paseo demonstrates that, in reality, they can also be incredibly informal. Talking, greeting, walking, eating, these are all essential parts of Spanish life; it is lived outdoors with lots of others, not indoors with just a few; it is noisy, not quiet; its pleasures are everyday and for everyone. 

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How to Live like a Spaniard: el Paseo

 

According to Spain's Institute of National Statistics (INE) the year on year price increase in the first quarter of 2016 is the highest since 2007. See graph above. The average price of a resale property was 6.4% higher than the same period in 2015. And the rate of increase is accelerating.

Also on the up are property sales. See graph above. In the month of April 2016 there were 35.199 transactions according to the INE of which 28.028 were resales. This is the highest figure this year, 29% above the same month last year and is also the highest number of monthly sales since February 2013.

We have been saying for some months that prices have bottomed out and are on the rise. We have had three vendors increase their prices recently - the first time that has happened since 2007.

Don't wait. Call us now if you are thinking of buying. 0034 958 227735.

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Spanish Property Recovery Continues

The cities of Andalucia are exceptionally beautiful but, if you are more interested in living in the countryside, in a finca or a cortijo, the Alpujarras is a wonderful area to consider, especially if you like walking.

Sandwiched between the Sierra Nevada to the north and the Mediterranean to the south, this is a hilly region, full of stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and beautiful pueblos blancos (white villages). Most of the towns are small, and offer a very different lifestyle to the larger cities, yet even the most remote are only an hour or two away from Granada and Malaga. 

High above sea level, here you will find some of the best walking country in the world. Try heading up to Trevélez (at 1470 metres, the highest village in Europe) or Capileira then walking down their valleys, admire the incredible views of the Sierra or, on a good day, of the sea and then, when your muscles are screaming from the exercise, head to the spa town of Lanjarón for a relaxing massage or to the administrative, Orgiva, for its more cosmopolitan bustle and still-free tapas. 

If you want to find out more about the Alpujarras, try reading Chris Stewart’s accounts of his life over the past twenty years, living on a sheep farm outside of Órgiva:

Driving Over Lemons

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San Juan Fiesta del Agua y Jamón

In Britain, where I come from, breakfast is the meal that is most likely to be eaten at home. Head south, across France and to Spain and, the further south you get, the more outdoors eating and drinking takes place in the morning.

And, once you have bought a property in Andalucia, one of the best ways to discover your neighbourhood, and meet your neighbours, is by breakfasting in your local café. If you’re a cereal and tea person, this might seem an unlikely prospect but I urge you to try it. Find a spot that you like, a bar that is welcoming and, whether on your way to the market, or to the bank, try and find a time every day or at least at the weekend when you can slide onto a stool at the bar and join in the fun. 

Don’t know what to order? Here’s our quick guide to drinks:

Cafe solo - Espresso, a bit larger than the Italian version

Cafe americano - Black coffee

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Good Banks vs (Very) Bad Banks

Four years ago my husband and I led a 'city life', he was a successful commercial photographer and I was the Director of the Netherlands Institute. But there was something unsatisfactory about our lives and we decided that we wanted to make a change. Not just a change of country but a bigger, all encompassing change of life and lifestyle. We wanted a different way of living, with a smaller carbon footprint and more connected to nature.

So we embarked on a journey of searching for that special place. High on our wish list was a place in a natural park, where we would have nature on our doorstep. That however was a difficult box to tick, as properties in nature reserves are scarce. During our search we somehow ended up in La Alpujarra and I am not sure whether we chose it or it chose us.

You would imagine that this gem in Southern Spain would attract many tourists but it actually doesn't and is therefore relatively unspoilt and peaceful. The small trails and old bridle paths that lead through fertile, green valleys and along rugged mountain tracks are definitely off the beaten track. It is a picturesque place where it feels like time stood still.

We exchanged our city life for a life in the mountains, we bought a traditional, stone built cortijo with 2 hectares of land. The house was ready to move in to but the land had been neglected for many years and it needed trees planting, a lot of water and tlc.

One of the reasons we wanted to live in nature was because of our two horses and our desire to go out on long rides. We wanted to be able to just ride out of our own gate into the natural park, and that we found!

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