2013: what happened so far

A picnic on the Mas Encanto land, May 2013

A picnic on the Mas Encanto land, May 2013

Here is an idea; what if you could live in a self supporting environment, gathering your own power, your own water, your own food, paying only a little tax – but still be living life at the fullest; have a job, a family and friends, but also take the time to enjoy all that wealth… would you do it?

We thought we should.

In the next 1,5 years we hope to realise this idea, and this is what happened previously.

We, Sandrine and Axel, Belgium and Dutch natives, living in Amsterdam, always felt that we would go live “abroad, in the sun” some day. About a year ago, we decided that we would start working towards our dream  – a self-sustainable and ecological holiday resort in the sun, where people can come and enjoy the peace and quiet of a rural lifestyle, with every bit of comfort they are accustomed to.

We thought about migrating to North America at first, having been quite impressed by the amount of space, nature and wildlife there… However, we opted for an European country, so we could stay close to our families. We looked at sun hours, rain charts, land prices, laws, customs, people,… and ended up in Spain – where there is plenty of sun, enough irrigation, good land prices, EU laws, and lovely warm people. After a detour in Catalunya, we ended up in Matarraña, a part of Aragon just on the other side of the Catalunyan border (the original inhabitants do speak Catalunyan – thankfully, they speak Castillian Spanish too).

After a lot of pictures on the internet and contact via e-mail and phone, we went to Matarraña for the first time in May 2013. We met with David Suarez who (with his wife Sandra and architect Manel) founded Country Property  and has been our go-to-guy ever since. He helped us purchase the most beautiful piece of land we have ever seen – 3,65 hectares of olive and almond trees (quite a few dead and dying ones after being neglected for so long, but we’ll deal with that later), with an astonishing view of Els Sports national park, and the villages of Arnes and Horta de San Joan in the valley. We took a short video you can watch on Youtube.

Mas Encanto (formerly called Mas de Vaquer, you might be able to find it on Google Maps under that name) is located between the villages of Lledo and Cretas; the baker, local shops, pharmacy and restaurants can be reached within a few minutes by car. If you want more, there are many bars and restaurants in the towns of Calaceite, Horta de San Joan and Valderrobres; and a little bit further (about 40 minutes drive), there are the big supermarkets and shopping malls in Alcaniz or Tortosa.

Since that first visit, we have gone back a few times to talk to people who are going to help us build a first house on the land, but also just for holidays. You can spend weeks in the region and do something else every day (hiking in Els Sports, swimming in the rivers, visiting castles and medieval villages, biking down the Via Verde, horse riding in the green valleys, citytrips to Alcaniz, Tarragona, Barcelona or Valencia,…) – but since the region is also very easy to go to (via the airports of Barcelona and Reus), we have been over a few times just for a few days or a long weekend. We’re always very sad to leave again for Amsterdam!

Axel's sketch of what our house should look like

Axel’s sketch of what our house should look like (July 2013)

As we speak, our architect Manel is laying the last hand on the application for our building permit – with some luck and good fortune, building might begin in a few months and we might be able to start finishing and decorating in a little over a year… Of course, we’ll be monitoring the whole project closely, and will share any big news with all our Twitter & Facebook followers!

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