My new goal is to post a diary every time we went to Spain. About the things we do, the people we meet, strange stuff we eat. Maybe not while we’re *in* Spain (too much to do, too little time to spend behind the computer!) but hopefully soon afterwards.
What happened before: last year, we bought a finca (piece of farmland) in Lledo, in the region of Matarranya (province of Teruel, Aragon). In January, we were in Cambrils for a day to talk to our architect Manel and project manager David; it was a very productive talk – Manel designed us a wonderful house, we talked about budget and planning, and got to see the beach and the town of Cambrils. Planning at that moment was to file the building permit application at the end of February in the hope that we would be able to start building in June – very ambitious, good thing we didn’t really count on it.
Friday March 7th, 2014: after an eventful flight (mainly eventful because we almost missed it), we arrived at Reus airport. Normally we can just walk to the car rental desk, get a key and walk to our rental car – this time though, I had been booking so many cars in the last few weeks that I forgot to book my own! Thankfully Europcar still had 1 car left for a decent price and the super nice lady helped us on our way. On the road between Reus and Matarranya, we made a stop at the supermercado (supermarket) to buy shampoo and lunch for the next few days. We drove straight to our finca, were we had a picnic lunch on the land… it was wonderful being back, especially now the almonds were blossoming and the grass was growing again after winter.
After a copious meal, it was time for a warm welcome at Hans & Loes’ “Nuestra Posada” – we sat in the late afternoon sun on their terrace until it went under.
Saturday March 8th, 2014: after an XL breakfast in the sun, Hans told us all about the castle of Morella in Valencia, so we decided to go. We visited the cathedral, climbed all our way up to the highest part of the castle, sat on canons and went through strange tunnels in the rock – our ticket also gave us access to the dinosaur museum and another thing (forgot what!), but those were closed by the way we got out of the castle… winter opening times are very different from summer opening times, when you can visit most things until 9 or 10 at night (but they all close for siesta).
Sunday March 9th, 2014: we decided it was time for us to do some work. We already had somebody else (Jose and Manu) pruning the trees, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t do other things! We set to opening the almacen (the small shed that has been on our finca for ages, or so it seems). We got rid of the weeds in front and had to break open the door, to find what was inside; it was filled with broken furniture, waste and old tools. We ditched the furniture on a pile of branches so it could go on the fire tomorrow and tried to clean up the almacen. After lunch we walked around pruning the smaller trees (quinces mainly) and removed some weeds from the terrace walls, until it was time to go home, shower and get one of the famous stone oven pizza’s at Nuestra Posada.
Monday March 10th, 2014: after breakfast we met David at the bar in Cretas; we learned that our building permit application had not yet been filed, but it would happen on Friday. Ah well, what’s 2 weeks delay in a lifetime… After this, Axel drove me to Barcelona, as I had to fly to Antwerp to attend an important meeting.
Tuesday March 11th, 2014: I was in Belgium so Axel spent the day with Rezwan & Rosa who are also thinking about building something in the Matarranya. The plan was for him to pick me up at the Tortosa train station (about 35 minutes drive) at around 10 PM; unfortunately, my hand luggage was checked in on the flight back, and I had to wait for the luggage to come out at Barcelona airport. This way I not only missed the trains to Barcelona Sants, but after taking a taxi there it appeared I also missed the last train to Tortosa. So I chose the next best thing – the train to Tarragona, where Axel picked me up some time after midnight and we drove back for about an hour (good thing is that there is no traffic whatsoever on that road at that time!).
Wednesday March 12th, 2014: after breakfast we went to our finca, where Jose and Manu were busy stacking the wood logs into a cart. Good (we thought), they will stack it next to the almacen to dry so we can use it for our wood stove next year. Not that good (it appeared later); due to some misunderstanding, they took the logs with them and the wood we got to keep were a few roots from trees they took out of the ground… Ah well, next time we’ll make it clear that we consider the logs to be “burning wood” as well (if there is a next time). Back at Nuestra Posada, we met with David and Manel. Manel showed us the drawings of our house (from every angle possible) and we drove to our finca to look at the exact location of the house (we decided to put it exactly where we thought we should put it on the first day we saw the land) and also to look at possible location for the casitas (small guest houses) we plan on building there. Then David got a call; one of his other customers just arrived, ready to move into his newly (nearly) finished home! We drove there and landed in a chaos of working people – a whole family putting furniture together, the electrician installing the last connections to get the solar system going, a satellite tech guy explaining to Roger how the TV worked, somebody was setting up the last kitchen utensils. We spent a few hours there before crossing the road to meet Jan, who showed us his last few experiments with solar powered hot water and a stone oven before going to dinner with us at the Posada.
Thursday March 13th, 2014: we set out on an expedition to Mora. Had lunch at Bar La Creu in Mora d’Ebre, and went to the notary at Mora la Nova (right across the Ebro river). Woohoo, we finally got the deeds for the sale of our land! The dossier we got was very informative, contained names of neighbours and former owners of our land… with the official plans from the notary in hand, we went over the borders of our finca once again, and discovered we had a little bit more than what we thought we had! At least I did, of course Axel knew all along. We had dinner at Sisquet (tapas bar) in Valderrobres we go to every time we’re here at least once; being a weekday they were out of croquettas (they are to die for), but we still got a lot of succulent dishes while watching some Spanish football team playing some other Spanish football team.
Friday March 14th, 2014: unfortunately David had to cancel his visit to the ayuntamento with us – he let us know that Manel would file the permit application next week Friday (the 21st), when we were already back in Amsterdam. Ah well, what’s a week’s delay… We did go to the ayuntamento nevertheless, to meet met Maria Jose the alcaldesa (mayor). It was a nice encounter, and we learned a few new things about our future village – e.g. the school of Lledo has 5 pupils, and 3 teachers – one for physical education, one for Catalan, and one for all the rest. It’s almost like a private education! On our way out, we walked into Jose Ramon (the local shopkeeper who always knows what’s going on in the village). Since we’re looking for a house to rent in the village, he had a few tips for us, so we left with a few phone numbers. Before going to our finca, we stopped at the Ermita across the road; it’s a church with picnic tables, a playground, BBQ facilities and a view of our finca. In the afternoon, we went to Tortosa; there too, we visited a cathedral (we heard the visit to the catacombs were most interesting, but they were closed on that day – the cathedral itself was really amazing though) and another castle with a phenomenal view of the Ebro and the city of Tortosa.
Saturday March 15th, 2014: Staying at Hans and Loes’ posada has been kind of like going to school for us. Every time we’re there, we get to watch their garden experiments, hear about their adventures with their animals (chickens, a pony and a few sheep – the goats had to go after destroying too many of the neighbours’ plants), watch them making conserves, learn about what living “on the campo” really means. Today, I was a witness to the task of cutting the sheeps’ hooves; despite some struggling sheep, it all went really well but it made me wonder if I would be able to acquire skills like that once we live there. For now, we’ve got some books on subjects like those and we’ll see how it goes in real life. Around noon, we drove all the way up to Mas del Pi, the old B&B Kristin, Sigfredo and their 3 children moved to from Sweden just a few months ago. It’s an amazing place, and we could see all the work that they had done already – and all the work that still needed to be done. We got a grand tour of (part of) the property (about 40ha is too big to get a grand tour to during an impromptu visit) and of the house (those guest rooms will really be great to stay in!). Sigfredo also showed us the cellar with abandoned barrels of wine, mistella and bottles of unfinished cava… We had a few drinks and snacks (I definitely want to try baking with almond flour once I’m there, it’s delicious!) in the lovely family kitchen. Driving back to Valderrobres, we saw a sign indicating Beceite and decided to follow that. We had heard of Beceite quite a lot, but never been there. It was totally worth it; Beceite is built at the start of Els Sports, and there are some stunning locations there. At night we ate the best spareribs ever at the Posada – it seemed like Loes did really put half of the herb garden and her heart into the marinade.
(can’t find my pictures of Mas del Pi & Beceite!)
Sunday March 16th, 2014: our last day was a bit of a lazy day – although of course we went to see our finca (like every day). At this point I need to tell you that another couple had been staying at Nuestra Posada all week too; Robert is from Yorkshire and Shannon is American, and they want to start an art retreat in the Matarranya. Just yesterday they decided on what land to buy (they had been torn between 2 beautiful plots all week – in the end, they chose not to start an art retreat next to a pig farm though). We accompanied them on a drive to see the land they didn’t buy, and the one they did shake hands on… good choice!
Monday, March 17th, 2014: after a full breakfast, it was time to pack our things and go. But we’ll be back soon!