Well, April has lived up to its local billing – ‘en abril las aguas mil’ goes the Spanish refrain – and it has rained a LOT. On reflection, not the best month to choose for my 5 Goals. I’ve only managed to get out climbing once (seeping limestone is no fun, unless you’re a caver), the garden has been so waterlogged I’ve scarcely been able to set foot in it and all this crushing failure and being trapped indoors has positively driven me to drink! The classic vicious circle.
Then yesterday the much-missed sun poked his head out from behind the clouds and instantly the world was transformed. The clouds lifted and once again I could see the mountains in the distance. As a gusty southerly wind quickly dried all memories of the rains, I rushed into the garden to check out what state it had been left in.
First to the garden’s borders where I had worriedly watched delicate young flowers become increasingly battered and bedraggled in the high winds and lashing rains. I feared that nary a petal would be left.
But with the first touch of weak sunshine after the rain the flowers had instantly perked up. Their green stems had snapped to attention and droplet bejewelled petals reached up, unfurling towards the sunlight.
Further down the field the seeds sown earlier this month that I feared would have been washed away in the deluge were now sprouting through, with strong, green shoots. Well and truly watered in, all that was now required was some sunlight to complete the cycle.
Above all, however, I was delighted to discover that my reign as Goddess of the Slug and Snail Kingdom has finally come to a close. For the last 6 years I have invested a lot of time, money and hard work in feeding said creatures only the finest of organic, gourmet baby vegetables. Ordinarily, over the course of just a few wet days and nights they would chomp their way through swathes of seedlings, pausing in their feasting only to occasionally toast my name with the beer I had left out for them in my otherwise pointless traps. But no more. Finally I have discovered an effective ecological method (Ferramol) of controlling the greedy blighters. We may yet have a decent harvest. How exciting!
As I continued around the field inspecting the progress where I had expected to see only damage, I felt myself unfurl a little too. I stood taller, drinking in the views revealed anew around me. A contrast to the last weeks of darting outside in gaps between downpours, always rushing along, hunched forward, head bent and hood pulled down tight against the elements.
It’s not been a fun few weeks, to be frank. But some necessary stuff got done – including the complete re-decoration of our rental house in time for our guests’ arrival last Thursday. Now that that hard slog is succesfully completed on time and the sun has come out to play again, everything is starting to feel a little easier. Small but significant positive decisions and actions start to follow freely and feed into one another. And just like that, a virtuous circle is born.
Another fab day climbing. The January sun shone and we were climbing in our t-shirts, despite being at 700metres with snow on the mountaintops close around us.
Jack was in nursery and Richie and I were climbing together with Alberto. I worried Alberto might not be getting enough done, climbing in a three. I needn’t have though, turns out that after a full day’s climbing at the crag he was heading to the ‘tablon’ (bouldering gym) to train!
This reminded me, yet again (climbing’s a great sport for this), that people who are good at something don’t get to be so and to stay so by accident. It takes work, ongoing work, which takes motivation.
Top climbers don’t find it all easy, even though it might seem that way when you read of their exploits in magazines. On the contrary, top climbers are the ones who try really, really hard. On every route or boulder problem, on every day of training. They’re the ones who aren’t defeated by failure but tie back into the rope and step back onto the rock for another try until eventually they top out victorious. And so it is with any sport or indeed any walk of life.
So the next time I reach an impasse, be it on the rock or not, I’m going to take it simply as a challenge to work out the next move and to train a little harder to get the necessary power.
The 25th January was Richie’s birthday and after a nutritious breakfast of flumps (Jack’s marshmallowy and only ever so-slightly self-interested birthday present to his father) the day progressed into a galloping
gourmand gourmet odyssey .
It was a gloriously sunny day as we headed to Gijon, which with its beaches, restaurants and the best play park ever, satisfied all members of our (birthday) party.
From the beach, our attention was drawn to ‘La Bella Vista’ resturant (the blue one on the end in the photo above.) With a gorgeous terrace shimmering in the January sunlight and very ‘bella’ views across the bay to the old quarter of town, it seemed like the perfect spot to celebrate.
A quick check of the menu on display by the gate confirmed that this was an upmarket joint with a menu selection that gave an inventive twist to traditional Asturian fare. Prices were correspondingly on the slightly sophisticated side but just enough so that we could feel like we were celebrating in style without risking bankruptcy.
The ‘Menu del Dia’ lunchtime formula option was priced at 14 Euros for three courses with wine/cider (weekday ‘menu’ price in Gijon ranges between 7 to 15 euros) but we threw caution to the wind and went a la carte.
The birthday boy had a yen for octopus (nothing new there – pulpo, as it’s called in Spanish, is a firm family favourite). As the only such dish was ‘pulpo a la brasa’ in the ‘to share’ section we naturally plumped for that for starters.
When the waitress deposited the gorgeously presented dish to us, Richie’s face fell like that of an 8 year old whose aunty has just bought him the wrong football strip for his birthday. ‘I think we’ve made a horrible error,’ he whimpered. (We actually have a history of making dodgy dining decisions on his birthday. E.g. seven years ago we spent Jan 25th in a deserted Polish restaurant in Sheffield. Pity for the proprietors should never be a factor in your choice of restaurants. If they’re always empty there’s probably a good reason.)
To be fair, the octopus tasted great. There just wasn’t enough of it. The portion wouldn’t even have been large enough for Jack on his own – and sure enough he polished off a good half of it. (Ways in which Jack is a Spanish toddler Number 3 – he happily devours all kinds of tentacled foodstuffs.)
At 16 euros for the portion it a) seemed rather pricey and b) just wasn’t going to satisfy our penchant for pulpo.
Our mains, albondigas de perdiz (partridge meatballs) and carpaccio de gacela (gazelle carpaccio with a cherry salsa) were a big improvement, being imaginative and well-executed but also more generous in size. (We’re really not that greedy, honest, but it’s a fairly basic requriement of the whole dining experience to leave the table sated.)
We skipped dessert – mainly due to a crabby toddler who needed his post-prandial siesta (soooo Spanish, I’m telling you). Discretion being the better part of valour we beat a hasty retreat to the promenade where Jack soon nodded off in his pushchair.
A meander along the seafront brought us face to face with the dilapidated looking Galician Bar-Restaurant which we had previously pondered over as a dining destination, being, as it is, a dedicated pulpo restaurant. We caught each other’s eye. We couldn’t, could we? Well, it was his birthday….
The last lunchtime patrons were leaving the bar as we entered. The floor beneath the counter bore testament to the passage of a busy lunch service – hundreds of cider spattered napkins and toothpicks littered the floor. An excellent omen. The frontage may be past its best but if the diners keep coming the food must be good.
We ordered a restrained half portion of pulpo gallega (priced at 9 euros, with a full portion at 16) and when it came, unlike its tentacled colleague from earlier in the day, it did not disappoint. It was a mound of succulent, olive oiled, rock-salted, juicy octopus. Perfect!
Finally satisfied we headed for home. If there’s one thing about getting older, you sure do know exactly what you want and, if you’re lucky, how to get it.
Telecinco’s new reality show, Acorralados, where 12 celebrities are ‘trapped’ together on a farm, is currently filming in Pilona, Asturias.
It seems more than a little ironic to me, given that I work in the property market here and have so many clients
who come to me looking for pretty much exactly the life that is currently being
foisted upon the celebrity contestants – a gorgeous traditional farm in a
stunning and secluded rural setting far from the insanities of modern life.
(Well, if you ignore the media trappings of a reality tv show, that is!)
Already, the 150 strong team of workers associated with the production have descended upon the area – bringing a very welcome cash injection to the local economy.
I’m not normally a big fan of reality tv but in this case I have to admit that I’ll be glued to the screen tomorrow night at 9.45pm when the first episode will be broadcast!
An understanding of the architectural, geographical, cultural and economic landscape of Asturias in Northern Spain are all really helpful in gaining an understanding of the present-day property market there.The classic, traditional Asturian house is constructed from stone and wood, with thick stone walls, timbered beams and floors and a wooden galleria or Asturian corridor (corridor.) The wood most commonly used in the floors and beams was traditionally chestnut – a very hard wood indeed.
Thus you see that the Asturian house is very much of its environment. Both the stone and the wood used in its construction would have been harvested locally and usually the house would have been constructed by a team of neighbours and relatives working together.
The very typical Asturian ‘corredor’ or galeria was designed to make the most of the sun and views and the way in which it overhangs the entrance provides a wonderfully practical porch area, in which to kick off your madrilenas (Asturian clogs, worn as overshoes while working on the land) as you enter the house on a wet day.
Often, coming from the UK or Ireland, property buyers are surprised to find a relative scarcity of detached properties in the Asturian countryside but delving a little into the economic past of the place gives a ready explanation of this.
The vast expense and massive amount of manual labour involved in the traditional construction of the stone-built Asturian house, plus the economic poverty of the region at the time is reflected in the very common practice of building ‘pareada’ or ‘adosada’ houses – that is to say terraced or semi-detached houses. Another practical solution that is writ large on the architectural landscape of Asturias.
Since approximately 1940, the practice of stone-built houses has ceased with the introduction of cheaper and easier modern building methods and materials. This means that the classic stone-built Asturian house is a finite resource and this is reflected in the local property market and property prices.
Particularly right on the coast, where the influence of the second-home buyers from Madrid and Barcelona has long been felt, it can nowadays be quite difficult to pick up a stone-built house for renovation and if you do find one, it may not be quite the steal you were hoping for.
As a result we are seeing a wave of barns entering the market as these stone buildings have a similar charm and great potential for conversion into a dwelling (given appropriate change of use permission), all at a much cheaper price.
Last Thursday 20th November saw the opening of the 46th Edition of the Gijon International Film Festival with the movie Choke. Based on the Chuck Palahnuik book of the same name the film is a perfect mix of intelligent drama and dark but laugh-out-loud comedy and provided a fitting kick-off to the proceedings.
The programme of this year’s festival, which closes next Saturday 29th, is wonderfully eclectic and filled to bursting. You can download full details from the official website at www.gijonfilmfestival.com and daily screening information is published in the El Comercio newspaper.
Several cinemas and theatres across the city are hosting the event (including the beautiful Teatro Jovellanos) and local bars and clubs are the scene for the many shows and gigs that complement the serious cinematic programme.
A great opportunity to see some cutting-edge, version original cinema and also to put your questions to directors and cast in some of the post screening sessions.
The term finca is used in Northern Spain to refer to a field or plot of land. There are two main classifications of finca.
1. Finca Rustica This is land that is zoned for agricultural purposes only.
This land can be used for recreational and/or horticultural purposes.
You cannot build a house on this land, although you may be able to construct a small building such as a shed or maybe even a cabaña (cabin). The rules governing up to what size such a building can be are governed by the local council or ayuntamiento. Commonly the size would be in the region of 2 metres by 3 metres.
2. Finca Urbana or Edificable. This is land that is zoned for building.
If you are buying land as a site to build a house, it must be ‘edificable’. The size up to which you can build is regulated by the local council (ayuntamiento) and is related to the size of the plot, i.e. the bigger the plot, generally the bigger the house you can build.
You, or your agent or representative, can consult the relevant Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) regarding the building regulations of the area. This information is in the public domain and is available freely. You, or your representative, can also request an official certificate of build (Certificado de Edificabilidad) relating to a specific finca so that you know exactly what requirements you would need to comply with in building before you even commit to purchasing the site.
Some other Spanish terms you may come across when looking at land are
Other related terms Catastro, Registro Catastral …. more info coming soon in a separate blog
Check out http://www.spanishpropertynorth.com for more information on Spanish Property terms, specifically relating to Asturias and Northern Spain
Last Sunday, 19th October, was the day of La Fiesta de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, the patron saint of our parish of Gramedo and Giranes. Despite being a country backwater and sadly depopulated, come fiesta time the loyal sons and daughters of the parish come back from the cities and towns to celebrate their roots and traditions and to drink a little cider together.
The day was hot and sunny, perhaps a little too hot for the many who were decked out in full traditional Asturian finery – the heavy wool skirts and trousers and intricately beaded shawls weigh a ton! But the effect was worth it and it was a wonderful reflection of how aware Cabraneses (locals of this concejo of Cabranes) of the importance of upholding traditions.
Moving to this rural idyll from the busy streets of Sheffield 3 years ago, we swapped a daily soundtrack of traffic and siren for one of scythe sharpening and cow bells. But wonderfully insulated from the modern world as Cabranes is, even here the old ways of life are in danger of dying out, as the younger generations turn their backs on country life and move to the cities. That’s why fiestas such as this one are so important – to bring people back for a day of celebration, unity and maintaining rooted traditions. And for a good session of bonding with your neighbours over a few culins of sidra. (That’s glasses of cider to the uninitiated!)
Check out our gallery of photos from the day in our Picasaweb album -