In June 2013 I stumbled across an old friend on Facebook called Tania who had grown up near me in Devon, I hadn’t seen her since around 1984/5 as she had spent several years travelling. We got chatting about cave houses and it turned out that she was due to rent one in Spain in the August, It turned out she had booked a place in Cortes de Baza of all places. I didn’t think much more about it until early September when I saw some of her photos and it turned out she was there with her family the exact same time I had been there and she had stayed in a rental literally three doors away. We chatted about this and then one of her friends called Rachel got into the conversation who it turned out had met Tania purely by accident in Madrid a few years previous and it then turned out that I vaguely knew Rachel’s Ex-Husband….. to cut the story down a little Rachel and I got chatting, swapped numbers and hit it off rather nicely.
After a few weeks of chatting we decided we should meet up so the following weekend I drove the 250 miles from Devon to Merseyside and everything went well, after around six months of driving up and down the country I moved to Southport and the rest as they say is history.
The main problem with this was that the cave didn’t get visited at all for a full twelve months…….(I’ll explain the problems that arose in the next update)
my marital status was well and truly over, I’d spent a couple of months in hiding, licking my wounds and sofa surfing. I decided I needed to visit the cave properly on a holiday after all the effort that had gone into getting the place…… where do I start? Facebook of Course 🙂
So I put a status on Facebook asking for a travel companion, typically I got next to no response.
The first was from a friend who runs a tea tent at festivals…. although she was into the idea of a break she couldn’t get around having time away in the middle of the festival season. I was then contacted by another friend who was able to squeeze the dates in… It was on ! I was crawling out from under my stone and attempting to use the place as it was intended (or as I at least had intended).
The plan was to go for the Fiesta (weekend before last in August). I had heard that Cortes gets really busy during fiesta and the population swells to around four times it’s usual amount which by my reckoning would mean there was likely to be 30 or 40 people on the street at any given time of day or night.
We flew out from Exeter to Alicante which was novel as I had always flown from Bristol in the past. Driving to the cave was interesting as I was with somebody else and therefore I almost certainly spent too much time explaining that it was going to be fun even though it wasn’t by the sea etc etc. On arrival I was greeted by the barbecue that had been made from the remains of the old kennels. I love the barbecue, it was one of the silly ideas I had about having my own bar with a pizza oven and then got embarrassed about thinking it was a typical British thing…. a bar with spirits and a couple of lager pumps, a tv with sky sports on 24/7, a place for fat red people with their skin falling off to congregate and a place where I could be the landlord…… fortunately Clive had excelled my expectations tenfold.
On entering the cave it turned out that Clive hadn’t stopped at the barbecue but had also removed the ugly shelving in the shower room and replaced some parts with wood giving it a lot more of an organic feel (I was Very Happy). I sorted everyone out with their rooms and set about drinking a nice cold lager before we headed off to the fiesta. The fiesta was very busy, there was people everywhere and of all ages. I love the fact that families spend time together in Europe much more than they do here, Babies, Toddlers, Teenagers, Parents & Grandparents all enjoying each others company and not being embarrassed by each others behaviours. I imagine it’s down to having a little more respect for each other ?
I also got the jacuzzi (it arrived on the previous trip) fired up and that was a rather odd experience because I had imagined spending family holidays splashing about in it.
This was to be the first holiday ever and the last holiday for about a year, during this period there was a lounge collapse disaster and I found love again <3
I apologise for the rubbish fiesta photos below…..
We unloaded the second van full of furniture and scattered it around the yard so we could figure out where it was all going, the puppy spent all his time hiding in, under and amongst everything he could find from rugs to boxes to his final spot in the bottom of the cooker. By the end of the day most of the furniture had found it’s home and I set about hooking up the stereo (which was more important than eating). I heard the guy from next door arrive home so I took the puppy back again but this time he was trying to tell me I could keep it as I desperately tried to explain that I was going home in two days time and certainly couldn’t take a puppy with me…… I dread to think what happened to that dog but like to imagine he lives happily somewhere.
So after a long day moving furniture we set off to get some food and a few cervezas from Bar Jairo happy in the knowledge that it was all coming together nicely.
The following day we met up with Clive and planned out some other jobs, the first one being how to get rid of the pile of bricks that used to be the kennels. Clive suggested that if we wanted anything building then it would make sense to keep hold of them but all we could think of that wanted actually building was a barbecue. Then I got carried away with the idea and thought I’d like some kind of a bar. Not a typical Brits bar with with a Union Jack, a fridge full of Carling and a TV with Sky sports on but an outdoor cooking area with a counter to eat at. We were so pleased with his work so far that we were more than happy to let him take the reins and come up with something.
On the final day we popped over to Baza to get some more keys cut and pick up a few bits to leave for next time we were over (never has buying toilet rolls and washing up liquid been so much fun).
The weather turned grey and cloudy in the afternoon adding to the feeling that we were coming to the end of an exciting trip, that evening I loaded up the old gates from the kennels and my tools and we got set for the return journey. I remember feeling sad to be leaving but also really excited about the next visit which would be the first trip for an actual holiday.
First thing in the morning we threw our cases back in the van and headed off in the direction of Santander for 10 hours, this time though we upgraded and got a cabin for the journey back across the Bay of Biscay as we both really fancied some sleep…….. I definitely recommend cabins over reclining seats, not because they are flash but because you aren’t surrounded by loud drunken people.
This was to be the last time we visited Spain together, in the May of 2013 we separated which entailed me losing my home, my job, my wife and that side of my family.
I spent several months not knowing how to continue and I ended up living in my friends spare room for about 8 months (If it wasn’t for a couple of very good friends I don’t know what I would have done). I’m not going to dwell on this or go in to it too much but I realised then that things had obviously not been right for some time……..
Winter in the UK is over (just about) and we are all set for the first ferry crossing and first drive to Cortes 🙂
A week ago I had loaded a man with a van whom we were meeting at Cortes next Wednesday to unload. Yesterday I had collected and loaded another van that we were driving down ourselves via the bay of Biscay.
The 22 hour crossing followed by the 10 hour drive seemed daunting but exciting all at once….. It was the first proper step of making the place our own. The satnav had said it would take 10 hours from port to cave and it was exactly that, we left Santander at 12:30 and arrived Cortes at 10:30 in the evening. We were greeted by Bob with a couple of cold lagers for a wind down after the tiring but ultimately straightforward journey.
The ferry crossing was a little choppy but nothing serious considering the stories we had heard about the Bay of Biscay and how the ferries don’t run in the winter due to the weather. The drive was ok and it was great seeing the changes in scenery, the worst bit was the fact that as we neared our destination it was dark and I hadn’t a clue about the road layouts (approaching from the north).
After a good undisturbed sleep (caves are very quiet) we headed over to our cave, we were greeted by lots of exciting things and in order of appearance they went something like this:
1) the kennels that filled half of the yard were no more so we had gained a sun trap.
2) the kennels were now in a neat pile on the other side of the yard.
3) the electric was on.
4) the strange shelving in the kitchen had been removed and rearranged.
5) the shower room had been revamped.
6) several odd square things had been made into arches and curves.
These things were all great, I was happy and this was how I imagined I should feel :-).
We got on with unloading and at some point around mid morning I heard a dog whining, it sounded like it was above the cave but I couldn’t see it. A bit later on I heard it again and just happened to glance up at the drain from the canal (a channel that leads water away from the roof so as to stop it working it’s way into the cave) and saw something move. I went to investigate and there was a small black and white puppy, probably no more than 10 weeks old. I brought it down and we fed it some food and let it wander about while we got on with unloading and moving stuff around. That evening I heard the guy from next door arrive home and tried to explain (with next to no Spanish) that the puppy had appeared in our canal and he took it away.
Note: unfortunately the Spanish don’t treat dogs or pets in the same way as the majority of brits do, a large percentage of people see them as pets until they outstay their welcome because they have grown too big, the school holidays have ended and the kids don’t need this amusement in their lives anymore, they don’t work to their full capacity because they are too old……etc etc etc. I would love to see this change and it is changing but far too slowly.
So day 2, shower at Bob’s and back to work unloading.
Most of the furniture is roughly where we are wanting it and we need to make space for the other van load that is arriving around midday tomorrow. Then the crying puppy in the canal starts again…… again we bring him in and let him roam about, he seems calmer than yesterday but spent all his time hiding behind things and under things….. The guys turned up at around 2:00pm with the second van full of furniture.