I always suffer a complete sense of gloom at this time of year in the UK, partially because I know I won’t be going back to Spain until the spring and partially because I know it is going to get darker and wetter here for the foreseeable months. It’s usually about now that I will start practicing learning Spanish again, I find it much harder to concentrate between Spring and Summer because I am always too excited about flying out again. So this week I have been back on DuoLingo and also catching up on the British TV shows about people moving to Spain (A Place in the Sun, A New Life in the Sun etc). These little things just make me feel closer to this part of the world that I adore.
Anyway…. Yesterday I was having a little break from moping and spotted a facebook post from Cuevas Helena which is about 15 minutes from my place, talking about a TV show that they were featured in.
Channel 5 – Our Dream Hotel. This is a great watch if you are interested in Cave Houses (or of course holidaying in one). Lovely to see such passion not to mention a fantastic finished cave. I am always grateful to see Mt Jabalcon too as it reminds me of another home 🙂
I often have people saying “you have a cave ?, where do you go to the toilet?, does it have stalactites/mites?” etc etc. so I thought I’d post a bit of information about it.
Our cave has 13 underground rooms, 2 rooms built on the front and another separate block built room in the yard. It also has a covered verandah. Because it used to be 2 houses it still has 2 front doors but the caves are connected inside via a passage that was dug out more recently.
The door on the left of the picture by the Barbecue is a cave store room (which probably used to be home for a Donkey as there is an old feeder inside) this measures approximately 4 metres x 2.8 metres. Moving to the right is the extended part which houses the shower, toilet, bidet and washbasin plus a utility area. The covered verandah measures approximately 3.5 metres square and although I’m not that keen on the look of it, it’s great for being able to sit outside on warm evenings even when it is raining. You can just see the first front door in the left hand side of the verandah. To the right again there is a covered pathway about 1.4 metres wide all the way to the right hand end. You can see the second front door just to the left of the tree. The jacuzzi is at the far right by the tartan blanket. In the right of the foreground is the other building which is basically a small room about 3.5 metres by 2.7 metres with light and electric.
At present there are 2 x double rooms (the one on the right is almost 6 metres long), a single room and a twin room. 2 lounges, kitchen, dining roon, breakfast room, 2 dressing rooms, shower room and the room I call the Music Hall which is inside the second front door and contains my stereo and a sofa. On the plan the tunnel that connects the dining room with the music hall is where the two original caves were connected.
Most caves (that I have seen) seem to be laid out in a similar way where one largish room is cut out first and then other rooms are cut out to the left and or right and then carrying on forward in a similar fashion. Our cave has signs of this but I guess because they were originally side by side they were limited as to directions they could dig.
I love the look of traditional caves like Danny and Josie’s see One Foot in the Cave but after spending time mooching about under the verandah, I’m pretty glad it’s there (even if I wouldn’t have bothered with it).
anyway that’s a little bit of information about the cave itself…… please ask if you want to know more.
We arrived for our second visit this year the week after the Fiesta, this is the time that the whole village seems to go in to limp mode, not surprisingly as the whole place will have been buzzing for the previous couple of weeks.
We were greeted by the newly built hot tub step/counter that Clive had built, I had asked if he would be able to build a step with maybe a place to put drinks and my iPad so there was somewhere within reach to change music without getting out (I love being able to leave things in his capable hands and know that he can grab an idea and run with it).
Hot Tub Step
We had arranged to put on a Barbecue for Bob and our newly found friends Rachel and Sean on the Wednesday so it was all systems go, mainly because I love the idea of getting together with people but I’m not actually that bothered about getting together with people. I am somewhat introverted ! I can’t really be bothered with having too many people around me and I don’t feel I need many people around me, all said and done though It was a great evening and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I totally enjoyed the company of people who If I’d been them I probably would have said “aww sorry, I’m cutting my nails that day”. The Barbecue was a success not because of Bob’s barbecue skills or Rachel’s Schnapps but because of my Cous Cous (that I always get from Lidl) :-). As well as Schnapps Rachel brought Daisy along (one of the street dogs she had rescued and the reason we met in the first place) Daisy was looking very happy with her new pack, she also brought Lenny who is from what I can make out a six foot tall puppy crossed slightly confusing himself with a teenage human, anyway enough of that.
This was to be a pretty boring holiday because the weather was lovely and nothing out of the ordinary happened in the way of “set backs” so we made the most of it and visited the local communal swimming pools.
First up was Los Olivos, I think it cost 2 euros each (for as long as you like) and we had to put up with about another 20 or so people.
Los Olivos Pool
Next we headed to Orce for the pool (the one with the fish) which was equally busy.
Finally Cortes which was again very busy…..
Cortes de Baza Pool
This was to be the first time I really thought about adding to the decor since splitting up with my ex-wife.
I found a guy on eBay who printed canvas prints so I had some album covers copied and then I found some cheap album frames for real albums so I now spend a lot of time in charity shops looking for album covers to put in them. It’s quite nice not having to worry about the condition of the records themselves as I’m not likely to play them as all my music these days is digital.
Album Cover Canvasses
The First REAL Album Cover (Hats off to the Spaghetti Westerns)
All in All this was the most normal and straightforward trip to the cave 🙂
Early September 2014 everyone I know let me know that the water had been reconnected :-). This was great news as Clive was able to get on with the nasty task of renovating the collapsed lounge (which I know he really wasn’t keen on doing but it made me happy). I started getting excited about planning the next venture out in the Easter of 2015 this time with my partner and her teenage Daughter which meant more tales of glamping without the glamour. I was really excited about this trip as it was going to be the first time anything major had been done to the cave that wasn’t chosen by my ex-wife and I (not that there is anything wrong with her taste but it was nice to make a mark as it were).
Around February of 2016 my lovely neighbour got in touch to say there was a couple of envelopes at the Post Office that needed to be signed for and she thought that they were from the Ayuntamiento (town hall). Time for me to stress again, I thought everything was on track. It turned out that I had a three of years non resident tax that needed paying, fortunately this was quite straight forward and wasn’t very expensive (about €130 I think). We were booked to fly out to Malaga from Liverpool John Lennon at 5:30am but the flight time kept being changed with the final leaving time set at 8.40pm, I felt it was better to accept this than lose a day of holiday and I reasoned that at least we would wake up in Spain relaxing rather than in the UK with the thought of another early start and one less day away. We arrived at Malaga at around 11:30pm and had to find the shuttle to the taxi office, typically we saw the shuttle bus leaving and had to wait another 10 minutes for the next one and we did the “first on, last off” routine to find the taxi company hadn’t finished processing the people from the first bus and we were at the back of the cue. Although I’m always up for saving money I do always pay for the full insurance as it includes priority collection and you don’t have to wait to get the vehicle checked over at the end of your stay.
It was now that I remembered that we had Priority Collection and the cue for this consisted of nobody at all (Result) we were in and out before the standard cue had even moved. Feeling happy that for once spending extra cash seemed to have paid off we set out on our 2.5 hour journey to the cave. It was a lovely starry evening but as I had never travelled this route before maybe a little slower than it could have been. We arrived at the cave at around 2:00am greeted by the Jacuzzi that actually had water in it and a powered up fridge that was stocked with lager and wine….. Happy Days ! We set up the beds and then sat outside for 1/2 an hour with a drink to recuperate, the sky was fantastic that night the Milky Way was in full swing and I had never seen a night sky looking so spectacular (I’m not massively interested in space stuff). I promised myself I would get a timelapse video of the sky one evening, I didn’t of course because it was either hazy or cloudy every night for the rest of the week.
Back to car hire……. On Wednesday we decided to have a drive up Mt Jabalcon, the oddly shaped mountain that greets you just after you pass Chirivel on the A-92 when arriving from the East. There are spectacular views to be had here and although I highly recommend the trip, it is a rough drive and most of it is single track with very few passing places…… anyway off we went and about 1/2 a mile from the summit we got a puncture so I had to do a tyre change (for one of those silly space savers) considering we were on a steep single track road that was covered in loose stone everything went ok but on the way back I thought I’d look out for a tyre place to get the puncture repaired….. and here comes another straightforward event that escalated into stupidity because I was involved ! First off we headed to Baza and tracked down a tyre dealer who hadn’t got any staff working except for a receptionist. Next we headed for another one that the SatNav suggested which turned out to be a house about 1/2 a mile down a footpath. I decided to head back to the cave and then spotted a tyre place on the Baza to Benamaurel road so I pulled in and spoke (loose description of my Spanish communication skills) to one of the guys who tried to repair it and then showed me the 2″ rip in the sidewall after a bit more confusion he disappeared and then came back a few minutes later with an English Girl who was working in the bar around the corner who explained/translated that he didn’t have a tyre available but could order one and it would be there on Friday – Perfect I can drive at more than 40kmh on the way home on Sunday…. Yes Please. She took my number and said she would ring when it was ready. We spent Thursday relaxing at the cave. Friday arrived and I surfaced at a reasonable time with the intention of picking up a new tyre, by around 12:00 I was getting concerned about siesta as I hadn’t heard from the garage and I sloped up to the village to ask Mario if he could ring them for me…… Mario rang the garage who said they weren’t able to get a tyre the correct size…. he then chatted for a bit while I shrank away with a pale face and then finally looked up and said “would a second hand tyre be ok?” “Oh My God yes, anything that means I can collect the wheel and drive the car again”, he said “can you get there before 1:00 as they are closing?” Off I went back to the garage and just made it in time at 12:55. €52 later I was heading back to Cortes with a tyre that held air…… And Relax.
On the Saturday we went down to Mini Hollywood which helped relieve the boredom of a teenager forced to spend a wee bit too much time in rural Spain with not enough Wi-Fi 🙂
I should probably show you the great job Clive did of resurrecting the collapsed lounge now.
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.
After leaving the town hall in Baza armed with a set of keys, a couple of tape measures and some paper we headed for a supermarket to buy a bottle of bubbly to crack open at the cave.
On arrival I noticed some lumps of wood and chicken mesh laying around the entrance, I put this down to the previous owners having gathered their animals together and presumably having to cage them in their van. Onward to the front door….. I fumbled around with the keys until I found the correct one and quickly opened the door to be greeted by a horrific smell of animals which I can only think would be similar to forcing your nose into a fully fouled cat litter tray (not that I’ve tried this). I was then reminded of the previous owner saying “we’ve had a bit of a tidy up because we have had the animals in the cave while we were waiting to collect them”…..
The lounge had been used for the ferrets, the rest of the cave had been used for cats, No Litter Trays or Newspaper in sight! If this was their idea of cleaning up I’d certainly certainly refuse a dinner invite. The whole place not only stunk of urine and faeces but was covered in it. It took two dustbin bags, a sea of industrial strength cleaning products (plus two solid days of scrubbing) to make it feel like you could even walk around safely. At some point I went outside for a break from scrubbing and sat down under the tree. It was at this point I noticed that the whole of the blue tiled area surrounding it was full of dry cat food and faeces, this required a shovel and another two dustbin bags. What was supposed to be a couple of days being excited and measuring things turned into a miserable cleaning chore.
While being overly involved with cleaning I had almost forgotten about the fact the electric wasn’t working, It turned out that the previous owners hadn’t paid their bill and had promised to pay up on sale of the cave (evidently that hadn’t happened). The electric company said they would reconnect if we paid the outstanding €2300. I spoke to Sean my estate agent who said “not a chance, there was no debts on the house and we will sue the electric company if need be”, this was my first foray into debts and legalities. Feeling pretty disheartened with the whole affair I took some happiness from the fact I was introduced to Clive (who is now my favourite builder in the world) I said to him that the electric company had us over a barrel knowing we were stuck in a house with no electric, Clive said something along the lines of “If it was me, I would just light a candle and read a book”……
Although the place was now clean it still smelt vile so we arranged to go out for a couple of days in the December armed with 4 gallons of white wine vinegar to counter the urine smell (It’s easier to get large quantities in the UK) but also to get our solicitor to start on the case with the electric company. This trip was far more enjoyable as our wonderful builder Clive had taken some steps to losing some of the squared off features that we hadn’t liked. Clive has been a key part of this project and I would have probably given up ages ago if it wasn’t for his help and his laid back calming attitude 🙂
In mid September 2012 we put in an offer on the Yellow Cave in Cortes de Baza which was rejected so we went a little higher and the offer was accepted
Oh My God…… what have we done? excitement, anxiousness, fear, excitement and more fear were the main feelings that day.
We had a fair bit of the money ready to use but we also had a fair bit more tied up in tat, gold and silver that would need to be cashed in on, then it dawned on us that we would have no money for any of the work that needed doing so we set about borrowing some extra from family. We would need NIE Numbers, a Spanish Bank Account, a Solicitor and the owners were very keen to sell quickly as they had already moved out.
I spent a few days searching the net for info on the complications of getting NIE numbers and read some awful stories on EX-Pat forums about people waiting at Alicante Police Station all day just to be told their paperwork wasn’t correct then having to go back the following day for another long wait. I got in touch with Sean to express concerns and he just said “Don’t be silly, stop reading forums, I’ll sort that out for you and a Bank Account, just get the money in place”. So it turned out I may as well have been self diagnosing an illness on google.
So we booked flights to arrive on the 11th November a Sunday when everywhere is closed (there is a theme here), we rented a Cave in Cortes called Cueva Peralta (link at the bottom it out if you fancy a Cave Holiday) from a guy whom I now consider a very good friend. We had arranged to meet with Sean on the Tuesday to arrange NIE numbers and sort out the bank account. This couldn’t have been simpler, Sean drove us to Baza armed with paperwork, we popped into the police station to drop it off, went and had a coffee and returned to find newly printed NIE Certificates waiting for us. We then headed to the bank in Galera and must have had to wait for all of 13 minutes to get that sorted out.
Finally we arranged to meet Sean and Mat KT the following day to sign contracts at Baza Town Hall….. Totally Painless (so Far).
Wednesday 14th November, The Big Day !
we all arrived at Baza Town Hall and we met the owners who seemed ok and then we handed around passports, signed things and dutifully listened to the notary (we also nodded a lot)….. Then it was done, we were handed the keys ! The one thing I didn’t pay too much attention to at the time was the now previous owner saying “we’ve had a bit of a tidy up because we have had the animals in the cave while we were waiting to collect them”…….. I was far too wrapped up in being the proud owner of a Spanish Cave.