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December 2009

The pork wardrobe and the Gin bottle

The house was basically abandoned 10 years ago, so when we bought it, things were just as the owners had left them. Beds were made, wardrobes were full of clothes, kitchen cupboards had crockery, cutlery and glassware in them, drinks bottles were full and there was even toilet paper in the loo. Before we could start doing anything, all this stuff had to be cleared.

Gin bottle
A friend of ours came out with us last December to help us start this process and we made a couple of unexpected discoveries. Firstly there was the Gin bottle in the drinks cupboard. Have you ever seen this brand in a UK supermarket.

And then there was the pork wardrobe!!! Apparently it is common practice in the rural areas of northern Spain to keep your hams in a proper cupboard which allows them to 'breathe' Unfortunately, these hams were at least 10 years old and the only thing feasting on them in those years were the maggots. This room became known as the 'pork room' and has terrified various visitors over the past year!!

Pork wardrobe

So what did we buy?

We bought a 200 year old farmhouse and barn set in 2 acres of gentle, hilly countryside surrounded by vast areas of Eucaliptus trees. It is near Trabada just inside Galicia, the most North Westerly province in Spain. And it is just 20 minutes from the coast and some spectacular beaches and rocky coves. And yes, it is in a part of Spain not overly familiar with people in the UK. This is where the Spanish come on holiday!

Granero del burro
The barn is a simple but beautiful building with a fantastic roof. Sadly there was a huge hole in the roof but the aim here is to create a luxury self catering facility for 4 people with 2 ensuite bedrooms.

The house itself is huge with some 15 rooms in it. It has not been lived in for 10 years. The people lived upstairs and the animals lived downstairs. 9 people lived in the house before it was left, with beds in all the rooms except the kitchen. There is a milking shed for the cattle, pig styes, a stable for the horse and several rooms just for agricultural equipment. Outside there is a wonderful bread oven and a beautiful 'cabanzo'. Cabanzos are Galician grain stores and were built high off the ground to stop rats getting in when the grain was being dried.

The house and barn are surrounded by 2 acres of land which is mainly grass. There is however a well established orchard with Apple trees and outside the back of the house are 2 Apricot trees. Lots of potential for the future.

Lawyers, architects and the like

The square in Trabada
Having bought the house and barn, our first task was to start to learn Spanish. This we did in Inverness at a restaurant called La Tortilla Asesina. 20 weeks tuition (2 courses) got us started but not good enough to converse fluently. That meant we needed English speaking lawyer for all our legal and conveyancing needs, as well as an English speaking architect to help us put the project together.

We found a great lawyer in Oviedo (the capital of Asturias) and she has helped us with all out legal stuff since. We also found some great architects in A Coruna (Galicia) called Ocho y Cero ('eight and zero' is the literal translation) and they have helped us put the whole project together as well as help us with the various tourist licences required and the whole planning process.

Over the year since we bought the house we have had to make a number of trips over to Spain to see these guys. Easyjet have looked after our travel needs getting us firstly from Edinburgh to Stansted and then from Stansted to Oviedo/Asturias. Asturias is the name of the nearest airport (located just outside a town called Aviles) and it is about 120 kilometres from the house in Trabada. Europcar have an office at the airport and offer great rates if booked through Easyjet.

We also came over by ferry from Plymouth to Santander with Brittany Ferries. Santander is 300 kilometres from the house but means you can bring your own car. The Cantabrian motorway which runs along the north coast of Spain is fantastic and means you can be in Trabada in just over 3 hours from Santander.

Each trip allowed us to see the house and barn at different times of the year, and sadly, also its deterioration. The roof leaked badly, the floorboards were dodgy to say the least and it had a very unlived in feeling. Its restoration was long overdue.

Buying the house and barn - November 2008

The lounge in the house
We bought the house and barn in November 2008 from a lady called Piedad whose great grandfather was born in the house. She was 84 at the time so this gives an idea of the age of the house. The barn is slightly newer but is still over a 100 years old.

The house back in the early 1900's was the feudal landlord's house and there are a number of things that indicate this. There are ledgers detailing what the peasants rents were. The rents were paid in grain and the house is full of the huge old grain boxes. There are the measuring sticks which were used to determine the size of the peasants plots of land. And there is a fantastic bread oven which apparently used to be always lit. The peasants were allowed to bring their own dough and bake it in the oven - presumably at a small cost.

The bread oven and measuring sticks
The house and barn sit on 2 acres of land in a small and peaceful valley about 5 kilometres from Trabada. Trabada is a small town with a couple of bars, a supermarket, a restaurant and a small number of shops for essentials. It is just on the Galician side of the border and is about 20 kilometres from Ribadeo, a large town right on the coast and at the mouth of the Eo estuary. There is plenty going on here which we will describe later. It was however in Ribadeo that we actually purchased the property.

In Spain, property conveyances are carried out in the Notary's office with both buyer and seller present. It was here that we met Piedad, the lady who sold us the house. She was very pleased that the house was going to be restored after having laid empty for nearly 10 years. We bought her flowers and handed over the money. And that was that - the adventure had begun.