Yesterday was The Man's birthday, we will celebrate with the kids and grandchildren on Sunday with a super tea out in town but meanwhile he enjoyed the telephonic "HB" serenading of both sets. The Daughter and Son-in-law are going to buy him another tree for our Spanish home and we will get it planted when we are there in December. Having now finished the interior work on the property we are into landscaping so "plant money" is always the favourite gift.
I recall that I promised to write more about the Spanish saga so.......................
It all began when an intrepid [if not slightly mad] group of four - myself, The Man, his brother and his wife - bought a 14.5 acre Country Estate in Spain approximately 40 minutes drive inland from Alicante Airport. The Masia [one of only 15 traditional Estate Farmhouses left in the area] was in desperate need of restoration but offered us the opportunity of creating two self-contained family homes and two further apartments for holiday lets. The views were glorious and within our own land we had an olive grove of sixty trees, twenty almond trees, a small pine forest, figs, pomegranates and grapes - we couldn't resist.
Being a Londoner born and bred I can do seclusion but I don't do isolation so our Masia's location only five minutes drive or twenty minutes walk into our local town of Ibi was perfect. Ibi is a fair size town of over 30,000 inhabitants with supermarkets, banks, a wonderful daily under-cover food market and even a branch of Zara [as yet only children's clothes but I am living in hope]. The town is famous for toys and ice cream - what could be better.
Before our arrival in the area the British had a reputation for only buying properties on "urbanizations" which rapidly became ex-pat enclaves, for not bothering to try and learn Spanish and only employing other Brits to do any work required. This did not make them popular. Because this was the opposite of how we wanted to proceed we quickly made friends in the local community. At first they thought we would pull down the old Masia and build a modern home [which on reflection would have cost less] but were thrilled to learn we were going to renovate, as they say, "reform" the original Estate buildings.
We found each time we arrived to stay and supervise works the word had spread that "The English were back on the hill". However since we completed the works we have been staying more regularly for as long a stretch as we can manage away from work [4-5 weeks in the Summer, 2 weeks mid-Winter to celebrate New Year's Eve in Spain, and 2 weeks around Eastertime]. Although we do not celebrate Christmas we enjoy observing the way our Spanish friends avoid the over-commercialisation that is so evident in London.
Our friends and neighbours have now visited us many times and are very interested to discover that we are Jewish. For most of them we are the first Jews they have met and certainly the first that they have had as friends. We have had guests for Shabbat [Friday Night] Dinner and much fun was had trying to explain all the traditions in a mixture of our limited Spanish and their limited English. They are very hospitable people and now that they know we don't eat non-kosher meat they go out of their way to provide vegetarian or fish options for us when we visit their homes.
Not many Spaniards are vegetarians and they probably think we are quite mad, especially when we give away a whole goat [beautifully cleaned and prepared for roasting] given to us as a "Thank You" by our closest neighbour in return for us letting him graze his flock on our land.
It hasn't been plain sailing all the way but we have got there in the end even to the extent of building our own transformer to get a decent supply of electricity. This has removed the dubious excitement of suddenly being plunged into darkness in the middle of a shower but you can't have everything!
Vista Alegre [which means beautiful sight/view] is now very much a second home not just a holiday getaway. We annually harvest our olives [around 26th December onwards if anyone wants to come and help] and when we have a good crop we spend the last days of our Summer Holiday harvesting almonds - all very biblical in our own Garden of Eden. You can see pictures and more info on our own web site: www.vista-alegre.net