The Five Things No One Tells You About Finding an Apartment in Spain

I am the first to admit that I did the apartment thing all wrong when I moved to Spain – without so much as seeing the place in person, getting a feel for the neighborhood or even exchanging more than a few emails, I paid a deposit on Calle Numancia and September’s rent.

Looking back, it was probably not my smartest moment. What if the place was a dump? What if the landlord lived there, too? Would my roommates smoke indoors?

Thankfully, everything worked out fine, and I lived in that apartment with the same Spanish roommate for three years before packing up and moving in with the Novio and eventually buying a house.

How to Look for an Apartment in Spain

When people ask me for tips on apartment searching, I am often not a great source of information because – confession time – I have never searched for an apartment on my own in Spain!

I have heard all of the horror stories and read all of the advice, but there are a few things missing, mostly by way of what they don’t tell you about flat hunting (not included on this list: my creepy landlord who had a habit of showing up whenever I was in the shower).

You will have a noticeable lack of appliances

In building my wedding gift registry, I’m taking a look around at what sorts of appliances we may need. For years, I lived without an oven, a toaster, a dryer and electronic water heaters. My clothes were torn apart my machine wash cycles.  The TV was archaic. I forgot what heat and air conditioning felt like.

But I got by.

Currently, we don’t have a microwave, but this is only a problem during Thanksgiving. I haven’t had a clothes dryer since moving here, but thanks to warm weather and plenty of sun, I haven’t needed one (ugh, except for the year it rained three months straight).

are there dryers in Spain

Many landlords are older and have had the apartments left to them – a staggering two-thirds of Spaniards live in apartments as their first residence, and living in a  house is quite uncommon. This means that you’re stuck with older, heavy furniture, ancient appliances and occasionally a saint’s bust.

Nothing a little IKEA trip (or nicely asking your landlord) won’t fix!

There will be scams

The most common way to search for apartments is through online websites like Idealista or Easypiso, which allow you to put in specifications by number of rooms or neighborhood, among other factors.

So, you spend all afternoon browsing, getting a feel for what you can find in the center of town with international roommates who will feed you and who are clean and who maybe have a cat. Then, the perfect place pops up and, surprise! The landlord speaks English!

You get in touch with him via email, and he claims he’s had to run back to his home country for a family emergency, but can mail you the keys if you wire a deposit.

Red flag! It is never, ever wise to send money to a landlord if you’ve never seen the place in person. But if you’re not into the whole hitting the pavements and making endless calls, there are bonafide agencies that can set you up with a pre-approved place to live. 

Booking Apartments in Madrid Barcelona with Spotahome

Spotahome is currently working on expanding out of Madrid and Barcelona to provide long-term visitors and students with a place to live straight off the plane. Rooms and locations are approved before the listing goes on the site, so you’ll not need to worry about scams or the dreaded search for a place to live, and with far less language issues! They also have excellent city and neighborhood guides on their youtube channel.

You won’t be best friends with your roommates

Once I’d moved in, I was thrilled to meet Eva, my German roommate in the back bedroom. She was a fantastic friend who announced that she was moving back to Germany a few weeks later.

While I was pining for European roommates to share meals with and practice Spanish with, I was on opposite schedules and rarely saw them. And because we were three girls of three different ages, three different native tongues and three different cultures, there were often misunderstandings.

Having Roommates in Spain

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve stayed in touch with both Eva and Melissa, our Spanish roommate, as well as the other two girls who came later – but the expectation that you’ll all have one another’s back isn’t always true. Convivencia brings out the claws, people.

My advice is to lay out house rules right away – can guests spend the night? How do chores work? Is smoking permitted indoors? It’s one thing to live with strangers, and entirely another to combat language and cultural issues!

You can (and won’t) always get what you want

It’s good to have parameters to help you find the perfect place for you – I firmly believe that your living situation has the power to make or break your experience in Spain. Think about price range, neighborhoods, connectivity and a few comforts, like an oven or a double bed.

How do Spaniards decorate their houses

Then remember that a decently-sized Spanish apartment is a glorified walk-in closet, not every place will have a terrace and the chances that you have both air and heat are slim to ni de coña in many areas, including Seville. Or, you can get the mess that is my next door neighbor’s house as far as ‘pisos amueblados’ go. 

I’m not saying to give up on those things, but to remember the reality of the Spanish apartment situation. Remember that most apartments already come furnished, though you’ll have to buy your own towels and sheets. At least that’s good news, right?

Now you see it, now you don’t

When we bought our house and signed the mortgage in late June, the property stayed on the realtor’s listing and on several websites for weeks.  If you see a piso one day and can’t make a decision about it, move on. These sorts of places come and go quickly, so even in a span of a siesta, you may be caught taking a place you didn’t feel so fondly about because the top places were gone. And don’t get discouraged when a place you’d like to have is suddenly off the market, either.

Here’s some advice: start early, ask the right questions and don’t give up and settle. Where you hang your hat or flamenco shoes at the end of the day can have a huge impact on your year (or seven) in Spain.

book pages preview

Considering a move to Spain? Hayley Salvo and I have written an ebook that includes tons more advice about not just searching for your hogar dulce hogar in Spain, but also give brilliant tips on setting up phone lines, internet and getting registered with city hall.

The ten euros you spend will save you tons of hassle when it comes to moving to the land of sunshine and siestas.

This post was brought to you by Spotahome but written by me. I was not compensated for this article in any way – check out what other young expat entrepreneurs are doing!

 You might also like: Eight Simple Rules for Convivencia | Strange Things in Your Spanish Apartment | Seville’s Best Neighborhoods

Would you add anything else to the list? What should newbies in Spain be wary of when looking for a place to live?

Five Weird Things You’ll Find in Your Spanish Apartment

Everything came full circle on my first day back in Spain after a summer in the states – the Novio asked me to pick up a few housewares and suggested I head to the cheap bazaar shop two blocks away. My jet-lagged body was on auto pilot as I walked in, found the corner dedicated to tupperware and kitchen utensils, and picked out a few necessities.

It hit me: this was the same place I bought my household necessities when I first moved into a shared flat in Triana seven years ago. And now, with a big kid paycheck and an entire house to fill, I was back at the same chino to buy dishes and tools.

As we settle into our newly purchased chalet in Barrio León, we’re slowly learning the quirks of the so-called ‘Alcázar.’ Our outside lights don’t work, the oven takes an hour to heat for a morning tostada and the lock on the heavy iron door to our parking spaces split a key in two. But it’s ours! Part of the fun (or agony) of looking for a place to live in Spain is the differences between homes in the US and homes here. 

It goes far, far beyond the house versus apartment debate.

Bombonas

Melissa was clear about setting down the rules: she would shower every evening at 8pm once she was done with her classes, so no one could use the hot water from 6pm. When I inquired why (first world problems, indeed), she opened a cabinet in the kitchen to reveal a bright orange tank  – of propane.

In order to heat water, the bombona uses pressure and a small flame, which flows into the pipes in your sink, shower and washing machine. When the tank runs dry, no hot water: you’ll have to call up Repsol and wait for them to deliver a new one, or just wait until siesta time, when the truck will inevitably drive by and clank all of the fuel tanks together to wake you up.

I ended up joining a gym nearby just to have unlimited hot water.   Flash forward to 2014 and there’s an electric hot water tank in my house that holds enough water for a family of four!

Lights on the Outside of the Room

How many times have you fumbled around in the dark to find a light switch?

Surprise! Spanish living spaces tend to have the light switches outside of the room they correspond to. This isn’t always the case, but you may have to reach around the doorframe to illuminate the kitchen after a night out. That, or use the fridge to guide you.

The lights above correspond not to the hall or study, but to my bedroom. When I’m just waking up in the morning, I’m thankful it’s already daylight.

Persianas

I never leave home without a pair of sunglasses because the Andalusian sun is far too bright. Your house has an answer to that, though, as one of the greatest inventions known to man – persianas. These industrial strength blinds are awesome for cutting out light and noise when you’re taking a midday snooze or wanting to sleep in late, but they also mean zero air flow. Fine when it’s cold, but not fine when you’re on the fourth floor and it’s summertime.

Now that I’m living in a house and not a flat, curious neighbors are always peering into our living room, so we often have the persianas down and the lights on. I’m still bumping into walls as I search for the lights.

Braseros

Believe it or not, it gets cold in Spain – even in the south. While houses in the north are more prone to have central heating and thick carpets, Andalusian houses have thick walls, tile floors and often a noticeable lack of central heating and/or air.

Take it from a Chicagoan: you do not know cold until you have lived a damp Andalusian winter.

Spaniards cope with homes that are colder than the temps on the street by installing something called a brasero. Simply put, a space heater is put under a table, and a thick blanket is draped over the table to trap in the heat. People gather around the brasero and try to cover as much of their bodies with the blanket (extra points if it’s velvet). Ingenious? Maybe. Dangerous? Definitely.

Jesus Tiles

There is nothing more Spanish than bad decor. It was hard for me to imagine living in my new house while the former tenants’ things were still there – heavy wooden furniture, mismatched fabrics and enormous portraits of the Virgin Mother above every bed.

It’s not uncommon to see a flat that has hand-painted tiles depicting Jesus Christ crowned with thorns or a weeping virgin (or, if you’re that lucky, the timeless Spanish rose known as Cayetana de Alba). Each city and town have their own patron saints, which grace buildings, benches and even bars. Sevillano favorites? The Virgen of the Macarena, Jesus of the Great Power and the Queen of the Swamps, Our Lady of Rocío.

The Novio and I have one new tile, a housewarming gift courtesy of my younger sister: 

If you’re lucky, your digs will have modern furniture, an oven and a dryer – and you will have essentially won the Spanish housing lottery. Snatch that place up if the price is right! You also won’t get mosquito screens or air conditioning, so start training your body to cope with bugs and heat rash.

Our second year on Calle Numancia, we were able to give the place a good coat of paint, though the mint green in my room clashed with the heavy, dark wooden furniture. But somehow, it felt a little more like my own place in the city. Now that my name is on the deed, I have come to miss those days when I paid rent and utilities, and left the rest to Manolo, my landlord.

Are you stressing out over the apartment search? Fumbling through online ads and not understanding the lingo? COMO Consulting’s guide to Moving to Spain has an extensive chapter on finding flats, from deciphering online ads to what questions to ask your landlord, plus two pages of relevant vocabulary. And that’s just one of nine chapters! Click on the button above or here to learn more about Moving to Spain: A Comprehensive Guide to Your First Weeks on the Iberian Peninsula.

More links: Where to Live in Seville // How to Survive Spanish Convivencia

How are you going about searching for an apartment? Have you found anything strange or kooky?

 

A Weekend at Trujillo Villas

I spent two nights sleeping next to Francisco Pizarro. Well, next to the house where the Conqueror of Peru grew up on the hardened plains of Extremadura in a small town called Trujillo, not actually with him (he died almost 500 years ago in Lima).

Trujillo has always loomed from the A-5 highway towards Madrid, castle and ramparts rising from an empty extremeño plain. Noted for its medieval stone village, impressive Plaza Mayor and cheese smelly enough to make you think you’re eating feet, it was one of the places on my 2014 Spain wish list. Spending a weekend at Trujillo Villas, a series of luxury rental villas in the heart of Trujillo’s old town, was the perfect invitation to return to one of Spain’s most up-and-coming areas after four years.

Angela greeted us at the parador after we’d spent the afternoon in nearby Guadalupe; we showed up nearly an hour late. She was chipper as she showed us through the village, navigating ancient streets while pointing out places to eat. Yeah, we’d get along alright. The Novio was pleased to learn that our digs for the night, the Artists Studio, was two doors down from the childhood home of Pizarro.

For European travelers who forget that there’s a Spain away from the coasts, Trujillo Villas offers vacation homes and luxury, self-catered holiday properties in one of Spain’s undiscovered regions.

The building

Right off of Plaza los Moritos, the family built an open, contemporary space well-suited for a couple. The next door neighbor came to greet us each time we passed, his gaping smile (and the lamb his wife seemed to always have in her arms) just as warm as the car and service we received the whole weekend. 

The villa is just a few minutes’ walk from the Plaza Mayor, the castle and other major sites around town. Rectified from a pile of rubble, the Artist’s Studio can comfortably sleep up to four people, thanks to its sofa bed, and it’s suited for a quick city break or a longer stay in Trujillo. It’s modern, yet romantic.

The open concept main floor

Modern, airy and decorated with artists in mind, the Artist’s Studio’s mezzanine level is open from the front door all the way to the back door, which opens to a private terrace.

A small desk was a perfect spot to set up my laptop during siesta hours while the Novio camped out on the couch with the TV on. The unit is air-conditioned, but also has a pellet-burning eco fireplace, which was perfect for the chilly March nights where the wind seemed to whip right past the house.

I loved the detailing that alluded to the region in which Trujillo lies – the water fowl, the local products – as well as the blank canvases and easels, begging to be used. Angela and her family run self-catered trips that focus on cooking, painting and walking holidays, evident from even the paintbrushes that hung from beneath the mantle.

The bedroom and bathrooms

I hadn’t even taken my coat off when I climbed the metallic and glass stairs to the bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. We’d been up all afternoon driving and touring, so I needed to test out the comfort factor of the bed:

Yep, I could sleep here easily.

What blended well within the Artists Studio was its Old English Manor House comfort meets modern, open apartment.  The only doors in the place led to the outside or to a bathroom, so the whole place felt communicated and airy.

I could read while in bed, draw the curtains and listen to the Novio watching an old episode of Aída while I drifted off after a day or exploring Yuste and Garganta la Olla. 

The terrace

At the rear of the house, there’s a refurbished stone terrace with patio chairs, loungers and even a rainforest shower (lack of room for a pool, says Angela) with uninterrupted views of the northern extremeño countryside.

Late March was still cool and breezy, so we didn’t get to make any use of the inviting terrace. Some sort of party was raging all day Saturday, so I took a glass of wine out to watch the sun turn the nearby castle ruins light up golden and listen to Gangnam Style.

The specifics

Apart from the care Angela took in making sure we were looked after, the Novio and I were delighted to find a welcome pack the included a few bottles of local wine, fixings for breakfast and fresh lilies on the kitchen table.

Every appliance in the house was explained thoroughly, and Angela left maps of Trujillo and the region, information for day trips and things to do around town. There was plenty of logistical information for long-term stays, like where to get groceries or even play a round of golf – it’s evident that the Gartons love Trujillo and the weathered plains that surround it.

Our first question? Where to eat. Angela dutifully pointed out her favorite eateries around the city, clustered around Plaza Mayor and its labyrinth streets in the old city and even joined us for breakfast before check-out.

What I loved about our stay with Trujillo Villas – not counting the top-notch service and beautiful lodgings – was that we could explore the city leisurely and were staying in a rental villa with character in a town that had no lack of it. We spent more time than normal just relaxing in the Artists Studio and taking advantage of the space.

While we didn’t make it to the small museum around the corner, we did see the great city that Pizarro and Orellana built with the riches from the New World. I felt more local by forgoing the hotel option, and don’t think Trujillo would have felt so cercano and accessible if we’d stayed in one of the motels off the A-5 highway. 

My stay was graciously provided by Trujillo Villas for winning their Food Blogging contest with a post about my most memorable Spanish meal. All opinions are my own. Bookings at the Artists Studio start at £110 per night, and a minimum of three nights must be booked. If you’re interested in staying with them or in finding out about their package holidays, point your browser to their homepage

Have you been to Trujillo?

Seville: Perfect for a Fall City Break

Earlier this week, my friend Mar and I were enjoying a light breakfast (read: an entera with Iberian ham and tomatoes) in a small plaza right of Constitución. Our bare arms caught the morning chill as we chowed down, surrendering to the fact that Autumn has snuck up on us.

photo by kelly m. holland
 

Fall is one of my favorite times in Seville – expat celebrations, the return to school and snuggling on chilly mornings for just a few minutes more (dios I sound like an abuela). When friends talk about coming to visit, I tell them that Seville is perfect for a holiday city break during this season:

Cheaper Accommodation and Flights

Look up any flight to Seville come October and want to hug your computer. I mean it. Not only is it cheaper to get to Southern Spain (or anywhere in Europe), but the hotels are a bargain, too. Using sites like Hotel Scan will net you savings of about 30-40% on average, making Seville a bargain for a long Fall weekend.

Do be aware that October 12th is Día de la Hispanidad (Spain’s take on Columbus Day when the Catholic Kings get most of the glory) and November 1st is Día de Todos los Santos Difuntos (don’t forget to eat your huesos de santos!), so hotels typically up their prices a weeeee bit.

A Multitude of Festivals

Seville and the surrounding cities hosts several different fairs during this time, including the Feria de Jamón in Aracena (Huelva), the Salon International del Caballo in tribute to the Andalusian horse breed and the biannual Flamenco celebration.

You can also take great hikes around the province, gather mushrooms and acorns in the Sierra Norte and Aracena and escape to the beaches without all of the crowds.

Less tourists, less lines

For whatever reason, there’s always loads of tourists in Seville when the weather is at its hottest. They flock the central part of town and fill the bars near the cathedral, but these tourists have also made the city one of the top destinations in Spain. This is great news for the local economy, but it also means you’ll wait in line at the bank and the Corte Inglés and even eating out can mean a wait for a table.

Opening hours are typically shortened in the afternoons, so take advantage of the early hours for sightseeing, and then use the afternoon to stroll off a huge lunch. Sandra of Seville Traveler made a perfect itinerary that’s catered towards the non-touristy months in the city.

Um, it’s not sweltering anymore, either.

Yeah, that’s the other thing – you can actually enjoy roaming the streets around Santa Cruz and Triana while still dining outdoors or having a drink at a terrace bar. temperatures are, on average, around 22 degrees in October by midday, cooling off in both the shade and at night so that you can actually sleep and not waste hours tossing and turning because it’s so freaking hot.

Fall is perfect in Seville, and even as I began to love and understand the rhythms of my new city, my friends warned me: if you love Seville in the Autumn, you’ll really fall for it in the Spring.

Have you ever visited Seville off-season? I’m psyched that Alex of Ifs, Ands & Butts, Trevor of a Texan in Spain and Julia of Nowhere to go But Everywhere will be here in the coming weeks and I get to show Seville off to them! If you’re ever in town, look me up!

Roots&Boots: Santiago de Compostela’s Pilgrim Hostel

The elation of arriving to Santiago de Compostela after 200 miles and 14 nights alternating between pilgrims inns and pensiones was only met with the elation that we’d have a place to rest our heads. We took rounds of photos in the Plaza del Obradoiro, packs over our heads, sunbursts creeping in our shots.

Located just 350 meters (and downhill!) from the magnificent square, Roots&Boots hostel was to become the roof over our heads that night. A cross between a pilgrim’s inn and a hostel, the owners converted a gorgeous four-story casa señorial, or a state house, into a hostel complete with intricate woodwork, creaky floors and a huge outdoor terrace with bean bag chairs.

Admittedly, Hayley and I spent very little time in Roots&Boots because we had a beautiful, compact city to enjoy and a dozen other pilgrims to meet for a goodbye beer.

What I liked

The common areas and bar – For me, a hostel must have comfortable common areas with wi-fi. Since Roots&Boots is in a huge house, the yard is equally as large, with couches, tables and plenty of grass to read or check your email. They’ve also got a bar that serves breakfast for 2€, beers for 1,50€ and enormous bocadillos for 2,50€. The staff even let us use the space after we’d checked out, and we had lockers to store our bags until our late flight out. Roots&Boots also has a huge kitchen with a parrilla in the garden with enough room for many guests to eat comfortably.

The location – Roots&Boots is located adjacent to the beautiful Alameda park and has priviledged views of the cathedral through the alleyways. If you want to be close to the pulse of the city and all of its sites without dealing with the tourists, the hostel can’t be beat, and the prices are on-par with any hostel in the area.

The staff – The three people we came across at the front desk were beyond friendly – they gave us our room early, let us shower the following day after we’d checked out and even gave us leftover shampoo to use.

What didn’t work for me

The hygiene sheets: Alright, I get that the hygiene sheets are the best for combating against bed bugs and smelly pilgrims, but come on! For 15€ or 17€, I think I deserve a clean set of cloth sheets and to have someone put them on the bed for me. What’s more, there were rooms upstairs with real sheets, so what gives?

The lack of bathrooms: When we got to the hostel around 11:30a.m., our room was ready, but I had one order of business: use the facilities. Unfortunately, there was a severe lack of aseos in this hostel. We had to wait to shower, wait to pee, wait to brush our teeth, wait to change. In a hostel that has four floors and four dozen beds, four bathrooms doesn’t cut it.

The specifics

Like any hostel, Roots&Boots offers free wi-fi, lockers, city maps and a fun mix of travelers. There’s also a few computers to use with printers on the second floor. Rates vary by season and type of room, which are bunks of 4, 6, 8 or 10 beds. Expect to pay up to 17,90€ per person per night in the high season for a bed in a shared room.

I used the site Your Spain Hostel to look for and book a room, an excellent resource that focuses on all types of lodging in Spain, from hostels to paradores. Its easy-to-use interface makes searching for a room or bed beyond simple, and the site offers discounts on for groups, as well as vouchers for saving on tours, breakfasts and rentals.

You can find Roots&Boots at Rúa Campo do Cruceiro do Gaio 7, near the Alameda park. Call them at  699 63 15 94 or shoot an email to  info@rootsandboots.es.

My stay was provided by Your Spain Hostel after my long walk on the Camino. But don’t worry – my post is as real as the sore muscles after 200 miles.

Places with Encanto: Almohalla 51, Casa Rural and Guest House in Archidona, Malaga

Sending special thanks to the dozens of you who participated in my giveaway with Your Spain Hostel for a 30€ voucher. I’m thrilled to announce that the special winner is Revati!! Please get in touch, guapa, and I’ll relay all of the details! Speaking of staying in Spain…

If only the walls of Almohalla 51, an ancient rural house cum gorgeous boutique hotel in Archidona, Spain, could talk.

“The whole place was decrepit, you see,” David tells us on the quick ride over from Antequera, where he’s met us at the train station. “Just absolutely uninhabitable.”

David and his partner, Myles, bought the house – which hadn’t been lived in for fifty years – and the one adjacent to it, merging the two into a five-bedroom hotel. The 14-person family who sold them the houses were true archidoneses, and the house had the original beams intact. The place is steeped in Andalusian charm.

Upon entering the cozy entrance hallway, David offers us a glass of Mahou beer and some salty olives. “You know,” he starts, topping off his own cerveza, “Myles’s family had been coming down for years and living on the Costa del Sol. There’s this great picture of his mother dancing with the wife of the owner of Mahou before the family sold the company to San Miguel.” Like many British expatriates I’ve met in Spain, there is always some kind of story, some legend, anchoring them to Spain. Myles summered in Estepona during his youth before he and David decided to relocate to Spain permanently, choosing picturesque Archidona as their new home.

Collecting our beer glasses as Lana del Rey crooned from the nearby reading nook, replete with books and old editions of magazines in both Spanish and English, David and Myles offer to show us the rest of the property. Passing through a small courtyard just behind the entrance hall and up a set of stairs, a small but inviting pool was the focal point of another patio and small bar.

“We operate on an honesty policy,” Myles explained. At any hour of the day, guests are invited to help themselves to refreshments, tea or coffee. My guest, Hayley, duly noted that the sweeping views of the nearby mountains and a dip in the immaculately kept pool would be worth coming back for in the summer.

I curiously notice a wrought iron Osborne bull nestled next to a small olive tree just in front of the pool. David, sensing my curiosity, tells me that the tree had actually been brought over from London when they moved to Archidona 18 months ago.

“Does it fruit?”

“Yeah, yeah. But the birds enjoy it more than we do.”

Inside, we are shown to our room. Wood beams stand out against the whitewashed walls, and Andalusian hallmark. Two fluffy twin beds with linens brought in from Mumbai stand next to one another and a weathered wardrobe. A private bathroom features smooth, gorgeous tiles and modern fixtures. Setting down our bags, we continue through to the other guest rooms.

The duo enjoy pointing out each part of the house that had been left over by its previous owners –antique headboards adorning the beds where they’d been born,  an interior patio where horses had been led – as well as the treasures Myles’s mother had found in antique stores and estate sales around England. The other bedrooms each have their own charm, like a split-level with a cavernous shower or a crystal chandelier. I suddenly can’t wait to dive into bed and relax with a book, convinced that the fresh air and sleepy midday would lend to a gorgeous rest.

After lunch in town at Bar Central, we join guests Mary and Thomas, an infinitely friendly and interesting Irish couple, near the fire. Their first trip to Spain, they recount us their tribulations driving on the other side of the road and trying to understand the bullfighting museum in Antequera.

“Dinner’s at half eight girls, but come round earlier for a cocktail.”

Squashing any girlish desires, we refrain from jumping on the small mountain of bed and instead rest up for the evening. The last light of the day is streaming in from the skylight as we read in bed. I drift off for over an hour, lost in the soft mattress and heaps of blankets.

Aperitifs are served promptly at eight, and we all sit round the fire chatting about whatever comes to mind – travels in Spain, language blunders, Mary and Thomas’s work as anthropologists, David and Myles’s favorite scenes as the resident guiris in Archidona. As sweet smells waft from the hallway we are ushered into the dining room.

“Yep, well several of the sisters claim to have been born in this very room,” David had told us earlier, but now the room is crowned by a gorgeous hutch with carvings related to the city of Granada – pomegranates and a knight – and a rustic wooden table whose legs were the originals. While doing the work on the house, Myles used local artisans to give the house a makeover rooted in both old and new.

What follows is one of those epic meals where your wine glass is never empty, your belly is full and the conversation and company can’t be bettered. We had a chutney made of local pears with warm goat cheese and puff pastry, followed by succulent lamb, steamed broccoli and papas a lo pobre. After nearly five hours, a rehashing of Catalonian independence and the draw of the Camino de Santiago (which Hayley and I are walking this summer), and a coffee and gin tonic, Hayley and I barrel into the beautiful Plaza Ochavada for a drink.

The next morning, David and Myles serve the four of us breakfast in the dining room, as rain had hampered plans of having breakfast on the terrace. I dig into coffee, fresh orange juice, natural yougurt with honey and cinnamon, fruit and toast with fig jam and cheese. David invites us to walk up the hill to the bastions and hermitage, affording us the views of the surrounding countryside. From this vantage point, one can see the nearby provinces of Sevilla and Cordoba, as Archidona is practically in the geographic center of Spain and just 45 minutes from Malaga’s international airport.

David comments on the city’s raucous festivals, from a bullfight in the oval of Ochavada to the pedigree dog shows. Their own dog, Ronny, barrels up and down the hill, bounding around the hermitage where faithful crawl on their knees during Holy Week and to the city walls at the top of the mountain. These walls can talk on their own, too, of course – of the Moorish Reconquista and the rebuilding of one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.

And we’re listening.

If you go: Almohalla 51 is located in the village of Archidona (Malaga), near the geographical center of Andalusia and the A-92 motorway. Its five bedrooms are charged based on high and low season, and include breakfast, housekeeping and all local taxes. Guests under age 14 are not permitted.

 My stay at Almohalla 51 was graciously provided by David and Myles. All opinions, as always, are entirely my own. If you stay, tell them I sent you!

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