More than just an estate agent…

I’ve never liked the term ‘estate agent’. There are far too many negative stereotypes associated with it. I am not that person. So I was delighted to read this piece written by some Danish clients of mine and find that they had coined a new title for me. Ambassador? I’ll take that…. :-)

Read their beautifully written story here – and get inspired!

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We are Signe, Tarje and Roar, Danes and recent homeowners in the rocky part of Asturias; Quiros. We met Mary more or less by chance after having spent half a year on the road with our baby Roar. Before that we were working as respectively an academic and a nurse, but we have always had that nagging feeling that fulfilling the ideals of society was properly not the road to meaningful and happy lives for us. The courage to do something about it, however, only came with parenthood. And while it does take a lot of courage to break away from your routine, we have learned along the way that the shackles don’t just fall off simply because you start to rattle.

We had an idea that we wanted to find a place in Catalunya – and start building towards self-sustainability. However, while Spain is littered with old ruins in need of love – finding a suitable one for sale turned out to be an insurmountable task. While we liked the experience, Catalunya seem to be hit hard by drought-spells and increasing heat – and didn’t really feel like home to us. With a few rock climbing images from Asturias, our heads turned west, and the lushness here immediately felt right.

It is only after you have gone through the process yourself you realize how much work Mary has put into finding properties suitable for expats. Mary calls herself an estate agent, but we feel a more descriptive title would be ambassador. Of course she runs a business, but you can immediately tell her main focus isn’t improving her own margins, but bridging the substantial cultural gap it is for northern Europeans to buy property in Spain.

One show of the abandoned village Eros – halfway up a mountain – and we were sold. We are now a few months in, the house seems to have stopped crumbling down – the once omnipresent brambles are starting to reappear less and less and we are making the first moves at making our house liveable and our garden edible.

 

Sun and ski – a February half-term holiday in Asturias

If you’re a regular reader of our blog you may already have met Mick Wyldbore-Wood as he previously shared his experience of buying a house through us. Well, it’s not quite a year since he completed his purchase and last week I was thrilled to see via Facebook just how much he and his family are enjoying their new property in Asturias.

A half-term break in February might not sound like the most promising time for a holiday in northern Spain but parents can’t be choosers. The Wyldbore-Woods are an intrepid bunch anyway and wouldn’t let the potential for some wintry weather put them off – in fact, they came fully equipped for skiing and hoping for snow. The mountains didn’t let them down and they managed to check out the three (yes, three!) nearest ski stations on different days and much to the kids’ delight.

Best of all they got to intersperse their days skiing with days at the beach soaking up some glorious winter sun in temperatures akin to a fine British summer’s day. With the mountains and the sea within an hour and a half’s drive of each other in Asturias, it’s a great combination for active holidaymakers. It’s even perfectly possible to ski and surf in the same day if you’re feeling particularly energetic!

It certainly means you can cram an awful lot into a relatively short holiday and that’s before we mention the wonderful regional cuisine. Mick and Claire were lucky enough to sneak in a romantic Valentine’s dinner at the Michelin-starred El Corral del Indianu in Arriondas. Definitely one for the bucket list.

Big thanks to the Wyldbore-Woods for sharing their fab video of their half-term break in Asturias with us! How much does it make you want your own holiday home in Asturias?!

Happy New Year!

mountain view in Asturias

It’s January 1st 2017 and this is the view I’ve woken up to. Today the choice is between mountains or beach and my seven year old has spoken and decided on a hike and a bike ride, so mountains it is. The sun is shining and the sky is blue, as they have been all of this Christmas holiday. I could not be happier with where I live. Will 2017 be the year you make a move and seek out your own piece of paradise?

Wishing you health and happiness for the new year.

 

Renovating and Letting a Holiday Cottage in Asturias

For a lot of our clients the dream is to buy a traditional property and renovate it, often with the aim of ending up with some tourist accommodation to let out as well as a family home. It’s a dream we can relate to perfectly, having started out from that very same place ourselves over 11 years ago. It’s also a dream we can help turn into reality as we’ve done exactly that for ourselves several times over as well as helping countless clients along the path to their own little piece of paradise.

If you’d like to know a little more about our own latest renovation project and the resulting holiday rental then check out this neat video we made. There’s some pretty cool drone footage of the mountains of Central Asturias in here as well as shots of our traditional Asturian house and holiday rental and some talking heads interview with us, as well as our ‘celebrity’ guests, North Face athletes and world-class rock climbers Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson.

And, of course, if you’d like to find out more about the realities of buying, renovating and renting out property here in Asturias then please do get in touch!

Driving Over Apples

I read recently in El Pais in English (a great source for English-language news in Spain, btw) that Driving over Lemons author Chris Stewart is taking a sabbatical from his writing for a year in order to tackle problems with wild boar on his smallholding in southern Spain. This is a problem I am familiar with myself (they stole my potatoes the blighters!) and it is one of the (few) downsides of living in a wild and beautiful landscape.

Still, nothing that good fences can’t fix. And in the spirit of providing counter-balance to the bad news boar stories I thought I’d share this little video with you. It was taken around midnight on the way home from dinner a couple of Saturdays back. The quality is poor but the awww! factor is high.

 

El Jardinero Inglés – The English Gardener

There was great excitement today at Spanish Property North headquarters when this large, purple truck pulled up at our door.

IMG_3089.JPGThe cavalry had arrived.

But before I explain, let me first tell you a cautionary tale of an over-optimistic, overly-romantic ex-pat, with eyes bigger than her belly, who took on too much land, with too little knowledge and quickly found herself in a pickle, with weeds and brambles threatening to consume all before them. Armed only with a whimsical scythe our heroine was quickly overwhelmed.

So I she did the obvious thing. Ignored it all. Gaining a permanent crick in her neck from avoiding looking at the disaster that was her hopefully envisioned garden field. The thing is, the climate in Asturias is perfect for growing. It really is. The only problem is that if you don’t plant up and manage your land cleverly then nature will take over. If you don’t decide what grows, then she will. And she does seem to have a perverse liking for brambles and nettles and other unpleasantries. Punishment for neglect, I guess.

The good news is that there is no need to suffer in this way. Help is at hand. If you, like I, don’t have the necessary tools, time or training to get the best out of your garden (or field!) you can do what I did and call in ‘El Jardinero Inglés‘ (The English Gardener – an added bonus for newly-arrived expats, the boss is English so no language difficulties to navigate).

I have to say, it’s one of those things you just wish you’d done sooner. I’ve seen that big, branded purple van knocking about for years now and yet it was only last week that I got around to ringing the number and asking for help. I think I thought they just specialized in bigger, posher jobs than mine. Turns out, if it’s a garden or growing related job then they can turn their hand to it. And all for a very reasonable price. Highly recommended.

Watch out for photos of my newly-scalped (and accessible!!) field coming soon to a social media account near you…

 

 

Treasure Chests and Story Books

I love houses. Lucky really, given my job. I love the glimpses they give you into the lives lived within their walls, the histories created there and the views looked out upon over the years. Architecture, objects, landscapes all come together in a property to shape and illustrate cultures, communities and personalities.

Treasure chest, in the attic of a house in Quiros

Treasure chest, in the attic of a house in Quiros

With older houses in particular you’ll often stumble across pieces that speak volumes. Objects that make you want to run your hand along them, to hold that touch for a moment, pause and listen. As though it might be possible to feel history vibrate through a cool palm held on ancient hand-carved wood. Like this wooden chest that I found last week in the attic of a house in Quiros. What treasures had it stored down through the years?

Or these madrenas, found in an alcove of the same house. What paths did they once tread? Whose feet encase? When was it that they were shelved for the last time?

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A solid oak beam stands in the roof of the long-abandoned house. The light filtering through the wind-shifted, old-fashioned roof tiles falls upon it and highlights the rich, untreated grain, with not a single sign of decay or woodworm or any weakness upon it. A bang with your fist gives a reassuring answering thud. There is something deeply satisfying in the knowledge that some things really can withstand the test of time.

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If you fancy buying your own piece of history in northern Spain then take a look at this lovely traditional Asturian house set in a spectacular hill-top hamlet and ready to move into so you can start to write the next chapter…..

Front of property

Photos from the School Run

Autumn is in the air. Finally, there is a fresh crispness to the temperatures and a faint russet tone is creeping into the woodlands. Sweet chestnuts are starting to appear underfoot. Soon amaguestu will be upon us. Families are slowly settling back into the school routine, having started back on September 11th after a lengthy 3 month summer holiday.

Once again we are slaves to the alarm clock. We must be breakfasted, presentable and assembled at the bus stop by eight thirty a.m.  And make no mistake about it, here in Spain eight thirty in the morning is pretty much right next door to the middle of the night. The Spanish are not naturally early risers.

Still, for me anyway, the pain of the early start is completely anaesthetized by the glorious beauty of the school run. As my son happily rides his first bike the 500 or so metres to the bus stop, I stride briskly alongside him, hand at the ready for the occasional quick shove on the steeper sections, my head raised to take in the views on all sides.

The photos below were all snapped on yesterday and today’s school run, on my iphone. Not a bad way to start the day, eh?

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If you fancy swapping your school run for one with a better outlook, check out this lovely family home with views to the Picos and woodland paths on the doorstep.

Gorgeous traditional house in idyllic location

Gorgeous traditional house in idyllic location

 

 

 

 

Asturian Still Life

IMG_1612.JPG I took this snap on my phone yesterday as I wandered back from my neighbours’ house at twilight. It’s a bench that sits on the side of the road a few metres from our house. The Asturian countryside has a high bench to people ratio. In our tiny hamlet there is a total of 4 benches and a permanent adult population of 18. Benches are, of course, for sitting on. This one, as you can probably make out from the photo, is under a large fig tree and is the perfect spot to rest out of the heat of the midday sun and to while away half an hour or so, watching the world go (slowly) by or chatting to a friend. A few metres away around the corner in the plazuela (not quite so big or grand as a village square) is another, shadeless, bench; better suited to cooler winter days when there is nothing more nourishing to soul and body than to sit for a while with face upturned to the sun. But back to this bench. Alongside the fig leaf you see poking through the back slats is a well-ripened pepper and underneath the seat is a pair of discarded clogs, both indicators of its location next to the entrance of my neighbour’s huerta (veggie plot). This is the spot where she kicks off her ‘madrenas’ as she exits the field. These Asturian clogs, with their stilts for traction and to keep them out of the mud and their ample size to accommodate the wearing of slippers within, may be funky looking but they are eminently practical. (Before you ask, no, I haven’t got a pair. I haven’t *quite* worked up the courage yet. For now I’m sticking to wellies.) I’ll often see Rosi’s impressive harvest haul piled high here before she stores it in the barn or leaves it to dry under the eaves of the horreo. Often she’ll leave some fresh pickings on the bench for me to take for our tea. It sure beats the supermarket. If you fancy some bench-sitting in Asturias yourself why not take a look at this lovely village house for sale in La Vina, Villaviciosa for just €130,000? Set in a tranquil hamlet and with over 3,000m2 of productive land within its walled garden you’d also have a great excuse to buy yourself some clogs!

Traditional Asturian house for sale in Villaviciosa

Detached traditional Asturian house set in walled, mature gardens