January 2011

This past week has been cold by any standards and most mornings I have had to scrape ice from the car windows with the thermometer showing -4°c as I drove off to work.  The cold snap had done nothing to improve the somewhat dire situation in the Pyrenees which have been largely bereft of snow since Christmas.  On our drive up to La Rectoria this morning any sight of the mountains was obscured by a typical ‘pea souper’ of a fog that blanketed the valley around Vic and thus much of Osona.  But as we climbed towards Bracons the boira cleared and the hilltops nearby were dusted with a covering of fresh snow.  So although the temperatures might have risen a tad in the last day or two, the mountains at least now have some snow.  And thus it was on our brief visit to the house today, any puddles that had not been touched by the sunlight still bore a thin, crisp layer of ice. 

We had spent the better part of the morning in the company of a gentleman who showed us a couple of swimming pools his company has installed in houses around Olot.  Yes, we are hoping to include a pool in our project for you to have a dip in and cool off during your stay with us.  Nothing too grand but a comfortable sufficiency.  As beneficial as it was seeing pools first hand, the settings in which they were situated proved to be as interesting.  Another piece of homework done we hope to make as decision on this next phase within the next week. 

The significant development at La Rectoria this week has been the opening of the windows at or above the landing on the staircase between the main and first floor.  These six relatively small and seemingly randomly distributed orifices offer a variety of views and glimpses of the chapel, grand pine tree or down the valley in the direction of Sant Feliu.  Thus instead of only climbing to and from your bedroom we hope that you might be encouraged to pause, take in the view and perhaps reflect on what you see and that it might take you somewhere else….for a moment at least; leaving you somewhat recharged.

While building work proceeds at La Rectoria, a crust still has to be earned and bread put on the table.  Visits are mainly confined to weekends and what with family commitments the start and end of the week seem to melt and merge together.  Not complaining, but this fairly frenetic timetable leaves little time for me to keep my hand in, in the kitchen.  Thus the Christmas break provided time and an opportunity for playing chef.

One dish I put together was an iced parfait.  Let’s call it ‘Parfait de mores de la Vall d’Hosteles amb el meu licor de mores’ – Bramble parfait infused with homemade bramble brandy.

The recipe:

300g brambles

125g sugar

300g ml double cream

50 ml bramble brandy

Pâte à bombe  mix – 150g sugar, 100ml water and 5 egg yolks

2 egg whites

 Place the brambles in a pan with 25g of sugar and cook over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved and the brambles are soft.  Set aside to cool. 

For the pâte à bombe, put 150g of sugar into a pan along with 100ml of water and heat gently until dissolved.  Then increase the heat and place a sugar thermometer in the pan.  Now whisk 5 egg yolks in a bowl until pale, thick and creamy.  When the syrup reaches 120°c  add this to the egg yolks in a slow steady stream whilst continuing to beat them rapidly until the mixture is thick and cream coloured.   Then fold the cool brambles and juices into the bombe mix. 

In another bowl whisk the egg whites until lightly stiff. To this add the remaining 100g of sugar and whisk until firm and glossy.  At this stage add a few drops of vinegar and then fold the meringue mix into the bombe mixture. 

If two bowls were not enough, take a third and whip the cream until it begins to thicken and fold this gently into the bombe and meringue mix.  Pour the finished mix into a 1 litre mould and freeze. 

I served the parfait along with some lightly poached brambles, strawberry coulis and an almond and poppy seed tuile.  Wait until we harvest some brambles this coming autumn and you will be able to sample this dish during your stay with us at La Rectoria.  Bon profit.

The holidays are over, the New Year has been seen in, the Reis (Kings) have come and gone and the Christmas tree……well, it hasn’t been put away or recycled in some municipal chipping scheme.  No ours being in a pot, was bound up and taken up to La Rectoria this morning.  The intention being that it will be replanted ‘al costat de la casa’….next to the house providing annual external Christmas decoration, Hark!

Yes, holidays there may have been but our builders et al have been cracking on – more later.  Meanwhile today Goretti and I had a meeting with Angel, our Fuster to get a better handle (no pun intended) on finishes to wardrobes, windows and doors, locks, hinges, cupboards and all things carpentry.  His workshop not unexpectedly was all things wood; workbenches and vices, power saws and clamps, thumping great hydraulic presses and rolls of laminates.  We were shown to a bench arrayed with a neat row of dyed wood samples – 20 odd – labeled in ‘English’ with an arc of nail varnish sized bottles of dyes arranged behind these.  Next to this were three larger samples of dyed wood, which it soon transpired were suggestions for the finishes to the windows.  The ‘dark oak’ finish was, well, just too dark. The ‘olive’ a tad too green, with the clear winner being ‘old oak’.  One significant decision made.

Goretti presented our case as to what we wanted the ‘carcass’ – the interior – of our wardrobes to be.  Hinges for the doors of these were shown (satisfactory) and then the controversial ‘toca-toca’ opening and closing system for the said doors.  Yes controversial as I for one have had my reservations of the system – tap the door in the appropriate place and the door simply opens.  Easy,yeah.  But where do you touch the door?  Will your white door remain white for long?  Sorry, I’m too much of cynic for ‘toca-toca’ and the consensus is to fit handles.   Units for the commercial kitchen were gone over – functional and simple.  Finally, cupboards for linen etc. were touched on and the meeting with our genial joiner was over.

Next up was a brief meeting at La Rectoria with Joan, our local Alcalde (mayor) and gardener.   We were seeking advice on how to cut back and make more productive the hazel trees which mark the edge of the lawn.  Of late they have become somewhat lanky and unproductive, bearing few hazelnuts.  Once we know what to do, management of these little gems should be straightforward.  Care of the ‘plataner tree’ is less so.  Standing to the front of the house some 20 or so metres high, it’s slender fingerlike branches point sharply skywards and these need regular attention and given the size of our specimen someone else will have to undertake the task of its annual ‘haircut’. 

About two weeks ago we enlisted the help of local farmer Pere, to prepare the ground adjacent to the house for sowing as a lawn.  Our son and his cousin greatly enjoyed the spectacle as the soil was torn up and many of the bamboo roots with it.  We have been told the best time to sow the grass seed is at the beginning of march and so be it.  We had hoped to attach a video we made of this wee event but on finding that we would have to pay WordPress a fee of $60.00 or thereabouts, you will have to settle for some photos instead.   The final item on the gardening front  has been our request to look after the small floor beds and borders between La Rectoria and the Church.  Some of these we would like to use to grow herbs, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, basil, chives etc, primarily for the kitchen, but in addition to other fragrant ones to offer up rich aromas as you approach the house.  A formal arrangement will be established with the local village.

Which leads me neatly to finish off.  The final coat of plaster has started to be applied to the rooms on the top floor prior to painting…….they really are cracking on.

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 On a very wet and pretty windy evening on Tuesday 22nd of  December, Goretti was invited by the Collegi d’Arquitects de Girona to give a talk about the restoration of La Rectoria.  Hers was one of seven talks that evening, the theme of which was ‘Construir sobre construit’ or ‘Building on top of built’….Restoration I guess, more or less.  What follows is the text of her talk in English and Catalan with the photographs which accompanied it.



Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda

de rectoria a casa rural (guest house)


Included in the “Quaderns”, the Girona magazine featuring Sant Feliu de Pallerol, La Parròquia de Sant Miquel de Pineda is situated in the north west of La Vall d´Hostoles on the left bank of the River Brugent.  The historical landscape includes two buildings: the Church and the Rectory.

La Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda is located at kilometer 35 on the road between Olot and Santa Coloma de Farners in the municipality of Sant Feliu de Palleros.  La Rectoria is part of the architectural complex of La Parròquia de Sant Miquel de Pineda and the first records date from 1161. During the 17th century it was included in the area of La Vall d´Hostoles and was linked to the Church of Sant Iscle de Colltort.  In the 19th century it was restored as an independent church and had its own priest who lived in the rectory.  This continued until the death of the most recent priest.   Paquita the house keeper was the last person to live in the house.  She lived there until the land was subdivided in 2004.  La Rectoria became an independent property keeping the right of use of the well that still belongs to the diocese of Girona.  Adjacent to this is the public access to the church. Historically rural churches have a rectory as a part of the same building or as an independent building, as is the case of the La Rectoria de Sant Miquel.

At all times our project has respected the original building and most of all it wants to bring back to life a building that was the centre of the surrounding community. The church and La Rectoria were the meeting point for Sant Miquel´s neighbours, especially the children who were taught in the old gallery of the house when it was used as a school and many of the neighbours still remember their days there. They also remember the train, El Carrilet d´Olot a Sant Feliu de Guixols that ran past the front of the house.  The disused railway line is now part of the Via Verde. But the one thing that everyone remembers with special esteem is Paquita.  During her last days at La Rectoria all of them looked after her and kept her company. 

It is necessary to bear in mind that due to lack of maintenance and use, the building was falling into a state of disrepair and was on the verge of becoming a ruin.  Our project is to transform La Rectoria into a guest house with seven rooms and a restaurant for residents and our home, giving the building a new lease of life and offering our future guests a service not dissimilar to that which the house offered in the past.

Externally we want to preserve the essence of the house, recovering elements that had been covered in the past.  One of the eye-catching elements are the arches in the basement.  These were formerly stables and will eventually provide our home.  Another restored element is the gallery on the south façade where the old school was located and where the dining area for our guests will be.  With the opening of the arches the building has ‘gained’ height and the south facade has seen one of the most dramatic transformations resulting in the creation of one of the most beautiful facades of the building.  

The roof has been removed, cleaned and reassembled using original materials; oak, poplar and ceramic tiles. All these materials have been restored, cleaned, treated and the roof has been reinforced with a perimeter belt. The “Era”(paved area to the south west of La Rectoria) another external element, has also been unassembled and it will be reassembled when convenient.

The inside of the building is where the transformation is most obvious as we are adapting the building to the business and our personal needs as a family. We are preserving all of the elements that give the house its unique character; the old economic kitchen, the vaults in the basement, ceilings, floors, etc… wherever possible and always as permitted by the official building code which at all times has dictated the project from the drawings, building licenses through to the final execution.  

The title of this “Arquipindola” should have been “La Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda from and old rectory to a home and guest house”. A project like this isn´t easy and it all began for us in November of 2006 when we left behind our life in Edinburgh to hit the road for Catalunya.  We saw La Rectoria just three months after and we bought it almost a year after that. Buildings like these have something else, you see them and you know straight away that they can give you all you need and more.  That´s what La Rectoria did to us the first time we saw it and still does now.   When you come across one, as architects know, you see what is there but you also have to see through the dust and cobwebs, how it can be restored, transformed and improved. These buildings have lots of history and have witnessed much and that needs to be remembered.

To proceed with a project like this it´s necessary to have a team of people who love these kind of buildings – architects, surveyors, builders, everyone involved and we´ve been very fortunate to find them.  I would like to single out Pere Vidal our builder who together with his team are carrying out the restoration.  He told Roy and myself before we started that you don´t do a job like this to make money, you do it because you like it.  I would like to add that you also end up loving the building as if it were your own child.

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Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda

de rectoria a casa rural

 En els quaderns de la revista de Girona dedicat a Sant Feliu de Pallerols es diu que  “La parròquia de Sant Miquel de Pineda s´ubica al nord-oest de la Vall d’Hostoles, a l’esquerra del riu Brugent. El seu nucli urbà està format únicament per dos immobles: la casa rectoral i l’església”.

La Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda es troba exactament al km35 de la Ctra. D´Olot a Santa Coloma de Farners al municipi de Sant Feliu de Pallerols. La Rectoria forma part del conjunt arquitectònic de la Parròquia de Sant Miquel de Pineda, i segons la fitxa cadastral esta datada del 1161. El segle XVII es trobava inclosa dins la batllia de la Vall d´Hostoles i l’església era sufragània de la de Sant Iscle de Colltort, en el segle XIX recupera la condició de parròquia independent fet que fa que els rectors visquin a la rectoria.  L’última persona en habitar-la va ser la Paquita, que hi va viure fins el moment de la segregació quant es va traslladar a les Planes on resideix en l’actualitat.  El conjunt parroquial es va segregar aproximadament al 2004 mantenint però les servituds conegudes sobre la parcel.la, servitud de pas i del pou.

Històricament totes les esglésies rurals tenien la rectoria o bé com a part l’edifici o com a part del conjunt parroquial en el nostre cas la Rectoria és un edifici independent part del conjunt  parroquial de Sant Miquel de Pineda. 

En tot moment amb aquest projecta volem ser respectuosos amb l’edifici i sobretot volem tornar a donar vida a un edifici que en el seu dia havia estat el nucli de les masies del voltant.  L’Església i la Rectoria servien de punt d’unió dels veïns de Sant Miquel, sobretot  la canalla ja que l’antiga eixida de la casa servia d’escola i  els veïns  dels voltants recorden amb claredat el seu pas per aquesta.  També recorden el pas del tren per davant mateix de l’era, la línia de l’antic carrilet que ara correspon amb la via verda ,  i sobretot recorden amb molta estimació a la Paquita i els últims anys en que va viure sola a la rectoria ja que sembla que entre tots la cuidaven i li feien companyia. 

Cal tenir present que degut a la manca de manteniment i el desús l’edifici va anar caient en un estat pràcticament ruinos.   El nostre projecte es transformar la rectoria en una casa rural amb set habitacions i restaurant per residents i alhora convertir-la en la nostre llar, donat-li de nou un us i oferint un servei als nostres futurs hostes que en manera molt diferent ja havia tingut en el passat.

 En la part exterior volem conservar l’essència de la casa recuperant elements que estaven coberts en el passat, uns dels mes vistosos tal com podeu veure per les fotografies són els arcs en la planta inferior, on hi havia les quadres on s´emplaçarà la nostre vivenda i també la recuperació de la eixida a la planta principal, on s’emplaçarà el menjador pels nostres hostes.   Amb l’obertura dels arcs em aconseguit que l’edifici hagi guanyat amb alçada i tal com es veu en les fotos la façana sud és la que ha patit un canvi mes dramàtic passant a ser una de les façanes mes boniques de l’edifici.

 La coberta s’ha desmuntat, netejat i tornat a muntar utilitzant tots els materials originals, roure, pollancre, tova.  Tots aquest material s’han recuperat, netejat, tractat i la coberta s’ha reforçat amb un cinto perimetral per tal de reforçar l’estructura de tot l’edifici.

L’era, és un dels elements exteriors que també s’ha desmuntat i es tornarà a muntar en el moment oportú.

En la part interior és on s’està portant a terme una transformació mes gran per adaptar l’edifici a les necessitats del negoci i també a les nostres necessitats familiars,  intentem però conservar tots aquells elements intrínsecs a l’edifici i que li donen el seu caràcter únic.  L’antiga cuina econòmica, les voltes d’aresta de la planta baixa, sostres, terres, etc.. el màxim  possible i sempre si ens ho permet aquest codi tècnic tant interessant que et condiciona tant i tant a l’hora de realitzar el projecte sobre paper, alhora de l’obtenció de permisos i durant la seva execució. 

 Potser el títol d’aquesta arqui-píndola hauria d’haver estat, Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda de rectoria a llar i casa rural.   Com us podeu imaginar un projecte així no és fàcil de tirar endavant, per nosaltres tot va començar el novembre del 2006 quant varem deixar enrere la nostre vida a Edinburgh per engegar el camí de tornada per mi, d’anada pel Roy i el Silvestre cap a Catalunya.    La rectoria la varem veure només tres mesos després d’arribar i la vam adquirir al cap d’uns mesos, sabeu aquests edificis que desprenen un no se que, els veus i saps que et poden donar tot el que necessites i mes, doncs això ens ho va donar la rectoria quant la varem veure per primera vegada i continua donant-nos aquesta sensació ara mateix. Quant et trobes davant d’un edifici així, tal com sabeu els arquitectes, has de veure el que hi ha, però també has de ser capaç de veure mes enllà de la pols i les teranyines com es pot conservar, transformar i millorar.   Aquestes cases tenen molta historia, però sobretot desprenent molta vida, vida viscuda per tots els que hi han passat i per tot el que hi ha passat i això cal tenir-ho present.

M’agradaria acabar, ja molt ràpidament dient que per tirar endavant un projecte així cal un equip de gent que estimin aquest tipus d’edificis, desde els arquitectes, aparellador, constructor, etc.. i nosaltres tenim moltíssima sort d’haver-los trobat.  Recordo que en Pere Vidal que amb el seu equip porten a terme l’execució de l’obre ens va dir al Roy hi ha mi abans de començar que una obra així no es fa per fer diners, si no perquè t´agrada i jo afegiré perquè te l’acabes estima’n quasi com un fill.