November 2011

So we’ve opened a guest house in the far North East of Spain 80kms from the Costa Brava. You might ask, what can a visitor do?……for a week and with a young family!  That question was answered quite simply by a family from Scotland who during the October half term holiday came and stayed and left with some metaphorical leaves unturned.

Between the 9th and 16th October the house and garden was filled with the sound of kids at play against a backdrop of magnificent autumn sunshine.  Bicycles were hired and duly delivered to the house and excursions made to Les Planes d’Hostoles and a refreshing dip taken in the `Molí dels Murris ‘ pool of  El Riu Cogolls 6kms down the road from us.  On another day a 28km round trip to Olot was made by way of the via verde.  The local bus service was used for a day out in Girona and a walk around the medieval quarter and we provided a taxi service taking them to the to tranquil village Santa Pau and the lush beech forest of La Fageda closeby.  To top it all a day by the seaside and a dip in the sea at Calella de Palafrugell, the last dip in the sea of the year.

We never detected a hint of boredom and if anything most days signed off with bunch of contented, knackered kids and relaxed Mum and Dad.  And no sooner had they arrived than they were gone.  Seen and done it all!  Hell no.  Things on the ‘still to do list’ for future visits,

1. Balloon trip.

2. Numerous other walks.

3. Dali Museum, Figueres.

4. Vic, Banyoles, Besalu, Castellfolit de la Roca………and more.

And with their departure summer went too.  Within a week thermometers dropped some 10 degrees and now autumn is very much with us.  But the bottom line La Garrotxa and its surrounds offer enough and more.  Thank you Ashcrofts and see you again soon.

To say that I have been amiss is writing of late would be something of an understatement.  Apart from this piece it will have been one other post in some 5 months….molt malament.

Well, this is probably the most significant one for the simple reason that it marks the day the ‘paletas’ – the builders left site.  Vicenç, the Cap de Obres (foreman) and Josep had been here over a period of 554 days since the 15th February 2010 and as the work progressed they were joined by Peto and Najim.  And now they are gone.  Yes, they will be back to see to one or two things on our snag list.  But on the 19th October we bid them adeu!!

If you care to look at the first few posts way back in March last year the work was slow, cold and damned hard for Vicenç and Josep as they passed the next three months digging out soil and stones much of it by hand and reinforcing the walls from below with concrete and steel bars.   Floors were reinforced, timbers were treated, the old plaster chipped from walls, and then as summer arrived the roof was removed the tops of the perimeter walls strengthened and the timbers and tiles replaced with insulation.

From then on the pace was upped and to the untrained eye (mine) the transformation of the house really began in earnest.  Dividing walls were erected, piping and wiring appeared and disappeared, windows fitted and gradually it was turning from paper and architectural drawings into reality.  Walls were rendered with cement and painted.  Lights fitted and wardrobes and doors installed, new stairwells built and bathrooms with fittings.  At about this point we agreed on the self censorship of the blog.  Publishing details of fittings being installed with the house being unoccupied was potentially inviting trouble as many building sites have seen taps, sinks and other installations removed with the associated damage and vandalism and heartache to the owners and builders.

We moved in on the 30th July and our apartment immediately below the guest accommodation was transformed into something of a warehouse.  I myself was pretty useless at this time and for much of the next month with my left leg in plaster.  Goretti meanwhile worked wonders and Silvestre dressed in nothing more than shorts and a white vest looked every part the paleta following Vincenç et al for 9 hours a day and loving every minute of it.

Friends and family came to help and left…David from Ireland, Carme Cinca my grand, amusing and ever cheerful student from Cardedeu and our nephew Patrick who helped us move metaphorical mountains over 10 days with the aid of wines we tried and tested for the guests and the odd droppppppppppppp of whisky!

In many ways we have found this the most physically and mentally difficult period of the past 20 months.  Everyone has been pushing hard on site and elsewhere.  But it has been the change from managing a build combined with getting the business up and running.  The cleaning, cleaning and cleaning again.  Chasing up deliveries.   And the bureaucracy, well that is quite something else.  For now and suffice to say it is something akin to an onion, peel off one layer and you are confronted by another one below and so it goes on.  When I come to write the whole story of how we got to where we are the bureaucrats will be granted there very own chapter!

Now we are getting our heads above water.  There have been some hiccups along the way but solutions have been found.  At last our website should be up within the next week and we can market ourselves 110%.  To all of you who have helped us get to this stage a big hug and thanks to you all.  The Ashcrofts will get their place in the limelight in the next week or so.

So, the thud and chime of hammers, the whir and clank of the cement mixer and the very audible chorus of  “adeu”  from the builders as cyclists rode by….all are gone along with the ever cheerful and most pleasant demeanor of Vicenç and his crew.  Pere Xispes and David the ‘lampistas’ – plumber/electricians and the ‘fusters’ deserve a big hand too.  THANKS AND ADEU.