‘There aren’t enough hours in the day’ …..bollocks!   If there were more I can only surmise that I’d be awake for longer and therefore get proportionally less sleep.   As things are right now when we are not working our ‘spare time’ is taken up by La Rectoria.   And now our antennae are more acutely tuned as the pace of work continues on relentlessly.

Our principal task this week was to finalize our choice of paint for the upper floors…..white.  Easy enough, but as any of you who have had to undertake this exercise before will know, there are quite a mind boggling array of shades of white.  Our architect and builder had already selected and applied three samples to the wall in the hall on the top floor, none of which we liked.  Sowe took ourselves down to the paint shop where we chose three more samples which Goretti duly applied.  An hour or so later and with the paint dry our choice was made and we have plumped for Umbra Weiss….a kind of white.

Meanwhile work on what will soon by our home – the basement –  is forging ahead.  The dividing walls that need to be erected are now largely in place and the windows are now beginning  to be fitted.  Minor amendments have been made to the position of some windows at our request as we want to maximize the views and vistas.   Light fittings are now looming as the next major decision to be made and less importantly but something I want to make a start on this year is the planting of one or two more fruit trees.


 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, 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.



While I’ve neglected to keep you up to date with progress on La Rectoria, the builders, plumbers and electricians have been anything but idle.  On the first and second floors all of the partitioning has been built delineating bathrooms, bedrooms, storage areas, living rooms and dining rooms.  We are now being harried to make decisions concerning light switches, stone plinths to support bathroom sinks, plaster finishes to walls and light fittings.  The pace of work has moved up a number of gears since the summer and changes in and around the house are occurring at perceptibly quicker pace.

Until today, I had not visited the house for a couple of weeks.  Thus I found the majority of the steel frames marking the windows in place, piping for heating trailing across the upper floor, radiators fixed to walls, mountings for sockets and switches in place.  Walls were awash with the pink graffiti of the plumber where he had indicated where the various installations are to be fitted.   So very quickly, the space for guests has been laid out and one can envisage with increasing clarity the final outcome.

Whilst all this has been going on, we have not been idle outside.  Three weeks ago friends joined us for a barbeque and assisted us in making a start in cutting down the bamboo.  In the three or so hours myself, Matts and John got to work and a considerable swathe was cut, stripped of its branches and disposed of.  The top half of much of the bamboo will be kept to provide canes for our planned hort/vegetable patch, whilst the considerably thicker bottom portions could be used for an array of alternative uses, decorative or structural.

As darkness fell comfort and solice were found by the fireside with barbequed meat, sausages and black pudding and then it was homebound, tired but contented after a good day’s work.


Work continues at a healthy pace inside the house.  On the top floor the construction of the divisions has been completed in all five bedrooms and bathrooms, so now you can see the size of each making visualizing the ultimately finished rooms that much easier.  Thus it was yesterday we spent a couple hours with the architects discussing at length the ‘design’ of each bedroom on this floor.  Given that the floors will be toba (terracotta tiles) and the ceilings bigas de roura (oak beam) with teules (terracotta tiles) we do not want to ‘over do’ the rustic feel of the place.   Therefore, contrary to the vision and preference of the architects we are plumming for white walls in all of rooms, with no exposed stone, thereby making the rooms appear as large and spacious as possible.  Door finishes will be white, wardrobes included – and the carcases thereof.  Lighting will be subtle, using mostly wall mounted up/down lights.  Any sense of modernity will be maximized in the bathrooms with stylish, clean uncomplicated finishes.  It is our intention to try and provide the customer with as much comfort as we possibly can; to pamper and ensure that you leave the world of work or whatever somewhere else.  Although the general finishes between one room and another will be of a similar standard, we will designate two as ‘premium’ rooms which will provide that little bit extra for the guest.

The metal curtains which mark the windows have been fitted in all of the top floor rooms.  But the major development of the week was the widening of the doorway from the hall to the dining room.  Now just shy of four meters wide, this entrance shows off three of the five arched windows in the dining room and the views of the valley beyond.  A folding door will separate the hall from dining room giving greater flexibility as to how the two rooms can be used.

And….completing that somewhat spurious link between dining room and food, last week a spot of kitchen experimentation led us to trying a recipe for ‘Stuffed Pigs Trotter’s’.  Before all you squeamish anglo-saxon readers dash for cover, the finished product was something not far short of fantastic.  The recipe needs a bit of tweaking – i. changing the wayin which the trotters are initially cooked; ii. preparing a more elaborate stuffing.  But all in all they were unctuous and simply cried out to be tried again.  So get those bibs out and pour a large glass of Priorat!

The night of Halloween is the eve of All Saints or Tot Sants and for this we were holed up in La Rectoria, snuggling around the open fire which had been appropriately augmented with a couple of pumpkin lanterns.

We arrived on the afternoon of the day before Halloween to find that the builders had kindly tidied up the part of the house that was to be home for the next couple of days.  Our wee gas kitchen established and make shift dining table erected, one end supported by a stone wall recess the other by six bags of cement.  John,Mar and Martin arrived and promptly inflated their double bed mattress topped by blankets and quilt….home from home.  Us, we rolled out our ground sheet, old rug and sleeping bags on the hard concrete and thus our ´ying` and ´yang`sleeping arrangements were established adjacent to the kitchen.

We enjoyed post dinner seasonal treats of roast chestnuts and toasted, runny golden caramelized marshmallows fortified by a good dram.  Then it was lights out in a water tight but windowless house.  Appropriately for Halloween, the night was black but for the outline of the windows.  Sleep was punctuated at times by the sound of wind and rain, sometimes light at others more intense and by the cold of autumn and the mild discomfort of the concrete floor beneath.

Daybreak brought with it the last of the rain which gradually gave way to a sunsplashed autumnal day.  After breakfast we drove to the La Fageda, 6km or so from Olot.  Packed.  The diasporia of Barcelona and Catalunya had converged on this most beautiful of woods dominated by tall stands of handsome beech trees.  Autumn and the golden hues it brings makes this one of the busiest times of the year in this part of La Garrotxa. Given that it is autumn a blanket of  leaves covered much of the forest floor, broken in parts by rocky hillocks covered with mosses.  A steady line of waterproof clad visitors trod through the wood many stopping regularly to take photos; panoramas or close ups.  Those leaves that remained on the trees shimmered with the remnants of the residual rain.  We wandered off the path and were soon rewarded with a rich find of Trompetes de la mort and three tiny Ceps.  A couple of handfuls of chestnuts completed our forest foray.  After lunch back at the Rectoria it was up the hill that flanks the south west of the house.  This time we found ‘Escarlets’, large pink topped fungi in some abundance.

Through Sunday and Monday morning numerous families came to Sant Miquel to pay their respects to loved ones in the small cemetery behind the church and soon the graves were marked with brightly coloured floors.   As a holiday and celebration that we are not accustomed to in Scotland in hind sight this seems a fitting way to remember the departed.

As for the house, work on the interior is now well and truly under way.  On the uppermost floor the “paletes” have been more than busy erecting partitions and so bedrooms 5, 6 and 7 have now taken shape with bathrooms marked out.   The same process is now well underway with two remaining bedrooms on this floor.  A window has arrived for our inspection and has passed the test.  Numerous other issues are now looming –  swimming pool, garden shed, radiators and more.  Meanwhile we still find time to earn a crust during the week.

On the building site and in the classroom it was back to work this week.  Hods and grammar books in hand, the summer was over and work commenced.  The workforce on site has been doubled – from two to four – and the difference is self evident in what has been achieved this week alone.  Already much of the final part of the roof to be renewed has been stripped off, with ‘scaffolding’ in place and work on the reinforcing belt started.

Today is La Diada, L’Onze de setembre, in recent times 9/11 in the rest of the world, thereby submerging this Catalan National day with something of a contemporary calendarial tsunami.  This morning started bright and sunny, but admittedly sleepily on my part and I needed an extra nudge and poke from Silvestre and the words ‘Papa’ to summon me from my bed.

A holiday day, you bet ya.  When we joined the C17 just south of La Garriga the traffic was nose to tail until we got to the plain of Osona.  The small restaurant on the carril bici just passed St. Esteve en Bas was doing a roaring trade with cars and cycles packing the car park.  We arrived at La Rectoria and immediately walked a few hundred metres up the cycle path.  Our mission today, to inspect the work and pick some brambles (where I left you last week).  What struck’, however, was the volume of cycle traffic.  Blokes in groups, families, lean, fat and thin, lycra clad cyclists of all ages packed the cycle path and whirred and fizzed passed with the customary  ‘adeu’ or ‘bon dia’ until the sacred lunch hour and then with the odd exception silence descended.  An hour and a half or so later with a purple, thorn impregnated left hand and two containers ladden with brambles we headed back for lunch.

Thankfully we are on the last (biggest third) portion of the roof.  This north facing side of the house has the chimney and overlooks the garden.   As with the roof restoration that has gone before, scaffolding has been, I hesitate to say, erected.  More accurately a combination of metal girders and beams have been thrust through the outer wall on to which other beams are placed as a walk way, with a hand rail fitted and held in place with what I would describe as clamps.  One variation of this is the use of jacks which are used to support the walkway at an angle from underneath.  These in turn are held perilously in place by being wedged into the main wall of the house forming a triangle of wall, walkway and jack.  It all seems to work and I’ll leave that there. The chimney it would seem is in good order and apparently only needs a good clean and pointing and otherwise will not be interfered with.

This last week I have been teaching away from home and entertained a fellow teacher and our two students to the autumnal comfort of ‘bramble and apple crumble’.

6/7 sour apples (pomes àcides)

300g brambles

½ teaspoon cinnamon

180g flour

120g butter

60g sugar 

Peel, core and dice the apples.  Place in a pan with the cinnamon over a moderately high heat and cover.  Stirring occasionally, the apples should start to soften and disintegrate.  If the apples are very dry add about 100g of brambles at this stage – enough to release sufficient liquid to help the cooking of the apples.  When the apples are almost ‘stewed’ add the remaining brambles and take the pan off the heat and put the mix in an ovenproof dish, filling it to a depth of about 4cms. 

In another bowl, sift in the flour and add the diced cool butter.  Rub with your fingers until the mix is homogenous.  Then add the sugar and mix to a ‘breadcrumb’ consistency.  Place this mix loosely on top of the stewed fruit to a depth of up to 1cm.  Dotting the top of the crumble mix with a few small cubes of diced butter adds to the rich ‘crumbly’ nature of this pud.

Cook in the oven at about 160°c until the top is golden brown and……crumbly.  Serve with cream, custard, ice cream or whatever pops your cork!  Yummy, it’s autumn.

Of late we have turned our backs on La Rectoria and have for some of that time been home.  By home I mean the land of my birth, my spiritual home, Scotland. ……’you can take the man out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the man’ kind of thing.  Nationalism, that feeling of home, identity, is a funny quirk of humanity.

Holidays, time off are for recharging batteries, stepping back, chilling out.   Thus far we have accomplished all three.  What with work – teaching English – and the reconstruction of La Rectoria, our regular routine is pretty full on and incessant – house, work and vice-versa. On and on.  If it was solely building a house that would be simple enough, but as is self evident the end result of all of this is the establishment of a business, a casa rural.

Thus, during our time in Scotland, having left our son with my sister in Aberdeen, Goretti and I drove to Crieff.  Destination Yann’s, the creation of Yannick Grospellier my old head chef and friend and his wife Shari.  This guest house, come restaurant has become something of a destination since opening two and a half years ago.  Having eventually taken the plunge to open his own business Yannick has created something of a Mecca to the rustic fare of La Savoie –  La pierrade,  La raclette –  and other bistro classics that utilize the best of Scottish ingredients, beef, lamb, scallops, langoustines and more.  Apart from visiting old friends the raison d’être of our visit was yes to possibly crib ideas, but also to identify potential problems, clarify ideas and explain our plans in the hope of eliciting constructive criticism.  Bedroom design, restaurant layout and kitchen equipment were poured over and the daily work was observed.  For me it was good to blow off the dust of what is involved in the working day of a chef.  It did not seem like four years since I last dawned chefs whites although I realized that I’ll have to get back into shape vis a vis cooking, but more than that remembering to work cleverly as well as with skill.  I helped with little bits of mise en place but did little during service itself except keeping out of the way.  I think some sort of stage somewhere might be in order before we open next year.  Over the piece our two days with Yannick and Shari were very useful and a big thank you must be extended to them and we look forward to receiving them and the girls here in Catalunya before  too long.

The wealth of Scottish culinary ingredients was exemplified during our time in Scotland.  A visit to the Loch Fyne Oyster bar and shop provided us and Uncle Eric with a superb picnic – smoked salmon and mackerel, duck pate, succulently perfumed strawberries, oatcakes all washed down with a bottle of ‘Fyne Ale’ a hoppy locally brewed beer.  And whilst parked in Eric’s motor home on the banks of the loch a bounteous supply of wild raspberries provided the basis of the dessert that night ‘cranachan’ – that Scottish dessert of whipped cream, toasted oat flakes, whisky, honey and raspberries.  A ‘Pick Your Own’ farm offered up a rapidly picked selection of blackcurrants, brambles, tayberries and rasps which in turn were used to make that most underrated of British puddings ‘summer pudding’.   Mussels for moules à la marinière,  sautéed scallops, haddock and chips.  Try good british food before you knock it!

Meanwhile back at La Rectoria it was a joy for us to show my sister what we have been up to over the last few years.  Besides the house and its surroundings it was good to demonstrate again the wide variety things to see and do in central and northern catalunya – Montserrat, old Girona, Santa Pau and much more. 

So enjoy your summer holidays wherever you are and when the time comes we will be more than ready to welcome you.

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