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NEXT EVENT at La Finca

Time for Christmas shopping …….
Looking forward to seeing you!

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SWING JAZZ BRUNCH AT LA FINCA

Despite rolling dark, dark clouds, thunder and lightening the courageous few of the Lecrin Valley fell out of their beds on Sunday morning and found their way through the olive and citrus groves to La Finca.

The delicious brunch created by the Casa Amelia team disappeared, washed down by Bucks Fizz and a great deal of wine to the accompaniment of the Dr Swing Jazz band



The day ended with dancing to the band and glorious sunshine out on the terraces of La Finca – then back home for a late siesta!

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TAPAS AND FLAMENCO GUITAR – the first event at La Finca

Food, Fun and Friends

We were delighted to see so many people from the valley and beyond supporting our first event.

Chef Peter Rathke and the Casa Amelia catering team produced over 600 individual portions of tapas and each tray disappeared in seconds after presentation – which was endorsement enough! Further reinforcement of how appreciated they were has arrived over the last couple of days in the many complimentary emails we have received.

Thanks to everyone for coming – we look forward to seeing you again at our next event….

…….the JAZZ BRUNCH on Sunday 23rd October at 12:00 Don’t worry about making breakfast! Have a lie-in then come up to La Finca and wake up to the Dr Swing Jazz band and a reviving Bucks Fizz Brunch.

We look forward to seeing you!

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HALLELUJA – The Finca is finished and open for business

RETREAT, RELAX , RESTORE, REVIVE

Apologies to our readers for leaving it so long to update the blog. Many thanks for all your emails of concern relating to the lack of news coming from the Finca. We have been on such a journey and have needed to put all admin and communication on the back burner and push and push to get the project finished. We have been flat out from early morning until late at night and have not had any uninterrupted time long enough to sit down and write anything!  As a result we have lost weight and aged about 20 years!

We managed to persuade the builders to move from one area to another so we could follow with furnishings and finishing touches and we have finished the house almost at the same time as they finished the pool.

We are therefore delighted to officially announce that we are open for business. We have received out first guests, starting with press, then family and then clients. We have held several cookery classes and two Flamenco evenings – we are off!

ALL IN ALL…

In hindsight the construction work has gone relatively smoothly but has just taken much longer than it should have done. Any delays due to bad weather have been minimal and the main cause has been down to lack of direction and control over the builders by the contractor. His lack of attendance at the site has been marked and in the circumstances the men have done remarkably well – but very slowly – sometimes it has felt like pulling teeth!

INDUSTRIAL DISPUTE

Progress was not helped when the men left the finca – refusing to work because they had been asked to clean up the site. It was a real mess and becoming dangerous to everyone working there.  A requirement of the contractors contract was to maintain the site in good, clean order.  The architects reported every week in the official “Libro de Ordenes” that the site did not meet standards and health and safety were at risk.  Scarlett then insisted that the men cleaned up.  They refused and left even after it was pointed out to them that they were in breach of their contracts and that there were plenty of out of work builders who would be glad to replace them. We were required to give them 3 days to return to work but they returned the next day, apologised and cleaned the site before starting work again.

FURNITURE MOVING

In June we hired two vans and with the help of our lovely Inma and three Spanish lads – Oscar and Angel and Inma’s son Jonathan, plus two good friends Elaine and Lyn, we moved furniture and belongings from a garage we rented nearby.  Before they saw the garage the boys asked how many trips we would do – one or two? Their faces were a picture when we opened the garage door! We had stored all the contents of our family home and barn in Oxfordshire , the house we rented in Albunuelas, the contents of Chris’s laboratory plus boxes and furniture belonging to Scarlett’s aunt and father. The garage was packed to the rafters and it took two days and 14 trips to move it all.

We had a few “moments” with one of the hire trucks whose breaks did not seem very good – particularly when the truck was full and on a slope. Hill starts were somewhat heart-stoppingly dangerous! Getting it round one very tight corner in the middle of the village was a challenge and Chris, having failed to get round, passed control to Oscar (who had no licence). He managed to get the vehicle round the corner beautifully, then in his excitement he hit a parked car just a few yards further up the street!  The repair added 400 euros to the removals bill! Men!

Angel continued to work for us for some time after that.  He must be about 6ft 8in tall and built like a bean pole.  For short people like us he was a godsend.  We called him the “living ladder as he could put things away on high shelves without the need of steps!

THE STARS

Boris our project manager has worked hard to keep a grip on things – even when they have not been part of his remit.  His outrageous character has luckily been balanced by his determination to finish the project. There is no doubt in our minds that the project would have been far harder and far less hilarious without him.

Boris persuaded us to let him do the plumbing …. To say he persevered is an understatement.  It was not all plain sailing! The outside tap on the terrace was connected to the hot water system (the plants we watered with it, before we realised, are just recovering) and he had to dig up a bathroom floor to find the connection and reconnect everything. Two of the toilets have been in and out faster than a fiddler’s elbow and one still leaks.  But practice makes perfect and the last toilets he fitted in the house went in at the first time attempt and are working perfectly.  Fingers crossed!

Boris’s desire to build motorways on the Finca has taken a bit of controlling.  He has a way of waving his arms when talking to Eloy the digger driver that implies that large areas should be cleared completely and flattened.  Scarlett woke up after siesta one day and was horrified to find Eloy removing a beautiful rock which she had planned to be the centre of a rockery.  We really did not want to remove any more rocks – having had our fill of that exercise last year when we had to remove the giant in the middle of the planned area for the house.

CARPENTRY

We have been delighted with the work of Julio Reyes our carpenter from Lecrin. The doors and windows he has made for us have been superb and we are delighted with them. We have two huge arched windows in the entrance hall which have been glazed with temperature controlling glass to maintain the temperature inside the house.  It took 6 men to carry each pane and put it in position. It was heartstopping to watch this happening as they were all moving along one plank of scaffolding – ugh!

Just wish he would come and finish the mosquito doors for the kitchen though…

Our grandson Jasper (5) made a wonderful addition to the cloakroom door…..

METALWORK

There has to be a balance and sadly Belfran the initial company we used for the metal work and railings on the house proved themselves not up to the job.  The quality of their work was simply not up to contracted specifications and within one week of being installed the paint on the railings was peeling off and the iron was rusting.  In addition they could not understand the need to adhere to the law which requires railings to be made 10cm apart.  Their’s was anything from 9-14 cms!  Needless to say they were not used for the second phase of the work and we then found a wonderful man from Lanjaron called Jorge who has done a fantastic job – even making a prototype of the moving pergola he later installed over the main terrace.

PAINTWORK

Miguel our painter and decorator has to be the most patient man in the world. He has painted the whole of the interior and all the railings with only occasional help from his son. He works steadily and quietly from early morning until sundown and has done a fantastic job.

ENERGY AND HOT WATER

Instalaciones Durcal have installed the energy system which provides electricity and hot water.  We have solar for electricity which is backed up for heavy usage by a massive biodiesel generator.  The hot water is provided by two biomass burners that we feed with almond shells. After a few teething problems the system appears to by functioning well and Chris is developing a relationship with the various, somewhat temperamental, pieces of equipment in the “Boys Room”. This is the building where everything relating to energy is housed .  Every man who visits the Finca wants to see it! The guys of ID have come at a moments notice when things have gone awry and now its all working we rather miss them!

WE ARE TOTALLY WIRED!

ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION

We have had a couple of problems with the electrical installation but Jose Luis and Viki have been quick, patient and hard working to resolve them.  Things have settled down now and everything is working well.  We wish they would come and put the plugs into the island in the kitchen and cover off the unused “emergency lighting” points though!

TELEVISION

Mel and Phil of Telly Addicts have done a great job and installed HD TV and DVD facilities in every guest suite .

WI-FI

Keiprint from Granada have created an wi-fi network using Apple Extreme in the house so guests have easy and free access to the internet! We also have a laptop available for guest use.

GARDENS

ITS OFFICIAL ……..WE HAVE BEEN CERTIFIED

Organic that is…!  After 3 years of testing and form filling we have been certified organic and all our fruit and vegetables meet requirements,  Hooray!

Giles and Terry have continued to maintain the fruit and vegetables and keep the finca tidy while we have battling with building the house.  We have been able to use our own home grown ingredients for the cookery classes and meals we have had.

We are now working to landscape the areas around the house with paths and planted areas but we have decided we cannot plant anything else until the rain starts (usually October) and the temperatures drop.  We took a risk and planted quite a lot of plants about a month ago but have lost some of them so we have decided to wait

PETER

We have been really lucky to meet Peter, a German with landscaping experience and particular skills with natural stone. As if that wasn’t enough he is a trained chef! His apple strudel is fabulous… and he is living on the Finca in our caravan! His touch can already be seen everywhere.  He quietly goes about bringing order to the chaos that was a building site.  He has laid out flower beds around the house and edged them with stone from the land.  He is now making the stone floor of the patio and water feature outside the guest kitchen. When we removed the rock to build the house we left some of it on the edge of what will be a shady patio.  We have built a water tank at the base of it and are planning to make a water feature on one side of the patio.  Peter is making a floor using black and white stones in the style of the work found all over Andalucia.

a

INMA – OUR DIAMOND

We are so fortunate to have Inma still with us.  Her patience, flexibility and willingness are incredible.  Over all this time she has cleaned after the builders (repeatedly), taken cement off the floor tiles, moved furniture, cooked meals, organised the lads and most importantly been there!  Inma has worked with us for over 10 years now and we don’t know what we would do without her. What a star!

VISITORS

While we were in Vietnam we spent a wonderful night on a junk in Halong Bay in the company of a wonderful couple Roselyn and Michel Billaud.  We were so thrilled when they came to visit us here in Spain.  We had a wonderful few days getting to know them better and can’t wait to see them again….Roselyn’s energy is breathtaking – they are both such fun!

Our first clients John and Angie Clifford came for a night and a cookery day .  We felt very touched they would come to us as Angie herself is a cook!  She has a wonderful blog at http://angieskitchen51.wordpress.com .  We look forward to seeing them again.

We have also thoroughly enjoyed seeing daughter Louise and our grandsons Harry and Freddie  who came for a week and (apart from exhausting us with their antics) were responsible for inaugurating the swimming pool which was finished during their stay!

Louise when she spotted La Finca for the first time

We thoroughly enjoyed a week long visit by dentist friend Tony Caen, Helen Steel and their son John. We introduced them to Alex Swan, Jenni Richards and sons Charlie and  Zak who have a house in Saleres and the children really hit it off. We all went sailing on our favourite yacht, the Ocean Kiss, with Michael Harwood for a wonderful day of sailing swimming, eating and drinking.

Jenni

Alex, Jenni and Zak

Michael and Jackie

Tony

Charlie and John

Chris

Helen

ANIMAL VISITORS

One Sunday morning we were attempting to clean up the site and Scarlet heard some very strange noises, that could only be described as stomach rumbling and burping, coming from one of the designated bathroom areas at the back of the lower floor.  Convinced there was a drunk man coming round in there Scarlett ran to find Chris.  When we went in together we found an old nanny goat – whom brave little Rocket managed to herd out of there and off the finca!

For about a month a beautiful grey dove lived on our window sill and pergola – we called it Paloma.  Unbelievably Paloma allowed the cats to sit next to her and sat under a table on the patio while Chris was actually repairing the table with hammer and nails!  It was wonderful to have this wild creature being so confident with us and made us feel that tranquility was at last returning to the Finca after all the upheaval we have put the land through.  We were so shocked to walk into one of the suites and find blood and feathers everywhere – White Tail one of the cats was leaving and Paloma was huddled in a corner of the room still alive.  We picked her up and stroked her and she cooed at us.  We found and lined a basket to make a soft bed for her. She died within an instant of being laid in the basket. We were devastated.  It took a lot to forgive White Tail – who we had to remember was only behaving naturally.

THE ANIMALS

The dogs love living here and although all three are no longer in their prime they are doing well despite all the problems associated with old age – blood pressure, lumps and arthritis!  Despite this they love having visitors here – particularly when they take them for walks!

The cats couldn’t believe their eyes when they arrived and, having been practically full-time house cats in Albunuelas, were only seen for breakfast (theirs) before they went off hunting.  We received the gift of one mouse daily in front of the caravan.

Now that the house is quiet and the noise of cement mixers and jack hammers has abated they are all finding corners in the house in which to relax…

JUST SO THAT YOU KNOW (AND CAN TELL OTHERS PLEASE!) …… THE FINCA OFFERS

To see the Finca as it is now have a look at the Blog Post titled the Finca Slide Show .

  • a tranquil place to retreat, relax, recover and revive from hectic and stressful lives in first class accommodation in spectacular surroundings
  • a wonderful venue for special events, weddings, reunions and group gatherings providing everything required including:
    • accommodation
    • catering
    • music and entertainment
  • a convenient location from which to enjoy:
    • the buzz and culture of Granada
    • the ski slopes and facilities of the Sierra Nevada
    • the unspoiled National Park beaches of the Costa Tropical
    • help to plan your holiday:
    • reservations to visit the Alhambra
    • photography, language, painting and cookery courses at La Finca
    • walking, horse riding and sailing days
    • tapas tours

FACILITIES

All rooms have comfort as the key priority and are decorated using textiles and artifacts bought in our travels all over the world.

We have three double family suites and one double disabled suite.  Every suite has their own private terrace and all suites and terraces have uninterrupted views of the Lecrin Valley.

Two of the guest suites are suitable for families, each having one bedroom, a sitting-room with two double sofa beds, a dining area and en suite shower room

The other two suites are each open plan bed rooms with sitting and dining areas and en suite shower room shower room.

Each room has a television with integral DVD player

There is a fully equipped guest kitchen so guests can choose B&B, Half or Full Board or Self Catering with the option of additional meals as required.

All guests have access to a large paperback swopping library, free wi-fi, laundry service and fresh organic vegetables and fruit grown on La Finca.

Our professional kitchen is already producing delicious meals for guests and visitors.

In addition to the facilities in the house outside there is a large swimming pool with sunbathing areas, formal gardens and 10 acres of wild land bordering National Park to enjoy.

EVENTS

We are busy making plans for Christmas and New Year and will be advertising Christmas and New Year holiday break packages at the Finca as well as Special Christmas lunch Day and New Year’s Eve Party.

Watch this space……….!

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LA FINCA SLIDE SHOW SEPTEMBER 2011 – Retreat, relax, restore, revive

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STOP PRESS – PROPERTY FOR SALE

IDEAL BIJOU HOLIDAY RESIDENCE FOR SALE IN ALBUNUELAS – 27,500 EUROS

We are selling a property in Calle Zoraba, Albunuelas, Lecrin.  Recently used as an artist studio it is a structurally sound building with all utilities and situated in the historical lower barrio. With a little work it will make a beautiful one bedroom property with sitting room (with open fire), bathroom, kitchen-diner and roof terrace and has all the benefits of the area including close proximity to the cultural activities of Granada, the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the unspoiled beaches of the Costa Tropical.

For further information just call 659 142826 or 659 183880

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WILL IT EVER END……?

RUNNING AWAY AGAIN…..

EARLY NOVEMBER 2010 – PORTUGAL

After listening yet again to the endless arguments between builder, project manager and architects we decided to “do another runner”.

We sneeked off in early November with our friends the Snellings to visit mutual friends Stuart Walton and Pauline Latham in N. Portugal.  Many of you will remember them when they lived in the Lecrin Valley.  They have just finished building a beautiful house in a stunning forested area near to the towns of Arganil and Coja – which has the additional benefit of wonderful views.  It was great to see them again and to see a project well finished.  We took our time and returned via Caceres and Merida – all of us visiting these fascinating towns for the first time. The whole trip was a very enjoyable and welcome breather and gave us hope.  Apparently though projects like ours are a whole lot more straight forward in Portugal than Spain.

We were only back a couple of weeks before we realised that the prospect of staying in the Valley over Christmas and New Year and continuing to cope with the bickering at the finca was simply not an option so in mid December we left the valley, the finca, the project and our animals again and took off with one backpack between us to first visit friends and family in the UK – then on to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for a month.

All our escapes since the project began have proved to be essential for our sanity but also the project has benefitted from our absence too. With us out of the way the project team have had to work together to make decisions within the limitations (ie budget!!) we have set – and without using us as referees.

CONTRACTUAL ISSUES

Before we left we organized a formal time extension to the contract for the builder and then all the other contractors who are due to follow. The reason for this was that we felt that not all the delays were down to the builder. However poor man management and discipline and a resistance to taking on more men to finish the work on time has clearly also contributed to the problem.

Originally our builder had told us that he would finish Phase One by Christmas. We felt that it would be prudent to give him more time and insisted on a finish date for Phase One of the end of February 2011 in his original contract to allow for any delays other than those he should have allowed for (eg. poor weather). In December we extended this to the end of March 2011. He signed to confirm his agreement to this extension and we went away feeling that we could look forward to Phase One being finished at the end of March.

November 2010

We had to live in hope – but its not looking likely……..!

MID-DECEMBER 2010 – TIME WITH FAMILY

We had a whirlwind trip to Southern England, landing at Bristol and first of all visiting Scarlett’s Aunt Joyce for tea near Cirencester. This is the first time Scarlett has seen Joyce (who hates to be called Aunt as she is only 16 years older than Scarlett) in 40 years.  In that time Joyce had had 6 children and moved around with her RAF husband. Scarlett had also married (twice) had her daughters and travelled with her (first) Army husband and then with Chris. It was wonderful to get together after so long and to talk about Scarlett’s Nanna (Joyce’s mother) and her father (Joyce’s brother). The next time Scarlett really hopes to meet her six cousins!

On the same day we had a super dinner with Scarlett’s father’s companion, Jill Francombe and her friend Judy Price at the Lords of the Manor restaurant in Upper Slaughter, near Stowe on the Wold. We all chose the wonderful tasting menu in this One Michelin Star restaurant. If you are ever in the vicinity include time in your itinerary to try it

http://www.lordsofthemanor.com/home/the_restaurant.aspx

The next day we went to London – always a treat these days when civilization seems a long way away from the Lecrin Valley. Here we met Scarlett’s other Aunt June, her cousin Angela and husband Alan. We all went to the Royal Festival Hall to hear the Messiah by (electric) candlelight. The members of the orchestra were all in costume that was delightful – but nothing was more special for Scarlett than getting together with June and Angela. We spent our last day of this trip in our beloved Oxford where we stayed at the Old Parsonage and had a wonderful pre-Christmas day with three of our girls, their husbands and children. We enjoyed a great lunch there and a walk in the crisp December air. Much to the children’s delight they were able to open presents early!

www.oldparsonage-hotel.co.uk

 

Jack

Justine and Ginny

Jasper

Cameron, Chris, Louise and Tom

Tamsin

Libby and Ginny

Freddie, Harry, Nanna and Grandpa in the Dorm

 

In the evening we drove to Maidwell Hall, Northampton, the prep school where our two grandson’s Harry and Freddie are boarders. We attended evening service in the chapel and were so proud to see Harry in the choir and to hear Freddie say the Lord’s prayer faultlessly. We were able to visit all the dormitories that had been decorated for the “Best Christmas decorated Dorm” competition by their residents.

MID-DECEMBER 2010 TO MID-JANUARY 2011

ASIA

The next morning we left from Luton for Madrid, Dubai, Bangkok, to Hanoi.  It was a loooong journey! ASIA The next weeks are a blur of adventure, delight, awe, discomfort, exhaustion but overall wonderful experience. Having been brought up in Malaysia and lived in Singapore and Hong Kong Scarlett feels at home in Asia and we were both amazed and delighted, in particular, with the people and country of Vietnam. We had a great trip – we managed to experience

  • The land of motorbikes – we have never seen so many in one place as in Hanoi.  Gridlock took on a whole new meaning
  • 3 classes in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine – all in lovely outdoor kitchens
  • trekking bareback on elephants in the hills of N Thailand – we rode high into the hills – stunning scenery and gorgeous animals who live in an elephant rescue home
  • a full body Thai massage for couples……you are never too old!
  • the World Heritage sites of stunning Halong Bay and ancient Hoi An of Vietnam and then the amazing Hindu temples of Angkor Watt in Cambodia
  • cruising the Mekong Delta – a fascinating insight into life in the rice bowl of asia
  • the museums, galleries, markets and back streets of Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok
  • walking miles and consuming loads of fabulous ultra fresh flavours and street food

MID-JANUARY – GETTING BACK

Despite the great time we had away, we were ready to get home. Happily all was well with the family, friends and animals when we returned. The project had progressed but not nearly as much as it should have done but we did find it looked more like a house.

ON THE MOVE – GOODBYE ALBUÑUELAS

Since returning it has become clear that more needs to be done to move the project forward faster.  Despite the fact that Phase one will not be finished at the end of March we have decided to move to our caravan on the site. Without the rented house in Albunuelas to maintain we can focus our own long “To Do” list for the finca and simultaneously ensure that the project does not get any later. We plan to move at the end of March.

Hopefully the weather will improve! It has been alternately wonderfully dry and sunny and then so disastrously wet it has turned the land around the project into a quagmire. Happily it only takes one dry day to restore it.

It is clear that we cannot go away again until we have seen the project finished so it was with great joy that we learned that Justine and Tom, Jasper and Ginny wanted to visit us here.  We had a perfect week.  The weather was so kind and we were able to organise a day at the beach with Bridget, Martin and their brood, a day in the snow in the Sierras, time at the Science Park and the Alhambra in Granada, time in the Valley, time at Bridget’s home in the Alpujarras including horse riding and even a grown ups only dinner.  Perfect – we can’t wait for them to come again!

THE HOUSE AS AT 16TH MARCH 2011

Its taking shape… all the smaller contractors have started and we are seeing window preframes, plaster, metal railings, and tiles appearing.  Huge ditches have appeared between the house and the energy control casetta for the water and power connections.  The colour we have chosen is gradually spreading across the external walls.  We are now required to focus on features and detail internally which is both fun and reassuring.

ALL IN ALL….

It’s fair to say that despite highlights with family and friends the progress of project has introduced an element of frustration, disappointment and annoyance which set in at the start of 2011!  The need to get the project finished and to open the business obviously becomes more important the later we are.  However busy we are with our “to do” list the delays are a cause for concern.  POOP!

Is it only us who find the fact that despite being behind schedule, work stops at 12:00 on Fridays?

Is it only us who expect the professionals on the team to have regard to the budget?

Is it only us who finds a total disregard for keeping given and/or signed undertakings both deeply disappointing and insulting?

WE DON’T THINK SO!

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