Those of you who watched our episode of My Dream Derelict Home in the Sun will know that we were gutted renovation delays meant we were not able to celebrate Christmas 2021 at El Cipreret (if you didn’t see the programme it is still available to stream on Discovery+, Mariola Secreta is Episode One). We did gain a new grandson, Robin Eric, by way of compensation – which of course more than made up for it. What a difference a year makes! Celebrating our first Christmas here was very special.
We chose a large tree from our forest and lit the wood burners for cosy nights by the fire. It is fair to say the weather has been spectacular and winter is yet to arrive in Spain. We enjoyed drinks on the terrace in the warm 20c sunshine and gathered 15 of us around our large table for Christmas lunch with the doors to the garden terrace room wide open. Our 900 metre altitude means the temperatures cool quickly after sunset and the past few weeks have been our first opportunity to really test the underfloor heating, hot water and solar panels with a house full of people– it all passed with flying colours 😊. It was wonderful to pause our relentless workload, spend quality time with family and friends, and enjoy the wonderful spaces El Cipreret has to offer
But of course, in the New Year it was back to work! With the help of some more volunteer Workawayers we have finished the cosy guest sitting room with its huge window looking out on the courtyard garden. We have called it The Stable – after its original heritage. We have also built a raised bed outside the kitchen window using left over old beams which we hope will give us a shady space to grow delicious home grown salad leaves through the long hot summers. We have ordered our hen house in readiness for a flock of chickens in the Spring – looking forward to fresh eggs everyday.
Work has started on the beam and stone sofa around the pool – One of many fabulous outdoor spaces for our guests to enjoy. And we continue to work on a range of other garden projects, building more stone walls and planting new areas. We also said a final goodbye to our team of builders. It has been a long journey but when we look back at where we started in July 2020 we have achieved a huge amount over the last two and a half years. They’ve been a great team and we have really enjoyed working alongside them.
The 6th of January sees Spain celebrate The Three Kings – the day on which families get together and share gifts. On the eve of this festival the village of Bocairent gathers to welcome The Three Kings. It was a wonderful atmosphere with children very excited at the prospect of what gifts they might bring. The kings arrive in style on the back of camels along with a parade with many villagers dressed in ornate costumes, horses, lanterns, musicians and so much more. The fiestas here are a wonderful reminder of the gentler way of life we have here in Valencia. As are the many wonderful neighbours we have in the Serra de Mariola Natural Park. A group of 19 of them invited us over to share a traditional Crown Cake of sweet bread and lots of cream/ custard. A tiny ceramic King is hidden in the cake brings a year of good luck to the lucky finder (a bit like the British custom of a sixpence in a Christmas pudding). Yum!
The Fiesta season continues in early February with the spectacular Moors and Christians festival. It coincides with us hosting our first Mountain Biking Retreat and we look forward to sharing the trails in the park, lots of great food and some wonderful Spanish culture with a group of Mountain Bikers. Fingers crossed the sunshine continues – We are feeling a bit smug given the current UK weather… as we bathe in clear blue skies and daytime temperatures of between 10 and 15C. It is still possible to lunch outside! We still can’t quite get used to the idea of hanging washing on the line at this time of the year and it actually drying.
We are delighted to announce that the travel website Sawdays have listed us following a recent visit by one of their hotel inspectors. Sawdays pride themselves in their mission to bring together people and places of spirit and character for meaningful experiences and they only list Extra Special Places to Stay.. .They loved what they saw and were impressed by our eco credentials. We think Mariola Secreta at El Cipreret is amazing but we know we are just a little biased….they reject 50% of places that apply and so it’s great to have El Cipreret recognised by an independent organisation.