Finally there is the light…

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After some weeks away it was a real pleasure to spend a week in our Swedish home. At this time of the year, in May and June, there is this special light in the Northern countries that takes over and fills your heart with expectations and joy. I need to be there in our garden enjoying the bloom of cherry, plum and apple trees. A wonderful smell is following you when shooting the wheelbarrow, loaded with dry branches, soil or flowers, through the garden. Luckily the evenings last long so I managed to cut and fertilize most of the roses and to plant some flowers in the big pots, finishing after sunset the day before my trip back to Spain. Our garden has a bit of the sleeping-beauty-rose- garden feeling over it which we find is charming ūüėÄ

 

 

The first thing to do after my arrival at Alicante airport was to collect our dog Uzanna at the VIP dog hotel in Benissa, the best place to leave your dog at while away for a week or two. We had followed her stay through daily video updates and knew she had a great time playing with other dogs as much as she wished or lying in the sun which is her favorite “activity”. Of course Uzanna got slightly mad of happiness to meet me again – it was my husband Per who left her there so she was not expecting me.

I have discovered that I am equipped with an on-and-off switch. At these busy times I have learned to use it more and more – while in Sweden, Thailand or Estonia I do not worry about how things are going in Spain – I trust that everything goes as planned. Every now and then I get some questions from our building team and after answering them I put the building aside again. I am truly thankful for this switch, whoever gave it to me!

Now it was high time to turn Spain “on” again! After 2,5 weeks away in Sweden and Estonia it was exciting to enter the house to see the progress. The house feels much more like a home now as it is filled with warm light, the light I was missing so much from start. Most of the walls are painted and floors are ready at the main floor. The bathrooms are being tiled one after another. Also we got two new small windows, heading south, letting a beautiful afternoon sunbeam to otherwise dark rooms. It is time to think of furnishing the house! In fact we already ordered beds for all bedrooms in the house that will be delivered in mid June! Also most of the bathroom equipment is ordered.

 

 

The most exciting though is the delivery of kitchen. When I first stepped in to the house the living room was full of boxes with kitchen furniture and -machines. The next day most of the furniture was already installed and in couple of weeks it will be ready for measure taking by the “stone guys” who will cut and install the worktops in natural stone. We love the kitchen already and look forward for spend time there cooking and chatting with our visitors.

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Time for bed, tomorrow is a new full day! My to-do list for coming week is looong so it is important to put the energy on right things. Luckily there are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables of good quality available here that give you lot of energy. I already look forward to the green morning drink I make on fresh mango, freshly squeezed oranges and plant proteins (moringa). Yummi yummi!

See you soon! Buenas noches!

 

 

 

Inspiration from West

Already three weeks have passed since the last post that got a somewhat sudden end as I collapsed of tiredness. Thank you who gave me some really positive reactions on this post – I will be writing more about my childhood and background.

Meanwhile we have been travelling to the beautiful “city of tolerance and divercity” San Fransisco with plenty of good restaurants and sourdough bred AND Las Vegas – a crazy place where you always find something new and inspiring.¬† This vacation trip was planned and booked a long time ago with good friends. Even if our building is a priority right now I am happy I did this trip as I really enjoyed the time and came back with new energy and inspiration. In Las Vegas most things are exaggerated in one or another way – evertything is huge: hotels, streets, fountains, food portions, galleries, casinos, toilets, shows, even people – and the inspiration comes more from the euphoric feeling when walking around and admiring insane decorations than from actual ideas that could be used in a home. On the contrary, I realise how important it is to keep the base of our home simple, accent can be added with furniture, lights, textiles, paintings and other exchangable items instead.

 

The worst jet lag seems to be over and my brain starts working normally again. I am thinking about different solutions – currently for the bathrooms – in the house. The tiling work has already started so now all bathroom fittings need to be ordered so that electricity for lamps, switches, towel dryers etc can be installed at right places. We would not want to cause delays due to us not beeing here. Of course we got some photo updates from our builders during the trip but it was really exciting to see the progress with own eyes. The sunny roof terrace in terracotta colours, matching the roofs in our view, is ready and I am really pleased with the outcome. I’m sure many would have kept the grey neutral terrace (that the previous owner did) but for me it looked really boring. The pool is cleaned and is going to be tested for possible leakage before we start to rebuild it.

 

Also in the heart of the house, the livingroom/kitchen area it looks much different now. As soon as the tiling work is finished I will post some photos!

Maybe you wonder how it is going with my Spanish? Not very well, unfortunately. There are far too much visions, ideas and choices in my head now and no space left for new words… But I try to understand what people say on the streets and always choose a Spanish radio channel when driving the car. And I’m happy when I recognise words I would not have understood a month ago.

Now I’m going to bed and hopefully fall asleep – if not I will grab a book or an interior design magazine and my eyes will close in a minute! Buenos noches.

The Estonian house

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Some days ago I left Spain and the building for a while to go back to Sweden and further to Estonia. Not surprisingly it became quite hectic before my trip home so I needed to postpone the flight one day to be able to make some important decisions regarding materials for bathrooms, kitchen etc. However I feel confident that our builders are doing a good job!

Anyhow, here I am now, in my Estonian home, in the outskirts of a small town Loksa at the nothern coast of Estonia. It always feels relaxing and joyful at the same time to come here and spend some nice days with my Estonian family, my mother, siblings and nephews. We enjoy Estonian sauna and Estonian food of course!

 

The house itself is located only 50 meters from the Baltic sea. From the windows you can see the sunlight glittering on the waves and when you open the balcony doors you can hear the sounds of the sea. This year the sea is still frozen but the winds have made some serious attempts to break the ice. I enjoy walking in the pine forests and sandy dunes of the beautiful beach. It is a must to go down to the beach to see the sunset. Pure magic!

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However, the Estonian people have not always been able to enjoy their beautiful beaches. I was born in the sixties in a middle-size town Rakvere in Estonia then occupied by Soviet forces. The military bases were located all over the country and the coastline was guarded especially strictly to avoid people leaving the country in small boats. Only those living in the coastal villages had permission to enter the area. Most of the coastline was cut off by fences or by several meters wide stripes of sand where footprints of a runaway could easily be detected.¬† Only certain guarded beaches were open for public. I remember the summer holidays spent in a school camp at the coast. When arriving to the coastal zone, the border guards stopped our bus to control all the passengers, childern and teachers, in the bus. The camp was frequently patrolled by the guards, day and night. I also remember the feeling of horror when the guards lit in through the window of our cabin at night with strong torches that lightened up the room as if it was daylight. They even made an attempt to beak up the window, luckily not successfully…. However except for this special occasion we felt safe – somehow this made the camp even more adventurous. We knew we could not do anything about it,¬† it was just another stupid thing we had to live with.

In spite of the fact that we were living in a closed country, isolated from rest of the world (exept the Soviet Union) and totally controlled by a foreign regime, we children enjoyed our childhood. We did not have to worry about standing in lines for hours to buy groceries for preparing the dinner or building a house and buying housegear for the family. Our parents let us children enjoy our innocent unknowledge about the political situation in the country. But we understood and sometimes it felt as if you had a role in a silly play. My parents grew all possible kinds of vegetables and kept hens and chicken in our garden, where every square meter was well used. We got a glimse of the “real world” through Finnish television that could be caught in Northern Estonia by homemade antennas. People got an impression that life in the West was like in Dallas….

My father who was a schoolteacher built a home for us, a two-story house of grey silicate bricks, typical for that time. My brother and my sisters were helping him with easier tasks Рit took some years to get the house ready.  When I was born, the family moved from the small village where my parents had been working as teachers while my grandma took care of the household. The new house was much bigger and had amenities like cold water in the kitchen tap and big stoves heated with wood. In the kitchen you could always find our grandma in a clean apron standing in front of the cooking oven. Our kitchen was the cosiest place in this world where everybody gathered but I also loved the garden. Summer mornings when I woke up I grabbed a cup and run into the garden in my nightgown to pick some fresh strawberries, rasberries and black current. I would mash it with some sugar and eat the smoothie sitting on the staircase.

 

When my father died  at the age of 87 my mother, who was 19 years younger, stayed alone in the cold and uncomfortable house in Rakvere. It took a big effort from her to carry wood for heating and take care of the big garden. We felt there was no point to modernize the house and started to look for a suitable house for our mom and her many visiting children and grandchildren. In autumn 2007 we found the house at the beach in Loksa, originally built as a shop, in a terrible condition but with high ceilings and lot of possibilites. We all fell in love with the place with coastal athmosphere and high pine trees and very soon the house was ours! Me and my brother replanned and rebuilt it totally. In december 2008 our family gathered in the new house for Christmas.

 

Pleasures and duties

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In the end of February finally our girls Clara and Elsa came to visit us! It was such a pleasure to have the whole family including Uzanna gathered here in Spain! As we love good food, we spent considerable time at different restaurants tasting spanish food in differnt forms (literally). Wonderful happy days together!

The girls were excited of course to see the house and the possibilities there – even if everything still looks like a big mess for anyone not initiated in the secrets of construction technology – and delays. Luckily the new windows arrived just a day before and gave the living room area the lift it needed. We had also an inspection team on visit – also they seemed happy about the progress made so far!

 

I have always wondered how that kind of huge sliding doors can be transported and installed – must be almost impossible to lift these. Now having seen the process with own eyes I realise that almost everything is possible… The secret was that the frames were installed first and when the thick window glasses arrived they were quite simply fit in the frames! Of course for that at least six strong men were needed.

 

While the builders are busy with completing differnt tasks in casa Alegria, me and Per have been around looking for ideas for kitchen, bathrooms and furniture. We have decided the material for floors so the tiling work can start as soon as the floors are prepared with heating system.

To fill up the empty holes in my daily routines including morning and afternoon walks with Uzanna, planning and visiting building and furniture stores (which are closed between 13:30 and 16 for siesta), I decided to take a 3-week intensive course in Spanish. I would not say I regret the decision but I now clearly remember the feeling of going to school with homework not properly done… Luckily my teacher is very understanding and sweet and I really enjoy the lessons. I already start to get some feeling for the language but at the same time I realize how much different it is to learn a new language at an age of 55. Last time I was in my twenties. Patience is what I (and my teachers) need.

 

 

Ridgeback adventures

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A month has gone and I am back in Albir, this time with Per and our 6-year-old  Rhodesian Ridgeback Uzanna. We took along our darling to be able to stay here longer, to enjoy the sunny weather and nice walks in the neighborhood.

We were a bit anxious before the flight but everything worked out better than we could hope. Our main concerns were that the travelcage would be too large to fit into the plane or that Uzanna would refuse to enter the cage at the airport… Luckily we managed to get the 42 kg dog in the cage, on the second try… We arrived in Alicante in the middle of the night. We met Uzanna at a special meeting point where she was sitting in the cage and waiting. Of course she was overjoyed seeing us again but showed a great dignity waiting for the luggage and walking out from the airport building.¬† Uzanna was excited – everything smelled different – we spent at least 15 minutes to find some grass so she could pee but the ground was dry with no grass and she just kept on seeking for the right place. After several tries we gave up and packed the dog and all our stuff in the rental car. Uzanna was exhausted after the trip but when we arrived to our temporary home in Albir she jumped out and happily examined the house. After some time she could relax and we left her sleeping downstairs in a sofa.

Next day we visited a pet shop and found what could be the most cozy dog bed ever… Uzanna loves her new bed and has already adopted to the life here – the sunny weather is so right for an african dog like ridgeback.

 

Of course we visited our house, casa Alegria, directly in the morning to catch up and meet our builders! Lot of work has been done with piping, drains, electricity, ventilation etc. The kind of work you will not notice when the walls are closed and painted. The most visible work however was the Great Outer Wall that finally is ready! It looks really impressive, what a great job they have done!

 

The past days we have been meeting suppliers of different services like security, water cleaning system, elevator etc, and running around in lots of shops looking for tiles, bathroom equipment, doors, kitchen, furniture, beds etc. There are so many materials to choose from and decisions to make! Already from the start we decided to change several windows and sliding doors. Now finally the works are coming to the end and the new sliding doors will be installed the closest days. I really look forward to that – it will make a huge difference in the livingroom area! We reuse the old living room windows in the basement floor that is going to contain a guest apartment and a training room.

 

This weekend we will be happy to meet both our girls here in Spain! It will be so much fun to gather the whole family here and finally show our daughters the house we have bought! So far they only have seen it on photos. Even if the house is not so nice yet, it will be interesting for them to see the work in progress and make plans for furnishing etc. We hope they will love it! It will also give them an idea how big effort it takes to build an own house – and how big fun it is!

 

 

 

 

Work in progress

 

Finally I found time for an update! The last month has passed mainly travelling: wonderful vacation in Thailand with our girls, exciting visit in Singapore, a few days at home in Sweden, repacking and finally off to Spain to check the building status.

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I took a late flight to Alicante and was picked up by our friend at the airport. Arriving to our temporary Spanish home in the middle of the night, I went to sleep without knowing what has been done at the house. As I’ve been involved with building business for several years now I know it takes time to get all permissions etc in order and start the works on building site. Therefore I was positively surprised meeting so many people wearing helmets at our house! Of course, for any inexperienced person the site looks like a total mess and catastrophy – the process has just started – but I know very well that the main part of the time consuming work will be carefully hidden behind the tiles and wall paint.

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The most visible progress was made with the stone walls. We had to move the 90 m long outer wall  just one meter towards the house in order to leave space for a sidewalk by the road. This was a requirement from the townhall that we had to accept to be able to get the building permission. This made things much more complicated and costly, as the angle of the ground got even more steep and additional walls were needed to create terraces for plants and pathways. The inner walls are made of original outer wall stones that have been saved when the wall was taken down .

 

 

We are really lucky to have good leadership for our project: we have a Swedish talking project leader who has a team of experienced builders, hand-picked for different tasks. We decided not to engage a big building contractor of several reasons of which the most important is to have total control over the building process and possibility to communicate directly with the builders. If we had contracted a big building company I could not go to a worker and say “stop, this is not correct” even if I saw things going totally wrong… The decisions would need to be taken high up in the hierarchy leading to time loss. Now I feel free to hang around at the building site thinking, visualizing, measuring and taking photos. Below our project leader giving instructions to the electrician, our foreman in the future kitchen and the installation of the small cabin for builders.

 

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Any normal person would like to be done with this part of the building process as fast as possible while I wouldn’t like to miss any part of it! I even like to hear the sound of the machines drilling holes for pipes for drain and water – from the distance though… I was terrified when I saw that the guy working with the drill machine didn’t use ear protection!

During this short visit – only five days – I focused on going through the whole house with the foreman and deciding details concerning inner walls, doors, windows, bathrooms, stairs, outdoor lights etc. I also decided and marked out on the drawings all the spots for lamps, spotlights, power outlets, fans, TV-s and AC-s. Those were handed over to the electrician who immediately started to work with wiring. I spent hours choosing tile samples for floors and bathrooms. And I still had time over for morning walks, nice lunches and dinners with our Swedish/Spanish friends! I was amazed by the climate – we were sitting in the sun enjoying nice food and wonderful views in a mountain restaurant the middle of January! Looking forward to relax on our south-facing roof terrace next winter!

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Bye for now!

 

 

Searching and planning

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Yesterday we had¬†guys from¬†a local window factory¬†taking measures¬†in the house¬†as we are going to¬†order new sliding doors to the living room and windows to some other rooms. In general, except for the two panorama windows in the sitting room,¬†the rest¬†of them are¬†planned mainly to¬†close out the sun….¬†The Spanish people traditionally prefer to close their windows with shutters while we from the Northern hemisphere want them as big as possible.¬†Luckily the architect¬†agreed, somewhat reluctantly,¬†to change some of these¬†on her drawings.

The windows in Spain¬†are often covered with grids. These have naturally a special preventive purpose but they can also look really beautiful! Right now I’m quite fixed about everything concerning¬†Spanish ironwork. Therefore I felt blessed¬†to be invited¬†to visit¬†the workshop where the windows as well as the grids and balcony rails are produced – mainly¬†in¬†the traditional way. A lot of interesting stuff there!

 

The work with the big outer wall is continuing. With the building permission we also got the liability¬†to move the outer wall¬†one meter¬†closer to the house to give space for¬†a sidewalk. That was indeed a very big work and¬†now we need to make the wall even higher and longer… At the same time the work with garden replanning is going on. Because of the¬†location on the hillside, the level differences are big and the old stairs etc must¬†be taken away.

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Tomorrow we are flying back to Stockholm. The three weeks spent here in Altea/Albir have just flown¬†away. I already look forward to¬†be back here in January! Meanwhile¬†we are¬†going to spend some nice time with our families and try not to think too much about the building process here ūüôā¬†Wish you all the best!

Searching for railings

IMG_4469 (2)It was a stunningly beautiful day today Рthe first cloudy day here in 3 weeks. After a visit at BigMat where one can find all kind of building material I took a long nice walk in the old town of Altea to get some ideas and inspiration. Altea is a cosy small town with lot of narrow streets with inviting shops and restaurants as well as beautiful views over the neighbourhood from the ancient part of the town, located on a hilltop.

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Our house has a unique¬†look as it is formed after the curve of the street.¬†The architect designed and the¬†estate agent¬†advertised it as a modern¬†house¬†with balcony railings of glass but for me the house¬†feels more¬†like¬†a¬†functional villa of thirties. We want to give our house a much softer,¬†more classical,¬†look.¬†However¬†the¬†challenge seems to be¬†finding the balcony railings that will match the house and make it look ageless. As the house has¬†large¬†terraces,¬†it is obvious that depending on the choice of the¬†railings the outcome¬†would be very different…

Followingly,¬†the last days I have been mostly¬†looking¬†upwards¬†when walking on the streets, risking¬†bumping into¬†fellow pedestrians, trees and poles. Here I post some (balcony rail) photos from Altea ūüôā

 

Tomorrow will be a day off in searching for material, equipment and fittings for the house as most of the shops are closed on Sundays. Instead one can visit the Sunday market in Albir that offers a wide range of products, many of them local.

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Settling down

The day before yesterday we “checked out” from Magnus and Lindas fancy and comfy¬†house just 200 meters from our house – thank you for¬†hospitality!! – and moved in to a cosy spanish house that we are¬†renting during the building process.

Carrying in our stuff we got a little panic as the house felt ice cold even though¬†it was sunny and warm outside.¬† We all have heard about the¬†poorly isolated mediterranian houses where you have to wear wool socks and warm clothes indoors during the cool season. As we were expecting our friends,¬†who are sharing the house with us, arriving later the same evening, we rushed to the¬†Spanish version of Jysk to buy lot of warm cosy blankets, pillows, candles, slippers and rugs. The terracotta floors were icing cold. The last thing you expect when coming to Spain is to freeze…

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Luckily the situation could be solved the day after when the landlady sent technicians to adjust the radiators and fix all other small issues in the house. The house is warm now and really cosy, even if the beds are of slightly different dimension (135 x 190 cm)¬†than at home (180 x 220). As¬†we can see our¬†house from almost every window here we can keep an eye on the building process from the pool ūüôā

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It is very easy to adapt to the daily routines here in Albir. Normally we start the day with morning walk to Albir lighthouse. It is a 6,5 km walk from here and back via nice streets then along a nice pathway high over the sea thru the pine forest on the mountain slope. On the way we pass our house and check the current building status. The days we feel for more challenge we climb up to the top of the mountain where you can see the lighthouse as a tiny dollhouse.

 

On monday we are going to have a building meeting to make more detailed plans and get started. As a great relief¬†for our new neighbours the noisy work with the driveway is now almost ready – the¬†chopping sound has¬†woken them¬†early in the mornings…

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Alegria – happiness

Today me¬†and my husband Per¬†bought The House. The house on¬†a mountain slope at the Mediterranean that I’ve always been dreaming of – with a lush garden with olive and orange trees where you don’t have to cover roses and dig up perennials for winter.¬†Even better, this house is a building project and¬†at least¬†twice as big as the¬†house¬†of my dreams. It will take¬†lot of time and effort¬†but the house¬†will truly¬†be¬†“ours”.

We signed the purchase contract already for some months ago but now everything has become real. We¬†also became aware of¬†the Spanish way of dealing with paperwork; the final contract was signed¬†in the office of Notario Salvador Fernandes. To be a Notario in Spain means that your future is secured – every single deal¬†and contract needs to be approved by a notario to be legal…¬†The final¬†purchase process took what felt like ages – so many papers to sign¬†and¬†circumstances, risks and possibilites¬†explained to us¬† –¬†at some point I counted¬†nine persons sitting around the table… The buyers (us), the seller (with a power of¬†attorney from his wife that was missing from start¬†but could luckily¬†be found after half¬†an hour), legal representatives, bankers, personal advisors etc. We could not do anything else than let the bureaucracy take its time. Everything was in Spanish.

We got¬†the content of the purchase contract¬†transleted to us. The¬†traditional name of the house,¬†we were told, apart¬†from the street address,¬†is Alegria. Hearing that I¬†almost got tears in my eyes!¬†Alegria¬†– meaning “happiness, joy, playfulness, fun” – is a song¬†by Cirque du Soleil that¬†our¬†girls Clara and Elsa¬†love since¬†old times when they were small.¬†This song brings back¬†wonderful memories from our trips¬†around the¬†world. Among ohter places we¬†visited¬†Las Vegas where the girls became fascinated¬†by¬†Cirque du Soleil¬†shows and ever since then the¬†mystique of this beautiful song – Alegria – follows us. This must be a sign from above!

With a wonderful tickling¬†feeling I go to sleep.¬†I already look forward to tomorrow! We will move to a nice house close enough to keep an eye on the building process that is already going on! Below some photos of our house – Alegria – as it looks like now…