The story of the white piano

pianomorgon.jpg

Back in February when my 55th birthday was coming closer my generous husband Per asked me if I had some special wish, a new car perhaps? Or a nice party? I told him I had been thinking about a piano for our new house Alegria…

In my childhood the piano was the most valuable item in our house in Rakvere. My parents were fond of music; my mother had an exceptionally beautiful voice (she dreamed of becoming an opera singer) while my father often sat at the piano playing his favorite melodies or accompanying my mother. Lot of them where energetic pieces as marches inspired of the communist era but also soulful melodies about our small country with its picturesque landscape. I was always fascinated when the cover was taken away to tune the piano – the inside looked exciting with all soft hammers that hit the strings.

Also at my school in Rakvere, located in a beautiful white building of thirties, the grand piano was standing  at the place of honor in the beautiful sunny auditorium. The piano was always carefully covered, I remember my fascination the times the piano was uncovered and the big lid was open. Music had an important place at my school, we had several choirs led by our enthusiastic music teachers. Arvo Pärt, a world famous composer of today, was a pupil at my school and has started his musical life growing up in my hometown Rakvere.

Also Per’s childhood home has a piano and the clear sounds of it can be heard in the whole big house when his sister is playing. Also he, as well as me, took piano lessons as young and we both regret that we did not put more effort in it. Therefore we were delighted when Clara and Elsa started to take piano lessons, and even more now when Elsa has taken her piano playing to a higher level, training every week with a brilliant Russian piano teacher.

pianokaviatur

I cannot tell exactly when the piano seed was sown in my head. I was reading about the craft of piano making in Estonia and accidentally checked the Estonia Piano Factory homepage. Estonia has a long tradition of skillful piano makers who also worked for famous factories in Russia and specially in St Petersburg, the town of culture. Many of them opened their own manufacturing and, when Estonia became independent 1917, started up their own production in the home county. However during the soviet era all the factories were closed down, except for Estonia Piano Factory that became a very prestigious factory exporting to many countries. The Estonia Piano Factory was purchased by the employees when Estonia regained its independence in 1991. A lot of effort was put to redesign the instruments collaborating with leading piano experts in Europe to create grand pianos of the highest level. I learned also that the factory now was owned and managed by Laul family including Mr. Venno Laul, the famous choir leader and important person in the music life of Estonia.

I really liked the idea of having something extraordinary from my little motherland! Something that daily reminds me about my background, something to be proud over. So I dropped a question through the homepage regarding retailers of Estonia piano in Spain.

 

venno1.jpg

I got a surprisingly nice answer from Mr Venno Laul himself with an invitation to visit the factory and get a private demonstration of the mini grand piano that would be our choice for the house in Spain. I was excited – it felt like an adventure…

On March 27th at 13:56 I parked my car at the backyard of the piano factory, following the detailed instructions from Mr Laul, turned left to Kungla street and walked until I found the entrance. I pushed a button saying ”director” and soon a friendly voice gave me further instructions where to find the office. Finally Venno Laul, an elderly tall and stylish man, welcomed me and introduced his son, pianist Indrek Laul, who guided me through this exciting building with its many production premises.

A new world opened up for me… It was thrilling to see how much knowledge, technology and fine craftsmanship is needed to produce one grand piano, regardless if it is modeled for a living room or a concert hall. The Estonia piano holds many different quality parts; for example the Renner action, manufactured in Stuttgart, means that the instrument is on the same level as a Steinway, the most known piano in the world.

One of the most important final stages is the tuning. Only a small amount of people qualify for this work, that needs absolute pitch hearing. A piano can be set to more soft or more brilliant tones and Estonia piano is known for its warm romantic sound.

indrekl2

In the demo room Indrek Laul demonstrated the piano of model 168, the smallest one in the production of Estonia piano factory that would suit our living room. I was overwhelmed when he started to play The Dying Swan of Saint Saëns – one of the ballet solos Elsa has done on the stage…

indrekl1.jpg

I felt me treated like a queen during my visit and the whole atmosphere in the factory made me impressed so when the tour and demo was over the decision was not hard to make: we would have a white Estonia mini grand piano for Alegria, our Spanish home. Luckily I had an OK from Per with me…

Our nice and friendly email contact with Mr Venno who was a real gentleman lasted through the whole production process. I was always welcome to the factory when I visited Tallinn, to follow the progress. In May I visited the factory together with my brother in law Valdo to get instructions for the installation and in June, a short time before the piano was going on its long journey through Europe I visited the factory once more together with Elsa and her friend Louisa from California.

 

We came by ferry from Sweden through Finland and hurried to the factory.  Mr Venno met us in the silent factory – it was the day before Midsummer eve, a state holiday, that meant half working day. There were only the director and one craftsman left who wanted to work instead of going to party. Mr Venno seemed to have no hurry – he showed us our white piano with great enthusiasm and told about all the parts inside. We were enchanted and amused. This visit was an amazing experience that stays in our hearts!

Venno_elsa

Only some days after our visit the white piano, being tuned, left Estonia with DSV transport through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Polen, Germany, France to the final destination in Spain. At the day the piano arrived to Alicante there was a confusion as we expected to get a home delivery but we sorted it out with a helpful DSV representative with beautifully sounding name, Mari-Liis Lilleleht. Finally our workleader managed to organize an express transportation from DSV terminal in Alicante to our house in Albir.

The early morning of July 10th felt like the Christmas eve; we were waiting for the piano that should arrive just after 8 am with a crane truck normally used to take up the building materials to our yard, situated on the mountain slope. It was a great relief to finally spot the big truck coming uphill – we were unsure whether we had any insurance for this part of transport.

pianotranspPianolyft

We were well prepared – Valdo and our building team with their muscles tense and me with my camera and iphone ready to capture every step of this important happening. The heavy crane lifted the box to the terrace as easily as it would be a soil bag.

Pianoflyttpianoinstallpianoflyftpianoinstall1

After a short struggle with mounting of legs the 250 kg piano could be rolled to its final destination, the living room at villa Alegria.

elsa

 

After having written most of this text I get a phone call from my sister in Estonia. It was announced that Venno Laul passed away on October 14th, one month after his 80th anniversary.

I feel sadness; this very special man was still so vital, so passionate about his job, so kind and so polite and attentive.  On the other hand I am happy that I had possibility to learn to know him – our interesting conversations will always be in my memory. I hope some of the soft sounds from the white piano in villa Alegria will touch him high above us…

 

 

ljus1

“Dear Mrs Linda,

What a pleasure to know that the piano is on its place now, in one piece! All the steps you have planned lead to the day when you will be able to enjoy the sounds of your piano. Right now only seeing the photo gives a great feeling, the piano is really angel-like with its elegance and suits so well in your new house.

I wish you many beautiful musical moments!

Warm congratulations to You,                                                                                                               Venno Laul”

 

 

 

September in Spain

_DSC0017

Rain pouring down…

We were warned about the heavy rains that usually occur in September but it is difficult to believe it when the sun is always there, sometimes after some morning haze over the sea. Sometimes the sunbeds are moist when you go out on the terrace before the sunbeams reach over the mountains. Now we and our new house have experienced these massive showers – when everything gets flooded and the soil is swept away from your new flowerbeds, still waiting for the plants. One morning I woke up to a dripping sound in the corridor and found that someone had placed a bucket under the roof window 🙂 Our building leader says it was a good rain-proof test.

But the Spanish nature is well prepared to take advantage of these showers and in only a few days everything starts to grow and bloom hysterically. I’m already making plans how to collect the valuable rain water that does so good for the garden!

Even if there is more “important” stuff to organize/decide at this stage I cannot keep away from the garden shops (just for planning purposes) and end up dragging home lots of plants and sacks of soil. Luckily I have had my friend Nina here who gives me good help. So consequently I have started some small plant projects using old pots left at the property and the new built-in flower beds.

_DSC0066_DSC0061_DSC0055

When I came here alone one evening in beginning of September I was totally blown away by how everything had changed since I left this place in the end of July. Even if all the big jobs were done in July, everything seemed to have just fallen on their right places! The doors were there, the bathroom furniture installed, the staircase in natural stone…. just amazing. Everything was tidy and the view through the clean windows was stunning. I was wandering around in the house, sparsely furnished, airy, with wonderful warm lighting. It was overwhelming to see my ideas realized, all the materials and surfaces I had picked among hundreds, every light positioned according to my wish – everything felt just “right” . All has been made with such precision, feeling for the handicraft and material, you could see the quality in every corner, on every step! I felt great admiration for our building team, for the stone cutters, for the carpenters who had realized all our ideas and wishes. It seemed unreal but still so wonderful to know that this place now was our home for coming years, where we would love to spend most of our time.

 

 

A week ago I met my husband Per, who left the house in the end of May and hadn’t seen the progress in live since then, at the Alicante airport. He came with Uzanna who was a bit confused and nervous after the hours spent in the plane in her cage among other “special luggage”. At the same time I said goodbye to my brother and his wife visiting me one week and helping in getting things in order.

The biggest change since last time has occurred outdoors, all the outdoor tiles done, piles of material and rubbish gone, terrasses ready for sunny days and soft evenings with family and friends, flowerbeds and soil waiting for plants and fruit trees. It will be a pleasure to furnish and decorate every space in and around the house! My family seems to be as happy as me. A new chapter in our life just started.

_DSC0033

_DSC0037_DSC0070_DSC0041

The next post will be about the white piano above! Bye bye until then!

Calor!

IMG_9419

After exactly one month I am back in Spain. Do I need to say that I am very excited to see the progress in the house…

Me and Elsa arrive to our house after sunset. We took our car from the airport, two hours delayed and without my bag – after a long search process found at Arlanda. No problem – I have some clothes stored in the new house. We park the car outside, switch off the Securitas alarm and start to open the heavy temporary gates to the yard. The big house looks a bit scary with its big dark windows. We look forward to come inside, turn on the lights and unpack our stuff, tired after the delayed flight. But –  why doesn’t the code of the padlock that I used so many times before work this time!?? Finally we manage to create a hole big enough to crawl through and enter our new Spanish home. Not very graceful first entry.

The house looks amazing – so much work done since we left it in the end of May! We turn on the lights in every room and just walk around. Am I dreaming, is this beautiful house really ours!? Our building team has almost finished the main floor and the master bedroom upstairs with only few installations still to be done. The light arrangements I have planned are just as beautiful I hoped they would be. The view outside is breathtaking.

 

An hour later I leave Elsa in the empty house and return to the airport in Alicante to pick up my sister and her husband arriving with a late flight. They are staying two weeks and give me some help with cleaning, fitting and furnishing the house.

Before we left the rented house we moved over a lot of stuff we bought so we would not need to start from zero. We got kitchen-ware, vacuum cleaner and coffe machine, beds delivered by Danish design in Altea and other important stuff to survive first days in an almost-ready house. We have two chairs but no table to start with – the table ordered from Concept is arriving only in August.

When I see the kitchen in the heart of the house, complete with worktops and lights I’m filled with gratitude: it looks better I could hope. We had chosen the worktops of natural stone, named Perla venata in a big stone factory filled with thousands of slices of stone cut from huge blocks. Each slice, even from the same block, clould look different so you cannot really know how the final result will be. I can say I’m really satiscfied with the choices we have made – everything is so functional and works so well together. Our kitchen designer from Concept in Altea has done such a nice work with our kitchen, it for sure is the kitchen of my dreams!

_DSC0948_DSC0950IMG_9417IMG_9420

 

While it is nice and quiet inside the house, at least after the electician and plumber have finished their works in the bathrooms, there is lot of action going on around the house. Sometimes things happen TOO fast – yesterday I almost got a nervous breakdown when I discovered that during the quarter of an hour, while I was talking to our building manager regarding a mysterious wall in the garden built during an hour I was away, on the other side of the house too many balcony railings were installed with insane speed. It resulted in some extra work: the wall was taken down as well as the railings that were reduced to half of the length. I have discovered that Spanish builders love steep and narrow steps and lot of railings while I like more open garden with practical pathways. I will keep my eye on them….

 

IMG_9363_DSC0959IMG_9380

I thougt only we people of north talk about weather all the time. I was so wrong! The world you most frequently hear here right now is CALOR – the heat. I feel sorry for the guys working in our garden in the hot sun building stairs, walls and painting the house. I guess they look forward to their vacation in august, when it is even more calor. I wonder where they go for vacation, Iceland maybe?

Luckily the climate in the house is perfect thanks to the air condition and the new fridge has an ice machine. I am not suffering at all. While Elsa is sweating at the Russian masters ballet camp my days float in a pleasant way. I wake up at 8:00 to the sound of starting cement mixer and jolly voices outside. Our building guys look always happy (even if I make them redo some projects) and work hard all day long except during their siesta when they lay down on the floor of our future gym. My days pass planning at the computer, visiting furniture shops and findig suitable lights, doors etc.

In the evenings when the workers go home we spend good time at the pool and have dinners at the terrace.

 

This morning the view from the livingroom window was a bit different:

_DSC0966

 

Time to go to sleep, a new day arriving soon! Buenas noches!

Moscow in my heart

 

IMG_8489

I just came to my hotel room in Moscow, wet after being surprised by a shower during my evening walk in a nearby park, next to the monastery of Novodevichi. This park has become one of my favorite spots here in Moscow. It feels good to be here, I feel a different kind of peace in my soul, something nostalgic.

I was three years old when my mother took me to Moscow to visit her aunt Rauha. I remember her holding my hand when we walked to the railway station couple of kilometers from our house in Rakvere, Estonia. In her other hand she carried a small suitcase. The road to the railway station seemed endlessly long – I was so excited to come to Moscow where I was promised to be taken to the zoo to see the elephants. I have no memories from Moscow though, I guess everything was just too big for the tiny little girl I was. Mother told me later that when we at last were standing in front of the elephants I was too tired to even look at them…

Somehow in my mixed-up little head Moscow was just behind the hill on the way to the railway station, not far from our house. When I was a bit older, I went there to see the view I remembered. I got really disappointed when I saw just the houses of our neighborhood there…

IMG_8476

 

Park Novodevichi Prudy is one of the pearls of Moscow, far from the crowded city center around the Kreml and Red square. Here you hear only Russian. A group of girls with plastic champagne glasses in their hands trying to walk normally on ridiculously high heels. A babushka with a handbag scaring a big black crow away from a mallard with a tiny duckling hiding under the mother. Babushka is waiving with her bag and mumbling “you are not taking the last one from her”. Her husband says “there is no point Masha, it’s hopeless”. She tries to find something to throw on the crow. I walk away with sadness in my heart.

People love their parks here in Moscow, in weekends these get crowded by families with children, dogs running around and people sitting in the grass having picnic. Someone is playing guitar. The row of benches in the shadow of the trees welcomes you to slow down for a while. Gorky park is one of the most popular parks in Moscow. It is known for its beautiful main entrance and the colorful flower beds where admirers gather. But even here you can find som hidden gems, where it is quiet and peaceful.

IMG_8668

IMG_8681

IMG_8670

IMG_8684

 

The second time I came to Moscow was in autumn 1993. It was my first business trip to Moscow where me and my controller colleague were gathering the Russian accounting ladys from Thomesto group companies for a course at Ernst & Young’s headquarters. The goal of the course was to implement a new group accounting system in our offices around Russia. However before that could be done we needed to teach our ladies to use computers….

We left Arlanda on Sunday evening and were met at the Sheremetyevo airport by the company’s driver. He was to take us to hotel Ukraine, a huge tower constructed during Stalins government. We were excited to see Moscow, driving closer to the city.  The excitement grew when we realized that something abnormal was going on. The closer we came to our hotel, the messier everything looked! The streets were empty except for loads of trash, broken windows, abandoned vandalized cars and groups of men shouting loud. Our driver was worried but managed to find a way through the blocked roads and park close to the hotel so we could take us in to the lobby. We noticed lots of shields placed in rows in the lobby and lot of men in old style uniforms – probably called in to do their duty for the Russian state.

IMG_0509

My room was on the 24th floor. From the window I could see the Moscow river floating by and on the other side of the river, opposite to the hotel, the Russian White house, the Parliament, was standing. I switched on the TV. To my surprise I saw the same view from my window as from the TV. The newscaster reported about an uprising against president Jeltsin. Some members of the old parliament (supreme soviet) barricaded themselves in the parliament building and had proclaimed the vice president Alexander Rutskoj a new president. They agitated everybody to take over the TV station Ostankino.

IMG_0506

From my hotel room I could see the tower of Ostankino far away. I was following the news, feeling a lot of excitement. Unfortunately there was no film in my camera I brought with me, I had intended to buy a roll at the hotel. I took my laptop and made some notes – I felt I was part of a historical happening. Suddenly the TV sending stopped and the screen turned black. Far away I could see the TV tower lighting up strongly – was it fire? It got dark around the hotel and there was a total silence. I left my window open and tried to get some sleep.

I woke up to a strange sound on the streets below. I jumped up from the bed and looked down – everything was dark grey, just that rattling sound. I fell asleep again and the next time I woke up it was light. Rushing to the window I saw the parliament house totally surrounded by tanks, pointing their pipes towards the white house in the middle. Military helicopters were circulating above the parliament, sending firearms down over the building. Armored wagons were rolling over the big bridge. Jeltsin had sent his troops to hit down the uprising. I was looking down on a battle.

I finally got contact with my colleague who was apparently totally unaware about the situation. Her window pointed to the other direction and she was tired after waiting in the corridor several hours of the night for somebody to open the room door for her – the new Indian door key system didn’t always work. I explained to her that she must go up as there was war going on outside, we needed to have some breakfast and find our driver. We tried to find some place to eat in the total mess in the lobby area. Everything was closed, people were being evacuated because the hotel was within the shooting distance from the white house. The desperados inside the parliament were shooting on people, military and civil, ready to die for the soviet union that Jeltsin was taking down…

We managed to fill our empty stomachs as our kind corridor guard, a fat Russian lady, found some bread, butter and sausage for us in the small kitchen for personnel. We also  found our driver in the chaos of the lobby and left the hotel back way. We joined the row of hurrying people carrying suitcases through an endless maze of corridors and kitchens with benches of stainless steel while the uniformed hotel personnel was standing in every corner to show us the way out. When we finally came out on the backyard the sounds of war, familiar from the movies, hit us. The moment we were passing through the high gate to the main road where the armored wagons still were rolling towards the parliament we heard shooting from a Kalashnikov. Everybody took hide and pressed their backs against the wall – an innate reaction. This was far too much for us, two young girls first time in Moscow…  We couldn’t take it seriously, we laughed hysterically while running with our suitcases after our driver who had parked the car a kilometer away. After taking a passage under the road and coming up on the other side, away from the war, I remember sunshine and birdsong. Even if our employers wanted us to fly back to Stockholm immediately, we checked in to another hotel and joined our accounting ladies who were waiting for us at the Ernst & Young offices. We thought if the rest of the millions of people are staying, why should we leave!

147 people of Moscow died during these two autumn days of 1993. Boris Jeltsin stayed on his post until just hours before the new millennium when he announced about his early resignation – his health was very bad after years of alcohol and heart problems.

 

IMG_8459(Edited)

Moscow State Academy of Choreography – also named Bolshoi Ballet Academy – is the reason for my xx visit (I have lost the counting order) this time. My daughter Elsa is completing her second year here as an international ballet trainee. She has been living at the dormitory located on the third floor of the academy building. This is the last month of her stay here at the academy and she feels a bit sad to leave the school and her friends from all over the world. The time here has been an unforgettable experience both ballet-wise and for her personal development.

As mother of Elsa, who is loved by the nice ladies of the dorm because she of her kindness and good behavior, I was invited to the small concert held at the dormitory where Elsa was going to play two songs on the piano. After some difficulties to persuade  the guard at the front door I got the permit to follow Elsa to the dormitory. It is really exciting to hang around backstage at one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the world! Long corridors with doors on both sides, marked with names of the pupils, 2 – 4 names at each, Russian, English, Italian, Japanese… Girls and boys in training clothes in every corner and corridor stretching, dancing and rehearsing for the concert.

The concert was opened in a traditional Russian way, the headmaster of the dormitory holding a small speech for the pupils of the 3rd grade soon leaving the school to find a job – not easy for a new professional dancer… The concert was meant for them but they also took part of the acting. The students from different countries showed a variety of mainly funny small acts. The public applauded, enjoyed and laughed – so did I! I caught some small pieces of the show. The princes of various countrys are trying to wake up the sleeping beauty:

 

 

Moscow of today is a huge but still pleasant city where you easily can move yourself from one part to another by the metro. The metro is both effective and the stations, especially the old ones, are beautifully decorated. It goes deep under the city and when crowded, you literally search for the light in the end of the tunnel…

 

Tomorrow I will leave Moscow for this time, which is the best time to be here – June! People of Moscow are enjoying themselves, their faces are happier and their steps are lighter. The weather is a bit changing but the sun is always there, sometimes just hiding behind the clouds….

Finally there is the light…

_DSC0890

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 😀

 

 

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.

IMG_8244IMG_8242Kitchen2_DSC0929

 

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

IMG_7190

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!

IMG_7178

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 – it 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.

 

Ridgeback adventures

IMG_6450

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.

yttermur1

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.

27479736_1943276429033872_1127366701_o

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.

 

Johan_elkilleAntonio_kitchenarbetsbod

 

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!

takterrass

Bye for now!

 

 

Searching and planning

IMG_4514

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.

IMG_4508IMG_4520IMG_4521 (2)IMG_4503

 

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 🙂 Wish you all the best!