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Tuesday, August 9, 2022 @ 11:27 PM

The sky was the colour of a Manchester City football shirt and the almond blossom reminded me of those cotton wool balls women remove their make-up with (and blokes I suppose). Every hue of pinks and whites possible.  The mountains of the Sierra Nevada had a blanket of snow on them which seemed to enhance all the colours around us.

What a stunning introduction to the Alpujarras! It was the middle of February and we were making our first visit to mainland Spain. Having left the doom and gloom of England behind, the temperature here was a pleasant sixteen degrees and the holiday was off to a good start. And that’s all it was, a holiday. Our accommodation for the week was a self-catering casita (a small house) on the Tijola road out of Órgiva in Andalucia.

On the way to our casita, we drove over some lemons and with some luck found our abode. What a beautiful place, nestled in a valley with views across the Rio Guadalfeo (ugly river) to the mountains of the Contraviesa and the hippy camp of Cigarones.
Once settled in, and with our six-year-old daughter, Alex looking expectantly at the swimming pool, we noticed our casita had nothing in stock. None of the basics like toilet paper, salt, pepper, olive oil (which could be purchased off the owners) washing-up liquid, beer etc.
Sarah exclaimed, “If we had letting houses, they would at least have a welcoming pack.”
Alarm bells should have started ringing!
Well, off we went into town to purchase all the necessary supplies. There were lots of bars and restaurants, mainly all with the same menu, supermarkets, five banks, no charity shops and no estate agents. Not that we were looking for estate agents, just curious.
You could spot us a mile away in our shorts and sandals, we were in holiday mode. While in the town we had a beer in Nemesis One. There must be a Nemesis Two somewhere? Every time we had a drink the landlord brought us a tasty morsel.
Ah, we thought, this must be tapas.
The Granada province is one of the last areas to serve tapas with beer, wine or mosto (non-alcoholic wine). Not with spirits or soft drinks though. The townspeople were well wrapped up, but to us, it was like an August day back in England.

It was not long before Alex was enjoying the pool. It was a little fresh and she tried in vain to coax us in. No chance, it’s February. Living in a rural area in England we thought we had fresh air but here we noticed how pure the air was and how well we slept. The shutters on the windows kept out the early morning light.

Our hosts were people we had known back in Somerset where they used to run the local pub. They had moved to Órgiva to be close to their granddaughter and had bought a ruin to convert into letting houses and what a great job they had done. The garden was well stocked with colourful plants, oranges and lemons providing bright orbs of sunshine and slices of fruit for our liquid refreshments.

During the holiday it was carnival time in Órgiva, normally eight weeks before Easter but the celebrations had to be spread over many weekends as only one marquee was available in the area for so many towns and villages. Friday night was the kids’ turn and we managed to get Alex dressed up as a clown. It was good to get involved and we could feel the warmth and friendliness of the local parents with children of a similar age. Saturday was for the adults.

Órgiva is the capital market town of the Alpujarras with a population of around five thousand people. It’s a bustling busy town with a very cosmopolitan, bohemian atmosphere. Mining and agriculture are its main activities but with tourism catching on. The ski resort of the Sierra Nevada is only an hour and a half away and the beaches of Motril and Salobrena just forty minutes down the road. At four hundred and fifty metres above sea level, the town has a micro-climate in which many different crops can grow, all fed from the waters of the melting snow off the mountains.

While settling into our holiday routine and thoroughly enjoying our surroundings a niggling question was emerging from somewhere in the back of my mind. What’s the price of property around here? And could we do what our hosts had achieved?

I needed to find an estate agent. These elusive characters operated in pairs, one foreign and one local. I was told they hung around a coffee bar called Galindos, and coffee time and breakfast time was at ten. So off I set to track them down.

My luck was in and I found a guy called Dharmo and his Spanish mate, Ramon (Dharmo’s corridor). Dharmo made the contacts with the foreigners and Ramon found the properties.

On introducing myself I was eyed with suspicion; they were in no hurry to show me their portfolio of property. Eventually, Dharmo pulled out of his well-worn satchel a photograph album with pictures of ruins of farmhouses, townhouses and bare parcels of land. But no prices.


Author: Andy Bailey

Bio: We moved to Spain 20 years ago and have been compiling a book by observing and integrating since we arrived. The book is now published. Órgiva: A Chancer's Guide to Rural Spain. Chris Stewart has given it a good review.


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