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Spending some time in the Garden

We have not had much time in the villa over the years and the time and money we have spent have focussed on other parts of the house.  Now that the landscaping part of the garden has been almost complete, we are in a much better position to focus on putting some plants in place and setting up a simple irrigation system.

The pergola in the lower garden has 8 piers supporting the timber crossbeams, so we have planted a mixture of some locally successful vine cultivars (2 x Moscatel, 1 x Red Globe, 1 x Superior) together with Plumbago, Jasmine, Bignonia & Passionflower.

In addition to this we have planted in pots, 3 small citrus trees, Orange, Lemon and Lime together with a Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise Plant.

We have chosen to create two small rockeries covering ground of around 6m2 each and both located in shade and full sun at different times of the day.  At the time of writing both rockeries still require more rocks and importantly some plants too.

We have

laid stones on most of the area in an attempt to minimise the ongoing maintenance and tidy up the appearance of the space.  We had two speciments of the Mexican Fan Palm take from seed and whether it proves to be a wise decision or not we have kept one of them in the place it landed and moved the other so that they are both now in the lower garden.  It will be interesting to see if the specimen that we relocated survives as it was not moved until early August and ideally should have been removed at the beginning of the growing season in early May.

There is some more stone needed before the space is complete but we are getting there.  Hopefully in a short space of time we will begin to see growth on some of the plants and the covering of the pergola and the development of a further shade area will not take too long.

2020 : The Year of Corona Virus

With no letting business for the villa of any note for a couple of years we were unable to commit to any further improvements for 2020.  Towards the end of 2019, when we would have normally considered such work, I was diagnosed with cancer and fortunately had a successful operation to remove the cancer on 27th December 2019.  Thankfully, as far as I know I am still cancer free at the time of writing this post in August 2020.

Having had a bit of a lull, to say the least, in villa lettings over the past couple of years, and having now successfully obtained our licensia turistica, we had hoped for a real boost to the business for the 2020 holiday season.  Then Covid 19 came along.

The devastating impact of the Corona Virus Crisis has affected the way we all now live our lives in many ways.  It has had a significant effect upon the tourism and travel industry as individual countries seek to control transmission of the virus through restricting the movemnet of their citizens and in turn those operating within the villa rental business have had to be very flexible in order to accommodate last minute changes to holiday plans.  Las Parras has had to re-let, due to cancellations and the need to re-schedule trips due to quarantine measures, some of our availability three times already.  It has been a very strange year.

On the plus side, we have received our first guests from Spain and the Netherlands.  We have discovered two new villa rental channels :

https://www.simplyowners.net/villa-rentals-moraira-spain/p/55333/  and

https://www.spain-holiday.com/82837

who clearly are attracting a lot of interest from people all over Europe and further afield who want to enjoy the benefits of a villa holiday in Spain.   In some respects a villa holiday offers real advantages to holiday makers as it reduces the need for social distancing providing of course that you minimise time outside of the villa during the course of your stay.  I will post more on this point later.

 

A villa holiday can help keep you safe

There seems to be continued demand for villa letting despite Covid 19 worries.

A villa holiday gives guests the opportunity to take their entertainment within the confines of their own private space and thereby reduce the risk of Covid 19 contact.  Of course you can still explore the area surrounding yur villa according to your choice.  We know guests like this flexibility from a villa holiday regardless.  In the current climate however with Covid restrictions, guests are still looking to take their holidays in Spain and enjoy the sunshine and lifestyle, but more within the confines of their villa accommodation.

What are people looking for in a good villa holiday; a holiday where they might leave the villa on only very few occasions?  This depends to some extent on the time of year your guests will be staying, but if it is for the main summer vacation, then clearly a spectacular and private pool area is a must.  Especially for young children, the thrill of waking up every day to their own swimming pool forms timeless memories.

As most of your meals will probably be taken inside the house, a well-equipped kitchen and BBQ area helps people to prepare memorable meals and after all the Mediterranean lifestyle does centre around eating food together.

There again, for the household chefs we do know that cooking and preparing your own food whilst on holiday is not for everyone and interestingly, we are finding people want more access to good quality take away food.  Paella for example bought to the house ready to be served from the pan is increasingly popular.  So make sure your guests have all of the information to access to the best take away restaurants and services.

When you are not swimming and sunbathing, other forms of entertainment are necessary so make sure your villa comes with a selection of board games, cards, dice etc and if you have the space we find the Pool Table, Table Football, Table Tennis and Petanque are popular with our guests.

For adults and children alike, access to the internet is essential and even allowing for slower internet speeds in some areas of Spain, it is important that you can access the internet around the house.  Internet access is even more Important than TV today as most programmes can be streamed from a smart phone or tablet and projected through the TV in the villa.

The sun is great but people also need to take to the shade every now and then.   If you don’t want to go inside, then a nice shaded spot in the garden where you can enjoy a quiet chat over a coffee or just read a book can be heavenly.

Development of Las Parras : October 2015 to August 2019

In early October 2015, I asked Abilio Costa to construct a new wall around the villa on the eastern and northern boundaries.  Previously these boundaries had been marked by Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) and Gandula (Myoporum laetum) hedges.  Apart from these hedges being quite labour intensive in terms of maintenance, some of the Cypresses had died and no longer looked the part.  The new wall would not only reduce the ongoing garden maintenance but also ensure that the villa was more secure.

In addition to this we also chose to extend the terracing at the front of the house.  This latter terracing again helped to reduce garden maintenance but also came as a result of losing two very established Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) to the dreaded Red Palm Weavil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) which had been working its way around the Mediterranean region for the past few years or so.  The loss had left two very stout but sadly dead palm trunks and we took the decision to remove them and pave the area to focus on the growth of the Jacaranda tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia) that was thriving and remained in this space.

We also had Abilio construct some piers to support a pergola in the lower garden and make some changes to the pool house / almacen.

All of these changes gave a kick-start to our villa improvement plans, paved the way for later garden developments and at the same time contributed a significant improvement to the overall security of the villa.  I was very pleased with the results and had regained my enthusiasm again for the villa.

We visited Las Parras in August 2016 for a family holiday and significantly it was our granddaughter Ava’s first visit; she was almost 5 months old.  A memorable family holiday.

Later in 2016, I asked Abilio to look at remodelling parts of the old house and to refit the upstairs bathroom and adjoining bedroom.  Previously these rooms had been fitted with sliding entrance doors for some strange reason and they had never been a great fit.  One of the outcomes of this project was that it did away with these two unusual sliding doors and replaced them with conventionally opening doors.  The work also provided the opportunity to modernise the bathroom and retile the floors.  We also took the opportunity when we visited the villa in May 2017 to sign off on the remodelling work to place the timber on to the pergola.

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When we visited for our holiday in August 2017, the improvements had made a big difference to the villa.  We had invited our niece Cara-Jo and her two young boys to join us along with our daughter Natalie, Sean and their children.  Jack, Jude, Brandon and Mason took up residence in the bedroom that we had equipped with 4 bunk beds to mark the occasion.  This bedroom is now affectionately known as the Dorm.

Inspired by the significant improvement to the living space upstairs we asked Abilio to remodel the original lounge and the Dorm during the autumn of 2017.  This work was to coincide with the replacement of the last wooden windows of the original part of the house and the installation of new air conditioning.

Jonathon and I came out to Spain to oversee the installation of the new windows in February 2018.  It was very cold.

The visit was also made memorable by the fact that we found a stray cat inside the house.  We established that the cat had entered the house just before xmas 2017 when the window fitters had come to confirm the window sizes.  Incredibly when we arrived on the 3 February, the cat had survived a period of around 6 weeks living on drinking water out of the toilet and if it was lucky the odd gecko.  How it dd this is a testament to the survival instincts of animals as the cat did not look too bedraggled for its experiences.

I called a local cat charity : Pluto and a kind and brave, German lady came and took the, by now growling, cat away saying it would be examined by a Vet before being released back to its feral ways.  Interestingly she said that the charity funds the speying / neutering of feral cats in the neighbourhood and one can tell if the cat has been so treated as the ears are clipped for easy subsequent recognition.  Well done Pluto!

In April of 2018, Abilio commenced work on the remodelling of the inside of the villa.  Cathy and I came over to sign off the work later in early June and we were really pleased with the result.  Cathy prepared a new video of the villa which we have found to be very successful in terms of marketing the letting space.

 

We did not visit the villa for our summer vacation in 2018, choosing instead to spend it with Natalie’s family and Jono in France.  By now we had hoped our villa would have been granted its Licensia Turistica but some problems with processing had delayed the issue of the license.  In addition we became aware of the need to increase the electricity supply to the property due to the increased load from the new air conditioning.  So we were beset by regulatory problems during 2018 which effectively has put the brakes on the development of the villa letting business.

No new improvements were made to the villa in 2019.  As we did not receive our licensia turistica  until August 2019, we chose not to let the villa that year.  We chose instead use it for the occasion of my 60th birthday.  We had a great family holiday over a period of just over 3 weeks, during which time we were also visited by our friends from the US: Sue and Dan and their two children: Arthur and Sally.  It was a great holiday.

 

Development of Las Parras – The Wilderness Years : August 2005 to July 2015

During this lengthy period, we regularly enjoyed our villa in Spain but in so far as developing the villa was concerned little progress was made.   I had retrained for a career in financial services working for most of this period until late 2014 as an IFA working mostly for HSBC and finally from late 2015 as a Compliance Officer.

This period coincided with times in which Cathy suffered some health problems. In addition the credit crunch of 2008 proved a significant factor in our planning as it did I am sure for so many others. Initially, the financial crisis of 2008 had little impact, although locally in Spain its effect was much more evident with shop closures, cessation of construction work and unemployment particularly amongst the young being widespread. As lower pound euro exchange rates became the norm the upkeep of a relatively large capital asset that generated no income and all of its outgoings were based in Euros took its toll upon the availability of spare money for villa development.

As I strove to establish myself professionally in a new industry, maintaining an overseas property proved to be challenging to say the least.   Property valuations across Spain plummeted when the credit crisis materialised in 2008 and 2009, destroying local jobs and businesses in its wake and Moraira was not immune to this problem.  At this point, I considered selling Las Parras and advertised the villa with two estate agents in early 2009. I think mid 2009, the year of my 50th birthday, I received a silly offer to buy the villa and thankfully was still in the position to be able to decline it.

As a consequence we chose to carry on with the plans that were by now only in our heads, in the belief that as with all investments at some point the market will recover. This belief was based on the premise that Moraira was beautiful, the local people and the villa were lovely and I still wanted to live in the villa on a permanent basis although at this point I was struggling to imagine when this might be.

Fast forward 5 years to 2014, and the local economy in Moraira started to show signs of recovery and with it came some signs of the property valuations becoming more realistic. Around 2015, we could tell as we made some enquiries to recommence building work on the villa that the demand for builders had perked up as we had to wait several months before our proposed new building work could be completed.

We made a conscious decision to begin developing the villa again.  We put in place a 10 year plan in which to make this transition which included a plan to generate letting income from the villa once the planned works had been fully completed. In 2015 I celebrated my 55th birthday and Cathy her 52nd birthday.

Our rejuvenated plans for Las Parras were to finish the property to how we had always envisaged it. This would involve establishing a Mediterranean garden and refurbishing the interior of the villa to bring all rooms up to the standard of the newer portion of the villa. Specifically, in addition to developing the garden, we were looking at refitting 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms, replacing 3 old wooden windows and installing new air conditioning.