Falling for Válor: One woman left everything behind for the quiet life in Spain
Many of us have returned from an unforgettable escape to exotic lands and fallen head over heels for the place we’ve returned from. We spend all day dreaming of the next time we will find ourselves there, in fact those memories keep us warm through those long winter months. But Spanish property owner Ginny, decided to make her dream destination her home. After she fell in love with the sleepy Municipality of Válor in Spain.
You have several properties near Válor in Spain, what exactly makes this a great holiday destination?
Válor is situated in Las Alpujarras, one of Spains best-kept secrets and a popular destination with the Spanish but one which many foreigners have never heard of. It's in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, on the edge of a National Park, and is a stunningly beautiful valley where the hillsides are dotted with white villages, the pace of life is slow and it can truly be described as authentic Spain. Surrounded by olive and almond groves where shepherds wander with their goats and sheep it is a living village with a rich history, being home to the last king of the moors, Aben Humeya.
What made you decide to buy property in Spain?
We were looking to move abroad for a more relaxed lifestyle in a sunnier climate but didn't want to be part of the typical ex-pat lifestyle found in so many places. We fell in love with Las Alpujarras on our first visit when passing through the area on our way to view a house in northern Andalucia. We knew immediately that this was where we were meant to be, cancelled the appointment and we're still in love with the area 11 years later!
If you were speaking to someone who is planning on going to one of your properties, which would you recommend and what is there for them to do in the area?
We recommend ALL our properties! We only let houses that we would choose to stay in ourselves and all have pools, wifi, great kitchens and are home from homes. We really do have something for everyone from family villas sleeping 6 to cosy little casitas for couples, both in the village itself and in the surrounding countryside. So I'd have to find out their party size and preferences before making a recommendation. I will say that my favourite pool is at Casa Verde, my favourite terrace at Cuesta Viñas and my favourite bedroom at Las Cañadas, although each house has it's own special charm and “wow” factor.
The area is great for cycling, walking, bird watching and simply chilling. The coast and high mountains are both within an hours drive, and there is a thriving wine industry with prize-winning bodegas offering tours and tastings. There are numerous picturesque Moorish white villages to explore, an amazing Italian Renaissance castle at nearby Calahorra to visit and a day trip to the city of Granada to visit the Alhambra Palace and explore the old quarter is a must.When it comes to chilling you can't beat lazing by one of the stunning pools or taking a tapas in one of the local bars. Granada is the last remaining province in Spain where tapas are served as a matter of course, free with every drink that you buy and, as the bars compete on the quality of their tapas, usually delicious.
If you could recommend a restaurant in Válor, where people can find traditional Spanish cuisine, where should they go?
For a small village, we're lucky to have a great selection of bars and restaurants. Soledad from the Aben Humeya offers a warm welcome and traditional Spanish food including local delicacies such as wild boar, rabbit and goat and a great value Menu del Dia. Louis from La Huerta takes pride in his home grown and home cooked vegetables and homemade ice creams but my own personal favourite is La Azahara where Paco takes delight in serving up gourmet food at an unbelievable price on a sunny terrace with a view to die for.
One of your renters wrote that “the attention to detail by Terry and Ginny was the best we have ever experienced on a self-catering holiday.” – So how do you make sure each property is ready for a renter?
I do most of the cleaning myself and this hands-on approach means that I (hopefully) spot any maintenance issues or missing items immediately. My husband, Terry, looks after the pools and outside areas and is Mr Fix-It himself. We pride ourselves on offering well-equipped houses and strive to make sure that everything is as we would like it to be if we were the ones arriving.All our house are real homes, not just letting properties, equipped for living in all year round with wood burners and wood provided.We also provide a welcome pack of basic supplies so that guests can have a snack on arrival or breakfast the next morning and ensure that all houses have essentials like salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar, tea coffee and a range of herbs and spices etc. We simply ask that guests replace anything they finish so that they are available for the next guests as well.
How do the locals react to holidaymakers in the area?
As tourism is relatively low key the locals have a genuine interest in people visiting the area and are welcoming and generous. We are regularly asked about the guests staying at the various houses and have had numerous occasions where the locals have really gone out of their way to help out our visitors or have just been extremely generous with gifts of produce from their gardens or a free drink in the bar. If you have a few words of Spanish it's always greeted with a warm smile.
How does Válor compare to other parts of Spain?
Válor is completely different from the more traditional coastal destinations offering a taste of the real Spain. It can be a little like stepping back in time, some of the older farmers still plough with oxen, the family is everything and crime unknown. It's not only a great place to holiday but a thriving all year round local community making it perfect for out of season holidays or over-wintering.
What you won't find is full English breakfasts, Sunday roasts or international coffee and burger chains but I think the greatest recommendation for the area is the number of people who fall under its spell and return year after year or even buy there own slice of paradise here.
Which of your properties would you recommend to families visiting Válor for the first time?
For families, I would recommend either Las Cañadas, a beautiful old Cortijo with three bedrooms and two bathrooms less than 10 minutes walk from the village or Casa Tog, a more modern villa with two bedrooms and two bathrooms a pleasant 30 minute walk away. For families preferring to be in the village, there's also Casa Naranja with it's wonderful shady veranda and huge living room complete with a baby grand piano. All of these have great family sized pools as well as dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves, wifi and everything else you need for a comfortable family holiday.
What would you recommend for people to do in Válor?
Everybody should enjoy the Tapas experience at least once on their holiday, you just can't beat chilling with a glass of wine and a tasty morsel taking in the view and watching the world go by!
If you’re lucky enough to be here mid-September there's the Fiesta of Moors & Christians which takes place over four days with parades, live music, dancing until the madrugada and, the highlight, a re-enactment of the battle for the Alhambra complete with muskets and horses charging around the village square.
In December there's the expo in Ugijar showcasing all the local artisan products of the area, cheeses, honey, jamon, chorizo, chocolate and wine are all available for sampling and purchase.
On a quieter note you can picnic next to the stream under the old Roman bridge or at Cuesta Viñas where you can try the amazing naturally carbonated spring water. There are also numerous local walks, many of which enter the natural park adjoining the village. Feel free to help yourself to the figs, pomegranates, mulberries, asparagus and almonds which grow wild along the way or simply wallow in the scent of the wild rosemary.
But the best thing about Válor is the pace of life, you just can't help slowing down and relaxing and after all, that's what holidays are all about!
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