I haven’t done a blog about guests for a while since all was quiet from mid-November to January. Well, not quiet. Some fairly hectic winter-proofing in the guest rooms was required. Thing was, when I first listed the rooms on Airbnb and HomeAway in May last year my first (and for a while only) response was from a Belgian couple who wanted the front room for 3 months starting February. That was, frankly, terrifying. The guest rooms, like most older Spanish houses, had shuttered windows, but no sissy namby-pamby modernities like glass, what for you need glass, is a bedroom, you only need shutters? The newly created guest living room boasted a kettle and open toaster and not a lot else.
My wanting-to-self-cater Belgians lit a bit of a rocket: having not thought about winter bookings at all, I had to refocus towards the can’t-afford-to-turn-down 3 month booking. Turned out, purest luck. Radiators were snapped up all summer whenever I saw a bargain, a sink was plumbed into the living room during a gap between bookings, a two-plate electric hob, pots and pans, were added to the tiny guest oven in the pantry cupboard. My local wand-waving DIY friend Nick, who performs miracles as standard, worked out a way of adding glass to the original shutters in the front room just in time for me to accept a January booking from a young American lass on her way to a 5 month teaching post on the coast. She chose to stay here for a week while looking for an apartment near the school because I spoke English, and she could therefore ask endless questions, some of which I could answer, and vent hilariously about the frustrations of Spain vs America. Like the day she was to report at her new school – she caught the Velez coach into Motril, then hopped on the coast bus to her destination. The driver either forgot, or hadn’t understood, where she wanted to get off. She was swept past and to the next stop, 8 km further. He shrugged, and told her to catch the next bus back. There aren’t many buses on the coastal road . . . the next was due in an hour and a half. The taxi company she phoned refused to travel so far. Almost in tears she tried to flag down drivers heading that way but (oh how times have changed) has never hitched in her life, so instead of sticking out her thumb she waved. Drivers waved back, and kept going.
She also had expected Spain to be hot hot hot all the time so her only warm piece of clothing was her jacket and the radiators and heaters I’d bought were pressed into urgent service. It is sunny nearly all the time but temperatures drop sharply overnight in mid-winter and can hover just above zero. However her general attitude was incredibly positive, she was a fun guest to have, and we bundled up well and traipsed off to the tiny local evening parade of the Kings on January 6th. (The third king was caught up in a photoshoot off to the side in this snap)
There was enough of a gap after her stay to get the back room’s windows glazed, in time for my first actual English guest (I’ve had guests who live in England, but they were Polish) who was scoping out the Granada area for his 50th birthday celebrations next year. He and his friends are into golf and ski-ing so he was out and about every day testing golf-courses in one direction or shooting up into the Sierra Nevada in the other so I only ever saw him as a fleeting shadow past the study window on his way out or back upstairs to recover from the day’s exertions.
The day after he left it was, finally, time for my game-changing Belgians to arrive. Over the months since their original booking the 3 months had changed to 6 weeks, then shrunk finally down to 10 days, and I had begun to wonder if the booking would ever happen at all. They turned out to be lovely but, wait for this, I don’t think they ever cooked a single meal at home, they too were out and about every day!
They’ve bought off plan along the coast and will, they said, be back so they can monitor progress on their apartment. Hope so, because they’re super guests, scrupulously not only replacing everything they used of the supplies provided but even upgrading the quality. He came down the first night to ask how much I charged for anything they took from the fridge or pantry (no no, on the house) and then a little later to say the lights had blown, he had now unplugged two of the heaters and could I show him the fusebox? I refused to feel guilty, he was wearing only a t-shirt (in February) so it obviously wasn’t that cold up there.
Some guests want to chat, some are completely self-sufficient. The original plan was to attract writers but apart from my first guest, working on his thesis, the majority have been, oddly enough, teachers (including the Belgians) and all have been out and about most of the time, none more so than the Dublin cyclist who appeared next. He was extraordinary, not only cycling merrily up to villages like Trevélez (1476m above sea-level up a road so steep I had been hyperventilating in a car) but bringing back fistfuls of beach-stones for the atrium when he did coastal rides. He’d also bring one of the local wines down to the atrium of an evening to chat about the day. In a week he learned way more about every village, vineyard and smokery in a 40 kilometre radius than I have learned in 15 months, which is a little embarrassing.
This area is big with cyclists, one is forever dodging them on the hills or having heart attacks rounding sharp bends to find groups of them taking up most of the road. My next booking, after the refurbishment break, is a couple of German cyclists, at this rate I may need to plan in a neat cycle rack for the hallway.
I booked myself off teaching for 2 days, planning a lazy weekend which turned instead into a rush for a last minute booking from a Madrid couple for the weekend, but they aren’t exactly intrusive – up at 11 am and off to explore Velez, and I know they plan to explore the Lecrin valley and Alpujarras while they’re here. He speaks about as much English as I do Spanish, she has no English at all, so we limp along in bilingual confusion – they did appal me en route by asking via whatsapp, in Spanish, for directions, Google Translate don’t let me down now! My spellcheck was a curse, trying firmly to change every word as I hastily typed but they made it and sent a polite whatsapp from outside – “estamos en la puerta”, we are at the door. The equivalent of chapping at a door in Spain is usually to lean on the doorbell while simultaneously hammering on the door itself so I’m guessing they didn’t want to rouse the house so late at night in case it was the wrong place. Note to self – get a sign for the front door.
It’s been a lively start to the year already with spring on its way, I’ve shed the fleece for dog-walking already and will shortly be packing away the radiators and hauling out the standing fans instead … two years ago I had just seen the house for the first time and was in a wistful wouldn’t-it-be-nice-don’t-be-silly reverie. Life stores up some very odd surprises.