The rebirth of Casa Albondiga Azul and Casa Victoria

pre-reno-1Southern Galicia was the place – we knew that – and especially the Ribeira Sacra with its Mediterranean micro-climate and stunning canyons. So in 2008 we set off in our trusty Landrover to look for a property to renovate.

Few estate agents exist in this part of Galicia, so with the help of local friends we viewed several properties in the northern part of Ourense province, close to the Canon de Sil. This terrace of buildings on the edge of the village, especially appealed as it had such interesting potential; the land was attached and good, and the stone walls of the properties, even though mainly roofless and derelict, were in perfect order.

Just buying the properties proved a challenge, as there were eleven different owners to negotiate with, all unregistered titles. But eventually we won through and started making plans for rehabilitation. By an enormous piece of luck we were introduced to our architect Inaki Mendizabal, who was completely in tune with our idea of an eco-friendly renovation.

casa 1 pre renovationWe wanted to use as little cement used as possible, and so lime mortar fills the stone walls. We have wooden floors, using local chestnut planks, and some oak. The internal doors from one part were good enough to use for the whole house. And where there were no beams remaining, our builder used ancient chestnut ones reclaimed from elsewhere. The wonderful use of roof windows to “borrow” light to the dark backs of the buildings where they are built into the rock of the hillside has given an unexpected brightness to the build, along with the incorporation of much glass too, giving a feeling of space and light. The external windows and doors are all made by our local carpenter, Carlos, but using up-to-the-moment double glazing and rubber seals. We have used Asturian natural wool insulation wherever possible, and local granite worktops in the kitchens. Our local builder, Pepe and his wonderful team of men made the transformation possible.

Two internal balconies solved the problem of keeping the upstairs living quarters away from the rock walls, and now fabulous ferns are slowly growing from some of the crevices. The house is warm enough in winter, and cool and calm during the hot Galician summer. We have an Ecoforest wood pellet boiler, a carbon neutral local fuel, which serves the central heating and hot water, plus a solar hot water panel. We plan solar electricity in the near future, for there is rarely a day when the sun does not shine even in the depths of winter.

Casa 5 Pre-Restoration
downstairs bed room twin bed 300

Casa Victoria consists of the last two buildings in the row, and serves as our guest accomodation for friends and family, and our occasional paying visitors. All our guests have access to the garden at the side of the main house, where there is now a guest sitting area, close to the fruit trees , and the flowers and vegetables of our totally organic plot.

It has been a great adventure relocating to Spain, and through imagination and vision we have brought back to life these 250 year old buildings – we hope you will come and experience them for yourselves.

casa albondiga y victoria aftercasa 1 after

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