This year has been a tough and busy year for Claire and me and before we knew it summer was fast approaching and we didn't have any plans for our summer holiday other than we needed a holiday and really didn't want to do very much, including actually booking the holiday :-) . After a lot of procrastinating and surfing the internet, considering and soon dismissing luxury 5-star all-inclusive tropical holidays, Claire and I finally settled on the idea of renting a villa in Spain for two weeks with no real plans other than to just relax and recuperate, and if that meant two weeks of constant sunshine and sleep, then so be it.
Of course, once we decided we liked the idea of renting a villa in Spain, we had to decide where. Neither of us knew the Spanish coast particularly well so we didn't know where we wanted to stay. What we did know is where we didn't want to stay: right in the middle of any town or city that is aimed purely at the Brits. We believe firmly in the "When in Rome, do as the Romans" expression, which means taking in the culture, food, language and generally enjoying the different way of life. Most places aimed at the Brits-abroad have been "Brit-i-cised" and lot of things are adapted to the English taste (or sometimes lack there of) and desires at the expense of the local culture. Cash is king after all.
Anyway, a quick search on Google soon revealed a sight specialising in holiday villas in Spain - Find the Real Spain - and I noticed one particularly attractive and impressive looking villa - Casa del Monte. I quickly emailed Claire the link and after a few days of reviewing all their properties we thought "What the heck" and booked it, which I might add was quite painless and very efficiently done. I comment because the booking process involves expressing an interest in a property, receiving confirmation of availability via email and then confirming and accepting the booking by paying via PayPal. As I said, this was painless and very efficient. Next I booked the flights and car hire and then it was just a matter of waiting until 2 October.
In order to meet the representative from Find the Real Spain to show us to and around the villa at a decent hour, we had to leave London at 8:15am, which meant being at the airport at some silly hour in the morning again. Normally we catch the RailAir coach from Reading, but given the time of the morning, we'd have to pay for a taxi to get us to Reading as the trains don't run that early. As we needed to pay for a taxi anyway, we opted to pay for it direct to Heathrow and what a good idea. We got to travel in style in a very large swanky Merc to the airport. Comfortable and relaxing door-to-door transfer for only slightly more than it would have cost us to catch the RailAir coach - what a perfect start to the holiday.
Once at Heathrow we had a little hitch with the luggage at check-in. BA's limit is 23kg per person. Perfectly reasonable and we had nowhere near that much luggage. However, this is also the limit per bag. We only had one suitcase and it weighed in at 27kg. If we didn't make it lighter, it would cost us another £30. A little bit of digging later and two books removed, we managed to just sneak in at 23kg exactly, though I think the check-in lady kindly turned a blind eye. On arrival I remembered why it was so heavy - I had my Gorillapod in the bottom. Ooops. Once checked in it was the usual wait, check out the tax-free shops, board the plane, fly, land, kill time in Madrid airport, board the next plane, fly, arrive in Valencia, pick up our suitcase, locate the stop for the hire car courtesy bus, go to hire car garage, sign the paper work for the hire car, pay the petrol deposit, and after three attempts to open the car door whilst trying to change gears (I'd only every driven an automatic left-hand drive car prior to this), we hit the motorway down to the Jalon valley.
Just over an hour and a half later - roadworks and extra caution needed to get used to the car slowed us a bit - we met Simon from Find the Real Spain in Jalon town. After a quick greeting Simon gave me directions to the nearest supermarket in Jalon and then we followed him up to the villa in the hills, just the other side of Lliber. Simon gave us a quick tour of the villa and headed on his way and I took that moment to quickly snap some pics of the villa before it obtained the lived-in look. I must say, the villa is every bit as impressive in person as it looks on the website. Big, very big, clean, tidy, beautifully decorated and kitted out with a lovely pool and fantastic views down the valley. Find the Real Spain provided all the towels (beach and bathroom) we'd need for a week (these were then changed a week later, along with the sheets) and even a little welcome pack of milk, tea, coffee, water and a bottle of wine all put away right where you'd expect them to be.
Eager to get our holiday up and running properly, Claire and I dumped our bags, popped into Jalon to grab some food and drinks for a couple of days and headed back to the villa for an easy dinner and an early night. We had a big day of doing absolutely nothing ahead of us.
I'm going to stop here for the moment. I've rabbited on quite a bit and have only covered the first day of our holiday. I'll write more posts over the coming week detailing the rest of our holiday.
In the mean time, I've uploaded all the photos I took, so head over to my gallery and enjoy.