Welcome back to We Follow The Sun

  It’s been almost exactly a year since we arrived in our new home in Cabo de Gata. After the intensity of life in our little blue van, arriving to our new house with running water, showers and a kitchen, felt like utter luxury. I had grand plans to live a self-sufficient life, and to write about it, but in the end I became so engrossed in actually settling in that I haven’t written anything. I feel somewhat guilty about this. On the journey I could talk about other people, and the places we visited, but now we were fixed in one place and I wasn't sure what the next chapter should be.

  What was We Follow The Sun about now that we had found our home? The self-sufficient lifestyle? Moving to Andalusia? Setting up an online business? I did not feel like an authority on any of these subjects as I began to clumsily feel my way in establishing myself in our little house. Did I have to live in a certain way just to have material for the blog? While I love that we live as sufficiently as we do, I'm no eco-warrior. So I thought about it a lot and didn’t write and before I knew it a year had passed.

I could have written about the struggles we had in the first few months, the plague of fleas that devoured us just after we arrived, our initial failure to master the use of solar power, the issues we had with the plumbing that saw Carlos charging around the house with rubber gloves and a home-made plunger he learned to make from a video on youtube. I could have written about adopting our two little doggies and falling immediately and completely in love with them.I could have written of the days when I wondered what on earth I’d done, and then the days that followed them when I woke up to the view outside our house and literally wept with joy. 

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I could have written about how fat we got on the tapas and beers in our village bar (these kilos have now been shed!), and the people we’ve met from artists to goatherds. I could have written about how much our lives have changed, how we don’t have a TV, how we drink less, talk more, play cards, spend time in nature and about the incredible peace we enjoy in our new home. I could have also written about running an online business from a remote farmhouse, and the highs and lows that have followed. I could have written about the first year of our marriage, and the hard times when we struggle to adjust to life as a team, and the beautiful times when we feel utterly cocooned in our shared plans and love for eachother. In the end I lived these moments privately.

One of the questions everyone asks is if I get bored in my new life. Bored? I don’t have time for boredom! There is always something to do, even if that something is doing nothing. On days when I find myself too closely following a routine learnt in my former city life, I make sure I go outside and work on our land for an hour, or walk with my dogs in the hills that surround our home, or go to the beach. Why live here otherwise, if you don’t take time to enjoy it?

And so now a year in we are established. Friends and family have come to visit, and sharing our life here with them is wonderful. They love the peace and tranquility here and return home relaxed and with their batteries charged. I go to London every few months and see friends and family, catch up on work projects, and do the things I do miss, like going to the cinema or eating dimsum or tacos. But I am always happy to come home to our cortijo in Andalusia. And after a year it really feels like home. I’ve been working on an interior design project, consulting on a new restaurant and helping Carlos run his  business. Life is, surprisingly, busier than ever, but I’m living on my own terms. And now this year it’s time for We Follow The Sun to take on a new life and become the space in which to create a long-nurtured dream, a place to marry my twin passions of travel and design. 

I have a new atelier and store in the village of Agua Amarga, close to where we live. And this year, as I’m already somewhere inspiring, the collection will be based on Cabo de Gata in Andalusia. I aim to take the sights, smells, sounds and ambiance of the region and design a homewares and accessories collection which evoke this wild and mysterious place that I now call home. It’s a big task, and sometimes my to-do list feels overwhelming. Like partners in crime, Carlos and I often look at each other and start laughing because what we’re doing just seems so crazy. Nothing changes there then!

When I feel the fear, or the voice of doubt starts to gnaw at me, I look back at the last year and a half of my life, and remind myself how far we’ve already come.

Thanks for following the sun with us.

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Al-Andalus

Our new home

Our new home

  So much has happened since I last wrote - we moved in to a real house with walls, a shower and our own toilets (Oh the luxury!), we cleaned and painted said house and started clearing the land, we got a dog who we've named Lola, and we've settled in to life here in a sleepy corner of Andalucia. Sam is here of course, and we now have a very rattly Renault panel van to add to the family. Our house is self-sufficient so we use water pumped from a nearby well, solar-generated electricity and solar-heated water. I'll be starting to write soon about our adventure into a more sustainable style of living, as well as continuing to share our travels. These are by no means coming to an end. 

  Happily, my mother came to stay and so she and I went to Granada for the day. She took me to see the Alhambra when I was 14 years old, while on holiday in Malaga. It left a lasting impression, and it was such a pleasure to take her back to the city and to see the spectacular Arabic palaces and gardens perched above it. Driving up in to the Sierra Nevada as the sun came up we passed rainbow after rainbow, as rain fell through the morning sun.

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Mama braves the weather

Mama braves the weather

Normally heaving, the cold and rain in Granada had kept the crowds away and we were blessed to be able to experience the Alhambra in relative peace.

An almond tree in flower by one of the palace gates

An almond tree in flower by one of the palace gates

We wandered through the gardens, passing the baths that once stood next to a beautiful mosque.

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From the Alcazaba fortress you can look across to the Albaicin, the rambling neighbourhood that tumbles down the hill opposite and whose Medieaval Moorish streets have been declared a world heritage site. Later we would lunch at the fabulous Mirador de Morayma in the heart of the Albaicin, with spectacular views of the palace we had just explored.

View to the Albaicin

View to the Albaicin

The Alcazaba bell

The Alcazaba bell

 Our time slot arrived to view the Nasrid Palace complex, the heart of the Alhambra, and arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Complex plasterwork decorations, beautiful tiles, dizzying ceiling designs, intricate joinery and everywhere the play of light and water are just some of the elements these 14th-century Arabic architects used in its creation. When the Spaniards conquered Granada in the last 15th century, they were so awe-struck by the beauty of the palaces that they preserved them intact.

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Fountain in one of the palace's many courtyards

Fountain in one of the palace's many courtyards

Tilework and a door panel

Tilework and a door panel

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Wooden ceiling panel

Wooden ceiling panel

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Wooden door detail

Wooden door detail

View in to the royal baths

View in to the royal baths

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A replica of the famous Gazelle vase

A replica of the famous Gazelle vase

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The Lion Courtyard

The Lion Courtyard

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Royal bathhouse

Royal bathhouse

View from the Generalife to the Nasrid Palace

View from the Generalife to the Nasrid Palace

View of the Alhambra from the Albaicin

View of the Alhambra from the Albaicin

After a long lunch we wandered down through the Albaicin, drinking Moroccan tea with Baklava, and hitting the shops before the drive south to home.

 

Our favourite spots in Granada:

The Alhambra - get your tickets in advance or risk disappointment

www.alhambra-tickets.es/

 

Restaurante Mirador de Morayma - excellent food/wine, unmissable views

http://miradordemorayma.com/en/

 

Hammam Al Andalus - gorgeous Arabic baths

http://granada.hammamalandalus.com/en

 

Abaco Te - excellent Moorish-style teahouse

www.abacote.com

 

Alquimia Pervane - atmospheric natural perfume shop - great for gifts

www.alquimiapervane.com