As local economies turn to tourism, farming families all over southern Spain are converting old farmhouses – cortijo – into cozy apartments, ideal for tourists who want the sun with a splash of ethnicity.
With walled-off courtyards and swimming pools, you have all the privacy you could want, with the company of other guests – and a Spanish village just outside your door.
We stayed in one such farmhouse, Cortijo La Joya, located in the bakery village of the same name – in a 300-year-old shed, complete with original stone walls and unevenly tiled floors.
At Cortijo la joya, a former farmhouse has been converted into cozy apartments, complete with stone walls and unevenly tiled floors.
I have to concede that our shed and the other six sheds, barns and outhouses had been tastefully converted and individually decorated (incorporating everything from a corkscrew to a stove) while retaining the warmth and feel of the original farmhouse.
Best of all was the rustic bodega, once the old stables, where the feeding troughs now functioned as seats for tired and happy guests sipping wine or cold beer, swapping stories in English, Spanish and German.
Festooned with memorabilia found in the barns, the walls sported everything from beaten-up coffee grinders to scythes and tractor seats.
If you fancied something even more authentic, you could always head to the local venta bar (shop/bar) where local beers, at ridiculously low prices, were a wonderful accompaniment to the tapas on offer all day.
Very much a farmers’ hang-out, with families piling in at the weekends, it’s as rural as you’re going to get, with the best food of the surrounding villages.
The village of La Joya itself is pure Spain, lazy and hazy during the day, with old men leaning on the fountain at the central junction, chatting and amusedly watching the goings-on of the young ones.
Given the farming hinterland, you’re as likely to see a local ride into town and tie his horse to the very ornate window railings as to be gently forewarned about a herd of goats by the melodic ringing of the goat bells.
With a population of 350 (probably at weekends only), tourists are like the proverbial apple in a basket of oranges – slightly different but very welcome, nonetheless.
And the village, for all its deceptive quiet, hosts everything you could want – two bakeries for your fresh bread, rolls and pastries, daily; two bars, one doctor, one bank, one pharmacy and one church.
Oh, and the post office box is located inside a shop which sells everything from fresh meat to fishing rods. Only it doesn’t look like a shop and the front door is on a side street.
It took us two weeks to discover that, so our postcards, like life in rural Spain, arrived home at a leisurely pace and in their own good time.
Cortijo La Joya, Calle Alameda, 25, 29260 La Joya, Malaga, Spain. www.apartamentos-andalucia.com