Well it has been some time since we have found our way back to our web site to update our friends and followers. There is so much progress to share! When we last posted, we were just getting our renovation of the stone farmhouse underway. We had left our Beautiful Boot in May 2012 in midst of gutting her interior in preparation for the new construction. On our return in September 2012, we came face to face with the first lesson of foreign development – absentee landlords do not inspire steady work! We realized that our presence is what makes the work go on. The good news was that the first floor had been completely gutted, turning the livestock pens and feeding troughs into the open space where our albergue kitchen will be built.
With our arrival, our construction team went into full action! The old interior walls were removed, revealing a breathtaking second floor which would house our walkers at night. It was now time to plan where our pension room, bunk beds and washrooms would go. It struck us that we would soon loose the magnificence of her open space as new walls would go back up, and with them, the loss of her welcoming openness. The view in this picture is of the southern wall where the toilets, showers, and sinks will be installed for our guests. The wooden structure on the left is the opening for the staircase that will bring guests up from the reception area and then up to the loft where seven single beds will await our guests.
The walls started to go up – one brick at a time. Carlos, our intrepid contractor can be seen here building the wall that will divide the private pension room that will offer those walkers seeking more privacy a quiet reprieve with their own bathroom and shower. From this view we can see the north wall. The door on the left is the main entrance to the second floor and the sleeping area of the albergue. The stairs are on the left and we can see one of the windows that showcases the beauty of the lower pastures in the foreground and the Spanish mountains in the background. Widow seats allow quests to ponder the beautiful views from each of the seven windows on the second floor, including those that can be found in each of the male and female bathrooms.
It was time to figure out where we would lay out the bunk-beds. Our scientific approach had Geof lying down in each of the planned areas to determine the size and nature of each bed’s location. We were challenged by the somewhat conflicting objectives of maximizing the sleeping accommodation while creating a warm and friendly environment. The window on the left looks over the lower pasture, while the one on the right looks out onto the Camino and the cafe area. The longer we stood in the space, the greater our desire came to draw our quests into a welcoming shelter. We came to the conclusion that a fireplace in the corner between the two windows would create the type of warm and cozy environment that would draw wet and cold walkers to the albergue on those nights when the rainy season dominated the walking experience.
While we waited for the steel trusses of the albergue’s roof to be constructed, it was time to start on the “tower” – our code name for the new house in which we will live. It fondly was named for the fact that our house stands a floor higher that its sister farmhouse! The Albergue’s dining room is located in the area to the left of the concrete wall. It sits on the ground level, beside the kitchen and is accessible from both the front (Camino side) and the back where the main entrance to the sleeping area on the second floor is located. Our new little home will sit perched with its first floor acting as the ceiling of the dining room. The Camino winds it way in the background – a handy wave away from our open cafe in front of the stone farmhouse.
Progress over October, November and December held no bounds. Even through the deluge of the rainy season, our committed team worked through ongoing showers running between their old trusty cement maker and our sweetly evolving abode. Before too long we were able to see our vision unfold before our very eyes.
Meanwhile, our steel trusses for the Albergue were being assembled at a factory 5 km away. Geof, Carlos, Paulo (our architect) and our steel men had been diligently designing the Eiffel of Cerdal! Inspired by the Eiffel bridge in Porto as well as the tower by the same name in Paris, Geof was committed to designing a roof that would not only stand the test of time, but would also capture the imagination of our guests as they entered the second floor. It was with incredible excitement that we made our way to the factory floor when we got the call that our roof was ready for view!
The mastery of the design was obvious as we studied the angles and the bolting of the beams. There was no question that our walkers would be protected from weather of any kind while sleeping under these trusses!
Within a couple of weeks, our steel structure had been chemically treated, disassembled, transported to our site and reassembled on top of the Albergue ready for its wooden supports and roofing tiles.
So as to maintain the construction pace of both of our structures, our work team worked hard to give the Tower its own roof and walls. Risking his physical well being, Carlos climbed onto roof of the Tower to portray the internal design of the Albergue’s second floor.
Now back in Canada (January 2013) we were able to see the layout, enabling us to rethink some of the internal wall structures. Seizing the rare opportunity of experiencing the design from above, we are now rethinking our original ideas in order to open up the beauty of the space. In our world, walls can go up and they can come down. Stay tuned to find out where our thinking has taken us!