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Peter and Ingrid

We are Peter and Ingrid; on April 1 we opened our B & B El Refugio in Alcaucín.

After having had a tapas bar (El Toro) in Herentals for 5 years, it was time for us to start a new adventure. As our love for Spain was so great, the choice was quickly made. After looking for a while, thanks to Geert and Patricia we eventually found this property, in the middle of some lovely nature, with a nature park of 40000ha as a garden and on the other side a view of lake Viñuela. And for those who love the coast, it is 25km to Torre del Mar.

Peter en IngridWe offer our guests nice clean rooms with air conditioning, a spacious terrace with pool and a large common dining and sitting area. If desired, there is also the possibility to eat in the evening. For more info you can always visit our website www.casaruralelrefugio.eu or on facebook: 'El Refugio Alcaucín'.

Filip, Valerie and son Cédric

Since January 2011 we, Philippe Cappelle, 40 years old, Valerie Sartelet, 37 years and our son Cedric, 10, have been living in southern Spain. We both had been working in education before. In Belgium we had it very to our liking and we frequently traveled. At one point we were so excited that one day we would take the big step and start a new life in a warmer place ...

But "one day" came sooner than expected! In February 2010, during the Carnival holiday, we went to Portugal without telling anyone of our plans. We had built twice in Belgium and we wanted to build again, but now in the south. In the Easter holidays we went back, but there was always something that stopped us. We even had to cope with a sudden spoil-sport: the ash cloud. We could not get home. This was actually annoying for us because it made us miss the first days of school after the holidays, and also our colleagues did not know we had gone.

filip en valerieOur first idea was to convert a ruin to a completely finished, beautiful new building. Those plans were soon abandoned when we heard how long it would take before we could even start. Two to three years ... longer than we could wait. Our son is ten years and now is the perfect time to emigrate. In a few years he will be in full adolescence, and perhaps will be more attached to his friends and his surroundings.

We kept on searching, but in a different direction. We were now looking for houses that needed minor reforms; but after months of searching, we could not really find what we were looking for. Until one evening we heard on television that now was the right time to buy property in Spain. From then on everything went very quickly, we chose a new destination: Andalusia! This was not unknown terrain to us. In 1994 we had been there on our engagement trip. Already then did we have the idea of 'one day' coming to live in Spain... a romantic idea, or not?

Among the multitude of ads, we immediately found houses that appealed to us. Without hesitating, we called Hogar Creativo. At that time we had never heard of Patricia and Geert. Immediately we got on so well that we decided straight away to come here. A week later they took us on a three days' house hunt. The one before last house we saw impressed us. We were all just as speechless, moved by the beauty of a typical house on the outskirts of the village Riogordo. Everything was just right: the house, the land, the views, the easy access, the nearby facilities, ... The choice was quickly made. We traded our homeland Belgium for our Spanish dream.

Bienvenido en España!


Dirk, Martine and son Robin

With the opening of our Bed & Breakfast Los Montes in May 2011, we made our long-time dream come true. After talking to our youngest son, Robin, we had decided to take the step. It was now or never. I had a nice career in the insurance world, while Dirk had been working around the clock for many years in a chemical company in the port of Antwerp. More and more we longed for a different kind of life. A life without the hustle and bustle, with time for each other and for our family.

After a long search that included Australia, southern France and northern Spain, we found our dream in Andalucía. We immediately fell in love with the wonderful climate, the nature, the space, the tranquility, the beautiful culture and the relaxed atmosphere. After exploring the whole of Andalucía, we decided for the Axarquía, in Málaga.

Dirk en MartineA program about Belgians in search of a property in Andalusia brought us into contact with Hogar Creativo. Geert and Patricia have helped us enormously in exploring the region. They took us with them property hunting. We looked for a place that was well located, easily accessible, not too far from the coast, but still a place where you can relax. In addition, we had to take into account our son, Robin. The boy of 14, pulled away from his world in Belgium, also had to go to school. In July last year we found our finca. It was actually the first house we visited in the vicinity of Viñuela that seemed to fit our plans for a B & B. Our dream became reality.

After talking to Geert and Patricia we took a lawyer to get the paper mill in motion. Also through Hogar Creativo, we contacted a contractor to do the necessary conversion work. By September, we had bought our finca and we could start planning to move to Viñuela. We moved in early January. A few days after our arrival, Robin went to his new school. Meanwhile, he has integrated well and likes it here. He already speaks quite some Spanish. We have had a busy time with the renovation works, but our B & B gradually starts to take shape. A few more weeks and we can start. A dream come true.

Dirk and Martine


Hans and Anne-Loes

For years we had been having adventurous thoughts of moving to Spain, and preferably to Andalucía. A big step one does not take just like that and that, in spite of a lot of thinking and dreaming, often is pushed aside again by all sorts of other things like work and other personal circumstances. Similarly with us, all the time there were other priorities and our need for adventure we satisfied by traveling to different countries. In September 2006 however we decided to get serious about our emigration dream and see if we could make it come true.

Nearly two years passed before we actually made the big step. After searching for nearly one year, 5 May 2008 was for us not only literally but also figuratively "Liberation Day". On that day, the deed was signed at the notary and since then we are the proud owners of a house in the village of Arenas, located in the Axarquia at about 45 minutes from Málaga airport. On July 14 we left the Netherlands for our new home.

Hans En Anne-LoesWe are currently hard at work renovating and decorating our house to achieve our goal by October 1, 2008: opening our own Bed & Breakfast. That leaves us at the moment too little opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery and, very important: to learn proper Spanish. For the moment, we keep to our priorities and hope to more than compensate for that "damage" after finishing the works. So for now, our contact with real Spanish life is rather limited, but we have not regretted our move for one moment.

We do miss our family and friends, but fortunately we can look forward to several visits in the near future. For the moment there's not a lot more for us to tell, but soon we will gladly provide an update regarding our experiences. Hopefully we can then report a good start of our B & B Casa Agradable.

www.casagradable.com Hans and Anne-Loes Schellekens

Robin and Ine

Before emigrating we lived in Valkenswaard, a fun and lively Dutch village near the Belgian border. The last 5 years we have zoomed in on Spain (holidays and longer stays), so as to find the place of our dreams. To our taste, Holland was getting too stuffy, too crowded, too full, too intolerant and with too many traffic jams.

Robin en IneHowever, living in Spain has made us appreciate the well-organized Dutch society. Here in the south of Spain everything takes much longer, there is more bureaucracy and having an "enchufe"-ie the right contacts, is indispensable to get something arranged quickly. Still, we like it a lot here, we have now built a new circle of friends, a nice house in the campo and we enjoy the peace and quiet and the absence of traffic jams.

However it is not so easy to make a living here. Jobs do not grow on every bush; as a result, many of us expats start an own company. We ourselves are still starting up and are working hard on our new future: Ine currently runs a holiday rental company, making use of her extensive experience in renting residential property in the Netherlands.

I was mainly coaching staff, from secretary courses to manager training. Developing this branch in the south of Spain is a real challenge, but gradually I'm gaining access to the more internationally oriented companies and I also organize multi-day courses for (Dutch) foreigners, some of whom follow the course as an incentive. In hope of succes!

Johan and Sonja

It is now 6 years ago that we traded gray Belgium for beautiful, sunny Spain. And believe me, life here is wonderful! We live in Canillas de Aceituno, a white mountain village in Andalucía, about an hour's drive from Málaga. We have already adapted very well, mainly thanks to our good knowledge of the Spanish language. Knowing Spanish is quite essential here, especially in a mountain village. The people are very friendly and generous. Regularly we get given a bag full of delights the land has to offer: oranges, lemons, grapes, avocados, ... It makes us happy, it is a silent witness of friendship and appreciation. Andalusians are proud of their land, they will maintain that THEIR olive oil, THEIR wine, is the best in the whole of Spain, indeed in the whole world. And you know, they may be right. At any time of day you are welcome and get offered a glass of "vino del terreno" (= home-made wine).

Johan en SonjaLife is a lot slower here, less stressful than in Belgium. Here we have still time for many things ánd each other. Everything is "mañana". Yet sometimes, this can be a source of annoyance: they are not very conscientious when it comes to agreements, and showing up half an hour late or not showing up at all does not seem to bother anyone. If you can not get used to things like that, you'll have a hard time adapting here.

We have many Spanish friends, but they don't come just like that. I sing in the local (church) choir; the music and the songs are great, really 'flamenco'. During the festival period we go for trips and sing at village fairs. It's fun and also a good way to get to know a lot of people and villages. Together with my Spanish neighbours I learned to dance the 'Sevillana'. On each party we go for it and there are many parties here! Every year we are present at the annual "matanza" (= pig slaughtering party). We help make blood-sausage and "chorizo".

Quite an experience for a city dweller who had never seen a pig up close. Everything is still done in a very primitive way, but that's just the charm of it. Fortunately at home we can enjoy the luxury so indispensable to us. There is something for everyone here: culture, nature, good food and lots of sun!

We do not miss much here. Our life is rich: a mix of Spanish and North-European elements. We take the best of both worlds. After some 'experiments' concerning work and the necessary adjustment to a new culture, we have our lives back under control. Johan works for a company installing air conditioning, heating and solar panels. I give Spanish classes to foreigners and English classes to Spaniards and also work part-time in a plumbing shop. That way we practice our Spanish every day and stand with both feet in the real Spanish life. It's very different but interesting. We are staying here, here is our new home. The bad weather, traffic jams, crime, high taxes, ... we're not sorry to leave behind. ¡Viva España!

Joost and Moira

A busy job in the Netherlands; 50,000 km per year in the car. More and more traffic jams. More and more stress. In 1999 we first came to Andalucía. In the beginning not with the idea of moving permanently, but only for holidays: to find some peace & quiet.

The more we came to Andalucía, the better we liked its way of life. Many holidays later, it was only a small step to leave the job in the Netherlands behind and start something new here. We bought an old property in the village and made it into a B&B.

Of course we have had the inevitable setbacks, like those in tv programs about emigration ("Wish you were here" or "A place in the sun").

Joost en MoiraYes, sometimes our preconceptions prove correct: mañana (literally tomorrow) here means maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after tomorrow, maybe next week or next month, but in any case not today. Arrangements are rather flexible. But if you can live with that, life here is perfect. There is a lot of bureaucracy, but it's bureaucracy with a smile. Take your time and everything will work out. Never think you can arrange something in one day. At best, the first day you get instructions on how to proceed the next day.

Our work and interests have remained more or less the same as before in the Netherlands: Moira is giving sculpture and mosaic courses here. I (Joost) take care of the sports department of the company (organizing walking holidays), and I finally have found the time to focus more on one of my passions: writing. Here, we work in a much more relaxed way.

We never go back to the Netherlands. We may occasionally miss the curly kale, licorice or peanut butter, things you can not get here, but visiting friends will gladly bring with them.

Ben and Sonja

After our trip around the world, we could no longer find our peace in the Netherlands. Work felt boring and stressful at the same time; it was clear that we needed more time off. We felt the solution for our craving would be to move to an interesting place with a nice climate.

After some theorizing and coming back to earth, we dropped the destinations "outer Europe" and chose for Andalucía. Finding a suitable home was not easy given the messy Spanish property market: it would seem that everybody offers himself as an agent and it's a real challenge to find a reliable party to expertly assist you during your search. Another problem is that you can find the same properties at different agencies, at different prices and sometimes with different descriptions and photos. It actually happened with a few properties for me to see twice, offered by different agents and at different prices!

Ben en SonjaFinding a suitable housing starts with a reputable real estate agent or advisor who guides you throughout your search, because you won't always make it on your own.

Our dream house turned out be a traditional Spanish cortijo (farm). Since October 2007 , we have been renovating it into a B & B. The first weeks in Spain were very intense and tiring, everything being new and unfamiliar. It is clear however that the Malagueños are very patient and helpful people. Luckily the service of our property advisor went beyond simply selling, and at all times we could count on all sorts of practical and useful tips that have saved us a lot of time and certainly have accelerated our integration process .

Meanwhile it suits us just fine here; we live near the cosy village of Colmenar, where you can still do your shopping at the butcher, the baker and the grocer around the corner and where one can still enjoy the local stories and gossip.

During the weekends, we are often out: trekking in the Sierra Nevada or the Alpujarras, city trips to Málaga, Granada, Córdoba, ... or enjoying the southern sun on one of the many beaches. The Costa del Sol still has great beaches, far away from mass tourism, where you can enjoy a grilled sardine and a fresh glass of wine between the Spanish people.

Meanwhile, we have more or less settled; our first rooms and guest houses are now ready to be rented: lovers of "nature pure" and tranquility are more than welcome!


Marc and Mireille

For us Spain is a very nice, large country, both in cultural and culinary terms. Being treated to 320 days of sun a year and panoramic sea and mountain views every day, is a welcome relief. Another plus is the Spanish ease of manner, in stark contrast with the competitive atmosphere in our own country.

Marc en MireilleIn other words, life is a lot healthier and far less stressful here. Also significantly cheaper, with taxes being lower than in Belgium. For us, the good weather continues being the topping on the cake, followed by the absence of the endless daily traffic jams, which we have finally escaped.

Because we are running a business, we experience the 'siesta', and the looseness of the people in their arrangements, as drawbacks. To start a business you better have a good financial buffer, since everything here takes 2x longer than in Belgium. But once started, doing business is more relaxed than in most Northern European countries.

Overall, it was not a difficult transition for us, since we already had been visiting the region for 10 years. Permanently living in a country is something different than coming on holiday, of course. Once you've taken the step, it is important to integrate. That is why we are both learning the language and do our best to adapt to the Spanish customs and way of working.

There are of course a few Belgian things we miss: brown sugar, our delicious chocolate and also curry. The many friends and acquaintances who come to visit more than compensate for this, regularly smuggling the greatest delicacies to us. Family and friends often come on a visit, so also socially we don't miss a lot. We never think about returning really; actually after every visit to Belgium we are more eager to come back to Spain.


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