Off with the fairies…Xana Casa Rural
¡Fresquita! says the dumpling of a lady with rosy cheeks and a big smile, and wearing a shapeless, colourless frock that doesn’t look as if it’s seen the inside of a washing machine for a couple of decades.
¡Muy buena! I reply to her back, as she trundles off to her allotment to begin the day’s ritual of watering, weeding and digging.
I continue my stroll along narrow lanes edged with dry stone walls, behind which the villagers grow their veggie basics, potatoes, beans, onions, lettuces, cabbages, and some strange tall gangling thing that I can’t put a name to other than thinking that I’ve seen it somewhere before, probably on the cover of the sci-fi book The Day of the Triffids. But it seems popular, so it must have some edible value.
I pass a field with three horses slowly chomping the grass, their tails swishing the flies away. The only sounds I can hear are the whistling of the breeze in the trees, the chirruping of birds, and the occasional bleat of sheep. Deep tranquillity and rural-ness reign.
I’m in Terriente, a short drive from the ancient walled villaged of Albarracín in Teruel Province, and I’ve spent the night at Xana, a delightful casa rural, sleeping under billowing white drapes suspended from the ceiling, like some minor potentate in the days of the Raj, and tucked under a thin blanket to guard against the welcome cool of the night – splendid after the mind-numbing heat of the coast.
Anna Gijon Caballero is the inspiration behind Xana, and when she found her future home and business there was no need to consult catalogues or design books, because she knew exactly what she wanted.
“I’ve always been lucky in that I can look at somewhere and know exactly how it will look when it is finished. Once I’ve decided on a colour scheme I never change it. I never need to, because I know that when it is finished and all the furnishings are in place it will be what I want. I think the most important thing for a casa rural is that it must show the personality and the character of the owner. I live here, so it’s my home as well as my business, and I like to make my home welcoming to visitors, and I think that’s what people feel when they walk through the door.”
Ana’s ‘home’ is a delightfully eclectic mix of modern and classic; the beautiful arched wooden entrance door leads into a foyer with walls washed in yeso de Albaracín, the rich red earth of the region mixed with plaster that gives a lovely pale pink finish, exposed stone, old wooden beams, pale-blue painted bovadillos, all providing a backdrop to eastern carvings, ornate silver-framed mirrors and chunky rustic furniture. I smile at the decadence of the rich cream chaise longue in the entrance, tantalisingly draped with a mock leopard skin.
Where clients now relax in the long cosy lounge, with its fireplace tucked in the corner for winter evenings, sheep and pigs would once have lived, their body heat warming the living area above. The trough now holds magazines and books, and other than that all trace of the room’s former occupants is gone.
“I wanted to keep as many of the original features as possible, and that’s why we kept the trough. I like the idea that people can now relax in a place that you can genuinely say was once only fit for pigs!”
Most of the rooms have double beds – not common in Spanish hotels – with hanging drapes that add an air of luxurious romanticism. (Sadly, I stayed on my own, but I have a good imagination!) The theme of classic/modern runs through the house, but each bedroom has its own little design idiosyncrasy; a Chinese black lacquered cupboard here, a creamy white distressed table there, and a mosaic-like Klimt image of gold leaf and a vivid patchwork of colours elsewhere. The overall effect is stimulating and relaxing at the same time.
The restoration of the house took almost a year, with Ana supervising everything. A couple of afternoons a week she’d get into her car to explore the area. “I wanted to find out about my new home, but I also wanted to know places I could recommend to visitors, and you can’t do that if you don’t actually go and look yourself. I know the area well enough myself now that I can show people where to go, what are the best walking routes, (and having done the Camino de Santiago five times, she knows all about a walker’s requirements), and what are some of the more unusual sites and places to visit.” I get a brief guided tour of some of them, my favourite being El Molino de la Cascada de San Pedro, a series of fresh water swimming pools, with glittering turquoise-blue dragon flies skittering across the surface. Sadly, not having had the foresight to bring swimming trunks, the best I can do is dabble my toes in the cool water. But next time…
And the name Xana? “That was the idea of Peter, my late husband, when I opened my shop in Villajoyosa, on the coast, fifteen years ago. He said, “Why not just put an ‘x’ in front of your name? It sounds very good.” So I did. But I found out later that a xana is a fairy from the north of Spain, and they are the favourite of the gods. It was such a lovely name that I decided to use it again for the casa rural.”
So I suppose you can say that when you stay at Xana you are staying in fairyland!
Xana Casa Rural, Torriente, Sierra de Albarracin.For further information Tel. +34 636 394 967 or visit the web page at www.xana-ana.com
More about the historic mountain-top town of Albarracín . The town is also part of the excursion ‘Disney’s Mountain-Top Village’, taken from Inland Trips to the Costa Blanca, twenty-two excursions in the Valencian Community and Teruel.