While visiting my mom in the small Spanish town of Higuera la Real this January, we got to make a new friend. Anna is from Finland but has been living in Spain for the past fourteen years. Her dream in this life is to live with her own horses in the beauty of the Spanish Countryside and travel when she wants to explore this world. It was inspiring to spend time with her and experience that she has created this dream and is living it now.
My mom met Anna because she is one of the closest neighbors she has, even though she’s several miles away from her. While my mom lives within the charmingly ancient pueblo of Higuera la Real, Anna lives on several acres of land that are only a few miles out in the surrounding countryside. Yet when you are there, you feel like the entire beautiful expanse of green rolling hills around you are all part of your home.
We enjoyed walking to Anna’s home on a Sunday that was unusually warm for a winter day in Spain. I marveled at the fact that she lives right on the small dirt road that, years ago when I first visited this unknown area, was my favorite trail to wander. All around are plush fields of green grasses and colored flowers, wise olive trees, and friendly sheep grazing with the occasional horse. Even though the terrain is made of gently emerging hills, there are open vistas that draw your eyes to far-distant horizons and the sky overhead seems so big and vibrant.
Anna’s home is in the midst of all of this. She built her home from the old ruins of a house that was there before. It is built around one of the old traditional mills that are found throughout this area, molinos. Today they are practically ruins. Some were built hundreds of years ago as the hydrologic method for grinding grain. The one that is now Anna’s home, is literally encompassed by her renovation. The main wall of the living room is made of the exposed side of the mill wall and two of the old stones used to grind grain are in one of the rooms of the house. From the outside, you can see the top of the mill, now immersed into the home like a castle tower. The channel where the water used to flow, extends out as a high stone wall into the rising hillside that the house is set against.
At the top of the hill and behind her beautifully renovated home, are the horse stables that Anna built. Here her three horses enjoy their own dream life. She believes strongly is allowing them room to roam and be free, so they spend their days grazing the lush green grass and being ridden by Anna and patrons of her horseback riding lessons and tours. Her dog Miko, I am convinced, thinks that he is a horse as well. Or perhaps it’s the other way around and he thinks that the horses are dogs like himself, because he plays with them and nuzzles them as though they are best friend. The horses seem to endure it with slightly annoyed tolerance laced with animal-friendly appreciation. Miko is the epitome of everything adorable and friendly about a dog – with his Labrador face and deep eyes, goofy smile and pink tongue, he will win you over the moment you lay eyes on him.
We did not ride that day and instead got to know Anna and the dream home that she has created for herself. She showed us the horse stables and introduced us to the horses themselves. We got to see where the beautiful stone pool is that she has created for enjoying in the summers and how she supports everything she needs for her home by solar power. Her little piece of heaven of truly “off the grid” and for heat in the winters, she uses her large fireplace in her living room. The home is so self-sustaining that a month later, she was traveling to Ecuador for six weeks to volunteer with a program and enjoy her love for traveling. She does trips like that twice a year or more. Who says you can’t enjoy all your dreams!?!
After the tour, we enjoyed cooking and eating together on Anna’s back patio. With the age-old company of the mill wall towering alongside us and a beautiful pomegranate tree leaning over us, we savored hours of drinking good vino and cerveza, local morcilla (blood sausage) and lomo that we seared on a charcoal grill, and homemade potato salad that my mother made. Everything was delicious and of course, true to any Spanish meal, was accompanied by local hand-crafted bread and tapas of homemade salmon pinwheels created by Anna. We relaxed there for hours, eating and drinking, talking and laughing, under the warm sun and rich blue sky.
Not only did we gain a new friend in Anna, but we were also inspired by how she is living and enjoying her dreams. My boyfriend and I reveled in, and still remember strongly, the fulfilling energy of beautiful simplicity blended with the quality of her home being built with her own hands. Within the house and in the land surrounding, there is a magical feeling of creativity, peaceful serenity and beautiful goodness. It showed us a lot about who Anna is, what her passions and dreams are, and what she values in life. I personally have Anna to thank, not only for inspiring me to create my dreams and enjoy the journey along the way, but also for introducing me to her horses and the joys of horseback riding. Thanks to her, we were introduced to her partner in horseback riding tours, Chari, and later that week enjoyed my first horseback riding experience in nearby Sierra de Aracena.
Discover more about our horseback riding experience with Anna and where you can enjoy tours with her and Chari at Chaparral Equestrian, by clicking here: “Horseback Riding in Southern Spain”.
Enjoy more photos in my online album, “A Horse-Dream Come True in Spain“.
I felt transported there, when you describe the trail along her property. Love the photos, and you ladies enjoying your vino!
Thank you so much for taking time to read the post. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it and allowed yourself to journey there with us 🙂 Please visit again and feel free to share any feedback and insight. It is much appreciated!
As always, I am so impressed with your writing. It keeps getting richer, entertaining and best of all: CULTURE!
Thanks mama! Glad to enjoy it with you too 🙂
I just came accross your blog and I am glad to discover that there are more foreigners that I thought living in my home region of Extremadura.
How did Anna decided to move to Extremadura? I’m curious to know ;).
Hi Irene! Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I visited your site as well and love it – it’s wonderful! Let’s definitely stay in touch and make sure to meet when I next visit Extremadura. And if you are ever in Valencia region, please come to visit us as well. My mother lives in the little town of Higuera la Real in Extremadura. Have you heard of it or been there? I look forward to staying in touch! Hasta luego!
Thanks for the positive comment about my blog. I have heard of Higuera la Real, but I haven’t been there. Planning a little road trip for spring around that area so, who knows! I might pop by.
If you ever come to Oxford, let me know as well :).
Stay in touch.
Yes, keep me posted on your travels and thank you for the invite to connect when traveling myself.
That would be great!