As you all know, I am born-and-bred Spanish. As children we lived between Madrid, where we went to school and Seville, where we spent all vacations and holidays. We, the girls, went to school in England, but that was a bit later in our teen-age years.
Arenales, our farm is my heart, my foundation and my roots. I grew up among brave bulls raised for bullfighting, horses bred for polo and show jumping and wild fallow deer that had been a present to my grandparents, count and countess de la Maza y Frigiliana, from the king of Spain Alfonso XIII.
On those long summer months, our cook taught me how to dance flamenco during the endless obligatory siestas and our driver taught me basic mechanical notions. I later realized that knowing a few mechanical terms was a great way to break the ice when talking to shy boys. Have you ever hear a girl discuss pistons or carburetors or hydro manic transmission ? You get the picture.
My father run the farm with passion, innate wisdom and a tight fist. He was adored and revered. My mother filled the house and garden with beautiful flowers, wonderful decor and great, great food. She was admired and respected. They were both grander than life and our house was always filled with family and friends.
It was a privileged upbringing and one that has made me incredibly proud and at the same time, incredibly humble of who I am and of where I belong. We were thought how to relate to the help, many who had been with us for three generations, how to behave with propriety and elegance, how to always be kind, how to set a good example. “Noblesse oblige” was drilled into our psyche.
The house and garden created, enlarged and improved by my parents is a typical Andalusian grand country house. Arenales was re-built in 1923 by my grand parents on the foundations of a moorish silo dating back to the 800’s. Built around a series of patios, these houses are designed to keep the heat out in the summer and the chill in the winter. Double framed walls, tiled floors, large windows with interior shutters and outside wrought iron bars, super high ceilings and white washed walls. Austere but elegant, minimalist but comfortable, shabby but sophisticated. My mother always said it was great to live in the country but with all the luxuries of the city. Yes, even running water and constant electricity was a big deal. Thankfully, not any more!
The house and grounds are decorated with many vintage farm re-pourposed items. I know, I know. It sounds weird but the 1800’s stools for milking cows are the perfect size to put your feet on, the ancient stone feeders for the cattle make the most unique and charming plant containers, the large earthenware olive oil jars dating to Roman times adorn the garden and glaced ceramics once used to make bread and such are now hanging on the walls. All of this make this house personal, unique and oh so charming.
As children we rode horses for days on end, learned how to build fires in the woods and respect animals. My brothers learned a few different skills that we did, but that is Spain and the concept of... “no, you can’t do it because you are a girl”. So I learned to say.... “watch me!”.
I do sometimes, not very often and only really once in a while, wonder what my life would have been if I had stayed. As much as I love all country pursuits, I feel I would have always been under the shadow of my parents. Leaving this bucolic life gave me the opportunity to find out who I am, to choose by myself, to make mistakes on my own without the critical eye of siblings or parents. To take, as they say, “the path less taken.” I chose New York and fell in love with it the second my toe touched the ground.And “Watch me” they did.
I am so proud of what I have achieved, not because its particularly great, but because compared to my contemporaries who have stayed in their same lives, I have been able to reach so many of my dreams, experienced so many adventures and lived so many lives.
And “Watch Me” they do.
The front facade of Arenales.
The interior “patio” with a well surrounded by orange and grapefruit trees.
The main living room
Antlers and the head of a brave bull.
The driveway leads to the “Puerta del Toro y el Caballo”
The arbor to the vegetable garden and orchard