Enchanting Stay at La Casa Grande de Zujaira
Under the gaze of the Alhambra Palace, and on soil trodden by poet Federico Garcia Lorca, the two hundred year old La Casa Grande de Zujaira sits proudly. I stand looking through the original metal gates at part of the ‘big house.’ Now split in two, the imposing white house, with its clock built by Gustav Eiffel’s apprentices, rests majestically with its terraced garden sprawling at its feet.
With smiling dark eyes and long, dark floppy hair, the obvious Spaniard, Luis Orihuela Fillol, son of the painter Luis Orihuela Hervas greeted me. Gates open, traditional kisses on both cheeks greeting, and Luis started talking with passion about La Casa Grande. Next to him his wife Begonia barely got a word in.
The Casa Grande looked charming, even with garden asleep, in the January sunshine. Luis enthused how the garden comes to life and is full of colour in spring and summer. Plants and shrubs as used in the Generalife Gardens in the Alhambra complex fill the grounds. One of the gardeners from the Generalife had come in to prune some of the trees. A heady sweet-smell drifted from one of the only flowering shrub braving the winter months. Curiously when up close there was no smell, yet just a few metres away it was heavenly, sweet, like honey.
Camilla shrubs full of buds waiting to burst sat by the side of the original brick steps up to the house which is draped in bourgainvilla and jasmine shrubs, also dormant, but not for long. There’s heat in that winter sunshine today. Spring is around the corner and I’ll be back to see these beautiful grounds full of colour and life.
We entered, via an ancient, wooden coach gate, into an enormous Andalusian patio with a huge fountain fed by their own spring. The property behind has a vast area undergoing work, including a swimming pool on the higher part, with views even more impressive than those of the house. The patio and large outbuildings will host weddings, private parties and communions.
It’s an area I visualize teaming with brightly dressed guests under fluttering white-sail sun-protectors. The white walls now reflect the afternoon sun and an ancient mulberry tree also resting in dormant state with a girth that I imagine would need two or three pairs of arms to circle.
The house has been preserved and restored retaining every possible original feature from the black and white floor tiles to the swinging ornamental lights. Care, thought and love have been poured into every corner.
Charm, style and history ooze at every glance, my camera constantly raising to capture its charm. I’m captivated by the care to preserve. Proudly Luis calls my attention ‘Look at this door’ he says. ‘It drove our carpenter to distraction reparing each piece of beading for each piece of glass’
The door not so robust and wooden with many small panes of glass not only folds in two but has an opening flap so food could be passed through without having to open the door to the dining room. Igenious and preserved. Unlike the house next door , the other half of Casa Grande was apparently rather brutally renovated loosing many original features.
The charming, original kitchen with two marble sinks, said to be Moorish, and the original fireplace where Luis wants to hold traditional cooking demonstrations, is designed for use when the house is rented out in its entirety.
The bedrooms with white walls and white linen have the colourful splash of paintings by Luis Orihuela Hervas in each room. The painter, now 86, from my home province of Jaen, lives near Gibraltar and is still painting, but only smaller works of art now, says son Luis.
There are five simply lovely bedrooms, minimilistically adorned with sumptuous beds, Egyptian linen and monogrammed towels. One for the less able on the ground floor.
Climb the authentic Andalusian open spiral staircase, of which I seem to have many photos, to the further four lovely bedrooms. I’d be very hard pressed to decide which room to stay in if I had a choice.
Another flight of stairs leads to the attic bedroom and a tiny mirador with a huge view. A large glass window on one side framed the glass-like reflection, snow-topped Sierra Nevada mountain range and a tiny one-person mirador surveys the gardens to the village church to the front. I imagine being the ‘Lady’ of the ‘Big House’ contemplating the scene.