A walk down memory lane…
My house in the Sierra of Madrid
At first sight it looks more like a farmhouse in La Mancha rather than a country estate in the Sierra of Madrid. There are no granite walls or slate tiling on the roof, instead one finds whitewashed walls and a roof lined with Arabian tiles; however, a closer look reveals a few themes native to the classical houses in the Sierra, such as the fencing in original masonry granite, granite finishing, the stairs, the rain fed garden without forgetting the gates that open to the orchard or the pathways which used to be painted a brilliant green, reminiscent of the countryside and very characteristic of the area.
Originally, the estate was part of a much larger property, also named El Enebrillo, which belonged to the Duke of Sotomayor until the 19th century. In those years, the loss of the colonies brought economic hardship, forcing the Duke to segregate part of his land and sell it to a matador, known as Lagartijo, a native of the nearby town of Torrelodones. The matador set up a corral in the property where he could train with young bulls and keep in top form. However, Lagartijo didn’t last for too long and the estate ended up being acquired by my grandfather mainly to help restore the health of his eldest daughter, whose lung problems would no doubt be greatly helped by the therapeutic effects of the clean air of the region.
My grandfather not only refurbished the house, the original lay-out of which is still maintained but also included a patio and gallery, service quarters, garage, chicken coop and stables. He maintained the private chapel and bedrooms and also reinstated the old irrigation system for the orchard, using a small reservoir that was usually filled by rain. My entire childhood as well as those of my brother, sisters and cousins has been associated with this house. It was here that we spent the majority of our summer vacations and the Easter breaks. I remember how, in those days, the grown-ups use to spend long hours outdoors, either playing cards, having informal dinners, with some shooting clay pigeon, pheasants or partridges. These outings received an endless stream of visitors including their numerous cousins, relatives and friends from the neighbouring estates of Los Peñascales, La Berzosa, La Navata or El Escorial, while we as children, free to be “wild”, would ride our bicycles to the furthest estates, to the reservoir of Felipe II or to the banks of the Guadarrama river, riding through impossible pathways to enjoy picnics of chocolates and snacks. Sundays would find us attending Mass in the private chapel, followed by light snacks and lunch on an enormous table in the terrace. Seldom did we go to town, although the few times we did accompany some of the grown-ups for shopping – to the only shop in town – it seemed like an exotic adventure!
With the passage of time, things began to change, my grandmother passed away, my parents inherited the property and the highway brought the estate much closer to Madrid – instead of an hour and a half, it now only took a half hour to get here. The roads improved and the service staff stopped using the donkey for their errands preferring motorcycles instead. New infrastructure helped to enhance water and electricity supplies allowing us to build a swimming pool next to a grass lawn, something impossible in the past.
In the meantime, we grew up, made new friends, threw parties, got married and had children of our own, celebrating baptisms, first communions and parties within the walls of this estate. We still mostly spend our summers here, using any occasion to meet and get together for lunch or dinner, be it our parents’ anniversaries or the many celebrations of the Christmas period.
But if I had to highlight in a few sentences what I most value of this house, let me just say that seeing the sun set from the picnic area carved in one of the granite formations we lovingly call the “merendero” or watching how the sky becomes tainted with red while swimming in the pool is an unparalleled experience; but so is also watching a summer storm from the chapel door, then going outdoors to take in the intense fragrance of wet rock rose and of the damp earth; knowing how the blue glicinias announce the arrival of spring; having a siesta in the white porch in a lazy summer afternoon while watching how the intense red of the creepers change to purple to announce that autumn is coming soon; eating the figs directly from the fig trees while reading a good book or making a delicious salad with the best tomatoes and peppers from the orchard. These are some of the secrets of this house and they may not have much value for everyone, but for me they make this the most special house in the world.
Narrated by one of the current owners.