Alan Parks and Lorna Penfold, Montoro

We are Alan Parks and Lorna Penfold, and we live in an old Olive Mill in the countryside surrounding Montoro in the province of Cordoba, Andalucia.

We moved here in January 2008, having only decided the previous June that we would move. Lorna was a competitive dance teacher for 30 years but was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis, and was struggling with work, so we decided to make a change. You can read Lorna’s story here.

The crisis was a big problem for us. The day we put our house in the UK on the market was the day the queues started forming outside the banks.We had already committed to buying the property in Spain, so there was no going back.

How did you find somewhere to live?

I did a couple of viewing trips on my own, and I fell in love with an old olive mill we had seen on the internet. It was full of character, had land and most exciting of all, it was off grid. That is to say we have no mains electricity and no mains water. This means our living costs are much less. We pay 200 euros for our council tax, per YEAR. We were paying that a month in the UK.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Not at all. Part of the attraction for us, was the lack of an expat community. There are maybe 15 or so English families/couples in the surrounding area, and we do get together from time to time, but most moved to Montoro to experience the Spanish lifestyle.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

They think we are mad. All the local farmers stare at our alpacas. Often people take photographs. We have even had the police outside taking pictures on camera phones. We are the only people here who live here all year round; all the local farmers have houses in the town with heating and electricity.

What do you like about life where you are?

I really like the space and the freedom we have. We could never have had this lifestyle in the UK and of course we live outside for at least 8 months of the year. Even today, at the start of December, the sun is shining, and it is warm. Don’t get me wrong it is cold at night, but seeing that blue sky is worth it.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

The crisis has been hard. I haven’t been back to the UK for nearly four years, and Lorna only gets to visit twice a year. She has two grandchildren now, so that has made it even harder.

What is the biggest difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Our life here is much less materialistic. We still have the original mobile telephone we bought on arrival in Spain. It is held together by gaffer tape, and, would you believe does not have access to the internet. We do not have iphones or ipads, 3D TV or a microwave, but we are happy!

One of the most striking things is probably our lack of central heating. We have no carpets and all our walls are stone as are the floors so we you do have to get used to wearing a lot of clothes in the winter.

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

For me it is great. I am a notoriously fussy eater, so eating in Spain is good for me as there is always something on the menu I can order. My favourite is Tortilla de Patatas.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Do it. Don’t make five or ten year plan, do it now, when you are young. If you have young children, even better. Throw them in a Spanish school and they will be fluent in no time. What could be a better experience for them than learning about a whole new culture and making new friends.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, I have just written a book, ‘Bloody Hell, What’s an Alpaca?’ and I hope to sell lots of them. We hope to have some new babies this time next year, and also, in the spring, we are going to start offering alpaca treks, so people can come up and visit the animals, take a pleasant walk and enjoy tapas and a drink by the lake.

To keep up to date on all things at the Olive Mill, and where to get hold of the book, please go to www.whats-an-alpaca.com

If you would like to know more about alpacas in Spain, the book, or just want to get in touch, please email us lornaalpacaselsol@gmail.com

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