Season's greetings and, with the end of the year fast approaching, here's wishing you and your family health and happiness for 2018.
This has been an enchanting, busy, convivial and, above all, hot year at La Donaira, with cloudless summer skies, shrill cicadas, the splash of the pool and the waft of lavender lingering on to the end of November.
La Donaira grew, adding 1000 acres of neighbouring land. And we did it in style, together, lifting the fenceposts on the count of three and charging onto the new land with cries, from some, of Viva Mexico. Now we offer 9 rooms, 1500 acres and absolute peace. Our
spa has made a lot of people very happy. It's about to reach its first birthday, an anniversary which will be celebrated in an appropriately relaxed and dreamy way.
We came over all cultural. Highlights include José Luis Nieto, a Russian-trained pianist from the tiny neighbouring village of El Gastor, who performed Suite Iberia by Isaac Albéniz on our open-air stage in July and left the audience spellbound.
And then, the following month, our inaugural pause festival, five amazing nights of classical music with a sprinkling of jazz and flamenco on the theme of 'reflections on man and nature'. This was very much a collaboration with pianist Maria Joao Pires and the talented young musicians of the Partitura Movement which Maria founded to take music out of concert halls in search of new audiences. Special thanks to Maria, and Milos Popovic, Lilit Grigoryan, Julien Libeer and Julien Brocal of Partitura, and the other stars of our festival – the cellist Camille Thomas, soprano Talar Dekrmanjian, jazz pianist Juan Ramón Veredas Navarro, along with flamenco cantaora Mayte Martin, composer and pianist Rupert Huber. All truly wonderful. Watch out for news of pause 2018.
Meanwhile, life continued in its gentle productive pace on the farm, with new lambs, calves, kids and foals - including one foal born today. With specialists from the Natural Beekeeping Trust we began a re-wilding programme and moved our bees to a new location up the mountain where they are already beginning to colonise hives as well as hollows in the oaks.
We take just a fraction of their honey; even so, they spared us 230 kilos of liquid gold this year. As the goats are now producing milk, we are officially the land of milk and honey! We hand-picked then pressed olives in our own mill to make just short of 800 litres of another kind of liquid gold: extra virgin olive oil. And come the tapas hour and setting sun, we are well prepared with a huge haul of almonds and 400 litres of La Donaira Petit Verdot and La Donaira Blaüfrankisch in our bodega.
Congratulations to the tireless staff, and many thanks to our team of volunteers who have dedicated their time, energy and enthusiasm. Hailing from as far away as Vietnam, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Austria and the Netherlands as well as France as Spain, they have brought us a diverse wealth of experience and culture.
Thank you, too, to our guests, who also arrived from all over the world, bringing different cultures and ideas and filling La Donaira with fun. This year we received more families than ever, and romantic honeymooners, as well as a steady flow of riding enthusiasts back to ride their favourite Lusitanos, and groups, our regulars, and escapees from the fast-paced urban world. If we didn't see you this year, we hope to see you in the next.
Until then . . . una Feliz Navidad y un Próspero Año Nuevo