No sooner had Chris Stewart set eyes on El Valero than he handed over a check. Now all he had to do was explain to Ana, his wife that they were the proud owners of an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain. That was the easy part.
Lush with olive, lemon, and almond groves, the farm lacks a few essentials—running water, electricity, an access road. And then there's the problem of rapacious Pedro Romero, the previous owner who refuses to leave. A perpetual optimist, whose skill as a sheepshearer provides an ideal entrée into his new community, Stewart also possesses an unflappable spirit that, we soon learn, nothing can diminish. Wholly enchanted by the rugged terrain of the hillside and the people they meet along the way—among them farmers, including the ever-resourceful Domingo, other expatriates and artists—Chris and Ana Stewart build an enviable life, complete with a child and dogs, in a country far from home.
Stewart, a former drummer in Genesis, middle-aged travel writer and professional sheepshearer, never quite explains why he and his wife, Ana, decided to quit England 11 years ago for a dilapidated farm without electricity, water or even a road in Andaluc a, Spain. Perhaps the olives, almonds and rosemary had something to do with it. Stewart clearly has found contentment in his good place among a lovingly described collection of local farmers, New Age travelers, artists and the occasional Buddhist. His hilly farm is a harsher place than Peter Mayle's Provence or Frances Mayes's Tuscany, and the local cuisine far less appetizing, yet his unfailing good humor and invincible optimism carry him past obstacles that would send most readers scurrying for home. More than a travel book, this is a record of Stewart's slowly flourishing friendship with his neighbor, Domingo, and of how Stewart gradually sank roots deep into his beautiful Andaluc an hillside. A bestseller in England, this enchanting memoir is likely to prove popular in North America with both armchair travelers and readers who, while curious about the odd life choices others make, would just as soon give scorpions and clouds of flies a miss.