Cortijada Los Gázquez is a family refuge far from the noise of any city or town, in the unspoilt Parque Natural Sierra María-Los Vélez, northern Almería, Andalucía. Here the night sky is unpolluted by metropolitan light and on summer nights you can gaze at the stars for hours.
In the daytime the air is hot and suffused with the pungent scent of pine trees. This is semi wilderness, a vast alpine desert caught in the rain shadow of the Cordillera Baetica. With an annual average rainfall of 400mm, skies are nearly always blue and sunlight is bountiful. Winters are short and can be cold whilst summers are long and hot appearing to compress spring and autumn into smaller seasons.
The combination of all these elements has made Los Gázquez an ideal location to exploit the natural resources which are so abundant here, resources necessary to create power to a place remote and fully independent from the grid.
However, at Cortijada Los Gázquez, being environmentally and socially responsible needn't compromise one’s love of design.
These were once five old farm houses, a cortijada, now converted into one very beautiful space. On the one hand great homage and respect has been given in its restoration to the simple vernacular architecture of the building, and on the other hand a crisp eye for detail has been employed which makes the place seem stunningly modern.
Here you will find uncomplicated luxury with minimal intent. And here you will find peace of mind, body and spirit in far more profound ways than the phrase was intended.
This is a retreat for the creatively minded. Should your compulsion be to draw or paint, to exercise any multiple of creative disciplines, we provide the space, time and opportunity to make an art holiday a deeply fulfilling one.
We run a series of art and design courses throughout the year. The ethos of these programmes is to tailor your experience of this environment in a way which allows you to maximise your understanding and creative response.
The atmosphere for these courses is very much for the guest to bring their knowledge and skills, their passions and enthusiasms to a group of people in an atmosphere of camaraderie and sharing, should your abilities be professional or yet to be discovered.
We are also host to a residency for professional artists, 'Joya: arte + ecología'. This scheme will give you, as a creative guest, not only the opportunity to hone your own skills but to spend time with a professional artist (often a tutor) to talk art and artists, materials and techniques as well as the experience of being a 'practising' artist.
Specifically designed for food lovers, The Food of Art is a creative course for those who enjoy creative activities around food such as food presentation, illustration and photography. As an eco-guest house our food is seasonal, fresh and local. Itʼs the food of a well travelled peasant, infused as it is with the colours and the flavours of India and the Mediterranean Basin.
Activities will include visiting the local markets and the jamon and embutidos emporiums to purchase the freshest and best looking products. Back at the kitchen-studio we consider the form and colour of our products. We consider how to cut and display them to maximise the creative potential of their form.
Then we consider a design strategy for your illustration. Materials will be water based colour on paper and gesso, as well as small frescos. If your interest is in photography this too constitutes part and parcel of the same issues of a painter. We talk about colour, composition, technique and design. We discuss methods to encapsulate the essence of a recipe within your illustration.
And whilst we learn to illustrate our food we learn to apply the same principles to the presentation of the food for eating. From paper to plate we place the queso fresco hot from the ʻplanchaʼ, the marinade of caper berries, the golden olive oil. We make pattern that appeals to our senses. And as we consider the aesthetic values we wish to capture such as the pale heart of a bright red pepper or the freckles on a borlotti bean the same ingredients are being prepared around us for our meals. We sense the aromas that characterise the food we are considering and in the evening we get to eat the subject of our day, the food we now know so well.
The atmosphere of this course is very much for the guest to bring their knowledge and skills, their passions and enthusiasms to a group of people in an atmosphere of camaraderie and sharing, should your abilities be professional or yet to be discovered. Evenings are fun, we share local wines together with mineral water from the local spring, and there are usually other professional artists around always keen to share their ideas with you.
Cortijada Los Gazquez: www.losgazquez.com
Follow Simon on Twitter: @LosGazquez_Joya