Trujillo was the preferred location of one of the few property agents in Extremadura. He flew around the hills of the Sierra de Montanchez on a quad bike, wearing a woolen beanie.

He would charmingly say with a glint in his eye… Trujillo is the place I’d live if I had the choice, and although he took clients to adosados, casas, and palacios in Trujillo, more often than not they would go to the villages of the surrounding sierra, such as Arroyomolinos, Almoharin, Valdemorales, Torremocha, Ibahernando, and Robledillo de Trujillo, where together we viewed a house.

He hoped his clients would share his fascination and buy somewhere in Trujillo, not least since the prices were at least three times as much and his commission that much more. But regardless of the financial incentive his taste couldn’t be faulted, it’s one of Spain’s most enchanting places, but unfortunately my budget was limited.

Robledillo has a population of five hundred and a grotesque fountain. Victoria herself, said as much

And in the end, many of the houses were too small, too ramshackle, and too expensive, but it would have been unfair for this to have affected my opinion of Cáceres, the province often more picturesque than Badajoz. Most of the countryside is bouldered, scrubbed of vegetation, like moorland. The rocks, erupted bubbles of lava, dramatically scattered across the landscape, craggy terrain and poor soil, more suited to tourism than agriculture.

Yet the hills of the Sierra de Montanchez are more fertile, fold in on themselves, and in Spring are full of poppies, broom, and heather under the abundance of encinas. A profusion of colour. And when the hills flatten to dehesa, the encinas are full and well formed in fields of grasses and meadow flowers. The fields occasionally cropped like bowling greens, by itinerant sheep and goats, occasionally seen being driven through the pastures.

Robledillo has a population of five hundred and a grotesque fountain. Vittoria said as much herself, as I stood in front of it in the Plaza España. She assumed that people are only interested in beautiful things and directed me, more than invited me, to see the more sophisticated parts of the pueblo.

Contemplating something displeasing appeared difficult for Vittoria to accept such was her apparent steadfast belief in the accepted conventions of life. However, she was a charming lady and I dutifully listened to her.

I drunk the best beer ever pulled, in a bar behind the Plaza España

Like the fountain the ayuntamiento is peculiar, a strange mixture of angles and curves. Though the investment was well intentioned, such a self-conscious building sits uneasily in the village. Nevertheless, the house we were viewing was solid with an unusually wide, arched entrance, the church had an imposing simplicity, parts of the village had been sympathetically restored, and… there were two more aspects that attracted me.

Firstly, it had Trujillo in its name, and with self-inflicted disingenuity one could fancifully overlook Robledillo and imagine that one lived in Trujillo. Secondly, I drunk the best beer ever pulled, in a bar behind the Plaza España. It may have been the particular moment, it was around three in the afternoon, it was about forty degrees, and I’d been walking around the village for nearly two hours.

Within half-an-hour, everyone in the village was aware that I was looking to buy a house. And reaching the bar I could easily have agreed to buy half the village – everyone wanted to sell me a house. There were even more for sale when I returned nearly ten years later as the economic crisis had drawn the last resources from many Spanish families.

Families have a collection of houses, acquired over the years through marriages and deaths. Superfluous to their needs they are usually home to either mules, donkeys, pigs, dogs, cats, chickens, dusty cars, incomplete motorcyles with trays of sump oil beneath them, dirt engrained mopeds, or assorted bric-a-brac long since forgotten, but in times of crisis the houses can be sold to raise cash. To a fellow Spaniard they have little value, as they already have a collection of homes. The exception might be a madrileño, bilbotarra, or barceloní, long separated from his rural roots and looking to buy back into his familial past. But to a foreigner, especially an Englishman, more so a Londoner, who is used to overpaying for property, they are a gold mine.

To be fair the house mitigated the fountain, but seemed to be the telegraph pole for the village. Cables came from every direction: thin thick, twisted, supported on catenary wires and unsupported

Straightforward reasoning had no effect. Explaining that another wasn’t necessary or required, having bought one some years ago, didn’t deter them from attempting to sell me a house, and often not their own, either on behalf of a distant relative, neighbor or friend – either alive, or dead. This was less bothering than my inability to find the bar behind the Plaza España. Circling the village, maybe five times, I was certain I would find it.

It may have been a mirage all those years ago, caused  by sunstroke or dehydration, added to which the passage of time might have fashioned the most perfect beer to partner my delusion, or maybe the bar had closed. Yet even through the financial crisis, few of the staple businesses: restaurants, hotels, ironmongers, tobacconists, pharmacies, grocers shops,  and bars had closed. Not forgetting those who supplied the agro-economy, around Robledillo de Trujillo many actually flourished, the economy of Extremadura dependent on agriculture. Boutiques, perfumeries, home furnishers, garden centers, DIY stores, estate agents, and especially banks had a tougher time.

Meanwhile, the beer had arrived on the bar. One could sense the frigidity, a layer of frost condensed on the glass, small shards of ice floated through the draught. At the same moment I put it to my mouth it was gone. I could have drunk more, it was a friendly place, but it would have lessened the perfection of the first glass – I paid and went back to the Plaza España to see one last time if it would be possible to live with the fountain.

To be fair the house mitigated the fountain, but seemed to be the telegraph pole for the village. Cables came from every direction: thin, thick, twisted, supported on catenary wires, and unsupported.

Mateos played in Return of the Seven with Yul Brynner but also mixed grease paint with Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot in Shalako

One’s a hostage to fortune buying a house in Spain. With luck there will be two modest black cables running across the front of the house, capable of being hidden behind a gutter or beneath the eaves. Unfortunately, this isn’t often the case. Casa Mateos had not been treated kindly by the planners at the ayuntamiento.

The house was owned by a famous Spanish actor, who I’d never heard of, but the citizens of the village had honoured Julian Mateos with a plaque mounted on the house, just above a large knot of cables:
En esta casa vivió Julian Mateos (1938 – 1996), actor, internacional hombrado, hijo predilecto de Robledillo de Trujillo por la corporación municipal en agosto de 1998

Julian Mateos lived in Madrid and this would have been his childhood home, it only had four rooms so it wasn’t a large house or supposedly a big family. But it was impossible to see Mateos‘ life in the house, all that remained was an old cooker, some beige vinyl chairs with tubular metal legs and various old tools under the roof. The house didn’t have the spirit of thespian parties or family gatherings, Mateos had been dead for nearly ten years and it seemed that even the ghosts had died soon after him, the house was lacking any vestiges of theatrical extravagance, it was truly empty.

Mateos played in Return of the Seven with Yul Brynner and also mixed grease paint with Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot in Shalako. I recognized his photograph; swarthy and distinguished he’d died young from lung cancer. He studied philosophy at Salamanca University, didn’t finish the course, and appropriately for his later career studied at the Escuela Superior de Arte Dramatico in Barcelona.

caught between chilling winters and searingly hot summers, they are sometimes compromised, falling short in the height of summer or the depths of winter

His film credits, apart from Return of the Seven and Shalako include: Catlow, the hotel porter in Adam & Eve an erotic drama, Four Rode Out and with his production company Ganesh Producciones Cinematográficas, El Niño de la Luna, with the following synopsis: Adopted by a treacherous semi-scientific cult where extraordinary mental powers are common, extraordinary 12 year old David begins an archetypal journey across two continents to find his destiny as Child of the Moon. Despite this enigmatic description the film and its music, by Dead Can Dance, were highly regarded.

My feelings for the fountain softened at the thought of buying a film stars house. Accepted, Robledillo was no Beverley Hills, Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades.

The cooker had four gas burners, an oven and a compartment for a gas cylinder, and though the enamel was chipped it was scrupulously clean, as too the chairs, the texture of the vinyl polished off, the foam stuffing sagging, after many years of Mateos family use.

The upper floor was stifling and long since abandoned, built from adobe, topped with a roof of tejas curvas, timber boards, and eucalyptus beams; too cold in winter, too hot in summer. So, as in all extremeñas houses, the Mateos family lived on the ground floor, surrounded by walls and ceilings of stone; insulated from either the heat or cold, whatever the season.

cats and especially dogs are blessed, the latter amble around the tables that spread out across the plaza from the many bars searching for secreto, scraps of meat, or at least the staples that accompany a cerveza

The temperatures are regulated by the impressive ground floor stone bovedas. They also give an unexpected nobility to the most modest extremeña house, such as Casa Mateos. However, caught between chilling winters and searingly hot summers, they are sometimes compromised, falling short in the height of summer or the depths of winter.

Though apparently unused the long upper floor of Casa Mateos  would have stored grain, and probably a few mice. A cat was essential, neither over-indulged nor pampered, they slept in the garage and ate whatever they caught.

 

 

 

Today cats and especially dogs are blessed, the latter amble around the tables that spread out across the plaza from the many bars searching for secreto, scraps of meat, or at least the staples that accompany a cerveza: peanuts, crisps, and not least the thousands of pippas shells that are habitually tossed away throughout the night, especially when there’s an important match shown on the bar’s widescreen TV, as tensions rise the  pippas shells hit the floor with increasing rapidity – the convention of feeding dogs leftovers is hard for many to shake-off, especially those of the older generation. Difficult to understand that they are now fed a balanced diet of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins from an expensive sack of pellets bought from a shop dedicated solely to dogs, cats, mice, rats, parakeets, parrots, pigeons, guinea pigs, hamsters, terrapins, snakes, stick insects, and every other type of pet that once was either exotic, unknown, or considered vermin.


Casa Mateos was looked over by two elegant cream cats, though their fur was slightly matted they were far from feral. But despite an air of indifference there was something of a savage look in their eyes. It tempered their languid gaze, staring through me their heads fixed to a point far in the distance. They sat together in a stone niche standing sentry over Casa Mateos.

Yet the best feature of the house was certainly not the cats. At the end of the upper floor, french windows, opened onto a stone carved balcony with a view of Plaza Mateos, the cats, the charming church, and high voltage cables just above my head. It made it onto the short list, but in the end celebrity and cold beer weren’t enough.

 

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Robledillo de Trujillo

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Robledillo de Trujillo 39.269088, -5.979953 Robledillo de Trujillo, Spain (Directions)