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Part 1 - Building and running a guest house in Southern Spain – in seven parts

I am writing this article on How I came to be living in Tarifa in southern Spain (and running a guest house to boot!) at the instigation of the e-mail magazine (e-zine)

This magazine oozes helpful information on line but also places articles from locals giving information they think can be of interest to their (largely) expatriate readership. Many come and go but I came and, against considerable odds, I constructed and I stayed and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Picture me writing this at Berebar Moroccan restaurant at the Tarifa town beach, looking across to Morocco; a fantastic vegetable couscous in front of me, a cool poniente breeze fanning me and you will rightly feel envious! It takes stamina and a certain mindset to put down your roots here where different rules seem to apply to different people, but the end result is that my guest house is now the very favourite ‘secret hideaway’ of many returning guests (number 1 in the area on Trip Advisor).

May MyCadiz help to promote our lovely area which has so much to offer. My son, who has visited many times, drove the back road from Facinas to Tarifa again, turning down to the N.340 via Santuario de La Luz (try the little tapas bar just below the Santuario, a small selection of home made tapas and very good sherry) and commented yet again on how fantastic the view was across to Morocco, the Strait being hidden in the ‘hollow’ below, so that Spain seemed literally to extend into Morocco. So special.

BUILDING AND RUNNING A GUEST HOUSE IN SOUTHERN SPAIN – in seven parts! Some personal background information!


When I was young I entered a competition for children on Clacton Pier in which we were invited to tell what we wanted to do and be when we grew up. I was rewarded with a stick of rock.I said I wanted to be a policeman, to marry a foreigner and to travel. I have done all of those (if being a teacher for a couple of years classifies as being a policeman).

When we retired we decided we wanted to live somewhere with lots of bright daylight and several hours of sunshine per day. It should be in a small town (or a big town which feels like a small town) and I should be able to walk out for my coffee and basic essentials. I wanted to live somewhere where I could add a social dimension to my life, use my languages, and find a project for myself that would alleviate any danger of boredom in my retirement years.

I have been living between Tarifa (Spain) and Amsterdam for the last 16 years.If you don’t make a plan, and then ‘go for it’, you will not fulfil your dreams at any age. It means taking risks. If you are afraid of failure you should not take risks. If you see risks as challenges, ‘go for it, girl’. Live by your favourite credo: “Look for the opportunities in the problems and not for the problems in the opportunities”. Enjoy.That I live where I do, and that both places answer to my needs, is as much luck as good judgement. However, luck is recognizing an opportunity and having the guts and determination to make something of it. We came to Tarifa to visit our son. We came, we stayed and we constructed. Tarifa, a high wind area, with its beautiful beaches, its laid-back way of life, its sunny climate and its proximity to Africa had much to offer. However, unexpectedly widowed, its attraction paled, and I was considering going back to Holland (having been out of England for more than 50 years this was in my view no longer an option) when the ruin next door came up for sale. Scared that whoever bought it would build up higher (‘legally’ not allowed but he/she might have had the right contacts) and deprive me of my view, I decided to buy it. What I would do with it was a question that would come later.

I had recently been in Morocco and stayed in a charming ‘Dar’ , which is a series of suites built around a central patio, I decided to copy this concept. Rebuild the ruin as a guest house according to all the rules and regulations, and apply for a licence to open and operate a guest house. That couldn’t be that difficult. The art of ‘managing’ a guest house surely couldn’t be that different from running my former company with a staff of 18. Naive? Perhaps, but I have always believed in looking for the opportunities in the problems.

I had never dreamt that 16 years later – by now a decidedly ‘senior’ citizen - I would be running a guest house .

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