Casa Alazuytun in the campo of Canillas de Aceituno with Maroma in the background

How come you are now living here in Sunny Andalusia after a career in a very dynamic and international environment.

"We have worked in the film and advertising industry for 25 years, I used to work as a Line Producer for commercials, featured films and TV series all around the world. A very interesting and glamorous work, but also very stressful and demanding. One of the advantages of being freelancers was that we have taken long breaks after each project, and one of thoses breaks - a very long one! - was one year back to nature in New Zealand. Do you know by the way the antipodes of New Zealand is Canillas de Aceituno? I discovered it recently. Coincidence? Who knows...

Happy faces Christina & Javi from Casa Al Zaytun who have moved to AndalusianAnyhow, one year later when we came back to Madrid where we are both originally from, we felt a big city was not for us anymore, too many cars, too many buildings, too many people.

So, we decided to try our luck in Málaga since it has always been an important production center for commercials and featured films. Axarquía was familiar to me, I knew Torre del Mar, Velèz Málaga, Nerja...but never heard of Canillas de Aceituno. When I read this name on the Internet I thought it was very funny and because of that it is where I started my search, knowing we wanted a spot in nature, close to the seaside but not on the coast.

My search was very short. I drove to Canillas, as we say in short, one day at sunset time and I fell in love. That was 21 years ago and we are still in love with this place and its people.

Firstly we rented houses in the campo area close to Canillas town for a couple of years and we kept travelling back and forth filming here and there, but Canillas had become our home. Between every work we came back to touch base and recover peace and serenity. We knew from the beginning we wanted to live permanently in Canillas and to run a business here to make our living but it took a while to find the way and the courage to do it. Meanwhile we kept working, travelling, enjoying life and having fun.

We built our own house Casa Al Zaytun, the Moorish name of the village, 17 years ago where we still live. Sometime ago we also bought a very old house in town, 400 years was almost a ruin but again we fell in love. We spent the lockdown in the pandemia at home and it was the confirmation that all our decisions taken all these years following our intuition were the right ones for us.

It is hard to say that out loud because the lockdown was tough for most of the people, but for me it was paradise. No phone calls, no projects, no scripts, no nothing... for me it was only gardening, cooking, walks with San (our lovely three legged rescue dog) and pottery. I started making pottery on my own a while ago and without knowing it would become my passion and way of living. During the lockdown I realized how lucky I was, I had already the life I wanted to have, the life we had created. I knew the time of filming, travelling and stress was about to finish for me, I had everything I needed to be happy in Canillas.

So two years ago I finally decided to quit and stop accepting more projects, we had spent life making things happen for other people, directors, was the time to make it happen for us. It has been the best choice ever; it is true that it is not the easiest in terms of money but it is how to learn to trust Life. We work a lot, we love what we make, we organize our time and we do not have stress or have to rush anymore. It requires a change of mindset, learning to live with less and more consciousness. Make things simpler and value them more".

Was it easy to settle in?

For us it was very easy to settle in, people in town are very welcoming and warm. They are very open minded and energy in town has always been great.The small town itself is beautiful, its architecture, and history, the Natural Park and the mountains also welcome you and make you connect with your inner self. On the other hand Canillas is not in the middle of nowhere, is is really well located, just 30 minutes from the beach, 50 minutes from Málaga so you can decide if you want to be alone and silent or if you want to have a nice dinner somewhere with very interesting people you can find around here.

The combination of different people and the mix of cultures and nationalities also makes Canillas a very nice place to live in. One day you can have a chat with a woman in town who still lives like 100 years ago, and has barely gone out of Canillas in all her life, her name is Virginia, and later you can share a table for dinner with Danish, Australian, Belgium, Dutch or even Chinese people. So many stories to hear, so many things to learn.

What have you done, learned, set up over the past few years and what plans do you still have?

As I said before, for us our time here has been a life changing experience, we have learnt so many things and we have done so many things. Canillas has been very inspiring for us, and has been the place where everything was possible. When we first arrived we opened a very little shop, only for one year we sold things that we liked, what we call now a concept store, organic products, local wine, candles...

After we built our house, we have two separate areas very independent, we live upstairs and, down below, we have created a beautiful space that we rent to people for holidays or to work from home, we have hosted writers, poets, cinema directors... always beautiful people looking for peace and tranquility, nature and local and real experiences.

Renovation of the cellar photos before and after

Now we are renovating the very old house we bought in town, a place full of history and charm, Casa Alzaytun pueblo will be a ceramic shop with two Andalusian style patios, and two apartments to rent. And we run a ceramic studio in town where we produce our own work such as the tiles for the house in renovation as well as the sinks, basins, lamps...

I also produce ceramic art work to sell, cups, plates, bowls, pitcher, vases, I use a wide variety of techniques from wheel thrown pieces to pinch pots, slab making or mold making. And I create my own ceramic glazes which bring me to study chemistry again.

Recently I have started to sell my work in some high end shops in Madrid. And of course our studio is the gathering place for the ceramic workshops and some other group learning experiences like natural cosmetics or candle making. We are in a beautiful and amazing process of learning and living doing what we like where we like surrounded by an incredible community of people who support and encourage us.

Bemalen von Keramik in der Werkstatt in Canillas de Aceituno
All Photo credits: Lara Jackson

What tips would you give to people who also long for a 'different' life in a natural environment?

It's not easy to give general tips, what works for one cannot work for others but I will do my best. Follow your instinct, the crazy way of living of the big cities and long hours at work make us disconnect from our intuition but it is always there, we just need to listen. Leave behind your prejudices and your fears and trust people and life.

You have to make some efforts: Learn the language, local people are willing to help and talk to you. It will make a great difference if you understand and you can communicate. Otherwise you will think they are trying to cheat you, those are the kind of prejudices I said before. Read about Andalusian history to understand the way of living here and the culture. Mingle with local people, and support local businesses.Observe, enjoy and do not judge.

Cristina & Javier

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