"Grenada, I'm falling under your spell" so say the lyrics of a popular song. There's no doubt, it would be so easy to become spellbound in the enchanted Andalucian city. I have just returned from a road trip to the south of Spain and must report - for those who have not yet been there - the Alhambra, the most important monument in the Iberian peninsula, is truly magnificent. The medieval Moorish palace and the Christian Cathedral built right along-side are breathtaking. The fortress and Generalife landscaped gardens present a picture perfect show-case surrounded by centuries-old winding cobbled streets and mountain-top caves featuring flamenco shows. Grenada has grace and elegance and the Grenadians take pride in the city's rich history and culture. A true Wonder of the World and, despite the two and a half million tourists who visit every year, the Alhambra with its stately back-drop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range leaves one with a sense of peace, beauty and, an awe-inspiring amazement that this man-made masterpiece despite religious wars and natural catastrophe is still standing. I promise myself, I will return. Spellbinding.
They knocked it down! My beautiful building overlooking the Meditteranean. I am beyond sad. For months this dilapidated seafront property on Altea's promenade has lived in my imagination and developed a life of its own in my new novel, Once Upon a Lie. In a Costa Blanca based story of romance and loss and redemption, the central character, wealthy socialite Antoinette Anderson, having had her heart broken yet again, drew inspiration from the ancient whitewashed four-floor edificio. Undertaking a major renovation project, she vowed to restore the property to its former 19th century glory. At the same time, she rebuilt her shattered heart and mind. Stone by stone, window pane by window pane, one wrought iron railing and one sea blue shutter at a time, she transformed the building into the showcase Casa Olivia Rose. A dazzling jewel standing proudly, by the beach reflecting the colours of the sky and ocean.
Now it has been bulldozed. In my story world, the building will remain forever a testament to Antoinette's determination, enthusiasm and her ability to love and trust again. I promise myself to always remember that whatever we go through, we can always rise up and become whole and beautiful - even when we are knocked down!
To read the story of Antoinette and her life-changing encounter with Casa Olivia
Excerpt from the novel ONCE UPON A LIE by Ellen Frazer-Jameson (to be released Fall 2018)
“Grow where you are planted,” Antoinette observed.
One delicate blue flower caught her attention. She bent to admire it and alongside as if placed to form a small shrine, a sacred circle of tiny, shiny, blue shells. By no means expensive, but precious.
Antoinette took it to be a sign that a new bloom flowering beside the sea promised that she too would be granted a new lease on life.
Her mission complete, she climbed a small rickety set of steps up on to the prom and crossed the one-way street in the Fisherman’s or San Pere quarter, a reminder of Altea’s fishing origins. An area of great demographic and economic importance during the 18th century, the cobbled alleyways lead through the Plaza del Convento square to the ruins of the ancient Moli de Bellaguarda watermill. The route marks the start of the well-trodden climb taken for hundreds of years by villagers following religious processions and ceremonial marches to the Place L’Esglesia, and the blue domed Church of de Virgin Consuela.
Gates erected in 1617, still standing and in use, lead to the fortress, and the remains of the Renaissance era granting entry to magnificent buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Lunch would have to wait, but she did have time for a thirst quenching soda. She headed for her favorite restaurant, but it was not open. The season had not yet started, and many restaurants kept their doors closed at lunchtime.
Antoinette sat on a wooden bench to change her shoes and noticed, not for the first time, an utterly derelict building right there amidst all the seafront eating establishments.
The derelict building was partially covered with a faded canvas depicting an ambitious drawing of what a new and renovated structure might look like in the unlikely event that it would ever to be completed.
The canvas, decades old, broken from its mooring, hung crazily half displayed, half caught on a jagged window frame attached to rusted rollers.
A ghost town film set of a broken down building erected to show extreme neglect and indicate that all human inhabitants were long gone, could well use this building as a model of authenticity.
Whitewashed walls with layers of peeling paint, coat upon coat of white, once-was-white and dirty whitish grey, with minimal brushstrokes, has been abandoned in a haphazard pattern of deterioration and defaced with graffiti. Each of the four floors of the once double-fronted building was scarred with broken black ironwork railings and cracked tiles. Wooden shutters hang from creaking hinges and fail to protect shattered glass window panes that leave the interior rooms open to the elements. A blue metal door declares that once there was coming and going.
A flight of going-nowhere red tiled steps leads to a crumbling black ironwork balcony with room for one person to stand or sit or perhaps display a flower pot.
Four stories of long-forgotten hope and past glory. Memories of once fine establishment in the centre of town.
Signs of construction work started and abandoned indicate that one once there was a desire to restore the building. An old-fashioned television aerial is attached to corroded power lines. Multi-strand electric cable stretch across the adjoining alleyway and scar the eyeline up the steep steps to the cobbled streets of the old town.
At the top of the building, in another life, a roof terrace offered a prime location with views out over the promenade, the beach and across the sea.
The original green glass paneled door still encircled by iron railings underneath a beige awning rolled on metal holders. In the courtyard a bushy fern tree flourishes.
Antoinette remembered times when red table-clothed tables and wooden chairs appeared from nowhere, a pop-up restaurant obscuring the broken down building. Friendly waiters lit tea lights and brandished menus and served fresh pizza.
Was that a mirage? A foretelling of what could be?
Antoinette studied the faded canvas. The vision was for apartments with wraparound terraces, a roof garden and retail space on the ground floor.
As if to keep the dream alive, two concrete flowerpots were planted with shrubs, they dressed the front of the building and undertook a brave job to brighten up the exterior.
An old tattered lace curtain fluttered from a barred window on the first floor beside a battered old carriage lamp.
On a ledge, Antoinette strained her eyes as she tried to make out the outline of a stonework statue, in a pot beside it, a long-dead brown cactus.
Modelling the Venus de Milo, the statue had no arms.
In a flash, Antoinette received a vision and saw her future.
The building deserved to be restored, and she was eager to undertake the job. The thrill of a new project coursed through her veins. With a burst of enthusiasm, she believed that the building and her love could rise phoenix-like from the ashes.
Retracing her steps along the promenade, Antoinette observed the profusion of retail spaces, clothes shops, jewellery stores, restaurants and ice cream parlors. The hardworking people who ran these stores would be her neighbours.
On the seafront, she stopped to catch her breath, adrenaline pulsed through her. She rested on a circular stone terrace where the curved balustrades depicted the blue tiles of the church that attracted visitors, artists, and designers.
She trod the wooden walkway down to the sea and consulted her phone. She needed the services of a first class estate agent, and she knew the man to recruit.
Her friend, Jean-Frank came to Altea almost twenty years ago from Holland; he had an enviable network of contacts. Also a track record of renovation and construction. She needed someone she could trust to handle such a massive project for her.
“Ola, Jean-Frank,” she said when he answered his cell phone on the first ring. “Do you know who owns the derelict building on the seafront, the one close to the Tourist Info office?
“I can find out,” he said without hesitation. “Why do you want to know?”
“I want to buy it,” she said. “I plan to restore the building to its former glory. I’m going to need your help.”
Ellen Frazer-Jameson is a journalist, author, actress. theater producer and drama coach. She co hosted the largest live late night radio show in Europe for the BBC and has appeared on national TV shows and taken leading roles on stage. She lives in Miami and London and loves to dance Argentine tango.