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American luxury for the Sierra de Gata

Press 15 June, 2018 2 Comments

A Texas businessman, who was temporary in the region in the 1980s, will open a hotel museum in Villamiel.

In the photo below, an aerial shot taken with a drone, a white figure is seen. It is to the left, pristine, standing out in the ocher landscape that surrounds it. It is a lion. Of marble. It weighs a ton and a half and before arriving there, in Villamiel (462 neighbors), it was in Ho Chi Min City (10.4 million inhabitants, the most populous city in Vietnam, formerly called Saigon). It was bought there last December by Joseph Shortell, an American, businessman dedicated to the sale of works of art and if everything goes as he wants, owner of the ‘Aqua et Oleum‘, the luxury hotel that will open next summer in the heart of the city. Sierra de Gata.

Aerial View of Aqua et Oleum Mill Property

Joseph could have chosen anywhere in the world. The France in which he spent a good part of his childhood. Greece, where her parents had a vacation home. Mexico, where he resided for a time and where he continues to do business. Or maybe a piece of land in Dallas (Texas), where he was born and still lives. But he chose Spain, Extremadura, Cáceres, Sierra de Gata, Villamiel. There he found a farm with an old oil mill. When he saw it, something stirred in his head. “It was as if time had stopped. It is the place that appeared in my dreams, “he summarizes by phone from his native country, in good Spanish.

He sweetens the language with some Mexican twist, to explain that in the eighties he was living for a few months in Extremadura, “working on the La Encomienda farm (in Las Vegas Altas del Guadiana), picking pears and apples,” he details. It is the beginning of the story that clarifies why a businessman from the southern United States ends up building a hotel in northern Extremadura.

That Extremaduran summer

At La Encomienda I got fed up with carrying boxes of fruit. I went mainly to learn Spanish, and I spent one of the best summers of my life there, I will never forget it », recalls the businessman, who after that adventure in Badajoz went to Paris. To the University of La Sorbonne, where he was trained in foreign languages ​​applied to Economics and Law. From there he went to Salamanca, to continue studying. And he got a girlfriend from Seville, whom he went to see frequently. “It was on those trips across the Ruta de la Plata that I got to know the Extremaduran landscape,” says Shortell, who at that time was short of money, as befits the usual university student. He was going from Salamanca to Seville “hitchhiking, by bus or on trains that were very slow,” he says, perhaps without knowing that even today he could make a rail journey similar to those of three decades ago.

Once the Salamanca stage was finished, he returned to Texas. To work and to cultivate his interest in the history of Latin America and Spain. Until “four or five years ago” he made a trip to Spain with some friends. «I drove (drove) from Madrid to Lisbon, and when I got to Trujillo I remembered perfectly that I had already been there before. And it seemed to me that many things had hardly changed. I loved. I thought about looking for a property to buy in Spain.

The Mill

Molino de aceite, que se respetará. :: / HOY

Shortly after, Shortell contacted an Extremaduran friend from her years at the La Encomienda farm on Facebook. And he asked him to show him the region. That journey left him with the feeling that he was returning to a land “that had modernized its roads but had managed to conserve its landscape and heritage very well.” On the last day of the trip, he stopped at a place he did not know: the Sierra de Gata. And everything he found there enchanted him. Later he met Francisco Martín, General Director of Tourism. They met in New York, where the representative of the Board had attended on the occasion of one of the promotional actions that his department organizes abroad to spread the Extremadura brand.

The talk he had with Martín was a further boost to the idea he had, says Shortell, who took two years to find the perfect place, the one he was looking for. In this endeavor, Miguel, owner of the Finca el Cabezo rural house, in Villamiel, helped him, as well as the person who took him to the farm where he has already begun to build his luxury hotel. Anyone will be well received in it, of course, but to begin with, the accommodation is designed with your fellow Americans in mind.

“It will have eight large suite-style rooms, and if all goes well, next to the hotel we will build a rural house” ~ Joseph Shortell | Art Entrepreneur and Promoter for the Aqua et Oleum Hotel

“I would call it a museum boutique hotel,” suggests the promoter. “It will have eight suite-type rooms, large, and also a restaurant and a bar,” he advances. The accommodation will occupy the main room of a plot “between four and five hectares, and if the hotel goes well, we will surely build a rural house in another mill next door”, says the businessman, who is “very excited about the project and convinced that Extremadura still has great possibilities to explore as a tourist destination ». “We are thinking of Spanish and European travelers, of course, but mainly in the United States market, where there are varied interest groups: lovers of gastronomy, those of bird watching or those who prefer hiking in the mountains”, raises. “The idea is to receive groups of between 15 and 20 people from North America, who will spend a week touring Extremadura and will have our hotel as their main base,” proposes Shortell, who last March accompanied a group of Americans on their visit to the region . “They were delighted,” he assures.

The Aqua et Oleum space will also be a space to exhibit art. “We will keep everything, we will not throw anything away,” guarantees the Dallas businessman, who is confident that he will be able to start the work in a few days and open next summer. “We have already done all the administrative procedures, we are waiting for them to grant us some permits, but we have already cleaned the mill and made the main access,” he details. «The mill, the waterwheel, the river, the castle of Trevejo in the background … You can do beautiful things here. It is a magical place, a jewel,”

View source: https://www.hoy.es

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A big favorite!

We discovered an authentic wonder in Sierra de Gata, a small corner of paradise all about its heritage and the environment. We felt a genuine soul based on serenity, the taste of creation, and the care given to the welcome. Joseph has a presence that honors you with his humanity. Chef Ruben has the alchemy that transforms the products grown on the site into delicacies, with a smile that makes you feel like you are part of his family. A big favorite!

Lucas I.

We will definitely be back!

A small boutique hotel that has just opened in the Sierra de Gata area. The place is perfect to spend a few days of absolute relaxation in the middle of nature... decorated with exquisite taste (large, comfortable, beautiful rooms with all the facilities) and luxury attention from all the staff. We will be back!

Maria S

Simply spectacular.

Aqua et Oleum is a magical place. A hotel built with great care and attention to detail. In the middle of nature, next to a stream, under the gaze of a castle, is this ideal place to rest, disconnect and recharge your energy. We spent some incredible days there. Simply spectacular. Thank you for everything.



The hackneyed phrase "we want you to feel at home" was made true.


Highly recommend!

A charming place, surrounded by pure nature and very friendly staff. Highly recommend!

Carmen S.

We will be back!

Aqua et Oleum is a unique place to disconnect, a location of incomparable beauty. Unbeatable guest treatment, along with exquisite surroundings made with passion. Continue with the dedication and love that you put in. We had a wonderful weekend and will be back for sure. Hugs!


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