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The start….

This is our very first post. We (well probably just me, Lorraine, while Stuart does the more manual work) are writing this blog to let you know the progress on our renovation…  These are the photos that we fell in love with and planted the seed of our new lives.  I had this photo pinned to my desk for well over a year while we got the funds together to make it happen.

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First blog post

 

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One year on!

So we started the actual building work Easter last year, so it’s not strictly a calendar year, but allow me some poetic licence.

We are still not completely watertight, although we have windows and doors we are still waiting on the installation of the roof light on the chimney for the final seal. However, despite all the bad weather and storms, and there were many this last winter, we have been water tight in as much as we had no leaks or damage. We are grateful for that.

The windows and doors are beautiful and we are so pleased with the look they give the house. The internal shutters should be easy to use and mean that we don’t have to have curtains or blinds. The mosquito nets will be fitted later, when the decorating is finished. For the time being most of the doors and windows are wrapped in plastic to avoid damage from the tradespeople.

The decorators start tomorrow and will be focussing in the bathrooms, so that the plumbers can finish installing the taps and sanitary ware. In the small shower room we have some patterned tiles on the floor and polished concrete on the walls. It will be nice when the rest of the fittings are in and we can see the completed look. It is tantalisingly close now.

In the larger en-suite bathroom we have been waiting to fit our specially delivered cast iron bath from England. The plumbers held it in position for me to check.

And I tried it out for size!

The polished concrete in here has been shaped into an arch from the toilet area to the bath’s resting place in the chimney, which echoes the other arches in the house.

And we commissioned a carpenter to take some of the old roof beams that were removed during the demolition phase, to hand craft a shelf for the sink. He wasn’t sure what wood it was (some if it is wild oak and chestnut) but said it was as strong as iron and the screws he used to fit it are the longest I’ve ever seen!

We now have an internal staircase, which the original house never had. Obviously this meant giving up some floor space on both floors but better than going outside in the rain to go down to bed!

We are now working on ideas for a space saver staircase to get to the mezzanine level above the kitchen area.

We have guttering, and a connection to our septic pit.

And an electricity column, to connect to the Network and a place for our water tank and solar panel. Boring and ugly but essential.

Stuart has been working hard back in England to earn more money to keep the rest of the project going and I am busy spending it! The next items on the shopping list are kitchen (planned and just need to decide the colour of the cupboards), internal doors and wardrobes. Light fittings and furniture choices after that.

The only thing stopping us from moving in within the next few weeks is our electricity connection. We are in the queue but there are currently no poles available, and we need a new one put up at the bottom of the plot. So I’m not sure how long we’ll have to wait for that, but we hope not as long as it takes to grow the tree from which they come! We are chasing every lead we have to get this done but if necessary then we can move in using a generator to run the fridge and wifi!

Hope to be sharing some more photos of the finished decorated house soon and some more exciting news in the next few weeks.

In the meantime hope you all have a great Easter!

The end of the year approaches

So, it’s been a while since my last post…progress has slowed down, considerably. As we approach the end of the year we can only hope that we will be able to move in to the house in Spring next year as we had wanted to this year! However, we have found that things don’t always go to plan and we have contingency in place….

Stuart had returned to England in October to start work to earn some more money towards the increasing costs and we left Greece to drive back together with the dogs for a winter in Cornwall in November. As we left Greece we had chosen windows, doors, shutters, flooring, taps and baths and we are excited to see what these look like installed, on our return.

Unfortunately the house is till not watertight and some floor levelling work still needs to take place before we can take the final accurate measurements for the windows and doors that are on order. It will take 4 weeks to make the windows and then another week to fit them, so it seems unlikely they will be in before the new year.

We have chosen internal shutters like we saw during our trip to Santorini in September. (Yes we spent some of my birthday trip researching windows and air source heat pumps with fan coil units!) This will give a cleaner look to the outside of the building, so we can see the exposed stone and will be easier to use on a day to day basis. Unknown to us when we bought the house is that it is in a conservation area, so we are not allowed to use aluminium. We have chosen engineered wood, which has added to the budget! Along with some other costs we were not aware of when we started…..

Bathroom fittings have been difficult to choose. Not wanting to put a plastic bath in the old stone building, we felt it was out of keeping, we have chosen a cast iron bath. However, we could not source one the right size and shape in Crete (it needs to be small to fit in the old fireplace/chimney) so we have ordered one from Victorian plumbing and it is in manufacture right now, being painted in a Farrow and Ball paint. It will then be sent to Crete on a pallet. It should take 5-7 days to get there….. we’ll see!

The large outside terrace will also be tiled. And there will be a black metal safety rail around the terrace as well as a hand rail for the external staircase.

Our heating and cooling system will be an air source heat pump with fan coil units, which according to George Clarke, is where the future lies….as green energy as we can use, along with solar for the hot water system. Again, this heating/cooling option was an additional expense we hadn’t budgeted for but it should be more economical in the future.

https://les.mitsubishielectric.co.uk/the-hub/explaining-air-source-heat-pumps

In our heads it all looks good, and we can only hope it comes together just like we’ve imagined it!

While others may be dreaming of a white Christmas, we’ll be dreaming of a weatherproof house with tiled floors and bathrooms!

It’s beginning to look a lot like a house!

Just a quick update to say that work continues at pace, despite the high temperatures! Every time we visit site more work has been done…we have an insulated and tiled roof and floors ready for finishes. All the window and openings for doors are there ready for us to decide what type we want and then the house will be water tight.

The photos below are of the upstairs. The beams are there for the mezzanine level, under which will be the kitchen and small dining table. The lounge is at the end with the four windows. These have a view of the mountains and a glimpse of sea as well, which is an unexpected bonus!

The outside stairs have been rebuilt using some of the original stone, although not exactly the same footprint as before due to safety. And now we can go upstairs without any ladders!

The terrace has wonderful views and we can see them properly now. The old roof floor had fallen through and it was too dangerous to stand on it when we decided to buy the house.

Downstairs the archway into the ensuite bathroom has been built. This will be finished in polished concrete (White) with a handmade bath in the old fireplace. There will be a window in the chimney to let in light. The front of the fireplace facing the bedroom will be sandblasted glass to afford some privacy!

So we are nearly ready to do first fix electrics and plumbing.

We have to choose our windows (aluminium or wood…), and the colour of the window frames and shutters. Another important decision is the type of heating system. We are hoping to use some green energy in the form of an air source heat pump to run fan coils, along with solar panels for the hot water, as is standard in Greece.

We also have to choose the external render colour – although we are quite liking the white against the stone. Thoughts anyone? We quite like the simplicity of white but is it a bit safe?

Fingers crossed the house is watertight and we have working electricity by the next update. In the meantime we will be hosting lots of visitors for some birthday celebrations in the next few weeks!

I get knocked down but I get up again!

Progress continues at pace…so quickly we can barely keep up with it! Walls have been rebuilt, windows re-positioned, doorways constructed and a new wooden ceiling in the arched bedroom has been installed. We have had to decide the final layout, which walls will be plastered and which will be left as stone and the paint colour for the wooden ceilings! For us this is exciting stuff!

Below, Stamatis, on the left is the engineer and Adoni, on the right, is the main contractor. Both have been extremely helpful and highly professional, albeit a little camera shy!

There was a small miscommunication and a stone wall was covered in plaster when we had wanted it left as natural stone. It was immediately rectified and we hope to end up with a finish as shown below. They now know what we are aiming for and we are discussing all steps before they happen, so we don’t misunderstand each other again.

We visited the site again today and preparations have started for the concrete floors and the concrete roof on the one storey arched room, to provide a terrace, and the reinforced concrete ring to provide support on the two storey structure.

We could also see the wooden ceiling in the master bedroom suite and the new doorway that had to be built again because the original wall was bowed and needed to be taken down.

And all this work has taken place in an early summer mini heatwave!

It’s been sticky just sitting around let alone how hard the men have been working!

June has started well, apart from the car breaking down today, and we are excited to see what progress brings next. It’s easier to see what the finished house will look like.

I’m not sure quite where we are on this graph right now, we have definitely been in the dark swamp of despair at times, but we’re sure we will get to the end and this will be one of the things we are most proud of!

Happy summer everyone x

It gets worse before it gets better….or there’s not much left of the house!

So, we know it all went very quiet while we re-worked plans and sorted out some details with the new architect/engineer.  We agreed the layout and preliminary costs and then the building work started on Easter weekend.  The children were visiting us for Easter, so that was a nice celebration. Lots has happened in between then and now…..mainly demolition.

We’ve also moved house….twice! But are settled in a temporary rental house in Vamos. It will be a place to stay for the next six months but it makes us realise just how much we want our real home, finished and ready to live in.

The season has started here as well  so we have been busy cleaning, gardening and taking care of pools ready for the influx of tourists. We have also taken on a small dog that had been abandoned on Greek Easter weekend and she has settled into our family nicely.

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The church at Agios Vassilios, Easter weekend

I am doing Pilates twice a week and Stuart has joined a badminton group, so we are keeping fit with a much more active lifestyle than we had when we working in offices.

However, the demolition has left us (mainly me!) a bit shell-shocked. I hadn’t anticipated how much of the house would need to be replaced. We knew the front wall joined to the steps was bowed and needed to come down, along with the roof so we could add a concrete ring for stability and re-inforcement.

So when we turned up and the corner of the house had gone, along with the front windows I was a bit upset. Bless the builder and his daughter who translates for us…they didn’t know what to say. Their thoughts are that at some point the house had been in a fire and many of the stones were cracked, allowing water in that had caused damage to some of the other softer stones.

So it was with some trepidation we met the architect at the plot on Friday….would there be anything left at all!?!???  We created a sigh of relief and it’s nice to see some of the re-build happening.  We can see that the house is going to be beautiful…one day!

Meanwhile we have seen a sunset from our new home and look forward to even more progress, so one day we can actually sit on our roof terrace and have a proper relaxing sundowner!

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Setbacks and lessons learned – looking forward to 2018!

Many of you know that it took a long time for us to buy this house and plot – lots of complicated reasons; the village is “dead” and we had to establish how much of the plot was within the village boundaries and the “strange” behaviour of the sellers – two sisters that live in Athens, who made the process much longer than it needed to be. But we stuck with it and 18 months later it was ours and we were ready to get going.

Stuart and I thought that by using the architect married to the engineer who had done all of the research on the plot we would have a head start and be able to proceed with the Greek equivalent of planning permission more quickly. We were impressed with her enthusiasm and vision for the house and what it could eventually be.

Sadly, her enthusiasm did not translate into action and we have been frustrated with progress since first paying her to take the measurements in August. Twice we were told to take our passports to her office to sign the application and on both occasions she cancelled the meeting at short notice with very poor excuses…. so, after lots of other issues which we won’t bore you with, but would be happy to explain over a glass of wine one day, we have taken the unpleasant decision that enough is enough and we need to move on with a new engineer to take the project forward for us.

We’ve lost at least 3-4 months progress, as we will be starting the drawing and planning process from scratch and the prospect of us moving into the small garden annexe in Spring next year is all but over.

Still, there are so many horror stories around – see this article as one just example. This makes us think that things are not so bad for us….so far! At one point during this process we thought we might never get a water or electricity supply to the house but we have now been given a certificate that states we can be connected – but only when the Electricity company has enough cables and equipment to do so…so not entirely sure when yet!

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The new engineer we have chosen has done lots of renovation projects (take a look at his work by clicking on the link) and has been very professional to date. He’s been recommended to us by a number of people so we hope that things will progress at a better pace.

And as one local said to us…”it’s a good job it’s a beautiful place to live because it’s certainly frustrating! It is beautiful and we are enjoying our time here, despite the frustrations.

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Hoping 2018 starts more smoothly and we see some building work soon! Merry Christmas to all and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year to you all!

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The size of the task ahead of us – planning!

So, in between the food, the sunsets and the gardening, we have visited the ruin to start planning. We still love it and imagine how wonderful it will be when we have finished it….Details from the main house. This will have two large bedrooms and two bathrooms downstairs along with storage and the utility room for laundry.

The upstairs will have a kitchen with lounge and wood burner. The terrace will provide a seating area, with shade, for dining and chilling….eventually, if we can see that far ahead! But in the meantime the view will have to do.

 

The old animal barn will eventually be a self contained studio, with small kitchen, a bathroom and bedroom. It’s very small but we hope to make it ‘gram-able’!

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But, the scale of the work is daunting – the roof has collapsed on the terrace, part of it has blown off from the main house and the barn only ever had corrugated iron!

 

 

But the house has some interesting features that will have to be inspected by the archeology department before we begin work. We sense a delay already….

 

But the main parts the archeology department will be interested in are the arches – the main one and then a smaller one where the fireplace would have been (it might hold our bath or bed…) and the wine press. Who would have thought we would ever end up sleeping next to a wine press!!! Don’t answer that!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work and Play – Olive Picking

 

Every trip out is a ‘reccy’ for architectural details – we love the iron railings on the building above.

Each meal inspires some more cookery ideas…. the squid and salad we had in Chania and the the dish with the pomegranate was my interpretation of a Nigella recipe. Was quite proud of this!

In between, Stuart and our friend and neighbour Shaun, have worked hard clearing the garden waste with huge bonfires.

And then the time came to pick our olives. Our neighbours Shaun and Carol were on hand to show the true meaning of co-operation, we couldn’t have done it without them! And also our tall son, Matt, helped reach the very high branches. Again, we could not have managed to pick all these sacks in a day without him.

And all he wanted was a Cretan mixed grill as reward, ready for the next day…

we took the sacks to the co-operative for pressing, note the royal mail sacks and the sign at the factory!

And the next day, after a wait in line with the proper olive farmers, our old was ready.

And it’s delicious! Now I’m making the large olives for eating…after brining for a month they are ready to be put into a jar with oil and vinegar for eating.

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Early days

So, I’m playing catch up and trying to bring this up to date before the end of the year! So there will be mainly pictures and just a few words.

 

The weather has been great! Lots of warms sunny days, days on the beach and just a few cloudy days with a bit of rain. We’ve always visited at the end of October and it can be very changeable but November and December so far have been a revelation.

 

We’ve discovered new favourites in Chania – the food above was an early lunch at Ginger Concept in Chania. Such a stunning location and got us in the mood for restoring our house….they have some beautiful pieces, olive oil and soap. Sadly our budget doesn’t stretch to filling the house with all of their goodies!

So, we’ve enjoyed a sundowner (or two) at our house as we continue to plan for our future….

The Journey

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Sorry this has taken a while to post but we’ve been non-stop busy! Hope this doesn’t bore you….

Setting Off

So, having made the decision that Monty should sit on my lap for the whole journey so as to have more space for stuff in the car, we loaded it up….with lots of food for Monty! We headed first to London to spend a day with the children.

The Route

We left the children , after a tearful farewell, and headed to a B&B just outside Folkestone. Convenient for the Eurotunnel the next morning. We headed down through France and found our first stop for the night, that is after having got lost and going to a road with the same name in a nearby village on the other side of the valley…. we woke the next morning to beautiful views across Alsace. We were sorry to have arrived so late that we didn’t have a chance to sample any of the local wines.

We set off in the direction of Switzerland and bought our Swiss motorway pass at the border crossing. We had imagined Switzerland to be the most picturesque part of the journey but we found it very flat, dull and bumper to tail traffic. We came through a 17km tunnel to what we thought was Italy (decidedly more scenic), then discovered it wasn’t and had the world’s most expensive pizza in an empty restaurant overlooking a beautiful lake. After re-fueling we were on our way again to our first real Italian stop at an Agriturismo.

This place was very romantic but not very sound proof as we discovered when the couple next door gave us a very noisy and lengthy performance of what Italians like to do best, other than eat pasta and drink wine! After a very short night’s sleep we headed off for our next Italian overnight. La Locanda del Gelso – This was perfection – everything we had hoped it would be. Superb food and wine and this time a somewhat quieter night’s rest. We would highly recommend this place – you can click on the link above.

Next morning we got up, got some provisions for the ferry journey ahead, a bottle of red and some limoncello….a gyros pitta on deck with Monty watching the sunset as we sailed towards Greece. We woke the next morning, having stopped in Corfu and then on to Patras.

A short drive from Patras to Piraeus and another overnight ferry journey from Athens to Chania in Crete. We had arrived.

More to follow….

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