Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Author: Sirem

Ground-breaking news

Since the last post a lot has happened. So many months of planning, waiting and worrying have finally started to bear fruit. Such a relief!

For some reason the council insists on the entire plan being printed on one long sheet.  This leads to much slapstick comedy when the wind is blowing.

The first job was heartbreaking but necessary: we had to cut down some fig trees.  :(  We lost about fifteen of them and had to relocate three olive trees.  Olive trees, we were told, are very tough and will tolerate relocation as long as you prune them hard and give them lots of water afterwards.  Time will tell whether this advice is correct.

Looking up the block at some of the lost fig trees that had to go in order to make way for the foundation slabs.

The second job was improving the driveway.  With last winter’s rains we had some erosion and it had become more like a goat track than a road.

Our driveway: the “before” photo.

We needed to do something if we were going to get heavy machinery, cement mixers, and delivery trucks up there.

Starting to dig

Excavator starting on the driveway.  Jason really wanted a turn but was not seen as responsible enough.

Gravel to make a nice compacted base

One of twelve truckloads of gravel to make a nice compacted base for the drive.

The “after” photo: from goat-track to motorway.  We like it a lot and it’s so wide that it immediately solves some of our future parking problems.

A view from the top, showing how the drive curves around to allow access to the cafe.  This was about halfway through.  More truckloads of gravel were dumped on the right side of this picture.

Then the excavator moved up the hill to start digging out the soil for the three buildings’ foundations and the pool.

Digging out the base for the cafe and first two rooms.

We had mountains of soil that we didn’t know what to do with.  At first it just got pushed over the edge of our hillside, but there was so much of it we were in danger of causing an avalanche onto the road.  So we had about 20 lorry loads worth of soil taken away, and lots of neighbours turned up with tractors and helped themselves to a bit.  We did keep some, though, for the mud plaster.

“And you could have it all, my empire of dirt…”

Battling machines

Rise of the machines.

The guys worked incredibly fast and before we knew it they were putting formwork, steel reinforcement, and the first loads of concrete in.

Early layer of concrete.  This not the real slab, just a bottom layer to make a good surface for the concrete formwork.

Early layer of concrete. This not the real foundation slab, just a bottom layer to make a good surface for the concrete formwork.

Pool starting to take shape.

Pool starting to take shape.

Formwork for the second bungalow.  One day this will be rooms three and four.

Formwork for the second bungalow. One day this will be rooms three and four.

Underlay slab for our house, right at the top of the hill.

Underlay slab for our house, right at the top of the hill.

Solid reinforced concrete beams that will support the restaurant.  The step up in the slab is so that rooms one and two will sit a little higher and not cut too deeply into the hillside.

Reinforced concrete beams that will support the restaurant. The step up in the slab is so that rooms one and two will sit a little higher and not cut too deeply into the hillside.

Improvised tent so there's somewhere dry to store gear and make tea on rainy days.

Improvised tent so there’s somewhere dry to store gear and make tea on rainy days.  The workers were sceptical of Jason’s plan to build this out of scrap wood but so far it is holding up.

Panorama from the top of the orchard, looking west.  Click for full size.

Another big job that is now done was to lay 66 metres of concrete pipe in the ditch next to the main road and then cover it over.  The idea is to carry away the rain water that comes down the hill, and also to stop our new driveway from acting as a dam.  Each pipe section was 1.5 metres long and 80 cm in diameter.  I am so glad that this job is over now as it was the scariest and most dangerous of all the work done so far. Watching the excavator lift and swing a very heavy concrete pipe in the air, hanging from a chain,  44 times in succession while traffic was still passing on the road was very nerve-racking!  I don’t think we remembered to take a photo of this job because we were so busy watching it nervously.

“Before” photo, taken in March 2014.

After: you can’t see it, but there’s 66 metres of 80 cm concrete pipe buried on the right-hand side of the road there.  Smoothing it over afterwards makes more handy parking spaces.

During these exciting times we had my parents and Jason’s uncle John and aunt Marg staying with us.   In the evenings one or two drinks were had in order to celebrate the start of the building work.

John and Marg inspecting the site.

Jason tells me I have to add cat photos to a blog post or people will complain.  So, here they are.  The kittens are getting bigger every day.  They have names now, but we are still trying to adopt them out.

Panda.

Panda.

Pablo.

Pablo.

Panini.

Panini.

Coco.

Coco.

All together.

All together.

And finally, a big thanks to JP who sent us a wonderful 24mm lens that took most of the photos above.  Cheers, JP, we love it!

A sofa at last

The courtyard here is our living room: we have three rooms and a kitchen, but the place to sit, relax, and eat is usually outside. (At least while the good weather lasts!) We got a lot of use out of our plastic camping chairs, but eventually we wanted something more comfortable. So we decided to build a sedir: a kind of low, long, wooden Turkish sofa.  We put our ideas into Sketchup and then bought some wood.

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The original plan in Sketchup.

Construction took a few days and lots of cups of tea. Jason worked very hard and luckily my mum was around to help. I was responsible for photography but that means you can’t see how much I was helping too.  :)

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Jason testing the strength of the wooden beams. No middle support yet.

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The second part of the “L” taking shape.

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Working into the night: Jason was determined to finish it before dawn. Luckily we have tolerant neighbours.

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That is me with the important job of putting some weight on the corner.

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Woodwork finished at last.

After a late night finishing the construction, we sanded everything down and used our new compressed-air spray gun to stain the sofa. I bought some blue and white fabric, and found a local tailor who specializes in cotton-filled cushions and duvets. He put together some very nice fat stuffed cushions within a few days.

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Spray gun time. Jason says everyone should own an air compressor. I am not sure whether I agree with him.

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Done!

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Cushions arrived. It is as comfy as it looks.

The whole thing cost us 200 lira for timber and screws, 30 lira for a tin of wood stain, 75 lira for fabric, and 500 lira for the tailor to make the cushions. That’s a total of 805 lira or £226. Not bad! (Jason wants me to add that these calculations assume he works for free.)

We also felt bad that our dog Zeytin was still living in a cardboard box as winter approaches. So we knocked together a little dog house for her. She is again pleased with her new accommodation.

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Another house! For me?!

Finally, you are never very far from animal-related drama in a small village in Turkey. The other day we came home to find four beautiful puppies had been abandoned on the road near our house. We had to do something for them: I think the pictures show how impossible it would have been to leave them out in the street. It was a long night of feeding them milk and cleaning up their pee and cuddling them.

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So much cuteness in one box.

Unfortunately we just couldn’t keep them because we already have five cats and a dog. So we made some phone calls to animal charities in the area, and luckily we found there’s an excellent dog shelter in Aydın run by the local council. They assured us that all four puppies would have no problem finding a new  home, so that made us feel a bit better about the sad moment of having to part with them.

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OK, where are we going? Is there food there?

 

Meeting the locals

From the day we arrived we have been overwhelmed by the hospitality of our neighbours. Just after we landed it was the holiday of Eid (celebrations and feasting to mark the end of Ramazan) and all of our closest neighbours gave us plates of home-cooked food. Some of them don’t have much, but all of them insist on giving us bread, eggs, vegetables, olive oil, etc. We hope they will be happy with fig jam in return!

figs drying on a specially made wooden pallet

Figs drying on a specially made wooden pallet

As well as sharing the things they have grown, our neighbours have been keen to share their knowledge and experience. For instance, I didn’t know how to properly dry figs. Did you know that you first wait for the figs to fall onto the ground and then you pick them up and dry them in full sun for a week? Also, the ground should be recently ploughed to make it softer, so the figs are not bruised when they fall.

This means that fig picking can take weeks as you wait for them all to fall naturally. In some other fig-growing regions, the figs are chemically treated to make them ripen all at the same time. Doing it the slow, natural way is why Turkish dried figs command such high prices in supermarkets. Time will tell if I have both the patience and the back strength to collect figs every day for a month! But in any case it can’t be more exhausting than the job I was doing in Britain.

Days have been pretty hot but it cools down during the night and there is always a gentle refreshing breeze in the evenings. It is not like this in other parts of Turkey. In Konya or Antalya, you can’t sleep until about 4 or 5am as it is still hot and there is no breeze, In Istanbul, it can be quite humid so you are constantly sweating even when you are sitting still. We don’t have air conditioning here yet but we’re coping very well without it.

Relaxing at the beach

Relaxing at the beach

You can see on our local attractions page how close we are to archaeological sites and the sea. Alongside all the renovation work, so far we’ve managed several times to jump in the car and head to the beach for a couple of hours around sunset… it has been great! There are no traffic jams, no queues, and at that time of the day the beaches are quiet and the water is very inviting.

Building a new bed

Building a new bed

My parents have been staying with us for a while, and have been really helpful. Recently we were also visited by Jason’s parents: all of a sudden we are very popular with our families! :) They also helped a lot in the garden and helped Jason to build a bed… very handy as we are still waiting for our furniture to arrive.

First shots of the farmhouse

Grape vines growing over the courtyard

Under the vines

Back in March we bought the orchard and the farmhouse. The previous owners moved out in April, and so the house has been empty for a while. We can’t wait to get out there ourselves, but in the meantime my mum and dad have very kindly travelled down from Istanbul to check things out for us. The garden has grown like crazy and there were a lot of leaves to sweep up, plus a bird seems to have made a nest in the kitchen, but apart from that no problems! There’s fruit growing all over the place: limes, pomegranates, pears, plums, and of course figs.

drive

Dad hosing down the driveway

Here are a couple of photos my parents sent us. We love the way the grape vines have grown to shade the courtyard: they were just bare vines when we saw them in March.

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