Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: cafe

Moon shot

The last hours of July are ebbing away and I have a few photos to share but to tell the truth it’s been a bit of an incremental month — no huge surprises to report. Lots of small forms of progress though.

One big thing that happened: we had a tourist coach full of people come to the cafe for a Sunday morning breakfast. We learned the day before that they would arrive at 8am and we had to have them fed and out the door by 9 so they could travel on to Bodrum. It was about fifty people in total and we don’t even have that many chairs so we were frantically borrowing from the neighbours the evening before.

Borrowing every chair we could get.

We also had couples staying in both rooms that night but thankfully they were super-agreeable guests who were OK with having their breakfast a bit later. Anyway, it was a very stressful morning but turned out fine in the end. Nobody went away hungry and we got lots of nice comments about the cafe and the food and even the clean bathrooms. So that was good.

Breakfast is ready. Bring on the crowds.

Cafe has never been so full!

I know that one day a bus load of people might feel normal, and obviously there are loads of busy cafes where it would just be another morning. But for us it was a trial by fire that was hopefully worth it because now fifty more people know we exist.

What else? Last Friday was the lunar eclipse. We were really lucky to have clear skies and good viewing conditions; peak darkness of the moon was at around 11:30pm local time. Seemed only right to try to take a few photos. Wasn’t sure how well they would turn out as I don’t really have a long-enough lens for astronomical stuff. Happy with the results though.

Moon with earth’s shadow encroaching.

Blood moon! #nofilter #onlykiddingloadsoffilters

The moon and Mars.

And then it was after midnight and I still had all the gear out so I figured why not take more photos? I really like night-time landscape shots but I don’t take them often enough due to being terribly lazy. Here’s two of the better ones.

Driveway and gardens, looking west to Mount Mycale, late at night.

Pool in a reflective mood.

As usual we continue to build stuff. Finally got around to putting together our prototype sun-lounge. With wheels! It’s proving popular with both humans and cats so now it’s time to make five more.

Sun-lounge prototype. Cushions on order.

Building two is coming along. We’re again at the stage of building windows and door frames which feels like deja vu but it also feels good because it means we’re that much closer to habitability.

Window frames again.

We did some more concreting work up in our house, so now there’s a complete flight of stairs up to the mezzanine floor, a fireplace area for a solid fuel stove, and a big bricked-in box of about 1500kg of clay soil that’s meant to act as our thermal-mass heat storage. All of that is the brick structure on the centre right of the photo.

Fireplace and thermal-mass-box developments. Billowing sunshade for that post-apocalyptic settlement feel.

And that’s where we are right now. In one sense the place is still a construction site, but in another sense it’s not. Guests in the cafe or in the first two rooms can relax and enjoy themselves on the veranda or by the pool and the stuff we’re working on is no longer out there in the open but increasingly hidden away at the other end of the block. Which feels like progress.

Tropical outlook from room one’s veranda.

Gratuitous pool shot.

Couldn’t forget some animal representation, of course. The cats have been lazy in the heat this month and haven’t done anything supremely photogenic. But the dogs are always around and always being themselves.

Zeliş and Zeytin summing up their respective personalities in one photo.

See you next month.

 

 

Sunshine and how to escape it

One day, not too far in the future, the feel of this blog is going to change. It will be great, one day, to make a post called “Hotel and house finally finished!”, or something similar. Then I guess we might switch the focus to food photos and landscapes and shots of undiscovered local oddities. But for now, we are still in the realm of incremental construction progress. So I hope you are all OK with another post that feels like a small step forward from the one before.

Overview of the project.

One bit of news is that the cafe is now open for business — at least it is on Sundays! And some local people have come by for long, leisurely Turkish breakfasts. We’d love to open more than just one day a week (and we do if someone books especially) but at the moment it’s hard to justify too much time away from the building work. Sadly we just can’t afford to have one or two of us sitting in the cafe all day waiting for potential customers.

Terrace looking welcoming, we hope, with a few more tables and the dog houses moved to a more suitable location at the other end of the property.

Terrace and cafe by night.

We’re still experimenting with exactly what goes into our breakfasts, but there are some staples that are always there: eggs in some form, fried vegetables, fruit, cheese, olives, lots of different jams, and of course bread.

Front to back: boiled eggs, tahini pekmez (sesame paste mixed with grape molasses), olives, butter & honey.

Front to back: apple, kiwi fruit & banana; peppers and aubergines in a tomato sauce; various jams; sigara börek (fried pastry rolls stuffed with cheese).

Spring seems to be rapidly turning into summer: today’s high will be 32 °C. And once again the warm weather has been great for the gardens. The wet winter has made it an especially good year for green things to launch themselves out of the ground.

Rose bush gone wild in the front right.

Gardens outside rooms one and two.

Garden with a view at the north end of the pool. Note the fast-growing mulberry tree just behind the trellis.

All this sunshine reminded us, though, that the pool was always going to need more shade before summer comes in earnest. The pavilion we built earlier is great, but it’s at its best in the morning. The late afternoon sun shines straight in and makes it much less hospitable. For a long time we considered going with big umbrellas (and you’ve probably seen the green umbrellas that the nice people at TwoFour Productions bought for us).  Still, the trouble with umbrellas is that a strong wind coming up the valley will often as not send them into the pool. So we sat down with Sketchup and designed a more permanent solution.

New sunshade.

One nice feature of the new sunshade is that from about 2pm in the afternoon it starts to shade one corner of the pool, making it possible for easily sunburned people (e.g., me) to get out of those UV rays.

Two layers of green shadecloth seems about right.

Middle of the day sees lots of shade around the pool now.

It’s not only the human population that have been enjoying the new and shadier pool environment. Cezmi and Sasha claimed two of the deck chairs for themselves. (Which reminds me, I need to build some nice wooden sun lounges as these chairs have seen better days.)

Cats enjoying the shade.

The cats, being cats, have been trying to claim territory all over the place. We had some guests who were far too nice and let Lucy sit on their laptop for a bit. I had a word with her afterwards though and she assures me it won’t happen again.

Cat enjoying laptop of tolerant guest. “Don’t look at gmail, look at me!”

The dogs are much more helpful and reliable, as ever. They’re not very keen on where we put their dog houses when we moved them up from the cafe terrace, so instead they have installed themselves as watchdogs in rooms three and four. They seem very happy there but I will have to break it to them eventually that rooms are for people.

Zeytin: straw dog.

And we have of course done some actual construction work. The second building has really taken shape now, with all the straw bales in. Just the fabric and mesh work to go before plastering begins.

Building two progress.

Interior progress, room four. Strips of wood define the bathroom walls, ready for old-fashioned lathe-and-plaster work.

The good weather has also given us more excuses to get out and about. Here are a couple of shots from Dilek National Park, 50 minutes south-west of us.

National park view. Greek island of Samos in the background.

Coastal drive with tree.

Finally, something we’ve never thought to include before. Opening the cafe meant we had to make sure the cafe bathrooms were finished and ready for business. You get to them by going outside, onto the veranda, and then around the corner. Thus nobody’s table is too close to the loo, which is good, but there’s a side effect of giving the bathrooms quite a nice northerly view. Here’s a photo of one of the bathrooms with an attempt to catch the view in the mirror.

Cafe bathroom.

 

Spring is coming

Winter is just about over. It’s been very wet but, thankfully for the animals of the village, not especially cold. And now there are definite signs of spring in the air — here are a couple of shots to prove it.

Misty morning landscape.

White flowers under the olive trees.

(These were taken only about a hundred metres from our new house: a short walk through the neighbour’s olives and you reach the crest of the ridge, opening up a lovely view to the east.)

We were surprised and happy to get more guests than we thought we would during the coldest part of the year. So a big thank you to all of our recent visitors. One couple was especially patient and helped us get some much-needed photos of breakfast in the cafe.

Breakfast from above.

And from the side!

A new friendlier look for the cafe: some posters and a blue-grey feature wall.

We have also managed to get some work done. The goal is still to get rooms three and four open as soon as we possibly can, hopefully in time for this summer. The roof structure is done, the waterproof membrane is on, and we’ve had some guys out to install the gutters. Tiles are being hauled up onto the roof as we speak and soon it will be time to get on with the straw-bale walls and the interior.

Roof ready for tiles.

Tile laying proceeding.

We’re really pleased with how well the pool pavilion is going to fit in with building two, as you can see in the next photo. That green mesh sunshade (on the back of the pavilion) is quite handy at the moment for making the pool area feel like less of a building site. But at some not-too-distant point in the future it will come down so we can plaster the wall behind.

Pool pavilion will end up looking like part of building two.

The new roof on building two makes it a great work space when it rains. So on days when it would have been too dangerous to go up on the slippery roof membrane, we knocked together two more picnic tables for the terrace. They just need to be painted and they’re ready for guests. The terrace is going to look a lot more hospitable having three tables instead of one.

Another picnic table getting painted.

Between guests and construction work we didn’t get a ton of time for animal photos this month, but I did manage one nice one of Lara in her new role as masked vigilante.

“Who are you?”
“I’m Batcat.”

See you next time!

Booking dot com, cafe, cupboard, and cats

We’ve known for a long time that only being listed on Airbnb was probably foolish on our part and meant we were not reaching some potential customers. So we have finally gotten our act together and listed our place on booking.com.  Let’s see whether or not they send us a flood of new guests: time will tell.

One side effect of putting up a listing on a second booking site was that we needed to take some fresh photos to make sure we’re showing the place at its best. Here’s a shot of the main building from the driveway: leaves are falling from the fig trees but at least it’s still sunny.

Main entrance.

And another photo we really liked, that shows the connection between the rooms and the garden.

View from room two looking out at the olive grove.

For the same reason, we have at last set the cafe area up to properly look like a cafe. It’s crying out for a few more decorations to brighten up the place (posters on the walls, that sort of thing) but in general we’re pleased with how it’s coming together. Turns out we can seat about 20 people quite comfortably.

Cafe.

Looking back at the bar and reception area.

Spot the Christmas lights!

The cafe kitchen is done; I think the only thing left to do is to bring up the fridge from the old farmhouse so we can maximize our fridge space up here. The skeletal food cupboard you saw last time now has walls and doors and shelves and holds a ridiculous amount of food. And the loft has a real staircase so we can take the aluminium ladder outside and use it for more appropriate things.

Loft stairs and new pantry cupboard.

Every home needs one of these.

Some of the usual suspects have asked for more photos of our menagerie of animals. I do try to take these shots, I really do, but my camera is slow at auto-focusing, so with our high-energy demonic cats you should know that most of the photos come out like this…

Picasso cat! (Can you guess which one it is?)

Still, occasionally you will get a more narcissistic cat that behaves him or her-self and sits still long enough for a good photo.

Panini. With bonus purple disinfectant from a small operation after a fight went badly for him.

On the outdoor work front, the bricklaying is progressing well and you can now see where the fireplace, chimney, stairs, etc., will be in our new house.

Complicated pile of bricks that will one day be fireplace, thermal mass blob, and stairs.

And in fact the timber framing on building two has started as well, but no photos yet unfortunately. The goal is to get rooms three and four online as soon as we possibly can.

Buildings two and three underway

A small confession: the photos in this post are about a week out of date, so of course it’s very tempting to run outside with the camera and show you the latest developments. But, knowing me, there’s a danger that if I do that I’ll get stuck in an infinite loop of “just one more shot, just a little bit more processing” and then nobody would get to see anything. So I’m going to run with these, and hope that you will forgive me.

Zeytin enjoying the warm stones of the driveway.

The big news is in the title: we have, at last, started work on the second and third buildings. That’s going to be rooms three and four, and our new house respectively. This time around we’ve decided there are advantages to working on the two structures in parallel. Right now it’s small sections of brickwork for some of the bathroom walls to make sure there won’t be any straw bales right next to wet areas like showers. Then it’s on to the timber framing and getting a roof on both buildings as soon as we can, so that straw and everything else can be stored under shelter while we work.

This probably looks familiar: another T-shaped wall defining the bathrooms for rooms three and four. The junk on top is to keep rain out of the hollow brickwork.

One day this will be our en-suite bathroom (window on the left there, above the toilet; shower behind the wheelbarrow).

Timber deliveries bring a sense of deja vu.

It’s good to be making progress on this stuff while the weather is still pleasant. At this rate we’re going to be doing the framing as winter comes on, so I guess we will find out whether it’s more fun to lay roof tiles in the freezing cold or in the hottest days of summer (like last time).

West wall of room three will be right up against the back of the pool pavilion.

I wish I could say everything in the first building was 100% complete, but that isn’t quite true. Several little jobs remain — some details in the kitchen, a cupboard interior and a mirror in room one, etc. But we are getting there. And they will be good jobs for rainy days in December I suppose.

One thing that did get finished was the stone wall running up the side of the driveway. (All Koray’s work, not ours, I should admit.) There’s now a nice welcoming feel as you come up from the street. All we need now is a sign!

Stone retaining wall on the driveway is done.

The kitchen is, we hope, looking more professional now. Very pleased with how the steel-and-timber shelves worked out. We had to suspend them from the ceiling joists because the one big disadvantage of straw-bale walls is that you can’t really sink load-bearing screws into them after the fact.

Kitchen approaches completion.

Suspended shelving.

Microwave gets a spot on the shelf, freeing up lots of worktop space, and new ventilation hood also gets a bit of steel to hold it in place.

I won’t bore you with all the little details, but we were proud of this one: the laptop and the printer have been perched at one end of the bar counter for a while now. But the printer (like the microwave) was a bit of a space hog. So we put together a miniature table to sit down under the counter and keep the printer tidied away.

Mini table for the printer.

And not to neglect the many normal-sized tables we’ve been making. Two for each guest room (one inside and one out) plus about eight for the cafe, picnic tables on the terrace, and some chunky low tables for drinks by the pool.

This must be table number 10 or 11. Or 12. I lose count!

The two big things still needed in the kitchen are the pantry cupboard and a staircase to the loft. The cupboard, at least, is well on the way. You might be able to spot that the shelves are set back a bit, so we can put little spice-rack-type shelves on the insides of the doors for easy access.

Big food cupboard for the kitchen.

The terrace is looking friendlier now, with the railings painted and some potted plants bringing a bit of colour. We’re getting used to the idea of just sticking with the white gravel as a low-maintenance surface rather than doing paving stones or bricks.

Plants on the terrace.

View of the village looking autumnal; our old house in the foreground.

And finally we wanted to say thank you to all the guests who’ve spent their holiday time with us. Especially those who weren’t worried about autumn weather and turned up long after we thought the tourist season was over. We hope you had fun and that you will come back one day!

Gratuitous shot of Lara pretending to be a panther.

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