I knew we wouldn’t be able to resist making another post!
It’s an exciting week for us. Our new website has finally launched after changing developers 3 times 🙄 – it still has a few minor imperfections but importantly does take online bookings and payments. Take a look and see what you think:
You can also find us on TripAdviser, HomeAway and Airbnb.
We welcome our first paying guests on 1 December and have one or two further bookings too, which given that we have held off doing much promotional work whilst waiting for the website to come online, we are quite pleased about.
We are only recently back from a few weeks in the UK to stock up and ship a few more goodies for both the apartment and our own home. Our side of the building feels like it needs some TLC compared to the apartment, which is looking fab! Once our first guests have been and gone and our barrel arrives from the UK we shall hopefully be able to spend time working on our side – not least, putting up the Christmas tree 😄. Oh, and I have a birthday coming up too, so hopefully might be allowed a day off work!
The wires have now been installed on the verandah and balcony after a lengthy wait – unfortunately there was a mix up and only sufficient arrived to do the apartment, so we still await them for our house. But at least our guests will be safe!
Martin has worked hard on the small garden area outside the rear of the apartment and it is now looking quite pretty, with potted plants dotted about. However before Christmas it should look better still as we have appointed a local guy, Barrington Jobby, to pave the area with pebbles – we have seen his work on Facebook and it looks super! We can then start thinking about what to do with our own garden which currently looks like an unpaved carpark!!
So, a few finishing touches to complete over the next couple of days and then we will be keeping everything crossed that our guests like it here as much as we do. Wish us luck!!
In the month or so since our last post a lot has happened, not least, WE HAVE MOVED IN!!
The biggest blocker to moving in was needing to get wifi installed as without that, we were not just cut off from friends and family at home but I was unable to work remotely as I have been doing in order to keep the finances ticking over. Because of our location up the hill Flow could not provide a service to us and so we applied to Digicel (who provide an aerial transmission, rather than cabled service) in mid May as we are in line of sight of their aerial. A week or two went by and we had heard nothing so we chased up ………and chased up…………and chased up! To cut a long story short we finally got connected on 8 August, around 3 months after applying and are both convinced we would be waiting still had it not been for them getting sick of our daily calls, texts and emails!
It was then all systems go and 3 days later we celebrated finally moving out of our little studio apartment and into our brand new house. OK, so we were lacking our bifold doors which had been delivered previously but with a manufacturing error meaning they could not be installed, but these were due any day (or were they?). It seemed only right to celebrate our first night at “home” with a glass or two of bubbly.
Moving in also meant a big day for our cockerel and hens who were finally able to free range. I mentioned them in an earlier post – they were gifted to us by one of our friends here and whilst we knew (know!) nothing about chickens, Martin set about building a suitable coop for them (in the midst of trying to complete as many important jobs on our own house as possible at the time). The trio were named Cliff, Cilla and Lulu (showing our age!) and we have got used to and amused by, them meandering around, and disappearing altogether for extended periods. Eggs were regularly provided (2 per day) but then stopped , until we found a whole clutch of them in a corner of the garage! Captivity was required again for a while recently to try and break Cliff’s and Lulu’s new routine of trying to roost up a tree for the night! I confess to feeling a little sorry for Cilla as I get the impression that two’s company and three’s a crowd! They are behaving themselves again at the moment so finger’s crossed it continues!
We are also regularly visited by sheep and goats which roam the hillside and seem unable to accept that this bit of the hillside is now ours. They provide us with entertainment with the lambs springing about until Mum comes along with a head butt to the rear to restore order!
Shortly after moving in, Martin decided to prune some dead wood off the trees sitting on our western side – as you can see it was no easy feat and had me googling emergency numbers just in case they were needed! However, the job was safely completed and the trees have been suitably tamed!
On a more relaxing note, the second day of the Round Grenada Regatta set off from Tyrrel Bay recently and we had a grandstand view of the start as we sipped our morning coffee!
Welcome diversions of hens, sheep and yachts aside, we have been working very hard, long days since we moved in, completing a myriad of jobs to make the place somewhere we can be comfortable and enjoy spending time, and that paying guests will, we hope, be eager to come and see for themselves. With this in mind, we are well on the way towards our full website launch which will also see us introduce our new branding. We are really excited by this and, whilst we have done much of the work ourselves in terms of taking photographs and writing text, we have got a website designer involved to help with the functionality.
The bifold doors were finally installed 2 days ago, much to our relief, as without them we had been unable to keep our living accommodation properly clean or secure, and all cooking had been done in the apartment. Somehow, whatever it was you needed was always in the other side of the building 🙄. The doors were certainly worth waiting for, we are very pleased with them and we are now fully installed in our side of the building, just in time to welcome our first friends to visit from the UK this coming weekend – we are so looking forward to this, not just because we can’t wait to see them but also so we can have a rest for a few days. 😂
There is still much to do, not least a lot of landscaping and planting, but the build is really complete now, so with the imminent launch of the website, maybe this is the time to bring the blog to a close. We’ll have to see – maybe we won’t be able to resist adding to it at some point – but for now au revoir. We hope you have enjoyed reading about our journey and that you will decide to come and stay with us and find out what Carriacou has to offer for yourselves.
Now Martin and I are not sailors so, having never been to a Regatta before, we weren’t sure what to expect, we just knew it was a big thing for the island. We did our preparation and consulted various published itineraries for the weekend which were a little confusing as they did not generally bear any relation to each other, either in terms of events or their timings and so we were not sure where to be, when! However Saturday saw us set off into Hillsborough for 10am as one of the itineraries suggested that the first race would start then. We couldn’t find any evidence of it! So we headed off to Windward – after all this is where the boatbuilding, for which the island is well known, is done, so something must be happening there. Indeed, we found a small clutch of people on one of the jetties, and a number of yachts milling around at sea so we sat around for a while, until a flurry of excitement told us that the race had started.
As soon as the boats had set off everyone decamped and headed back into Hillsborough, as did we. Sadly the heavens opened for the remainder of the day so we headed for home.
Sunday was a much better day, and on returning to town, everyone was in high spirits, whether racing, swimming or just “liming”.
Monday was a Bank Holiday and the last day of the Regatta. We had heard that there would be onshore activities so went to take a look. We hadn’t anticipated having so much fun – Main Street was closed to traffic and the islanders were out in force and determined to enjoy themselves. Here is just some of what we saw:
Yes – the musical chairs was for adults, although they did eventually let the kids have a go for one round!
The Greasy Pole competition made for entertaining watching and a few “ouch” moments as the guys fell off time after time, not always very elegantly!
And my personal favourite – The Donkey Derby, look at them go (well some of them!!):
By the time the last one came in, I’d stopped recording 😂
So that was our experience of Carriacou Regatta – we have no idea if it is typical of Regattas generally, but suspect not! However it is the longest running regatta in the region so they must be doing something right – and we, at least, will be looking forward to next year!
Last week we went to look at the fairly limited number of suitable cars for sale on Carriacou. The most important factor was that the car could get up our hill, and that immediately ruled out one of them. Of the others, we decided on one, a Nissan X Trail, which we thought would be the best option. It was a little nerve wracking as we really didn’t know the process for buying a car over here but, following a little haggling over the telephone on Friday, we met the owner, Gladstone, at the garage at 9am yesterday, where he was having 4 new tyres put on for us.
From the garage Gladstone drove us into Hillsborough in his truck. First stop was the Post Office to complete the ownership transfer documents. The entire record of cars on Carriacou is maintained on cards, neatly filed in a cardboard box! Paperwork completed, we paid the required fee and then went over to the insurance company. Having presented ID, driving licences (brief interludes whilst I went to the police station to get my Grenadian licence and Martin went into Flow to get a utility bill as part of the ID requirements) and filled in the necessary forms we went on our way, having been told that we could come back after 12 noon to collect the insurance certificate. Then it was back to the police station to get permission to move the car to the inspection centre as its licence had expired – the necessary form was issued, giving us roughly a 3 hour window to get the car through its inspection.
Back at the garage we picked up the car (still accompanied by Gladstone) and headed to the inspection centre via the local car wash (meeting Tavon there, who apparently is Carriacou’s Mr Clean, and a potentially useful guy to know). The inspection is equivalent to an MOT in the UK (in some ways!) and required before the car could be licensed and driven away. The test appeared to consist of a check of the lights, indicators, horn and windscreen washers – it didn’t appear to involve any requirement to look under the bonnet (hood – if you prefer!) nor did it matter that it had a large crack in the windscreen (new windscreen on order) but it had to be clean, hence our stop at the car wash. It passed!! However we couldn’t be issued with the licence until we could present the insurance details.
Having returned to the Post Office to pay the inspection fee, we were feeling very pleased with ourselves as all was going swimmingly! Checking back with the insurance office in case the certificate was available early (it wasn’t) we let Gladstone go on his way and adjourned to the Kayak cafe for a celebratory glass of soursop juice whilst we waited for the insurance.
The rains had arrived the previous evening which were very welcome:
However it turned out that this had had an impact on the insurance company’s internet connection and so when we returned to the office for the third time they were unable to guarantee when they could let us have the certificate and policy details. We had a car ready and waiting to drive home in but seemed to be about to fall at the last hurdle. Frustrated but undeterred, we cancelled that insurance application and went to a second insurance company down the road. The kind lady in the Antillean General Insurance office postponed her lunchtime break (I think she took pity on us when she heard we needed to be home in time to see England play their first game in the World Cup!) and after about an hour we left the office with the required insurance details, headed back to the inspection centre and were issued with the licence to place on our (cracked!) windscreen – we were legal and mobile!!
We made it home in time to see England win (just!) their match against Tunisia – then we drove up to the house in our own car for the first time, considerably easier than going by bike and on foot!!
It will also make it easier to go and collect our cockerel and hens – but therein lies another story . . . . . . . .
Back to posting about the build after our little diversion to Tobago Cays!
The site has been a hive of activity over the last few weeks. The painting is virtually completed and the tiling is almost there too. Our tiler is a very cheery guy called Roger – so known to us as “Jolly Roger”! He is doing a grand job. He had to leave tiling yesterday as he was tasked with the unenviable job of cleaning out the cistern. This involves spending the day ankle deep in dirty water in the virtual dark with only mosquitos for company whilst he chips away loose concrete and general debris. The dirty water is then pumped out, final cleaning takes place and then it is sealed up and we wait for the rains to arrive to fill it up with nice clean water we can use for all purposes, including drinking. Bottled water is available for those who prefer it but we have never had a problem with drinking the tap water here – and Martin has just taken the UV filter up there to be fitted so our water will be particularly delectable! The rains are late this year and everyone is getting a little anxious, but the forecast for later this week suggests some is on its way, so maybe all the rain dancing is finally working!!
We now have one patio door installed and once a few more of these and the windows are installed later this week we hope (as protection from the rain – when it turns up) we can bring all our belongings out of the garage and start to construct kitchen units, wardrobes etc.
The stairs in the apartment have now been constructed by our chippy Crate, ably assisted by Wendy (nice to have another lady on site!) and it is great being able to use those rather than clamber down the outside of the apartment to get from one floor to the other.
The bathrooms are coming on well – the “blue” bathroom is the main (family) bathroom in our side of the house, and the other one pictured is the ensuite in the guest apartment.
Martin’s electrics are all working which means the guys can actually plug their tools in to the sockets rather than constantly looking for extension leads, and 2 air-conditioning units have now been installed. Jolly Roger likes to work in the cool of the evening so he can now turn the lights on and work later – and Martin and I were thrilled when we first saw the lights on in our house from our apartment down in Tyrell Bay – you have to celebrate such momentous events (usually with rum!!).
Whilst the driveway is pretty much laid, the area in front of the cistern, where we plan to put the pool, has been left untouched. We have decided to put the pool on hold until the house is completed and we can give it more detailed thought. The plus side of that is that the money not immediately required for a pool can be used to purchase a car instead. We have test driven one which was quickly ruled out as it couldn’t cope with our hill, but we have 2 or 3 more we hope to look at this week. It will certainly make life considerably easier so we are hoping we find something suitable.
So all in all, the moving in date of mid July is looking more feasible than it seemed 3 weeks ago – and we can’t wait!
For a change we thought we’d do a post which is not related to the house build. We had a day off yesterday and went on a wonderful trip courtesy of Sherwin at Lambi Queen – all in the name of research of course!
Leaving Tyrell Bay by boat we picked up 2 other guests from Hillsborough and then headed out towards Union Island and the Grenadine archipelago.Kenneth piloted the boat with expertise and proved to be a friendly and informative guide, regularly checking we were happy (which we were!).
First stop was Palm Island for swimming.Palm Island is an exclusive resort island where there is no internet or telephones and guests request services by putting up a flag over their villa.Given guests are paying US$1000 per night we could go no further than the beach to avoid trespassing on their privacy and chose to move on fairly quickly.
Passing Petit Tabac (the island on which Jack Sparrow was abandoned in Pirates of the Caribbean) we arrived in Tobago Cays Marine Park (http://www.tobagocays.org/). Having moored up, we first did a light hike (in flip flops!) to spot iguanas and admire the stunning views.
Returning to the boat we donned flippers and snorkels and had a fantastic time swimming with turtles and admiring huge starfish on the ocean bed which looked like elaborately embroidered cushions.It was wonderful to see the turtles quietly grazing on the seabed and looking, quite rightly, at home!An under water camera is definitely something we want to take with us next time to capture these beautiful sights – at least it gives us an excuse to go back!
We then moved on to Petit Bateau and had a couple of hours to stroll around, swim and snorkel before being served a fantastic lunch which included the freshest and most delicious red snapper, marinated chicken and plenty of side dishes.A couple of rum punches also helped lunch slip down nicely!
Next stop was Saltwhistle Bay on Mayreau.Here there were various stalls selling sarongs and t-shirts along with a few bars.A pina colada at “The Last Bar Before The Jungle” was most welcome, followed by another swim in this beautiful setting.
Final stop of the day was at Happy Island which is not really an island, but a bar in the sea just off Union Island.Inside you can see photos of how the bar has developed over the years from a small pile of stones to the brightly coloured bar and restaurant it is today.
Finally we headed for home – very happy, tired and sun kissed after a truly fabulous day out.A trip we will certainly recommend to all our guests! We hope it tempts you to come and stay with us.
Its about time we brought you up to date since the arrival of the container!
I arrived back on the island around 2 weeks ago, much to the delight of both of us and in time to celebrate Martin’s 60th birthday with him. We had had a celebration with family and friends before he came out here so we kept it low key, but had a really lovely meal at the local Slipway restaurant.
Work has been progressing well despite the absence of the boss (me! 😄). The builders have been busy with rendering the walls and stairs and with painting the inside of the roof upstairs which is a slow and painstaking task. The beams in the ceiling are white, and between the beams is what is called “pickle” here, but what many would know as a “wash”. They are doing it beautifully which takes time, but as the ceilings downstairs are flat, once they can move down there we hope progress will be faster. Tiles should start going down very shortly which will be great as we can then start moving furniture into place and constructing the kitchens etc.
Martin has made great progress with the electrics and now wants to crack on with the plumbing and the bathrooms.
We have now settled on some lovely bifold doors for our upstairs living space and are currently discussing with Sky the logistics and finances around having a small pool built whilst the men and machinery are still up on site. Its going to stretch the budget but we feel it would add to the appeal of our lovely accommodation, particularly as it will be sited with a view over the beautiful White, Saline, Frigate and Large islands.
There is a limit to what I can do to help out at the moment so I am “keeping house” and otherwise loafing about!! However I am optimistic of having some remote work coming my way over the next week or two which would keep me out of mischief, and bolster the finances. Otherwise I am just itching to get to the point of being able to turn our house into a home.
Sky has suggested we could move in around early July – we are hoping that is the case although are a little doubtful. Watch this space!!
With Christmas fast approaching it seems the right time for a further update and a little reflection on the year.
We spent a week on Grenada and it proved very useful. First priority was to look at cars and we had been put in touch with “Short Man” by our builder Sky who suggested this was the man to help us find something suitable. We speculated whether Short Man would prove to be short or actually very tall but, having finally tracked him down, it turned out that his name did describe him accurately!! He showed us a couple of cars which we were very tempted by, and we also found one or two others through our own investigations. After some debate however, and to the disappointment of both of us (and Short Man), we decided to park the car purchase (no pun intended) for fear of spending money we really needed to finance the house build, and to revisit this decision once we were clearer on how far our budget was going to stretch.
We visited all the building merchants and home stores we could find around and about St George’s and purchased quite a few items which would make living in our current small apartment a little easier. We chose both interior and exterior floor tiles, which Sky has subsequently ordered and had delivered. However we were unable to find any kitchen units or bathroom suites we were happy with.
We were happy to return to tranquil Carriacou after our action-packed week and came back on the ‘Amelia’ which is cheaper, but slower, than the ‘Osprey’ and is predominantly a cargo ship (in fact likely to be the ship on which our container eventually arrives on Carriacou). We were amused that, just as we were leaving the harbour in St George’s, the ship had to turn around to allow a Flow employee to get his van, which he had somehow managed to leave on the quayside – more of Flow later.
Following our return we realised that we really needed to get back to the UK to purchase kitchens/bathrooms for both our house and the guest apartment sooner rather than later and arrange for them to be shipped over in our container. As we were still without our own internet service I managed to speak to British Airways and changed our flights to mid December.
We had been led to believe by Flow that they would be able to install our broadband internet as soon as we got back from Grenada, but once back Flow told us that they were still having technical difficulties with their new service. To cut a long story short, after a number of promises being broken, and Martin finally losing his temper with them, we finally got connected last week – ironically just a week before we come home. However even that one week of being fully online has been extremely useful in allowing us to research many things we need to buy when we get home (and for me to write this blog in the comfort of our air-conditioned apartment!). I just hope the service is still working when we get back!
The builders had achieved far more than Flow in our absence I am pleased to say, and have continued to do so since we got back – the pictures show how much progress has been made and we are now able to wander through the rooms of the bedroom and bathroom level and really start to imagine how it may feel to live there. We even sat on the patio outside our bedroom on Saturday evening admiring the view and had our first beer in our new home.
We have also managed to get more clarity from the shippers and Sky on how to organise a container being loaded with our belongings in Birmingham and getting not only to Grenada but then on to Carriacou – I am sure when you have done it once it seems fairly straight-forward but until then it feels like a logistical nightmare. Sky has been great and is going to organise the shipping over from Grenada using his contacts. As he also wants to buy our container (more often these are just hired) it means we can leave it at the bottom of our hill and unload it in a more leisurely fashion than the three days generally allowed for within the hire cost.
Reflecting on the past 12 months we are amazed at how far we have come. This time last year we were in the early stages of getting the necessary documents together to apply for our Alien Landholders Licence. Since then we have successfully got the licence, bought the land, designed the house, had a road built, appointed and put to work a builder, sold our house in the UK, bought our small flat in Lichfield, had a mad holiday in the US in the midst of everything else, moved and started to make a life for ourselves out here. I am not sure how we have managed it on reflection but am very glad we did. No doubt there are further trials, tribulations and tears ahead but hopefully excitement, laughter and a sense of achievement too.
So now, back to snowy England to catch up with family and friends over Christmas and then a busy time making all the necessary purchases prior to the container being shipped mid-February, around the same time as we plan to head back here. Who knows what 2018 has in store – but that is all part of the fun and the adventure!
Merry Christmas to everyone – and good luck in 2018
Having returned from our 3000 mile roadtrip of the southern US we have hurled ourselves into getting settled as residents of Lichfield and preparing to head off to Carriacou in 3 weeks time.
Whilst this blog is not about our holiday, I must mention a few highlights. The greatest of these was seeing the eclipse which to use the native vocabulary was “awesome”. Viewed from a lovely vineyard in southern Illinois it also resulted in one of those strange coincidences which makes you realise how small the world is. Through a casual reference on Facebook it transpired that a relative of mine in Orkney knew a couple who lived next door to the vineyard! It was wonderful to meet writer Laura Benedict and her husband Pinckney. Laura kindly gave me, and signed, one of her books – I am enjoying reading ‘Bliss House’, Laura, if you read this!
Other highlights included seeing Nile Rodgers in Nashville (supporting, but much better than (in our opinion)) Earth Wind and Fire) sitting on a porch in hot and steamy Natchez overlooking the mighty Mississippi and imagining I was Scarlett O’Hara, enjoying the beauty of Savannah and taking the steamboat out of New Orleans whilst eating brunch and listening to jazz. But I digress – back to the purpose of this blog ………..
Regular reports and photos from Sky show us that the house is progressing well and he tells us he’ll be up to the first floor by the time we arrive.
We’ve had lots of people asking if the project has been affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria but fortunately Grenada has been untouched and we hope it stays that way, whilst having huge sympathy for those islands devastated by the violent weather. Grenada sits well south in the Caribbean and the worst of the hurricane systems usually (but not always) steer a course north of there. In 2004 the islands were badly affected by Hurricane Ivan – I am sure Morgan Freeman was not the only person to help to rebuild Grenada but his recipe book serves also to give me ideas for what I may be cooking out there! We were pleased to hear from Sky that, following Ivan, all the houses he had built remained standing!
Shortly after returning from our holiday we were shocked and saddened to hear that Barba (John Gabriel), from whom we bought our land, had passed away suddenly. He was a much liked and respected member of the community on Carriacou and will leave a huge void in the lives of many. We shall miss him enormously. Had it not been for him it is likely that our venture would not have come about at all and we hope our new house, when built, would have met with his approval and will be some small tribute to him.
It will therefore be with mixture of sadness and excitement that we will arrive on Carriacou 3 weeks today and see how our new home is taking shape first hand.
This is quite a big week in the life of this project (and in my life too!). We received the paperwork from our Grenadian lawyer which confirms that we are Alien Landholders and owners of our little piece of the Caribbean.
Tomorrow I say goodbye to my friends and colleagues at Cadent Gas, and possibly bring to an end my 30 year career as a lawyer. I say possibly as there may well be a need to resume it at some point depending on how the budget holds out – so let’s hope the wifi is good enough for a bit of remote working if need be.
Tomorrow we should also be completing the purchase of our little foothold in the UK, being a 2-bed flat in Lichfield, having sold our 4-bedroom home in Sutton Coldfield to fund the Carriacou project. Three days later we will be heading off on a very badly timed holiday in the US – the only excuse for this is that the timing is out of our hands as we are going out for the total solar eclipse and Martin has been looking forward to this for at least 6 years. However, a tour of the deep south has also been tagged on, for which I have no excuse except I have always wanted to see it.
So, exciting times ahead – I admit to being a bit scared at times. This is not a small change in our lives and it remains to be seen how it works out. But however that is, we can never look back and say “what if”. . . . . .