Michael and I had only seen our new house once, for about 45 minutes, before we made an offer and left the island in April ~ I now know why police are concerned about eye-witness statements. We THOUGHT we remembered what the house looked like but our memories sometimes clashed, had major discrepancies and lots of blank spots. We had a few pictures to rely upon, but they were few and not that great, so it was with wonder and trepidation that we entered the property for the second time as homeowners.
Eureka! Our instincts were right on, even if our memories were somewhat flawed. The house is lovelier than we remembered. That being said, some of the details were quite different from what we remembered. The living room is square – not rectangular, the eating area of the kitchen is smaller (but still quite adequate), the bathrooms in better shape, etc. What was (and is) wonderful is the feel of the place is right on. The pool and patio area – while needing some upgrades to make it more attractive – are both wonderful and the view is even better than I remembered. There are lots of mature plantings and tons of flowers, all in bloom when we arrived. And those beautiful arched windows and doors (the house is called “The Arches”). Yes, we made a good decision and we both felt right at home the first day.
When we arrived, the house was in great shape. Lots of upgrade work had been completed, Nadica had spent a week cleaning everything and the house was shining. Absolutely the best change was the pool. We had the pool converted from a chlorine to a saline system. This is heavenly. Chlorine smells, makes your skin feels dry and a little itchy, but saline feels soft and luxurious both while you are in the pool and after you have gotten out. We jumped in the first night, watched the night sky unfold and were completely charmed. Another wonderful thing about the pool is that it has a solar heater. This might sound crazy to our “northern” friends but it is delightful because the pool never feels cold so I know we will use the pool at least once every day. It is always inviting.
The owner left a few key things in the house – a couch and a couple of chairs, 3 beds, a few lights, 2 dining tables with chairs – all which were greatly appreciated. It was just enough to give us places to eat, sleep and relax. We picked up our 5 boxes of “essentials” that we store in Grenada ~ things like sharp knives, a large fry pan, glasses, ice-cube trays, beach towels, and our hammocks, etc. ~ all the little things that make a rental house feel more like home. We also brought some items from the US with us that we knew we would need right away – place settings for 4, silverware, sheets (!), towels, etc. Between what the previous owners left, our stored items, and the extras we brought in our suitcases, we were fairly set for luxurious house camping.
We had 2 weeks to acclimate ourselves to the house, make plans for what we wanted to change and figure out what we would need to bring back with us on our December trip. As you might guess, this involved a myriad of details as well as some strategic and tactical planning. Michael started out by working through the original punch down list with the contractor and then started a new phase 2 list. The house has mostly UK electricity and we knew we wanted both more outlets and US electric added. My job was to identify where outlets should be added and which voltage each outlet should have. Michael immediately started working on getting our internet up and functional and then worked with a network specialist to figure out how to make the whole property have wireless access. Michael had researched and purchased all the necessary components and now we needed someone to get them all working properly. In the meantime, we had working wireless in the kitchen which became our electronic headquarters for the 2 weeks.
I also hired COCOA (Caribbean Office of Co-Operative Architecture) to help us make some design changes. COCOA had designed all the buildings for our resort project and I was pleased to work with them again. Bryan Bullen, one of the firm’s principals, came over and we discussed ideas. The key things we wanted to change included creating more airflow in the living room and kitchen, making the pool/patio area more inviting and changing the back wall to enhance the view. I was also hoping for some ideas on how to stage furniture in the 30 by 30 foot living room and how to integrate the two courtyards leading to the house to make the front entrance more welcoming for guests.
Michael’s phase 2 punch down list for the contractor included changing the windows in the arched living room doors to increase air flow, opening up a door in the hallway, blasting a new entrance door near the garage, installing the new electrical system (cutting through concrete block walls), moving cistern tanks, changing the water feature in the living room so it could be viewed both in the house and from the patio, plus removing a lot of external, non-working wiring and pipes and others details to make the house look nicer.
We also bought a car, Nadica learned how to clean and maintain the pool, Michael did some photo shoots and met with the engineering company to discuss how to expand and transform the guest cottage into a photography studio. All in all, it was a pretty jam-packed 2 weeks. We generally ate out since we didn’t have much in terms of cooking supplies (one large fry pan and one medium saucepan). This gave us the chance to see our restaurant friends as well as have some good meals. We didn’t do any of our normal visiting with friends, there just wasn’t time, so we have a lot of catching up to do in December.
One thing that kept bugging us is the height of the living room ceiling. It is 10 feet high slanting to about 9.5 feet, stained dark brown with large joists and makes the living room feel very low and claustrophobic. The low ceiling also captures and retains a lot of heat. We’ve discussed a number of ways to try and get more airflow into the room so it will be cooler, but nothing has felt like the right answer. Michael recently decided that no matter what we did, we probably wouldn’t be really happy with the result so we are now exploring raising the walls a few feet and putting in a peaked roof. The engineering firm is working out what would need to be done, creating the detailed drawings, and estimating costs. Ultimately, we know this is the right answer and are waiting to see if it is feasible to tie these new higher walls into the other roofs and if the price will be somewhat reasonable. Fingers crossed, stay tuned.
We are now back in the US in the Jacksonville area for a short stay. We’ll get our annual medical checkups while we are here and start the process of buying and then shipping our things to Grenada. We’ve started a huge list of what we need to bring – everything from kitchen supplies, to couches and a gas grill. We’ll need to go through our storage unit to decide what we’ll ship down, add items that we have been taking with us during our US travels and then buy everything else. All this will be loaded into a container and shipped from the port in Jacksonville in early December to meet up with us shortly after our arrival in Grenada in December. (So happy we previously lived in a port city)
For the past couple of years, when someone has asked us “Where do you live?”, Michael and I have looked at each other, laughed, said we didn’t live anywhere and then told our nomadic story. The last time he was asked, Michael said, “We live in Grenada, West Indies and travel 6 months each year”. I LOVE the sound of that! We’ve got lots of planning to do, lots of things to do, lots of excitement to have and then back to our new home country and residence for a glorious 6 month stay. YAHOO!