Tag Archives: construction

Starting to Campaign

Thermometer with Fahrenheit units on the outer...
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At the Mill of Tourteron everybody is working hard on the renovation. Deliveries of equipment and materials create a continues coming and going of trucks and vans. And even though it’s minus 3º Celsius the workmen don’t care and arrive at 7 in the morning to leave at 6 in the evening. Almost like ABC’s ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition‘ people are working around the clock.

The current severe winter is not helping much. Due to the freezing temperature we can’t pore concrete for the drainage nor for the bathrooms. First we’ll have to insolate the old wooden structure to start getting it a bit more cozy inside the mill. Stephane bought 4 heat blowers but in my modest opinion … i would even heat my bathroom with those. Too small for King Frost.

But nevertheless there’s improvement. The downstairs bathroom has a new wall. The ceilings have glass wool insulation. The new walls are built. We can’t wait to make new pictures.

So it’s time we start to communicate the Supergîte concept and spread the word: “A Supergîte has the comfort of a star hotel with the privacy of a home.”

With one of the biggest Dutch tour operators we added our publication (in Dutch – I know – it’s a start).

“Hot chocolate any one?”

Publication at D-Reizen

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Mud and Christmas

For all those who dream about owning a lovely old house that needs “just a little work”: There are moments that you just think, “What were we thinking?” One of these moments came right in the middle of our Christmas vacation.

A few days back, Stephane sent us fantastic pictures of the mill in a romantic winter landscape and we were really eager to see the beauty of the mill covered in snow. Even though we knew there was work waiting for us. “Who cares about a bit of cold when you can see such a superb, white scene while you’re working?”

The two days of Christmas we spent with friends. The snowy weather had changed into long and hard rains. It was really raining cats and dogs in the hills of the French Ardenne. So by the time we arrived at Tourteron the day after, the cranes, trucks and cars in combination with the ‘permafrost‘ had turned our loan and garden into one huge swamp and deep craters filled with mud. Slipping from the fence to the front door was the way to go over the next couple of days’ work. We were not so happy.

The first day we had to dig out the larger stones to make sure they didn’t break the new sewer system. We also had to transport white sand for the foundation in the pouring rain. Then we had to move one pile of 150 plasterboards in between the rain storms. They are not supposed to become wet since they’ll fall apart if they soak in water. The plates, sized 1,20 by 3,00 meters, weight 32 kg, had to go to the first floor and second floor. Eventually they’ll become the new walls and ceilings of the rooms. There we went in our muddy boots, feeling like double our normal weight, up and down the mill leaving a trail of dark-brown, slippery wet dirt. It was a French hell. 🙂

But in the end… we did lend a hand, and that makes us feel good.

This is how it looked:

Mud, septic and some kind of garden.

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Finally: the Official Launch of Supergites.nl

It’s finally live: the official Supergites website. Though it’s still in Dutch, it’s there and that’s the most important thing. The French, English, and German versions will follow in January, as will the calendar and the automated reservation module.

We also registered the gîte at the funniest website, Vakantie bij Nederlanders in Frankrijk . nl, which translates to ‘Vacation with the Dutch in France’. We’re eager to see how it works and whether it gives us any leads.

The gîte will be ready for rent April 1. Tomorrow we’re off to France for 7 days of hard labour. 🙂

Check our new design at Supergites.nl.

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The good news is here: We know when we’re opening!

This Saturday we went to see the progress in Tourteron. Although we were kept informed by Stepháne on a regular basis, we were not sure what to expect. In the end, even the three-and-a-half-hour drive does make us feel a bit helpless. It’s the same with any construction project: being there at least speeds the workmen.

Sanding Mess

Sanding Mess

When we arrived, the whole place was barricaded with hardboard. All the windows were closed and covered with black plastic. The larger ones were even covered with wooden panels. We couldn’t enter the house by the front door. We had to take the second door uphill. Entering bedroom 3, we stepped into one big, dirty cloud of grey dust. It instantly grabbed our throats. What happened here? Throughout the house the floor was covered with a 5 cm-thick layer of black crystal sand. OK, they have been sanding the wood. In the bare light coming through some holes in the roof and windows we could see the result. All of the wooden beams had become this beautiful light-brown, rough oak colour. Fantastic!
The second fantastic thing that happened was this: the water meter had been moved from the inside of the house to the outside. As strange as it sounds, the meter was originally installed in the middle of bedroom 3. That can be quite unhandy when you need to check something while people are renting. So Monsieur de l’Eau Official came, dug a hole, and placed the meter outside of the house. This resulted in a completely hidden water system. I love it!
The third thing I love about this update is the letters from the officials. The first letter  came from S.P.A.N.C.; it’s the official note telling us we have to wait another two weeks before we’ll know if we can install the new 4000-liter eco-friendly septic tank where we want it. Why does that make me happy? Because it means they have at least approved it! There’s another bureau involved who’ll have a final say, but this is a good start.
The second letter has not arrived yet. Why does that make me happy? It means we have to wait one more week. No news here means the complete building permit has been approved and we can start on the roofs and windows in one week.

Our plan is to open for rental guests the third week of March. Saturday March 20 will be the first time somebody can rent the first Super Gîte. That’s right before the Easter holidays.

In the next weeks we’ll have a reservation module online at the official supergites.com site, but any early birds who really can’t wait should contact us here: marco AT artmiks . nl . Because we would appreciate the risk you’d take by making a reservation on a project that isn’t even finished, we’ll have a very nice proposal waiting for you.

And you probably wonder what rent costs at the mill. A full week’s stay–Saturday 14.00 hours to Saturday 10.00 hours–will be 1200 euro in high season and 800 euro in low season. This includes double fireplace, four bedrooms each with its own bathroom, a 90-square meter living room, designer kitchen, and a warm welcome. It does not include electricity, wood for the fireplace, or cleaning. So, who’ll be our first guests?

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CSI (Crime Scene Investigation)

When we arrived at the crime scene it was close to 10 a.m. We expected someone to be there, but the house was locked. We headed back to the car to pick up the keys and to grab our phone. “Why is nobody here?” we wondered. The builders should have been there working–they promised to start at 8:00. But there were no sounds of drilling or hammering; the property was deserted.

After Sara opened the door we were confronted with a scene of delict. Next to the stairs there was a broken cup, a splash of coffee, a smudge of blood, a trace of driblets, and a Stanley knife. Grissom said, “This can’t be right. Something’s missing.” We looked around and followed a small trail of blood to the locked front door. “The victim is still alive,” Grissom observed. He continued with his findings. “There must have been two people, as the door is locked without any smudging of blood. But where did the blood on the floor come from? Did the victim cut himself or was he attacked?” The Stanley knife did not look as if it had just been used–the blade was pulled back. I picked it up. “No blood on the knife,” I announced.

Grissom went up the stairs to investigate the situation. I followed him admiringly. “What if someone fell down, losing his mug, and fell onto something sharp like…?” I went over the movements. “Like a shard of mug?” “We only follow the facts!” Grissom said with certainty. “Assumptions have many shapes, reality only one.” Smart guy. I bucked up.

We needed to find Stephane or Jamal, his assistant. Either one should know what had happened. We walked up the hill to Stephane’s house and we ran into Arthur, a fairy-blond boy with deep blue eyes–the 7-year-old son of Stephane. I gave him my regular greeting, “Bonjour Arthur, çava?” “Bien merci,” came his weary reply. “Ou est ton papa?” I asked him. “Au l’hopital.” He answered without a wink and continued his play.

There are moments you just wish you could speak all languages of the world. D’accord. Stephane is at the hospital. Not good. The blood must be his.

To make a long story short, Stephane did fall off the stairs and cut his hand deeply. Jamal took him to the hospital in Reims where he had to stay for two days. He needed surgery since he’d cut himself quite deeply and hit a tendon. He can’t use his right hand for some time: the delay will be at least three weeks.

No igh Fives for Stephane.

No High Fives for Stephane.

“Oh well, we need to wait for the building permit anyway.”

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Houston, we have a problem.

New pictures from France just reached my computer. Our contractor asked a friend to check our front garden to see if they can place the new septic tank in there. I’m in shock! I don’t know much about septics and all that, but I do know that the amount of ground water shown in these pictures does not mean much good. :-O

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Where once was …

The house is shaking. The sound of the pneumatic drill moves the thin spider webs. A bang. Clouds of white dust whirl up from an unknown corner. Where once were walls, there’s space. Where once were ceilings there’s air.

We’ve been to Tourteron this weekend and we took more pictures. You can follow the whole restoration / renovation on Flickr.

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First Act

First Act

First Act

Every play has its First Act: the part with the first signs of the story line. It unfolds what we have tasted in the Prelude. For our adventure of the Super Gîtes that First Act was today.

The previous owners started renovating the kitchen–but stopped right when they finished the ceiling. You can see the electricity points where they wanted to hang the lights. They came no further than a light bulb. That IS convenient, but not pretty. The ceiling was OK and yet we opened it, smashed it with a hammer.

I consider this to be the First Act. The demolition of what is there. All you have seen of the interior will be gone soon, coated with a thin layer of white dust. Dead electricity wires sticking out of the stone walls and no sewer to release your daily pressure. This division of the ‘show’ will reveal the death of an old house and take around one  month (I hope).

We will tear down the kitchen, the bathroom, the ceiling of chambre 2, the sewer system, the electricity plan, the walls of chambre 3, and the roof of the right wing. Then we’ll make holes in the roof of the living room. Uff! When I think about it I feel my heart pounding. The first act is a dangerous spectacle of dust and stones…debris is the magic word. It will be messy.

From the dust it will rise: the best holiday home you can imagine. 🙂

And the kitchen ceiling? We know now it can contain the extraction hood.

You can see what’s there now here and what will be there then there.

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Glasshouse

glasshouse |ˈglasˌhous| noun [Brit.]

a greenhouse, |ˈgrēnˌhous|, a glass building in which plants are grown that need protection from cold weather.

This weekend we found our inspiration for the flower and veggie garden. This strange, neck-shaped piece between the orchard and the field has always been a bit of a struggle for us. We had no idea how to turn it into something of value. Should it be a playing ground? A beautifully simple grass field? A kitchen garden full of savory herbs?

Since we’re living in the fast lane, we actually do take time to enjoy the good moments of life. So one sunny Saturday we went to Staverden Castle (Kasteel Staverden). We only had thoughts of some wine and finger food, but

There it was! The Victorian Glasshouse.

The metal structure painted white with its elegant, cave-shaped roof grabbed our attention. We went inside over and over again. It was warm, comfortable, useful, inspiring! And it had absolutely dazzling character. This was exactly the eye-catcher that this part of our garden cried out for! If we build a glasshouse like this at the end of the heart line, we’d have a perfect ‘folly’. It would bring great perspective to the flower garden and drive people right into this part of the garden where they could wander between the blooming beds and enjoy the scents of nature.

The glasshouse could also be used as a winter shelter for citrus trees or as a greenhouse for orchids, or even a nursery for our the indigenous plants of our garden. With just a few seats and a heater it would make a fantastic place to sit in early spring or even late autumn. Can you imagine reading a book surrounded by the smell of orange blossoms with buckets of rain pounding on the metal and glass above?

Our only problem was where to get one?! 🙂

We placed an ad on the Dutch eBay. The copy we placed translated as: “There’s no match between our house from 1813 and a modern aluminum glasshouse. Therefore we’re looking for an ancient Victorian glasshouse between 20 square meters and 40 square meters which has a brick substructure. Who has got one or knows somebody that has got one and wants to get rid of it? It is not a problem if it is a bit broken; it can be a renovation project. We’ll come to pick it up wherever in the Netherlands and Belgium.”

If you are from the UK and you have one to offer, don’t hesitate to reply. 😀

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Dualism

We bought the mill in March 2009, and now four months later we’re still in doubt. What to do? Who to chose to complete the renovations? Let me explain the situation further.

When we bought the house we needed a renovation plan to get a bank guaranty. We found Monsieur Lafon, a local entrepreneur de batisement, a supervisor for building projects. He lives three towns away and is a very sincere and serious man. He showed us his current projects and presented us with a good quote. We got our bank guaranty. Note: Monsieur Lafon does not speak any English.

Then two weeks later we met Stéphane, a handyman who lives one house away. He’s very nice and a hard worker. He introduced us to his four lovely children. He showed us one gîte where he did only the plaster work. The quote he gave us was 25% lower than Monsieur Lafon’s. Stéphane speaks fluent English, but he needs a lot of support in ordering and payment.

So we have two men, two quotes, two characters, but one project. What would you do? 🙂

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