Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Break up to Make up

The electricians are chasing in the grooves for the wiring very carefully without damaging the plaster or zellige. They are under Bens watchful eye and thats good enough for me. Ben gives me a daily update on what is going to happen and the stage we should be at at end of day and we see if I agree. It becomes kinda obvious after a while as to which stage comes next when you see it on a daily basis, its an experience that Im glad i did not delegate as each day its necessary to tweak the plans a touch.

Looking across the octagonal cupola on the roof at Bacalli the foreman and a tough little bugger he is too with the workers he does not allow any slackness.
The old windows and grilles are out when the new ones are in place with Iraqui glass this will be my favourite feature of the house along with the main salon zellige floor.
The old lady has her make up removed and a fresh layer applied you can see the three stages old plaster, plaster removed and new layer applied with each team of workers right behind the other. Time and motion studies couldnt catch these boys out.
On the top terrace the stripping out continues and then both sets of terraces will have a double layer of bitumen to waterproof the roof before the zellige man moves in to complete his work

Monday, August 28, 2006

Photos from the terrace

The deconstruction of the terrace is almost done now we are starting on the reconstruction; the eight sided cupola has had the windows and grilles removed for renovation and polishing. The terrace walls have been resized or lowered and had old plaster chipped away and new coat applied and the floor is almost ready for zellige man.
The top terraces are now getting stripped and the laundry room is to be a new build on the terrace with interior stairway to top terrace; a recent innovation from Bacalli the foreman to save space that would have been taken up by exterior stairs.
You can see the vent from the old chimney at the back of the terrace bedroom on the last picture. This will be kept and incorporated into the laundry room on the terrace as its a lovely feature; beyond that is the airwell that goes down 5 floors to the basement creating a lovely airflow around the house.
Its been a busy few days with the craftsmen; the electricians fitting the new boxes on the outside of house before Radeef come to reset them and approve the works. Also ADER FES have been around to give their seal of approval to the work so far; its good for the house to have all this critical control as shoddy worked will NOT be passed as acceptable.
Took Baccali to Cybercafe to show him the blogsite and ended up creating one for his company while we were there he seemed to get his head round the concept pretty quickly.
More and more of the local traders and people in the area starting to take a real interest in the house now especially as half of them have almost been hit with flying masonry if they stand in the wrong spot. Lots of guided tours through the rubble to anyone showing interest trying to dodge sleeping tortoises; frisky kittens and pools of cement at various stages.
As I keep saying its all taking shape at least in my head and when the next batch of visitors come in a few weeks or months it will be well on its way to being the beautiful old lady she was once before; bless her.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Renovation modus operandi

As the renovation continues and I find I am getting involved more and more on a daily basis with small but telling amendments to the plans and my personal vision I thought it time to explain my preferred modus operandi.

I am pretty new to this game and I dont want to make expensive mistakes so first of all you have to have what I call my secret weapons. These are people who I meet whos trust and judgement blends with mine and who generally become loyal friends. At present I have Monique at Riad Norma who has been through a 2 year reform; Abdelkaddir her multi lingual manager; Adil whos house I rent and a very sharp trader in antiques and carpets and Abdullah my right hand man always there to help in any situation. Top of the list of course Ben my conscientious and trustworthy house guardian who lives in the main house to keep an eye on everything that goes on there including a daily watchful eye on the builders.

To do a reform you can do everything yourself hire the workers personally; pay the donkeyman daily etc but i prefer to hire the best pay a bit extra and establish a chain of command. To this end I got Houssine a top architect to draw up full plans after constant revision. He in turn hired Tourate Fes a well respected medina building firm and my point of contact with them is the foreman Baccali who has good english and unerving ice blue eyes so he looks a bit scary but is on hand daily to organise the builders schedule and liase with me.

I find with these people and my secret weapons I can basically cover any crisis or decisions that have to be made which makes my role less stressful and the work process more harmonious. It also frees me up to be the man on the ground for friends and people who i have met who have bought or thinking of buying here. I can put people in touch with the relevant person to make their business dealings easier. Which reminds me in the buying process if you feel you need one get a good english speaking lawyer recommended by your embassy and very importantly get a good Adoul or notary he will make the difference to the length of time you wait to get those vital title deeds in your hand.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Happy Chappies at work

The roof workers show their sartorial style and enjoyment at being digitally reproduced. I can assure you they are a laugh a minute when the cameras are off. these guys work almost 10 hours a day for about 50 dh respect is due.

Thought I would drop in a picture of myself from the vaults this is when I was a chef on the yachts in the Caribbean, yes I know boring, boring but I did get to top up my tan to look even more like a Fassi ! To explain A Fassi is one who is a native of Fes and apparently I look like one until of course I open my mouth and the Norfolk accent is a big giveaway. Oh well I shall have to learn a word of arabic a day to try and fool the local vendors into giving me moroccan price.

Now look at the progress on the terrace the roof has been raised from the bedroom below and now its ready to have the laundry room built on top with a terrace. The whole terrace and surrounding walls have had the old plaster chipped away now and after laying a bitumen waterproof layer we are ready for zellige man who reliably informs me that he did the Mosque in Casablanca ( a very famous one I should know about apparently) ooops!.

Every day the rubble builds up but rather than overloading 40 donkeys a mini truck comes round each morning at 8 am before the Medina is in full swing to cart it away. In my estimation there will be 10000000 bags

Every morning I have my cafe au lait and a wasp covered croissant or pain au chocolat from my neighbour who after 3 days said as I approached Comme dhabitude (as per usual) so felt very welcome.

Could do without the wasps though they are a bit crunchy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Some photos at last!!

This is a view across the High Atlas from the trusty Peugeot 206 with my trusty companion Abdelkaddir who i constantly kept amused with my odd stops to buy increasingly bizzare artefacts, not to mention my music mountain selection, deep house followed by Buddha Bar and then Woody Guthrie and Desert Blues from the Sahara.
This was surprising landscape with lush gardens amongst the rough and tumble Berber villages literally built from their surroundings, rocks; mud, straw so they blend in with the landscape chameleon like.

Whilst we were at play the workers demolished the odd structure on the terrace and prepared to dig out the section highlighted to raise the roof from the bedroom below, good ole boys they also dug up all the old flooring on terrace to get it ready for a fresh batch and then tiling the whole kit and caboodle.

We stopped at the Argan Co op outside Essauoria to watch the women working their nuts off. A litre of Argan oil is 300 dh compare with Fortnum and Masons prices.

One of the most beautiful unspoilt beaches that we came across with free camping and no Europeans and no Im not going to tell you where it is!!
Suffice to say there is land available very nearby so i will be going back soon anyone interested leave a comment on the blog.

Adventures with Abdelkaddir

So this trip following on from the tour with Denise couldnt be more different. Abdel was on a budget being on low wages by our standards so instead of the luxury riads we were now travelling Moroccan style.

Great fun as we arrived in Essauoria after maniacal drive from Marrakech its 180k of straight road hence crazy overtaking and huge risk taking. We booked a room easy enough very basic for 100 dh a night about 6 pounds and then checked out medina madhouse as it was Gnaoa festival it was rammed. Not as friendly or large as Fes and parts of medina filthy and crumbling but good cafe society around Orson Welles place. Named as such cos he filmed his Othello here and around Safi.

Abdel took control as only he could for dinner we went to fish market to buy two huge fish for 15 dh about 1 pound then down to smoke filled alley where you paid another 15 dh to have your fish seasoned and cooked plus salad ; bread and tea a real bargain. Watched great Gnaoa band amidst huge crowd with local kids going mad to the rave ish breakdowns. Lots of Europeans around who pack the beaches which are not as good as Moulay Bousselham.

Long drive from here to Rabat next about 400k but highlights were driving past the argan oil co ops run by local woman so we watched as they picked the kernels from the shell to then crush them to extract the oil. Driving north 25k from Essaouria passed incredible fertile area with olive and argan trees together plus fields of luscious grapes which local vendors were selling from the roadside; in fact you could live on the produce bought from the roadside at various times and different areas we have seen melons, honey, pumpkin, oil, flocks of black turkeys, apples, peaches so theres a meal right there!

North from Safi an incredible crescent bay looking out to the Atlantic of course with prime beachfront land but no buildings, why I asked, must check it out again if you want a get away from it all location but still only 140k from Marrekech and 10k from Safi.
Called Ben back at the house and the builders on turbo mode from the sounds of it stripping the terrace and reconstructing the suite overlooking the main salon putting in raised ceiling, new doorways, creating glassbrick floor for outside patio area adjoining the suite all sounds good.

Got stopped by police for the first time on way to Rabat looking at me quizzically as they saw from my papers i was English and they all burst into hysterics at my name as they pronounced it Macclee tush not McIntosh which means eat nothing, they were still laughing as we drove away, oh well better than a spot fine any day!

A day in Rabat with Abdel whisked me round this clean modern city with great ramparts, bustling, what else, medina and good beaches. Its the capital and looks it very westernised and civilised. Booked a room for 70 dh which was 2 beds and that was it not a scrap of furniture but for the equivalent of 5 pounds whos gonna complain.

Finally back to Fes and straight to house and the building is really taking shape considering its only 3 weeks since they started must upload some photos soon of everything thats going on over here its wild, wacky and wonderful.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Terrace tear up and road trip

Another engrossing and fascinating week as always in Fesworld. With Denise back at Riad Norma met great english couple Paul and Becky in the market for a riad budget 300000 euros which just happens to be what Adils bossman Stephan wants for his place fully furnished and renovated its excellent value. Arranged a meet and we all went along for nibbles at sundown P and B were interested but didnt move on it and Adil called me few days later to say a Russian had snapped it up, Im not surprised its designer luxury with incredible views for the price of a big terrace house back in Blighty!

On the road with D in the trusty Peogeot 206 and it was off to Marrekech all of 490 k with a stop at the Cascade D'Ouzoud which was a stunning turn off the road into the Middle Atlas up and up about 120 k from Marrekech. As it was a 6 hour drive from Fes I suggested I wouldnt be doing it again until i saw the Cascades which were metres from our Riad which was a wattle and daub structure breezeblocks, mud and straw with luxury fittings and terace overlooking the waterfalls!! Stunning doesnt do it justice plus sun was going down as we arrived cool mountain breeze and the falls tumbling 100s of metres down to valley below where we spotted antsized (from our perspective) people swimming in the lakes below. This is a must see a worth the detour. THE place to stay is with Patrick an amiable Frenchman at the Riad Cascade.

Whilst we enjoyed ourselves, back in Fes the terrace demolition continued with the workforce growing as the terrace and new terrace room took shape overseen by Ben my guardian and all round tortoise and cat carer with Houssine the architect and Baccali the foreman. When i get back it will be crucial time to choose tiles and fittings.

Onto Marrekech and what can i say busy, mad, pushy and main square like a rave without the lasers about 20000 people eating, staring, jostling, shopping too much for me, Fes is more civilised. Denise took me to Caravanserai next day a stunning old Caravanserai now one of worlds top hotels but in middle of a wattle and daub Berber village on outskirts absolutely brill and lunch was best meal I've had in Morroco.

D left on flight the next day and i immediatly had to meet Abdelkaddir the manager of Riad Norma who was in Marrekech and we took off on the next road trip over the High Atlas to Ourazazete. Another amazing 4 hour trip with the trusty 206 eating up the bends as we were gobsmacked by the dramatic scenery, mountains peircing the clouds, fertile lush valleys and mud and straw berber villages all the way. The town itself was like an exclusive suburb of Marrekech wide boulevards, top hotels like the Berber Palace and Moroccos most famous Kasbah and very affluent town due to all the money poured in from the two film studios there. Went round Atlas studios to see the old sets from Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and Cleopatra amongst others.

Sidetracked on way back looking at land for sale on the road back just 20 k from Marrekech with views through olive trees and palm trees to the Atlas montains which would have dramatic snow covering in winter, price for a big plot only20000 euros soooo temting as the suburbs are moving out to this area at a rate of lets see about 100 k an hout (of course i exaggerate but you get the idea).

Carried on driving 200k to west to Essauoria for the Gnaoa music festival passing argan trees but no goats up these ones and argan cooperatives all along the route as we neared town. Girls note argan oil is the worlds best anti aging and top moisteriser plus you can cook with it its got a nutty distinctive flavour and is nutritionally better than olive oil and in Europe very expensive, here its just expensive. Called Ben all is good with the house then Adil called as i'm renting his house in the medina near to mine and he wants to sell to me so we will talk on my return, could be a bargain around 10-12000 pounds if my bartering skills are honed.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Steaming in

Hector returned to Spain after first doing all the electric schematics for the house, big job, and then accompanying me to the builders office in Bab Guissa where we formally signed contract to start work. The next day was spent with the builders rep Baccali going over all plans and agreeing on the first phase which is demolition stage alongside protective plastering of the zellige floor.

Before I knew it up on the terrace walls and floors were being knocked down and dug up and rows and rows of rubble filled sacks accumulated in the basement ready for the morning donkey train to take them away. At this stage my presence not really needed and as a friend was coming over from England took time out to go exploring.

First stop Mouley Yacoub for a thermal hydro massage treat and then onto Moulay Idriss to spend a night in a new Maison dhote with terrace views over to the roman ruins in Volubilis. That night was very special as it was the last night of the Volubilis festival and with the backdrop of the subtly lit ruins and a full moon we watched an incredible flamenco performance from a Jerez troupe in full Andalucian splendour with a very animated Moroccan audience, stunning.

Next morning a leisurely stroll among the roman ruins before heading to the coast for 3 days on the beach at Moulay Bousselham which was another world entirely relaxing whilst thinking of those busy workers back in Fes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

let the build begin

Its been a hectic time in the Medina with myself and Hector the style councillor over last few days as we fine tuned the plans created new spaces and terraces and worked on the electric schematics to gice all to the builder for the estimate. Spent lots of free time checking out the surrounding area and meeting more eccentric English folk who have bought into the Fes lifestyle. We are all as mad as a box of frogs but who cares its a grand adventure and its real life, fun, frenetic, colourful, noisy, smelly, endlessly courteous and not at all like Milton Keynes which for those who dont know is a crap town in England.
One of the trips we did was out to Sefrou a cherry picking berber town and the countryside could have come straight out of Tuscany only to be beaten out of sight by the trip to Ifrane which was so bizarre friends thought we had been at the kif when we got back. Ifrane looks as though it was transplanted from a Tyrolean ski resort it is definitely not what you would expecy in Morroco and high on a hill is a turreted castle or school which could have been Colditz. Further on we stopped at Mischliffen ski resort obviously closed in mid summer and spookily reminiscent of the Shining. We only saw one person a blind Moroccan carrying one ski pole, bizarre.

Work started on 31st July hurrah with the first job plastic sheeting and plastering over the beautiful zellige floors before the demolition squad come in and then it was demo time with the bags of rubble carted away daily by a team of donkeys and trolley boys. Will get some photos on site soon when i get the laptop sorted till then you will have to picture the scene.