When we first initiated purchase of the structures that were to become Villa Ndio it was 1993. By initiated I mean we made an offer of a million French francs to the previous owner. A nice round number. At the time, the French franc was worth less than 17 US cents. Well, you can do the math. To the buyers it was a bargain. To the seller is was a steal. So everyone was happy.
What we got was basically a bombed out shell. But we saw its potential. The plumbing and electricity were decrepit. The kitchen plumbing consisted of a concrete sink with a pipe fixed to the wall above it. The pipe passed through a nearby heater that auto-activated when a spigot was opened. The middle floor bathroom had a toilet that was poorly seated and leaked. There was also a sink in the bathroom, but no tub or shower. The upstairs toilet was in a separate room next to another that had a sit-down tub and a sink. The electrical wiring ran mostly through metal conduit, some hidden, some exposed.
There were two structures, the main one that was at that time a duplex, separated down its length, with the other side not ours owned by an elderly couple from Strasbourg that visited each summer for a few weeks. This structure has three levels. Our ground floor included the crudest of kitchens, and a living room, with walls of large rocks and six cast iron candelabras such as you might see lighting some medieval castle with flickering candles. The ones on our original walls had small lightbulbs fed by ancient electrical wiring with frayed fiber insulation. None worked.
The second structure faced the first, across a slate surfaced courtyard. It had an archway entry with a wrought iron gate. It was open to the elements. So when we first adopted the place it was littered with all kind of wildlife of the insect and invertebrate sort, alive and dead, and by the smell, I assume at least one small rodent found its end there.
The cleanup went quickly, as we were anxious to make the place at least minimally habitable. Priorities for livability included foremost an overhaul of the kitchen and bathrooms. Sleeping bags could be thrown anywhere, after all. We took out the old concrete sink, put in cabinets and counter space all around, and dropped a new sink into one of them. A plumber came around and hooked up the water supply. The old toilet on the middle level was replaced and the waste pipe routed beneath the floor of what was to become our bedroom, through to the ancient septic tank behind the far wall of the courtyard. The upstairs toilet was re-positioned in the room with the tub and sink. The sit-down tub was replaced with a quarter circle tub with shower arrangement. The walls and floor of this bathroom were nicely tiled by a contractor.
By and by we had a contractor overhaul the kitchen. And then we had another contractor install a veranda connecting the two structures. This renovation made a huge difference. It at once greatly expanded our living space and blocked off the “cave” side from the elements. Within a year we had the floor of the veranda tiled. A few years later we had the swimming pool installed.
These initial renovations made a world of a difference for establishing Villa Ndio as a family home. In the next post I will talk about work that I have done personally, including with respect to our purchase and incorporation of the “Martin” side of our house.Share this post