As found at the summit of a winding road above the Italian lakes.
Built by the Walsers in the late 1920's and in truly original condition all to do!
Purpose: Luxury Two Bedroom accommodation, bathrooms en-suite Self Catering Holiday Chalet!
Twenty minutes from Lakes,nestling into the Mountainside, in a picturesque Hamlet surrounded by ancient woodland
We arrived with our first van load of household belongings, totally underestimating the height and narrowness of the hairpin bend path we had skipped up excitedly prior to purchase.
For the last three large items very helpful locals arrived with a truck with a hyab and helped lift in Miele washing machine, Lacanche Cooker and a temporary Generator
(only 1kw electricity for the moment).
Having finally lifted, lugged, coaxed, shoved, rolled and winched all up, made up a bed and slept like the dead.
All forgotten the next day, enthused with having completed a year and a half purchase and finally having possession to our new acquisition. Excitement began to ebb a little as we realised we had only visited in the summer and now December it’s absolutely freezing. Lighting the only fire had little effect, in fact by lunchtime it was warmer outside. Hunger wasn’t helping so a sensible decision was made, the answer to all our immediate problems was at the bottom of the garden Antica Trattoria-del Boden. Enso and his family rescued and restored us with cold bieres and homemade dishes of traditional Italian delights, this has now developed over time into a habitual tonic.
On closer inspection we soon became aware that our 'summer House' had absolutely no insulation- as well as no bathroom, plenty to get on with, add in total re-wire and we were not even going to scratch the surface in this two week visit.
Poor Lilly our Border Terrier was the coldest so we went out and bought her an Italian Stallion coat, fitted a temporary woodburner, rolled up our sleeves and started stripping out the smallest bedroom ready for wall insulation, plumbing, and changing it into a generous bathroom with toilet next door and underfloor heating throughout.. We have made a start but the plasterboard will have to wait till the next trip.
I drove back from Italy yesterday with Maurice and our two dogs, we left at 6.00am and arrived home at Waters End Farm at 5.30pm last night. Instead of climbing up over the Simplon Pass we snuck through on the extroadinary ghost trail that runs through from Viselle in Italy to Brig In Switzerland. Open carriages made out of meccano with corrugated sheeting bent over as patchy roofing and rattles like hell, an experience not to be missed. Suggest if you are that way and according to weather you drive over The Simplon Pass one way and Train back under the mountains on your return, reminds me of the ghost trains at fairs when I was a child.
I say I drove as shortly after departing Brig Maurice came down with 'Italian Stallion Man Flue' and the rest of the drive was up to me ( I've notched it up as one owed).Switzerland was dusted with yesterdays snow but clear and onto The Jura,a bit like Alsace, just doesn't seem like France, open rolling grassland, cow sheds and cheese, a few 'sunday drivers' and on to the Autoroute, autostops, rest stops and Calais. That's the down side of motorway driving, it's heartless, like flying, you travel at great speed but with no flavour of where you are. On the plus side, excellent road surface, plenty of well run clean service stations convieniently placed along the way and as it was the equivalent of a sunday- barely a lorry to be seen.
We had gone down on the 19th December with the intent to crack on with the second bedroom, it needs an en-suite bathroom, every bedroom at Waters End has an en-suite and we see no reason to drop standards now. The bedroom could be big enough if we removed built in wardrobes servicing both bedrooms on one side, therefore widening the room to allow for a vi-spring superking double bed at one end and the room becomes long enough to steel space at the other end, enough to fit in a generous shower, basin and toilet. Underestimated the ammount of work from the start (as usual), it quickly became apparent that to get the services in (water / electricity) we needed to pull apart the wood panelling lining the stairwell, the outerwall of the stairwell needed insulating anyway, so we had to start the stairs first, carefully removing the panelling so that we can put it back afterwards. The other way we loose time is that although we can have materials delivered, that only means to the gate at the bottom of the hairpin garden path which is also close to the restaurant, so we try to time such deliveries, i.e. plasterboard, timber, sheets of ply, to not be using ' The Hoist' when the restaurant is open, this occasionally means Maurice and I are ferrying products up by hand, not recommended if it's tiles or a ton of firewood, I speak from experience.
By now Christmas is looming, two of the reasons for buying Chalet Boden was to enjoy the lakes and surroundings in the summer and the mountains and skiing in the winter. So we downed tools and sneak off for three glorious days skiing in Courmayeur, not the closest to us but a wonderful old Italian ski resort with a promenarding old high street that takes christmas to heart and a delightful ski area above with two good cable cars to whisk you up to great skiing and delightful restaurant chalets and bars dotted about all ready to tempt you in, an absolute heaven for Maurice whose planning the days 'runs' according to his palete, I just follow with my own 'technique' never going to achieve any style but haven't missed a vin chaud or a good lunch yet. This time we returned to an old favourite that we first took the children when they were 4 and 5, and even though more than 30 years has whizzed by - the same patron is still there, a legend then he is now still more than larger than life and 'Jako' even still remembered us (so he said) and introduced us to his far more salubrious guest Heston Blumenthal another big fan of Courmayeur. We had three lovely days skiing, snow was brilliant, ate far too much, met some nice people and had a lovely Christmas. On the 26th the whole resort fills up so we made are way back to Chalet Boden refreshed and revived and to get on with that second bathroom.
Both wardrobes are dismantled and plans drawn up on the floor, minor hiccup of needing a corner toilet so as allowing more generous leg room but that is easy to remedy. We steel half the window for the bathroom but still leaves another window and French doors to balcony in the bedroom. Maurice re erects the wardrobe to form part of the bathroom dividing wall to bedroom and give support for the bathroom door while I get on with insulating the stairwell. We make good progress but need the plumber and electrician to go further as we can’t close anything with plasterboard, also we have work to do in UK as one of our drill rigs is being shipped to the Netherlands on the 6th January for Geothermal drilling.Work required on both Rig and Rod Carrier means all hands on deck at Waters End so no more work on Chalet Boden but a good start to the year for Geotech Developments!
PROGRESS OR NOT
I have to admit that working on Boden is easier than documenting progress, for one it's simpler to break in to the property than open up a new page on this website. Hammers , screwdrivers, saws and paintbrushes are far more my kind of tool than a laptop, but we do have much better wifi in the mountains than at home so I have very much appreciated my laptop for being able to have BBC radio 4 on in the background, would't want to miss an actual decision on Brexit!
Like most renovation projects each job undertaken makes things worse before it gets better, its unbeleavable how many tools and equipment you can use in a day and everything is covered in dust.
Our second visit we came better prepared for the cold, two thermal vests is a whole lot better than one. We had naively assumed the plumbing would have been connected in our absence,now have a "flusher" but no shower and only 1kw of electricity. Enzo (with a couple of bedrooms) at the restaurant at the bottom of the garden, came to our rescue offering to let us rent a bathroom monday to friday as was out of season and he only had weekend bookings through the winter, never have we appreciated the rejuvenation qualities of a hot shower so much.This trip we managed to insulate and plasterboard bathroom and toilet all ready for a tiler to do before our next return.Plans were now formulated for the ground floor and we needed help. Franco and his building team joined the project and his first task was very impressive, up to this point everything - plasterboard, timber, insulation had to be carried up our hairpin garden path!, but in one day this all changed.
Part one of three scaffoling towers put up in a day by Franco and his team, all three interlinked and a lifting arm at one end, enabling us to lift materials from road level to house level and visa-versa and all built in one day, brilliant!
This is probably the moment to mention Franco is 80 years young and puts all of us to shame.
Until now all had to be hand lifted up the rockery path on the right, so thank you Franco XX
To us its as beautiful as the Eiffel Tower but perhaps not to our neighbours as we sit in a little hamlet of four houses, a restaurant and a beautiful church, we are definately the rough diamond for the moment, but locals are being good hearted about it and very helpful, it seems that everybody is keen to see the house restored and loved again.
Before we leave we also commision a local carpenter to make a new front door, french door and a replacement window, the house needs more light and openness.
We ask Franco to dig up the concrete floor in what was the 'kitchen' and also the room in the right of the front door, improve the house foundations and re-concrete to the level of the wooden floor that is currently down in the lounge area and include underfloor heating. Could he also knock down and RSJ a couple of load bearing walls while he's there! 'Optimistic' aren't we! Oh and allow in the levels for new not yet chosen floor surface too!
You are probably assuming that we are learning italian, wrong,embarrassingly I am as bad as ever and after a few days on my own I stumbled across Google Translate ( only the first app I've actually added to my phone, I am such a Dinosaur). Suddenly 10 sheets of plasterboard is transformed into 'dieci fogli di cartongesso', I'm fluent! Maurice is even handycapped by Franco happy to practise his French from previous years working in Switzerland and Enzo is keen for him and his children to learn English.
Add all this into the mix and what state will we find on our next return?
We pack the van with our belongings, the dogs and our rubbish (can't quite get the handle on the refuse system, what is the correct colour bag with the correct content for the correct day?) and head for home via the Simplon Pass on a lovely sunny day feeling pleased with what we had achieved in three weeks but fear of the ammount still to do crept in as we drove towards Calais.
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Our younger son Nicholas, wife Lisa and 2 year old son Archie have moved into our farmhouse at Waters End as they have bought a house in Cranbrook that needed major groundwork. This has enabled Maurice and I to come back to Boden earlier than expected as we are able to leave the farm in capable hands, but this does mean that Franco has not had as much time to do all the work we left him with.
However we arrive with another van load of materials into a hubub of activity, walls had gone (Geometra consulted) Acrow's all over the place and rubble and mess everywhere.
Upstairs, through the red curtain the tiler had been and we now have a tiled shower and floors, we re-hang the doors and courtesy of the generator we now have hot water and a luxurious shower. I've also remembered the glass sheves for the fridge, so at the end of the day, after a hot shower, there is also the luxury of a cold beer, progress is definately being made, we now have really opened up the space on the ground floor and are beginning to see our plans unfold.