Monday, 27 September 2010

Diary of Florida House build

Back in 2006, we embarked on a major adventure - building our own house in Florida.  With no prior building knowledge, we threw ourselves head first into the project and boy, it was a rollercoaster!  Here's our diary:-

Glorious Gulf Villa - House Build Diary

New Year family decision to be made; put a lump sum into a pension fund or invest in an overseas property?  Er hello!  For me, it’s like choosing between a date with George Clooney or Gordon Brown!!  It’s a no-brainer.  Overseas here we come!
Attend Overseas Property Exhibition and before I know it, book an eight-day Exploration Trip to Florida.  I drive home and deliver the news to my husband that he’s off to Florida.

BIG discussions/arguments about who should go.  Husband is adamant it should be me and he should stay take the easy route and stay at home with our girls!  Easy – PAH!  Little does he know.  I’m freaking out about the whole idea.  I’ve never even spent a night away from the family – let alone eight nights, 4,500 miles away.

8th May
Departure day.  Try to be very grown up but collapse in a crying heap once through Security.  Not so grown up!  Calm myself down with some Duty Free therapy.
Spend flight showing everyone photos of my girls.  Airline staff very sympathetic to a point, then just keep me quiet with copious amount of gin and tonic!

Land at Orlando and meet my Guide who’s built like Mr T from the A Team called Rocky...only in America!  He has five girls of his own - I think we are going to get on well.

Day One
An early 8am start and spend 10 hours viewing properties around Orlando.  I’m constantly surrounded by Disney paraphernalia which makes me miss my girls even more.  I want to go home.

Day Three
With no joy in Orlando we head to the beautiful Gulf Coast.  With jaw-dropping beaches and amazing scenery, it’s a real breath of fresh air. We arrive in an area called Rotonda, nestled between Sarasota and Naples – it’s stunning. Introduced to a company who build homes from scratch.  I would be in sole charge of deciding:-

Location; golf course, woodland or water front views?
Number of bedrooms; 3, 4 or more?
Design and layout;  open plan, country style, formal/informal areas etc?
Exterior & interior finishings; enough home style encyclopaedias to wade through it made the entire back catalogue of Next Directories look like a light read!

For a control freak like me, I’m in heaven.

12th May 2006
Our wedding anniversary.  Wake up with my emotions colliding; I’m missing my husband, I’m excited that we’ve decided to build our dream home, I’m nervous about signing the paperwork and totally scared about how much I’m about to commit to.  This calls for Rescue Remedy – preferably intravenously!

Seeing the beautiful sunrise, I’m calm again.  I’ve found a wonderful plot of land, overlooking the tranquil waterway and chosen a beautiful villa.  It’s going to be perfect.  Later that day, I sign the deal, open a bottle of wine and ring home for a verbal hug.

16th May
Arrive home.  If I thought the hard bit was over, I had little idea of what lay ahead for the next 15 months.  Maybe it’s the heat but everyone has a mañana, mañana” attitude which drives me crazy.

6th October
Finally the builders break ground.  Any longer and it may have broken our marriage!

Money for the build is rushing out of our bank faster than pensioners from Northern Rock. We pray for a hurricane-free season.

I start working on our website to advertise the villa. is born – virtually of course although it’s starting to feel like my third child. 

Trying to compare monthly update photos from the site is like playing Spot the Difference.  Little progress is being made.  Almost every week a new challenge or dilemma arrives sucking up precious family time quicker than Great Uncle Dyson.  Sleepless nights, frantic phone calls and demanding emails are now a daily feature.  Trying to juggle running a home, being Mum to two girls under five and being a great wife leaves me feeling exhausted.  This is definitely aging me. 

I constantly ask myself “Why did we think it would easy to build a house 4500 miles away?”  I feel totally out of control being so far away from the build but I have to plough on regardless.  The list of people and jobs that I have to manage and juggle is endless from builders and banks to County offices, to interior designers and landscape gardeners.  Honestly, anyone would think it was their house?!  We may all speak the same language but they may as well be speaking Cantonese!

Now the fun starts.  I’m asked to choose everything from the roof colour, to the size & design of our pool.  Most people would find this level of detail a nightmare – fortunately I love it.  However, what I quickly realise is my husband doesn’t share my passion.  Being a Virgo, I’m surprised with his lack of interest.  Normally, he’s all over detail like a rash.  With his eyes glazing over before I even open my mouth he assures me that I have his full trust and I should make decisions on behalf of the family.  GULP! As if the pressure wasn’t massive already, I feel like it’s just gone up a few notches!

We always had May in mind as a month in which the villa would be built and we would all go out to visit but it’s no-where near ready.
After what seems a life-time of waiting, we get the news - the house is finally built.  We all sigh a huge sigh of relief.  All we need now are some renters through the door.  I feel more sleepless nights coming on!

16th October
We arrive in Rotonda to admire the fruits of our labour.
I feel sick with a mixture of excitement, apprehension and tiredness.  The final photos we’ve seen look good but it’s going to be so different seeing it for real.
Oh my God, what if we hate it?
I feel as though I’ve been holding my breath since we landed so it’s not surprising when I nearly faint as we walk through the door...

Glorious Gulf Villa is totally amazing.  Everywhere I look I see things that I love especially the wonderful four-poster bed!  It’s a real home-from-home.  The girls are most impressed to have their very own swimming pool. 

My husband looks at me with new found admiration.  I can’t believe my eyes.  I feel like I’m dreaming.  I’m half expecting someone to put a blanket round my shoulders and hang a medal around my neck as it feels like I’ve just completed the London Marathon!  Instead, in a terribly British manner, my husband makes me a cup of tea and puts me to bed for a lie down to recover.

The journey has been long and emotional.  My knowledge of house building has of course increased but more importantly I’ve learnt so much about myself.  I’ve definitely earned a few brownie points from my family but I don’t think anyone really understands just how much this project has taken out of me.

In Summary
Am I proud of the end resultYes!
Would I do it againNo!
Is our marriage still in-tactJust!

The End!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Golfers Paradise


Many Guests choose to stay at our Glorious Gulf Villa because of the wonderful choice of local golf courses.  If you like your golf, then Rotonda is definitely the right location for you.  With over 30 courses in the area, ranging from executive to championship level, it's easy to see why they call it "Golfers Paradise!"

Our villa is only a 5 minute drive from 5 different clubs however the closest one is Long Marsh Golf Club (Rotonda Circle)

Long Marsh’s gently rolling fairways meander thoughtfully through 300 acres of natural Florida scrub, its fairways and green invitingly framed by an abundance of stately oaks, native pines and palms. Natural waste bunkers, marshes and lakes provide a challenge for golfers as well as a haven for a variety of wildlife.

Measuring 7,120 yards from the tips, the course can be daunting, but four sets of tees, a minimal use of bunkers and strategically placed mounding provides a friendly game for all levels.

The signature holes on this demanding course are the final three holes on the front nine. The seventh is a long straight par four with not much trouble. It is a straight forward hole, but into the prevailing wind, it’s a lot harder than it looks. The eighth is one of the toughest par threes in southwest Florida, and, at about 240 yards, is one of the longest. This requires a good hit with your longest iron or a fairway wood.

Don’t get roped into thinking you’ve hit a good shot until the ball lands, however, because it is a shallow green and very hard to hold with the type of club being hit in there. The ninth is a 90 degree dog leg to the right with water on both sides of the fairway. It is crucial to pick the right club because if you are long or short you will be in the water. The second shot, however, is a lot easier with only a waste bunker that is in play. The funny thing about this hole is the local rule placed on it. There is a house on the short side of the fairway and even if the ball heads over the out of bounds stake and comes back into play, that is still deemed as out of bounds to protect the house from being peppered with errand tee shots.

For lots more information please check out our Golfing Fanatics section on our villa website:-
Golfing Fanatic?

Or check out Rotonda West's Golf & Country Club site:-

Rotonda West's Golf & Country Club

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Wonderful Wildlife

Palm Frog - photographed by Jafkins Family

Our Glorious Gulf Villa is situated on Florida's Gulf Coast in Rotonda which is a Deed Restricted community and is part of a Nature Conservation Area. 

It's the perfect location for attracting literally hundreds of different types of wildlife.  Nature enthusiasts, bird spotters and wildlife lovers will be in heaven!

Our Guests love to write to us to tell us what different species they have spotted either from the villa's private fishing dock, the local area or on the beach.  Here's just a handful of what has been viewed and photographed:-

Alligators, Anhingas, Armadillos, Blue Jays, Bobcats, Catfish, Cormorants, Cranes, Damsel flies, Dolphins, Double Crested Cormorants, Eagles, Egrets, Fireflies (lighting bugs), Frigate Birds, Frogs, Great Blue Herons, Great White Race, Green Herons, Ibis, Laughing Gulls, Little Blue Herons, Lizards, Mocking Birds, Northern Cardinals, Ospreys, Pelicans, Raccoons, Rays, Red Cardinals, Red Tanagers, Sand Hill Cranes, Snowy Egret, Terns, Turkey Vultures, Turtles, Water Snakes, Wild Hogs, Wilsons Plovers, Woodpeckers

View over 1,000 wild & scenic photos taken near our villa with this link:-

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Boca Grande Beach Info

As promised, here is the first of my Beach Blogs!

Not the closest beach to our villa but definitely a favourite amongst all our renters is Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island which is accessed by car via a toll bridge.

The beach here is often compared to some of the best Caribbean beaches and attracts beach-goers from around the world.

Expect to find miles of uncrowded bleached white sands, exquisite seashells and if you are lucky dolphins swimming. The best beaches are at the far south end of Gasparilla Island, located along Gasparilla Road where you will also find the Lighthouse & Museum . If you fancy a light bite then South Beach Bar and Grill is situated right on the beach front.

The town itself is like stepping back in time. Here you will find the charm of "Old Florida," where nobody hurries anywhere. The main mode of transport is golf carts and there is no need for traffic lights.  Don’t be fooled though...this is where the rich and famous love to spend time with many having their own beautiful real estate on the island.

For more info - check out this link:-,_Florida

ESTA Deadline

Thought you may find the below handy:-

Not sure if you are aware but travel to the USA now requires everyone to apply online for their own individual ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) to be entitled to enter the USA. You will no longer be able to travel using the current visa waiver program that you fill out onboard the aircraft.
 From September 2010 there will be charge of £25 to apply for each ESTA or renew an existing one.

Once approved, an ESTA is valid for multiple entries over two years – or until the holder’s passport expires.

To apply, click on this link:-

Monday, 23 August 2010

Glorious Gulf Villa

Glorious Gulf Villa

Our Glorious Gulf Villa is available for rent

Executive 5* luxurious waterfront villa
3 bed/2 bath - sleeps 6
Private and peaceful location
Nestled between Sarasota & Naples
Own heated pool and fishing dock
Contemporary design, luxuriously furnished
Affordable luxury - relaxation guaranteed!

Take our Villa Video Tour:-

November 2010 - All dates currently available @ just £565 / $850 per week

First Post

Hi everyone.  This is my first post on my new blog regarding Florida's Gulf Coast.

As a Gulf Cost villa owner for 4 years, I have a vast amount of information that I whould love to share with you.  Every week I will try and include new and interesting facts / guides / links etc not only regarding the Gulf Coast but also regarding our villa too.  I will also be encouraging previous Guests of the villa to write their own blogs on here too.

I hope you find the information on here interesting and useful and please feel free to contribute if you have anything interesting you would like to add.