The new year has started, and so have the Bed & Breakfast services at Casa Roja! We have spent the week getting the house ready... after welcoming in 2018, that is.
The week kicked off with a New Year’s Eve party at Casa Roja. Several friends and extended family of Tomas arrived with arms full of food and drink. Since the boat taxi doesn’t run past 9:00pm, guests brought sleeping bags or made other sleeping arrangements on Isla Tenglo.
The party was an all-night affair complete with barbecued steak, sausages, and vegetables; seafood pasta; and all kinds of appetizers, salads, and desserts. Food was complemented with wine, beer, and a local favorite “piscola” (Pisco and Coke).
It was a chilly night but most of the party took place on the front deck, overlooking the channel full of ship lights reflecting off the dark water. At midnight, instead of watching fireworks, we watched the slow burn of red flares launched from around the marina across the channel.
In the morning, I was the first person awake (probably because I was one of the first to go to bed), so I spent an hour or two clearing up and washing the dishes. Due to my limited cooking skills, my role in the kitchen is usually washing dishes. I don’t mind; I even find it somewhat therapeutic.
The rest of the day was sort of lost; we just took it easy, lounging around the house on the comfortable sofas or outside deck. We knew that January was going to be a busy month – Casa Roja was opening as a Bed & breakfast!
Christian has already been running a Bed & Breakfast service at his house (utilizing his two backyard cabanas) called “Punta Piedras.” As the local manager for Casa Roja (the owner is based in England, and is only here part-time during the summer), Christian has also set up this house for Bed & Breakfast service, using AirBnb and Booking for reservations. Look us up!
We already have guests lined up for a few weeks in January, starting this first week. So, after a day of recovery from NYE, we began some serious preparation.
We cleaned the bedrooms and bathrooms, setting them up with fresh linens and basic supplies. We organized the kitchen, making sure the guest-dedicated dishes were clean and ready. We talked about roles and responsibilities, guest expectations, complementary services (e.g., breakfast) and premium services (e.g., lunch, dinner, excursions).
Island life is not easy. Simple tasks – like going to the grocery store for supplies – take more time and energy than normal. When Tomas and I went grocery shopping, it took nearly half a day because of logistics like crossing the channel to/from the mainland and walking from the beach up to the house while managing a grocery load of 10-15 bags! Remember, we don’t have cars on the island!
We don’t have garbage service, either. So yes, every few days, we haul 2-3 trash bags from the two houses, across the channel, and to the dumpsters at the yacht club.
Frequently, we have to plan our activities around the weather. That may be less about life on an island and more about life in Patagonia. The weather changes constantly! It rained a lot this week, which confined us to indoor chores.
But, during the short breaks in the rain, I was able to head outside and tackle a few jobs. The biggest job was pruning the hydrangeas and clearing the pathway to the red cabana. (The Casa Roja “estate” really has 3 buildings: the main house, with 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms; the red cabana, with 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom; and what I call “the barn,” or storage shed, which has a dormitory-style room above it with 3 beds and a half-bath.) Side benefits of this job included getting fresh-cut flowers for the house, as well as more material for my composting efforts.
I also gathered the chopped wood from the tree that had fallen on the house, and moved it to the covered wood shed at the side of the barn. It would hopefully be dry in time for the winter months later this year.
The lawn needed cutting again, but with the heavy rains the last 3-4 days, the lawn was too wet. As much as I wanted to have it neatly cut for the guests, I'd have to wait another day or two.
As part of the preparation for the guests, I moved my stuff out of Casa Roja and onto Christian’s 42-foot sailboat at the yacht club marina. I would sleep on the boat for the next few weeks, to make room for the paying guests at the house. Also, this would facilitate my key responsibility: running the boat taxi service using Christian’s 12-foot motor boat (also housed at the yacht club). By staying on Christian’s sailboat, I’d be ready to take the little boat over to the island anytime a guest needed to come to the mainland, and vice versa – when they arrive at the club, I’m right there ready to greet them and take them to the island. As a side benefit, the club has hot showers, fast WIFI, and tasty lunch service).
The first guests were actually staying at Punta Piedras, not at Casa Roja. They were a family of 4 living in northern Chile. I ferried them back and forth to the mainland a few times, but the biggest adventure was taking the father, Carl, on a 3-hour fishing expedition around the other side of Isla Tenglo! We didn’t catch anything but we had great weather and calm seas, and we saw a lot of seals, pelicans, and penguins.
Our first guests at Casa Roja arrived Saturday, all the way from Montreal, Canada, and stayed for a couple of nights. Tomas had returned to Santiago for a few days to work on a music recording, so Blanca and I took care of the guest services.
At this point, the weather was starting to improve and the house was really looking good. We were quite literally open for business – a good thing because we have two more reservations coming up next week!
We also have a very special guest arriving Sunday – the owner of Casa Roja! Jasmin, and her friend Polly, will be joining us for the month!