Lay Of The Land

I spent the first few days in Puerto getting the lay of the land, literally and figuratively.  I knew the town decently well from the trip in 2019, and from all the Idealista searches throughout 2020, but it is completely different in real life, putting all the pieces together.  I figured the easiest way to see what was where was to just walk as much of the town as possible.

One thing that gave me some direction in where to go were the limited number of long-term rentals that we’d been looking at prior to leaving the country.  There weren’t very many because our filters included needing the place to be furnished, and also allowing pets.  With just those two filters, there were only about a half dozen available properties, spread out all across town.  I had sent email inquiries about them as soon as I arrived, but didn’t hear back from anyone at first.  So I just did my best to find them in person, based on their photos and other information online.

The first one that caught my attention was in the San Telmo area.  San Telmo is a short stretch of coastline between Lago Martianez and Plaza Europa.  It’s only a couple blocks long, with a straight footpath along the shore, businesses lining one side of the street and rocky coastline and a couple ocean entries on the other.  The nice thing about San Telmo that I immediately grasped was that the footpath was just that, a footpath.  There were no cars allowed, unlike the road that went by Plaza Europa and Plaza de Charco.  In roughly the middle of Calle de San Telmo, there was a rental supposedly available.  Based on pictures I had from the listing, I walked around until I found what I was pretty sure was the unit.  It was at the corner of Calle de San Telmo and Calle Sgto. Cáceres, a little offset from the street, above a Gelato place.  It was a rooftop unit, with a private deck area on the roof, not too much different from our place in San Diego.  It looked like it would have great views, and not be “too” noisy. It's in the middle of the photo below, inset from the coast a bit.

The area around it seemed pretty nice as well.  Whilst Calle de San Telmo has commercial properties right along the coastline, one block in, Calle la Hoya was a quiet commercial street with a number of shops, bars, and restaurants.  Among other things were a British pub and an electronics store.  I went in the electronics store because I’d managed to kill my beard trimmer the first day in Puerto.  I had packed a plug adapter that we’d taken on several of our trips over the years, but did not remember that it did not adapt voltage, just the plug itself.  Goodbye beard trimmer.  Fortunately, all the other electronics we brought – computers, phone chargers, etc. all were designed to work with either 110 or 220.

The southern terminus of Calle la Hoya was right at where the steps down from the La Paz to Centro Comercial Martiánez come out.  Not only is there a grocery store inside the shopping mall, there is another grocery store a block north, on Calle la Hoya, HiperDino.  This was probably less than a five minute walk from the available rental unit.  Based on all of this, I thought this unit might be perfect for what we needed.  It was close to everything, but not too loud, and with great views.  It was listed for €1500, a little less than $1800 a month. At the other end of Calle La Hoya, the western edge, was Plaza Iglesia. It was nice and sunny, and the noise of little kids emanated from the school next door. The video below, from Canary Relax, gives a good idea of what it is like during daylight hours during the week. A street over, I had some excellent Argentine food at a place called Casa Mediterraneana, on a quiet street with some restaurants and street art. The Canary Relax videographer goes right past it around the 8:50 mark.

Once downtown, I walked back and forth across town, getting a feel for the vibe of the the various streets.  As an example, in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Bourbon Street has all the cheap loud bars for college students and young adults, whereas one block south, Royal Street has a lot of shops and clothing stores for older generations, a block south of that Chartres Street has more “adult” restaurants and bars, and a block south of that Decatur Street has very crowded touristy shops and entertainment near the riverbank.  In Puerto, the streets along the coastline, and around the perimeter of Plaza de Charco, were very clearly the most “touristy”, and reminiscent of Decatur Street.  [By the way, the comparison to New Orleans isn’t that crazy; before New Orleans was French, it was Spanish, and the layout and architecture have a lot of resemblances.]

West of Plaza del Charco, in the La Ranilla district, the streets of Calle del Lomo and Calle Mequinez seemed more “authentic” and full of restaurants that appeared to have more locals and less tourists.  We’d traversed these streets both in April and December 2019, and they were memorable because of their street art, giant works of art sometimes covering entire sides of buildings.  Just west of this area was the beginning of Playa Jardin, again more touristy and cheaper looking.  Playa Jardin is split into multiple beaches, with a low footpath down by the beach and a high road just above, which cars can travel on.  In between the footpath and the road are some restaurants, bars, clubs, etc., which I assume would be packed if there was no COVID.  South of Playa Jardin, and southwest of downtown, is an area I’ll call Dehesas (not sure if that’s technically accurate), full of plantain plantations and a handful of streets, most prominently Carretera de las Dehesas, which bisects the area from east to west.  One of the houses available was in this area, and it had been available for over a year.  Walking over there, I realized why it might still be available.  You aren’t “close” to anything out there, certainly not by foot.  Since we weren’t going to have a car, I quickly checked it off my list.

Back downtown, there was another property right near the intersection of Plaza Europa and Playa de San Telmo, in a spot called Punta del Viento - the picture above on the left is the building.  There was a 4th floor unit available there, which had also been available for over a year.  I could see the sign from the street saying “Se Alquila” (For Rent), and a phone number, so I wrote that down.  Although only a few blocks from the other place in San Telmo, this one would be a lot louder, as it was right on the front of the building, immediately above the intersection.  For both better and worse, people are constantly singing and/or playing music on the benches right there, because there are a good number of people around and the views to the east along the shoreline are incredible pretty much all day. On the one hand, I could see the additional noise being helpful, because if Pig barked at anything, hopefully it would be drowned out.  On the other hand, I could see it giving him about 50x more things to bark at.  I wrote down the phone number and committed the area to memory.

Besides looking for rental locations, I was also keeping my eyes peeled for a couple household items.  I needed some antiperspirant/deodorant (the one I had packed was quite low), some chip clips for the chips I’d bought the first day, and some coasters so I wouldn’t have to worry about putting cold beverages on the furniture in the Airbnb.  When walking around town, every time I passed a store that seemed like it might have one or more of these, I stopped in, but was having no luck with any of them.

The variety of items available in the stores differed significantly from what I was used to in the US, as the various stores were more delineated and had less overlap with each other than I was used to.  Grocery stores were largely the same, aside from having different brands on the shelves.  There were produce areas, meat areas, sections for dairy and other cold items, a bread area, and then rows of different food items.  Percentage-wise, there seemed to be a lot less pre-prepared items and sugary items than in the US, though they were still available.  Size-wise, almost everything was smaller than in the US, which perhaps explained why finding chip clips was so difficult – no one was buying a 2 pound bag of potato chips.  In addition to groceries, the grocery stores also had some household items, kitchen items (not coasters, however), some cleaning supplies, pet stuff, etc.  Separate from grocery stores, there were standalone small stores that sold just fruits, or vegetables, or both.

What there didn’t appear to be, at least in downtown Puerto, was anything equivalent to a CVS or RiteAid or Walgreens, with a mix of a bunch of household-related stuff.  Instead, many of the Farmacias (pharmacies) were literally just pharmacies, and indeed pharmacies where a pharmacist would help you determine exactly what you needed, and many of the items weren’t just sitting on the shelves, but behind the counter.  Some of the pharmacies were larger, and included items like lotions, creams, etc. (but not with the antiperspirant/deodorant I was looking for).  In addition to pharmacies, there were also perfume stores, which had perfumes, cologne, etc., but not much else.  None of these various stores had items like beard trimmers.  There were a handful of small Ferreterias (hardware stores), which had hardware, but not so many electronic gadgets, including beard trimmers.  Finally I found beard trimmers at an electronics store, which had all sorts of electronics, household and otherwise.  Phone-related electronics was yet another type of store, and ubiquitous around town.  But there wasn’t any sort of omnibus-type household store for getting toilet paper, household electronics, pet supplies, cold medicine, etc., all in one shot. 

All the stores did have some commonalities, however.  They all had automated hand sanitizers right near the entrance, and several of them had temperature checks as well.  Some of the hand sanitizers would dispense with a sensor when you put your hand underneath, whereas others had a foot pedal that would activate the pump on the sanitizer, but not have everyone touch it.  The temperature checks worked by walking up to them and putting your forehead close to a sensor, which would then read out your temperature and then beep, letting you know it was okay to enter.  No one seemed to have any issue with any of this, and no one seemed to have an issue wearing masks either – inside or outside.

I quickly started to pick up some Spanish from context, experiencing the same small conversations over and over again.  Every time I checked out from a store, the first question would be “Bolsa?” – did I want/need a bag.  The first time I blanked, but I quickly got the hang of it.  Also, when perusing some of the smaller stores, people would ask in various ways if I needed help or was looking for anything specific, and I learned to say “Estoy mirando” (I’m looking), which always did the trick and allowed me to peruse by myself. One of my first purchases were four giant beach towels. I wanted some inexpensive, and easy to clean, "dog beds" for the pups, because Lola was constantly making small messes, and I couldn't wash and dry the dog beds I'd brought that quickly. The Airbnb had a washer, but no dryer. So I bought 4 giant beach towels, and used 2 of them as dog beds whilst I cleaned and/or kept clean the other two, so that I could swap them out on a moment's notice.

All over town there were signs for Loro Parque, a bird park/Sea World sort of place near Playa Jardin, and Brunelli’s, an American steakhouse right near Loro Parque.  And when I say I saw them all over town, I saw them all over town.  They were ubiquitous, on nearly every trash can (which were everywhere), bus stop, etc.  Loro Parque was actually closed because of COVID, but the signs were still everywhere.

Up the hill in La Paz, things were a bit more spread out.  It wasn’t the suburbs or anything, but the streets weren’t as close together, and there was much more greenery.  A couple times a day I would take the dogs for walks – separately (together they're horrible).  We were staying basically at the northeast edge of town, so all the walks were either to the south or the west.  Lola wasn’t going more than a few blocks, but Avon was good for 15-20 minutes of walking before I started to worry about him.  Our condo was on Camino la Costa, right near Calle Aceviño, so many of the walks were along those two streets.  Calle Aceviño was commercial, lined with Royal Poinciana trees and plenty of restaurants and shops - the picture above on the right is its corner closest to the Airbnb.  Camino la Costa was residential aside from the Hotel Best Semiramis, which appeared to be closed due to COVID. There was also a walking path on the north side of the buildings on Camino la Costa, basically right at the top of the cliff, called Paseo de la Costa. I walked Avon on this path a handful of times. The one funny tidbit that I remember from the walks is that the hotel nearest the Airbnb, the Bluesea Interpalace, had a large pool area right near the corner of Calle Aceviño and Calle Sabina. No matter what time I walked past that pool area, and no matter how few people were around the pool (I never saw more than 15-20 people, and often less), the DJ was booming his music and pretending there were hundreds of people around. That, and watching the dogs enjoy their new home, were my two big highlights of the walks.

I don't have any videos of these, but thankfully the guy who puts together the Canary Relax videos has a bunch, and I've spent quite a bit of time (after the fact) perusing the videos to help make this more understandable. The first video below, starting at the 7:30 mark, starts at the Mirador La Paz and goes along this walking path heading east, and from the 9:45 mark to the 10:30 mark goes right past the Airbnb. The second video below, starting at the 16:18 mark, starts from the same location, but instead of going along the pedestrian cliffside walk, goes east along Calle Aceviño, and gets very close to our Airbnb at the 22:30 mark - you see the same view as the above right photo right after that. The third video below, basically starts from the corner depicted in that same photo above on the right - i.e., just one block from the Airbnb - walking the opposite direction (west) on Calle Aceviño, past all of the small neighborhood restaurants (and big hotels) that were nearby.

In addition to Calle Aceviño, the other major commercial street in La Paz was the Carretera (not sure of it’s “official” name, but most people referred to it as Carretera Botánico since it went right by the botanic garden).  Many of the restaurants looked pretty good, and one of the first nights I ate at a place called “Minigolf” that didn’t appear to have any mini golf, at least up front.  There was a temperature check and hand sanitizer to enter the restaurant, just like at the grocery stores.  Interestingly, wine came either by the glass or by the half liter or liter, not by bottles. A video of some of the commercial areas on the Carretera, between Calle Retama (in the south) and Calle Aceviño (in the north) is below. The video also shows a small kids park not far from the Coviran grocery store and Calle Aceviño (which he goes across around the 12:15 mark).

Just before or after dinner, I would ping Crystal, as she’d be up and about by then back in California.  I’d share news of the day, send photos of interesting items (such as the rental on Calle la Hoya), and see how things were going with her moving out of our condo and into Heidi’s place for a little bit.  Sometimes I would get impatient waiting to speak to her, as I’d want to share something earlier in the day, but would realize “oh, it’s only 4am there, this should definitely wait.”  I’d try to make sure to be home in the late afternoon to chat after she got up, but before she had to go to work.  I noticed that in the late afternoons, the wind really picked up, and the first couple days, paragliders went by right outside the Airbnb, less than 50 feet from the window.  Avon barked a couple times, and frankly with good reason.  It was chilly outside too, so most of the time I had the doors closed, but since they didn’t close tightly, the wind would whistle through the doors. The dogs became big fans of the space heater.

Although I’d been out of the country enough days now that my jet lag was gone, Lola was keeping me from sleeping well at night.  She seemed perpetually uncomfortable, constantly pawing at the dog bed to get it the way she wanted.  For a variety of reasons, I decided to sleep in the second bedroom.  First, it had a sliding glass door to a balcony, so I could crack the door and allow the dogs to go in and out during the night if need be.  Second, the fresh air and sounds of the ocean coming through the door were nice.  Third, the bathroom was en suite, so if I needed to clean up anything in the middle of the night (which was frequent), it was right there. 

Because Lola was constantly unhappy, Pig was unhappy as well, as she kept disturbing him.  Eventually I relented and let him up on the bed, so there’d be one less unhappy dog keeping me from sleeping.  Because Lola has no tail, getting her diapers was easier, as I could just buy baby diapers.  I wasn’t sure what size to get her, so I guessed size two, but realized pretty soon that size three was better.  To hold the diapers up, I attached some kids suspenders to her harness, and then clipped the top of the diapers to the suspenders.  This worked okay, but as she moved around a lot, the clips would slip off, and then not long thereafter, the diapers would start to sag and that was all bad.  I asked Crystal to bring some mitten clips (really short elastic straps with clips on both ends, so when little kids take off their mittens, they’re still tethered to coats) in the hope this would work a little better. I figured finding mitten clips on a sub-tropical island was going to be a tall order.

For some stupid questions I had, but didn't know who to ask, I did a bunch of searches on a couple of Facebook message boards I had joined several months prior, North Tenerife Residents and Tenerife Expats. There was a lot of good information on there, in addition to the usual crap, from what I presume was a ton of British nationals and expats. I figured they were British because they were all speaking fluent English, and there certainly weren't any Americans around.

Speaking of the USA, the 13th marked a week since I’d left.  While I was largely avoiding the news, mostly because I was busy and less because I was actively avoiding it, what I did see was uniformly disgusting.  I couldn’t help myself, and sent the following message to friends and family:

So in the one week since I left the US the President incited an armed insurrection, the US Capitol was breached for the first time in over 200 years by Republican domestic terrorists, during lockdown a Republican congresswoman tweeted out Speaker Pelosi’s location to the terrorists, Republican congresspeople refused to wear masks in the safe rooms and now multiple congresspeople have tested positive for COVID in the aftermath, during the breach the President took no action to save anyone in the Capitol (including the three people in the chain of succession), over 100 Congressional Republicans and a handful of Senators sought to overturn the results of a fair and free election just hours AFTER the failed insurrection in the hopes of keeping the President in power, several Republicans have refused to abide by new security protocols inside the Capitol intended to limit weapons being brought into the Capitol and to mandate masks, the President has been impeached a second time, the Senate refused to reconvene to vote on removal, and the only argument against impeachment was that there needs to be “unity.”  Do I have that all correct?  I’m curious what will happen in my second week as an ex-pat.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic to be gone.  The 14th finally brought some (slightly) better weather, and I decided to venture a little further afield in the hopes of finding dog food.  After Lola’s surgery, she needed special food, and after doing some web searching, I actually found a chain store on Tenerife that claimed to have it.  Best of all, it didn’t need a prescription like in the US.  The closest store was in La Orotava, just on the other side of the autopista (Highway) from Puerto.  On the map, it looked like it was in walking distance, but I didn’t have any clue whether the roads had sidewalks or if there were hazards, so I decided to take a taxi, and, assuming everything looked fine, walk back with the dog food in my backpack. I had noticed that there were plenty of taxis by the Coviran grocery store on Calle Aceviño, so I went over there and asked to go to Kiwoko Mascotas, and unfortunately the taxi driver didn’t know it, which was an issue because while I knew how to make the original request in Spanish, I could not answer his follow-up questions.  There was another driver nearby who joined in to help, and between some broken Spanish, broken English, and Google Maps, we figured it out.  The drive was exceedingly short, just up the hill and over the Highway. If you're wondering why I didn't take an Uber, where I could just put in the address and let the driver go right there, Uber was not an option. This wasn't too much of an issue, however, because the taxis were all very clean and very inexpensive. Well, I suppose it was a slight problem, because I had my issue today with trying to find the location, but that was mostly because my Spanish was still fairly poor.

The commercial area in La Orotava was much more substantial than in Puerto, I assume because of cheaper real estate prices, but not sure.  It reminded me of how you see Costcos in the suburbs but almost never downtown.  Anyway, the pet store wasn’t named Kiwoko, but rather Koala, but it did have the special food that Lola needed, and a 9kg bag fit about perfectly in the backpack.  In the same store I noticed they had food specially formulated for French bulldogs, so I made a mental note to get that for Avon when his food ran out.

The walk back home from Orotava was nice, with the sun setting, the wind gone, and most of the clouds gone.  It was basically all downhill, so the weight in the backpack wasn’t too much of a burden.  There were sidewalks everywhere aside from one short section, and that section had barely any cars, so that was a non-issue as well.  Also, there were hardly any lights, as the vast majority of the intersections, at least in La Paz and the southern part of Puerto, were roundabouts rather than four way stops or stoplights. Around the time I got to the Botanic Garden, the sunset with the mountain and the sea was quite nice, and I sent some photos to Crystal, Heidi, and Tom.  Back home, I told Crystal of my successful venture, and she told me that she was about to move out of the condo so the renters could move in, and also that mail had started showing up in our traveling mailbox.  With everything I had going on, I either didn't know or didn't remember that she was moving out today. Things seemed to be firmly taking shape.

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