The Small Things In Life

On Friday the 15th, I finally got to visit one of the properties that came up in our searches.  There was a “bungalow” at one of the complexes near the Botanic Garden, just a little to the south of me in La Paz.  The realtor arranged for me to come see it in the late morning.  I had walked up that way a couple times earlier in the week, but since the unit was inside a complex, and the complex was gated, I had no idea what it looked like.  All I could tell is that it would likely be very quiet, being right next to the Botanic Garden and its giant perimeter walls.

While Calle Aceviño and the Carretera were both fairly busy, and full of restaurants and other commercial buildings, the rest of La Paz was very sleepy with residential streets and winding footpaths, with tons of colorful plants in abundance.  Seemingly every color of Bougainvillea was represented.  There were also crotons, gingers, hibiscus, Jacarandas and Poincianas (although neither were in bloom as of yet).  In addition to plants with colorful blooms, there were also plants that were colorful by themselves, such as Acalyphas (both red varieties and yellow varieties). There were spots around the neighborhood where Flame Vines were covering huge walls, completely full of orange blooms.

The walking paths went by nearly all of the various complexes in La Paz, or at least the area of La Paz east of the Carretera, which is what I was focusing on.  The complexes varied in size, but many of them shared common characteristics – about two to five levels, with units around the perimeter and a pool and common area in the center.  Looking at aerial photos, a lot of the complexes look fairly similar. The paths had very few people walking on them at any time; they mostly seemed to be used by people walking their dogs in the morning and in the evening.  About halfway between the Airbnb and the unit I was going to go see, there was a good-sized park that always seemed to have a few dogs, about half on-leash and half off-leash. A lot of the paths in the La Paz area are shown in the Canary Relax video below, starting around the 6:00 mark.

The name of the complex I visited this morning was Tajinaste II (which, coincidentally, shows up at the 7:40 mark in the video above).  Tajinaste is the local name for one of the island’s most famous flowers, the Silversword-type flower that populates the upper portions of Mount Teide.  We’d seen these when we visited in April 2019.  The walk from the Airbnb was only 10-15 minutes or so, uphill, on Calle Retama, the southernmost of the main cross streets in La Paz.  The intersection of Calle Retama and the Carretera had notable attractions on all four corners.  The southeast corner was the Botanic Garden, surrounded by thick concrete walls that were probably 8-10 feet high.  The southwest corner was a shopping center with a couple restaurants, a large grocery store (Tu Trébol), a small hardware store, and a Spanish-language school.  The northwest corner was one of the more popular hotels in Puerto, Hotel Botánico, which was closed for renovations for the time-being.  And the northeast corner was Tajinaste I, a mixed-use complex with residences on top, and many popular restaurants on the ground level, including an Indian restaurant, a pizza place, a seafood restaurant, and more (on the video above, starting around the 8:00 mark).

Tajinaste II was a 2 minute walk from all of this, literally next door to the Botanic Garden on the east side.  I met the realtor around 11:00 or so, and I finally got to see what was hiding behind the gates and walls.  The complex was triangular-shaped, with 3-story buildings on the north and southeast sides, and 1-story bungalows on the west.  All of the units, even in the 3-story area, appeared to have large decks/patios full of colorful plants.  The bungalows had “yards” on both the east and west sides, with the larger yards and the front doors facing west.  In the middle of everything was a large pool, maybe 25 meters long by 10 meters wide, plus a bunch of grass areas that were roped off because of COVID.

I started to get the impression that the complex was sort of a mix of apartments and condos, with some units being owned by the company that built the complex, and others that were now privately owned.  I heard just as much German being spoken as Spanish as we walked around.  Indeed, I heard German being spoken all over the place in many parts of La Paz; it was very clearly the German expat headquarters of Puerto. The bungalow that was available was fairly unremarkable, with only one tree in the yard, the rest being grass.  There were a couple purple bougainvilleas that were just getting started that were near the front gate, and then a large hedge of recently-trimmed hibiscus separating the yard from the neighboring yard.  I took mental notes of where (if at all) the dogs could get out, and noticed the area at the bottom of the front gate would need something. Everything else looked very promising.

Inside, there was a very large living room, a tiny kitchen, two smallish bathrooms, and two smallish bedrooms.  It wasn’t too different in overall dimensions from our place in San Diego, but more space had been pulled out of the bedrooms and kitchen and put into the living room.  The floor was tile, and flat and smooth throughout.  This was nice, because Lola had been having some issues at the Airbnb, specifically the stairs descending from the front door down to the lower patio.  Earlier in the week she’d taken a tumble going down the stairs and probably tumbled down 6-8 stairs, giving me a heart attack.  My biggest concern was having something happen to Lola in the 2-3 weeks she’d be only with me, and having to explain that to Crystal.  She was seemingly okay after her tumble down the stairs, but thereafter I closed the front door to the Airbnb so that Lola would not be able to go out and go down the stairs.  This meant I needed to keep closer tabs on her and Avon to see if they wanted to go out, however.

Back to the bungalow I was checking out, there would be no similar concerns.  The front yard was at the same level as the rest of the unit, save for a tiny step up through the front door.  It was easy to see that if they were able to block the bottom of the front gate into the yard, we could just leave the front door open for the pups to go from the house into the yard and back again.  Having a grass yard would be something new for the dogs, as the only grass in Vista was in the very back, and we’d long since moved from Vista anyway.  The apartment had more than enough closet and storage space for our stuff, particularly since we had very little.  There was also an interior “courtyard” between the kitchen and the second bedroom that was private, presumably for a place to hang clothes and store tools and whatnot.  I figured the dogs could go out there at night if they needed to use the facilities.  I took a bunch of pictures, thanked the realtor, and went back to the Airbnb.  I messaged Crystal:

When she got up a few hours later, she responded “Sekundär good to me” (her phone was auto-correcting to Hungarian, apparently).  I pinged the realtor shortly thereafter and asked him to send me over whatever paperwork we’d need to sign.  This place was a little more than some of the other places we’d seen online, and it was a little further from the center of town than was optimal, but given how hard it was to get anyone to respond to us, we decided it wasn’t worth letting perfect be the enemy of good.

Feeling pretty excited about (potentially) finding a “permanent” home, I decided to go enjoy happy hour in the late afternoon, after hanging out with the dogs on the patio for a bit.  Around 5 or so, I walked down into El Centro, only to find it barren.  I wrote Crystal: “It’s a ghost town here – emptiest I’ve seen it all week.  Maybe no one does happy hour?”  Crystal mentioned that HR at her company had actually approved her working in Spain, which was bad news, because she’d determined just a day or two prior that she didn’t want to work while we were here after all.  So we decided we’d figure out how to finagle that politely. 

That evening, after getting back to the Airbnb, I sent some more information about the property to Crystal, such as an overhead shot of the complex and my guess as to where the available bungalow was located within the complex (the red Xs on the below right map/photo).  I also lamented how so many of the companies were non-responsive to inquiries, particularly it wasn’t like real estate was flying off the shelves.  Indeed, many of the places we were interested in had been available for months, some more than a year.  The place in Tajinaste II had been available for eleven months – but at least they’d been responsive.  Lola was doing a bit better tonight, with her first stool in months that actually looked like poop.  [It’s the small things in life…]  In addition to researching the area around Tajinaste II and examining Lola’s stool, I also got drunk and engaged in pointless arguments on a Hawaii Tropical Gardening group on Facebook about the merits of poisoning plants rather than dumping vinegar and salt.  Shockingly, I did not convince the anti-science nutjobs the folly of their ways.  Shocking, I know.  The last thing I did on this “busy” night was to research whether Lola’s ailments since Christmas had been because of a stroke or because of old dog vestibular syndrome.  Both seemed pretty similar in relation to what she’d been experiencing, so I couldn’t make heads or tails of things, but I was happy she was doing better at the end of the week than at the beginning.  Today she’d gone for a couple walks, enjoyed some sunshine, and hung out with her dad and her brother.

When I got up on Saturday the 16th, it was finally sunny and clear, the first day of good weather since my arrival.  Then again, the “bad” weather had been in the 60s with only a little precipitation, and it was January after all.  After walking the dogs, I went on a walk with my camera to get some photos with the clear skies.  Just down the street to the west was Mirador La Paz, from which I could see Playa Martiánez, Lago Martiánez, most of town, the Orotava Valley, and snow on top of Mt Teide.  It was, in a word, perfect.

I walked down into town via the Agatha Christie steps (they start just to the right on the top left photo below), down some additional steps that go past some restaurants and end by a shopping complex (the view from the stairway is in the second photo down on the left), and then at the mall, to the right and towards Playa Martiánez on the pedestrian walkway on Avenida Aguilar y Quesada (the top right photo below, although I took that photo in 2019, hence the people not wearing masks). Playa Martiánez is one of the main beaches in Puerto, and also the main surf spot, as it is protected by a breakwater on the north, so there is a protected swimming area on the south. Playa Martiánez is also where all the paragliders that had been going right past the Airbnb land - they end up landing on the beach. From the beach, I walked west on Calle de San Telmo towards Punta del Viento (the bottom photo on the right shows me looking back east towards Playa Martianez from Punta del Viento). From Punta del Viento, I continued just a little further west, past Plaza Europa to El Muelle, a small beach that also doubles as a small commercial area.

El Muelle and Plaza de Charco, which is just inland, are the "center" of Puerto (top left photo below is El Muelle, top right is Plaza de Charco). From here, I walked uphill (south) towards Taoro. There are a couple ways to do this, but today I went up the Calle de las Damas steps, which head from just east of Plaza de Charco up towards the Carretera, snaking through some residential areas and a curious open space (second photo down on the left). The steps' upper terminus is just south of the Carretera, and just west of the biggest highrise in town, Edificio Bel Air (part of the complex - which is painted white and gold - is visible in the second photo down on the right below). At this intersection, specifically the intersection of the Carretera and Punta de la Carretera, everything converges. To the west is towards Playa Jardin and Distrito San Antonio. To the east is towards the Botanic Garden and La Paz. To the north is El Centro, and to the south is Parque Taoro. 

Parque Taoro and Parque Sortija are thus south of El Centro and west of La Paz, separated by the Carretera (from El Centro) and the barranco (from La Paz).  The barranco is very deep, and to give an idea, the top-left photo below, taken from the bridge on the Carretera, looking north, shows the depth. If you were to turn around from that photo, and look north, that would be direction up towards Taoro, more or less. One of the streets that leads up to the parks is Calle Belgica, which is just off the right side of the top-right photo below, just to the west (right) of that gas station. Just to the east (left) of the gas station is the same bridge with the barranco. Besides Calle Belgica, there are also pedestrian-only steps going up to Parque Taoro. The video below - if you go to the 7 minute mark - shows the bridge over the barranco (and even peaks down into it), going west on the Carretera from the bridge over the barranco towards Edificio Bel Air, before turning to go down the stairs by Casa Antigua.

But today I took Calle Belgica, because I'd walked the steps back in 2019. Either way, once in the park, the views back to the north are incredible, and in fact a picture we took from Taoro in December 2019 adorns the water closet in our master bathroom in San Diego – three prints placed on adjacent walls to mimic the panoramic view.  Truth be told, I preferred this area to La Paz, as the walk to El Centro was shorter, plus the parks are incredible, with running paths and some of the only flat ground in Puerto.  But none of the units available in this area would get back to us, so I just kept it moving.

[After writing all of this up, it occurred to me that despite my best efforts, my routing and explanation of the photos above may be impossible to follow. So here's a map of the route I took from the Airbnb in La Paz down into town, then back up to Parque Taoro.]

Also, the Canary Relax videos below mimics a good chunk of the exact route I took. The first video starts at Mirador La Paz, walks down the Agatha Christie steps, walks down the steps by El Camino, comes out by the mall, heads down (east) Avenida Aguilar y Quesada to Playa Martiánez, then curls back west along Avenida Colon and Calle de San Telmo. The second video starts at the intersection separating downtown from the Parque Taoro steps, and goes up the stairs to Parque Taoro and Parque Sortija, checking out all the flowers in the gardens.

On the west side of the parks I came down into Distrito San Antonio, a fairly residential area, and more “local.”  While La Paz and the areas around Playa Jardin seemed to have a ton of German and British tourists and expats, San Antonio seemed more firmly Spanish.  The main reason I was in San Antonio was to try the one Mexican restaurant left in Puerto.  When we’d visited in December 2019 there was an excellent restaurant (Taqueria El Wero) right near Plaza de Charco, but it had moved from Puerto to Santa Cruz in late 2020.  So the only remaining Mexican food restaurant was Poco Loco, not to be confused with El Pollo Loco.  After eating at Poco Loco, I would have much preferred El Pollo Loco.  ☹  Since Mexican food is arguably our favorite cuisine, this was a major bummer to not have any in town.

Back at the Airbnb, I helped Crystal arrange her travel arrangements, for two weeks from today, with a long layover in Lisbon.  We also chatted a little bit about the impending inauguration, hoping nothing bad would happen there too.  I’d heard something on Pod Save America that made some sense to me about why people might be doing what they were doing, even if I couldn’t justify it personally.  “Yes, they’ve been lied to, repeatedly.  Yes, they should know better.  But imagine if, somehow, you actually believe what they believe, and you think the election was stolen from you.  You’d probably be really pissed off.”  As always, fuck Fox News.  In the evening, I got an automated email from Idealista indicating there was a price drop in one of our favorites.  Ironically, it was one of the places that I’d written, up near Parque Taoro, but they’d blown me off.  So rather than get back to someone who probably would have paid the full asking price, they ignored me and dropped the price instead.  Maybe at the lower price they could get 2-3 additional inquiries that they could ignore…

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