La Reina Ha Vuelto Al Castillo

The days between when me and the pups moved into our permanent place, and when Crystal arrived, were kind of a blur.  All the stress of getting the phone, internet, bank account, and house had all disappeared, and I had several days to move everything from the Airbnb to the permanent place.  I suppose I should give our place a name; we never really called it anything other than “home,” so I guess I’ll just call it that. 

Anyway, I had moved basically just the dogs on the Monday night we moved in.  It was late, it was dark, I was exhausted, and I knew there was no rush.  I had the Airbnb until Friday, so I could leisurely move stuff a little bit at a time.  There was no wifi at home, but there was at the Airbnb, so I decided to leave the computer and monitor there until the wifi got installed at home.  Besides those, however, there was a fair amount of stuff to relocate.  In the couple weeks at the Airbnb I’d already acquired big bags of dog food, some kitchen utensils, some cleaning supplies, beach towels that the dogs used as (easily washable) dog beds, etc.  So now it was much more than “just” two dog crates (with dog beds inside), a giant suitcase, two large duffel bags, and my backpack, to move.  And I had no car.  But there were 4 days to move everything, and I needed the exercise.

The dogs took to their new home pretty quickly.  I got a bunch of stuff at Tu Trébol, including new bowls for food and water for them.  The mini courtyard seemed like a good place to feed them, since it was outdoors and had a drain for any messes they made.  Manolo, the property manager, told me that they were going to install the barrier at the bottom of the front gate on Thursday, so until then I couldn’t let them out front, so it was either the courtyard or the backyard.  The first morning I let them out in the backyard, and they were very curious.  They explored the small area, and ate a ton of grass.  Indeed, they ate too much, and puked it up.  I guess that was their housewarming gift. The first morning was also very clear, and sure enough, we did have a view of Mount Teide, from our front door. It was impeded, though, because of all the plants in the Botanic Garden next door (First World problem, I know).

Tuesday 26 January was a nice sunny day, and I was feeling energetic, so after the dogs did their business outside (no need for a walk!), I headed over to the Airbnb and started moving things.  From experience, I knew that I would have a bit less energy every succeeding trip, so it was best to start with the heaviest and/or hardest to move item.  So I started with the crates.  I took them apart, put one half inside the other (so that it was basically a bowl), and then carried them in front of me, at whatever angle seemed most comfortable at the time.  I put a bag of dog food in the backpack and carried that as well.  Getting home required walking up a couple flights of stairs at the Airbnb, putting them down to get out the front gate, walking 10-15 minutes uphill (about 100 feet of elevation change), putting the stuff down every so often to give my arms and shoulders a rest, putting the stuff down outside the entry gate at home, putting it down outside our bungalow’s front gate, putting it down outside the front door, and picking it up repeatedly.

Once the first crate was home, I put the crate together and then put Avon in the crate, and he seemed immediately a little more comfortable, as it became clear that this was his new home.  I then repeated the process with the second crate, and the second bag of dog food.  I noticed the stops were a little more frequent this time around.  After dropping that off, I went back and filled up the two duffel bags and the backpack for a third time.  This was a mistake.  In my zeal to limit the number of trips, I decided to use this trip with a duffel bag in each hand.  I should’ve made two trips.  I don’t know how many times I had to stop to put the bags down, but I was pouring sweat and exhausted by the time I got home.  I had one more trip, but it was with a suitcase that had good wheels, and the surface for most of the walk was smooth.  I did fill the backpack one last time, however.  After I got home with the suitcase full of clothes and the computer monitor, all that was left in the Airbnb was the computer itself, power strip, household cleaners, and some random odds and ends – stuff that would theoretically fit in the backpack. Canary Relax has a video showing many of the same walking paths I used between the Airbnb and the new home, from roughly the 6:00 to 8:00 marks. As you can see, it's all uphill.

That afternoon I chatted with Crystal, and she mentioned she’d set up her Spanish class and also her airport transfer.  She was slated to start 15 February, two weeks after me.  I suggested maybe she start 1 February, same as me, as we might as well go together so that she wouldn’t be sitting by herself every morning for two weeks. I slept well on Tuesday night, but in the middle of the night I had a dream that I contracted COVID.  Then I woke up Wednesday morning and my lungs – or, more correctly, lung – hurt.  Whenever I inhaled, the left side of my chest hurt, so as long as I didn’t breathe, I was comfortable.  It seemed like it was on the outside of my ribs rather than inside them, so I surmised (and hoped) it was muscular rather than pulmonary in nature.  Either way, it hurt like hell.

On Wednesday, 27 January, Manolo and another guy came by and they installed the wi-fi router.  The router was connected to the TV, so apparently we were getting some sort of IPTV as well as internet.  Interestingly, the router had a QR code on it, so instead of having to find a network and type in a password, all I had to do was take a picture of the QR code and that was that.  82 Mbps download, 60 Mbps upload, better than what we had back in the US.

Wednesday mid-day my lung was feeling better, so I took an empty backpack and walked up to La Orotava, to the stores on the frontage road on the south side of TF-5.  From home, I just walked up through El Durazno, then stayed on the north side of the Autopista and over a couple of barrancos, one of which was getting cleared that day by goats (top left photo below). I was hopeful that I’d find some house and kitchen stuff at one or more of King Markt, Lidl, and HiperDino.  King Markt had most of the stuff I was looking for.  Most importantly, they had sheets for a combined bed (i.e., two twins together).  The sizes were different than US sizes, but I could tell what I was looking for by simply looking at the measurements for the “twin”, and finding sheets that were literally twice that wide.  There weren’t very many choices, but there was at least something.  It was a set with a fitted sheet, regular sheet, and pillow case.  Yes, pillow case, singular – it was a pillow case almost the width of the bed, where both pillows would go in the same case.  I had never seen such a thing before.  King Markt also had a plush blanket to put on top, something to keep me warm and also something Avon could lay on if he were allowed on the bed.  (Lola, because of her incontinence and shaky balance issues, was not allowed on the bed for multiple reasons).

Speaking of the dogs, Lola wasn’t doing any better, but wasn’t doing any worse either.  Avon was acting out, peeing and pooing in the house instead of going outside, even though he now had a yard and a courtyard.  I bought him a couple toys at King Markt and hoped that the toys – plus not moving again after the flights, night in Frankfurt, nights in the TFS airport cargo area, Airbnb, etc. – would calm him down.  I bought a blue spikey bone, which I hoped he might like since he always seemed to like the blue spikey balls in the Barkbox toys he got in San Diego.  The good thing about walking to La Orotava to get things was that the walk up with the empty backpack, and the walk back was downhill.  Even with it being downhill, my lung was bugging me again, and worrying me a bit as well.  I stopped on the way back to grab lunch at a place that had some really good albondigas (the meatballs, not the soup), and was quite inexpensive.  The ambience was a bit lacking, being right next to the freeway offramp, however.

After emptying the backpack at home, I took the empty backpack to the Airbnb.  I cleaned everything in the Airbnb up, moved the stuff I’d moved around back to its original location, and packed everything up into the backpack.  This last walk shouldn’t have been too bad, but my lung was really bugging me and I wondered if something was seriously wrong.  Crystal was slated to depart in less than 48 hours, and I didn’t want her to freak out that her husband was having lung issues, so I decided to just let her know, as with Lola’s health, only a little bit of the story.  Back home, for the final time today, Avon was pretty excited to play with his new toy, so I hoped that would chill him out a bit.  He played with it for an hour straight, then went outside to go number 2 – success!

The wire transfer that we’d tried on Monday evening had not taken, so Wednesday we decided to try TransferWise instead.  TransferWise is a middleman of sorts, doing international transfers and currency conversions all in one shot, taking a fee based on the amount transferred.  They have banks and affiliated partners in many countries, so the transfers are “domestic” within the US, then TransferWise just transfers the money and does the conversion from the US partner to their Spanish partner, and then another “domestic” transfer.  Even though it was dinner time where I was, it was mid-day in California, so Crystal was able to contact USAA and do the transfer.

While the transfer was pending, I went to grab dinner.  Everything I’d had around town so far was quite good, such as the Italian place near the Airbnb (Gran Torino), the meals at the Italian place just west of Plaza de Charco (Mamma Rosa) and MiniGolf, and especially a Lebanese place near Plaza de Charco (Al-Amir) and a Venezuelan restaurant about halfway between home and Plaza de Charco (El Arepazo).  At the Venezuelan place, I had gotten a couple arepas, which I hadn’t had before, but I’d describe as similar to empanadas, but with a different dough for the wrapper and a bit bigger.  They came with this green sauce, which was obviously avocado, but maybe whipped with olive oil and some other stuff.  It was incredible, and I dipped every bit of the arepas in it.  I also had a couple small glasses of Diplomatico, a Venezuelan rum, which made the proprietor very happy.  He spoke no English, but we were able to chat a bit in Spanish.  As with the wi-fi QR code, almost every restaurant I’d been to had their menus on QR codes as opposed to physical menus.  I assume this was because of COVID, but maybe they did it before COVID to save paper, I don’t know.

Back home after dinner on Wednesday, my computer connected to the WiFi just fine, and I was able to see that the wire transfer went through, so we now had money in our Spanish account, at least a little bit.  I went to sleep, and Crystal got a COVID test.  Trying to go to sleep, I realized that there were in fact mosquitoes in Puerto, albeit just a few.  It was so quiet at home that I could hear the mosquitoes flying around.  Since the walls were bright white and the mosquitoes were black, they were easy targets once I turned the lights on. I never heard a peep from either of the two adjacent neighbors, so whatever they put in the walls for soundproofing was doing an amazing job. The only neighbor I ever heard was about 2-3 doors uphill, as on certain afternoons he'd been singing karaoke for everyone to hear. The loudest noise in the unit came from the washing machine, but I was very happy that I had one, as it was getting a workout keeping the "dog beds" clean. There wasn't a dryer here either, but with both west-facing and east-facing yards, I could dry stuff in the sun no matter the time of day.

Thursday morning, 28 January, Manolo and a small work crew came out, and they installed a barrier at the bottom of the front gate so that Avon and Lola could not escape.  Coincidentally, while they were working on it, one of the neighbor’s Frenchies walked under the gate into our yard to see what was happening.  In addition to adding to the bottom of the gate, the work crew also picked up a bunch of wooden squares that were laid on top of the sidewalk.  Manolo wasn’t sure why the previous owner or tenant had installed them, and he didn’t like them, and I didn’t like them either, so they were just removing them.

Crystal didn’t have any COVID results Thursday morning, and since she was slated to fly out Friday morning, she wondered whether she needed to get a different test.  After rationalizing that the only downside of a second test was money, and the downside of not getting a second test was catastrophic, she got a second test, a rapid one this time.  She got it back early Thursday afternoon her time, and a couple hours later she got her first test results back too.  I told her to not even open that one, and just use the negative result from the rapid test that day.  I tried to take it easier on Thursday to help out my lung, and it did seem a bit better, but still far from “normal.”  About the only noteworthy thing I did on Thursday was to walk over to the Spanish school to pay for Crystal's classes, and to have an excellent dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, Mesón Tinguaro, where everyone seemed to be a regular, and everyone seemed to know the owners’ dog, Coco.  After how good the food was, particularly the papas fritas, I endeavored to become a regular as well.

Friday morning I met the neighbors with two Frenchies.  The people were named Conrad and (sorry, can’t remember), and the dogs were named Luna and Hazi (sp?), and one was brindle and one was gray.  Avon was half decent seeing them at the gate, and Lola was actually more of the lunatic.  After the dogs left, Avon spent the next 30 minutes looking out the gap between the gate and the barrier that had been added, which I referred to as his "window."  It was right at eye level, so he could look out, but couldn’t get out.  Lola’s head tilt had improved a bit, back to around what it had been when she arrived on Tenerife, but still much more pronounced than before her surgery.

On Friday evening I went downtown. By this time I'd traversed almost all of the streets in El Centro (north of the Carretera between Playa Jardin and La Paz), and I went out of my way tonight to walk the ones that I hadn't walked already. I found the whole town to be remarkably safe and clean, with seemingly little to no homelessness, no areas full of dodgy characters, and people out and about all over town. I'd seen only one woman with any signs asking for financial assistance, in front of the Tu Trebol near home, but she came by in the morning and left in the evening (I think to home). The only areas that seemed even the tiniest bit dodgy were all right around the bus station, southwest of Plaza de Charco. But even this area gave off a better vibe than most all of the areas of where we walk all the time around San Diego. The stores seemed to be more guarded there, and I wasn't sure if it because of the proximity to the bus station, the proximity to a couple of hotels that were full of West African refugees (the last couple years had a lot of sub-Saharan Africans risk their safety to go across the Atlantic from Western Sahara to the Canaries, so they could enter Europe), both, or neither. Apparently the hotels closed from COVID were housing refugees, and no one was happy with the situation. The locals didn't want all the refugees around, and the refugees didn't want to be stuck on Tenerife, but rather relocated to mainland Spain. I didn't know what to make of it, but it sure seemed like it was going over better than if something similar occurred in the US.

Wandering around eventually landed me in an incredible, very memorable spot. I hung out for a while on a bench in Plaza Benito Pérez Galdós, right off of Calle Mequinez in the La Ranilla District.  There were people eating and drinking at the various restaurants and bars surrounding the square, but what I remember the most about it were the people playing music and the kids playing in the square.  They were riding scooters, riding bikes, kicking soccer balls around, etc.  There did not seem to be any (obvious) tourists around; this was an authentic neighborhood Friday night, with the kids enjoying being kids and the adults enjoying being adults.  I remember having an immediate visceral reaction that this was exactly what I was hoping for, even if I couldn’t have pictured it or imagined it in my head prior to seeing it just now.  Crystal had left San Diego a few hours prior, and was on her way to Newark and then Lisbon.  Everything was rounding into shape, and it was very peaceful and relaxing to just hang out and enjoy a lovely Friday night.

Saturday morning I got up and wanted to make sure everything was “perfect” – whatever that meant – for Crystal’s arrival.  I re-arranged some of the furniture in the living room, turning the dining room table into a desk in the corner, and moving the couches to be side by side rather than facing.  This made the living room seem even larger, as now everything was against the south wall, except for the small hutch that the TV was on.  That I couldn’t really move, because it needed to be close to the router, which needed to be near the outlet with the ethernet port.  So I put that against the wall shared with the kitchen, in front of where I’d moved the couches.  The bungalow had a fireplace, which seemed unnecessary, but then again, we have one in Hawaii, which we still haven’t used after 10 years.

One thing I knew Crystal would want, but I had been unable to find so far, was a Nespresso machine.  After she went to France for a work trip several years ago, she ditched coffee for espresso, and we had a Nespresso machine in San Diego that she used every day with an espresso cup we got in El Chalten, Argentina back in 2016.  None of the places I’d been in Puerto had anything close to a Nespresso machine, and so I did some digging online and found that there was a store in Santa Cruz, but that was fairly far afield.  So I decided to try my luck at some of the larger stores that I’d seen up in La Orotava when I went to get the dog food.

The walk up to La Orotava is a fairly nice walk, even if constantly uphill.  Basically as soon as you head south from the Botanic Garden, you leave La Paz for El Durazno, which is the “suburbs” of Puerto de la Cruz.  All of the corner shops, apartment complexes with restaurants on the ground level, narrow streets, etc. are gone, and they’re replaced by wide streets, huge roundabouts, empty sidewalks, and houses with sweeping views down to the city and to the ocean.  It’s not a particularly large area, and the only commerce of any sort is a big grocery store (Mercadona, probably the largest in Puerto, which had pods, but no machines), and a couple restaurants on the “main” street through El Durazno, Camino Durazno.  I had learned from my walk back with Lola’s food to not take the easternmost route from home to Camino Durazno, but to go west a block or two before turning south, so that I wouldn’t go through the narrow part with no sidewalk.  This worked great, as today I had a wide sidewalk the whole time.  There’s a short narrow portion of the street right where it crosses over the barranco, right near the highway, but even in that location there is a sidewalk, it’s the cars that are cramped, as it is all practical terms a single lane bridge although not marked that way.  There’s a roundabout intersection above the highway, and it also has a sidewalk – the only dicey part is making sure the cars see you when you go across the crosswalk at the onramps and offramps.  The cars appeared to know the drill, and I got the impression I was not performing some unprecedented task.

Once across the freeway, the vibe was totally different.  This part of La Orotava was very commercial in nature, with the couple streets closest to the highway full of commercial stores – baby stores, car repair shops, kitchen and bath remodel stores, car dealerships, pet stores, big gyms, and then, further west, the big commercial malls I was looking for.  I saw a giant store called Leroy Merlin, and went in.  Once inside, I realized this was basically the local Home Depot or Lowe’s.  There were all the usual items, although with a little less emphasis on hardware and parts and a little more emphasis on kitchen and bath items.  Seeing the kitchen and bath items, I had a mixed reaction.  Almost every item was more to my taste than anything I’d ever see at a kitchen or bath place in San Diego.  It was incredible to see so many great options here, but a bummer that none of these options were available in the US.  The design of our place in San Diego would’ve fit in perfectly here.  Leroy Merlin did not have any Nespresso machines, however.

So I went across the street to a mall with another giant store, Alcampo.  It was odd being inside an indoor mall – I had not been in one in who knows how long.  Everyone had on their masks, and the smaller stores had queues so that only a certain amount of people could be inside.  There were multiple athletic apparel stores, clothing stores, perfume stores, basically your normal mall stuff.  There were also at least three or four mobile phone stores, which would’ve come in handy five days prior when I was trying in vain to find a place where I could get an eSim.  Lesson learned, I suppose.

Alcampo was a combination of a grocery store and a Walmart.  I know that Walmart and Target have groceries in them now, but this seemed to be more of a grocery store with other household items, rather than a household items store with groceries.  It had to be 3-5x bigger than any of the grocery stores in Puerto – it was absolutely enormous.  [Looking online, the Alcampo takes up roughly 100,000 square feet.  The average Walmart, meanwhile, is about 180,000 square feet.]  Of immediate note inside the Alcampo was that they had about 10x as many bedding options as I’d seen at any of the places I’d seen to date, so we could get some better sheets if we wanted.  I didn’t see anything to semi-permanently affix the two beds to each other, however, so we’d have to hope that they didn’t drift apart and leave a gap between the mattresses.  Also of note at the Alcampo was that they had anti-perspirant/deodorants, which I felt guilty about since Crystal was bringing a couple of them from San Diego (along with some chip clips).  But Alcampo did not have any Nespresso machines. 

Just to the west of the mall with Alcampo was another mall (an outdoor mall this time), also full of commercial stores – El Trompo.  Several of the stores in the El Trompo mall seemed like they could have had Nespresso machines, but no luck at any of them.  I checked out basically the whole mall, which was several levels and mostly outdoor for walking around.  After exhausting all of my options, it was past noon, and I was hungry, thirsty, and tired, and had utterly failed in my sole mission of the day.  I had one store that I figured was my last shot, but it was on the other side of the highway, in a part of town I hadn’t visited yet, and I looked up its hours and it was going to be closed from 13:00-16:00 because of siesta, so I was pretty downtrodden. 

I started walking north, towards the main frontage road along the highway, seeing if there was anything else that I’d missed.  Sure enough, there was an electronics store (Worten), and as I walked past it I saw through the front door a bunch of coffee makers and other kitchen electronics, so I took a couple steps back and went in.  Within about 5 seconds I’d spotted a bunch of Nespresso machines, and my entire mood changed.  I pinged Crystal (who was now on her layover in Lisbon) and got confirmation I was looking at the right thing, then checked out and went on my way back home.  I was tired, so I just got a taxi from the taxi stand near the Alcampo – the ride is much easier than the walk.

The Canary Relax video above shows the stores in La Orotava - the Leroy Merlin, the El Trompo outdoor mall, and the Alcampo indoor mall. He walked up a different way than me (more to the west than me), unfortunately, so that's not the same, but obviously the stores are the same. All that stuff and only one store with any Nespresso machines, go figure.

Back home, I took it out of its box and realized it was the right item, but the wrong color.  The boxes had pictures of the machines, but apparently those boxes were not related to the actual color – that came from a small sticker I had not seen.  So instead of a red machine, I’d purchased an off-white machine that didn’t really match the kitchen.  But Crystal insisted that she didn’t care.  I spent the afternoon getting the house cleaned up, bed made, etc.  In the early evening I went to one of the local bars on Calle Aceviño, Apricot

I’d walked past it several times, but stopped in to watch some soccer, as Premier League matches were on.  The TVs were inside, but there was a large door that folded up like an accordion, so everything was visible from tables set up just outside the bar.  There were about a half dozen British guys watching Liverpool play, and they were having a spirited discussion about a variety of topics.  The main one was Brexit, and what was going to happen come 31 March.  Most of the people had come to the conclusion that they’d have to return to the UK by then, because after 1 January, anyone coming from the UK needed a passport stamp, and 31 March was 90 days after 31 December.  One of the guys just didn’t understand this, as he kept saying he didn’t get his passport stamp when he arrived, so how would the immigration people know he had stayed longer than 90 days.  The other guys were saying it was because his passport wasn’t stamped that they’d know, since if he’d arrived on 1 January or thereafter he would have a stamp, so by definition anyone staying past 31 March without a stamp had violated the new immigration laws.

At this point I mentioned that I’d arrived on 8 January, and I got a stamp.  The holdout mentioned “yeah, but you’re from the US, not the UK.”  I responded, “sorry to break this to you, but after 1 January, the UK and the US are the same as far as Spain is concerned.”  The other guys in the bar agreed, and I saw this look on the holdout’s face that indicated he was coming to the realization of what Brexit actually meant, and he wasn’t very happy with it.  None of them were.  The proprietor at the bar, Manolo, was a very nice guy, and his pours were enormous.  I had to take note, not because I needed to drive tonight, but because I needed to stay awake until midnight.  After the game ended and everyone headed out, I went home and tried – once again – to get an appointment for my visa extension.  I’d been trying in vain to follow the instructions that the consulate in LA had told me for how to set up my appointment for my visa extension, but every time I tried, multiple times a day, it said there were no appointments and to try the website again.  Finally, tonight, I was able to secure an appointment, but something seemed amiss because multiple options for a location showed up, including Puerto.  I chose that, but it seemed off since I was under the impression the only office for what I needed was in Santa Cruz.

Crystal landed around 23:00, and had no issues meeting her driver.  She texted with updates as the drive went along, including mentioning to me at one point that they’d just “gotten onto the TF-2.”  I wrote back “TF-2?”  This, inadvertently, worried her, but after looking at Google Maps I told her to ignore my question, as I’d found it and she was on the right track.  The TF-2 is a short spur that connects the TF-1 in the south to the TF-5 in the north, and is on the western outskirts of downtown Santa Cruz.  I’d almost certainly been on the TF-2 but not even realized it, as it is so short.  I told Crystal to text me when they got off the TF-5, as I figured that would be when I should head outside to wait on the street for them to arrive.

When she got out of the car, I exclaimed “la reina ha vuelto al castillo!” (The queen has returned to the castle!).  She had “only” one suitcase, one duffel and a backpack, so I grabbed the big stuff and we walked back inside the complex, then in our front gate and finally our front door.  The dogs were initially surprised and confused, but then extremely happy to see mom.  I hope this lessened, rather than increased, their confusion at what had transpired over the past several weeks.

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