Old Age

On 22 March, we met with Carlos to fill out, hopefully, the last bit of paperwork we needed for our visa extension.  There was a new program in place, because of the huge backlog of applications, whereby the form could be filled out online instead of being done in person in Santa Cruz.  But, as Carlos found out, he couldn’t fill it out online from his office, he needed to go in and provide information (in paper) at the local ayuntamiento.  So, what happened was that Carlos took all the digital files we gave him, printed them out, gave them to the people in the ayuntamiento, who then scanned all of the printed files into digital files that they uploaded onto the system.  This is every bit absurd as it sounds.  But at least we had everything filed now, and all we had to do is wait for our extension to be granted.

To celebrate, or something like that, we meandered west from the ayuntamiento, through La Ranilla, past Playa Jardin, and to Punta Brava.  It was clear, albeit windy, and we decided to eat at Restaurante Marlin, which has a prime location on the northeast corner of Punta Brava, looking back east at Puerto over the water and Playa Jardin.  We got there right as they were opening, so we had our choice of seats, once we confirmed they were in fact open ("Estan abierto?" "Si").  I confirmed that they had something non-seafood for me to eat, and Crystal checked out the fresh fish, which were lying on ice, just in from the ocean.  They were suggesting to her to get a larger fish, but that was for two people, and she explained that only she’d be eating seafood, so they showed her a smaller fish perfect for one.  We ordered some wine and just enjoyed the view, with the occasional re-arrangement of things so that the breeze didn’t blow anything away.  The wind had kept too many clouds from forming, but with us sitting in the shade, right on the water, it was a bit chilly.

After lunch, we walked even further west, to the unofficial western edge of town, where the main road that goes along Playa Jardin and past Loro Parque makes a sharp turn to the south.  We headed south, uphill, going towards La Orotava.  There wasn’t much along the road, especially once we veered southeast on Camino Burgado.  Most of what we saw was banana plantations.  It’s so odd being in a place where urban, suburban, and agricultural just come and go with no notice.  One block can be mid-rise apartments, the next homes, and the next farms with chickens and goats.  Up on TF-320, we experienced something new, a roof guard dog.  There was a dog on the roof of one of the buildings that was barking at everything that came near the building – not something you see every day.

We walked up to La Orotava because I needed tennis shoes.  I’d worn my running shoes to the first couple tennis lessons and the time I played with Manolo, and they worked fine, but the soles were so soft that I could see they were wearing out in a hurry.  The courts aren’t hard courts, but rather a sort of firm carpet (think like a very thin astroturf or doormat material) over firm material and sand.  It’s easier on the joints, but does mean a tiny bit of sand here and there inside the shoes.  Anyway, I needed some new shoes.  I knew there were a bunch of stores in the mall with the Alcampo, so we started there, but with no luck – none of the shoes were specialized for tennis.  At one of the stores, however, one of the employees mentioned that I should go to the Intersport at the El Trompo mall, just across the street. 

We’d been to the El Trompo mall a couple times, but I couldn’t remember a sporting goods store.  Sure enough, in the far west corner there was a sporting goods store, not as big as the Decathlon in La Laguna but pretty big.  And yes, they had tennis rackets as well as shoes – live and learn.  I tried on a couple of pairs, and used most of my Spanish skills, before finding a pair that fit my feet.  I realized after the fact that in Spain, my feet are probably a more unusually large size than they are in the US.  With new shoes in hand (on foot), we made our way back to La Paz, completing our big counterclockwise circle for the day.

I had tennis lessons on Tuesday and Thursday, from 20:00-21:00.  Tennis had slightly tweaked our weekly “routine,” as the timing meant we couldn’t go to Elements on Thursdays for happy hour (which was 19:00-20:00).  So instead we had started going on Fridays.  Some weeks we’d get dinner on Friday, others we’d just meander home.  The decision on whether to get dinner was somewhat dictated by which Covid tier the island was in, as that changed the curfew time and whether or not we could drink indoors. In tier 2, we could eat indoors, and one instance we were sitting next to a couple from Hungary, whom we noticed immediately once they said "egészségedre" (cheers). In tier 2, we could be out until 23:00, but in tier 3, we could be out only until 22:00.  So if we were at Elements until 20:00 or a bit after, there wasn’t enough time to walk to dinner, eat dinner, and walk home by 22:00.  We were discussing this one night with Oliver and his friend/regular customer, a German-speaking man who is perhaps the most tanned Caucasian man we’ve ever met.  I told them how because of the curfew we often had to choose between happy hour and dinner, “so normally we just don’t eat.”  That got a laugh out of both of them. Oliver spoke fluent German in addition to Spanish and English, as his mom (whom we'd see regularly) was from Germany. Crystal would practice some German as well, but speaking multiple foreign languages at once messed with her head, and she started to speak what we termed "Deutschspañol."

Friday nights (not afternoons or evenings, but nights) were fairly busy in Puerto. We would take the same walk down most nights, going down Calle de las Damas, going through Plaza de Charco, walking past the casino that had the sign with a woman that looks just like my friend Maya (even she agreed), past the Ale Hop stores that had life-sized cows out front (wearing masks, no less), and eventually to Elements. At Elements we'd see people out for their runs, people going to or coming from dinner, people walking their dogs (including the three chihuahuas that we saw all over town that never shut up; one of them had Boston Terrier coloration). One of the Canary Relax videos does a really great job of capturing busy Friday nights in Puerto, and we actually show up in it, at Elements no less. It starts around Punta del Viento, goes west on Calle Quintana, turns up (south) on Calle San Juan (at Marion Cotillard), turns right onto Calle Iriarte (1:20 mark), goes through Plaza de Charco, west into the La Ranilla area, north on the tiny street of Calle de la Verdad (around the 5:30 mark), east on Calle Lomo past several busy restaurants, to El Muelle (8:15), before turning west onto Calle Mequinez, going past more restaurants, going past Elements around the 10:15-10:20 mark (I'm in the red jacket, at the last table), turning into Plaza Benito Pérez Galdós (11:00 mark), before heading out west towards Punta Brava before turning around and heading back into town. This was a great representation of a "normal" Friday for us, except we never rode a bike. But this was the town, and its vibe.

That Saturday, 27 March, we decided to walk uphill into Orotava again, this time eastern Orotava.  I’d been missing ramen, Crystal had been missing sushi, and there was a Japanese restaurant in Orotava with good reviews.  I was walking a bit slower today, as three weeks of tennis twice a week, after decades off, was causing some hip and other leg joint discomfort.  Not enough to be painful, but enough for me to notice and slow me down a bit.  The steep roads probably contributed a bit as well.  Izakaya LO was in a shopping center with a bunch of restaurants and meeting areas on the roof of a big grocery store.  To our surprise, Izakaya LO was completely full, and had no space for us.  We’d had this happen maybe once or twice total in Puerto, so I was shocked that a place in Orotava would be full, but maybe Orotava’s restaurants are more populated by locals than tourists, and thus less impacted by Covid, who knows.  So my next suggestion for lunch was Oishii, which also had great reviews.  It was even further up the mountain, on the main road the 345 buses take to go up to the mountain (well, when Covid hadn’t curtailed them).  So we kept walking, slowly, through Orotava, past a school, and to the restaurant.  Oishii also, however, was full, with not a single spot for us to eat.

At this point both of us were a little hangry, with a whole lot of walking for nothing.  Also, my hip and upper leg were bugging me even more.  We made our way back downhill, past that school again, where something odd was going on with some people in a car and some exotic birds – my best guess is that one of their birds had escaped their vehicle, and they were trying to coax it back.  Once we’d passed the shopping center with Izakaya LO again, we needed a new plan.  Crystal suggested that we try to eat at the restaurant with the tall Kentia palms that we’d seen when we visited Orotava with Alicia in December 2019.  I took a minute to figure out which restaurant that was, and determined it was likely Casa Lercaro.  We walked a few blocks west, and the restaurant…had some availability.  Thank goodness.  We got a table with a great view to the west, overlooking Puerto and the Orotava valley.  For the first time since we’d gotten to Tenerife, we actually ordered some paella.  They had one with Cerdo Negro (black pork) that sounded interesting, so we got that, some tasty bread and butter, and a lot of wine.  For how poorly the plan had gone, we’d managed to make some pretty good lemonade out of lemons.

The only problem, which started to manifest itself the following couple days, is that I couldn’t walk very well, and moreover couldn’t even put on my pants or shorts whilst standing.  I could put my right leg in okay, but when I tried to lift up my left leg to put it in, there was a sharp pain around the top of my femur (I think).  The rest of the time, there was dull pain in the area.  I figured I’d compressed the joint where my femur and hip joined, or something along those lines.  I wasn’t sure if it was more from the tennis, the Chinamada hike, the walk to Orotava, or some combination, but I was pretty much done doing anything active for a short period of time.  I took off tennis the following week, as I didn’t want to exacerbate the problem. 

That led to a couple days of mild depression.  We’d managed to somehow navigate the visa requirements and get admitted to Spain.  We’d managed to navigate the travel restrictions and vet requirements and gotten ourselves and the dogs to Tenerife in the middle of a pandemic.  But now that I was here, I couldn’t do what I wanted.  Because of the visa extension being in limbo, we couldn’t leave the island for any of the other islands, let alone the rest of Europe - we were essentially under the world's best house arrest.  And on the island, now I couldn’t even play tennis, which I’d just re-started.  It crossed my mind that while I wanted to retire when I was young so that I could fully enjoy it, perhaps I’d waited too long.  Too many years of not using muscles for doing active items had left my body broken by its mid-40s.  I spent a couple days basically not doing anything but binging alcohol and binging Brooklyn 99 on Netflix.  At least Brooklyn 99 made me laugh and forget about my busted body, for a little bit at a time.  But that and 20 minutes of swimming one day were all I did for several days.

On 30 March I decided to break out of the doldrums by going somewhere by bus, where I could at least walk a little bit.  We’d passed through Garachico a couple times on the way to Buenavista del Norte on the 363 bus, and every time we went through it looked pretty nice, so I figured why not.  By this time we had a monthly bus pass, as we could use a screen shot of our padron certificate to get a residencia bus pass that allowed unlimited bus trips all over the island for just €38 a month.  We hopped on the 363 bus and headed west, knowing that today we wouldn’t need to catch any connecting buses, so we didn’t need to worry about every last stop causing a delay.

Garachico, along with Puerto, is one of the only places on the north coastline where the area around the water is flat enough to have a town right on the water.  Hundreds of years ago, Garachico was the biggest town on the north coast, with one of the best bays on the shore.  But on 5 May 1706, an eruption from Teide came flying down the mountain and lava came into Garachico in a huge lava-fall, going over the huge cliff (over 1500 feet tall) sitting just above town.  Most of the town was wiped out, the lava flow filled in the bay, and that was basically it for Garachico as a main town.  Ironically, this led to Puerto de la Cruz increasing in size and importance, as it now had the best port on the north shore.

We got off the bus in the middle of town with no real plan.  The town is quite small, so we weren’t worried about getting lost or missing something.  Castillo San Miguel, a fortress on the water, is one of the old buildings that survived the eruption, and is right next to the main road through town.  Just a couple blocks away we visited Iglesia de Santa Ana, a big church that is conspicuous from the bus when coming into town from the Buenavista del Norte side.  We walked inside and around, and there were signs in English (and German) in addition to Spanish to let us know what we were looking at.  A convent (Convento de San Francisco) was nearby as well, plus a plaza with some big trees and plenty of places to sit.  Crystal saw a jewelry store that had some stuff that looked interesting, so she went in there for a bit, finding some stuff she wanted to take a second look at it in a bit.

From there, we went into a small park area called Puerta de Tierra, with some interesting plants spread across multiple levels of walkways.  Going west from there we got back along the coastline and the main road, where we crossed the main beach in town, Playa de Garachico, which seemed crowded for how small it was.  We walked a little further west as the road circled around, uphill, to a lookout across a small bay from the rest of town.  We knew from the bus that this was as far west as we wanted to go, so we turned back and came back into town.  There was a Mexican food place that looked great, Restaurante Don Quicacho, and it had awesome reviews, but unfortunately it wasn’t open for lunch today. 

We saw a couple other places with good reviews, but one by one they were all closed today as well.  [It was a Tuesday, and Monday and Tuesday were definitely the two days of the week where restaurants were closed the most, so this wasn’t a huge shock.]  We ended up settling at Pizzeria Ardeola, which was fine as far as food, but at least had good views over the coast.  After finishing that, we grabbed some ice cream (there were a ton of Heladerías all over town, it was seemingly one of the things the town was famous for), and then hopped on the 363 bus heading back east.

Instead of going all the way back to Puerto, we got off in Icod, which we hadn’t visited since April 2019.  We got off at the main bus station, which was just a few blocks from the Drago Milenario, an enormous dragon tree.  The commercial area right around the tree was closed, but we could still see it from the east side, and it was as impressive as we remembered.  From there we went into Mariposario del Drago, an indoor butterfly garden.  There were several varieties, including a turquoise and black variety that was striking. 

We walked around there for a bit, then left and began walking through Icod.  When we’d passed through Icod on the bus on our various trips, it always looked interesting and worth a look.  But now that we were on foot, on the same street, we came to the realization that none of the places actually seemed that interesting – at least not today.  So we just found the closest bus stop, as we were on the road the bus traveled on, and we got to the stop just as a bus was arriving, and went back to Puerto.  I hoped this, and perhaps some more swimming, would get me out of my doldrums and wanting to be active again.    

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