New Plan

By mid-April I had kind of gotten into a groove in Puerto, playing tennis 2-3x a week (normally Tuesday and Thursday evenings), swimming 3-4x a week (normally not Tuesdays and Thursdays), going to Elements on Fridays at 19:00, having our daily big lunch, and generally just enjoying retirement.  Crystal and I were also getting to enjoy more of the island and the local culture, even if it was frustrated a bit by COVID restrictions. The dogs really seemed like having a yard, and also really liked having us around a lot, even if we ventured out for long lunches (and beautiful views) every day. Mount Teide still had a tiny bit of snow left, but it was almost all gone now. It was also getting harder to see because April seemed to bring earlier clouds in the day than we had the first couple of months.

One afternoon, whilst we were sitting in the living room, we glanced over to see Avon on the table out front.  Crystal had put Avon’s toys on the table, since we thought someone might mow the lawn.  Apparently he was tired of waiting for us to put them back down.  Thankfully he didn’t hurt himself. He still barked at the occasional dog going by "his" front gate, but I think having so many dogs around, constantly, kind of chilled him out, as he realized they weren't going to do anything to him, and that he couldn't do anything to them even if he wanted. So he just played with his toys and chased lizards in the yard. There were small-to-medium sized lizards all over the island, particularly in areas with a lot of lava rocks. We'd see them all the time going past the rock walls on Calle de las Damas and on the Casa Antigua steps. In the video above, you can see a ton of them at Bar Alberto one day we were having happy hour there. I never figured out what exactly they were eating, or how there could be so many of them, but they left us alone and we (aside from Avon) left them alone.

Although we weren't especially worried about our visa getting denied, the worry that we'd need to do something where the dogs needed to fly in short order, combined with the fact that airlines won't fly bulldogs in the summer months, made me reach out to Charlotte just to get an idea of what options were available for transport if we needed it. I mentioned to her that our neighbors, and their bulldogs Hazi and Luna, had just gone back to Central Europe (I think Germany, but not sure). I assumed they hadn't gone through anything too trying or problematic, as they'd just told us matter-of-factly one day, and given us the French bulldog food that they hadn't used before leaving.

On 14 April we decided to go to the south of the island and see the whales.  Dani, who’d driven me and the pups to Puerto back in January, worked at a place that did whale watching tours.  I pinged him and he said the water was completely calm and sightings were excellent.  We looked at his company, and they did kayak tours, which wasn’t of much interest since we didn't want to work that hard, so we found a different company that went on a boat with a motor.  We took the 103 bus to Santa Cruz and then caught a connecting bus to Costa Adeje.  Aside from my couple days in the south whilst the dogs were hostages at the airport, neither of us had spent any time in the south.

When we arrived at the bus station in Costa Adeje, we had a short walk to Puerto Colón, where the boat was.  There were giant hotel complexes everywhere, and it looked like something you’d see in Honolulu or Maui.  Many of the hotels didn’t look open, however – I wasn’t sure if they were open and just mostly empty, or if they weren’t open at all.  We didn’t really see anyone until we got right near the beach at Puerto Colón.  We found our boat about 5-10 minutes before it was set to depart.  There was just two other people on our boat, two young women from Eastern Europe (Poland or Romania, maybe?).  It was a little odd having conversations in English again.  When asked where we lived, it was nice to say “here.” 

Out on the water, sadly, the swell had come up in the last 24 hours.  We were able to see some pilot whales on the water, but it was tough to spot them with all the swells and whitecaps, and of course the ride wasn’t as comfortable either.  So while we had fun, it wasn’t exactly what we hoped for.  One of the women guests got sick, so that wasn’t great either.  But I’m still glad we went, as we’d never seen pilot whales except for way back when at Sea World in San Diego.  They look vaguely like a cross between an Orca and a Dolphin, all black with a snout not as blunt as an Orca but moreso than a Dolphin.

After we got off the boat, we went looking for a restaurant not too far from the beach, but once we got to where it was supposed to be, there was no sign of anything, and hardly any people out.  As best I could tell, the area right by the beach was the only place with any signs of life, so we went back to an Azerbaijani restaurant, Bar Baku, we saw in the shopping area right next to the beach.  The food was somewhat similar to the Turkmen and Uzbek food we enjoyed on our 2017 trip, and the drinks were even cheaper than in Puerto, so it was a very nice lunch.

After lunch, we took the bus back to Santa Cruz, and arrived a little before 16:00.  The reason I remember the time is because we went to Taquería el Wero and sat down, but we couldn’t order any food because apparently the kitchen closed between 16:00-19:00.  So instead we just walked over to El Chapulín and got food and drink there.  They looked like they might be closed as well, but they sat us and had no problem serving us.  We walked around Santa Cruz a bit more, then got back on the 103 bus to Puerto and called it a day.

On 16 April we met Carlos in Puerto to file for our “permission slip.”  I was hopeful about getting it such that we could return to the US to get vaccinated, and the news from the US about numbers dropping precipitously and everything re-opening gave me hope that Tenerife and Europe wouldn’t be that far behind.  The only thing that was troubling was that we still hadn’t heard anything about our visa extension.  Everyone had told us it was just a matter of time, but there was the concern that if, for whatever reason, they denied our extension, we might be in a pickle because of the dogs.  While it was almost impossible to fly them to Tenerife, it would be actually impossible to fly them from Tenerife after May, as no airlines fly bulldogs during the summer months because of concerns of overheating.

We had wanted to file for this permission slip earlier, but the office for doing so was completely closed for all of Easter week, and when they came back, they were slow to make appointments, theoretically because of Brexit and the increase in visa requests.  This did not engender much confidence from me.  Indeed, when Carlos told me of the delay, I told him: "So if, for example, my mom had died and we needed to go to her funeral, we would’ve needed to wait for an appointment??!!...I would hate to have to leave the island solely because of government incompetence....We aren’t from the UK - we didn’t vote to leave the EU, we didn’t wait until late 2020 or early 2021 to finally seek residency. We did exactly what we needed to, as quickly as we could." Thankfully, on the 16th, the filing was simple and straightforward, and at the post office this time (no clue why).  After we were done I told Carlos, for seemingly the 20th time, that gave me the most concern was that we had nothing official in our passport that would indicate to any border control agents that our visa was not expired.  The only official thing we had was the page in our passport, which was now expired.  Yes, we had a ton of paperwork from the ayuntamiento and the extranjero office, some of which had QR codes and other indications of being “formal”, but it was all in Spanish, and I couldn’t realistically see how an immigration agent in Frankfurt or Brussels or Lisbon would let me back in the EU if I went to the US to get vaccinated and tried to return.  Carlos kept telling me it should be no problem, and he called travel agents and other people to get their take and calm my nerves.  This helped some, but candidly not much.

It also didn’t help that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been “paused” in the US in mid-April.  The blood clots were literally one in a million, yet the FDA and CDC took some time (an excruciating amount in my mind) to examine in more detail.  So now that we’d filed for our permission slip, which Carlos said was “self-executing” (i.e., the receipt we’d gotten, with a QR code, was itself enough), I could theoretically leave, but between my dubiousness of this, plus there being no single shot available in the US, I felt like I was back to square one. To pass some time that afternoon, we took the 345 bus up to La Orotava - I have to admit, it was much easier than walking uphill. We walked around a bit, took some photos (the above right photo, below left photo), finally had lunch at Izakaya LO (it was very underwhelming, so I'm glad we took the bus instead of walking), did some window shopping, and then took the bus back back to Puerto.

On 18 April, we enjoyed a nice Sunday down in town. While they didn't have anything quite like our "Sunday brunch" we were used to in San Diego, Sunday mornings and early afternoons in Puerto were relaxing in their own way. The city was at its most vibrant, with the most people out and about, eating, drinking, going to the beach, chit-chatting with people they hadn't seen since the last Sunday, coming and going from church, and more. The Canary Relax video below was taken on this day, and I'm kind of surprised we didn't cross paths, as we were in many of these same spots today. I think the video does an excellent job of depicting just how vibrant and lively Puerto was, even in the middle of a pandemic. His video starts at Playa Martianez, goes west on Avenida Colon and Calle de San Telmo, continues west past Plaza Europa and El Muelle, west on Calle Mequinez through the La Ranilla district, through Plaza Benito Pérez Galdós (at the 12:45 mark), east on Calle Lomo (going right past Tasquita de Berna at 14:09), through Plaza de Charco, south on Calle Blanco (going right past Al-Amir at the 17:30-17:45 mark), turns left onto Calle Iriarte and through the square around Calle de las Damas and Calle San Juan (around the 18:30 mark), up the Calle Iriarte steps, into Plaza de Iglesia (20:45 mark), and east on Calle la Hoya (22:20 mark). As for Crystal and me, after walking much of the same stuff as the videographer, including Plaza Benito Pérez Galdós and Plaza de Charco, we ended up having a great lunch on the balcony of Al-Amir, and it was quiet since there was no construction noise on a Sunday. I tried to tell if we were in the video, but it's too dark on the balconies to see if we were already sitting out there when he walked by.

After a great day on 18 April, on 19 April, now irked again about the whole state of events with our visas, trying to get vaccinated, etc., I took a long solo walk through town, trying to clear my head and come up with a new plan.  It was a nice evening, and I just put on some podcasts and thought through things.  From everything I’d read, the pause for J&J realistically wouldn’t last very much longer, and there wasn’t much likelihood that it would be discontinued for at least me, since all the clotting incidents were in women.  Crystal and I had already decided we’d go at different times, so that one of us was with the dogs at all times.  We’d also decided that I should go first.  So I came to the conclusion that I should just try to go, and that I’d be a guinea pig on the way back into Europe, ready to call Carlos and have him talk to whatever necessary border agents gave me any grief.  Then, assuming that went well, Crystal would follow behind, and even if she needed to take Pfizer, she could take 3-4 weeks in the US, maybe get over whatever homesickness there was, and she’d know that she should have no issues getting back into Spain if I’d already done it myself.  So this was the new plan, for better or for worse. 

As far the walk, there was an amazing sunset in Punta Brava, and I realized that Brunelli’s, the steakhouse that had signs all over town, actually had a back patio that had a direct view of the sunset.  So for all my disdain for an English-speaking US steakhouse being in town, it appeared they at least had an impeccable view. The video below, while taken on a different day by the Canary Relax person, has a pretty similar looking sunset, taken from the same area (over by Punta Brava and and Playa Jardin), and gives an idea of how nice the west part of town can be on a nice evening). The Playa Jardin and Punta Brava stuff starts around the 16:40 mark, but the parts before that are really nice as well - Playa Martianez, west along Calle de San Telmo, past Plaza Iglesia (8:00 mark), into Plaza de Charco (10:30 mark), going west on Calle Mequinez, past Elements, and eventually to Playa Jardin.]

After I took in the sunset near Brunelli's, I walked back towards town, and near the bus station had the epiphany that I could take the bus for most of the way back home, and managed to get there just before the 20:00 bus left.  Back at home I told Crystal about my idea, and she seemed to think it was fine, although she was quite dubious as well of the “permission slip” actually working.

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