Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Finding a House in Spain

Last week and into this week has been consumed by finding a place to live, as well as sleeping in until 10 am, eating dinner at 11 pm, a little sightseeing, and generally becoming quickly accustomed to Spain’s tempo of life.
Tia and Sasha in front of a replica of Colombus' La Niña
Spain is amazingly beautiful in more than one way. There are the castles, churches, and palaces (Puerto boasts a 13th-century castillo, as well as numerous churches from the 17th century and streets lined with 19th-century palaces), and a sense of going back 30 or 40 years lingers with us as we walk to the ferry to Cadiz, or stroll through the Mercado (both Tia and Sasha conspicuously holding their noses at the smell of fresh cuttlefish and giant prawns).  Everyone is out on the street: old grandmothers, young kids, babies in strollers, and all ages in between.

La Iglesia de El Puerto de Santa Maria
Spain is about connection. People hang out in the tapas bars that are on every corner, meet in the numerous parks and squares that continue to surprise me as I walk down a bustling street. There are few homeless people; the parks belong to the populace, and the benches are full of ordinary people resting on their way home from the supermarket, or feeding the pigeons, or chatting with their neighbors. I haven’t been here long enough to know first-hand about any corruption, but it’s pretty obvious that things happen because you talk to your friends, neighbors, and anyone willing to chat for a moment. 
Plaza del Polvorista, next to our new house
That’s how we found a possible house: Our landlady, Conchi, was on the phone to her friend Sharon when we arrived home one day. “This is the person I was telling you about!” she mouthed over her cellphone. Then she handed the phone to me. Sharon is a British ex-pat who came to Spain looking for a place to live much as we are: she and her husband rented Conchi and Luis’s house as a base to look from, and have been friends with them ever since.

La Casa Rosa: Home Base
Sharon and I chatted for a few moments, and she agreed to come by the next morning. She had gone to every real estate agent in town, apparently, looking for “the perfect place.” With only ten days to look, they were quite motivated, and by pounding the streets, talking to whoever would listen, whether at tapas, in a bar, or a casual meeting on the street, they found what they were looking for much more quickly than they expected. Sigh…if only that could happen for me. 

Next thing I knew, there was a call from Nicolas, who had a side business as a property manager in addition to running the new language school he had just started. Sharon works at that school, and mentioned our conversation to one of her students, who told Nicolas, who called me. So, from Conchi to Sharon to student to Nicolas and back to me, there I was, looking at an amazingly beautiful renovated 18th-century house with blue Portuguese tiles, a stunning courtyard with a tiny swimming pool, and the gorgeous clean interior design proclaiming the architect-owner’s touch. 
Our new house!
We signed the contract today, and are ecstatic. The house is central, in walking distance of everything: schools, supermercado, pedestrian shopping zone, catamaran ferry to Cadiz, train station, the carnival rides on the Rio, yet it is on a quiet street with ample parking. The 12th-century castle is visible from the balcony and is at our street corner. The pool is saltwater and clear, the courtyard sunny and protected from the wind, and the house is both old and new, with a strange sense of familiarity. We got the house because we talked to someone who talked to someone who kept us in mind and talked to someone else. 
Tia and Sasha climbing the stairs in the entry hall
And we continue to connect. We had dinner the other night up on Conchi and Luis’s rooftop terrace (“Is 10 pm okay for you?” she asked) overlooking the medley of houses, apartments, hidden gardens, empty lots, and rambling palaces. Monserrat, the wife of Matthew, the naval periodontist, had heard about what I was looking for and invited us to see her neighborhood, Las Redes, which turned into an evening beach outing and tapas on their lovely patio until midnight. The Navy Exchange is a hub for the tiny American ex-pat community: We ran into Wayne and Madeleine, our sponsors and hosts there, as well as Samantha, the other orthopaedic surgeon. Sam saw we were looking for houseplants and immediately steered us—literally! We followed her in our car—to El Lago Viveros, an incredible nursery with everything you need to fill an empty courtyard. Tia and Sasha each bought a hibiscus which they are diligently watering and caring for every day.

Laughing next to the hibiscus
Given my interest in connection, maybe this is where I am meant to be!

1 comment:

  1. The US needs to pull its military out of Europe. There is no reason why we need to be in Spain. FREE SPAIN!


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