Sunday, 1 July 2007

Winds of Change on Calle Ontanon

It's a Sunday in mid summer, and the town is filling up with "home-comers," the cousins and kids and aunties who only appear in Moratinos when the weather is fine. Houses are being opened up and aired-out. Cars are parked at odd angles up and down the street, and strangers (at least to me) from the city are picking their way down the pavement, still trying to keep the sheep doots out of their shoe-treads.

It's nice to see some children in town, and a few more vaguely familiar faces in church. It's been almost exactly a year since Patrick and I first showed up in this burg, so it's probably a lot more their town than ours. Still, I realized this afternoon I felt like strangers are invading MY pueblo!

This was brought-on by the news that one of the big, usually closed-up houses on the main street is for sale. It's a situation identical to the one that led us to our Peaceable Kingdom: the city-dwelling family decides they don't spend enough time at granny's old place in the pueblo to make it worth the time and expense to keep it up. It's too outdated and musty to be pleasant to stay in for long, and property prices are pretty good right now.

And this place is on the Camino, and it's got Pilgrim Hostel possibilities in a town without a pilgrim hostel. It's also got some of the same Major Issues I know so well, problems inherant in old adobe farming compounds: Mickey-Mouse wiring. Nightmarish Mid-Franco Era decor. Questionable water and sewage services. Several internal rooms with little sunlight. And a very bizarre floor plan that comes from building on a little bit more as time goes on and needs evolve. (but it's got a nice corral, and ready-made stable areas. I covet these very much!) They want an outrageous price for it: 250,000 Euros.

So it made me wonder: Who would buy this place? Will it sell? What kind of people would want to move here and take on such a monster project, at such a monster price? More lunatic foreigners? An eccentric Spanish millionaire? A greedy developer type who wants to make some big pilgrim bucks?

I deeply abhor the attitude of so many expats who "discover" a charming little town somewhere, buy a place, and then want to lock the gates behind themselves. I know change is inevitable, and old residents will move away or die, and new people will move in, and some of them I will probably not like... or they will not like me.

I just don't want the place to change TOO much. I rather like how scruffy this place is, that most visitors breeze right through and never even remember being here. I like knowing all the neighbors by their first names, being asked over to dinner now and then, being part of a small, tight group -- a community. Having an albergue or hotel in town might change the flavor, bring in a clientele of Volvo-driving tourists or ganja-smoking hippies or crystal-gazing New Agers who will realize how cool it is here and then buy up MORE of the place.

Then I realize I could fall into any of the groups above (except perhaps the ganja part) and I have to laugh at myself. Maybe the new people will bring some competent builders to town. Maybe they'll have children or teenagers to liven up the place, or horses or mules or donkeys to go in the corral. Maybe they'll be Buddhists. The possibilities for positivity are as broad as the negatives.

So if you're interested in your own Peaceable Kingdom, and you're not a greed-head nasty bastard, I can put you in touch with the owners. There's no estate agent. It's easy. And that 250K figure is "extremely flexible," I am told.

And tomorrow I am off to Santiago de Compostela, to meet with my William and Mary crew, do my part to diminish the world's shellfish supply, and have my picture taken for the jackets of books still unpublished. I will fetch back my friend Cindy, the superfine designer for "American Pilgrim" magazine. Maybe she can buy the old place down the street, and we can found an Expatriate Publishing Empire right here on Calle Ontanon and take in pilgrims on the side.

I promise not to change anything in town. And I will help her look after pilgrims if she'll let me keep my horse in her corral.

1 comment:

Jim G said...

Terre and I are interested* in a place closer to Astorga, mainly for sentimental reasons. Your comments regarding expat gates does bring to mind a conversation I had with a Spaniard regarding those who move to Spain and learn only one word in twenty years of residency - the word for 'beer'. Sigh.

Here's hoping you have good neighbors. And thanks for the comment - I didn't see it til this evening, but, yes, plant a cache and/or chill some gin and I'm there.

* as in, "gee, wouldn't it be interesting to have a place near Astorga?"