Saturday, 6 October 2007

Our 82-year-old guide to high-altitude real estate

The sun is out today again, after a gloomy, foggy morning. Today we found, I think, our backup apartment in Sahagún. It is small enough, and bright enough, (when I imagined it without the gloom) and looks out over the old San Juan church and the big municipal pilgrim hostel and the Irish pub that´s never heard of St. Patrick´s Day. There are lots of places to park, and an extra bedroom for Libby and/or guests, and the furniture and pictures are much less shocking than the other places we´ve looked at. (It´s not like we´d have to keep the pictures on show. One thing I will enjoy very much is putting up some of our own artwork. All of ours is, of course, in the most exquisite taste.)

Finding it was a trip. On Friday we met up with Paca Luna in her little stationery store on Calle Constitución. She had things all lined up. She tied her scarf around her neck, zipped up her cardigan, tucked her hand into my elbow and rocketed us out the door.

First it was Plaza Santa Cruz, to the third-floor apartment where Elyn lived lo those many years ago. Nice, clean, quiet, near the plaza and to-the-point, with the tie-dye hippy landlady right next door.

Next we went into Calle Flora Florez, a cobbled street in the heart of the oldest part of downtown, to another top-floor apartment above the notary office. This place was HUGE, four giant melon-colored bedrooms with armoires, a long, skinny terrace for hanging out laundry, marble floors, even a safe hidden in the wall. The lemon-yellow salon looked out over the roofs of the town. Nice, but for the Froot-Loop color scheme... and how could we heat the place?

We stepped out onto the street, and Paca indicated the nicely renovated old building adjacent. She pulled us close to hear her whisper. "It´s one of the oldest buildings in town, and really nice inside. When I was a girl I cleaned there. The basement has all these little individual rooms, really curious... Then I learned this is where the Dominicans were. The Inquisitors. The little rooms were where the heretics stayed before..." She opened her eyes wide and slid her fingertips across her throat. "Madre mia."

We walked on, with Paca singing out greetings to all and sundry. "Guapo!" she said. "Adios, chiquitín!" A lot of people knew what she was doing already. One couple stopped to say they have a little house for rent. Their old dad lived there ´til he died last spring. But they´re doing it over. It won´t be ready til November, or maybe January. We headed back to the shop, where another lady, her eyes done up like Liz Taylor in "Cleopatra," told us not to decide ´til we saw her latest offering, a "piso moderno, monissimo, y llena de luz! Preciosa!"

And so we went again today at noon, fighting the market day crowd, and saw it. It´s tip-top. Literally. At the top of the town, on the Moratinos side of Sahagún, and at the top of the building. In Europe, the third floor means a four-storey climb, as the ground floor counts as zero. It seems every apartment for rent in Sahagún is high-altitude, but most don´t require you to carry your heating fuel up the steps. (Paca pointed out there´s a doctor living next door, in case the steps prove too much some day.)

Paca is in her 80s. She nipped up and down all those streets and steps like a trooper, her hands trembling just a little on the bannisters. She will tolerate no coddling. "I walk all the way to the Virgin de la Puente every day. This is nothing," she said.

We haven´t signed anything, and of course all of the landladies told the same story of "don´t wait long, there´s a girl I just showed this to and she´s just dying to rent it." Yeeah. They learn that at International Landlord School, I think.

In other news, the vet in Sahagún, using the detector wand normally reserved for leaping sheep, found an ID microchip in Tim the Dog. I thought Paddy was going to cry. We asked Juli to call the owner, a man in a town a good 35 km. from here. He doesn´t want the dog, he said, he has two others. And in his former life, Tim´s name was Toby. How we get our name on the microchip seems like another mystery worthy of the Templars.

Libby´s made it to Burgos, and this evening was on her way to dinner with David, a fellow pilgrim from England. Crikey. Gotta watch out for them Limeys, Lib!

Oh yes... just after I wrote the last Blog entry announcing the imminent arrival of an electrical appliance, the house went dark and a smoky smell crept through the despensa. Bloody wiring. We got it working again, but only just. We went to the electrician, who said "Ooh, sounds dangerous! We´ll be there Saturday, sometime after 4." So here we are, 5:30 Saturday, with all of eternity stretching out before us... but no matter when they come, it will be after 4 on Saturday. Cool! Existential electricians!

I love this country. I truly do. I will keep my mind on the bookshelves I saw in the apartment... a dry, warm place to keep books, where I am not responsible for the state of the roof. (Just how I will get my 16 tons of books up all those stairs is another question.)

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