The World Can Wait

We made it. Whew! It was in the 30’s in Valencia but here it’s in the low to mid 20’s. So sleeping with the windows open and a breeze off the ocean was welcome. We slept like rocks.

The view from the upper terrace

Upon arrival, we were met by the sellers. They had spent the day before getting the house ready for us – cleaning, making sure there was bedding and towels, and generally ensuring we would be comfortable. The woman was very concerned about the situation in Valencia and she knew we couldn’t bring anything more with us than would fit inside the car or strapped on top. They ordered two propane tanks for us and they were delivered before we arrived. So we’re good to go. We were gobsmacked at how much effort they put into our arrival – staying in a house we don’t own yet. But it speaks to the kind of people they are. She planted fresh geraniums in the pots all over the garden and on the terrace.

We were then given the grand tour and walked through the ins and outs of a house with crazy keys in every door. And a wine cellar with a locked cage reminiscent of the Brady Bunch episode for their adventure in the Grand Canyon ala 1970.

‘My father wants the wine to go with the house. Some very old bottles in there. Some won’t be good anymore. But the ones that are good are very good. So you’ll just have to see. Like an adventure.’ Pedro informed us.

Jeff is planning on making this his office. When his desk is set up it will look like he’s the sheriff presiding over the wine jail. So that will be fun.

They walked me through the walled garden. It’s filled with edible plants. We learned yesterday they own a restaurant in Leiria so it’s no wonder. And it helps me understand the rest of the house.

We have a full outdoor oven for baking bread, meats, fish – ‘Everything you like, Kelli.’ They left us a cord of mesquite wood to fire it up and Pedro is coming back on Monday to give us lessons in how to get the coals just right to cook in it. ‘You will experiment.’ Then we moved inside for a tour of the kitchen. It has two sinks and two refrigerators. The stove is something I’ve never seen before. It’s enormous. One side is gas with an oven. The other side is heated with wood and the three of them walked us through how to use it by arguing and contradicting each other on the best way to get the box hot. But it was good natured ribbing. Iron tools are in plentiful supply. If the power ever goes out we can still make food and heat the entire house. He will also bring us a washing machine on Monday – since ours is in Valencia. They have an extra one.

Walking through the history of the home was a labor of love for them. This extended family are the only owners – ever – and they know everything there is to know. We heard their stories of big storms off the ocean, family celebrations, grandchildren, and the fact that 40 years ago there were only 2 houses overlooking the sea – theirs and a neighbor’s on this lonely bluff. Now it’s built up and they’re beyond able to care for it.

She told me. ‘I wrote the story of my life in this house. Now I hand the book to you.’

Her art and paintings are everywhere. Pottery galore from famous pottery houses – some no longer operating but they’re all signed and stamped – and she’s proud of the collection she’s handing me. But she knows we will have our own taste.

‘My mother says you should decide what you want and then pile up what you don’t. We will arrange to take anything you don’t like and give it to those less fortunate. It’s not a problem.’ There is so much stuff – all very tasteful – I will take my time deciding what I want to keep. I also don’t want to offend her by giving away something she treasured.

It’s weird that we find ourselves in this living-in-between state. All of our stuff is still in Valencia. Yet here we are living in a house we don’t own yet, being told by the owners ‘It’s yours now’ when we haven’t closed or signed the papers. She’s ill. I think she likes to know it’s in good hands and that she helped us settle in.

Jeff and I sat and watched the sunset last night. He wouldn’t let us get up until it had slipped below the waves. Thinking back on the months since March he commented ‘We could barely imagine sitting with a view like this – even a month ago.’

I totally agree – ‘It’s why you can’t ever give up. You never know what’s just around the corner.’

I sit at this desk overlooking the sea and can hear the waves crashing. There is just a gentle breeze. The sea isn’t angry today. Its time to take a deep breath and enjoy it. I’ll leave my worries for another day. The world can wait.

Just in Time

The Covid cases are rising again in Valencia. We were 2 and a half days from driving out of the garage and were anxious to quit the province for the immediate future. According to the paper today, in the past 7 days outbreaks have gone from 18 in Valencia province to 600. And leading the pack in Valencia city is the area of Rascanya. Right across the tram tracks from our apartment.

I’m not so worried about being able to catch it, again, as much as any restrictions of movement that might be imposed. We are leaving just in time. Over the weekend, Spain logged over 8500 new cases, and in the last 24 hours positives have climbed more than 1200. Most of the cases are confined to the east coastline – where we are. And it’s no wonder. We have the beaches. People were cooped up for 3 solid months. They’ve come to the Med to party – and not just those from other Spanish provinces. But from the rest of Europe, too.

Spain opened to tourists like their life depends on it. Because it does. The economy in Spain is hospitality based. No tourists = no revenue. No revenue = no taxes and no jobs. But perhaps it was too soon. Freely allowing others to come here from the rest of Spain isn’t helping either. And allowing night clubs to open without restrictions has caused cases to boom.

We were going to leave on Saturday. Now we are leaving tomorrow morning – before day break. I packed us up yesterday and Jeff laughed that I was getting an early start. Today he isn’t laughing. Other countries in Europe are putting restrictions on travelers from Spain. Either limiting their entry or enforcing a 14 day quarantine. We need to get out before we’re subject to that in Portugal. In this climate, 2 days might be all the difference.

Peeling bells of the monastery

I had a dental appointment today. I am supposed to have another on Friday, but I’m cancelling that and we’re heading out. I sat in their lobby today and listened to the bells from the old monastery across the street. It was built the two years before Columbus sailed to the West Indies in his 1492 Ocean Blue deal . So it’s not a new building. I love hearing those bells and seeing the tiny nuns at the local cafe for morning coffee. I’ll miss them. I thought I would get a chance to say Goodbye to Benimachlet and Valencia properly. But it seems the bums-rush is how we’ll go. Like thieves in the night. Sure, our apartment is still here filled with most of our stuff. But it feels like we’re in the movie Twister trying to outrun something that is about to engulf the city – yet again. I guess that’s appropriate since my brother was in that movie. (If you ever watch it he’s the storm chaser who sings Oklahoma while driving the van – He’s a better movie director than an actor.)

John Lennon said ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.’ And he’s absolutely right. I’ll call the sellers and tell them we’re coming 2 days early, then we’ll go. What a year 2020 has been. Who of us could have predicted any of this? If you wrote a book last year and laid out everything that 2020 has thrown at the world you’d never get an agent, let alone a book deal. But here we are. And it’s time to bounce. See you next in Portugal.

The Value of Trust

There are good people everywhere. Sometimes angels cross your path, and out of the blue you’re gifted with a generosity you couldn’t have imagined. We are still in the process of getting our Portuguese tax ID. We have to wait until the first appointment at the tax office on Wednesday to get it issued. There was no way around it.

The road to Portugal

Has this house purchasing process felt like a lot of ‘Hurry up and wait’? Yes. Yes it has. And as the storm clouds of the rising 2nd wave of COVID cases in Spain looms on the horizon, we have been increasingly concerned that when the time finally comes to meet up and sign the papers we won’t be allowed to leave the Valencia Communidad. Let alone driving across the border from Spain to Portugal. Aragon and Catalunya and Navarre are already on lock down, again. That’s due north of us.

The purchase process in Portugal is so much less understood by these two Americans that this morning Jeff had a ‘what did we sign and who are these people and what are we doing?’ moment. Which meant that I had a similar moment. Two people, in a two person household, having this moment simultaneously isn’t a recipe for a good mental outlook. We just looked at each other with shear panic. And then we read the Valencian news and it was not good.

I reached out to the sellers to check on how things are going there. It was then they did something I couldn’t have imagined them doing.

‘It is safer where we are, Kelli. You should come now. You don’t need to pay us rent for the house. You can stay there – just come and we can sort out the documents and closing when you’re here. It’s better so you stay safe and you don’t get stuck.’

Now we are heading to Portugal on Saturday. We’d go sooner but I have to see Sofia – my lovely dentist- about my tooth a couple more times this week. 2020 has been a rough year for us, so we appreciate what we have even more than before. And the kindness these relative unknown people are extending to us is extraordinary. You would never encounter this during a real estate purchase in the US. Or anywhere I know of, for that matter. I hardly know what to make of it. Jeff’s take?

‘They’re our first friends in a new country.’

And he’s right, of course. They don’t know us but said ‘It’s not normal to do this in Portugal – but we trust you, Kelli.’ So lovely. Maybe that crazy banking-wire-money-transfer-fiasco thing was a blessing in disguise. Without it I wouldn’t have gotten to know their son, Pedro. And he wouldn’t have gotten to know me and my penchant to doing things above board.

Tonight we’re making our list of what to pack in the car. A giant bag of gratitude will be the first thing I’ll be tossing in the back. Because we have so much to be grateful for and that includes friends we just discovered. That, and the espresso machine. Cause I’m grateful for that, too. 😉🙏

A Dental Appointment

As we start our migration to our new home – I’ll be updating all our Best of Valencia recommendations and our Lessons Learned – Spain. I haven’t done this in a while and sitting at the dentist today, I realized that I’ve fallen behind in adding in all the service providers that have made our time in Valencia easier, and smoothed our path. And our dentist in one of them.

If you find yourself in Valencia and in need of dental care, Clinica Dental Alboraya is wonderful. On Google reviews one person says they come all the way from California to see this dentist. Now thats loyalty. CDA is located near the Belle Arts museum – a block from the Jardin del Real and the Turia. Sofia is my dentist and she speaks ingles like an American – having attended the American School of Valencia through high school. She is their only English speaking dentist, but the nurses muddle through, too. They don’t take my insurance but my broken tooth was a whole 70 euros. This would have cost me $1800 in the US – minimum. So there you go. And a teeth cleaning is another 70 euros. For a major descaling she will use anesthesia, if needed, but it costs a bit more.

I have what is referred to as ‘Dental Anxiety’ in the US. Sofia calls it ‘Dental Phobia’. As a kid, our family dentist drilled my cheek when I was 5 years old. Made hamburger out of it. He was not a kind man, but since he was our family dentist and everyone else liked him, I had to go see him until I became an adult and went off to college. I hated that guy. Even in high school they had to give me Valium just to get my teeth cleaned. Never mind getting a filling. When I was small, the dentist would have the nurse hold me down. The day I got my drivers license at 16, I went to the movies with my best friend, Karen, to celebrate. We saw the dentist there and I broke out into a sweat just looking at him across the theater lobby. So to say going to the dentist freaks me out is an understatement. I would rather voluntarily slam my hand in a car door.

You never want your kids to share your fears. It’s why it was always so important to me that my kids had dentists that were kind and caring, and catered to little kids. A pediatric dentist. And Nick and Emilie loved going to them for things, big and small. Mission accomplished!

So I’m lucky I found a good dentist in Valencia. Sofia is wonderful and understanding. She eases my fears and is so nice and soothing that, while I’m still afraid, I can go see her and leave feeling lighter than I went in. I have two more appointments with her next week but I believe I will actually sleep the night before. Unheard of back in the US.

She’s also a fan of American cinema. Her office is festooned with images of classic American movies stars and movie posters. Something about laying in that chair and looking a Star Wars poster from 1977, and old framed covers of The New Yorker really calms me down. Does it make any sense? No. But that doesn’t matter.

I’ll add all her details to Best of Valencia– including the office WhatsApp – to make it easier to get an appointment during Covid. Upon arrival, they sequester you into the vestibule from the other patients who have already been deloused. Dressed in double PPE, they first cleanse your hands and then the soles of your shoes with this fumigation machine. Only then are you allowed to sit in the waiting area. My dermatologist does this too. So you feel secure in knowing that their health procedures start at the door and continue into the exam rooms. They are closed for most of August (as is all of Valencia) so if you need an appointment after 7 August this year you’ll have to wait until the Monday after Labor Day.

I like Sofia so much that it’s possible – even after we’ve moved – I’ll pop back to Valencia for my dental needs. It’s a quick flight. In my life, when you find a good dentist it’s worth the extra effort, and expense, to stay with them. If kindness has a price, I’ll gladly pay it.

Adding Water

Deposit is completed. I’ve never had a harder time giving people money in my life. But as Carol said, its in the rearview mirror. Now the dance of the other stuff commences.

I’m the money. Thats always been my role. Jeff will sweat the other stuff and he can write about that. This has worn me out. But you can already tell we are excited to have a home of our own. This is our dining room now. My home gym equipment is in there somewhere too.

We did keep a path through the boxes but there are only 10 more to be packed for the kitchen. The guest room and storage is all packed up. Then we tackle the stuff in Espacio Creativo. The house comes fully furnished so we will take some pieces and sell others.

My goal is to keep out just what we will need for the next 30 days – cooking, eating, clothes, towels. More and more countries are issuing travel warnings for Spain. Germany is the latest. Its growing concerning by the day. If we need to head to Portugal quickly we will have everything ready for a moving company to collect with minimal effort on our part. I’m just crossing my fingers and saying a little prayer. Maybe I’ll stop by my favorite church and light a candle.

Years ago, when we lived in Bellevue, Jeff built a gorgeous deck off the back of our house. As he put up the railings I went right behind him and painted them. It frustrated the hell out of him but I was so excited! I know I’m doing that now, too. But I don’t care. When you let yourself dream its the only way dreams become reality. And we had months to dream of a house by the sea during lockdown. I figure thats like the frozen-concentrated-orange-juice of dreaming. Powerful stuff. Just add water and stir. It will grow, exponentially.