Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Places I Have Lived, However Briefly. As a Tourist.

My all-time favorite?  

A house in San Miguel de Allende. It was 300+ years old, had 3’ thick walls, and a huge courtyard around which all of the rooms on three floors were arranged.  The third floor was the rooftop garden which had an almost all-glass room, a bedroom, built on it.  

One of the group of us who went to Mexico that year had heard an NPR story about a serial rapist in San Miguel who went from rooftop to rooftop during the night in order to have access to houses and bedrooms. The not-terribly motivated police had been stumped about his access until a tourist did some checking and figured out the common factor in these crimes—-rooftops. The same traveling companion who told us about these rapes volunteered for the beautiful top floor bedroom. Am I suspicious of her motive in telling us this story our first afternoon at the house? Yes, yes I am.  

View of San Miguel from our rooftop garden.

Most celebrities met as a result of renting? (Made up category, I know.)

Two.  For a bit over a month I lived in a house on Cape Cod. I had graduated from college and was living at my parents’ home and working at the same tedious typing job I had had during summers while I was in college.  The company offered me a full-time regular job; I said Hell No and accepted the invitation of a friend to move to the Cape. We rented rooms from two Air Force guys who were periodically stationed in Greenland. My room led to the rooftop patio over the garage and I could hear the ocean at night.  

The “celebrities”? One was a woman who claimed that she was Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter. We thought that she was a bit old to be his granddaughter in the late 60s, but we were 19 and 20 so I guess anyone older than 30 was old to us. She, whoever she really was, told us her sad life story over iced tea after she ordered us into her home to be chastised for picking daisies along the road. Her house was way off the road so we hadn’t assumed that the flowers belonged to anyone, but she came screaming down the driveway shouting at us that the flowers did, in fact, belong to God. I am not personally in touch with him, but I do suspect that he would have preferred that the flowers enjoyed some time in a vase of water in our house rather than having them wilt into nothing on the scorching hot seat of our convertible while we "visited" with the crazy lady. I don't know what induced us to go into her home with her since we did have a getaway car. Curiosity and stupidity I suppose.

The other celebrity meeting took place, again on Cape Cod, when I was hitchhiking. Yes, I hitchhiked. Just that once. I would be mortified if my children or grandchildren hitchhiked, but I was young and dumb, and the sixties were a kinder time (say I). As Maya Angelou is supposed to have said, “I did then what I knew then; when I knew better, I did better,” as in, I don’t hitchhike now. There are cell phones and Uber now, y’all.

Back to my ride:  I am convinced that Truman Capote picked me up; he sure looked like him. We had a nice chat, we stopped at his home and he invited me in while he went to get some papers, but I stood in the doorway. We went back to his car and he took me to my destination. 

See?  Kinder times. 

I did once use the Googles to see if Mr. Capote had ever lived on Cape Cod, but I couldn’t find a trace of him there, so he might not have been my driver, but I like to think he was.

Mr. Capote.  Um.  Doesn't look like Cape Cod.

Strangest rental story?  

That was the million dollar+ condo we rented for a week in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.  We hadn’t intended to rent it and we could never have afforded to rent it, but the night before I was to fly there, I had a call from the owner of the house to tell me that her considerably more modest stand-alone house on the beach was now surrounded by armed guards, and we wouldn’t be able to get into the house. Seriously? Armed guards???

A group of lawyers owned the land the houses were on, but the homes themselves were privately owned. The lawyers wanted to use the land to put up a high rise condo complex.  The other homeowners had already capitulated and had sold their houses to the lawyers; the homeowners we rented from were trying to keep their house.

At first the lawyers cut off the above-ground electricity to the house; the owners buried the electric cables. The lawyers hired a bulldozer to dig a trench around the house, thereby cutting off the electricity again. The owners re-attached the power; the lawyers cut it off again, and stationed armed guards around the house. The owners had the guards arrested and put in jail; the lawyers paid off the police and the guards went back to work.

Not OUR armed guards; I was too chicken to take their photos, but ours looked like these men!

Fortunately for my friends and me, the homeowners had a friend who managed the condos up the beach and he arranged for us to have use of an empty one for the week for the same rent we had paid for the house. It was wonderful, luxurious and right smack on the beach.  A few years ago we went back to Puerto Morelos and the house was gone; ALL of the private homes in that area were gone and a huge condo complex was in their place. I am sorry for the homeowners; I don’t remember now how much they had been offered for their houses, but I do remember that it wasn’t much for a home on the beautiful Caribbean beach. 

Weirdest place?

My friend Jean and I were the only two women left who wanted to go to Mexico the year before last, and we rented a house on the beach. We went through all the houses available through HomeAway and picked one. We thought. Apparently we had picked two different ones, both coincidentally with the same rent, sent in our deposit and showed up on schedule. Jean had specified a house with no stairs. We got there after following a handyman from the rental agency in town.

First problem? Stairs. Two bedrooms were on the second floor; one was on the first. So Surprise! but we could work with that. Jean took the downstairs bedroom.

Second problem? The rooms, except for bedrooms and bathrooms, were outside. There were roofs over the living area, kitchen and dining area, but there were only walls on one side, the side that adjoined the bedrooms. That was not what either of us had ever anticipated.  

During the flight to Mexico, Jean had kept insisting that there was no view of the ocean and I had kept arguing that there certainly was, for heaven’s sake, look AT THE PHOTOS!!!  After a lot of confusion on our part and that of the handyman, we realized that we had been looking at two different rentals, and since the photos of the one I was viewing didn’t show the LACK OF WALLS, I hadn’t known that we would essentially living outdoors. This place was the closest I ever need to come to camping.

Our "home away from home"  Outdoor kitchen and dining room below, outdoor living room above. Bedrooms to the left.

View from the outdoor living room. 

Fancy plumbing!

However, there was an advantage to this arrangement. One morning, from the living room upstairs off of my bedroom, I saw a lot of people standing on the beach wall pointing out to the ocean.  I joined them to see what was up, and what was up were three whales, possibly more, playing in the water. They entertained us for about 15 minutes and then continued their journey north for the winter. I would never had seen them if I had been living in the house Jean thought we had rented: it was next door, and because of the landscaping, there was truly no view of the beach or ocean from there. And because it had walls, imagine that! I would never have heard the commotion on the beach, alerting me to the sight of the whales.

Younger daughter in Ireland last year.  I want to go there!

So I am.

Next adventure?

Ireland, in September.  dH and I are going, but we aren’t staying any one place long enough to rent a house.  We’ll be in hotels, but I have heard there are castles that rent rooms to tourists. Hmmm…..
Puck's Castle, Ireland

Ummmm no.  Not this one.  

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