San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MX, August 10, 2014: I think I’ll pour a glass of wine and tell you about our house. Feel free to get one yourself while you read; it will be like we’re have a drink together.
We live really close to our neighbors here. Like, we share walls with them. There is no space between houses, and all of them have very high walls around them; at least 15 feet high. Currently our neighbors to the west are enjoying Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” at what is likely a normal volume; however, due to the proximity of our living quarters it might as well be coming out of my speakers.
I’m OK with this, but if they break out anything later than “The Stranger”, it may be time to go meet them and have a discussion about selling out in popular music.
We used to live in downtown Atlanta. You get used to a certain amount of noise when you live in the center of a city; you’re not alone and things are going on around you most of the day and night. During the 1996 Olympics I was awakened most mornings by the droning of the Goodyear blimp outside my window. You get pretty good at tuning out the noise, and I think I’m finally getting there at this house, although sleeping soundly through the night still eludes me most of the time. I have mentioned the locals’ penchant for early morning fireworks before – these are not the pretty, sigh-inspiring showers that we do get over the city center fairly frequently during celebrations . These are just the loud, panic-inciting M80-type fireworks, and they are typically shot first thing in the morning around 6 AM, although you can really expect to hear them at any time. If you were particularly paranoid I suppose you could be convinced that the city was under siege, but as they are not followed by screaming or sirens you rightly assume that someone is celebrating some significant milestone with explosives, again. Currently some gringo is trying to get a petition signed to stop these celebratory fireworks, but it’s likely that hell will be a frosty cold place before this happens.
The street directly behind our house is a major road, and it’s steep, so we can also hear buses struggling up it during the daylight hours. Trollies carrying tourists stop at the top of our street for a quick look and photos, ostensibly so that the occupants can gasp at the incline and wonder who would possibly live at the top of a hill like that. Ahem, actually, that would be us.
But our house is quite comfortable and we are at peace here. We’ve added a few of our own touches, like some potted herbs and a tomato plant – seems kind of silly to grow them when a kilogram of them costs less than a dollar, but growing things makes a house a home, I think. Our house is over a hundred years old, and has been completely renovated. The owners are two guys who are interior designers, so our surroundings are beautiful and tasteful, although the master bedroom artwork trends towards nude men, but I’m OK with that. There are only two original walls remaining, so they completely gutted it twenty years ago during the renovation. Like all of the other houses in town the exterior walls of our house are substantial; they top twenty feet high and are nearly a foot thick. As we sit at the top of our street and very near to the top of town we command an amazing view from our rooftop terrace, which is more than fifty steps up from the street level.
From what I’ve seen most houses here do not have yards, and we’re no exception. That means every day starts and ends with a dog walk. Gizmo has no problem with TCB (Taking Care of Business, for those of you too young to remember Bachman-Turner Overdrive) just about anywhere, but Pancake has always been what I’d call a Selective Pooper, and seems to have a very defined set of criteria for the PPS (that’s Perfect Pooping Spot, might as well continue this awesome acronym roll I’m on) that no one understands but her. Lately it seems to be right in the middle of the street, and I’ve annoyed more than one cab driver while we all wait for my dog to finish pooping and get out of the street. Also, so sudden is her selection of the PPS that it often causes her to dart quickly and forcefully into the street, which has almost gotten her run over once and caused me to disallow the holding of the leash by anyone but me.
I like to cook, and my husband and son love to eat, so it was important for us to find a house with a well-equipped kitchen, and we were not disappointed here. There is a Subzero refrigerator which is lovely and enormous, and freezes my lettuce. We’re working on that. There is a six-burner propane stove. Everyone uses propane in Mexico, and the tank is on the roof, and I’m trying not to think about what kind of tragic accidents could occur due to that. Seriously, when you need more gas the truck pulls up and a guy climbs a ladder to your roof to fill it up. I’m hoping that happens when I’m not home. We also have a dishwasher, something that is incredibly rare in Mexico, as I recently discovered when I went out and tried to buy more Cascade. There is more glassware, linens, cookware, silver serving pieces, and dishes than you could ever need. There is a formal marble dining table that seats six. There is an antique mirrored and lighted bar with linen cocktail napkins and sterling silver cocktail picks, and a stunning collection of barware. We suffer for nothing, except waffles, as there is no waffle iron (sniff).
The floors are brick throughout, and there are beautiful area rugs and cow hides on the floors all over the house. There is a formal living room, two fountains, and speakers in most every room, including outside. Wiley has a huge antique desk made from whisky barrels. There are six fireplaces, including one here in the interior courtyard. The beds are coma-inducing, and the sheets have upwards of ten-thousand threads per square inch, it seems. All four bathrooms are tiled in traditional Mexican tile, and I can lay flat and float in my bathtub. We have Mexican cable TV, but we brought our AppleTV and can hook it up to one of Wiley’s big monitors for Family Movie Night (dare I say it? FMN!!!) with Netflix or Vudu. We have excellent wifi, and a local phone as well as a Vonnage voice-over-IP line. The house has an intercom and a security system. There are fourteen sets of French doors, and all of the ones upstairs lead out onto little balconies, which the dogs languish on in the afternoon sun. There is a garage with an electric garage door and a whole-house water purification system. We even have air conditioning, although we haven’t turned it on.
And then there’s the roof. I think when we looked at this house the first time both Wiley and me had visions of killer parties on that roof dancing in our heads. It is three levels, is filled with plants and fruit trees, and you can probably see fifty miles to the west from it. There are two dining areas and lounge chairs for lying about in the sun. You can go up onto the roof at most any time of the day and be transported by the sheer magic of the atmosphere up there. The beauty of the Parroquia, the main cathedral at the center of town, at night when it is lit up is breathtaking.
Did I mention the staff? Well, yes, the house comes with a staff. We had no say in whether we wanted or needed them or not, they just show up. Sandra is our housekeeper, and she comes four days a week. She cleans and washes the clothes, and would cook for us, but then what the hell would I do? She is a lovely person and we have very halting and often uncomfortable conversations in Spanish that are routinely augmented by Google Translate. Jesus is the gardener, and he comes twice weekly to take care of what must be more than a hundred plants on the premises. He used to live in San Antonio, and speaks fluent English. Thank God he was here when the water man knocked on the door one day to tell me that we had used an exorbitant amount of water in the past month. I figured it was my floating in the bathtub, but turns out there a leak in the purification system.
So we’re pretty comfortable, to say the least. I had to buy a new food processor, because the one here in the house was pretty puny, and I do put my food processor to use several times a day. I also bought a coffee bean grinder, although for some reason it’s hard to find whole bean coffee here, even though Mexico grows and exports a fair amount of coffee. We also bought a grill, which is wobbly and small and charcoal comes dear, so we’re not grilling as much as we typically do during the summer. I left out potentially the most important detail, and that is that there’s a lovely spare bedroom that sits awaiting its first visitor. As we say in Tennessee, y’all come.