Monday, March 12, 2007

I"ve been looking at houses for Mark & Maria who live in Vancouver… but are thinking about eventually retiring in Argentina as we did. Maria is originally from BA, so she’s a native Argentine like Irma.

On Sunday, March 11, 2007, Natalia took us on a spine jarring, bone-crunching ride over some of the worst roads in La Falda. The theoretical purpose of the trip was to show us some real estate that we weren’t aware of, but I wonder is the true purpose was to kill me so that my vast fortune would trickle down to my heirs.
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It was truly a mind opening (but jaw clenching) experience. The real estate agent had told me that the house in the center of town was a great deal. Since it was located in an alley, I didn’t even want to take a look at it… how wrong I was!

Natalia turned onto the alley… and once past the street, it opened up into a well-paved boulevard into another world. There were four houses hidden from public view that were spacious, in excellent condition, with a backyard almost as big as ours. This shows the house that is for sale for US $70,000.
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The realtor and several others have been telling me that the Santa Rosa, Estela, Dominador, and other barrios were “low class”… or in a translation of the local expression, “medium length hair.” Don’t ask me to explain it, I can’t.

For my tastes, I thought that the neighborhoods were great… but I think that margarine tastes as good as the high priced spread. If someone is looking for a quality house and is not seeking a place with great status, these neighborhoods are the better value. At least in my not so humble opinion.

Previously, without knowing the name of the area I was in, I have been in Santa Rosa and have seen some lovely houses. We visited that barrio again, and saw several houses for sale… some good, and some needing repair, but almost all of them worthy of further investigation.
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But the area that impressed me the most was El Dominador. There were many beautiful houses… but I was struck with one in particular. It was located a bit closer to the edge of the city… and had a spectacular view of the surrounding hills that give La Falda its name. (La Falda literally translates as “The Skirt,” but it also means “the side of a hill.”) The first photo is a series of photos that I took as I stood across the street and spun around… (it was my imitation of a panoramic camera.)

This composite shows the house that I like. It’s higher than the other houses in the area, so has an unobstructed view. If you pay close attention to detail, you’ll see that it has a paved street in front, but the grass grows into the gravel road on the side of the house. It’s only a minor inconvenience, because you would only have to travel a few meters on the gravel road to reach the driveway,

As I noted on the photo, I’d build a higher wall between this house and the one next door… partly because I believe that good fences make good neighbors… but also because Lucky thinks that a four foot jump is only a warm up for his leaps over six foot gates!

In the background of the pic of the two houses, you can just barely see the cuincho (or Argentine barbeque.) It’s not fully enclosed like Nelida’s, but it’s much nicer than the one we have.

Natalie believes that this house is priced well below US $50,000.
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High in the hills, overlooking the local lake is an area that everybody warned me about. It’s so remote, and the roads are so rough that police and fire department vehicles would be unlikely to respond… and so houses in the area are likely to be robbed.

However, this composite shows a possible exception to this caveat. The houses in this mini-neighborhood have private security that is watching the property all of the time.

I wouldn’t live there… ever! But if a young woman wanted to get rid of her husband, she could tell him that she wanted this house… then send him on five or six errands a day; to buy milk, bread, the newspaper, a chocolate candy bar, etc… she would be a widow in less than four months, and could afford to replace the car that was destroyed along with her husband.
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Sunday was also the International Day of the Woman. Is this a big deal in your area? It is in La Falda.

I decided to skip the festivities in favor of staying home and dog sitting. There was going to be a raffle… only for females in attendance. It was supposed to start at 7pm. Nelida said that it would be a good idea to bring our collapsible camping chairs, because seating might be a problem.

At 6:30 I took Irma to Nelida’s house. Nelly was waiting outside, so we picked her up and drove the 2 blocks to the Eden Hotel… there was a stream of people walking to the hotel, and we heard that people had been headed that direction for over three hours.

Cars were in every available parking place, on every side street for at least a dozen blocks in every direction. Due to Nelida’s press credentials, the two of them were able to enter a better location… but still needed the chairs.

Over 12,000 people (99.9% women) crammed into the hotel grounds. (And the official population figure for La Falda is about 14,000)

All of the entertainers were female, and Irma said that they were great. The raffle took place around midnight. And Irma came back home around 1 in the morning.

What kind of prize would draw that many women? A new car! The rumor is that Chevy donated 50 cars to be given away at different locations in Argentina. A woman from Cordoba won the car… and the grumbling from La Falda residents is still being heard. Next year I may shave my legs, put on a dress, and join the throng. I refuse to shave my mustache, so that might be a give-away feature.
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And that’s about it from south of the Equator,