Monday, December 1, 2014

III. Ubicación, Ubicación, Ubicación!

Location, location, location! That's what's been driving our search for a place to live in Ajijic. But other than that familiar mantra, house hunting there is not the same.

A shady street scene in Ajijic with its narrow sidewalks,
streets, and attached walls and casas.
The dwellings in Mexican villages we’re familiar with are vastly different from those that are most common stateside. House fronts, or walls, are connected more or less continuously—a solid stucco/brick facade that runs along and right next to a narrow sidewalk, and almost equally narrow cobblestone street. Ownership is often only differentiated by the color and pattern of paint on the wall. 

Contrast this to our little town of Edmonds, Washington, with its individual houses set back from the street, separated by a lawn, and often a shrubbery border, from neighbors.

Entrance to Casa de Masks
Although much closer together, Mexican homes have more visual privacy—only a small curtained and barred window looks directly into a room from the sidewalk, or wrought iron gate gives view to a walled courtyard. Household security is much more obvious in Mexico than the US—bars or grillwork on windows or in front of doors, and often there is embedded broken glass, or even concertina razor wire on the top of walls. 

Generally speaking, in our experience: rather than lawn there are tiles; rather than flower beds, there are pots; rather than a yard surrounding the house, there might be a small high-walled courtyard just in front. A sense of the outdoors is also gained through interior courtyards, atriums or rooftop patios called miradors.

Yellow Casa de Arbol, opposite tree,
with its covered mirador on top
The casa we’re checking out in a couple of months is called Casa de Arbol. Arbol means “tree”, and there’s an old landmark tree growing right across the narrow street. The house is also narrow, and attached to its neighbors, like row houses in some large US cities.

There is a stairway winding up to the covered rooftop mirador from just outside the sitting area at the back of the second story bedroom. I’m thinking that in addition to the views of the lake, cathedral and mountains, this would be a great place for morning exercises, perhaps followed by a short stroll to the lake and run along the malecón

Bird of Paradise, on location at LCS
Directly across the street from Casa de Arbol is the outdoor cafe, gardens, and library of the Lake Chapala Society. That’s where my studious wife plans to continue her Spanish lessons. This will also be a good place to become familiar with the local ex-pat group and its resources, as well as a connection to community volunteer work. 

Restaurants, cafes and bars abound, all around, and Casa de Arbol is almost equidistant between the weekly tianguis, or street market, near the school, and the tiendas and many Saturday vendors all around the main plaza.

Ubicación, ubicación, ubicación!

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