Despite the heat, the failing economy, the absence of American television, despite my pitiful local knowledge and knowledge of Puerto Rico in general, despite the fact that my bare arms are already sun-spotted to the point of looking freakish, I could live here. It feels like European city living, which I love, and the combination of green space, offered by the National Park, and island breezes, make it feel open and breathable. Walking here is perfect, except between 1 and 4 p.m. Some have pointed out that San Juan has a lot of crime and my response is always that my husband works in Baltimore, and my sister has lived in downtown Baltimore for close to twenty years–‘nough said. I’ve also heard “they’re running out of money down there, utilities could be shut down.” What? That’s not even on the radar. Friendship and boredom and some part time income are my main concerns (and I’m out of pot right now—another challenge). I’m already bored, which, frankly, is a good thing to experience because I would certainly face a lot of that if living here on my own. I think that friendship and work (and pot) would come over time.
But…here’s why I don’t think I’ll be moving here anytime soon—available housing—there is next to nothing. Which is not to say that there is not an abundance of gorgeous townhomes, villas, apartments—there are many, but none of them are for sale. There are renovation properties available, but I would never tackle that kind of a project in a “foreign” country. The pickin’s are pitiful and I don’t know enough about the area to know why. One factor is certainly that the historic district is very small. Retail takes up a chunk of space, as the cruise traffic is healthy and cruisers love to shop, leaving little land for housing. And I suspect that many of the beautiful villas have been family owned for a long time and will remain so—all leaving me loving the city and no place to nest.
I’m discouraged, disappointed, but impressed by my willingness. Perhaps that’s all I’ll take away from this visit and perhaps it’s enough. But no, I take away a wonderful walk in the park every time I’m here and that’s close to perfection. Visit Old San Juan, stay at the El Convento Hotel, have the paella in the restaurant across the street from the hotel, walk to Castillo San Felipe del Morro—spectacular.