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4.02.2006

 

Real estate roundup

What is it about real estate listings that stokes the imagination? I can't help but to check the homes section of the local newspaper whenever I visit another town, even if it's the last place we'd ever consider moving (i.e. NYC). But with properties in South America, the location and the price makes you think, "what if...?" With that, I submit for your consideration a handful of interesting properties on the market:

A front-row seat at the next labor protest

Dig the view from this apartment overlooking Lima's Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral of Lima and one side of the Presidential palace. Watch from your living room window when they break out the armored cars with water cannons, affectionately known as "Pinochitos." No, to be fair, central Lima is an amazing place and this apartment is in the heart of it. (Incidentally, my great grandfather was a presidential guard when one of the presidents of Peru was killed in a coup d'etat. Same location, but it was a different palace building at the time.)

Relive the plunder of ancient Peru...in your own colonial mansion

I find Spanish colonial architecture fascinating. Typically, you can't tell much about the house from the street. If you've strolled the French Quarter in NOLA (which is actually mostly Spanish), you've seen what I mean. Especially if you happened to peer through an open door, down a narrow hallway and into the glorious sunlit courtyard inside. That's by design -- you're simply not meant to know what goes on inside, unless you're invited in. Even then, you don't see everything upon walking through the front gate. There might be a second threshhold, after which you enter the inner sanctum of the household -- the courtyard. Even then, you'll need to enter a formal Salon de Espera or reception room and present yourself. Ah the good ol days. Anyway, this mansion, though well worn, is a beaut...and yours for only $500k and change. Ghosts thrown in free of charge.

Your own private Inca empire

Running a bed and breakfast means getting up at godawful hours and making breakfast for other people. Or does it? In Peru, with its dearth of underemployed laborers, you could hire cooks and housekeepers at a reasonable rate (and give some folks a decent living at the same time), which would leave you to socialize like a haughty English colonizer in a Kipling novel. Ok, maybe not. But, you certainly would be free to run expeditions and tours to some of the most amazing ruins and mountain country in the hemisphere. And this would be your home base: a 16-bed inn in the town of Urubamba, called Hospedaje Macha Wasi. Urubabma is in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, along the main tourist route. Problem is, it's not a major destination unto itself. There are no great ruins, like at Pisaq or Ollantaytambo. So, filling the beds here would require a different strategy. Mountain bike tours? Horseback tours? Catering to Chinese and Taiwanese tourists? Nothing that some good marketing and networking couldn't overcome. So, any would-be investors out there?

BTW, the most amazing thing about the Sacred Valley is what grows there. The sun is equatorial and it stays in the 70s all year long. At this inn, they've got orange, capuli (native to the Andes), plum (3 or 4 varieties), pear, apple and avocado trees, not to mention passionfruit vines!

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