Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All!

The tree is decorated, there are stockings for each of the dogs, and the turkey is thawed and ready for tomorrow's meal.  We will see Darren's family in Australia via Skype this afternoon (Christmas morning there) and I will visit mine for a few days beginning on the 26th.  We will have friends with us tomorrow, just a few days before the anticipated birth of their new baby next week.  There are a few presents under the tree, and we've even had some much-needed rain here in town.  With people home from work, we chat with our neighbors front porch to front porch in the middle of the day about holiday plans.  We are grateful for all of these simple things.

Happy holidays to all, wherever you may be!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Contender Number 4...

Ok, so we know that the normal HHI formula doesn't include a fourth house, but for this one we had to make an exception.  The fourth house on our list of possible properties was an unusual property on Calle 80. It was on a large piece of land that was more square in shape than long and narrow like most Merida lots. It had a very substantial casa on it that was not in bad shape, though not in good shape either.
The location was good, only four blocks up Calle 59 from the square at Santiago, and the block was really beautiful with a wide street and a substantial number of the houses restored and well cared for. The house already had five very large rooms with 20 foot ceilings and some nice pasta tiled floors (underneath all of that dirt).  In addition to the great location, the unusual square shaped lot made the property seem bigger than it actually was. 
Before we left, we were already dreaming of a big hacienda-style portal along the side of the house facing the garden, ten or twelve feet deep with arches and lots of chairs and hammock hooks for sitting in the shade.
Photo from
The garden already had a couple of large hardwood trees and a large citrus tree of some kind (maybe sour orange?) that just added to its appeal.

All in all, this Santiago home was going to be hard to beat!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Works

It turns out that there is more going on than just the work at the Plaza Grande.  Thanks to Nancy's comment on a prior post, we went out to search for more projects.  In addition to the work at the Plaza Grande, the City is also carrying out work on the streets and other parks in the central corridor along Calle 60 as well.  It looks as if electrical and other wires are being buried along at least some streets including this one along side of the Opera House (which also appears to be newly painted).
 There is also this work on the street next to the Parque de la Madre.
In the background of this picture, you can also see that the Parque de la Madre is under renovation as well, along with the Parque de Santa Lucia and the Parque Hidalgo next to the Gran Plaza Hotel.

"We promised to renovate the Centro Historico.  Today in Santa Lucia Park we are doing it!"
"Restoration.  The rescue of our historic downtown."
"We undertook to rescue the Centro Historico.  We delivered with the rehabilitation of Parque Hidalgo."
 Some of the signs suggest that other works are either also planned or may even have been completed.
"We apologize for any inconvenience that may be caused by the Work."

And even though it isn't covered with the same kind of signs, the passageway between the Cathedral and the MACAY across from the Plaza Grande has also been covered with a new roof to create a covered passageway over the area that is usually used to showcase larger sculptures.

Things in Merida really are looking up!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

El Pequeno Diablo...

Every trip I take I always like to find that one little treasure that I can take back home with me that reminds me of where I have been.Well on this last trip I found my 'treasure'.

A little wooden 'Diablo' puppet...I saw this 'tourist' shop on my way back from the main square. I usually don't go into these shops but on the outside it said...
Casa Del Las Artesanias
Del Estado De Yucatan

Anyway, it was full of the usual stuff but also had some cool things as said puppet.

He will go in the guest room to watch over everything from the fireplace mantle.

Can't you just see him sitting there while a fire burns underneath!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lost in Translation

You have probably heard of the little pictograms that appear on many (though not all) corners in the Centro Historico in Merida.  As the story goes, these were used to mark intersections in the past to help the citizens and visitors of old who could not read figure out where they were.  Rather than tell someone to "meet me at the corner of Calle 68 y Calle 51," for example, you might say, "meet me at the corner of the Lighning" ("el Rayo").  [Disclaimer: the sign of El Rayo is not at C. 68 y C. 51...this is for illustration only!]

Often, the subject of the pictogram is clear, and it does exactly what it was intended to do.  This one marks the corner of "the Cardinal."  The one below is "the Pearl."

A simple walk through the historic district can turn into not only a visual treasure hunt, but also a bit of a multi-cultural puzzle as you try to figure out what the signs mean.

For example, this one is "the Lark"...simple enough with a little electronic translation.

Google Translate didn't help too much with this one, though, as it kept insisting that "La Tucha" meant "the Tuch," whatever that is.  A little more searching turned up a reference noting that, in the Yucatan, "La Tucha" is also a female monkey.  So now that one makes sense too.
It was confusing to see that "La Langosta" meant "the Lobster," but one of the alternate definitions for "langosta" is "the Locust," so another one down!
Next came "the Nuns" (Las Monjas) and "the Sitting Bull" (El Toro Agachado").  Score two more!

But this last one has me stumped, so I'm looking for some help here..."El Otelo."  What is that?  The best that I can some up with is Othello strangling Desdemona, but Shakespeare seems a little far-fetched as a pictogram to simply identify a particular corner to sixteenth century Maya.  Any ideas?  Anyone??

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Plaza Grande is closed!

It is true...the Plaza Grande is closed for restoration.  To tell the truth, it is a little embarrassing.  After all, we have been here for nearly a week, but it was only today that I made my way down to the square and the Cathedral, normally one of my first (and favorite) stops in Merida.  But it had been a busy week, with lots to accomplish and new friends to see.

According to Google Translate, the "Recuperation of the Urban Image"

I was so surprised that I circled the entire Plaza to see if I could figure out what was going on.  In a few spots I was able to get a peak inside, and the security guard at the site actually smiled when he saw my face pop through a gap in the fence (rather than yelling at me to go away).

According to El Diario de Yucatan, the renovation of the Plaza will take several weeks, and is expected to be completed sometime in December and in time for the City's anniversary on January 6.  There will be 672 new architectural light fixtures, 158 benches, and "reforestation," although the existing trees and plants will remain.  The El Diario story is here: La Plaza, Un Mes Cerrada  The beautiful portal at the small park in front of Sta. Lucia (that I have somehow managed to never photograph despite having documented every pigeon, pasta tile and palm tree for twenty blocks in any direction from there)  has also been covered over since we were here in July.  I hope that this too is a sign of ongoing restoration.

In each of our trips here over the last 18 months, we have seen ongoing evidence of the City's investment in restoration, and the work shows.  We are looking forward to sitting quietly under the trees in the renovated (or "recuperated") Plaza Grande on our next trip back to Merida, but for now will be perfectly content in the squares at Santiago, Santa Anna, and San Juan.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dinner and a Rabbit Redux

Back in July, I posted about our dinner at La Casa de Frida on C. 61.  Along with the ambiance and great food, we were surprised to see our waiter and his side-kick, the white rabbit. The rabbit only made a short appearance that time and we didn't manage to get an actual photo of it.  But on Wednesday we repeated the experience (including having the very same menu items!), and this time we were ready...

This time we felt very fortunate as 'The Rabbit' made a number of extended appearances. So, with longaniza, chiles en nogada, sweet and sour spare ribs, three Modelo Especial AND a viewing of the rabbit, we had a lovely dinner and a memorable experience for about $38.  Outstanding!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beneath the surface...

One of the nicest things about Merida is that there always seems to be another surprise lurking just beneath the surface of what you see at first.  A plain facade conceals an incredible home full of columns and corridors and colors.  A well behaved group of school kids in uniform waiting in an orderly line outside of the Cathedral breaks into cheers and whistles when they see your camera.  Or a seemingly severe local lady standing on her front sidewalk at dusk in a quiet neighborhood  breaks out in a huge smile as you stumble through a "buenos noches" when you walk by.  

Today Merida surprised me again, and this time she did it in the unlikely form of a municipal trash can.

I've passed these by a dozen times and never wondered who maintains them, or (in a city with what seems like trash pickup every night) how often they are emptied.  They are surely well-used, since the parks where you find them are always full of people and generally fairly tidy.  I was taking an early morning walk through the Parque de San Juan today when I happened upon the scene below.

 As far as I'm concerned, this is Mexican ingenuity at its very best.  The solution to the problem of overflowing trash cans in city parks is elegant and is more or less an underground dumpster!  What looks like an ordinary trash can is really an opening to a giant sized reservoir for the dribs and drabs of daily life.  Who knew!?

This is one of the things that I love most about this matters big and small, there is always something unexpected just beneath the surface.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

House Number 3, the Deco Colonial

The third house on our contender list seemed to have it all.  Sure, it was still south of the main square, but this big imposing casona was on a quiet stretch of Calle 60 near a pretty (newer) church, and it didn't require a walk through prostitute street on Calle 58 or through the main market to get up to the Plaza Grande.
The house was another L-shaped construction with high ceilings from the front rooms all the way through to the back.  It sat on a large lot, and it had every one of its original doors and original pasta tiles in each room.

It had beautiful art deco details everywhere and you could easily imagine life breathed back into this dirty rough diamond.

The facade was an imposing art deco style that was impressive, and the block had lots of other big colonial houses for sale although none of them had been renovated yet.

This house had it all, but it was a little unclear what the price was or even what company had it listed!

Covered outside terrace

It was easy to walk through this house and imagine it restored and filled with colors and light, with a pool in the courtyard.  It even had some large trees and palms in the back for instant tropical atmosphere.

If you have already been through the process of looking at Merida houses, especially ruins that are ripe for restoration, you know the walk through house after house that doesn't really tick any of your boxes and then you go through the doors of a house that does.
You know it immediately, and instead of just spending a few minutes looking around politely, you start to measure rooms and take pictures of all of the different tiles and find yourself saying things like, "the kitchen could go here," and "can you imagine sitting and having coffee out here in the mornings?"

This one was going to require some thought to be sure that we didn't lose our senses completely!
The view across the street

Monday, October 31, 2011

Doors of Merida

Ok, so this is not an original idea!  

But there is a reason that other bloggers and photographers wander around Centro, camera in hand, taking pictures of the doors of Merida (and, I have to admit, hoping that no one comes out while you are standing there taking a close up picture of their puerta).  

These doors are excellent...the colors and textures and shapes and sizes are a feast for the eyes and for the camera.  

They are as bright and colorful as the Noche Mexicana dancers, and are just one more of the things that make this city special.  So with kudos to those who have posted before 

 Here is our version of the Doors of Merida...