Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Lesson Learned...

My friend, Tim and I decided that we were going to experience the full flavor of Merida and venture south of the main square to the 'down-town' shopping and market area. We were feeling very intrepid and I wanted to try out my Spanish that I had been learning. We thought we would try buying some different fruits and vegetables for the week.

Off we went with our reusable shopping bags in hand, a spring in our step and excited with the thought of the adventure ahead. After walking a few blocks, turning a few corners in the hope of stumbling across the market we managed to end up back at the main square. As it was 'hotter-than-the-sun' out I ducked into the tourist office at the main square where she drew me a map and smiled.

SO, off we went with our reusable shopping bags in hand, a spring in our step and excited with the thought of the adventure ahead again!

It was lunchtime by the time we managed to find the markets, and being the intrepid explorers that we were we decided to join the locals and pulled up a stool at one of the market stalls. NO this was not why I got sick! We ate here on the Saturday and I was not sick till Tuesday/Wednesday and besides Tim and I ate and drank the same things.
A yummy lunch of tostada and panuchos.
Tim at the stall for lunch

After a lovely lunch we went and bought some items to make guacamole and salsa from the stalls and with my newly acquired, very limited Spanish. I managed just fine. Oh, besides the time I tried to buy some limes that were 5 pesos and I thought she said 50 pesos. I handed her a 50 peso note and walked away. She started to yell to me to get my change where upon I started to walk faster (or as Wade likes to call it 'run away screaming'!). Some of the other bemused stall owners stopped me and explained that I forgot my change. I was very embarrassed that
1. my two-hours-a-day, three weeks of Spanish amounted to me getting 5 and 50 mixed up, and
2. I had 'run-away-screaming' when someone was trying to say something to me.
It was all a learning experience and gave us something to laugh about for the rest of the day.

While we were looking for the markets at the beginning of the day we walked past many barber shops and hair-cut salons. As I don't have a lot of hair I decided that I was going to stop in and get my hair cut because I was starting to look like Krusty the Clown!

I randomly chose one, walked in and made the universal sign for haircut with my fingers with a smile.

The salon was open at the front to the street with no air conditioning and I thought that I was going to sweat like a jockey in a steam cabinet under that nylon cape but it wasn't that bad at all.

Forty pesos later I was done and she did a very professional job and we were very pleased with the outcome...muy guapo! I said to the girl and we both laughed.

The lesson I learned for that day was to... just do it! Give it a try! No one is going to laugh at you, no one is trying to rip you off at every turn just because you are a gringo.

This is one of the reasons why I am falling in love with Merida!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Down for the Count...

Well I'm back after a little hiatus and a two day hospital stay at the end of my month long trip. Ms. Montezuma struck. First with her regular 'fist of fury' which I am sure everyone has encountered, but then decided to turn around and backhand me just for good measure and I went down for the count. I won't go into all the explosive details but let's just say if you have seen 'Bridesmaids' then you know what I am talking about. After battling the stomach virus for two days I eventually passed-out that night (yes...passed-out!) but luckily had a friend staying with me and they were woken up at 2am as I went crashing through the bathroom doors. In the morning my friend went for help. My savior was Alex and Chris from La Boheme Cafe on Paseo De Montejo whom I had made friends with on this trip. Alex came and picked me up in his car and took me to the emergency at Star Medica just next to Altabrisa Mall in the north.
After the I.V. was taken out.

They were great there. It took no time before I was seen by the doctor, put on an I.V. and given medication to help settle my stomach. After about two hours my blood tests were back and I was admitted to a private room where I stayed for two days. The staff were attentive and kind and two of my nurses spoke perfect English, as did my doctor and his assistant. I really do not know what I would have done without the help of my friend Tim and also Alex and LeAnn (our real-estate agent) who both came to the hospital, spoke to the staff initially and had me all signed in and settled into my room before I knew it. My room was modern and sparkling clean with a lovely view out over Merida. The T.V. had plenty of English speaking channels and a large well equipped bathroom. This is only my second stay in a hospital in my life and my room was almost exactly the same as the one in Atlanta, fancy bed and all.
If Alex, Chris and LeAnn are the type of people who make up the expat community in Merida then I am looking forward to being part of it.
Oh, and my whole stay in hospital with medication and everything came to about $1500.00U.S. but it was all covered by my medical insurance back here in the U.S. so I get it all back. I had also taken out travel insurance before I left ($20 through Delta). I figured since I was staying in Merida for the month and if my primary medical did not cover any of it then they did! Awesome...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Gift That Gives...

Today I didn't have my Spanish tutor till 1pm so I wandered up to La Boheme for desayuno and a chat. Alex and Chris are the owners of La Boheme and they are some of the nicest people you'll meet here in Merida. Their cafe is a great place to watch the world go by, sit and have a chat and have some very delicious food.
Victoria, Chris and Alex

I sat and ordered my usual diet coke and egg and bacon croissant, then Alex joined me and helped me with my Spanish homework and a leisurely chat.

We have been to La Boheme on Paseo De Montejo quite a few times and usually for desayuno, and each time I eyed these wonderful creations hanging on the wall. They were these wooden spoons hand-crafted by a local expat, Viviana Hinagos.
Alex saw me looking at them and explained that 100% of the money they sell for goes directly to Sanctuary Evolution.
There are a number of ways you can donate, and hopefully the link above works, so go and check out all the great work they are doing over at the sanctuary and see if you too can help.

But what an awesome idea!A gift that gives!

Here I have this awesome unique gift knowing that my money will be directly benefiting those poor animals in need here in Merida and to those wonderful people who care for them.

I know my mum is going to be delighted with these spoons BUT, as she is an avid supporter of the RSPCA in Australia, she will be over-the-moon about the proceeds going to support animal welfare here.

Well done Chris and Alex for allowing your cafe to support this venture and a huge thank you to Viviana for caring so much to help those who can't help themselves.
What an ingenious idea! Not to mention the awesome unique gift that I have that comes with its own heartwarming story.

A special thanks to all those people working hard to care for and help those animals in need in and around Merida. I can't wait to be down here and get involved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dinner and a Rabbit...

One night last week we ventured out to La Casa De Frida for dinner. We like to visit this restaurant once each trip as we always really enjoy it, although it is a little pricey (but worth it). This night was no exception, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The night was quite warm and we had just walked over to Santiago to the Aki so that I could get some mosquito repellent. You see, the supermercado around the corner was closed for five days doing 'stock-take' and I couldn't wait any longer as I was being driven to distraction by the mini evil beasts from hell.

We arrived at Frida and saw the waiter taking an order from a table of four (the only other occupied table at that time) and standing there by his feet was this rather large pure white rabbit. Yes, a rabbit!

Not the real rabbit!
The waiter greeted us and sat us near the other table out in the small open-air courtyard as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

Rabbit? What rabbit?

We sat at our table and the rabbit sat beside us for a while and cleaned itself just like a cat would. It was beautiful, large and snow white. After it had cleaned itself to its satisfaction it slowly hopped away and followed the waiter in through the kitchen and off into the back yard never to re-emerge that evening.

We laughed about it, but the next day while eating at a little italian pizza joint around the corner on calle 60 the owner was sitting next to our table on his laptop with his pet green parrot on his shoulder. I guess all these little eccentricities  that we see just go towards making Merida the Wonderland that it is and we are happy for it.

Anyway, back to Frida. If you haven't been there then you are missing out. Not only is the food wonderful, but the decor is shockingly vibrant and fun.

I guess to match her personality and famous painting style.

"Perhaps best known for her self-portraits, Kahlo's work is remembered for its "pain and passion", and its intense, vibrant colors. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form."

Longaniza con queso
The quote is from Frida Kahlo Website, intense!

I must admit that we have had the same item on the menu each time we have visited.  We start off with some chorizo in melted cheese (Longaniza con queso).

Wrap in a warm torilla and vola

Pork ribs in sweet and sour sauce
 For my main I have the pork ribs in the most delicious sweet and sour sauce and Wade has the house speciality Chili en Nogada which is a rather large stuffed pepper in an equally delicious sauce. YUM!
Chili en Nogada

It is one place I recommend for a special night out. It is not expensive by American standards but it is pricey for Merida...but like I said...worth it!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

No, no Noche Mexicana!

Last night, being a Saturday night and Wade's last night before heading back to Atlanta, we were excited again to spend the evening at Noche Mexicana at the southern tip of Paseo De Montejo, but the weather had other plans for us.

On late Saturday afternoon we had a rather larger down pour with some incredible lightening flashes and thunder that shock the house. A couple of times the thunder made me jump and cringe. By about 9pm the rain had stopped altogether and Wade was convinced that Noche Mexicana would be still going ahead, but as I could not hear any music I was not too sure.

We walked around the corner hoping for the best but were greeted by a dark, silent area filled with wet empty stalls.

                                                     I was not only sad that our evening was ruined but also for all the vendors and performers. When we walked through earlier at about 7:30pm all the performers were there and dressed just in case the weather broke early enough for the night to go ahead.

Anyway we turned around and walked back home and got an early night. There will be plenty of other Saturday nights I am sure.

The next morning I got a late start, as Wade left for the airport at 5am, and decided to walk down to Santa Lucia and to the Main Square to check out the markets and stalls. Not the smartest move as it was already almost 1pm and hotter than the sun out there. I did get down to the Main Square but was melting so I decided to turn around and head for home and sit in the pool.

As I passed back by Santa Lucia I stopped to take this picture of everyone enjoying the music and up dancing...yes, dancing in this heat! and in their Sunday best.

I laughed at what a gringo I was standing there with my tee-shirt sticking to me. You must admire everyone's verve for life down here. They certainly live for each moment and I hope some of it rubs of on me while I am down here..

Oh, and while I am sitting here writing this entry the weather broke again and we are having another huge rain storm and strong was just hotter than the sun outside? I guess I'd better get used to it...La Vida Loca or rather El Clima Loco!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Friday Night Lights...

Well it was Friday night and we were wondering what to do and where to go for dinner. We really wanted to stay away from around the main square and all the tourist places there, and we don't have a car here so wherever we went had to be within walking distance of the house where we are staying.

Then we remembered that we had not visited one of our favorite little restaurants, Amaro.  

Amaro is a small but extremely delightful restaurant set in the courtyard of a house over on Calle 59.

You enter through the original carriage doorway into a charming courtyard which is surrounded by a deep colonnade with arches and columns on three sides.

They always have local artists work hanging and for sale throughout the colonnade.

There is a large tree on one side that leans out across most of the courtyard like a green living roof and adds to the wonderful ambiance.

They usually have a local musician playing guitar and singing, and the whole experience really is worth a visit. 

The menu is wonderful and varied from its delicious vegetarian meals to traditional Yucatan dishes, and also worth a mention is the refreshing chaya and tequila drink. But be careful, as they are easy to drink but deadly!

I highly recommend you check Amaro out, for it is neither an expensive tourist-trap nor a cocina economica.

After dinner we strolled down towards the main square looking for the helado man and his cart but didn't manage to locate him this evening, instead opting for the sweet that is a thinly rolled waffle cone like a pancake that has nutella in it....yum! No time for a photo of it before we devoured it, sorry.

But while looking for the helado man these wonderfully made little toys in the shapes of many animals caught my eye. They were just being sold on the sidewalk with all the other usual tourist 'gifts'.

I am always looking for unusual items that would be good as gifts, and I hadn't seen these before.

There were many to choose from and I couldn't decide but managed to narrow it down to these four. A rabbit (conejo), a giraffe (Jirafa), a peacock (pavo-real?), and a cat (gato). They are quite well-made although 'rustic' and quite heavy.

So off I went very happy with my little find of the evening.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One enchanted evening...

Last night was magical here. We strolled up around the corner to Noche Mexicana just there at the south end of Paseo de Montejo at around 8:30pm. There on each Saturday night they hold a wonderful outdoor market/food vendors/concert with singing and traditional dancing (I think they were from Campeche?). Anyway it was truly a feast for your senses.
 Firstly, the very beautiful young girls (las ellas joven muy bonita) did I get that right? anyway they came out all in white and danced with candles and sometimes beer bottles on their heads.

Always very poised and looking stunning at all times.
 They had these wonderful dresses that flowed and twirled. Yes there was a lot of material to all these dresses.

The music was just as beautiful as the dancers were and the concert did not stop for one second until about 10:30pm.

But my favorite dance was the last dance of the evening when each girl came out in a different colored dress and the dance was very energetic.
 The dresses seemed to flow on for ever and reminded me of some amazing butterfly or fantastical insect dancing in the bright lights of the night.

I have put in a few pictures here (sorry) but I just love the way the camera really captured the movement and energy of the dance.

The music was wonderfully loud and the crowd clapped along and cheered (although all very respectfully while sitting demurely in their seats).

 It really was mesmerizing and I couldn't help but be carried away by the moment and (with not wanting to sound corny) it brought a little tear to my eye. With all the color, energy, sound and looking around at all the beaming faces who sat mesmerized at what they were watching. The night was perfect and cool.

Anyway, it was awesome!

During the evening we wandered over and parked ourselves at the open-air food court where we could still watch the concert on the stage and listen to the music.

Here you could go to any number of food stands and collect an amazing array of goodies. 

We opted for a couple of soft tacos, each a different variety, and a couple of cokes.

All up costing 60 pesos. 


Then we moved onto a little dessert which consisted of a couple of helados - ferrero rocher which were delicioso! Only 25 pesos each! YUM!

All up we had a fantastic Saturday night, which just happens to be - every Saturday night here in Magical Merida!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cool weather...

Since arriving in Merida on June 27 the weather has been down right pleasant, although with a fair bit of rain. The first couple of days it continuously rained, mostly light rain, and this was keeping the temperatures very comfortable but with 110% humidity.

I really didn't even see the sky till yesterday. But now it is sunny and hot again, giving me a chance to swim in the pool and lay in the sun.

What have I been doing all day? I hear you ask. Well, I have been getting up early(ish) and trying to do a little exercise, jumping in the pool to cool off, then Monica Tort (Spanish teacher) arrives for 2 hour lesson each weekday. Then off to La Boheme for a little breakfast, a wander through the neighborhood, then an afternoon nap.

Ah the sweet life!

Third and fourth visit...February and July 2011

Well here we are back again for our third visit so far to Merida.  This is the trip that we finally pinned down the place we wanted to buy. We had our three main contenders to re-visit this trip plus some other new properties that we thought were interesting enough to visit. But more about the house hunt later.

We brought a friend down with us this time even though we were only here for 5 days and we had a ball showing them around Merida. They also loved everything about it, especially the place we stayed at. We like to 'try-out' a new house each time we come down and this time was no exception. Funnily enough we were actually staying back on Calle 51 just a block down from the first place we stayed at on our inaugural visit...ha, funny I hear you say!

This was a little Henry Ponce house and really well done. Actually all three places we had stayed have been amazingly beautiful and we have been really lucky since we just picked them from off the internet not knowing anything about them.

We stayed here in February 2011 just for the week and now we are back again staying here on Calle 51 for the month of July while we signed the house papers and got the keys ect.