Adobe Houses, Flamingos, and Mayan Ruins

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September 3rd 2012
Published: September 4th 2012
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Merida, Progreso, Uxmal

We have now been in our new home of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico for almost 2 weeks. We desperately needed to rest and have tried to pace ourselves after our 2 week drive from Costa Rica. When we move to a new town there is always plenty to keep busy with just finding markets, banks, malls, etc. and just generally learning all of the new streets. Merida is a huge city and has a great abundance of all so we spent some time searching for the necessities that best suited our needs.

It has also taken some time to get used to our new house. We live in a restored adobe house about 5 blocks from the Merida’s Gran Plaza and about 4 blocks from Santiago Plaza. The roads are wide and straight and are logically numbered in Centro (even numbered streets run north-south, odd numbered streets run east-west) but most of the streets are one way and are a little confusing because sometimes several one way streets (the same way) are in a row. We have a GPS which works in Mexico so that has been some help, although after many months of having to rely on maps we find ourselves going to the maps first.

Each neighborhood of Merida is centered on a church and square and each neighborhood has music or dancing on a different night. Usually the markets are open and food vendors are out. We visited Santiago Plaza one evening and watched as hundreds of people danced to the sounds of a Cuban band. It was quite a nice time and everyone seemed to be enjoying a cool evening on the square.

Our house has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom with a nice patio and a full size living room and dining room. The house is very narrow and very long. Our house looks small from the street (about 18 feet of street front) but the property is over 150 feet deep. The rooms are all the same width and basically the same length. It is odd because you have to walk through each room to get to the back bedroom and the patio is in the middle of the house. No such thing as hallways here.

Our kitchen is the strangest part of the house. The roof covers the area of the stove and countertop but is open in the back half of the kitchen. It is great because we have air flow, but since it is rainy season here it often rains during dinner time and you can have quite the downpour five feet behind your back while you are cooking. Also a little strange because you have to pass through the kitchen to get to the bedrooms so there really is no way to avoid getting wet to get to the back of the house. We also have a 3 foot Iguana that visits our patio and is a definite deterrent to midnight bathroom runs if you sleep in the back bedroom!

Our neighbors are friendly and there are a couple of small stores (tiendas) on our street as well as a nice preschool. We have a neighborhood bar on almost each corner around our house as well as a couple of nice bakeries within a short walk.

We have to pay electricity in this house, which we haven’t had to do in the past. Electricity in Merida can be very expensive. They allot a certain amount per household and if you go over that amount they charge a surcharge so we found out how to read the meter and we try to stay under each day. It is often hard to look at our 5 air conditioners in the house and not be tempted to turn them on during the day. We can run one at night and sleep in comfort and still stay under our limit. We try to use only ceiling fans in the room that we are in. We have a washer-dryer but only use it to wash and hang laundry outside on the line to dry. It is very hot in Merida and clothes often dry in 15 minutes after we hang them out.

We also got our cell phones hooked back up for the first time in 7 months and enjoyed calling all of our close family members to say hi. It was especially nice to talk to children, Nanci’s Dad and David’s Mom on her birthday.

We have been able to get out of town a couple of times. The Yucatan has great wide roads and it is easy to drive here. The roads have excellent signs and it is nice to use the GPS also. We headed north to the beach town of Progresso. Progresso is a pretty, small town that has a huge cruise ship pier and lots of tourist shops and restaurants. We enjoyed talking to some of the old time expats who own shops near the beach. It was cruise ship day and we quickly tired of being asked to buy things or come in for a “free” Margarita so we didn’t stay too long. We made our way west along the coast and started seeing beautiful flamingos in the mangrove swamps that line the highway. We parked off the side of the road and walked through some jungle bushes to a nice limestone marsh area where we watched hundreds of flamingos eating and generally having a good time. It was something neither one of us had seen and was quite memorable.

We continued along the beach road and stopped at a small Mayan site that was used to make salt in past times. Quite nice but nothing like the big sites we had been to in the past. A small church was built amongst the ruins and it gave a unique feeling of what it must have been like when the Spanish first came here to the Yucatan.

We made our way along the coast road and stopped for a delicious lunch of fresh Ceviche. It tasted fantastic and was just the thing for a hot day. Nanci had octopus (Pulpo) and David had shrimp (Camarones). We had an ice cold Sol beer to cool us also. A perfect lunch!

We heard that another town was where Jean Lafitte was buried. We decided to find the town of Dzilam de Bravo and see if we could find his grave. The road went from freeway to narrow two lane road and passed by some attractive beach homes that I think must have been owned by expats or wealthy locals. We also saw lots of small fishing boats and passed through several small towns. We finally arrived in Dzilam de Bravo. We found a hotel called Jean Lafitte but it was closed. We drove along the road and found the cemetery but no one was around so we basically decided to give up. As we were leaving town we did locate a monument dedicated to Captain Lafitte and decided that that was close enough. Later when we got home we discovered that it was probably his brother who died here or possibly neither one! Oh well, the fun is in the journey, I suppose.

On the way home we passed several Henequen haciendas. Henequen is what the Spanish called Sisal plants that were harvested to make rope before nylon was invented. Yucatan State was where most of the haciendas were located and made many millionaires of the owners. There are many huge mansions in Merida built with those millions.

On Sunday we made our way to a large Mayan Ruin site called Uxmal (Oosh-Mal) which is located just south of Merida. We were somewhat surprised at how huge the site was and easily ranks in the top sites we have visited. We spent several hours touring the site visiting the Governors Palace, House of the Dwarf, the Nunnery, House of the Doves, House of the Turtle as well as the Great Pyramid. Luckily the day was slightly overcast which helped keep it cool although it was very humid and still a little uncomfortable. We both climbed the Great Pyramid which gave us wonderful views over the entire site and the plains of the Yucatan.

We have enjoyed our stay so far and look forward to visiting all the other wonderful things the Yucatan has to offer in the next 2 months.

Additional photos below
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4th September 2012

Love, love,love following your trip
Love flamingos so thanks for the photos. Looking forward to what you learn about your new town and surrounding area. Keep writing.
4th September 2012
Yucatan Fishing Boat

Travel with boat
"This was such an informative post. I have definitely learnt a point or two from this. Great work!. Keep ém coming."
5th September 2012
Our House, Merida

Your Blog
I enjoyed reading your blog on recent move to Merida. We are planning on coming to Merida in March and staying downtown. Have you found any good restaurants?...................
5th September 2012
Our House, Merida

Peter, First of all, thank you for writing! I hope you like Merida as much as I do. Usually, we eat dinner at home and only eat lunch out when we're out doing things. Downtown Merida has a plethora of good restaurants; there's also Trip Advisor - A quirky little must-try restaurant that's a bit out of Centro Historico is the Smoking Club #1. I don't know why it's named that, but it serves the BEST cochinita!Two sandwiches and two drinks (non-alcoholic) cost us less than $6. It's on Calle 60, next to the American Consulate. I hope this helps!
5th September 2012

Great house and photos!
Your house looks beautiful even if you have/get to share it with an iguana. I love Uxmal, but never got to see the flamingos--may have to return. How comfy to have a home and base for all this great exploring--what else might you find?
9th September 2012

Thanks for writing
And sorry it's taken so long for me to write back. Oh, how I envy you and your age! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!) age and funds demand that we research places to stay for a month (places are cheaper!) and drive out from there. Some places, like Merida, work well for this life style; others, like Boquete, Panama, not so much! Anyway, I enjoy your writing style - keep your blogs coming! Nanci

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