Sunday, February 27, 2011

There's more to the owl story...

I will eventually get to the 'point' of the 'big decision', but first a little side story.  Fifteen or more years ago Alan became involved in an international (now global) men's organization called The New Warrior. To become a member requires each man to attend the New Warrior Training Adventure weekend. This is best described as an initiation for the modern man. The organization has since changed its name to The Mankind Project ( and is much more than a ritual weekend. Alan has been involved with the Washington D.C. group the entire time and has staffed many of the weekend trainings. During one of the exercises at the adventure weekend each man, in a vision quest of sorts, must choose an animal spirit which in some way symbolizes his personality traits. Alan's spirit animal is the owl. I found this description on the internet:

"Oh, the wise old owl. An owl knows all and sees all with its unblinking eyes. A person with the personality traits of the owl is logical and great at problem-solving. He or she may be good at mathematics and methodical in everyday tasks. The owl doesn’t break the rules. An owl may be seen at times as a perfectionist, inflexible, and slow to react. The owl is a thinker and symbolizes wisdom."

You are probably wondering where I'm going with this. You see an owl and the owl is Alan's spirit animal. And the point is? Are you saying this is some kind of an omen or sign?  Hmmm... Not sure, but there's even more to this story.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The BIG decision!

When this quest began over a year ago, the thought of retiring in Mexico seemed like another dream that would most likely fade away as others have in the past. Reality sets in, life goes on, and so forth.  Well, it seems that this dream has lingered and we have both shared a similar vision  - and when that occurs,  look out - stuff can happen when the stars are in alignment.  Our trip to Merida had a single focus. Well, actually a dual purpose - to see if we really liked this place we had scoured over the internet, and to look at several of the homes we had seen in pics or videos.  Mexico has an attraction that is difficult to explain. There is much going on there, both good and bad, not unlike the US. I have vowed not to mention politics on this blog, so I will just state that the current partisan culture here has exhausted me. I really do love my country, it's just that right now I'm quite frustrated. OK, enough said.

One of the good things about Mexico is that expats are not allowed to vote or be involved in the political process. What a relief - we can live our lives quietly and in peace, enjoying the wonders of this magnificent part of the universe. This does not mean that foreigners aren't allowed to contribute in other ways. There are many opportunities to volunteer and be of service.

When we arrived in Merida back in January, we made contact with our realtor and set up appointments to view the various houses we had selected as our favorites.  We had a couple of days on our own so we walked through the various parques and neighborhoods.  We were strolling along a street in Santiago and Francisco called out from across the street to see if we were interested in seeing a house that his friend was selling. We said 'sure', and he led us into a very dark and empty house that must have been a boarding house of sorts. There were rooms lined up on either side of a courtyard and we saw only one woman who was washing clothes in a large tin tub. We managed to convey that this was not the type property we were looking for.  He then took us next door to another friend's house which was chock full of antiques of all varieties, from French bronze candelabras to chests and armoires. The back garden was a tropical jungle with huge trees and trailing vines with leaves the size of dinner plates.  While we were standing there, the three of us speaking in our broken Spanish and English somehow managing to have a conversation, I looked up and perched on a limb of the Zapote tree was a small brown owl. He was watching us with mild curiosity and, although only a few feet above our heads, did not leave his perch. We went back inside, Francisco showed us a photo album of the home on Calle 62 that he had renovated (which was also for sale), and then we left to continue meandering through the streets of Centro. I think we both were wondering about the owl.  I'm quite sure there are many owls in Yucatan, but isn't it unusual to spot one in the middle of the day sitting barely three feet above three men laughing, speaking and gesticulating to communicate with each other?

                to be continued.....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Santa Ana - Top Location

This well located home, just a couple of blocks from Parque Santa Ana and Paseo de Montejo, is the only home we saw that was not named. Or maybe it does have a name and was just not included on the listing site or on the facade. This was also the last home we saw on our list and because we already had a couple of favorites we did not spend much time here. The floor plan was not this home's best feature. The first room you enter is set up as a dining room, with the first bedroom just to the left. The next room is the kitchen with island and beyond that a pleasant tejeban (red tile covered terrace). The master bedroom opens to the garden and a nice pool. All the rooms have well-preserved original pasta tile floors of unusual patterns.
All in all, not a bad home. It just did not speak to us. See what you think by checking it out on the Mexico International site by clicking on the link below.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

La Cochera

This is a beautifully renovated colonial home located on Calle 68 in Santiago.  The restoration was completed over a year ago by Keith Heitke and David Sterling of World Studio International. La Cochera was designed and built for a friend of theirs from New York and is now for sale.  Soaring ceilings are found throughout, including a glass greenhouse-type ceiling over the kitchen and guest bath. The garage and guest bedroom retain the original large limestone block floors.  Both bedrooms look out onto an open terrace with fountain - a nice spot for morning coffee.  The spacious sala (living room) opens to a covered terrace overlooking an impressive infinity swimming pool flanked  by tropical plants. There is a nice size bodega/laundry room just off the terrace. I've linked the You-Tube video of La Cochera. Much better than trying to describe. Notice the front door when Keith enters the home- massive!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Casa Mango

This is one of the few homes in Mérida with a gas fireplace in the sala. We had looked at Casa Mango on the real estate sites primarily because of the large lot, keeping in mind our two dogs and the difficulty of walking dogs along the streets of Mérida.  When you enter this home you immediately are drawn to a soaring display wall along the right side of the front room. In the photos what appears to be a built-in book case is actually a floor to ceiling space for displaying art objects. The fireplace, though not connected to fire logs at this time,  was in the center of the wall. There are attractive old pasta tiles throughout. The bathrooms are unique, having natural stone spouts rather than the usual shower head. I reached over and turned it on and out came a flowing stream of water fanning out into the shower area. I can only imagine it would be like taking a shower under a small mountain waterfall. The rooms are spacious with tall ceilings and the kitchen is typical Mexican style. Walking out to the back you find a huge circular pool which may have had its inspiration from the crystal clear cenotes which are found throughout the Yucatan. Beyond the pool are gates which open up to a HUGE orchard. When we saw the house there was a young man raking and cleaning the grounds. Sour oranges were all over and he had collected a large bag full. With some repair the walls could be restored and the orchard transformed into a beautiful garden. Casa Mango is located in Santiago and definitely has that lovely old colonial feel.  There is room enough to build a casita and still have a nice sized garden. There is also the sought after garage. You can see this home on Mexico International listing #002510.

WOW!!  >>>>>>

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The 'Want List'

Months ago we started a list of things we wanted in a home should we buy in Merida.  We came up with a list based on what we had seen from photos and videos on the various real estate sites.  There are numerous real estate companies in Merida; some are American owned with bilingual agents and others are owned by Yucatecans.  Buying real estate in Yucatan is quite different from what we experience in the US or Canada. There is no multiple listing source, but you will find the same house for sale on competing sites, often with different prices. When a seller reduces a price, the price reduction does not always get changed on all the sites. I have seen a house reduced by USD $50K on one web site with the original price on another site, even after several months.  It probably pays to check all of the sites even if you have chosen one over the other.  But I digress. The point of this post is to share our want list (not in any order of importance):

1.  Location - within walking distance of varios parques.

2.  Colonial facade - preferably with high beamed ceilings.

3.  Single story and high privacy walls.

4.  Arcos y columnas  (arches and columns).

5.  Dos dormitorios / dos baños

6.  Great cocina y baños

7.  Medium size piscina (swimming pool)- not too large, not too small, long enough for laps would be great.

8.  At least some garden area- large enough to grow some beautiful tropical plants and at least a potted limón tree or two.

9.  A patio central (central courtyard) with fountain would be nice.

10. Architect designed & construction management.

11. Lots of light, indoor/outdoor living

It's possible to find most of these things in several houses on the market at this time. It all boils down to finding the one you like best that is within your budget.  Or you can choose the option of purchasing a home that is in need of renovation and have all the desired elements included in the design. We think that at this time we will opt to experience the joys (and pitfalls) of renovation vicariously through more adventurous and brave mortals.  Our first home in Merida will be one that has already been renovated. Did I just say 'first'?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A second look at Yucatan Adventure site

I took a closer look at this website and it is so much more than a resource on the flora and fauna of Yucatan. It is a volunteer website fully devoted to Maya culture, eco-tourism, and social work. The site is supported by a long list of sponsors, including major donor Hacienda Chichen Resort. It's interesting that just yesterday I was reading Susan's blog (Moving to Merida) and she had a post on eco-tourism that included an interactive game. The object of the game is to help an indigenous village develop an eco-tourism business to provide income in order to stop the demise of the rain forest.  There is an option at every juncture of the development and you must decide which to take - whether to move forward with the eco-business and risk changing forever the way of life of this village in order to stop deforestation, or not.
It's an interesting exercise that really caused me to ponder the consequences of my decisions.

See Yucatan Adventure site under my favorite links

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dreaming of a tropical garden...

Just happened upon this beautiful web site with photos and descriptions of plants and trees that are indigenous to or can be grown in Yucatan. Check it out if you are interested.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Casa Brevis

Casa Brevis is another home renovated by Henry Ponce. It is in our top 10 because we really like the finishes, the house has lots of light, is very open, and the "special" living room with a really long trough fountain is a great feature. We like the simple, tasteful, uncluttered look, and the spacious kitchen. When we opened the front door of this home, we were greeted by workmen with scaffolding erected in the front room and one of the bedrooms. They were there cleaning the floors, scraping the walls, and painting. The beautiful floors were covered in dust as were all the other surfaces. The house is described as "a small, but stylish historical home.  The professional photography can play tricks on your eyes. The photos make the rooms appear deeper and the hallways longer. The pool and garden area is really quite small, but nice nonetheless. We were disappointed that there was no covered terrace area outside - a problem if you want to be outside in a space with ceiling fans. And then there is the lack of adequate ( for us gringos ) storage space. I think the message here is that we can and should do with less 'stuff'. Casa Brevis is located on Calle 51 in Santa Lucia and is a stone's throw from the Remate and all that is going on in Centro. A look at the video will confirm that this could also be a nice place to call home!

Casa de Los Sueños

Los Sueños is a beautiful home located in Santa Ana that was designed and renovated by architect Henry Ponce.
This house has been on the market for quite a while and we wondered why such a great home has not sold, especially since most people love his homes. When Keith showed it to us, the first thing we noticed was that we had to drive around several blocks to finally find a parking space. Although there is probably a public parking place in the neighborhood, street parking is difficult.  Entering the home, the first thing we noticed were the soaring ceilings. There is a sala (living room), a second sala, offfice, and dining room. The flow is really great, with a great covered terrace leading to the pool and garden, a pergola, and stairs that lead to a roof terrace.The kitchen, with thick granite countertops, opens to a central courtyard through arched iron and glass doors. Although the house needs some cosmetic work ( entire house needs painting), the location is great and is only a few blocks from Paseo de Montejo.  This would be a great place to call home. No video, but you can see the pics on Mexico International site listing # 002529. Click on the link and type in the above number on "Enter Property Code" and hit 'Search.'