Monday, May 30, 2011

More construction photos 3

Here are a few photos of the studio, which was originally a third bedroom (?) at the rear of the house. It had a low, low ceiling, so the architect created a sloped red tile roof to complement the tejeban.

This shows the original blue wall with raised and sloped roof which, according to the previous owners, went up in one day.
Another view showing scaffolding and recycled tree trunks to support the roof.

Outside view with rough finish cement. The pink structure is the outside wall of the half bath  inside the studio. The room appears small in this photo but is actually a nice size room.

Victor Cruz's signature built-in curved cement shelves with recessed outlets for computer cables, and door to half bath.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More construction photos 2

Adding a little flourish to the archway from entrance room to sala

Stones, concrete, trowel....completado!

Raising the roof to one of the baños using concrete blocks

Original roof removed to increase the height and add sky light/vent

Ooops, this is not what the bookcase in the kitchen should look like...

No problem, we can correct the mistake in no time. Now the microwave will fit into the bottom shelf!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The drive

Well, we had an uneventful drive from Cancún to Mérida. The drive is a straight shot via the toll rode and traffic is light and fast moving, with speed limits from 80-110 Km/hr (you'll have to make the conversion yourself- brain too tired tonight).  We stopped once for a soda and some japones ( dry roasted peanuts with a coating of sugar, lime, and spices), twice at the toll booth, and once for the policia estatal who wanted to know if we were headed to Chichen Itza, which is where most gringos drive to from CUN. He asked to see the car rental papers, looked at the tag, and waved us on with no hint of a smile.  Since most Yucatecans smile when greeted with buenos dias, I'm assuming that the police do not because they must
appear stern and authoritative.

We received a call from our property manager just minutes before the exit to the Centro and about 20 minutes later we pulled into the garage.  Directions given to us by Laurel, a commenter on this blog, got us here without a hitch. Thanks Laurel. Now that I've driven around the Centro a bit, it's not nearly as intimidating as I imagined. In spite of the fact that I have made a few driving mistakes, I have yet to be given the finger or see another driver mouth those two words most favored by US drivers.

I would not hesitate to make this drive again, but here's the rub. I made the car rental reservation through Priceline, using Alamo. The rate was very attractive for a mid-size at $132 USD for 7 days, unlimited mileage. I even signed up for the collision coverage, an additional $11 USD per day. Better safe than sorry. That still seemed not so bad at $210 for the week. Then, when we got to the reservation desk at the airport, we were told that an additional mandatory charge of $12.99 per day was required for liability insurance. OK, mandatory means we have no choice, so I signed up. We were then driven to the Alamo parking lot a short distance from the airport. The very nice man at the desk started entering all the information we were providing, and explained that a third party was covered if injured in an accident but that we were responsible for the full cost of the car. Wha...? For $35 USD per day we could relax and have no worries. "Don't worry.. Be happy." We checked for scratches and dents, hopped in and away we drove. Total cost: $449 for the week, unlimited mileage, return with empty gas tank. Piece of mind: Priceless.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A pink prick of bougainvilla

I found this poetic piece from Working Gringos of Yucatan Living. Mérida Moments was written in 2007 and elicits wonderful thoughts of the city.  A second article attempts to show the "dark side" of Mérida, but in the end seems to conclude that many of the downsides can also be found in most any city in the US. As I write this, we are battling an army of ants (the second such battle) that have invaded our kitchen, and it is impossible to spend more than a few minutes in our backyard from June to October without being attacked by a swarm of fierce mosquitoes. In the summer we periodically have tropic-like torrential downpours that cause such severe flooding in many of the streets of our neighborhood that unwitting drivers find themselves in a river of water that stalls and permanently ruins the vehicle.  Our cars have been broken into several times - kids looking for loose change. A couple of years ago three of our neighbors had their cars stolen in a single night, a couple of which were later found but trashed. There have been 20 homicides in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach metro area year to date. The number of robberies, burglaries, and other serious crimes are in the hundreds.  A major trauma center three blocks from our home has a constant stream of ambulances - sirens screeching, horns blaring - bringing in the next  MVA (motor vehicle accident) or stabbing.

And, after a winter with a 14-inch snowfall, I can imagine that the 100+ degree heat will require some getting used to, but I'm game.

Speaking of pink, I really love this building.
(from our trip in January)

And this house with the pink prick of bougainvilla...

pink corner

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Driving from Cancún

Getting to Mérida by air, land, or sea is not an easy task. Especially if you live in the mid-Atlantic coastal region, which despite having the largest naval base in the world and a population approaching two million, is practically backwoods when it comes to air travel. We CAN get to MID from Norfolk, but it takes all day and is quite expensive. On the other hand, we can get to CUN (airport lingo for Cancún) for about half the price and in just over 5 hours from takeoff to landing. Only problem is that we then have to make the four hour trip by land via the toll road to our destination in El Centro. We've tried the ADO shuttle vans, which can make the trip in about 3 1/2 hours but can feel somewhat cramped when taking the full load of 12 passengers.  The ADO Platino (luxury bus) is amazingly comfortable and comes with your personal mini DVD screen, but I got a little queasy watching the movie, so I turned it off. Plus, it can be somewhat confusing getting to the correct ADO bus when exiting the airport because everyone points you in a different direction. Then you have to worry about getting back to CUN with sufficient time to catch the flight home. Last trip I had to take the bus to Cancún the night before my flight home. Oy!

So..., this trip we have rented a car and will drive ourselves from CUN to Calle 47.  The car rental is not much more than the cost of 2 round trip bus tickets and we can make our own schedule. I think I am comfortable with the toll road; it's a straight shot and has light traffic. Once I get to Mérida I'm not so sure. I've already google-mapped the route from MX-180 and it seems fairly easy, but I'm hoping that late afternoon traffic on a Saturday will be light. We've got to learn to drive there sooner or later.

If anyone out there has some advice on how best to get to El Centro from the toll road, please feel free to comment.

The solution is just to hurry up and move to Mérida!
 (image from free clip-art)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nature's devastating fury

This unattributed photo of a EF3 tornado that struck Ringgold, GA was forwarded to me by my sister. Over three hundred people have been killed throughout the South in the deadliest storm since 1925. Thousands have lost their homes, left with no more than the clothes they were wearing when the tornadoes struck. Tens of thousands are without electricity. One of our cousins was in the path of another tornado and escaped injury, although their home was completely destroyed.

My nephew's reaction to this photo... "this thing looks alive, the most evil looking thing I have ever seen."