Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mérida - One of the World's Most Underrated Cities...

 This is from a 2011 article in Travel & Leisure Magazine. One of 26 cities throughout the world T& L has named underrated, Mérida, Yucatán shares the honor with a few well known places, such as Philadelphia and Denver, Bordeaux, France and Valencia, Spain, as well as a number of less well known cities like Durban, South Africa and Nara, Japan.  Other cities in the southern hemisphere include Montevideo, Uruguay and Valparaíso, Chile.

It's not likely that we will ever make a trip to South Africa or Nara, Japan, but Uruguay and Chile are certainly in the realm of possibilities, when we soon make our permanent home in Mérida.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tequila and Passion...

If you are in the mood for a rather good Mexican period film, Tequila: A Story of Passion is currently available through HBO On Demand. It is a beautifully filmed and sensitively acted story of a forbidden love affair between Antonio (Unax Ugalde) and Lola (Daniela Schmidt), the beautiful wife of his uncle Vicente (Salvador Sanchez). The setting is the town of Tequila, Jalisco in 1942 and a grand tequila hacienda where Vincente is engaged in business with two gringos who are invited to stay at the hacienda until the tequila is ready for tasting. While everyone is asleep, Antonio, disguised as a worker sneaks into Lola's bedroom and stays the night. We find out a bit later in the film just why she doesn't sleep in the same room as her husband. Having stayed in Lola's bedroom until dawn, the waking workers think that Antonio is a thief and attempt to thwart his escape. He flees on his horse, but with a tragic consequence. When he returns to the hacienda the following day, having been fetched by his uncle to return to work, he is confronted with unsettling news by Milogros, the daughter of a hacienda foreman.

As the lies protecting his relationship with Lola begin to unravel, the only option is for the couple to flee the hacienda and begin a new life in the city.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mexico 2012 Awesome!

I'm always looking for new and interesting videos and articles on Mexico. This You Tube video shows the incredible diversity of landscape in this great country -from desert to snow-capped mountains, from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Coast, and from quaint and colorful colonial towns to the vibrancy of Ciudad de México. I can hardly wait to travel and photograph many of these sites.

And some good economic news.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


The new immigration laws for Mexico have been instituted and are currently being reviewed by the appropriate government agencies for proper application. I've read the new rules, as have groups like Yucatán Expatriate Services (Y.E.S.) and it appears that everyone is waiting for the final interpretation before stating definitive actions to be taken by new and existing expatriates. Click on the link for their website and a thorough discussion of the new regulations can be viewed. In a nutshell, this is the bottom line:

The Migratory status of "Non-Immigrant" (previously known as FM3), "Immigrant" (previously known as FM2) and "Immigrated" (Inmigrado) shall cease to exist and shall be replaced by visas that pertain to the 'conditions of stay.' The new designations will be Visitor (Visitante), Temporary Resident (Residente Temporal) and Permanent Resident (Residente Permanente).

I tend to like the new designations. With the previous FM3 visa, someone with property in Mexico and who resides in the country, up to a period of five years, was considered a "non-immigrant." If so desired, after that period of time, one could apply for the FM2 visa and become an "immigrant." Those terms have been replaced with "temporary" or "permanent" resident. And, if I have read correctly, the length of time required for becoming a permanent resident has been reduced to four years.

Also, a significant change, if I understand correctly, is that the various visas are to be obtained in the United States prior to arriving in Mexico and will be valid for up to 180 days. Once you cross the border you have 30 days in which to make a visit to INM for the permanent visa card. I wonder if this will, in any way, facilitate the border crossing process?

I'm still somewhat confused about the financial qualifications needed for temporary or permanent residency. It does appear that the required minimum monthly income has increased substantially. That could be a deterrent for future Americans or Canadians looking to be expats. How will non-married partners be treated, if living in the same household? I've read that Mexico acknowledges same-sex marriages that are valid in the country of origin. Do we need to plan a wedding in Maryland, or D.C.?

      Update:  I just read that Yucatán implemented the new law on Friday, November 9.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Two Men's Junk ...

We were up at 6:00 AM Saturday morning, setting up tables for a Yard Sale for items that did not find a home when we had the estate sale a few weeks ago. This set-up was a whole lot easier than the previous 3 day event and our expectations were not nearly as high. At yard sales, people want a $10.00 wine glass for 50 cents and a Cuisinart stainless steel coffee maker priced at $15.00 for, obviously much less, because it didn't sell.  There were the really nice margarita glasses priced at $1.00 each that no one wanted. The 27 inch iMac with a crashed hard drive actually sold very quickly. I'm certain we had that way under priced. Things like a partially used table top candle went for 25 cents and a zip-lock bag full of never used greeting cards for 50 cents. Who knew anyone still mails greeting cards in this age of e-Cards with singing elves? Hardback books at 50 cents seemed to be the most popular item and we sold dozens.

The quite chilly morning (a little late in the season for such an event) and the still poor economy failed to deliver the usual throngs waiting in line for the sale to begin. I sat outside, in my blue fleece hoodie, from 9 AM until 2 PM, and with Alan's help we disposed of miscellaneous items that had been crammed into closets and chests of drawers for decades. When the sale ended, I boxed and bagged the leftovers and waited for the truck from Victory Home to take the items back to their thrift shop.

I can't tell you how good it feels to have all that 'stuff' gone. I feel that starting this process several months in advance of the actual move is far less stressful than a last minute purge. It will be quite easy to get out of the house once it sells. We have just enough furniture remaining to meet our needs, and there will be no packing countless boxes to move to another location.

To wind down, on Sunday afternoon we took the dogs to an almost deserted beach to frolic in the sand for a while, much to their delight. We then brushed off the sand, climbed into the motor home, fetched a few tacos from the Taco Bell across the street and settled in for a nap. I think our pups actually like their new little home.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Boondocking Across Mexico

Years ago I fantasized about driving across the United States in a nice, comfortable motorhome visiting all the sites we have never seen, travelling slowly and aimlessly to wherever the winds blew us. Alas, there was very little time, with busy careers, to nourish this fantasy and it eventually died. This was, of course, all pre-Mexico.  I never really considered us to be "RV" people, but the thought of an extended trip exploring all the nooks and crannies seemed like a nice adventure, if a bit unrealistic for two people who, shall we say, favor slightly posher accommodations.  We went through a phase of tent camping a few years back and I must say that I love a campfire, but sleeping on hard, cold, damp earth is not for me. A nice little cabin in the woods with a decent bed is somewhat better, but a slick hotel or interesting B & B with unlimited restaurants nearby is supreme. No worry of ticks and chiggers which are rampant in our neck of the woods.

Now, remember how Alan and I (well.... mostly I) have anguished over how we will get ourselves and our animals to Mérida? Problem solved. No more relying on the empty promise of a Tampa ferry. No more dreading the thought of transporting our "kids" in a cargo hold that would probably take a year off their already short lives. Well, we still dread driving through the border area, but I've read all the RV forums and it seems that dozens of people do it every day with no problems. I figure having two dogs, who can be aggressive when they perceive that we are being threatened, can't hurt.

The solution? Well, I have to take credit for this brilliant idea. When thinking of driving with our two dogs and the cat in our Ford Escape, with a minimum of eight days on the road, it just seemed impossible without keeping them all heavily sedated. I started reading an RV forum and had the idea that a Class B motorhome would be ideal. They are fully contained, with two captain's chairs, an enclosed toilet and shower, a kitchen area with sink,  small refrigerator,  space for an induction cooktop, and a sleeping area with two twins which can fold out to a King bed. All this is on a gas-guzzling Ford E-350 Van chassis, that is only 20 feet long and fits in most any parking space. It doesn't need to be leveled, and can be hooked up to a campground's electricity when not using the generator fueled by the 35-gallon gas tank.

2004 Pleasure-Way

When Alan came on board with the idea, we started looking online and were flabbergasted by the sticker price. We soon found that there is a market for used Class B's, which is what most people can afford. We tried E-Bay, Craigslist, and for sale by owner. Most used units are well maintained because anyone who can afford a new one is going to take care of it. We finally found one we liked, and last Wednesday I flew to Gainesville, FL and drove it home. It's a 2004, with only 31,000 miles and looks brand new inside and out. We are thrilled - the dogs could not care less, but they will learn that it is just another of our homes, albeit a small one.

Within a few months after we arrive in Mérida, the vehicle will be 10 years old and, if we were told correctly by Girl Friday, we should be able to nationalize it with our FM3's. If anyone can verify this, we would appreciate a comment. Other's have said we need the FM2.

Also, we will be able to make short boondocking trips ( check out  this blog - I met Chris through the RV forum and have had a few nice e-mail chats with him) throughout Yucatán and southern Mexico and we won't have to board the dogs. Here's hoping we can find a good, secure spot to park it. It's a tad too large for our garage.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stepping Up the Timeline II

One day, in the not too distant future, this blog will originate in Mérida, not southeastern Virginia.
A major step was taken this past weekend, when our home in Norfolk was opened to scores of people searching for antiques and other assorted housewares at bargain prices. We just ended a three day estate sale and I can tell you this... it's a lot of work and we are exhausted. We contracted with an estate sale company because we read that it is not advisable to do this on your own. It does seem, though, that we did most of the work and paid them a hefty fee to collect the money.  That being said, the sale went very well and we are now living in an almost empty house. There are still a few items remaining that will go to a local auction house and we will have a yard sale to get rid of the remaining junk. Was it an emotional experience?  Not in the least.  We have been told that letting go of material possessions can be very freeing and that is exactly the case. The moment we made a decision to purchase a home in the Yucatán we began a gradual detachment from all that we have accumulated over a lifetime. Other than a very few small items that will fit in our luggage or vehicle, everything is going.  It feels really good to have most of the furniture gone. The house is almost empty open and less cluttered and it will be much easier to keep clean once it goes on the market.

That's the next step.

Out of clutter find simplicity; from discord find harmony; in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ~Einstein

Monday, September 3, 2012

House Hunting in Mérida

A post I read earlier today by Lee from Imagine Mérida got me to thinking. What kind of people are actually moving here? Well, actually all kinds, but from what I have seen, there are scores of people who have retired and are financially secure enough to purchase a home and make the transition. Many stay for years or decades and others find that life in a noisy, hot and humid city is just too much or they miss their families back in the States. There are the younger folks who have internet businesses that can be based anywhere in the world. How lucky to be able to work and live in any place you choose. Then there are the brave entrepreneurs, young and older, who come to this tropical city to start up a new business -art galleries, hair salons, video production companies. I truly admire these brave and successful adventurers.

All of these expats live in homes that run the gamut from modest to extravagant, with most somewhere in the middle, all beautiful in their individual styles. Many of us fall in love with Mérida after seeing it for the very first time on House Hunters International. For us, it was the episode with two guys, Erich and Rob, just returning from working in Japan, ready to purchase a colonial style home in the Centro. I don't remember the exact budget, but I know that it was less than 200K. We thought, Gee, all that style and a pool for that amount of money? For the next year, we spent hours and hours checking the real estate sites and dreaming of owning one of those beautiful old homes. Our first trip to Mérida was in January, 2010. We were going to see if the city really suited us and if we thought that we could move there permanently. Despite all the advice we had read that said 'rent for a year before you buy', we found a house, perfectly located, that had recently been renovated and was just waiting for us. We ignored the advice and have not regretted our purchase one bit. No, it was not the Ponce masterpiece we had longed for, but we found out rather quickly that those were not in our price range. Sure, we could have bought a ruin and possibly renovated it for a little less than what we paid, but we decided early on that a long distance project in a foreign country would not work for us. Instead, we found a Victor Cruz designed home in Santa Ana that was perfect for us.

Which brings me to this. There are still houses on the market in the Centro that have style, are architect designed, and affordable. They are not huge homes, but how much space does one couple and a pet or two need?  Here are five such homes, two of which are Victor Cruz renovations.






These five homes range in price from $124,500 to $159,000 and all have been tastefully renovated.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


My blog gets a reasonable amount of traffic, especially for someone who blogs much less frequently than before. I started out authorizing each comment as they were submitted, just in case I received one that was offensive in nature. In all this time, I have received only one inappropriate comment that was directed at someone I had mentioned in a post. The comment was rude and not relevant to my post and was therefore deleted. Most of the comments on my site are from other Mérida bloggers or an occasional guest responding to the post. My posts don't always generate a lot of comments, even though I can see that  there are quite a number of  "lookers." I can't say "readers" because I don't know if everyone actually reads the posts.  Once I decided that I needed to get my ego out of the process,  I relaxed and simply became pleased that I've managed to keep it going since January 3, 2011.

Anyway,  at some point I just decided to open the comments to anyone without having to verify the comment. It just made sense that comments could be posted as they come in without my having to be physically present at a computer. There was the other option of requiring word verification  (CAPTCHA), but I always found those to be a bit tedious. Some are relatively easy, but lately I've found some sites that seem to have initiated a level of security that I find baffling. I'm curious. Is there a way to set the level of difficulty on word verification? Like adding numbers and a line of letters in Gothic script with caps and lower case and curlicues that all run together and are next to impossible to decipher? Just wondering. I even have two new lenses in my eyes that are getting me close to 20/20 vision for the first time in 24 years. I tried the Captcha "sound" option that resulted in a warbled robotic tone that I couldn't understand and that made me want to smash my keypad.

Here's what I've decided. If I encounter a site with a CAPTCHA security, I'll give it the old college try. If I miss the first go, I might try a second time if I really want to leave a comment. If I miss on the second try, I'm likely to stop at that point.  No offense to those who use this type of security measure, but it's more likely to prevent me from commenting than a bot.

This from Wikipedia:

Due to the sound distortion present in audio CAPTCHAs and visual distortion present in visual CAPTCHAs, offering one as an alternative to the other does not help people with impairments in both areas. While deafblind is a small group, having some degree of impairment in both areas is actually common, and very common amongst older people.

Well, there you have it folks.  I'm now relegated to the "older people" category. Good thing I'm still young at heart...


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seeing Things in a New Light

Literally.  My eyesight is not something I enjoy playing around with. Several years ago, when having my eyes checked, the ophthalmologist commented that I was "very critical of my vision." I suppose that what he really meant was that I was a bit too fussy. "Which is better,  #1 or #2?" "Um, I'm not sure." Then he would place the lenses in front of my eyes again. "#1 or #2?" I would swear that he had placed a totally different strength for me to select as the one offering the clearest vision. "I think #1 is the best," I would say, and then he would start over again.  A week later, when I had received my new glasses, I would be certain that he had given me #2 rather than #1.  Eventually my eyes would adjust to the new lenses and I would forget about the frustrating office visit.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago.  During a routine eye exam, the optometrist noticed that the intraocular pressure in my eyes was too high for the dilation procedure to check for glaucoma, so I was referred to a glaucoma specialist. I was told that, although I did not have narrow angle glaucoma, the angles were narrow (probably congenitally) and that I was at risk for an acute angle closure which can cause optic nerve damage and blindness. She performed a laser procedure to drill a tiny hole in each eye which would act as additional drainage for the intraocular fluid. This helped a bit, but another laser procedure was required. This seemed to work for about a year.  Then, at my yearly follow-up visit, the pressure was too high once again. I was then placed on Pilocarpine eye drops twice a day, which dilated my pupils and caused blurry vision as well as lowering the pressure.  It felt like I was wearing a pair of oily sunglasses for a few hours after instilling the drops. After about three weeks of this, at my next follow-up visit, the pressure was still too high.

The next step was a surgical procedure to remove the natural lens and implant an artificial lens. This is the same procedure as for cataracts, although I do not have cataracts. Yet. The surgeon said that I would eventually have them and that the surgery would be required. The trick with this procedure is that by removing the thicker natural lens and replacing with a thinner artificial lens, there would be more room and the angle would, hopefully, open up.  The added benefit of this surgery is that my vision can be corrected and I will not likely need glasses except for close-up reading.

I had the surgery on my left eye July 20th. My vision is brighter and better in that eye, although not perfect yet. It takes a while for the muscles to adjust. Surgery on the right eye is scheduled for August 17th. I'll be thankful when this is all over and I'm not trying to read or work on the computer with one eye. I miss my photography.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stepping Up the Timeline

We've been saying for a while now, both on the blog and to people we know, that we will be moving to Mérida in the near future. The truth is, we were never really sure when it would happen. We've both felt like we have one foot here and the other there, waiting for the stars to align, the cards to be right, or that blasted ferry to become a reality. We've come to the conclusion that the best way to move forward is to rid ourselves of a lifetime of accumulated possessions. The Tampa ferry is not going to begin operation in order to facilitate our move. In fact, it might never become a reality. We will most likely make the dreaded drive, with our animals and what few mementos we wish to keep, in one vehicle.

So, we have contacted an estate sale company and will have a three-day sale in late September. What doesn't sell will be taken to an auction house (furniture) or a thrift shop (clothes, books, and countless boxes of other stuff). We will hang on to the best of Alan's cookware, knives, and a few small keepsakes. After the sale, we will put the mostly empty house on the market staged with a bed and a few other pieces of furniture from our condo which is now rented. We don't know how fast the house will sell. It could be quickly or it could take several months. Either way, once that happens, we will have nowhere to live except that lovely little place in Mexico.

I have been feeling a bit anxious and frustrated lately, like we are stuck and not moving forward with our plans. There's most likely an element of fear in there somewhere, with questions like "How will we manage this?" "This move is going to be overwhelming." "How will we ever drive for six days with two dogs and a cat that has not been outside of our home in over 4 years?" I would like to be able to approach this in the way that I TRY to live my life -one day at a time. Perhaps, once on the road, our mantra will need to be 'one mile at a time.' If only we could teach that to the animals!

A really bad older exposure that I fiddled around with and converted to
black and white for fun...

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Letter to President Peña Nieto

Dear President Enrique Peña Nieto,

First, let me offer my congratulations on your victory and wish you the very best as you lead Mexico for the next six years.  Mexico is a great country and I have come to love the corner where I'll soon be living  -Yucatan-  very much. I've met many of the foreign expatriates who have come to make Mérida their home. The vast majority have visited and lived there while the country was under the capable leadership of Vincente Fox or Felipe Calderon. While, as expatriates, we do not participate in the political activities of Mexico, we honor and respect your laws and we strive to be recognized as good neighbors.

As guests in your country, we hope that you will welcome us with the same regard as previous administrations, but most of all we hope that you will work to make life better for the Mexican people, especially those in most need.

Felicitaciones por su elección,

 ¡Viva México!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Top Best Ways to Beat The Heat in Mérida

The heat and humidity can be challenging this time of year and it is important to know just how to beat it. This is especially true for those of us who are in town only sporadically and have not yet acclimated. With that thought in mind, I would like to share my favorite ways to cool down and remain at least relatively dry.

1. Sit all day at the computer with a floor fan no more than 3 feet away, pointed directly at you and turned to the high position.  It helps if there is also a ceiling fan directly overhead. If you have to have food, make sure it is cold -celery and carrot sticks with your favorite dip, a nice crisp salad with sliced cucumber. Hint: if you would like to rest your eyes for a few moments, move to the bedroom along with the floor fan, grab a couple of cool cucumber slices and place over your eyes. Relax and think of those cooler days.

    -this works equally well with reading, writing, or cross-stitching.

 Downside: you're stuck inside and not really enjoying the sights of this fabulous city.

2. Get in your car or call an air conditioned cab and head for the mall. Stay there for several hours, window shopping and sipping a cool drink. At least with this option you can kill two birds with one stone - staying cool and getting exercise by walking around the mall. Hint: Wear sensible shoes. When you return home, go back to number 1.

    -you could also try hopping from one air-conditioned restaurant or coffee shop to another, but be aware that staying too long in either of these establishments obligates you to spend money.

    Downside: see number 1.

3. Jump in the pool, if you are so fortunate as to have one, and stay there. Come out only for potty breaks (don't be tempted), grab a cool drink and slide back in. If your skin starts to look like a well-dried prune, recover only in a shady spot. If your space lacks a shady spot, sit on the edge of the pool with a cool drink in one hand and a large umbrella in the other.

    Downside: although more enjoyable than numbers 1 and 2, you're still not taking advantage of the sights (or sites).

4. This is the best and my favorite way to beat the heat. Get yourself down to La Michoacana on Calle 47 y 60, right next door to Comex and just across the street from Parque Santa Ana. It is a small, walk-in store selling cold drinks and frozen treats, but not just ho-hum treats. The frozen fruit bars are, in a word, divine. They come in a variety of tropical fruit flavors , my favorite being lime (I'm saying OMG here). Don't just buy one or two. Take a small, hand-held cooler and fill it up. Keep your freezer stocked with these frozen wonders and keep your cool.

   hint:  enjoy one on your walk back home or to your chosen destination.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

OpSail 2012

I wandered down to the riverfront with my camera late yesterday in hopes of capturing a few images of the Tall Ships that have arrived from all over the world to participate in OpSail 2012. This extravaganza happens once a decade or so and the ships spend a few days in each of several ports along the East Coast.  
Unfortunately, I missed the Parade of Sails when all of the Tall Ships display full sail from the Chesapeake Bay to the Elizabeth River and then by power on in to the harbor. I witnessed this in 2000 and it was quite a spectacle. There were so many people at the waterfront yesterday that I was unable to get any great photos of the ships. I could not find the Cuauhtemoc, a 270' Barque from Mexico, but will try to locate it on Sunday.  Here are a few pics of "parts" of the big boats and not so big boats.

El Arte Abstracto

Securing the sails

Bow of Tall Ship Juan Sebastian de Elcano -Spain

 Stern of Juan Sebastian de Elcano - 370'

Norwegian Monster  -the very top of HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl -Norway

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Art -messages of hope and loss

It is not always that art and sheer genius go hand in hand.

In the case of this artist and sculptor, his work is both visually stunning and environmentally sound.

From his website:

Jason deCaires Taylor is an internationally acclaimed eco-sculptor who creates underwater living sculptures, offering viewers mysterious, ephemeral encounters and fleeting glimmers of another world where art develops from the effects of nature on the efforts of man. His site-specific, permanent installations are designed to act as artificial reefs, attracting corals, increasing marine biomass and aggregating fish species, while crucially diverting tourists away from fragile natural reefs and thus providing space for natural rejuvenation. Subject to the abstract metamorphosis of the underwater environment, his works symbolize a striking symbiosis between man and nature, balancing messages of hope and loss.

His new installation at the The Museum of Underwater Modern Art, Mexico in Cancún (Museo Subacuático de Arte) can be seen by clicking on the link below.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spring maintenance

We had planned on changing the color of the fachada of our house on our trip to Mérida in late April and had arranged for the painter to come early on in our visit. We had also asked our property manager to have the pool drained and the sarro (buildup of minerals) scrubbed away. The price for painting the facade was 1600.00MX, or about 112.00US. This is, literally, a tenth or less of what we would pay for the same amount of painting here at home. I figured the pool cleaning would not be much either, even though scrubbing a quite large concrete pool in the hot sun is work. I was not wrong. The cost was 1700.00MX ($119.00) and included in that price was some woodwork cleaning inside the house by the wife of the contractor.

I have been told that the mini-split A/C units should be cleaned and serviced at least once a year to keep them operating efficiently. We have seven units, one in each room. The cost 2450.00MX ($172.00 or about $25.00 per unit). In February, one of the units needed a part replaced ($2200.00MX or $154.00).
We've about decided that if other units breakdown, with the exception of the two bedrooms and the studio where our computers will be located, we will remove them and patch the walls. This is an expense that we will want to avoid once living on retirement income.

I suppose the point of this post is to just say that, even though the labor costs in Mérida are quite low (sometimes embarrassingly low), all these little maintenance costs add up. Pool pumps, filters, fountain pumps, water softener systems, water purifiers, tenacos -all require maintenance with some degree of regularity. In January, a tenant complained that the dishwasher wasn't working properly. It had to be removed, taken away and cleaned to remove all the mineral deposits (875.00MX or $61.00). Dishwashers are nice if you entertain frequently (we don't), so if after we move down and it fails, out it could possibly go -one less appliance to drain the costly electricity and break down. Besides, they don't sell automatic dish washing detergent in our local grocery store. Time to experience the Zen of hand washing our dishes.

With all expenses for the month, including management fees, weekly housecleaning, once a week pool maintenance, bi-weekly gardener to keep the small garden (literally) hacked down to manageable levels, salt, chlorine, gas, phone and internet, April was an expensive month -over $1200.00. Thankfully, every month is not that bad. Owning a home in another country, with the cost of airfare to Mérida now over $800.00, can be challenging. It's still  worth all the expense and I don't regret a thing, but I do want to hurry up and move.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yucatán jungle

I ran across this You Tube video posted by JCVdude and thought "now that would be a nice excursion for our next trip - the jungles of the Mayan Riviera. Beautiful. However, I'm not sure I would want to get this close to one of these cats.

Monday, May 7, 2012

In Mérida

The new color
(no longer guacamole)
The first seven days in our house were terrific. We met up with Susan and TJ and enjoyed a great dinner at Rescoldo's, found a painting we loved at SoHo Galleries  as well as great conversation with Adele and Nick, had the facade of Lechuzas painted, and made an excursion to Uxmal and the haciendas Ochil and Yaxcopoil. Things took a quick turnaround when Alan re-injured a three week old back sprain. It's ironic that we walked all over the Centro and climbed around the ruins at Uxmal with no problem and then, while processing some photos in his iPad, he hopped off a counter stool and bam! With Naprosyn and ice packs, we thought that it would be better by morning. The spasms were quite severe for a while but eased off over a couple of days. On May 1, the holiday, I took a taxi out to Walmart and got an over-the-counter muscle relaxant that seemed to help a bit. I posted on Mexican Amigos for the name of a chiropractor and several people responded with Dr. Danny DeGraff's number but I was unable to get an answer over the last two days.  I suppose his office was closed for an extended holiday.

Getting ready to leave on May 3rd, we called United and requested a wheelchair at the airport. Even though Alan could take small steps by this time, we felt it would be easier and more comfortable if I wheeled him through the crowded terminals. As it turned out, the use of a wheelchair can make things a whole lot easier. People get out of your way and we got first boarding (right after first class, of course).
Interestingly, when I wheeled him into the United Air Club in Houston's IAH, the gentleman at the desk jumped up and asked if he could help us, as if we were lost and in the wrong place. I guess no one that is disabled joins the Air Club. After several questions that gave the impression that he was doubtful we belonged there, I pulled out the credit card that one gets as a member and suggested that if he checked the computer he would find that we were, indeed, members. Imagine!

It made a huge difference being in that space for the more than two hour layover. It was quiet, had comfortable chairs, tasty snacks and good coffee. Under these circumstances, the price of admission to this "exclusive" club was worth every cent. Although most of the people there looked just like us - tired travelers dressed quite casually- we were the only couple with one member in a wheelchair.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sights along the way to Uxmal

View from the hilltop
Our half day excursion to Uxmal began shortly before 1:00 PM last Thursday. Our driver, Jorge, arrived a bit late because his pick up ticket said Calle 47, not 47-A. Directions to our one-block-long street seem to confuse taxi drivers and others. I always try to tell them to take Calle 49 to Calle 64, turn right and then the first left. Speaking our address in español is a mouthful. It goes something like this: Buenos dias/tardes or buenas noches, por favor, Calle cuarenta y siete-A, quinientos dos-G, entre sesenta y cuatro y sesenta y seis. I've managed to learn to speak this fairly rapidly, but I'm beginning to think that my Virginia accent either confuses or amuses the drivers.

Jorge explained that the Ruta Puuc  (Puuc means hills) is so named because this area has some of the few hills in Yucatán. On the way to Uxmal we stopped briefly at a Maya rest stop (of sorts). On our next trip we will, hopefully, visit a few of the pueblos.

Another hilltop view
"Owl" House   - baños 5 pesos

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Late Saturday afternoon, just before the rain, the setting sun turned an otherwise brilliant white church this
soft color -a nice contrast to the gray storm clouds.
Parque Santiago


Once a grand hacienda, Yaxcopoil is now operated as a museum of sorts by descendants of the original owners. The grounds are dry and dusty and very little has been done to restore the buildings. For an admission price of 50 pesos, you can tour the main casa, filled with old furniture and artifacts from its heyday. The property is of a grand scale and at least one of the buildings, possibly a huge work building, was closed for viewing. Wandering through the casa can be fun, if nothing more than to take a peek at the collection of furniture and other household items. I was primarily interested in photographing architectural detail and found Hacienda Ochil and Yaxcopoil equally photogenic.

First building


View from behind a gate

Colorful and inviting

Peeking over a wall

Post and pulley
Moorish-inspired window arch

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hacienda Ochil

A short drive south of Mérida, past Uman, is a lovely faded gem of a hacienda with walls of arches in the Moorish style. You enter the grounds through a grand arch  followed by a walk through a stand of tall Royal Palms on either side. The old rail tracks that were used to carry hennequen from field to work area are still intact, running through the beautifully maintained grounds. This hacienda is primarily operated as a restaurant, but there were few customers during our visit.

The faded colors blend together in shades of ochre, coral, umber and terra-cotta.

The area around this window has decayed to reveal the indestructible mamposteria wall

This arch is truly stunning
Moorish arches are seen throughout Yucatan in many of the haciendas and in colonial style homes in
el Centro. When we first visited Mérida, we were surprised to see the extent of Moorish-inspired architecture.


A tree at the opening of this small cenote
at the rear of the hacienda
If you are hoping to see sweeping vistas in my photography, you might be disappointed. I tend to look for texture, color and detail that leaves the viewer wondering what's behind the image. Hacienda Ochil is well worth the 177.00MX admission price, if just to stroll through the beautiful, shaded, multi-terraced landscape.