Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Much has been written on the haciendas of the Yucatan. I would like to spend some time photographing  and exploring some of these wonderful historical building.  Their beauty astounds me. A few are museums, three are 5 star hotels, others are private residences and some are abandoned ruins. Sometimes you just come across one riding down a small road.

Other like Yaxcopoil are on the Puuc Route and are routinely stopped at by tour groups. 

This should fill up some of our time!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Day Trip From Merida

PQ in Egypt
Carlos and I  love ancient civilizations and have traveled all over the world to explore them. Our first trip many years ago was to Tikal in the Guatemala jungle where we spent a wonderful week staying in the lodge on site and arriving at the ruins at dawn, way before any other tourists arrived. We visited roman aqueducts in Spain,  viking ship remains in Copenhagen, and Roman ruins in Florence and Rome. Finally for our 50th birthdays we booked an adventure tour of Egypt which included tours of Valley of the Kings by donkey, Abu Simbel via road, and a three day camel trek in the Sinai Peninsula. That about did me in! So when Carlos decided for his 55 b-day to hike the Inca Trail (4 days) to Machu Picchu I said, "Have a great time and send me lots of photos!"
CQ at Machu Picchu
Soon we will be living in the center of some of the most important and magnificent Maya archaeological sites in Mexico and close to other sites in Belize, Honduras and Guatemala. We foresee a future filled with exploration. In past vacations to Merida we have explored Uxmal, Kabah and Chichen Itza. This past trip in December we explored Mayapan.

Mayapan only had about 5 other visitors the afternoon we spent there in December. It truly is a different experience than the crowds at Chichen Itza. The quiet of the day with the sounds of birds and insects and only a few soft voices makes it magical. You can sit quietly and dream of the days of the Mayan empire and let your imagination soar. I did.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Santiago Park

I love Santiago Park. However I don't love pigeons or their poop all over everything. Whenever we sit in the park or at one of the small restaurants in the back I think how nice it would be if there were a power wash brigade that would wash down all the squares in Merida each night! I jokingly tell Carlos that would be my 'career' when we arrive in Merida full time! I can see it now... you could sit on a bench without going home with stains on your pants..... I would not grimace whenever I see toddlers crawling on the ground.....I'm sure it would be a whole lot healthier for everyone. Than of course I think that maybe I am just being an ugly gringa and to get with the program. I do find myself pricing power washers whenever I go into Home Depot.
CQ in Santiago Park

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can You live in Merida without going to Walmarts?

Look Farmiliar?
I'm not sure! We sure spent some time in the Walmarts in December. It was an easy walk from our house and if we bought too much or items too big, it was just a 30 Peso taxi ride home. I did a little research on Walmarts in Mexico...they have 1, 767 of them. Now I'm not sure if they are counting the Superama's or Bordega Aurrera's or VIPS or all of the other stores they own in that number. Probably not. So here are my receipts for all the 'stuff' I bought (not including monies we spent when we visited Sams or Superama)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A day trip from Merida

We decided one day that we needed to explore further in the Yucatan and my choice was to go to Celestun, also known as Parque Natural del Flamenco Mexicano.We rented a car up by Fiesta Americana (about 500 Pesos a day) and set off. Following the road map was fairly easy and we arrived after only one or two wrong turns. We bought our tickets, ( 716 pesos) got our boat and driver and we were off!
Carlos in the boat
About a 15 minute boat ride to the mangrove eco region and the boat slowly drifted closer to the birds so we could really get a good look at them. Just beautiful! We sat there for close to an hour listening to the birds, watching them take off and land and it was just amazing.
After that the tour guide took us into the mangroves, Pointed out pelicans and many other birds, talked about the importance of the mangroves and than took us for a walk into the mangroves to visit a fresh water cenote, where we could swim if we wished.. than it was back to the tour center. We tipped him (50 Pesos) and were on our way into the town of Celestun for some lunch.
The walkway into the mangroves

Beach restaurants at Celustun

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wandering Around Merida

One of our favorite activities in Merida became 'wandering around'. With no specific destination in mind, we liked to leave the house around 9am with a couple of bottles of water, a carry bag and some pesos. And we wandered, over this street and down this one, and we found many a house to admire and photographs to take. The house below looks like it was airlifted from Denmark... I'm sure I've seem the same house there!

Looks like Denmark!

Other houses we stopped and admired for their color, or wondered about their interiors. Sometimes they were so striking I just had to stop and take a photo. Some examples are below.

After walking miles it was time to stop at a 'cocina economica', have lunch than head home for our afternoon nap.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Getting to know the Neighborhood

Looking East on our block
Our trip in December really allowed us to spend some time in our neighborhood and to feel it's rhythm. Carlos, of course, had the most success as Spanish is his first language. He made sure to go to the little store down the block and get juice everyday and he introduced both of us to the lady who owned it. He hoped she would spread the word to the rest of the neighbors and she did! Almost everyone talked to us when we were outside sweeping or just heading down to the next block to the Internet cafe. They knew from the information that Carlos told to the women at the store that we were there for the month of December, where we were from, that Carlos is Puerto Rican and that soon we would be starting to remodel the house.
One concern Carlos and I had were the cars and commercial vehicles speeding down our street both during the day and late at night. At the end of our block we saw children playing soccer in the street and there seemed to be some near accidents. So we voiced our concerns to A, our realtor and friend and asked what did we need to do to get a TOPES (speedbump) added to our street. He talked to the neighbors who appreciated our concern and they told A that they had applied for one several months ago and were waiting for the results of their request. 
We spent time at the Internet cafe and found it to be a gathering place for some of the neighborhood youngsters as they could play Wii and Game Cube games for just a few peso's an hour... everyone would greet us with a good day or good night and we were feeling right at home!

Looking west

Directly across the street

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The House Attached

When we purchased our property, the colonial house next door (and attached) had also been purchased, but was not rehabbed. All we knew was that it was a local attorney and at this time it wasn't known if he was going to put his law office there or a home. We also knew that he bought the empty lot adjacent to his property. And the house had not been lived in for awhile.
The house - previous
When we arrived in December, the first thing I noticed was that at least the facade had been updated and sneaking a peek over the wall in the back it looked like the interior was still being worked on. 

The house in December
Rumor has it that he will not being making it his law offices or his own home, but he is doing the rehab for investment reasons. This could possible mean for resale or rental, but whatever it's a beautiful improvement!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Our December Stay in Merida

When we arrived to the Merida house in December we spent the first week at Las Arecas, a small guest house located at # 541 Calle 59. We have stayed there each time we come to Merida and find it really suits our needs as it's small, friendly, unpretentious and reasonable. It is located only two blocks from Santiago Park and about 9 blocks from our house.
We needed the week to get our casa ready for us as it was totally empty and we needed at least the basic things to stay there. A, our realtor, property manager and friend was a big help in getting the items we needed as well as using his truck for transporting the large items. (fridge and mattress)

Mattresses at Walmart's (about 125.00 US)
His sister lent us a gas stove which he hooked up for us with an extra tank he had. The rest of the items we were able to transport from Walmart's via taxi... two chairs, table, pots and pans, etc. I had brought some things from STL like cutlery, towels, sheets, blankets... yes you will really use light blankets in an unheated cement house in December!59 
Roughing It
We were ready to rock and roll.. or so I thought until I woke up the first morning and went to take a shower! Never noticed that the hot water heater was no longer there... don't remember seeing it since the first time we viewed the house, not really sure how long it'd been gone! So we bought a large bucket and the daily shower became something of a Japanese style bath with hot water heated on the stove... And if we could wait until about 3 in the afternoon, the water wasn't too cold and we could take somewhat of a quick shower!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Basic Plans

Looking at the garden area

Our lot is about 30 feet wide and about 200 feet deep. Like most homes in Merida we will have it walled fairly high. The first two rooms of the house as well as most of the facade will stay, but the rest which was added in the 60's will go. The plans are pretty well drawn up except for a few last minute changes we have made. The first floor will be our 'public' areas and the 2nd floor will be our 'private' quarters consisting of bedroom, bath, and a combination library/music room for CQ.
First Floor

2nd Floor

View from the side

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Moving Right Along!

Casa del  Gato Azul (now)
We, CQ and PQ, (also known as Carlos and Pat) purchased our property in 2008, just after we decided that Panama City, Panama was not going to be our retirement haven. (Think high-rises with 80% empty investment held units) We got our preliminary drawing from the architects we decided to work with and was ready to go... however we had not planned on the economy taking a dive south, or PQ's breast cancer or the fact that her job of 25 years also went south. So we waited... and waited.
In 2010 we spent the month of December in our house in Merida... we wanted to make sure what we were planning to do was what we actually could live with. Our December experiment was great, even though it was just a little more than camping out. (mattress on floor, no hot water, cooking on a two burner gas stove, a table and two chairs) We spent some time with our wonderful friend and agent, A and finalized plans and made a few changes with R and D our architects.
We joined the English Library and went to their MEL nights and got a feel for the expat community. We left at the end of December and returned to STL.
And finally after several months of back and forth plans, contracts and specs we have sent our first payment to R and D and we should be starting the construction. This day has been a long time coming!

Casa del Gato Azul (future)
So here we are still 4-5 years from retirement and 8-? months from our house being ready. We have planned to be in the house for the month of December again and hopefully not camping this time. I (PQ) plan to keep this blog going to record and archive the construction process, and to just record our musings and thoughts of the entire process.