A great way to start familiarizing yourself with the city is to check out the Zocalo just four blocks from the Casa. Every weekday morning at 9:30 AM there is a free tour of the Zocalo/Main Square in both English and Spanish. The tour lasts about an hour and is very informative and interesting. Your tour guide will not only gave information abut the buildings around the Zocalo, but also about the history of Merida. The tour covers 4 of the historic buildings in the Zocalo.

Tours meet at the Tourist Information office on Calle 62.

C60 scene

“We had an excellent time at “La Casa” and hope to return soon.  The house was perfect — beautiful, perfect size and wonderful style.

Renting a house allows you to truly relax, vs hotel. We always prefer to rent a house when we visit Mexico and we will recommend Casa La Barenda to friends. 

Merida in general, exceeded our expectations.  We also love Lila Downs, and she was the headliner at Merida Fest and I am a huge fan of Trobador music, Boleros, Baladas and there was a 200 + Serenata ala Cuidad during our visit. This, and the general music scene was incredible!”

More on the Maya Calender

December 19, 2012

A thousand years older and more accurate than our Gregorian calendar, the Mayan calendar factored in elements of the Earth’s rotation that the Gregorian needed to make adjustments for. The adjustments, or inaccuracies were called ‘leap-years’. Authorities were still fiddling with the Gregorian calendar just 500 years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar.

This is a fascinating topic the Maya really had a handle on. Actually Western theories–not Mayan are the more apocalyptic ones. Mayan’s believe this date represents the closing of a 26,000 year cycle and the beginning of a new one. It’s no accident that this date is timed perfectly with Earths procession: http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/time/precession.html But it is believed that this is Earths 5th and final cycle which might be where the west draws their cataclysmic beliefs from.

The Mayans, Sumerians, Tibetans, Egyptians, Cherokees, and the Hopi all refer to this 26,000 year cycle in their mystical belief systems and each have developed calendars based on this great cycle.

This cycle is known both as “the triumph of materialism” and “the transformation of matter.”

The Mayans predicted this final cycle would be a time of great forgetting in which we drift very far from our sense of Oneness with Nature and experience a kind of collective amnesia. Like a memory virus in which we begin to believe the limited reality of appearances and grow dense to the spiritual essence which fuels this world, so humanity’s sense of ego and domination has grown.

I personally feel we are at the height of this now, and that events to come might return us to more sustainable ways. In any case, this date serves as a marker in time to reflect on what we might do in our own lives to make positive change.

Mayan

Cheers!

Among the lesser known, but highly important aspects of Pyramids…they were giant water collection systems. These systems were so highly developed, that 1500 years ago at nearby Uxmal, Mayan Architects went far beyond the necessary functional elements of design. Surviving long periods of drought and the absence of springs, rivers, and lakes nearby made it critical to store and collect water. As a result, a sophisticated network was constructed on a grand scale throughout the city and routed to underground cisterns. In many cases, Maya water collection systems are still functioning today! I wonder what will be working of our infrastructure 1500 years from now.

Its true Maya builders learned to blend both form and function. But they went even further. Together artists, scientists and builders learned to harmoniously—even playfully combine art, science and time into the architecture. Yes, time! But that’s another story. The result was superior for the day, and Uxmal represents one of the very earliest and most exquisite examples of this concept.

Check out this photo showing the base of the Pyramid at Uxmal showing a water collection channel below. You’ll notice too, the highly ornate detail made to elegantly catch and route water directionally into the trough.

Pyramid Aquaduct

Add your thoughts below…

Quote of the Day…

October 4, 2012

…I should say “Quotes” of the day…

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” — Mark Twain

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” — St. Augustine

To your travels! Cheers!

Listen to what two recent travelers had to say about Rodolfo:

“Rodolfo was terrific. He took us everywhere we wanted to go for two full days and was very knowledgeable and charming.  The Yucatan is a most interesting place to visit and we learned a lot and ate some delicious food”.

 When you hire a guide, you can relax and enjoy the scenery rather than stressing about road maps, signs and cardinal directions.  A knowledgeable guide can inform and educate as well as take you to the best places to see and eat.  You can visit the major archeological sites and ruins as well as remote hidden Mayan villages.  With all the time and energy you save, you’ll likely want to discover the lesser-known side of the Yucatan too. 

You can witness an ancient Mayan ceremony as seen in the movie “The Rain God”.  Rodolfo’s contacts in remote Mayan villages permits insight into the traditional and modern ways of life of the Maya, including Shaman rites, herbs and cures, medicinal plants, and ancient ceremonies guided by native Mayan’s.

You might also try visiting Chumayel -Teabo, noted today for hand weavings and traditional Mayan huipils sold throughout Yucatan.  Or in the morning see colorful Oxcutzcab–the Mayans’ major produce market.  This market still serves all Yucatan with an incredible variety of fruits and vegetables.  Have lunch at the famous restaurant at Mani and tour its monastery.

Tours can also include private Art collections, Antique Stores and Colonial Churches.

Rodolfo usually likes to meet guests a day or two before taking a trip to discuss your itinerary.  He speaks English and Spanish with other available guides that speak French, German and Italian.  So if you would like to brush up on your language skills, Rodolfo and company are more than happy to help. 

 I can hook you up with Rodolfo when you arrive. 

See you in the Centro, cheers!

 

 

36 Hours in Merida

April 2, 2012

Contributed by Jeremiah Tower

YUCATECANS are fiercely proud of their culture, sprinkling their Spanish with Mayan words and quick to recount the stories of resistance and revolution that set this region apart from the rest of Mexico for centuries. Somehow, those tales seem a little distant now in Yucatán’s capital, Mérida, a languid city of pastel mansions and evening promenades. The city, now one of the safest in Mexico, is an architectural jewel, and has one of the country’s largest historic centers outside Mexico City. Block after block of houses dating to the mid-19th century and earlier are in the midst of a restoration boom, and the city’s cultural and restaurant scenes are flourishing.

Friday

3 p.m. YUCATECAN FEAST
Sample Yucatecan cuisine at the Hacienda Teya (Mérida-Cancún Highway, Kilometer 12.5; 52-999-988-0800; haciendateya. com), a 17th-century plantation that switched from cattle to henequen, used for making rope, at the end of the 19th century, and is just a 15-minute drive from downtown. From the colonial dining room, with walls that are filled with old photographs of Mérida in the early 1900s, the view stretches to the brilliant flamboyant trees that fringe the expansive grounds. Try the classics: sopa de lima, a fragrant chicken and tortilla soup flavored with lime juice (54 pesos, or about $4, at 13.7 pesos to the dollar); cochinita pibil, tangy slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus and a paste made from achiote seeds; or poc chuc, grilled pork marinated in sour orange juice (both 124 pesos).

5 p.m. PROMENADE IN THE PLAZA
In the late afternoon, the whole city, it seems, congregates in the leafy Plaza Grande under the towers of Mérida’s austere 16th-century Cathedral of San Ildefonso. Have a sorbet at Sorbetería Colón on the north side (along 61st Street), then wander into the Governor’s Palace next door and take in the giant paintings depicting Yucatán’s violent history by the 20th-century Mérida-born artist Fernando Castro Pacheco. The Casa Montejo (506 63rd Street, 52-999-923-0633; ) on the south side, now a cultural center and museum, is the city’s oldest building, erected by Don Francisco Montejo, Yucatán’s conquistador, in the 1540s. Look for the carving of two Spanish conquistadors standing atop the heads of Indians on the facade. The four front rooms have been sumptuously restored to late-19th-century splendor. The gift shop sells excellent handicrafts. As night falls, walk north a few blocks to the small church of La Tercera Orden on the corner of 59th and 60th Streets, built by the Jesuits in 1618. You may catch a wedding or a quinceañera Mass.

9 p.m. MOJITOS BY STARLIGHT
The outdoor bar at the Piedra de Agua hotel (498 60th Street, 52-999-924-2300; ) has a spectacular view of the brilliantly lighted cathedral towers. Local groups play jazz and blues on Fridays. The specialties are mojitos (48 pesos) and lemon daiquiris accented with basil leaves (55 pesos). Try a pizza topped with huitlacoche, Mexico’s signature corn fungus (120 pesos).

Saturday

9 a.m. CURBSIDE BREAKFAST
The Loría family have run the Wayan’e street stand for 20 years (92E 20th Street at 15th Street, Colonia Itzimná, 52-999-927-4160). They serve savory tacos and tortas throughout the morning, scooping fragrant fillings like smoky chicken fajitas and scrambled eggs with acelgas (Swiss chard) out of clay pots to customers seated at a stainless steel counter. All dishes are from 8 to 12 pesos.

11 a.m. FROZEN IN TIME
During the henequen boom, when the agave plant was turned into rope for the world, Yucatán’s aristocratic landowners built magnificent houses, many of them now luxury hotels. But Hacienda Yaxcopoil (Federal Highway 261, Kilometer 186; 52-999-900-1193; ), about 20 miles south of Mérida, has been preserved as though in amber, a noble near-ruin where yellowing photos of the family that has owned it for five generations hang askew on the frescoed walls. For a fee of 50 pesos, you can wander through silent rooms offering a glimpse into the past, from the figurine of St. Geronimo in the chapel wearing a Yucatán straw hat, to French porcelain bathroom fixtures coated in dust. Mario Alberto Huchín Tun, 65, will give you a tour in Spanish; he is the third generation in his family to work on the hacienda. Take a taxi or hire a car service with a bilingual driver. Try Ralf Hollmann at Lawson’s Yucatán at 521-999-947-7599, .

2 p.m. A YUCATECAN DINER
At Chaya Maya (481 62nd Street at 57th Street, 52-999-928-4780), a woman in traditional Mayan dress makes corn tortillas in the window as families pile in. Try the house specialty, Los Tres Mosqueteros, or The Three Musketeers, which combines three classic Yucatecan dishes: relleno negro (a black sauce made from burnt chiles and spices) over pork; papadzul (an egg dish); and pipián (a sauce with a pumpkin seed base) over turkey, all for 70 pesos.

3 p.m. GOODS TO RELAX IN
El Aguacate (604 58th Street, 52-999-928-6429; ) sells hammocks for every budget. A finely woven cotton or nylon hammock, which takes about two months to weave, will cost about $175, but the cheapest one is about $20. (The store is in Mérida’s tiny red-light district, which is safe by day.) Back near the center, shop for a guayabera, a Cuban shirt worn untucked. It was a favorite with early 20th-century Yucatecan grandees, who would go to Cuba to stock up. After the Cuban Revolution, Yucatecans began making their own. A polyester-cotton blend at Guayaberas Jack (507A 59th Street, 52-999-928-6002; ) costs about $30, and an embroidered linen model popular with Mexican presidents sells for about $170.

7 p.m. FINE FOLK
Every Saturday, the city stages a free show for tourists and locals alike, featuring folk dancing, comedy, mariachi, marimba and romantic trova music (1 Paseo de Montejo at 49th Street, 52-999-928-1800; ). You can watch from the street or have a drink on the terrace of the Hotel Casa San Angel. For more information on cultural events, check “Yucatán Today,” the city’s free bilingual monthly tourist guide, .

9 p.m. CHOCOLATE DELIGHT
At the restaurant inside Mérida’s newest boutique hotel, Rosas & Xocolate (480 Paseo de Montejo at 41st Street, 52-999-924-2992; ), try the catch of the day prepared on a fried tortilla accompanied by prickly pear salad (180 pesos) or duck served with singed corn, local sausage, melon compote and a chile and raisin sauce (220 pesos).

11 p.m. SMILIN’ IRISH
An Irish pub seems as though it would be out of place, but Hennessy’s Irish Pub (486A Paseo de Montejo, 52-999-923-8993; ) is Mérida’s hippest night spot. The photos of the Irish countryside and ’80s classics on the soundtrack seem a little off, but the outdoor terrace on the Paseo de Montejo fills up.

Sunday

9 a.m. RIDING DOWN THE AVENUE
Grab coffee at Café la Habana (corner of 59th and 62nd Streets, 52-999-928-0608), then explore the Paseo de Montejo, lined with Beaux Arts-style mansions, most of them built with henequen money. The most stunning is the Palacio Cantón, which houses the Regional Anthropology Museum (485 Paseo de Montejo, 52-999-923-0469; admission: 41 pesos). The street is closed to traffic to make way for cyclists between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. every Sunday. Bikes are available for 15 pesos an hour from municipal offices at the corner of 62nd and 63rd Streets or along the avenue. For a map, go to .

Noon TWO-STEP BACK IN TIME
Mérida’s old-time dancers go to the temporary stage at Santa Lucía Park, at 60th and 55th Streets, where they dance Mexican danzón and cha-cha-cha to live music under a canopy. The dancers’ moves recall a bygone time of smoky dance halls, and they dress the part.

Thanks Jeremiah!

Earlier I wrote about pre-trip packing and briefly mentioned being aware of travel stress and fatigue.  Once you are here, there’s also a few tips to consider for staying healthy in a warmer climate than you might be used to.

For the hotter months of the year in Merida roughly April through September, DO be aware of the cumulative effects heat and humidity.  It is easy to run yourself down without even knowing it until it’s too late.  What you could be risking is heat stroke, and it could cost you valuable holiday time.

DO respect the hottest part of the day and use the shade.  Use the shadows of buildings and trees for cover.  Even if it doesn’t seem like it is hot, it’s a good idea.  Wear a wide-brimmed hat that breaths—Panama hats found locally are the ideal choice.  ImagePlan your day with the energy-consuming activities in the morning or evening.  Try to be at your destination early.  Keep an eye on your companion too; we all have different limits.

Dress appropriately.  That might seem obvious depending on where you are from, but light cotton shirts or blouses and loose pants or light dresses and comfortable, durable shoes that breathe.  If you don’t have this type of clothing, shopping locally may be your best bet.  Who knows! You might just end up blending in. 

Use an umbrella–It’s a Swiss Army Knife of sorts for skin, sun and rain.  You can find them locally for a few dollars, or you might want to check a collapsible one in your bag.  You never know where you are going to be during those brief tropical rains—of course rain can be a real joy to be in without an umbrella too!  Don’t worry; you’ll be dry no time…that is with the right clothing of course.

 Don’t forget the Agua.  Hydrate!  Bring some H2O wherever you go.

 ImageSwim.  Be sure to use the plunge pool at the casa every day.  Aside from being a nice feature at the casa, it is also very functional.  The plunge pool is a necessary ingredient to maintaining normal core body temperatures.

Live like a local—take a siesta and skip the heat of the day.  Don’t worry, you won’t miss anything.  Merida is a big city and still ‘works’ during siesta.  The pulse of the city is just a bit slower.  But when temperatures cool off in the evenings, activities heat up in the Centro just a few blocks away.

Plan a day trip to the Cenotes or caves.  The Cenotes are a great place to bring a picnic lunch and hide out from the heat of the day.  (See what I wrote on Cenotes: ‘Indiana Jones day Trip to the Cenotes at Cuzama’)

Take a trip to the coast.  Try Progresso about 30 minutes by car to the north—it’s a casual beach vibe with tons of restaurants and trinkets for the cruise ship crowd.  Or try the Bird sanctuary of Celustun, a Pink Flamingo day trip to the east with some of the best seafood.  The coastal areas can be about 10 to 12 degrees cooler than the inland areas.  And the gentle breezes can be sublime.

Speaking of breezes…If you are feelin’ like you just need to chill…the roof top of the casa is a good place to be in the mornings or evenings.  Take your coffee or a cocktail up for some neighborhood views and relax!  Switch it up!…cocktails in the morning, coffee in the evening!…Hey, what the heck, you’re on holiday!

Mexico essentially has two seasons:  The rainy and warmer more humid period from May to September-October, and the dry, cooler period from October to March-April.  Both seasons have their benefits and shouldn’t bias your visit.

Feel free to add some stay-cool-in-the-heat tips from your travels!

Until next time…Cheers!

 

Choosing to stay a Colonial home over a hotel can be an exciting, adventurous experience. It can provide the benefits of value, privacy and the opportunity to feel what it is to live like a local. You will experience the culture and community more deeply and have a higher degree of local interaction. You will get to know your neighborhood and meet the shop owners while you enjoy a more natural, authentic experience.

While that might sound like an exciting experience to most, for others, not so much. The best way to find out might be to discuss what living in a Colonial is NOT! Most importantly it does not include the services or attention that you would expect of a hotel…unless of course you ask!

Living at Casa La Barenda is designed to be a simple, rustic experience with emphasis on living life. The casa is suited to providing comfortable and basic needs. You might however experience elements of the home and local living that could either add to the charm or distract depending on your disposition or cultural bias.

With your own kitchen, you will have the opportunity to do your own cooking and shopping at the local outdoor markets, or have these services provided. Yes, you can hire a Chef to cook for you at Casa La Barenda! You can learn how to cook Yucatecan specialties with unique spices and learn Chef secrets!

If you want your beds made with sheets and towels changed every day—you can. It’s just not included in the published rates. And so it goes with all the other hotel-like amenities and service such as housekeeping, or laundry, etc. You simply must ask for this level of service to be provided—or expect, and even enjoy doing it for yourself.

Explorers, adventurers and the insatiably curious tend to get the most out of Colonial living, local idiosyncrasies and all. But for some, experiencing the local culture more directly might be intimidating. Still others might see the hotel as the destination–the all-inclusive experience. Whatever your preferences, budget should not be the driving force in your decision. You may be able to stay longer for less money and have more space and privacy in a Colonial than a hotel, but you’ll be amping up your lavida loca experience too. And for most, that’s just the ticket!

As owner of Casa La Barenda, I want you to have a good time. It is far more important for me to make a good match than it is for me to just fill vacancies.
The best place to start is by looking around Casa La Barenda’s webpage, then email any questions you might have—especially if this is your first experience. Also, I know details can be tedious but you can learn more about what to expect by looking at the Policies and Amenities pages. Take a look here:

The Policies can be viewed here: http://www.casalabarenda.com/policies.html
And the Amenities can be viewed here: http://www.casalabarenda.com/amenities.html
The location of Casa La Barenda can be viewed here: http://www.casalabarenda.com/maps/Merida_centro.jpg
I’m looking forward to hearing from you…and having you stay at Casa La Barenda!

Readers may also be interested in an earlier related post:
“Alas…Merida Is Not For Everyone”

Until next time…may all your travels be easy and enjoyable.

Christmas Shopping In Merida!

November 22, 2011

Yep!…this is the place to get those stocking stuffer’s! Some of the most appreciated gifts are the ones you likely never thought of. Shopping here for some of the local Mayan handcrafts will get you started…

Check out these terrific key chains–little colorfully beaded stuffed animals that are Rooster’s, chickens, snakes, parrots, alligators, bluebirds and other artfully hand made creatures.

Colorful Parrot Keychain

Or Women’s hand bags–great for the casual elegant to shabby-chic occasions. Hand-stitched indigenous patterns in terrific colors in tiny to large sizes.

Or silver bracelets and expertly designed handcrafted earrings, necklaces and pendants too.

You’ll find fabulous turquoise rock specimens and other semi-precious stones both in and out of settings.

Or hand painted plates and pottery that rival’s some of the most intricate Italian designs.

You can find all of these items in the various outdoor markets or the more permanent shops found in the Historic Centro and near the main plaza. All within walking distance from the Casa.

Be gentle, patient and friendly, but don’t forget your bargaining skills! Try to bundle items, start at around 50% of what you hear and don’t be afraid to walk away. You can always come back later.

Avoid ‘agents’ standing around asking if you are interested in something they can find for you. They will just lead you to a local shop and take a commission. Just say ‘no gracias’ and keep moving. Know too, that prices get better the further away from the Main Plaza you go. But there are always exceptions—some items like the hand bags I mentioned are always a good deal and they are in the same shop as the key chains. I love this place. It located on C62 at C61 on the North West side of the Main Plaza. It’s about 2 or 3 shops away from the corner.

The MONTH of Christmas widely celebrated in Merida and the Historic Centro lights-up pretty good–of course that’s relative to your individual collective experiences and expectations. Streets have arching displays over each block, and the main plaza is as good as any you will likely see. Many residents have elaborate displays in their living rooms or parlors open for passersby to view. There are festivities, church services, and seemingly always something going on for the whole month of December.

Shopping in Merida is great for Christmas, Birthdays, friends back home or whatever…I never know who I’m buying for most of the time but the items always seem to disappear.

Have a great time…and maybe I’ll see you in the Plaza!