A Travellerspoint blog


This Side of Paradise

George Reporting...

sunny 80 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

As my half-opened eyes blinked away the dust of the morning, I notice Andrea is up rushing
around rather busily. She sees me stretch my yawning arms and says, "Hurry up! We're going to be late!"
"Late for what?", I said. "Late for the beach!", she blurted stuffing a towel in her bag.
"Late for the beach??", I said with astonishment. "Late for the....BEACH??"
I suddenly had to wonder when did beach culture become such a big part of people's lives?

According to what I found on the Internet, "toga-wrapped emperors built summer residence on Italy's
Amalfi coast in the First Century A.D. for Imperial indulgence and amusement."

The Mayans built a palace overlooking the Caribbean ocean nearly a thousand years ago in what
is now known as Tulum. The beach there is wonderful and the water warm and calm.
In 1884 "The first roller coaster in the U.S. is erected on Coney Island,
establishing the future home of funnel cakes and hot dog–eating contests.
This early seaside vacation spot sees the arrival of upscale hotels on Brighton Beach
(not to mention the louche side of boardwalk life: prostitutes and con artists)."
The 20th Century saw the invention of the swimsuit and bikini and later, the movies and air travel
brought the glamour of the beach to millions of people worldwide culminating in the surf and
beach explosion of the 1950's and 60's.

We both grew up in California listening to the Beach Boys and watching Frankie and Annette
'Beach Blanket' movies.

The movies were terribly hokey and inane but the music was poetic and whimsical and probably was
a big factor in my desire to attend college in the beach and surf city of San Diego, California.

Andrea grew up in Huntington beach and went there regular to meet friends.

Beach culture was actually a large part of our lives when we were younger and really didn't think
that was unusual but, historically, it really was a new thing.
At some point you grow up and 'going to the beach' seemed more like a sign of laziness and showed
that you had a lack of ambition. So we both ended up living in coastal cities where going to
the beach wasn't a regular thing. Still, there were many times when I needed to go feel the
sand under my feet and stare at the big Pacific ocean trying to figure out some problem in life.

I suppose the biggest difference between going to the beach when we were younger and going now
is how much more capitalism there is on the beach. Most beaches here in the Quintana Roo state
are public but nearly every mile of it is packed with available beach chairs that can be rented
along with bars and a multitude of excursions that help you enjoy the beach even more. In most
cases, an entire towns' economy is based on beachgoer's dollars.

There's that' not-really-doing-anything boredom' that creeps in after about two or three hours.
Fish tacos and flip-flops aren't saving the world and I begin to feel a little guilty about
all the time spent in the water while others suffer mightily in some not too far away town. Captain Kirk, from the episode 'This Side of Paradise' reminds us that" man needs to struggle, to scratch and crawl through life". Yes we have to strive for something beyond ourselves or risk stagnation.

The beach is very nice but should only be taken in small doses.

Posted by woa 16:50 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Dear (Blog) Diary

by Andrea

Dear (Blog) Diary,
If you asked me last September if I thought we'd buy a house in Mérida, I would have answered, "When did we decide to go to Mexico?"

We flew to Cancun because it was cheap, warm, and a place we had never been. Neither of us knew much about the Yucatán for that matter. The only reason we'd heard of Mérida is from a House Hunters International episode we'd seen some time ago. As you know from other entries, it has been an exceptionally surprising experience for us here in Mérida. We've literally made new friends from the moment we arrived here, beginning with Stefanie and Marcus from Switzerland, to all the locals, ex-pats, and other visitors we now know (such interesting, creative, and adventurous people). Mérida offers free WI-fi in public spaces, arts, music, and cultural events all around, a lower cost of living and what I find to be a richer quality of life.
By the exterior facade you really can't tell what the potential is inside. There are a lot of nice homes behind the tall cement walls.

So, today I would respond to that same question, "It appears to be a great city for a 'home base' and a great way to downsize living space. It also offers us the opportunity to restore and decorate a new/old house once again. It would be a place we can accommodate family and friends."

We have been fortunate to make great contacts, and have this opportunity fall into place so quickly (certainly sooner that I expected, but then again...I'm never really ready). There is a time to plan, and a time to take a leap. You never really know how long a window of opportunity stays open.
The only negative I know of at this point, is the heat is a greater challenge in the summer months. We do not plan to be here then. So dear (blog) diary, you never really know what is possible until you go out and see for yourself.

Posted by woa 10:23 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Progresso and Fragments from My Mind

by Andrea

sunny 77 °F

We heard a lot about Progresso beach and took the direct bus for 18 pesos each one way. The 30-40 minutes ride drops us off at Progresso which is also a main cruise ship destination. The fine sand sticks to my skin here on the Gulf of Mexico side, just as much as the sand on the Caribbean Sea beaches do.

FYI: A lot of Canadians seem to come to the Yucatan to escape winter. It's the end of January and having been in Mexico for a couple of months now, we forget the harsh realities of winter happening elsewhere.

We see Frida all around Merida even though she lived in Coyoacán, Mexico City.
When I see paintings and pictures of Frida Kahlo, it stirs something in me that wants to be an 'artista', currently with words, but possibly another different, colorful medium. (I do have a small sketchbook and colored pencils to play with)
I see the wheels turning in George's head sometimes as he researches and moodles about next moves, plans, and things he might like to do as well.

The possibility of buying a house in Merida (yes, we have been looking at opportunities) would offer an outlet for creativity once again - colors, decorating, a new garden to create... whether we find something on this trip, or down the road. Upfront I will say:
a) we do not intend to live in Mexico full-time, or become residents now (six months a year is a generous amount of time to stay on the tourist visa), and
b) we would approach a house of our own here with restoring the original charm, inspiration, adding comfort, with a somewhat minimalist lifestyle.

Nevertheless, there are still many places to go as it is still early in this year of travel. There are more experiences to be had, more friends to visit, and new friends to be made.

But as we once heard on the "Gidget" TV series with Sally Field, on the episode entitled, 'The Great Kahuna', Russ (Gidget's father) says to her, "In order to be free, you have to be planted, have roots. Every drifter learns eventually that being rootless simply means you're from nowhere, and you're going nowhere..."

Posted by woa 13:00 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

El Gallo Humana

George Reporting...

sunny 78 °F

Here in Merida everyday begins with a morning wake up call.
Around dawn, a deep voice wafts high through the surrounding neighborhood, eclipsing all other
sounds except the chirpy birds in the trees right outside our window. The voice sounds like it's
yelling a long drawn out "Help". "Helllppp! Haallllpppp!" But the tone is more like an offer TO
HELP rather than a need for it, which is strangely comforting. We have heard this voice everyday
since we moved into our month-long rental stay. At first we tried to guess what it was but later
learned from the landlord that it is the voice of a man a few blocks away.
Our landlord doesn't like it and has confronted him to tone it down but to no avail.

One early morning, we decided to head to the Campo Deportivo (Sports camp) a few blocks away
to take advantage of the 7am Taebo class. We cross the street and see 'the Voice' weaving through
the cars stopped at a traffic signal. He turns out to be an older man in his 50's or 60's nonathletic with
a slight paunch. However he was seemingly possessed to sell the morning's newspaper to the outstretched
arms protruding from the autos heading to their prospective job sites. The earnestness with which he is operating gives me pause to
gaze at him respectfully and admire the fact that this older person is so completely dedicated to his amazingly
low paying job. It also reminds me of how much the elderly men here, who bag the groceries or offer to
push your cart to your car free of charge, also work for little or no pay. I had thought these people were being paid something
from the companies they "work" at but it turns out they do not and only get paid when a customer
gives them a few pesos for some small service ie. grocery bagging. In all the stores, these
elderly gentlemen are well-dressed, usually in all white, and always have a smile yet here they are EVERYDAY
working with no salary and truly dependent on the 'kindness of strangers'. They are like some modern day Don Quixotes
fighting to bring chivalry and goodness to a world filled with Sancho Panzas. Someone told me that it is what keeps the elderly from living on the streets or becoming beggars.
It appears to me the older workers set some kind of example since we've seen many hardworking
people here in Mexico. From the guys carrying bag after bag of heavy cement into a renovation
project in the 85 degree sun to the ladies selling peeled oranges along the streets
from dawn until dusk. In most of the touristy areas, the people are quite a bit more pushy
in their selling of a tour or timeshare but here in Merida, it is less so. I guess I've sort
of come to think of 'The Voice'- newspaper- seller as the defacto 'town crier'. Announcing to
all that it is time to "get to work and work hard all day no matter the low low pay." As a matter of fact, I read that this how Sting the singer/songwriter first started his singing career....selling newspapers by yelling on some small town corner UK street.
Now when my sleepy ears hear the human-rooster I think too, "It's time to get to work and to work hard
no matter the low low pay." Well, to me that last part matters but it's better than sitting
around and laying eggs all day. lol

P.S. Yeah I know roosters don't lay eggs.


Posted by woa 08:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

La Cuenta Por Favor?

George Reporting..

sunny 75 °F

Well we've been in Merida long enough to get a good sense of the cost of things. Below we offer to you a typical way you can enjoy the day in Merida without spending too much.

7:30am Wake up and realize you are paying only $8 a day to rent
a private casita with kitchen and private bath. Cost 118 pesos or $8

8:00am Walk over to the Mega Store and order a Cafe Americano which
comes with a croissant. Cost: 10 pesos or 75cents
8:30-9:30am Get your daily exercise at the Campo Deportivo or other state
provided public exercise area which includes weight rooms, cardio equipment, running track, ab machines etc.
Cost: 0 or 15 pesos for 1 hour Taebo Class

9:45 Take the 10 min bus ride to Plaza Grande Cost: 14 pesos for two people/ $1
10am Eat a nice breakfast of pancakes or eggs with fruit bowl and
coffee somewhere in downtown Merida. Cost: 60 pesos per person.

11am Check your email, write a blog entry or surf the web while sitting
on a bench underneath the trees in any park in Merida. Cost: 0 as wifi is free in all city parks.


Visit the nice art museums located around the Grand Plaza Cost: 0. Museums are free.
Noon-2pm. Attend the Teatro and enjoy a wonderful performance by the
Merida Symphony from a balcony suite. Cost: 75 pesos or $5 per person.

2pm-3:00. Take a siesta. Your brain needs the sleep. Cost: 0

3:00-4:00 Get Chinese take out (with 3 items from the menu)
and go sit in Plaza Grande eating and people watching. Cost: 60 pesos per person
4:30-6:30 Visit Parque Centennial and ride the choo choo train
that takes you around the entire park. Get off the train and
enter the zoo and see pink flamingos, bengal tigers and monkeys. Cost: 1 peso (for the train)

7:00-7:30 Walk to downtown and enjoy an "expensive" meal with red wine. Cost: 110 pesos or $7.50 per person.
8:00pm Watch an Orson Welles film at the theater which is part of the Merida Fest. Cost: 0

10:00pm Take in a live musical/poetry or dance performance happening
at any of the nearby parks. Cost: 0
11:00pm Take a nightcap. Margarita or Pina Colada. Cost: 30 pesos or $2
Total 493 pesos or $33

It is possible to spend just ONE PESO the entire day in Merida. Here's how:

Morning: Exercise for free at the Salvador Alvarado Sports Complex including free weights, cardio and machines all outside in the bright blue sky.
Breakfast: Stop by a friend's place. Most likely, they will offer you breakfast and coffee.
Early Afternoon: Check out an art exhibition at any of the free museums particularly the History of the Maya people at the Governor's Mansion.
Afternoon: Stop at another friend's home for lunch. Most likely they will serve you lunch and cerveza or wine.
Afternoon: Visit Centennial Parque and Zoo and Ride the Train. All is free except the train which costs 1 peso.
Dinner: Stop at yet another friend's house etc. etc.
Evening: Take advantage of any number of free live events or movie showings held in and around Merida.

Go over budget by visiting Pancho's bar during happy hour (6-9pm) and get 2 for 1 cocktails (4 drinks) for $8

Now this sounds like serious mooching. However, I do believe we did have a few days like that without even asking. Our new friends kindly fed us and took us to parties the first week we were here. However, it is our expectation that you should return the favor some time in the near future and we will!

If you don't want to feel like a moocher, then go to any inexpensive restaurant all around the city or eat ever cheaper using the sidewalk vendors.

Posted by woa 07:55 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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