A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY
Saludos, todos. An early “Happy Holidays” to all, wherever you may be. As for us, we are presently in Merida, at the front end of a month-long trip, during which we will travel to and work from five different cities in Mexico. After our time in Merida, we’ll be traveling on to Campeche, Palenque, San Cristobal de las Casas and Tulum, making a sort of parallelogram through southern Mexico (see map photo).
With a break in the work crunch during the holidays, it seemed the perfect opportunity to put our slow-growing theory about combining travel with work to the test. And so, we worked out a plan which included a budget, itinerary and pack list. We decided to limit ourselves to one backpack and two computer bags. This exercise was fun and challenging, a bit like Tetris. Much of what you see in our gear photo ended up being yanked and left behind so that we could make our goal. But we did it, so hooray. No schlepping big bags around.
We also researched and purchased travel insurance – choosing a policy heavy on emergency medical and evac coverage (this policy being in addition to our year-long professional gear coverage with a company that insures freelance workers living abroad). Tor spearheaded another important measure: installing security software on our laptops and mobile devices as well as backing up all of our data (twice) on drives that we then stored in separate places.
Our good friends on Isla will be our points of contact, should we get in a fix, and have on hand our vital docs and a list of our emergency contacts in the US, which leaves us to enjoy our time on the road with little worry. ¡Vamos!
MAKING MERRY IN MERIDA
We arrived in Merida yesterday afternoon, after only one bus breakdown. Luckily, we had just left Cancun and they transferred us to a different bus right away. A testament to the ADO bus system, really – they had us sorted out in no time. Only about a 15-minute setback, all told. I happily napped most of the way, (missing a showing of “Australia” in Spanish) but while awake, I enjoyed the scenery of towns and villages along the way, the stands of palms and fruit trees stretching for miles and the frequent sight of hawks circling and diving above them.
Our hotel is in the historic district and has turned out to be great. The deals on Booking.com are really pretty hard to beat (sorry, Expedia). With Booking.com’s “Flash Deals”, you can get rooms as cheap as $18 US, provided you are flexible with your travel schedule. The hotel we chose more than meets our needs – A/C, wi-fi, strong box for our valuables, work desk, nice King bed, even a 32″ flatscreen TV.
The vibe in Merida is a peaceful one, with an unmistakable current of vibrancy runnning beneath. A city of over 1 million, it manages to somehow maintain an intimate, low-key quality that immediately puts the visitor at ease. Last night on our way walking to the Plaza, we struck up a conversation with Juan, who happened to be walking next to us and who works for the Tourism Ministry. In mercifully slow Spanish, he clued us into some good city tours and places to eat.
At his suggestion, we had dinner at Amaro on Calle 59, and were treated to excellent Cochinita Pibil (a Yucateca specialty).
Amaro offers an intimate garden setting in an open-air patio, which is surrounded by column-lined hallways. The building is Spanish Colonial in architecture and quite old. Originally, it was the house in which Mexican hero, Andrés Quintana Roo (whom the Mexican state of Quintana Roo is named after) was born in 1787.
Today, we worked in the morning and then walked over to Café Club, a pleasant place on Calle 55 for breakfast. Owned by an Iranian who lived in Montreal before marrying his Mexican wife, the back courtyard is cheerful, the coffee good (which is saying a lot, coming from Tor), and thehuevos rancheros are smothered in crack. (Or something equally addictive, in any case).
Over breakfast, we talked with a nice man from British Columbia who was enjoying his coffee in the corner. He and his wife have been living half-time in BC and wintering in Merida for several years, a situation which more than agrees with them. He suggested a few ideas for Christmas dinner and mentioned the Santa Lucia Plaza (a few steps from our hotel) where they have live music outside every Thursday at 9 PM.
I’m writing this now by the pool, taking advantage of some incredible peace and quiet. Many of these hotels in Merida give one the feeling of being sequestered inside of an impenetrable, flowering fortress, the sounds of people and traffic completely muted by their thick walls.
That’s all for now. The sun is high in the sky; it may be time for a siesta in a bit (or glass of chilled Xtabentún). More to follow, so if you’re interested, stay tuned. Thanks to all for reading!