2. Merida, Mexico…November.2021

Day 2 10.31 
WowWhen I opened my eyes, I had been sleeping in such an interesting room.  Sherry had asked me if I minded sharing a room with her, which I said I was fine with if she was. But, this room & the view out the huge double door in our room, was incredible.  Ill do a whole page on the Villaso more on it later, but definitely dont miss it!  But, it was the most interesting place I’ve ever stayed, has such an fascinating story & is mind blowing to look at.

Sherry took me on a tour of the Villa first thing.  There were 5 of us staying there…her niece, Bethany who I had met once in Crested Butte.  We’d hiked together along with Sherry & her sister (Bethany’s mom) & Bethany.  Also, in our crew, was Ben, Bethany’s boyfriend & another friend of Sherry’s from Denver, Bridget.  This was a new type of trip for me…I’m so used to traveling alone.  But like so many other ‘firsts’ about this trip, traveling with new friends would be wonderful!

Before we all left for Merida, Sherry asked all of us if we wanted to be included in a couple of events she’d found.  The first one was today & I had chosen to pass on this particular one.  It was a cooking class by a Merida Chef (you all know I do not like to cook).  So, they took off early for the all day class & I left at the same time, but had decided to walk to the square to see what was happening.  

Sherry & I were both excited & hopeful to see Day of the Dead celebrations since the holiday was happening during the time we’re here. We knew there was a possibility for some events to be cancelled because of Covid. One huge thing I would learn is that Merida roots are Mayan.  There are still villages around the area that keep the Mayan language alive.  Day of the Dead is the Mayan holiday Hanal Pixan.  It’s nothing like Halloween but a day to celebrate the Mayan’s & Mexicans ancestors who have died.  The celebration is three days long.  The first day, October 31st is for the children.  Special cookies & candies are made just this one time of year.  November 1st & 2nd is celebrated with huge special meals that include once a year recipes.  Families build altars, mostly in the home for their deceased loved ones.  These includes photos, flowers, & other pieces & bits that remind them of that person.  It’s nothing like Halloween.  Another custom they have is cleaning the bones…I’ll go into that later.  It’s pretty mind-blowing.

I walked down these narrow streets just taking everything in…so new to me.  The square, which is about the only tourist spot we saw in town, is about a 15 minute walk from the Villa, but it was easy to find.  I spent a couple of hours just walking around looking at these old, old buildings & slowly taking everything in.

This I’d find out, was one of the Tourist Offices…I have to say, they weren’t very helpful, but I did sign all of us up on a local free tour for the next morning.

I’d learn the next day, that this building was built using the limestone from a Mayan Pyramid that had been built where the current square is.  So…in other words, when the Spanish conquered the Mayans, they made them tear down their Pyramids (their form a church) & build a Catholic church then force them to practice their religion.  This building was built in the 1500’s…my jaw dropped.  It was the oldest building I’d ever seen & I was amazed & moved at seeing something so historic (even if I disagreed with how it was built).

This building houses an unusual piece of art.  It depicts the history & struggles of the Mexican people.

It was very unusual & beautiful.

The square is surround by old buildings all dating back to the 1500’s.

I looked at all the old buildings, but also walked in & out of the many shops near the square.  I went block after block just looking around, trying to understand the street numbers & people watching.  I found this little gallery filled with beaded art 

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& Oaxaca art…which is one of my favorite kinds of art!

Then I walked across town to a totally different area….these were where the markets are.  Not a tourist part at all….this is where the locals shop.  A huge covered area selling everything:  fruits, veggies, meats, fish, spices, pastes, etc.  I didn’t get hardly any photos of this place…it was the first place I was a little nervous.  It was so crowded…& Covid has taught us not to be in crowds.  It was shoulder to shoulder & tad bit claustrophobic.  I hustled through & skipped the raw meat & fish part.

Many people in Merida drive motorbikes…& this is where they park.

It was getting in the early afternoon & I started looking for something to eat.  But, I couldn’t read any of the menus.  I know I am NOT an adventurous eater & I know that Sherry is.  We’d talked about it last night; her niece Bethany is a little bit like me.  So, not only am I not wanting eat stuff like Octopus, or things I can’t identify, but I couldn’t even read what the hell it was.  Ummm…

I decided I’d head back to the streets, where there was a little more space. So many colorful stands along the street, offering every kind of food.  These are sweet potato cookies, made just for the Day of the Dead celebrations for the children.

And, endless religious stuff.  But Catholicism is the main religion here…it’s huge here.

So many beautiful flowers for the altars that many families will build.

By this time I was hungry.  All I’d managed to find so far, was a coke. Ha! Ha!

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I decided to sit down on a sidewalk, & try to see if Google could find me a place to eat.  While I was sitting there, Sherry & the crew & the Chef happened to stroll by… of all the places!  The Chef that was teaching the cooking class, was taking them to the market to teach them about what was sold there & to buy a few things to cook with.  About 10 minutes later Sherry text me & said the Chef said I could join them for dinner if I wanted to.  I said YES!  & boy am I glad I did.

I went back to the Villa for a couple of hours & dipped in the pool & just chilled for a while.  Then I walked to the cooking school to meet up with the group. Wow!  The food was magnificent & it was so much fun to hear them all talk about how & what they’d made.  I feel like I got the best of it…I just paid a fee for a delicious dinner & didn’t have to cook any of it.  It was truly a lovely meal!

Lime soup…a huge staple of this area & OMG delicious!

One of the most wonderful tamales I’ve ever had….it’s wrapped & baked in Banana leaves.  I’d seen stacks of the Banana leaves for sale at the market.  They make tiny strips off the edges to wrap & seal the tamale before it’s bakes.

The Chef made us all corn gelato with a Mayan dark chocolate covered strawberry…Wow!

The owner of the cooking school had passed away a couple of years ago, & there was an altar built for him in the dining room.

The meal was spectacular & I hadn’t miss passing on the class & all the others loved taking this class….so it was a great day for everyone.  We split up after our early dinner…Sherry & Bethany heading back to the Villa, & Ben, Bridget & I headed out to find a liquor store.  We found one soon enough & I bought 3 bottles of Tempranillo wine…each one was $3.50.  Ben bought Tequilla, but wanted to find a specific wine shop.  And, so we walked.  And walked. And walked.  And I was trying to take it all in…I didn’t want to miss anything.

In the end, we’d never find the wine store…evidently while Google had it listed, it was no more.  But the sights & sounds along the way were defiantly worth the trek.  

We popped into one art gallery on our trek….these are all hand painted by Mayan artists.

We finally made it back to the Villa & ended up drinking & sitting outside by the pool for the rest of the night.  

My first day in Mexico was so interesting, sometimes out of my comfort zone, amazing, & eye-opening.

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