Saturday, June 25, 2011

Memories of Merida - Part 1

Several years ago, a friend I have traveled with extensively and I spent a week in the city of Merida, Mexico, the capitol of the Yucatan state.It's colonial history dates to the 16th century, it's Mayan roots go back much further. Within the city center stands one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, yet on the cities outskirts sit small mid century homes that resemble scaled down versions of what one would expect to see in Palm Springs. Surrounding it's central square are the cathedral, the 16th century home (now a bank) of the conquistador that defeated the Mayans and colonized the area, The city hall dating  from the 1910's containing murals by a student of Diego Rivera and an arcaded area housing restaurants and shops. Several other old churches can be found in the historical town center, some built with stones from the Mayan structures that originally stood there.

Our hotel was located on a wide boulevard modeled after the Champs Elysee in Paris. The street, once lined with the grand homes of the cities elite is now an odd mixture of modern buildings placed amid the surviving mansions, most of which have been re purposed as banks or other financial institutions.The sign marking the offices of ING holds court on a lawn leading up to the front porch of a Beaux Arts style home. It's leaded glass doors welcome the parade of financial officers that now work in it's ornately detailed interior. The color of many of these buildings is what has given Merida the nickname of The White City.

Outside of the city lie Mayan ruins, some being reclaimed by he jungle, as well as a well regarded nature preserve. It was on a boat trip at the preserve where I saw my first flamingos in the wild. Also egrets, puffins and a tiny bird in a mangrove swamp or an extraordinary orange shade I hope to never forget.

The bird life in this area is some of the most amazing I can ever hope to experience. Vivid emerald green parrots roosted in the trees outside of our hotel window. On our first morning as I opened the curtains they flew by as if welcoming us to the city and served as a preview of what we would see later.

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