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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Everyday enjoyments

At some point, I should probably find something profound to say about spending time in the ruins of the great Mayan cities (and visiting Uxmal and Kabah was quite the experience), but the truth is that, thus far, my takeaway from the first eleven days in Merida is how livable it is (if one ignores the sometimes brutal heat and humidity, fortunately less now than a few days ago). There are still museums to visit and famous sights to see, but many of the charms of this city are low-key.

Not being a big-city person and not being over-fond of crowds, especially crowds that include numbers of people hawking a variety of wares, I am not spending much time around the Plaza Grande, even when Cirque du Soleil performed free in honor of the city's 475th anniversary. Instead, I have been seeing where my feet take me.

Sometimes they take me to the Paseo de Montejo, the grand 19th-century boulevard surrounded by some quite lovely buildings, some of which are still private homes. Who could resist this ridiculous confection of a house?

On Sunday mornings, the Paseo is closed to motorized vehicles for the Bici Ruta, a bicycle (and pedestrian, and skateboard) outing that attracts all ages.

This is also a city that likes its parks. Today found me in two of them: the Parque del Centenario (which seems to have nothing to do with any centennial), home of the city zoo and lots of activities for children, and El Parque de Santiago. Like many of Merida's other parks, this one is centered on an old church--in this case, one constructed in 1637.

The zoo is the old-fashioned kind, with enclosures that seem much too small for many of the mammals housed there, although the animals all have shade, water, and places to hang out and move around. My sense is that the city is engaged in the balancing act of providing a free place for citizens to visit (yes, the zoo is free) while trying to meet the needs of the non-human inhabitants of the space. The parrots in the large aviaries seem reasonably content and willing to wander over for conversation with strangers.

And this park, with its dense tree cover, is home to a fair number of wild birds, not only the ubiquitous city pigeon, AKA the European rock dove. Today's brief visit included sightings of the white-winged dove, some sort of small reddish dove, a scarlet tanager, and lots of great-tailed grackles. It came as a surprise to me to learn that a melodious call I've been hearing comes from these large black birds. Something else in the park (probably a tropical mockingbird) was doing a fair imitation of a car alarm.

One never knows what one will find walking down a quite ordinary street. Today found me ducking into the patio of the Catherwood House, where the 19th-century illustrator of Travels in Yucatan lived. Today the building houses a bookstore, a spa, and two tiny cafes, one under roof and one not.

The café Americano was most excellent.

Every block here seems to have its hidden treasures. More explorations to follow.

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