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Day: January 4, 2022

Mexico- Merida and Progreso, Yucatan. December 20, 2021-January 10, 2022

Mexico- Merida and Progreso, Yucatan. December 20, 2021-January 10, 2022

2021 ended almost with as big of a bang as it started off. We left for Mexico on December 20th and flew to Merida, an historic colonial city in the Yucatan peninsula. We wanted to include international travel in our plans and Mexico fit the bill with low COVID rates and reasonable accessibility. Merida has been on our bucket list as a top expat town for beautiful architecture, complex history, safety, and many modern amenities. It did not disappoint. Initially, after being dropped off at night by our taxi on a strange, quiet street in front of our AirBnB, we were intimidated by the barred, high wooden doors and stark stucco walls. 

Once we entered the casa, we discovered one of Merida’s secrets: behind the nondescript exteriors, there are often beautiful dwellings with colonial roots including courtyards, pools, rooftop sunning decks, mile-high ceilings, Moroccan tile, fountains, and oodles of history. We were lucky enough to stay in two of these historic homes in the city’s Centro area during our stay. The first AirBnB was “Casa Munys” and the second was “Casa Opium”, a beautiful Moroccan inspired oasis. We learned to incorporate new sounds into our understanding, like the time Cameron commented that the bicycle has very squeaky brakes. The “squeaky brakes” turned out to be a squeaker horn on a bicycle that a bread peddler (literally) would ride by on every day for breakfast and dinner, with his horn announcing his arrival. 

There was also the beep of automobiles going through intersections. Not the blaring honk of a New York City cab driver, but more of a soft notification ; stop signs are suggestions in Merida.

On Christmas and even more impressively on New Years, the sound of thousands of firecrackers and other fireworks across the city at all times of the night was a constant background for hours, but not overwhelming or scary. The smell of gunpowder wafted across the rooftop where we spent so much of our time. It felt like a joyous celebration of the holidays that spans location and culture. 

One incredible highlight of our time in Merida was that our children Will, Rachel, and Drew were able to join us for several days, including Christmas. We explored the city together, including the sprawling city markets where the locals shop, historical sights, ate ridiculous amounts of tasty Mexican food and relished each other’s company. Then, on Christmas morning, we met a tour guide at 5:45 AM for a day tour to Chichen Itza, a beautiful, private Mayan cenote, and the historical town of Izmal.  This was an amazing day to say the least. Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the world, and the cenote was an astoundingly beautiful place in a Mayan family’s backyard. This was indeed a Feliz Navidad.

Some of our favorite places in Merida: The markets are lively, colorful, and a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables. We bought fresh vegetables almost every day, right around the corner from our AirBnB at the Mercado de Santiago. Usually, what they didn’t have, we were able to pick up at the Super Aki across the street. Soriana was a bigger store and a bit further away;  we did make a few trips to Wal-Mart via Uber for American style Christmas dinner. We also bought most of our meat there because we just felt it might be a bit safer, besides, at the markets, the meat may still have a head on it. 

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the big market, Lucas de Galvez. And by “big”, we mean ten+ city blocks with stalls, street vendors, people selling things balanced on their heads, carts, and throngs of people. One of our favorite street foods turned out to be a Lebanese-inspired gyro type meat on a tortilla shell, or Tacos al Pastor. The first time we tried it, there were no seats at the outdoor, covered patio in front of the food vendor. No problem. The waitress asked a local woman if it was okay if we shared her table. We managed to have a beautiful conversation despite the language barrier and were delighted to buy her lunch, which for all three of us, including delicious ice-cold Coca-Cola in glass bottles, came to under $5.  We enjoyed this so much, we brought the kids back to experience it. 

With the holidays and extra relaxation, we unfortunately missed the museums, which are said to be very good. That’s on our list for next time. We did enjoy the many parks around Merida. The Paseo de Montejo was an enjoyable walk with historic mansi0ns that we toured. Overall, we would highly recommend Merida and would be happy to return. 

A few days after the kids flew home, we traveled on to San Benito. This is a tiny little beach area that is a few kilometers from Progeso. In San Benito, we rented an AirBnB beach house with a pool deck that was steps away from the Gulf of Mexico with coconut palms right outside our door. 

San Benito is very rural and quiet, with few restaurants or stores. The entire shoreline seems to have been started and stopped at multiple times. There are currently multiple dwellings under construction and even more that appear to have been started at some point in the last decade and the stopped. We never could piece together a good reason for this, i.e.; weather or economic and are very curious what this area will look like in the next decade. 

We were fortunate enough to visit a local reserve called El Corchito. This island, filled with cenotes,  friendly racoons, and coatis was a delight. We were relieved to see how responsibly they were caring for the environment and not allowing sunscreen, perishable items, or food into the reserve. Additionally, the area is known for its salt water flats, which are pink and are home to crocodiles and pink flamingos. The area originally was developed as part of the Mayan salt trade. There are Mayan ruins in the area that are accessible and were built for this purpose. 

San Benito is near Progreso. This is a small town with a pretty beachfront area and many tourists. Cruise ships often stop here and allow passengers to disembark. There are a few fun restaurants and markets in town. 




2021 Year in Review

2021 Year in Review

Wow! Looking back on 2021, there is a lot to say. On the one hand, an epidemic was going on and with it, much uncertainty. But for us, the year held mostly promise. It started off with us as newlyweds embarking on an epic trip across the western United States. What an adventure! After spending almost every minute together in tight spaces for three months, we knew we wanted even more. 

After returning to Knoxville, we buckled down and returned to our routine at home. This involved some return to the office for Adrian and Cameron completing her DNP project proposal and getting back into the hospital setting as a graduate teaching assistant. Also, we continued our stint as home remodeling “experts”, completing a kitchen and laundry room redo and Cameron planted and maintained an impressive garden.

We managed to do a few side trips along the way:

  • Mother’s Day in Crystal River, Saint Augustine, and Gainesville, Florida
  • Big South Fork camping and trail work in June
  • Lake Jocassee  camping in July
  • Adrian went to Arizona in September

We had several family members visit along the way as well. Then, in December, we left for another epic trip- Mexico!

Bentonville Arkansas, March 28- April 1

Bentonville Arkansas, March 28- April 1

Bentonville, Arkansas was a wonder of a town and we weren’t sure what to expect other than lots of fantastic mountain biking and a good recommendation about the art museum. As a friend said The Walton Family basically screwed over the rest of the United States but made Bentonville awesome. with the money. The trails were even better than we had imagined and made Adrian wish we had similar beginner-friendly dirt trails here, the restaurants were great and the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art was astounding. This was another highlight of our trip and definitely plan to go back. 

Colorado Memories- Beautiful towns, great friends, more adventures. March 10-March 26

Colorado Memories- Beautiful towns, great friends, more adventures. March 10-March 26

This was one of our favorite parts of the trip. Colorado was even more beautiful than we had anticipated. One of our absolute favorite towns was discovered and involved all-day hot spring soaking, unlimited champagne, and fabulous views. We even had some visitors in Colorado Springs and enjoyed the snow. Despite this being the wrap up leg of our trip, it did not disappoint. 

Hopefully more details to be added later…