Tag Archives: merida

To Market To Market

On Wednesday I went on a food adventure with my sister Kaaren and our friend Deb.  The first part of our experience took place in the Lucas de Gálvez’ market in central Merida where we went to purchase all the vegetables and other supplies for cooking our meal.  Before we even entered the market we stopped to get some chaya from a vendor.  Chaya comes from a shrub native to the Yucatan. It is sometimes also called tree spinach. Edgar our affable and informative guide for the day told us that chaya can be toxic if it isn’t prepared properly but cooked the right way it can actually provide you with lots of valuable vitamins and minerals.  We would use it to make tortillas and a delicious juice for our meal.  We entered  the  Lucas de Gálvez’ market. It was a huge space bustling with people. The corridors between the stands were narrow and we had to be sure not to stand in the way of the traffic flow. I think we might have gotten lost in the market without Edgar there to guide us.  You could buy live chickens and rabbits in the market but Edgar said we didn’t need to purchase any because his Aunt Bertha, who would be helping us cook, had gone to the market this morning to get the chicken for our meal. Our first stop was at this little shop where we tasteddifferent kinds of jams made with jalapeno peppers and tried coconut and licorice liquors. Edgar suggested we buy some to have after our meal.Edgar showed us achiote seeds. Achiote is a peppery spice that comes from the seeds of an evergreen shrub. The achiote seeds had been used to make this red paste.  Edgar bought a bag. While Deb was checking out the bags of red achiote paste Edgar told us we would be coating our chicken with it before we cooked it. Edgar said it was time for a snack to fortify ourselves for the rest of our shopping trip.  He ordered pork buns with onions for us.  I especially liked the huge radish that accompanied my sandwich.  Edgar told us to squeeze lime juice on it before we ate it to bring out its flavour. Edgar got cups of ice-cold lime juice to go with the pork buns. We were glad of the refreshment because it was a very hot day. Then we were back in the trenches to visit one stand after another to collect our cooking ingredients.  We bought tomatoes from this friendly woman. This vendor let us taste some ground pumpkin seed before we bought it.  Mixed together with a tomato sauce the ground pumpkin seed would make a delicious nutty dip for tortilla chips. We bought dough for making our own tortillas at this stand where we watched a machine in action that can crank out thousands of tortillas every hour. We picked up lettuce and cilantro. Edgar added a variety of hot peppers including ones called red devils to our growing inventory of purchased ingredients. He put a couple of these interesting cucumbers into his shopping bag and a half-dozen of these slightly sour oranges.  These avocados looked different from the kind we buy in the grocery store. We were squeezing them to see which ones were ripe enough till my sister saw the sign “If don’t buy-don’t touch.” Edgar showed us how by just looking at the end of the avocado you can tell if it is ripe and ready to eat. Now we were ready to leave the market.  It had been quite a shopping adventure.  Two things I noticed during our time in the  Lucas de Gálvez’ market was that every single vendor had a religious shrine of some kind in their stand and……I marveled at the pure artistry of the vendors who arranged their produce in such creative ways. The various colors of the vegetables and the way they were artfully organized was a feast for the eye. Look how these carrots have been carefully arranged!

As we left the market Edgar hailed this small ancient taxi. Squished together in the cramped hot back seat the three of us bumped along on the twenty-five minute ride to Aunt Bertha’s where the cooking part of our adventure took place.  You will have to check the blog tomorrow to learn all about that!

Other posts……….

Beauty in Ordinary Things

India Assaults the Senses

Acquiring a Taste For Jamaican Food

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Filed under Food, Mexico

Loving Uber!

We get around everywhere by Uber here in Mexico.  The rates are so cheap and there are so many drivers available that downloading Uber apps on our phones and using them for our transportation needs is a far more economical and practical choice than renting a car. Some drivers don’t speak English but others do and we have learned plenty of interesting things from them. 

Many have left jobs related to their university degrees- business, technology, innovation, architecture, engineering to drive Uber because they can make a better living here in Mexico as a driver than as a professional. 

Two of our drivers were Americans who had roots in Mexico, had come here for visits, fallen in love with Mexican women and had children.  Since getting American immigration papers for their families is almost impossible they must remain here. 

Some people drive Uber because it gives them an opportunity to have two jobs or it gives them the flexibilty to spend more time with their kids during the day. One of our drivers was a farmer and he and Dave discussed their family farms during our trip.  

One driver who didn’t speak English asked Dave in a questioning way “música?” When Dave said ‘The Beatles” the driver understood him immediately and played one Beatles hit after the other on his car sound system during our ride. 

We have only had one female driver.  She didn’t understand English but Dave and Rudy managed to convey that they wanted to stop on our ride to pick up some items from the grocery store.  While the fellows went into the store I showed her pictures of my grandsons on my phone and she showed me photos of her family and with gestures and the few words we knew of each other’s languages I learned she had five brothers and two sisters,seven nieces and nephews and that her grandmother had died last year. We even figured out that her nephew and my grandson shared the same name. 

A couple of our drivers have moved here from Mexico City  because there is so much less crime and extortion and corruption here in the Yucatan.  They gave us lots of interesting reasons why that is the case.

I especially love Uber trips I make on my own.  My last two I was lucky enough to get drivers who both spoke a fair bit of English and we had fascinating half hour conversations on our ride home from Merida. Uber is fast and convenient but the bonus for me is that I am meeting lots of interesting people and am learning so much about Merida and the Yucatan from our local drivers.  

Other posts………..

Friend For A Moment

We Placed Our Lives in his Hands

Dave the Professional Driver

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Filed under Mexico, Travel

Reconnecting With Renan

Dave and Renan twelve years ago

Way back in 2006 a young man named Renan Canto from Merida Mexico came to Steinbach as an exchange student at the regional high school where both my husband Dave and I were teachers.  Renan was in my grade ten English class and Dave was his basketball coach.  I taught journalism and one of my students Courtney Fehr did a profile of Renan for our school paper.  During his interview for the article Renan talked about what a great experience he was having in Canada.

Dave with Renan at Chichen Itza

In 2007 Dave and I went on a holiday to Cancun Mexico with our friends Rudy and Sue Nikkel. We knew Renan’s home in Merida was about a three and half hour drive away but we contacted him anyway and let him know we would be in Mexico. Renan and his brother came to pick us up in a chauffered car and drive us to their family home in Merida.  

Me and Rudy and Sue Nikkel with Renan and his brother at Chichen Itza

On the way we stopped at the famous Mayan archeological site at Chichen Itza where Renan’s father had arranged for a private guide to give us a tour.

Dave and Rudy with Renan’s father and brother enjoying a coconut drink in their backyard before dinner

When we arrived in Merida Renan’s parents rolled out the red carpet for us.

Me with Renan’s mother

His mother made us a wonderful supper and they hosted us for the night.  

Posing with Renan and his family on the front steps of their family home in 2007

The next day before we traveled back to our hotel in Cancun Renan’s parents treated us to brunch in a restaurant housed in a beautiful old home in Merida.  We have never forgotten their wonderful hospitality. 

When we knew we would be in Merida with our friend Rudy this year Dave contacted Renan.  He told us he had gotten married this fall and Dave invited him and his wife to join us for lunch.  Renan picked a fantastic seafood restaurant called La Pigua.  We had a delicious meal and a wonderful visit.  Renan and Lizmar have only been married for four months and they described their month long honeymoon in France, Italy and Greece.  Renan who studied electrical engineering owns a lighting company and installs commercial lighting as well as orchestrating light shows for special occasions.  He told us about a light show he had done at some ruins called Teotihuacán near Mexico City. Renan’s wife Lizmar runs a dance studio where around a hundred students study ballet.  We had a long visit and agreed we will try to meet again during our time here in Merida. 

It was great to reconnect with Renan and to meet Lizmar!

Other posts………..

Visiting My Students in New York

Ivan Was Here

So Proud of Her

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Filed under Mexico, People

Let’s Play Ball – Mayan Style

Having a husband and two sons who are baseball and basketball players means I’ve watched a whole lot of ball games in my life, but I’ve never seen a game like Pok Ta Pok. We watched a match one evening in front of the major cathedral in Merida.  The name comes from the sound the 4 kilogram game ball makes as it is passed from player to player. See the round hoop on the right hand side?  The ball needs to pass through it to score. We had a wonderful pre-game event – a pasta and pork tenderloin supper courtesy of my sister Kaaren and her husband Ken on the lovely outdoor patio of the home they are renting in Merida.  We were joined by our friend Rudy, and Kaaren and Ken’s friends from Winnipeg who are here to spend a week with them.  After the meal we headed down to watch the game from bleachers that had been set up alongside the Pok Ta Pok court. The guys were discussing the Jets game happening in Winnipeg before the Pok Ta Pok game began.  Dave was following on his phone as the Jets beat Anaheim 9-3. 

Dave at the ball court at Chichen Itza.The ring Dave is pretending to  shoot at is exactly like the one that was in the centre of playing court in Merida. 

I had seen a Pok Ta Pok court  when we visited the ancient Mayan community of Chichen Itza in 2007.  The court in Merida was open and did not have high walls like the one in Chichen Itza and the ring the ball would be shot into was in the center of the court in Merida and in Chichen Itza it was on the wall. 

Before a Pok To Tok game can begin there are lots of cermonial rituals that are carried out. Note the players have painted their bodies and are wearing traditional Mayan attire. See the ring the ball will go through? 

The game was fast paced and each team had four male players.  I wondered if women every play the sport.  The men hit the ball back and forth to each other but could only use their hips or thighs for doing so.  I thought their hips and thighs must be pretty bruised by the time a game was over.  

See the fire ball above the one player’s head?

After the Pok Ta Pok game we were treated to a demonstration of another version of the game where the ball is set on fire and the players use their hands to pass it to each other and then try to put it through the hoop.  I figured they must have had some kind of powder or cream on their hands to prevent them from getting burned. 

aztec ullamaliztli players Aztec ullamaliztli players performing for Charles V in Spain, drawn by Christoph Weiditz in 1528.

Pok ta Pok as depicted by Christoph Weiditz in a 1528 Spanish manuscript

It was an interesting evening seeing a sport invented some 3000 years ago still being played today. 

Other posts………

Take Me Out to the Ball Game- Osaka Style

Maybe an Iguana Ate My Golf Ball

Tigers Baseball


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Filed under Mexico, Sports

Fish For Lunch

“The place doesn’t look like much.”  “A real hole in the wall.” “Plain and friendly.”  “Quick service and great meals.”  “The seafood is delicious and cheap.”

roberto tour guide meridaThat’s what we had read about the Marlin Azul cantina in Merida. After my sister said she and her husband had enjoyed delicious shrimp fajitas there Dave and I decided to try it on our trip into Merida yesterday.  Once we were out of our Uber we got a little direction turned but there are these English-speaking tourist guides hired by the city at many key intersections and this man named Roberto was happy to point us in the right direction. helpful fellow meridaWhen we got a little turned around again direction wise this gentleman kindly stopped and offered to take us to the restaurant.marlin restaurantHe led us right to the Marlin Azul and the outward appearance lived up to the descriptions we had read.waiter marlin restaurantSo did the descriptions of the friendly service. This affable waiter helped Dave pick out the perfect beer to go with our meal.shrimp cervice meridaAnd the food certainly lived up to its hype.  The shrimp fajitas we shared were wonderful.lunch marlin meridaWe were about to set off on an eight kilometer walk around the city to explore some of its art galleries.  Our meal at the Marlin Azul fortified us and got our afternoon off to a perfect start!

Other posts…..

First Supper in Lisbon- My Husband Has Great Instincts

A Gourmet Sail in Costa Rica

Home Grown in Newfoundland

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Filed under Food, Mexico, Restaurants

A Walk To Breakfast in Mexico

los benesWe had passed by a restaurant called Los Benes several times on our Uber rides into Merida.  Someone had recommended it as a good breakfast place, so after a rather dismal breakfast last weekend at the only restaurant in our neighbourhood, we thought we would try Los Benes yesterday.  graffiti mexicoIt was about four kilometers away so we decided to walk. We had driven this route numerous times but you see so many interesting things you never noticed before when you travel by foot, like all the colourful  graffiti painted on the walls along the road.. house walk to breakfast mexicoand homes that are very different from the ones in the rather middle class neighborhood where we are staying or the high-end houses we saw on our bus tour of Merida. garden merida walkMany people were cultivating small garden patches.abandoned carThere was so much garbage along the road, like this abandoned car in the bush dead duckand this dead abandoned duck in a plastic bag.wall mexico walkI marveled at this wall which went on for nearly a kilometer and enclosed someone’s property. wall mexicoHow much work went into constructing it? Look at all those hundreds of tiny stones around each larger one! cantina meridaThere were all these little cantinas selling food along the way.  Some of it looked quite tasty and we almost stopped at one for breakfast rather than going on to Los Benes. 

We were walking along quite a busy highway and our friend Rudy exhibited great patience with what he thinks is my painfully slow walking pace exacerbated by my frequent stops to take photos. 

But our trip was worth it.  Los Benes was a cute clean little place decorated in a colorful chicken theme with friendly waitresses and good food. 

I had a vegetarian Eggs Benedict and Dave ordered pancakes. 

We did take the Uber home with a stop along the way at a mall so I could buy some jigsaw puzzles to work on with my sister while she is here. The power was off in our house when we got home and a neighbor told us it happens regularly and it was anyone’s guess when it would go back on, so we decided to golf nine holes. When we got home from our round the power was miraculously back on!Since we’d had a big brunch we waited till supper to eat next. Dave made chili and I made salad and I think it was almost as good as our brunch at Los Benes.

Other posts……….

Breakfast in Florida

Sunday Mornings At the Olive Mill

A Feast For Breakfast

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Fun Times in Merida

My sister Kaaren and her husband Ken have arrived in Merida for a month and it is so great to have them here. They are staying in a beautiful old house in the city center about a half hour drive away from us. Yesterday we went into Merida to see their home which was built in 1902 with an interior decorated in a traditional Spanish style.

We went on a tour with the Carnavalito company. Isn’t their logo jaunty?

Ken had booked a tour on a colorfully designed bus.  We drove around the city for about ninety minutes or so while our guide told us about what we were seeing in both Spanish and English. We went by many  gorgeous stately homes. I was surprised how many had been bought by people from other countries like Ireland,the United States and Canada. Some had received modern renovating and others appeared to have been kept in their original style. We also saw some of the city’s public art including a striking installation in the city centre.

This church was built in 1790

According to our guide each church we passed was a couple hundred years older than the one we had seen before. It seems like Merida has a plethora of public parks to enjoy and we passed by many that looked like great places to walk or relax. After the tour we enjoyed some beverages in the comfortable sitting area near the swimming pool in the lovely backyard of my sister’s home and then we headed over to the little restaurant across the street from their house. It would definitely fit the description of ‘hole in the wall’ but the owner was charming. Her nephew translated for us and we ordered two delicious dishes. We made plans for my sister and her husband to come to our place today so the guys can golf and then Dave and our friend Rudy decided we should try to take a local bus home instead of hiring an Uber the way we had on the way into Merida. Rudy found a very helpful woman who steered us onto the right bus. The ride was pretty fast with only a few stops and cost about 50 cents compared to a $12 Uber ride. I have a feeling we will be taking the city bus again.

Other posts……….

A Rainbow in My Mouth

Pink Jeep Tour

I Drank A Beer in Austria

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Filed under Mexico