Stone Cold

Author: , October 31st, 2012

Within an hour’s drive of Merida are many little towns dotting the Yucateca landscape that specialize in their own particular brand of hand-crafted items. In Ticul you will find wonderful ceramics of every design, shape, and size. Temozon streets are lined with bodegas selling stunning Mayan-inspired furniture in woods of pine, cedar, and Tsalam. And just 10 minutes outside Merida lies Dzitya, a sleepy little pueblo offering up works of sinks, fountains, gargolas, floor and wall tiles, statues, and more, all made from local stone.

Dzitya is close enough to Merida to be on a city bus route. So when Steve and I needed some items for our B&B we took a bus to Dzitya (six pesos – such a bargain!), got off on a corner just outside the town square, and began our search. Actually, we had lunch, first, but I’ll save that incredible experience for another time.

After lunch we walked to the town square, which is quite large for a town this size. We saw, maybe 2 dozen homes in the little village, and although I’m sure there are a few more, the size of the town square belies the small size of the overall town. In fact, the town square IS Dzitya. And although hardly a soul was around, don’t let the apparent lack of activity fool you. To many this dusty little pueblo is just another struggling Mexican village. But look deeper and you will find a treasure trove of goods and people.

Lined along the streets bordering the square is shop after shop with locals selling their wares. There are highly lacquered pieces in Tsalam, a beautiful local hardwood, and ceramics. But the town specializes in heavy local stonework.
Dzitya 1
Dzitya 2
Dzitya 3

There are three main types of stone used in Dzitya. Macedonia is a dense, white stone with a Jurassic-era look. We have seen this stone on floors and stairs and walls, and we have a sink made of Macedonia in one of our guestrooms. Coquina is a lustrous, marble-like stone used for virtually everything in Merida colonial homes. It has the look of some of the finest Italian marble, but at a price that makes it affordable on even the tightest of budgets. We purchased two coquina corner shelves for our own shower, and the total came to about $30.00 US. I almost felt guilty getting them for that price. I said almost.

Finally comes my favorite local stone, Ticul. Ticul is a red, dense stone. It will have variations of color throughout, often with streaks of deep-red or brown. Because it is so easily identifiable, and affordable, you see Ticul all over Merida: on stairs, floors, walls in bathrooms, kitchens, counter-tops, and building facades. Our pool fountain gargolas are Ticul.

Unlike in Italy, where the prices of stone and marble have risen to luxury level, these Yucateca stones are still rock-bottom cheap, which is why so many expats use them to build their new homes in Merida. All the shops will wrap and ship your items for you, so don’t be afraid of purchasing something for your own home.

Dzitya is a real rough gem of a town. And in September each year, in the town square, is held a huge crafts fair where you will see artisans offering everything imaginable made of wood, stone, and ceramics. It’s just another reason why people from the U.S. and all over the world are flocking to Merida.

Jordy and his partner, Steve, welcome guests to Casa Del Maya Bed & Breakfast in Merida, Mexico. Their six rooms offer pasta tile floors, talavera sinks, air conditioning, pool, full breakfast, ticul gargolas, and much more. Casa Del Maya is centrally located for easy access to Merida attractions and the Mayan ruin sites of Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Uxmal, Ek Balam, area cenotes, Celestun, Progreso, and many others. For information and reservations, visit www.CasaDelMaya.com.

A Sunday Bike Ride in Merida

Author: , October 4th, 2012
Church of Santa Ana

The Church of Santa Ana, on the corner as you cross over from Calle 60 to Paseo Montejo Boulevard

Quinta Montes Molina Museum Mansion
The Mansion and Museum Quinta Montes Molina, located on Paseo Montejo, is still privately owned by the same family that has owned it for 100 years. It is open to the public and available for special events.

Looking for a relaxing place to see great architecture, roam colonial streets, eat wonderful local foods, and infuse yourself with local color? Then the city of Merida, in the state of Yucatan in Mexico, is just the place for you. Only one of the great ways to experience all these things is a weekly event that every visitor to Merida should experience at least once.

Each Sunday morning an incredible event takes place on the boulevard Paseo Montejo, the “Champs-Elysees” of Merida. Hundreds of locals and tourists alike bring their bicycles, or rent one right on the boulevard, and join families, singles, couples, and every other combination you can imagine, to enjoy a leisurely bike ride. The city of Merida closes down Calle 60 and Paseo Montejo for the weekly event, placing volunteers at every intersection to ensure safety. The ride begins at the Zocalo (main square) on Calle 60 at Calle 59 (continuing the fiesta that begins on Saturday), continues North to Calle 47, cuts east one block to Paseo Montejo, and continues about 2 additional kilometers. All along the way you will see water stations, children’s’ activities booths, dancing, exercising areas, music, and much more, all free. So even if you are not a bike rider, you can take a leisurely walk under canopied trees and stop for coffee and pastries, ice cream, or a full breakfast at one of the many, charming cafes along the boulevard.

You are sure to make many new friends, whether they be local ex-pats also out to enjoy the morning, Spanish-speaking locals and tourists, or families from all over this huge globe. You will marvel at the architecture of the many historic homes lining the boulevard, some of which are open to the public as museums and other public spaces. You’ll pick up a few new Spanish words, drop a few pounds, and gain new insight into what it might be like to live in this wonderful, historic city with its lovely, welcoming inhabitants.

Jordy and his partner, Steve, welcome guests to Casa Del Maya Bed & Breakfast in Merida, Mexico. Their six rooms offer pasta tile floors, talavera sinks, air conditioning, pool, full breakfast, and much more, all centrally located for easy access to Merida attractions and the Mayan ruin sites of Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Uxmal, Ek Balam, area cenotes, Celestun, Progreso, and many others. For information and reservations, visit www.CasaDelMaya.com.

A Day Trip in the Yucatan

Author: , September 23rd, 2012

A Day Trip to Ticul
By Jordy Hines

Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Dzibilchaltun, Ek Balam, Uxmal – these are only some of the must-see Mayan civilization sites one can visit on a day trip from Merida, on the wonderful peninsula state of Yucatan, Mexico. But what else is there to do for an excited traveler bent on seeing a bit more? Try a shopping/sightseeing trip to one of the many local towns within a couple hours of Merida where you can find many handcrafted items lovingly made by talented indigenous peoples, marvel at historical architecture, and take in the slow, steady pace of life in the Yucatan. Here we suggest a trip to the pottery and ceramic town of Ticul.

Just sixty miles and an hour and a half from Merida is the town of Ticul. You will find many small shops (tiendas) offering their own, hand-crafted ceramics and pottery. Begin your search in the heart of town, exploring the main square, with its many shops and food stands. Every little town in the Yucatan revolves around its own main square, sometimes called a Zócalo. (Did you bring your broom? No? Then I’m afraid you’ll have to walk.)

You will find shops offering clothing, ceramics, and shoes, shoes, shoes (and sandals). Pick up a piñata for your nephew or princess costume for your niece, pick out a pair of sandals for your kids, or a locally-made guayabera for your loved-one (and then wear it yourself when he’s not looking).

Now, I know this is supposed to be a shopping trip, but since you are in Ticul, you should see Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua, located just off the main square. Although looted on several occasions, the church retains some original touches, such as the stone statues of friars on both side entrances and a Black Christ altarpiece.

Also take note of the many Mayan statue reproductions in the medians and on many street corners. There is also a fascinating open-air market at the corner of Calles 23 and 28a. Check it out.

Grab an ice cream, or eat at one of the restaurants adjacent to the square. Then hop back in the car and head out highway 188 (Calle 23). After a few blocks you will begin seeing shop after shop of beautiful ceramics and pottery. Pick up a little ceramic butterfly, frog, or one of those ubiquitous iguanas. Looking for something more impressive? You will see pots, both gigantic and not-so-gigantic, fountains, birdbaths, and much more at a tienda just past Calle 36b, on the right, with “alfareria” (pottery) painted on the front. Further on is another alfareria, this one on the left and offering smaller, more delicately painted pottery. By the way, all the tiendas in Ticul will carefully wrap and ship your selections home, so don’t shy away from purchasing that huge Mayan god facemask you want for the rumpus room.

At this point (somewhere near Calle 38) you should just park the car, and with a bottle of water walk down Calle 23. There is store after store of imaginative, beautiful pieces of arts and crafts. You’ll want to spend an hour in each store, and easily could, but we have to keep moving.

On the right is a store, Chaa-Multun-Ka’t, with hanging ceramic pots and sconces. Next to that is Artesanias Decoración Maya, one of my favorite places, selling reproductions of Mayan statues and wall hangings. Pick one up and the family who owns the place will tell you exactly what Mayan god is represented and why they are important.

Two doors down is La Perla del Sur, another alfareria, and then a small, unnamed (at least last time I was there) shop with some of the most imaginatively designed sconces I have seen. The family’s son, who is about 20 years old, has begun to design his own pieces, and they are striking in color and design. Many of them are featured in our Bed & Breakfast in Merida.

Across the street is a ramshackle building with a black roof that seems to be falling in. But don’t let that deter you from checking out their brightly-colored sconces and pots of sunflower designs. The roof isn’t really falling in; it is simply made of a very inexpensive, flexible material and so is often used on local shop buildings.

If you are still up for more, walk a couple more blocks, or take the car to a brightly-colored, yellow lean-to on the left. The woman running this tienda has a large number of pots in more traditional designs and natural terracotta.

Now you will want to turn around and visit your favorites again to see exactly what pieces you cannot live without. Have them pack up your treasures and hop back in the car (after stopping for another bottle of water), and head back to your home base at Casa Del Maya Bed & Breakfast in Merida, where your extremely well-appointed hosts will be waiting to see what great taste you have. Take a dip in the pool while we drool over your art pieces, then grab a nap before heading out for a fun night on the town. But come home early and get some sleep, because tomorrow it’s off to Temozon for wonderful, hand-crafted furniture.

Jordy and his partner, Steve, welcome guests to Casa Del Maya Bed & Breakfast in Merida, Mexico. Their six rooms offer pasta tile floors, talavera sinks, air conditioning, pool, full breakfast, and much more, all centrally located for easy access to Merida attractions and the Mayan ruin sites of Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Uxmal, Ek Balam, area cenotes, Celestun, Progreso, and many others. For information and reservations, visit www.CasaDelMaya.com.