Vibrant and Safe. These are the two adjectives that I have heard over and over when talking about Merida, Mexico. It was also explained to me that outside of El Centro and as you head North towards Progresso, it could easily feel as if you are in south Florida, however without all the "legally concealed hand guns and the insane "stand your ground" law. There is a large Expat community here and with that you do get all the comforts (trappings) of where you came from such as a Walmart, TGIFridays or any myriad of fast food franchises. Nothing says living in a foreign country like having all the amenities and comforts of home. Yes, of course it is still Mexico, but ultimately it's not my Mexico. You will understand what I mean if you travel through the states of Chiapas (my absolute favorite), Oaxaca, Campeche, Veracruz or Puebla. If you did not know, there are 32 States in Mexico, and the official name of the country is the United States of Mexico. Take that USA!! Merida and the surrounding area is an excellent place to relax, explore and enjoy yourself. The 45 minute bus ride to the beach at Progresso is something to look forward to, and I suspect the Indio or Medelo is ice cold.
My plan was to spend about a month in Merida/Progresso. I have friends who have moved here and it was with their coxing that has me exploring a possible new home base. There are volumes of information about this area being the best place to retire/live in Mexico so it was time to find out for myself. Plus having Mexican residency would just be very cool.
With that being said and after a 2 hour ADO bus ride from Vallodolid, my first stop was Casa Lool Bah. I booked for 9 nights because it took me to the end of the month. Merida El Centro is in a grid pattern so finding anything is as easy as it gets. Google Maps/GPS is always the go to as well. The reviews were consistent, the location was close enough to the main Zocolo and there was a shaded pool. It turned out fine. The hosts were great. Jose was from Spain and Ananda was from Mexico City. They were renting the house with their dogs Rulo and Valentin, and then converted it to a hostel. It was peaceful and they were very welcoming. I had access to the kitchen to cook my own food. I don't do this often but sometimes it's a nice change of pace.
I was excited to be here. First things first. it was time to get my walking shoes on and head to El Centro. Mexico has this great country marketing program, where each city has its own colorful city sign. I have notice other countries are picking up this trend. These signs are tourist attractions and are a photo "must have". The sign in Cancun, which is at the far end of the beach zone is actually embarrassing to observe. There is a lineup of tourists waiting patiently in a long winding line under the intense head to snap the shot. Cancun is my "go to spot" to fly into Mexico. I stay downtown and catch the bus to the beach zone, where tourists pay thousands of dollars to sit on the same beach as I do. One time I sat on the beach and watched the madness of the Cancun Sign photo party. It was approx a 45 minute wait. Damn. I sauntered up as there was a transition of people and just clicked my Cancun sign shot. A bit of a sloppy thing to do, but so be it. You cannot be an angel every moment of the day. As for Merida, it was mid-day and siesta time. So I had free reign over the sign.
Observations on my first day or wandering. This town is a great walking town. Colonial buildings, wide boulevards, quite a few parks, and smiling people. However you must always remember, Mexicans gather on the sidewalks in groups so you might have to do a bit of dodging and weaving. The sidewalks are often raised so if you are not careful a broken ankle is not out of the question. Also, cars always always always have the right away, regardless of any traffic law.
With all the initial exploring I did have an endpoint, Hennessy's Irish Pub. I tend to find an expat pub wherever I go and they are usually Irish. Way to go Ireland. It was a very westernized Irish Pub with quite a few large screen TVs playing sports which is OK by me. There was a very nice long bar, lots of places to sit as it was not busy for an afternoon, and the staff were friendly enough. I am sure they see their share of wide eyed tourists and expats so I was not too over the top with any questions or conversations. I kept it simple and low key. I was going to be coming back and first impressions are everything. The Indio was ice cold.
After a few pints it was time for some street food and I was not disappointed. I devoured a few friend meat sandwiches and found my way back to my BnB. I was full, a bit drunk and content. Not a bad first day Merida. Not bad at all.