Quite a few Canadians own a summer cottage, usually a place by a lake that they open up on the long weekend in May and close down on Labour Day weekend in September. I’ve had one myself. But today my longing is for a cottage that I would open in November and close in April, somewhere tropical, of course.
A television program that I watch quite faithfully—House Hunters International—has led me to believe that the “cottage” I have been looking for can be found In Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The climate there seems perfect, the supply of historical homes plentiful, the price could be just right, and the setting exactly what I’m looking for. And besides, Merida is only 36 km (22 mi) from the sea. Although Merida has an airport, I could get a direct flight for probably a more competitive price to Cancun and bus to Merida from there.
So in March I told my family that I was off again, this time to check out buying a winter cottage, a simple place that I could shut down for several months each year just like we do with summer cottages at home.
I must say Merida ticked all my boxes.
- It has one of the largest “Centro Historico” districts in all of the Americas, filled with Spanish colonial architecture and homes just waiting to be renovated.
- At its heart is the Large Plaza filled with laurel trees and benches—so Mexican.
- Around the Plaza the buildings are not only historical, they are fabulous in design and all quite different. One such building is the oldest cathedral in Mexico.
- Merida is nicknamed the ‘white city’, perhaps because it is so incredibly clean. While it is impeccable, it’s also real. Just head out to the boisterous outdoor market, only a short walk from the Plaza.
Merida is culturally interesting
- Merida is the capital of the State of Yucatan and several of the mansions that grace the city have been turned into museums.
- Every day there is a free event in the historic centre and each Sunday the streets around the Main Plaza are closed for a live music concert.
- Merida has a large Maya population and is close to important Mayan ruins.
Merida is visitor friendly
- There is a free monthly bilingual (Spanish and English) tourist guide for visitors called Yucatan Today and a companion website.
- There are free walking tours around the historic centre.
- Maps and brochures of city highlights are readily available and attractions well marked.
- There are some great outdoor restaurants.
And that’s just the start. The expats do not seem to be hidden within a gated community but integrated throughout the historic centre. The Merida English Library is the place where expats meet and become informed. Every week they have walking tours of houses and gardens that take you through restored homes from various eras and through some that are in the process of being renovated.
Some houses are modest and some grander. I am looking for a very modest one but a space that I can make my own, where I can leave paperbacks and board games just like at a Canadian summer cottage.
The library offers three-day intensive courses to help a potential buyer estimate how much a property should cost, what you’ll probably pay for renovations, how to find an architect and materials, and the importance of obtaining building permits.
I was only in Merida for a week and that was not enough time to check everything out. So I will return. And I have noticed that my desires are not quite as modest as before I went. A little dipping pool in a Spanish courtyard would be nice. And maybe I should get a place that has those antique tiled floors. And my kids and grandkids would all like to visit and if everyone comes for Christmas then I would need to have enough space. And…
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2013