Goodbye 2018…

Where did the time go?

I ask myself this question more often than not, as I reach the sunset years of my life. Oh…don’t worry, it won’t sink below the western horizon for a few more years. At least I hope not.

I can already tell that living in Merida has added a good fifteen years to our healthy lifestyle. After a bout with dengue, we gave up hard liquor two years ago. An occasional margarita to celebrate something special is fine. However, we prefer red wine (in moderation) for other special occasions.

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The Caribbean diet agrees with us both, and John has made a study of Yucatan cuisine; a style of cooking we have come to enjoy. It’s a challenge he’s accepted as a chef, to play with and create his own version of Yucatan cooking.

Travels this year included a visit to Valladolid, Campeche, and Antigua, Guatemala. Perhaps you followed us on those journeys.

                                              Valladolid

                                         Campeche

                                   Antigua, Guatemala

Having become a writer late in life, I have tried to make up for lost time. In 2017 I was able to publish my first two books.

Tales reflects on our life in New Mexico as innkeepers from 1994 to 2012. Working in hospitality was a labor of love. I can’t begin to tell all the stories that happened over that period of time, but there will be another book in 2020 that will continue the sage of the Rancho de San Juan era, and the interesting and unusual happenings in the Ojo Caliente River Valley.

                                                The Rancho de San Juan

The second book in 2017 was my first stab at fiction, when I discovered I enjoy writing mystery. The D.G. Heath -Mystery Collection is comprised of three mystery short stories…just the right length to read before bedtime or on a short flight. This one caught the attention of mystery lovers and generated the need to author a second volume.

                                        Mystery Collection – Volume I

So… in 2018, D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Volume II was released. Followed by my forth book, titled The Art of Imagination. I wrote this book to encourage young writers to follow their dream and not wait until they are in their 70s like me. Imagination is a wonderful gift. Add the use of our five senses and you have a recipe for writing.

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                                          Mystery Collection – Volume II

                                                  The Art of Imagination

In 2019 I plan to publish Bedtime Stories and Other Tales which is nearly finished. One third of the D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Volume III is edited and I’m currently working on the last two stories.

Last year went out with a bang. We celebrated with friends at one of our favorite restaurants and rang in the new year Yucatan style.

This year will be a quiet celebration at home. John will fix a special dinner just for the two of us. We’ll be tucked in bed before nine o’clock. When midnight arrives, we’ll be awakened by the fireworks all over the city. The dogs will bark like banchees and cats will scamper across our roof looking for a place to escape from the racket. We’ll wish each other a Happy New Year – roll over and go back to sleep. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Some would say it’s rather jaded. But for two old farts like us, I just think it’s perfecto!

To close the page on this year, I want to wish all our friends, my dedicated readers and mystery fans the best of fortune and happiness in the New Year.

And remember…Accept the things you cannot change. Have the courage to change the things you can. And ask that God grants you the wisdom to know the difference.

Happy New Year!!

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From John and myself

D.G. Heath – Author

Amazon Publications

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. One

The Art of Imagination

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine – Nov. 2016

Cappuccino – No Time for Tears

Email: meridaboys@gmail.com

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Christmas in the Tropics…

A Merida Christmas if you like…

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DSCN2160   Paseo de Montejo

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This will be our sixth year to enjoy the Christmas holidays in the Yucatan, and over that period of time there have been many changes. The street decorations and lighting have improved along Paseo de Montejo and are now quiet glittery and elaborate. The trees lining the avenue used to be decorated by circling clear plastic tubes of lights around the tree trunks, but now they are laced like spider webs with sparkling LED lights stretching into the branches.

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Banners once hung from the light poles down the center of the street, but now the poles are fitted with contemporary metal sculptures decked twinkling LED white lights; and the round-a-bouts are filled with red poinsettias.

At the Rematé, Santa’s Village has appeared with all new lighting and the market area is a sea of colorful overhead lights strung between the vendor’s stalls on each side.

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A golden ornament-sculpture of twinkling lights is a playground for kids and adults alike, while Santa’s sleigh, draped with special lighting, invites kids to climb aboard. It’s a dazzling fairyland around the giant Christmas tree, dancing with a computerized display of changing, colorful light patterns in red, green, white and blue, constantly moving and blinking from the star on top to bottom branches.

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Vendor stalls are filled with merchandise for that special Christmas gift; clothing, jewelry, art, leather goods, hats, plants, toys, and more, await the selective eye of the consumer. Families stroll through the market area as the Ballet Folkloric dancers entertain on stage and the audience listens to singers who have come to Merida to perform. The entertainment is free and the hundreds of folding chairs fill up quickly even before the show begins.

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The aromas wafting from the food vendors fill the air; tacos, enchiladas, marquisettes, salbutes, panuchos, and churros, make your mouth water. And for dessert there’s pies, cakes, cookies, ice cream and even snow-cones. People fill the tables and chairs early while others stand around scanning the area for any movement, waiting to grab the first available seats as the early diners move on.

Children from two to twelve, teenagers, and adults from 20 to 85 enjoy the festivities of the holiday season. The dress code is, whatever pleases you, and the entertainment code is to Enjoy…it takes so little to do both.

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On arrival at the Zocalo  we noticed the sea of lights. Looking to our left, the cathedral is glowing from top to bottom.

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In the Zocalo or main plaza the activities are much the same every year. A large Nativity scene complete with an angel sits in the center, with life size figures and animals; a donkey. lambs. pigs a camel, a horse and even an elephant.

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Trees are strung with lights and once again numerous venders have special gifts to offer. The young and old alike enjoy an evening outting in the Zocalo.

This guy was selling sweet Rice Milk drinks but I couldn’t get him to stop singing and dancing long enough to get his picture. He obviously enjoyed his job and was dressed for the holidays.

Next to the cathedral is the Paseo with its dome of lights.

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This is a must see for all ages and a popular place to propose at Christmas time.

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The Tourist Buss awaits your special trip down Paseo de Montejo  or if you wish you can arrange a horse and carrriage ride. John is discussing a price and the route with the driver. The carriage is my choice.

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The Merida Boys enjoy decorating for Christmas…

 

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Their table is set for a holiday dinner and the contemporary tree is glowing with lights.

From our house to yours…Christmas wishes and blessings for the New Year!

Season’s Greetings and Merry Christmas!!

 

Picture 020                           The Merida Boys

David and John

D.G. Heath – Author

Amazon Publications

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. One

The Art of Imagination

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine – Nov. 2016

Cappuccino – No Time for Tears

Email: meridaboys@gmail.com

From the mountains to the desert…

A Mountain Christmas…1985

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As the clouds lifted and the afternoon cleared, the scene sparkled in the sunlight.

 

In 1982, we had completed construction on our guest cottage in the Tehachapi Mountains, just a two hour drive from Los Angeles. I had sold a movie studio with three sound stages to a company who made music videos. We bought ten acres in Bear Valley Springs, located about 6000 feet above sea level. The property had a 60 degree slope which made building a challenge, but on a clear day you could see forever – over 100 miles. We began to build our main house in the spring of that same year.

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House and Guest Cottage with terraced gardens and orchard

Spending Christmas in the mountains every year, became a tradition that lasted until 1989. John’s mom and dad moved into the main house and we stayed in the guest house on the weekends. The four of us worked in the terraced gardens and orchard which provided an abundant variety of food for our family of four.

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Basket of Veggies from the garden and eggs from our chickens

Stella, John’s mom, enjoyed canning vegetables and fruit, and there was no end to what you might find in her storage room; pickled peaches, crabapples, pears and pear preserves, jams and jellies of every kind including homemade elderberry jam.

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Stella’s Storage Room

Her pickled okra and cucumber bread-and-butter pickles were a hit with all the neighbors. There was always enough salsa, pickled peppers, chow-chow and jalapeño jelly to give away as Christmas gifts to friends. She even made her own liquors; Kahlua, Galliano, cherry and peach, plus flavored vodka with pepper or rosemary and lavender.

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Jugs of Elderberry wine in the making  –  w/ balloons

John’s dad decided to make elderberry wine one year. The balloons told him how the fermentation was coming along. However, the experiment was just that and the wine was never quit drinkable, Stella was more adapt when it came to making her alcoholic beverages.

The main house was 35 feet wide and 75 feet long, with the living room at one end, kitchen and bath and storage room in the middle and the bedroom at the opposite end. A large deck, fifteen-feet off the ground, ran the full length on the west side of the house, with a view of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the San Joaquin Valley. Our gardens terraced down the hill behind the guest cottage and the orchard was to the north of the gardens.

We were blessed with friendly deer, a family of cute but destructive raccoons, an occasional possum, chickens, the elusive mountain rattlesnake, a lost bobcat and a noisy, mean goose. The area was prone to black bears and mountain coyotes in the summer months and John’s dad had his family of six cats that helped keep the rodent population of mice and goffers under control.

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I am 5’ 11 ½” tall. The sunflower with the large leaves behind me was over eight feet high and as you can see, our corn was as high as an elephant’s eye – and I wasn’t in Oklahoma.

It was Christmas Eve and giant snowflakes began to fall. Our tree was covered in bee-lights, red bows and silver ornaments. The stockings were hung from the fireplace hearth with care and the truss beams throughout the house were decorated with garland and wreaths.

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The table was set for dinner with candles and fine china, and the aroma of cooking spices and a crown roast filled the air while holiday music played in the background. We’ve always dressed for dinner on Christmas Eve. Somehow, it makes it seem more festive,

 

The following morning we awoke to a winter wonderland. It had snowed eighteen inches overnight. The granite table on the guest cottage deck was mounded high.

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John made a Nativity scene for his mom with paper we brought back from Venice and pieces of his grandmother’s jewelry.

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From the Mountains to the Desert…

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In 1989 we bought a new house in Phoenix, AZ. so Stella and J.H. would have a warmer place to spend the winter. However, we didn’t realize that the desert can freeze now and then during the winter, even as far South as Phoenix. The terracotta fountain in our back yard was iced up shortly before Christmas and there was snow on the magenta Bougainvillea.

 

Our Christmas tree was made of straw colored raffia, tall and slim so it didn’t take up much space in the room. We decorated it Southwest style with turquoise, silver and gold ornaments, then tucked in some dried seed pods from desert plants, laced it with a string of turquoise and wooden beads and topped it with a bundle of feathers

Our granite top from the deck table in the mountains served as our dining table, and I made a wreath for the front door out of pomegranates and eucalyptus.

We only owned the house in Phoenix three years before we sold it in one week and moved to New Mexico where we opened our country inn and restaurant. Of course Stella and J.H. moved with us. They weren’t about to miss out on a new adventure. Our business became a family project that lasted 20 years.

Up next week: A new beginning!

Christmas In the tropics…

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D.G. Heath – Author

Amazon Publications

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. One

The Art of Imagination

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine – Nov. 2016

Cappuccino – No Time for Tears

Christmas at Four – 1946

White snow glistened on dark tree branches and blanketed the ground in our neighborhood, adding to the excitement that we as young children could scarcely contain. Bundled-up from head to toe, we scurried outdoors where our grandfather, wearing his jacket, gloves and hat, waited patiently to pull the flat wooden sled our dad had made for the three of us.

Giggling and shrieking in childhood delight, we scrambled aboard, Carol, my youngest sister in front, me in the middle and Glenda, the oldest behind me. “Go horsey! Go!” we commanded in laughing voices as the sled began to move. Our grandfather enjoyed his role as our animal of labor. It didn’t often snow during December in Ft. Worth, Texas. I was only four that Christmas.

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After an hour of sleigh riding, making snow angels and throwing snowballs, mom and dad helped us build a snowman complete with large button eyes, a carrot nose. However, he was too cold to smile. Dad contributed one of his old pipes later and Mammy, our grandmother, found one of Gran’s old hats. We used some broken tree limbs for his arms and stuck a pair of dad’s work-gloves on them. It was time for lunch with some hot chocolate and cookies for dessert.

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Our tall Douglas fir tree stood in the living room, waiting to be decorated. Gran popped some pop-corn and we sat around on the floor stringing pop-corn to drape around the tree. Of course we ate a lot of it so he popped some more. Dad put the lights on the tree first, then he and mom hung the ornaments as we handed them out. Last but not least the tree was circled with our pop-corn strings all tied together. Dressed in our pajamas after dinner, we gathered on the floor around mom’s rocker as she read Christmas stories to us before bedtime.

At the ages of three, four and five, we still believed in Santa Clause. We put milk and cookies on the coffee-table so he wouldn’t go away hungry – and they were always gone on Christmas morning. I remember hearing Christmas sleigh bells outside our window. Dad had pinned a piece of cardboard to our bedroom window screen with bells attached to it. He then tied a string to that and ran it under the sill of their bedroom window and attached it to his bed post. He always slept with the window raised about two inches during the winter.

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Ice cycles hung from the eves of the house in freezing cold weather.

Once we were tucked in bed and almost asleep he started jerking on the string making the bells jingle outside. The three of us jumped out of bed and ran into their room, “Daddy, Daddy – he’s here, we can hear the sleigh bells on the roof!” we cried.

Pretending to be half-asleep, he grumbled, “You guys must be hearing things – he wouldn’t be here this early. You better get back to bed or he may not stop at all.” So off to bed we ran – all excited. We heard the bells again, but were afraid to get up…and eventually fell fast asleep. We tip-toed into the living room early the next morning and there, under the tree, we discovered lots of presents, and the milk and cookies were gone. Christmas had arrived while we were asleep.

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A Western Christmas parade in Ft. Worth – 1946

Complete with Christmas Stagecoach.

As we grew older and wiser, Dad shared his secret of the bells with us. Stringing pop-corn became a family tradition and dad always reminded us not to forget the milk and cookies to give Santa nourishment on his yearly journey. Someone sure liked his milk and cookies.

Sorry there weren’t more photos. My sisters got all the family photo albums and I ended up with mom’s sterling silver. However, I still have the memories.

I hope this story stirred some fond memories of your family’s Christmas. May you share the joy, warmth and love of the season, and may your tummies be filled with milk and cookies.

And as Tiny Tim would say… “God bless us one and all!”

Christmas Blog Post #Two

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D.G. Heath – Author

Amazon Publications

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. One

The Art of Imagination

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine – Nov. 2016

Cappuccino – No Time for Tears

Wish upon a star…

Long ago, there was a bright star in the East that guided three wise men to their destination in the desert and the birth of a miracle.

Years ago, we followed our twinkling star to the east and gave birth to our own miracle in the rugged, rural desert north of Santa Fe, NM, and on May 1st, 1994 – Rancho de San Juan Country Inn was born. Instead of myrrh, frankincense and gold, our treasures were the aroma of piñon pine, star studded nights on black velvet skies,

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and the sound of silence in a breathtaking, golden sunset.

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We often celebrated a white Christmas with large flakes of snow falling softly to the ground and glittering like diamonds as the sun peeked over the mesa the following morning, bringing warmth and spreading light over our personal winter wonderland.

We decorated the fireplace mantles with piñon pine and blue spruce branches, added a touch of sage and laced them with ribbons of gold and silver. Colorful ornaments were put in place and clusters of pyracantha berries from the garden added the finishing touch.

For our first Christmas, we began what became a tradition every year. All the guests, with Christmas reservations, were requested to bring an ornament depicting something from the area where they lived. We tied white satin bows that each guests signed and then tied the ornament to the bow and hung it on the tree.

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Norway/ Africa/ Ukraine & China        Japan and France

There were small Eifel Towers from Paris, a tiny ferry boat from Seattle, a little hot air balloon from Albuquerque and ornaments depicting scenes of the Southwest, Big Ben, the Golden Gate Bridge and a shiny Big Apple for NYC, among others.

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Big Apple from  NYC  and a Shell from South Beach FL.

The tradition continued, as traditions tend to do, and by 1999, we had three Christmas trees at the inn; one for the breakfast room and bar area, one for the living room reception space and one for the main dining room. Each tree was decorated in a different color scheme and trimmed with an amazing collection of guest’s ornaments.

Christmas Eve dinner at the Rancho was always -“Black-tie Optional”. Even though we were out in the boonies, guests showed up with their tuxedos, dinner jackets, evening gowns, and cocktail finest.

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The Boys – Christmas at the Rancho  – 2000

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A corner table with eight guests

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Chef John Johnson III with an admiring guest

I remember taking a reservation from a lady in Chicago, and when I mentioned the “Black-tie Optional”, she hesitated. “You’ve got to be kidding,” she chuckled.

“Not really,” I said. “But it is optional.”

“No, no,” she corrected me. “You said ‘Black-tie’ and ‘Black tie’ it will be.”

She, and the lady-friend she was traveling with, showed up on Christmas Eve dressed–to-the-nines; one wearing a Bob Mackie red sequined cocktail dress and the other in a black-and-white Coco Chanel full-length, off the shoulder evening gown. All I could say was, “You Chicago girls sure know how to dress.”

She gave me an appreciative wink, “Well, you did say “Black-tie!”

Needless to say, Christmas has always been the season I love the most. Sharing love and joy all year is fine, but decorate it for Christmas and it’s even better. The meaning of Christmas should never be forgotten and should be celebrated every day of the year.

Find you star this year. Make your wish and follow your dreams. This is the first of my Christmas stories for this season. I hope you will follow along for some laughs, love and the joy of sharing.

Christmas Blog Post #One

Season’s Greetings and Merry Christmas!!

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D.G. Heath – Author

Amazon Publications

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. One

The Art of Imagination

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine – Nov. 2016

Cappuccino – No Time for Tears

Thanks for the Memories…

November is a month of memories for me. Growing up in Texas Thanksgiving was the start of our family celebrations for the holidays. Our family numbered seven but we always invited neighbors and friends for Thanksgiving dinner. My grandmother and mom would start days ahead making the preparations. The table groaned under the amount of food; potato salad, ambrosia salad, Macaroni salad, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, green bean casserole, corn-on-the-cob, collard greens, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes with giblet gravy, and of course one or two Thanksgiving turkeys.

Everything was served buffet-style so people could help themselves two or three times and no one was shy about that. For dessert there was apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and chocolate cake with ice cream. The beverage of the day was always ice tea, available in huge plastic containers. The Macy’s Parade kept us kids occupied in the morning while the adults scurried around in the kitchen. As soon as the football games started on TV, popcorn and sodas were available for the rest of the day and of course, ice tea.

My grandfather made the best cornbread and sage dressing in the state of Texas. He started at five o’clock in the morning, while everyone else was still asleep. Gran always fixed at least five or six large Pyrex casseroles so we wouldn’t run short, thus we had turkey and dressing leftovers for the next two weeks; open faced turkey sandwiches, cold turkey salad, and turkey loaf made with the dressing. Turkeys are known for gobbling, and so were we around Thanksgiving.

                         Thanksgiving USA Style – 1960’s

This November 11th, 2018 was the hundredth anniversary of the end of WWI. I wasn’t around a hundred years ago, but the world leaders at that time signed a peace agreement in Paris France on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour ending the war. It’s a time to honor and give thanks to those who are serving or have served in the military and are still with us, and to commemorate the Veterans who sacrificed their lives in service to their countries.

I have a vivid memory of November 22, 1963. I was privileged to have attended a breakfast at the Texas Hotel in Fort Worth honoring President JFK prior to his assassination later that morning in Dallas. My boss and his wife had been invited to the event, but she had the flu. He asked me, his private secretary, if I would like to join him for breakfast at the event. I was honored to meet the President and First Lady only hours before his death.

     Texas Hotel & Carswell AFB –  Nov. 22nd 1963

Mexico will celebrate a day of remembrance on Nov. 20th, marking the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 that marked the end of General Porfirio Diaz after 35 years as president of Mexico. There is a big parade that marches down our street for about three hours. Thousands of people participate and spectators line the sidewalks. Grab a chair, your morning margarita or tequila sunrise and relax for the entertainment. Make sure you have refills handy. You don’t want to miss anything.

Sorry – No parade photos – dead battery. Me or the camera?…Not sure which.  Lol

November is also the month that I met my partner, John, in 1969. We celebrate this time as the beginning of our life together. This next year, 2019 we begin our 50th year as a couple. Marriage was not an option in 1969. However, we returned to San Francisco, the city where it all began, for that big event, and were finally legally joined in August of 2011. An honest couple at last !!!

We lived in LA from 1970 to 1992, when we moved to New Mexico and opened a country inn and restaurant. We owned and operated the inn and restaurant until November of 2011.

                                     Rancho de San Juan

In August of 2013, we moved to Merida, and the tropics of the Yucatan to begin a new life and more adventures together.

This year we are celebrating Thanksgiving at the home of friends here in Centro, Merida. Expats tend to gather for various holidays that are not on the Mexican calendar; Canadian Thanksgiving, Bastille Day, US Thanksgiving, Derby Day… and believe it or not – Cinco de Maya, to name a few, are not listed holidays in Mexico.

DSCN2548                          Thanksgiving in Merida – 2018

                Happy Thanksgiving !   David  and John

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D.G. Heath

Amazon Publications

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. One

The Art of Imagination

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection – Vol. Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine – Nov. 2016

Cappuccino – No Time for Tears

Email: meridaboys@gmail.com

Don’t get spooked…

There’s more to October than ghost and goblins – you might be surprised.

Writing a blog post is a labor of love. Some people feel obligated to write weekly, while others when they feel there is something important to say. Others just tend to ramble because they want to express their thoughts. I suppose you could say I’m a rambler.

October arrived, which is perfectly normal since it follows September and has for centuries. I’m starting this post on the 10th of October because I was busy editing one of my mystery stories and couldn’t drag myself away from the suspense, which is why I missed Canadian Thanksgiving on the 5th.

There are a lot of Canadians living in the Yucatan and more specifically in Merida. My good friend and writing mentor, Joanna, just returned from BC on Canadian Thanksgiving Day. Catherine, our partner in crime and former employee from 1994, is French Canadian. She bought a house here in Merida last April but has returned to the US for an extended period to get her US citizenship. She has lived and worked in America with her Green Card for 30+ years but never applied for her citizenship until now.

Our “snowbird” friends June and Terry sent us a photo of the birdbath in their Canadian backyard with 18” of snow piled on it. I told her it looked like a giant frozen margarita. They won’t be arriving back in Merida until January, but plan to stay for a while. I could mention more Canadians, but I think you get the picture.

Due to so many traditional and cultural events happening in October, the Yucatan symphony will be taking a three week break this month, but shall return in November. Don’t go away…there’s more to come.

The Dias de Muertos

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There was over 50,000 people attending the Parade de Animas or Parade of Souls this year. As happens, it was on a Wednesday evening, and there is no way in hell that we are going to join 50,000+ people, or even get close to that large of a crowd.

So we went to have dinner at La Parilla, hoping to get a table in the street and watch people in their costumes stroll by after the big event (like we did last year). Unfortunately, they don’t close off Calle 60 on a Wednesday night, and there wasn’t many costumed people out wandering around – Bummer.

                                                               Photos from 2017

We also missed seeing the altars set-up on the main plaza this year, due to conflicting information posted on the dates. Another bummer.

Then we had planned to visit the Street of Flowers exhibition in Mejorada, but it rained the morning we had arranged to walk over. It was not a gentle rain but a good heavy soaker. Drooping wet flowers were not on my agenda – sorry.

                          David                                 John

See you for Thanksgiving margaritas!

D.G. Heath

Amazon Publications                                                                                                                          Tales from a Country Inn                          D.G. Heath Mystery Collection Volume One       The Art of Imagination                             D.G. Heath Mystery Collection Volume Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine – Nov. 2016                                                                      Cappuccino and No Time for Tears                                                                                          Email: meridaboys@gmail.com

September…Tis the Season…

In the beginning…

Sounds rather ominous doesn’t it?

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is not another writing of biblical proportions, but I will get straight to the roots of the matter. To be precise, the roots of my writing career first began when we moved to Merida, Mexico in August 2013.

It was during that first year that John, my spouse, told me I needed to get a hobby. I must have been driving him crazy trying to figure out what to do with myself. That’s not to say, when we retired, there weren’t a million things to keep us busy and entertained; but I had no sense of direction once we finished remodeling our casa.

I had worked daily, for the past twenty years, running our country inn and restaurant, and I’m sure that most of our thousands of guests would tell you I was a professional when it came to making that job look easy. I loved my work.

However, he was right. It was time to reinvent myself. John was in the kitchen, his space of choice, cooking up new recipes, discovering exotic Mayan cuisine or shopping at local open-air markets – he was in heaven and had no trouble keeping busy. Meanwhile, I found my calling at the computer keyboard. Even though my high school English teacher would have cringed at the thought, I decided to become a writer. Little did I know that I would awaken a sleeping giant within and find my hidden talent for storytelling.

In the beginning…There’s that cliché again.

It started with email letters to friends back in the USA. Then little short stories I created for a writing class I was taking. It’s true. I went back to school at the age of 70.

I finally published my first book three years later in 2016. My next two books were released in 2017, and finally a forth book made its way onto the shelves in August of this year (2018). Book number five is currently one-third complete. It should be finished by this time next year. I made two discoveries. You can’t rush imagination and I love a good mystery story.

Now. Back to my blog story about seasons…

Fast forward to the present…

I started out to chat about this amazing month of September. I will briefly mention the weather – it has been raining almost daily and one might say it has been hot and humid. How’s that for brief?

September is a “month of many seasons.” Allow me to explain.

The Yucatan Fall Symphony Season is officially underway with almost weekly performances through mid-December. Our season tickets, for the past four years, are on the left side of the Peón Contreras horseshoe shaped theatre, located in the orchestra seats, eighth row from the stage. Tickets this year were higher, at about $17 USD each, per performance.

September is still part of the Hurricane Season that runs from June through November. The Yucatan has been fortunate so far. We have had a couple of tropical storms and a few close calls since we moved here five years ago, but no hurricanes. I hope I’m not speaking too soon.

September is also the Season of Celebrations. People here don’t worry about too many celebrations or fiestas. You could probably say, that they celebrate year round…there is never a lack for something to celebrate.

 

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The White City Ball is just one example – if you’re looking for an angel.

But Mexican Independence Day is always a festive occasion to say the least. The celebrations begin on the 15th, when thousands gather in the Zocalo at the center of the city, to ring in the day of independence close to midnight with the “El Grito”. The mayor of the city, standing on the balcony of the Montejo House and announces the victorious achievement by ringing the bell, and waving the Mexican flag, as the mass of humanity screams “Viva Mexico!” – Three times. The roar can be heard for miles, followed by fireworks going off above the cathedral and around the city in every direction (for hours).

 

The Tourist Season officially begins in September. Although, in reality, it never stops. Many people think the beginning of fall is a time to escape the heat in other areas and visit the Yucatan. Wrong…

September and October can be two of the hottest months in the tropics. Not only is it hot, but it is also humid. It is the end of the summer rainy season. Of course the humidity is good for dry skin and the heat will most likely cure your summer cold.

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However, spending the last five summers here in Merida has almost acclimated us to the high temperatures. After all, there are even hotter places on earth than the Yucatan. Ever been on safari in Africa or visited Death Valley? We rarely break the 100 degree mark in Merida.

September is also the beginning of the “Social Season,” when the “snowbirds” or part-time residents begin to return. They’ve been away for months, traveling or visiting their homes in other locations. It’s time to gather and gossip. Cocktails, dinners, luncheons, theater, or just the general evening on the town, walking up and down Paseo de Montejo to see and be seen.

It’s time to enjoy dancing in the Santa Lucia Plaza on Salsa Sunday or Swing Night with the big band at Santiago Plaza. People enjoy “free” live entertainment somewhere almost every night of the week and the crowd gathers for Noche Mexicana on Saturday’s in the Remate to watch the Ballet Folkloric dancers and singers.

Then there’s the Gallery Art Season. Numerous art galleries hold openings to introduce new works by hundreds of artist from all over Mexico, Cuba, Central America and South America.

The School Season also begins in September when students, who have spent the summer traveling or working, return to the various, grade schools, trade schools, colleges and universities.

I don’t suppose there is an official Restaurant or Hotel Season. They seem to be opening new ones every time you turn around. Merida is among the top tourist destinations in the world and a designated cultural heritage award winner.

With that being said, I will begin my research for the next blog post:

October – Return to the “Day of the Dead” in Merida…

Don’t get spooked. There’s more to October than ghost and goblins. You might be surprised.

See you for margaritas,

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D.G. Heath

Amazon Publications

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection Volume One

The Art of Imagination

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection Volume Two

Adelaide Literary Magazine

Nov. 2016 – Cappuccino and No Time for Tears

Email: meridaboys@gmail.com

Life on the Ring of Fire – Antigua Today…

Visiting Antigua today is like stepping back in time. The aromas you experience as you stroll down the streets tantalize the senses. Sweet red onions sautéing in a skillet, mixed with local spices that have been used for centuries. Homemade sausages and chicken cooking on an open grill next to the entrance of a small restaurant. Los Tres Tiempos restaurant tempted our taste buds and we couldn’t resist.

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John’s sausage, French fries and guacamole

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My grilled chicken breast, fries and guacamole

On our last day, we selected another restaurant known as El Arco. Perhaps because it was near our hotel and it was close to the Arco de Catalina. Look for the building with the light on to the left.

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As you’re led into the restaurant, a lush garden surrounding a trickling fountain opens to the sky and tables set with bright woven tablecloths and napkins are protected by large umbrellas; the floral fragrance of flowers on trailing vines that hang from the eves adds to your dining pleasures.

Our simple lunch of Pita sandwiches with chicken, avocado, cheese, tomato and onion were completed with French fries and agua mineral, while being serenaded by a five piece marimba band and a waiter who loved his job.

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Antigua is a tourist destination so most of the menus in Spanish, are also in English and the servers are always happy to help, especially when you make an attempt to speak their language…even when you make mistakes. Which we usually do.

One of the sites not to be missed is the famous “city laundry” Tanque La Union. This is where the women of the town would come to do their washing and visit. If walls could talk, I’m sure our ears would burn with the local gossip and daily scuttlebutt that passed through this arcade over the centuries. It faces a park, lined with tall palms and benches for seating. The water surrounding the individual basins for scrubbing was cool and refreshing.

DSCN2469  They were taking fashion photos at the end of the arcade.

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The people of Antigua, like most Latin countries, delight in any reason to celebrate. To them, life itself is a celebration. Several blocks away from the main plaza, we heard a band strike up a marching tune.  Following the sound of the music, we made our way to the main plaza where there happened to be a large crafts exhibition in progress. One full block of the street was covered with tents, tables containing all kinds of craft works.

On the opposite side of the plaza the band was marching around the plaza followed by several groups of people, each wearing ribbons draped across their chest decorated with dates done in glitter. We discovered it was a Reunion Day parade and the various classes were grouped together by year of graduation.  There were large and small drums, xylophones strapped on shoulders, plus horns and triangles, and the marchers were dressed in their Sunday best. After all, it was Sunday.

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We couldn’t say farewell until we had visited the Inglesia Del Carmen. Although there is little left of the church but the magnificent façade, the attached convent buildings are used to house the Textile Market. Every day is market day, but Sunday morning they were just getting set up when we arrived.

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It was our last day and we wanted to make the most of it. After my delicious breakfast of fresh watermelon, papaya and pineapple, that accompanied my order of waffles with sweet butter and maple syrup, I was ready for anything. Sorry folks, they didn’t last long enough for a photo, but you get the picture.

The textile market spreads out along the street in front of the old church but also goes deep into the convent’s interior in a maze running aisle after aisle. It was almost as confusing as the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, consist of every kind of textile and craft you can think of – I won’t even start to name them all.

The Guatemalan currency is the quetzal which, at the time we visited in August, was approximately 7.35 quetzals to the US dollar, depending on whose exchange rate you were using. There are plenty of ATM’s and several banks close to the main plaza. And as you leave at the airport, there are several collection areas where you can dispose of your remaining quetzals if you wish to make the donation rather than carry then home – clever idea.

Once again we were up before the crack of dawn. Our flight didn’t leave until 10:20 am. However, in hopes of beating the Monday morning traffic jam, we left the hotel at 6 am. The traffic in Guatemala City was a nightmare, as expected,  but we made it in time. International flights are supposed to check-in 2 hours before departure. That is…unless the computers at the airline counters are down and not working.

We found out later that someone had forgot to load their machines with the boarding passes. That was the big hold-up.

A group of ten women, all carrying large backpacks and traveling together were the first in line with a tour guide who seemed to be off in another universe. We were third in line.

Although we missed breakfast that morning, we were able to grab a bite of lunch in the Mexico City airport. Flying into Merida as the sun was setting, it reflected golden on the thunder clouds dancing with lightening flashing inside. The air was fresh with the smell of rain and it was good to be home again.

I hope you enjoyed sharing our travels with us. Thanks for subscribing to the blog. Our next adventure isn’t far off. We will celebrate Mexican Independence Day on September 16th.

Stay tuned.

Picture 020  Email:  meridaboys@gmail.com

D.G. Heath – Amazon Author

Tales from a Country Inn

D.G. Heath Mystery Collection (Volumes One & Two)

The Art of Imagination

Cappucino and No Time for Tears – Adelaide Literary Magazine (issue #10 -Nov. 2017)

The Heart of Antigua…

Antigua has its own heartbeat. In many cities it’s cars honking. In Merida we hear the squeaking sounds of the brakes on the old busses and the unique whistling noises made by taxis as they weave in and out of traffic.

However…in Antigua, as it is in Florence, Rome and other cities in Europe, it’s the sound of the motorbikes. They even have designated parking areas complete with tiles set in the concrete curb showing a little motorcycle.

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With the terrible traffic congestion in Guatemala City, it’s the quickest and cheapest form of transportation. I wouldn’t say it’s the safest by any means…you take your life in your own hands weaving between the cars and trucks that are constantly changing lanes and are much larger than you are. Needless to say…they are everywhere.

Taxis? I knew you would ask about that, especially since we recommend not renting a car. There actually are some taxies, but they are few and far between in Antigua. If you’re in a hurry and don’t mind being tossed around like you are in a martini shaker, I recommend the Tut-Tut…also know by other names I won’t mention. They’re available everywhere and are a very cheap form of transportation. What’s a Tut-Tut, you ask? I call them a mini-taxi.

Take a motorbike, enclose it in a metal structure, add a semi-padded seat on the back, wide enough for two, and surround it with a vinyl cover and isinglass windows.

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Photo of Yellow church with a tut-tut  taking on passengers as it sits at an angle in the street.

Riding one of these three-wheelers on the cobblestone streets in Antigua is not recommended for anyone with bladder problems or hemorrhoids – trust me.

However, they do get around fast and make you feel like you are back at the amusement park. They appear to have the “right-of-way”…at least you hope they do…if you know what I mean. We took one up to the Cerro del Cruz (Hill of the Cross).

Another observation: The definition of the term “One Way” gets lost in translation on the streets of Antigua. People drive whatever direction they want and take the shortest route to get there. With cobblestone streets, I can’t say that I blame them.

Our driver was a real comedian who knew the location of every large cobblestone in the road. We didn’t miss any. However, he felt sorry for two old men and didn’t make us climb the 100 stone steps up to the cross. He took the high road and dropped us off above so we could walk down instead. Have you ever noticed how things are either up or down when you get older? It’s rare when it is on the same level as you. – LOL

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Agua Volcano – the sleeping giant.

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Cerro del Cruz (Hill of the Cross)

Several hundred feet above the city the air is even thinner, but it’s well worth the magnificent view of life in the valley below the volcano Agua. Although we never got to see El Fuego volcano, we did hear it rumble a couple of times. At a distance of about nine miles west of Antigua, El Fuego erupted in July this year, taking many lives and destroying several small villages. It’s one of the many active volcanos on the “Pacific ring of fire”.

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One of the largest and most well preserved ruins of architectural wonder is the Convento de Las Capuchinas. The building complex, originally called Convent and Church of Our Lady of Zaragoza, was constructed between 1731 and 1736. It was the last convent to be built in the city, and the first one that stopped asking for a donation from the new nuns who wished to join the order, allowing then poor ladies to embrace religious life. Daily routine for the nuns was ruled by strict regulations which included discipline, poverty, penance and fasting. They were expected to survive on donations alone; never the less, they had several comforts, such as a magnificent chapel, heated water for bathing, and indoor plumbing (of sorts).

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Chamber for bathing. The cold stone tubs and floor were heated with firewood below.

The gardens for growing food and flowers were expansive.

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Here is a garden view from one of the nuns cells.

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Wisteria grew along the tops of the walls and colorful Hylaconia hung is clusters among the foliage.

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Our guide took us to a circular domed chamber where the nuns would stand against the wall as someone sang a religious chant while walking around the massive center column. The acoustics were amazing as his clear toned voice sounded like he was standing next to us. It reminded me of hearing Gregorian chants at St. Mark’s in Venice.

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Individual chambers or cells pictured above were spaced around a circular open court. Some had windows and some did not. These cells were on the upper level. There was no central heating and in the winter they could be very cold.

There was a special place for punishment shown below, where they stood in a stone nicho, while water slowly dripped on their head. Nothing too harsh, but most annoying I’m sure.

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They did their own laundry and cooked their own meals. Some nuns from the wealthier families were allowed to have servants and wear finer garments and shoes, but most wore sandals and rough cotton or wool clothing.

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Photo of Laundry facilities.

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Stone with three holes for gringing grain and herbs in the kitchen.

After 37 years, the convent was abandoned in 1773 due to the earthquake that destroyed most of Antigua.

The ruins of the Cathedral de San Jose can still be seen attached to a chapel which is all that remains on the central plaza. The interior is not as impressive as La Merced.

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 Main Church Entrance

The ruins of the Convento de Santa Clara are rather stark and angular when compared to the Convento Capuchinas.

Photos Convento de Santa Clara.

 

We visited Museo de Arte Colonial which was rather disappointing. The large works of colonial art were badly in need of cleaning and the dim interior lighting made them difficult to view. The building itself, with the exception of the main entry, was not that impressive, and had the feeling of a small.

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Photos of Museo de Art Colonial

Thanks for strolling through history with me. I hope you’ll hang around for the last segment of this blog post next week.

Life on the Ring of Fire / Antigua Today

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D.G. Heath  Email: meridaboys@gmail.com                                                                      Blog:https://meridaboys.wordpress.com