Monday, October 31, 2016

Dave: A recent shopping trip to another super store

As Gene noted, I have been just a little under the weather and it is nice to be back up and functioning 100%, or at least pretty close. Splenda gives me extreme stomach problems and I thought I knew all the names it goes by in the Latin world. Well, I have a new name and it has been committed to memory, I will search a label over several times from now on just to make sure!


Anyway, we went to another of the regional mega stores to gather a few things we needed for the apartment. Needed some bacon and eggs for breakfast, some cheese, more fresh bread and a general assortment of general household needs. We went to this store five or six years ago. It has been remodeled and expanded greatly. It was at least as large as a Walmart Super Store and it seems the prices are better than the other stores. I bought bacon for $117 per kilo, that is about $6.25 USD for 2.2 pounds. The other store charged $149 per kilo, that is about $7.85 USD for 2.2 pounds.


Gene did a short video...



You will notice in that video that the crescents were on $5.50 each that is about $.30 each. And they are made there, not "prefab" frozen.

The produce section is absolutely one of the most colorful sections I believe I have seen. Take a look




Some of these dried chilis are HOT and are not cheap. Some selling for $24.50 per 100 grams!

When you share environments with Mr. Black, you best have plenty of coffee around. So we had to pay the coffee area a visit! You might notice some familiar products here!

Gene's note: Dave has to have his coffee too.....don't let him kid you!

If you don't want to walk around with a currency converter going, I use a general rule to get in my mind the price. Right now, the currency exchange rate for pesos to the dollar is almost 19 pesos to the dollar, so for a quick conversion I use 20 pesos to the dollar. So the $81.05 price on our coffee is about $4 USD for the large container. We use instant while we are here as ground coffee is considerably more expensive. And the instants here taste different, more like coffee. The Nescafe at home doesn't taste like it does here.


And of course, there are always other wonderful things to smell and treat the eye!



And they had just received a new shipment of Dragon Fruit! As you can see, they are not cheap! But they are beautiful. {Gene's note: Cheap is relative.  That would be less than $2 US funds.  But here it is a bit expensive for fruit.}

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Gene 10/30/16 Lunch and More

Today Dave was a little under the weather so I took a combi into town by myself to do more exploring. Sunday in Merida is a special day. The streets around the main park (zocalo) are closed for the day. Merchants and food vendors set up all in the area of the park and along the closed streets. So it is fun to just wander around, shop and people watch. But first I went to the mercado and looked a bit more - then the smell of food drew me in! I sat down, ordered from this menu:
Those prices are pesos. Ten pesos is approx 55 cents.
I ordered a panucho pavo (turkey) and a empanada queso and to drink I got a horchata. My drink came first:
The photo is misleading - it was huge - and delicious.  Horchata is a rice drink with cinnamon added. It is somewhat sweet and very refreshing.  I was happy that it came early because I was thirsty- and this picture is after I had taken several large swallows. mmmmm
The signs hanging over and around the tables all have food listed. 
The place was busy!  I took this short video while I waited for my food. 


But the food arrived and I had a couple of bites first.
Then I took this photo:
That was very tasty.  The empanado filled with cheese was delicious -and I added some salsa that was on the table over it to spice it up.

I had to  visit one of the food carts in the zocalo and get a marquesita.  It is basically a freshly made ice cream cone wrapper stuffed with cheese -and you can add other goodies - I got cajeta (aka caramel.) WOW was it good.  I took a video of a lady making them but it is part of the video that you will see later.  (You can read about them here.)

I saw a clown in the area selling balloon animals:
He was not a "scary" clown.

For my friends who do handwork, take a look at this vest. It is all crocheted with rather small thread.


I asked the vendor for the price.  She said 360 pesos.  That is around $20.  There is a LOT of work in that piece. I would charge much more if I had made it.

Here is a bit more video showing a few of the stalls and the people.


If you are watching on a mobile device you won't see that I have an annotation that the brown vest was actually 80 pesos - about $4.

And I did take a couple more pictures while I was in the mercado:
It seems there are always fresh flowers for sale. 

This lady was making masa dough for making your own tortillas.  She forms it into balls and packages the balls in plastic bags for the customer to carry home.

Have a great day.  I am having a marvelous time here in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Gene: A Trip Into Town and the Mercado Lucas de Galvez

On my Friday morning agenda was a trip into town to check out an optical shop.  I am planning to buy a pair of glasses while I am here - for about a fourth of what they would cost me at home.  I picked out one pair of frames that I like, but he told me that he would have new frames in late next week.  So I may wait until I see what he gets.  The guy speaks great English - a real plus for me!

Next I wandered toward the Mercado Lucas de Galvez which is the BIG market in town. But I stopped along the way and bought four more meters of zipper and some extra zipper pulls.  (yay!)

Then I got to the Mercado and enjoyed the sights and smells (except for the smell of the bathroom where it cost me approx fifteen cents to empty my bladder!)

I did three videos that worked.  I did another but something went "poof" and it disappeared.
 So let's start at the spice stand (one of many)


Next let's visit a nice place to quench your thirst!



And finally a bit of the food stand areas


And a couple of photos - First a still shot of the spice stand in the video

And then the rotisserie chicken stand

I saw so much more...but I didn't take pictures because I was too busy enjoying the sights, sounds and experiences. 
I also stopped in a home goods store and got a serrated knife to add to the kitchen in our studio apartment here  -price 8 pesos or 42 cents US.  
I went into a clothing store and got a polo type shirt for the grand price of 50 pesos -or $2.64 US.   
Shopping where the local, common folks shop can yield some great bargains......but I still have to keep the luggage weight in check for the trip home. 


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dave: A late afternoon delight!

After passing by an expo on one of the other states in Mexico, we stopped and looked about. The expo was about the state of Oaxaca (pronounced "wa HA ca") We had lunch and I can't tell you what it was called. It was a large fresh made tortilla, filled with black bean paste, two types of meat, a red sauce that was excellent and a few other things I dare not ask questions about. It was messy and wonderful.
(Gene's Note: It was a Tlayuda - the "t" is silent.)

Gene wanted to go back to a booth and get something, so I stayed seated until he got back. When he returned he had a small container of Caramel! Yes, it is Halloween here too and apparently they enjoy caramel apples as well. I had bought some Granny Smith apples a day or two back so when we got back to the apartment Gene peeled and cut up one of them and we popped the top on the caramel.


The aroma filled the room instantly, smelling of butter and sugar mixed and cooked just right!





Yep, it is that good! Still about half the container in the refrigerator! (Gene says about two-thirds is left.) Sure Gene... whatever!!! LOL


And so our afternoon treat was consumed and we both had a siesta!

Each afternoon about 6, the bread man comes by on his bike filled with all manner of treats, breads and other delights. He sometimes has a treat of ham, cheese and sometimes chilis baked in phyllo dough, I have never gotten one that was overly spicy but there is enough to make it a great dinner. So when the bread man came by today he had two pieces of the ham/cheese/chilis left, so I got them for dinner along with a fresh loaf of French Bread, a little over a dollar for all that.

The weather continues to be very mild by Mexican standards. When we first got here, we ran the air conditioner for the first three days. The the front that gave you the cold temps came through and cooled things down nicely. Daily highs have been 82-86 and evening lows 68-72. We have not run the AC since. Nights are great sleeping with all the windows open and that wonderful breeze blowing through! Mexico weather service is saying there is a "disturbance" just south of the Yucatan Channel which will give us off and on showers for the next couple days. We had a heavy one this afternoon at the expo! Typical tropical rain storm, pour like crazy for about 10 minutes, then the sun comes back out and you carry on with your business!

Enough for today! Let us know if you are having any problems viewing or commenting!

Update on "Haircut and a Walk"

Those getting the blog by email will not see the video of my walk. If you go to the blog, it is there.
Here is a link to "A Walk in Merida"    https://youtu.be/GBbCJ601zGU

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gene: A Haircut and a Stroll

I know that it is an odd thing, but I like to get a haircut when I am traveling.  I got my first haircut in Mexico in 1978.  I was with a mission trip from the college I attended.  Another student and I walked in and communicated with gestures.  It was possibly the best haircut I have ever had. So that started my strange idea to get haircuts in interesting places.
Today, Wednesday October 26th, I headed out to find the barbershop (Peluqueria) where I got my hair cut three years ago.  Arriving at the shop,  I saw that the sign had changed a little bit.
But, the barber was the same guy.  He has grown up a bit though. Using the Google Translate app on my phone I told him what I wanted - or close anyway - it is just hair and it will grow back so I never worry too much.
As he was cutting I showed him the photo that I took of him the last time.
He laughed and said that it was him in the photo. So of course after the haircut, a current photo was in order.
But while he was cutting my hair, his abuelo (grandfather) came into the shop. Abuelo speaks English, so we talked.  Abuelo also insisted on photos with everyone.
Gene with Alex 

Gene with Maricela (Abuelo's daughter) 
Gene with Abuelo.
On the walk back I decided to record a video of a part of my walk.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gene: Adventure is Out There!

Monday afternoon,  I decided to take the combi (a type of public transport) into downtown Centro Merida. I wanted to look at the phones at Oxxo since Dave feels lost without a phone.  So that was my first stop.  But the phones were not satisfactory in my opinion.
So I had a walkabout and visited a few shops just to look.  Although I did buy one DVD at a seriously bargain price. I haven't checked it, but I hope it plays.
Then I decided I needed to get back to home base. But I had gotten turned about a bit so I asked a police officer if she could tell me where to catch the correct combi. She gave me directions and I started walking.

Of course, I was looking in every shop window and open door.  I had come to Merida hoping to re-supply some of my "crafty" items  - specifically zippers! I saw it from the side but I knew what I was seeing - THIS:
Big rolls of zippers sold by the meter. I like buying by the meter because it is like a bonus compared to buying by the yard. I think that I got 12 meters of zipper tape in six colors.  That is a little over 13 yards-SCORE!
Here is my purchase:
Bright Yellow, Lime Green, Hot Pink, Rich Blue, Purple and Teal Blue.
Each meter came with two zipper pulls.  Now I am thinking that I may need to go back and get extras.
This was not the shop where I bought zippers in the past, so I will still be seeking out that shop.

But let me head back out to find the ride home.  I found the combi stand and asked the attendant which one to take to Plaza Sendaro, since that was painted on the one I rode to town in. He asked a driver who said "Si" and I got boarded.  I should mention that the fare for the combi is 7 pesos which is about 38 cents in US currency.
I was seated facing backward next to the window opposite the door. There were three of us on that bench and it was comfortable.  But they squeeze these vans full sometimes. Another woman boarded and sat next to me - almost in my lap! I was glad when she took one of the earlier stops.
I saw that we were approaching my street in 3 or 4 blocks and thought, "Good, I got on the right combi."  But then a sudden turn and we were north away from "home base." Ooops!  I decided to ride it out and see if we circled back.  Instead we went farther away.  But we did go to Plaza Sendaro where I got off the combi.  I knew I could get home by taxi or Uber -if my account wasn't disabled again.  I got out and walked across the parking lot to the Cineopolis movie theatre which is one of the anchor shops. I requested an Uber driver and was on my way in minutes.   That ride cost me all of 24 pesos -equivalent to $1.30.  I considered it well worth the cost.  Next time I hope I find the correct combi home.
Still it was a fun adventure.

I also was looking for a nearby laundry as we only brought about a week's worth of clothes each.  I found this place:

El Suavecito
Laundries are "lavanderias" in Spanish- at least in Mexico. Some Spanish words are used differently depending on the country you are in, much like local idioms in the USA.
The price for laundry?  10 pesos per kilo (2.2 lbs) with a minimum of 3 kilos. So, 30 pesos minimum - a little more than a dollar and a half.  No washing clothes in the sink for this fellow!
When I walked into the lavanderia, I enjoyed a nice clean fragrance and saw bundles of laundry neatly wrapped and ready for pick up.  The proprietor told me that my clothes would be ready the next day.  But it is Mexico...so we will see.  Ha ha. Even getting the laundry done can be an adventure.
More from me later - and I will try to take more photos, but I get so involved in doing that I forget to pull out the camera.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dave: Not your everyday "Pork and Beans" for lunch

While I was writing the post about going the grocery store, Gene came in with lunch. I asked him what he had found. He said "I have pork and beans!" Not looking up right away, my mind instantly went to a vision of a large can of VanCamp's pork and beans and the thought..."here we are in Mexico and this is all we can find?" Well, by this time I look up and see he is holding a bag, no can in that bag, so my curiosity is imminently peaked.

So I got up and started getting plates and silverware together and he takes stuff out of the bag and plates the food as I set the plates. What a surprise!


I quickly cut up two avocados that I bought at the store yesterday to go with the meal. Then we sat down and ate! The best "pork and beans" I have ever had!
(Gene's note: I concur.  When the lady told me "Frijoles y puerco,"  I thought "Pork and beans, I can eat that at home.  I want Mexican food."  I am so glad I realized it wasn't the same thing. YUM!)


After lunch, Gene did a little research and found that pork and beans is a traditional Monday lunch in the Yucatan. The items are: black beans, rice, pork, onion, avocado,  lime,  pepper, and fresh tortillas.


The beans and the pork were slow cooked together which is why the meat is dark. But oh so tender and flavorful. The red sauce and the onion really was great with a little of that lime juice squeezed over it.


Gene took the little green pepper that was in with the limes. He said it was "plenty HOT!" ...but lots of flavor.

Both of us had all we wanted to eat, plus enough for another two servings of beans and rice for dinner. All that for about a $1.50. From the Economical Kitchens, women selling right out of their home kitchens!

Enough for tonight!

Dave

Dave: Lunch and shopping

I was going to post this late yesterday but alas, a MaƱana attitude snuck in and of course a beer make for one laid back evening. Gene picked up an order of fried fish, sorry, no picture! We both were hungry and forgot all about any pictures.

Anyway, back to the subject of this post... our grocery store trip. As Gene's post tells we had issues and after Uber locked Gene's account again, we took a cab home with our purchases. Cab drivers are really good here, they hop right out and help you put your stuff in the trunk. Then when you get where you are going, they hop out again and help you get them into the courtyard. Very nice and he was tipped nicely for his efforts. The Uber ride over to the Mall (where the grocery store is located) was very nice. The young driver spoke some english so we talked as best two cultures can on broken english and broken Spanish! But he got us there safely and quickly.

It was after one pm when we got to the mall. Lunchtime for a Sunday afternoon so we browsed about to see what was new in the food court. In previous visits we had eaten several times in this food court. It was nice to see some old favorites as well as some new ones. One specifically was called Alabama Mama! We looked and did not see any pinto beans, greens, fried taters or cornbread. It looked strangely much more Asian than anything! (...chicken in a sauce with lots of noodles and rice!)


This is the place we had lunch. You can barely see the meats on vertical spits to the right. We both had the sirloin and WOW was it good. Perfectly seasoned, thinly sliced, juicy.


This Soriana has a huge bakery, doing just about everything. They even make beautiful cakes and an attendant cuts a chunk to your specifications, weighs it, and wraps it. Kind of a neat idea for cake! Just before you get to the bakery, there is a huge produce area. Think produce that looks like Publix, but about 10 times the floor space!


Lots of seafood, beef and chicken. Pork appeared in short supply as there was only one small section for it. 90/10 ground beef was about $4 for a kilo! (kilo is 2.2 pounds)


Our cart about to check out. Yes, that is a can of ant spray without the top you see there. To keep kids from spraying it in the store, they take the tops off and give you the top when you checkout. More on the ant spray later.


Now on to checkout! Looks rather familiar don't it!

So, with six bags of grocery in tow, we caught a cab home, unpacked and sat down for a rest. Somebody broke out the beer! I won't say who!!!
Gene's Note:  Both parties imbibed- and enjoyed!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gene: Adventures and Frustrations with Uber

Because there is no Uber service where I live, I did not have an Uber account when we got to Mexico.  But, I needed one. Our host told us the first day that Uber is a great way to get around the city cheaply.  So I decided to set up an account.

We were scheduled to get a rental car Friday, Oct 21st.  So I was going to order an Uber ride to the airport.  It was less expensive than a taxi for sure.  I placed the order for a ride in advance. As time drew near, we went downstairs and outside the gate to wait.  At about the time our ride was due, I got a message from Uber saying that it was cancelled due to an invalid payment source. I was using PayPal - or I thought I was.  More about that later.  And in the process they disabled my account and locked the app. ARRRRGGGGH!

So we went down the block to a well traveled street and hailed a taximetro (the metered taxi.)  Thus we got where we were going - for a price.

When we got back, I got on my laptop and contacted support@uber.com.  They wanted information that I don't have with me for travel.  I emailed back and forth and got the account reinstated. I had done research online and found that in Mexico you can't use Paypal to pay for Uber.  I added my credit card as a payment source and was sure all was well.  Ha!

Sunday afternoon we scheduled an Uber for a trip to the Soriana grocery store/mega store.  Actually I attempted to schedule it earlier and something went wrong and a driver was outside way too early.  And my account was blocked again!  More emailing got it reinstated.  
The driver arrived and we went to the Soriana as planned once we were ready to go.  We ate lunch at the food court. (Dave will talk about that in a later post.)  Then we shopped for groceries. (Dave will have photos of some of that also.)
We got outside and I tried to schedule an Uber....  What???  Account disabled one more time! Sheesh.  We got a taximetro  back to our rental.  Once more I complained to Uber via email.
I hope it is sorted enough to get us to the auto rental place tomorrow.

Moral of the story:  Research Uber and know about it before you need it. Set up the account from home -even if there is no Uber in your city.  Use a credit card account for payment.  Oh yes, and pray that the Uber team doesn't mysteriously disable your account.  Be prepared to take a taxi if Uber fails.
Breathe!  Life goes on.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Evening Post: October 22 My Birthday!

I was looking at Facebook late this afternoon and was surprised to see all those birthday wishes! Wishes from people I have not had the chance to talk with in a very long time. Much thanks, it is certainly nice to be remembered.

Okay, on with the day. I went down to the market about noon time, lunch was in full swing and many buying for tomorrow lunch and dinner as the market is closed on Sunday.


There are several Loncherias outside as you can see where you can get their special of the day. Very good food at a very low price.


Inside is clean and brightly illuminated. You can get take home things you finish preparing or fully prepared. You can't consume these on the premise. This lady's special of the day was fruits and fruit juices. She had a couple of additional items not familiar to me and my Spanish has not come back enough to ask about them.


Over in the vegetables and meats section there were things galore I have never seen. I found a merchant who spoke some english and asked about a fruit that I had never seen before. I will show you in a minute. I was really looking for what the catch of the day was, and found out no seafood on Saturday.  So I stepped back to the meat section and found flank steak. I asked for a half kilo, diced coarsely. The butcher smiled and did it exactly as I asked. The price for that half kilo of flank steak was 40 pesos, about two USD. I then went into the veggie section and purchased two potatoes, bananas grown locally and my mystery fruit!


Locally grown bananas are shorter and fatter than the ones we see at home. And these are ripened on the plant before harvesting. The flavor is wonderful!


OH! Also bought an onion! Really nice produce! And was so good for dinner with the flank steak! The price for all the produce I bought was 66 pesos, about three dollars USD. The mystery fruit I am about to unveil was a little expensive compared to everything else which is why the cost was where it was. So here is the mystery fruit.....


Any one know what it is??




It is about the size of your doubled fists. It is unique to this area of Mexico. In English, it is called "Dragon Fruit"! It comes from a local cactus. The lady at the veggie stand cut it open to show me  how to eat it. Even thought it was not all the way ripe, it had an interesting texture and flavor. It has white, smooth flesh with small seeds in it, about the size of sesame seeds. I will show the flesh when this one gets ripe in a couple more days.

So, there you have the days events. Of course there was the obligatory siesta during the late afternoon! Take care, more to come.

Let us know if you are enjoying our blog. If you are having any problems, let us know via email.

Dave: From Merida!

I was going to post yesterday afternoon, but got side tracked with some issues regarding the rental car. Seems there has been a substantial change in the exchange rate since the booking. So the rental car folks are cancelling reservations made more than 10 days ago or when you get there they want MORE money! So, we took a taxi back "home" and truly are living like a local for a few days as the credit card company tries to sort things out! Anyway, that is just one small thing and it is not going to ruin our trip, we had planned on living without a car later on, so we will just adjust and do it for a while now! Besides, the local market four blocks away is well stocked with produce, fish and meats and the prices are very nice. We have also found another "economical kitchen" only a couple blocks away so we can have home cooked food almost any time. Last night we had fresh tamales from the new kitchen, the cost was only about $1.75 USD for four huge tamales and man were they good!

As for the post for yesterday, I was up about 615am and the sunrise was spectacular! There was a cool breeze and sitting on the patio drinking my first cup of coffee decided to do some photos.
Looking to the east as the sun comes over the trees where the birds are singing, welcoming the new day!

Looking toward the coast, about 15 miles away!
This is one of the older sections of Merida. There has been a settlement here since the Mayan days so there are many homes that are very old. And they are build side by side as you can see. But each has a back yard, some a little larger than others but never the less, a place to sit in the cool of the evening or cook when the weather is very hot (February, March and part of April!)

This is a picture of the entrance to our second floor studio apartment. We have our own entrance through the small garden out to the street. I like this as we don't bother our host or they us. A nice arrangement.


As I said, each house has a back area and many grow fruits and veggies. Our neighbor has an orange tree and as you can see here, it has many oranges in various stages of ripening.


A shot here of the next street over. It is very much like our street, but it is a major roadway into the center area (Centro) of town. Many buses and Combis (small bus) run this route into the central area. It is very easy to catch a ride for about 50 cents and you can ride the end of the line for that price.


This is a picture of the wonderful trees that give us shade up until about noon and provides such a nice area on the patio for breakfast.

Okay, enough for now! Since we are going to be living like locals, we need to get showered and dressed then off to the market (mercado) to get some supplies. One MAJOR item we need is COFFEE! Our host provided enough for a couple days, but given the way we drink it, we are in need!

More pictures to come from the mercado later today or early tomorrow!