First of all, though we've talked at length in the past about much of this before, could you reiterate your reasons for moving to Mexico?
Well, there were several reasons. The climate had a lot to do with it. Where we were in Canada was unbearably cold for much of the year, and being sun-worshipping, warm weather people, we thought it would be great to have the year-round warmth of Southern Mexico. Then there was Bertrand's stressful job at the University. He couldn't wait to take early retirement, and we knew that the lower cost of living in Mexico would make that possible. And we've also both been very impressed with the generosity and warmth of the Mexican people we've met while teaching international students in Canada. But the overriding reason would have to be that we were just ready for a change, to embark on an adventure.
And what an adventure it's already been, this first year. What about the destination itself? You are now in Playa Del Carmen in the Mayan Riviera, but wasn't your first destination Merida, the capital of Yucatan State?
Yes. We had seen Merida on HGTV's House Hunter's International and grew instantly enamored of the culturally vibrant colonial city, not to mention the old, colonial houses we saw on the TV show. We were very sure we wanted to buy a ruin and have it restored just as we'd seen on that particular episode of the show. Also, we'd visited the city twice to ascertain that it really was the place we'd like to sink some roots in. So you'd think after the thought and research that had gone into the destination, we'd feel quite at home living there. Not so.
What happened? What made you change your mind?
Well, we discovered that living there was a bit different from visiting as a tourist. Don't get me wrong, Merida is a wonderful city, and we'll always have a soft spot for it. And again, the people we met there were some of the nicest we've ever encountered. But for us, after living there for three months, we realized that there were things that the city lacked, at least for us.
Green space for one. We were fortunate enough to live two and a half blocks from the Paseo Montejo, the famed tree-lined boulevard often likened to Paris's Champs-Elysees. We would walk the dogs four times a day, and that was the only place we could really walk them. Even then, we had to brave the two and a half blocks of diesel-emitting buses to get to the Paseo. And Daisy, sensitive dog that she is, found the streets too loud. The roads where we were in Centro (town centre) either had no sidewalks or very narrow ones, and when the buses roar pass you, it can be intimidating. The two and a half blocks were busy at anytime, and it wasn't uncommon to be passed by a dozen buses in just that short stretch, some passing a mere hair's breadth from your shoulder. I do need to qualify what I am saying about the busy-ness of the Centro area, though. It is the city hub, after all, and as such is packed with the excitement and activity one would expect. There are areas further from the center that are less hectic. But in general, we did a find there was for us a lack of green space to walk the dogs.
So you couldn't find any parks for the dogs?
Not unless you drove to one - at least a 10 to 15-minute drive. And then the parks were not what we were used to in Canada. They were not really meant for dogs. More for children and recreational activity, so there were playgrounds with swing sets, baseball diamonds, and basketball courts, but really not much green space. There was one park that we liked, but did not feel like driving there all the time, so we nearly always walked the dogs on the Paseo.
And what else did you discover about Merida that surprised you?
Well, there was a flip side to the wonderful culturally rich activities that pretty much ran every day of the week. Just about every day there was a show to see - dancing, singing, bands, parades. And most of it absolutely free. It is a spectacle - very exciting, and entertaining when you are visiting and want to soak up all the atmosphere of the city. But we confirmed some things about ourselves - maybe we're mellowing in our age, but after a while, we discovered that we valued peace and quiet above the constant partying. We'd be awakened on Sunday mornings - early! About 7, by loud music blasting from enormous speakers on the Paseo warming up for the weekly bicycle ride around the city. And then there was usually a parade, sometimes two in a week, that made it even harder to walk the dogs. We realized we were really looking for a slower pace of life, and Merida wasn't ready to stop partying just yet. (laughs)
So it sounds like your experience as a resident in Merida was quite different from your impression of the city as a tourist the first two times you visited it. What advice would you have for someone planning just such a move as you've undertaken?
All the Planning and Research cannot tell you what a few months of actually living in the place will reveal. We learnt things not just about the place, but also about ourselves. I would strongly suggest not putting any roots down immediately. Do not buy a house, for instance, that you will be stuck with, should your honeymoon period with the place is over far earlier than you expect. We were fortunate. We were actually on the brink of purchasing a property that would have complicated things. We made a bid on a house we both loved, but had the offer rejected. We thank our lucky stars all the time for that. Be sure to really live in the place. Instead of buying, do a long-term rental for at least 4-6 months. Actually live there, not just as a tourist. For us, we did not know how difficult it would be with the dogs for our two previous visits had been without them. And we also discovered that we could manage partying once or twice a month, but not every day!
Valuable insight indeed. Thank you.