Mérida – Spices, Mayan Ruins, Cemeteries AND Dining!

I’m still obsessing over Mérida, Mexico! Mérida is the capital of the state of Yucatán, in the far east of Mexico. The Maya people have survived invasion, enslavement, disease and oppression and make up a substantial part of the population. Situated in the north east of the flat Yucatán peninsula, this can be a stop-off from the Caribbean beaches several hours away, and is close to the world-famous Mayan Indian ruins at Chichen Itz and Uxmal. It is a city of narrow streets, shady park squares, concealed courtyards and crumbling colonial buildings.

One mustn’t miss the Central Plaza with the charming park square. Plaza Mayor, which is flanked by some of the city’s oldest and most impressive buildings, is closed off to traffic on Sundays, except for horse-drawn buggies and tourists riding in cycle rickshaws. Elderly women and young teens queue to sit at simple cafes and eat warm tortillas stuffed with blackened turkey, refried beans and salsa. On hot afternoons, patrons line up at the oldest ice-cream shop below the shaded colonnade.

Not far from the Plaza Mayor, don’t miss an exploration of Mérida’s main market, a massive covered, but not air conditioned, market. In two immense joined halls plus rows of ancillary stalls around the periphery, more than two thousand vendors sell their wares. It’s an interesting collection of vendors, from freshly hacked-up cows, pigs and fish to hand-tooled leather shoes and bags to numerous varieties of spices, vegetables, fruits, and home housewares; truly an exotic collection of everything a local might need, all under a massive covered field of small stalls. Arrive before noon to avoid the heat and to see the most abundant piles of vegetables and fruits. It is massive and should be explored with a guide if you have a particular need in mind. I always search for local spices or honey.

Spices from Mérida’s main market

The Mayan ruins of Uxmal

The Mayan ruins of Uxmal

And, of course, a few hours out of town lie some of the country’s most spectacular Mayan sites. I spent a few days with the most amazing guides and driver – one day wandering Mérida and the new Mondo Maya Museum, the winding brick lined streets of the old town, lunching at an authentic restaurant and perusing a few local shops. One day should be devoted to seeing the ruins of Uxmal and then perhaps lunching and swimming at a nearby private Hacienda.

As we drove to the Plaza Mayor, we slowly passed through a vast cemetery, the  oldest Cementerio General. If you like moseying through old cemeteries, this one is a particular treasure. It is the largest and oldest in Mérida and is graced with a few very spectacular headstones and mausoleums of wealthy Hacienda owners. One surprise was the grave of an intrepid American woman, Alma Reed, who had a love affair with Governor Felipe Carillo Puerte. He, a Socialist, doing much to reform the and improve the lives of the Mayan workers, was assassinated with some of his brothers and Socialist colleagues. Alma who was a writer for several New York and San Francisco newspapers, was in San Francisco buying her wedding dress when he was assassinated. Crushed by the death of her lover and fiance, she asked to be buried near him. Her grave is across the street from his, lovers separated by a wide road. Her story is quite unique, I encourage you to  find her story online or in the several books published about her life. Fully post on this amazing Cemetery.

Mérida is also becoming a capital for foodie’s. Roberto Solis who cooks at and owns Nectar has trod the kitchens of famed Noma, Per Se and traveled to Japan to work under the famed Chef Narisawa. His small restaurant is big on creative delicious cuisine, described as The New Yucatecan Cuisine, incorporating local spices and regional specialties. Highly recommend!

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Four Seasons Downtown New York

“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”
— Simone De Beauvoir

This could have been my theme song for my extended stay in New York! A lovely long week discovering new restaurants, absorbing compelling theater and a few stolen moments in my favorite museums – a week combined with moving hotels three times! Intrepid traveler – always interested in the hottest dining, the latest from my favorite hotel brands…

Arrival on the first warm summer evening in the city landed me at the cutting edge recently opened Four Seasons Downtown. At the crossroads of Tribeca and the Financial District, just a block from the World Trade Center, the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown adds its classic architectural profile to the world’s most famous skyline. And does it capture your imagination!

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CUT Bar Four Seasons Downtown New York

Wednesday night, I entered the lobby to a buzzing bar and restaurant scene at celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s CUT, just off the striking lobby. The hotel has a signature fragrance, I haven’t figured out how it is achieved in these wide-open spaces, but it is an exotic scent, adding to the ambience.https://i1.wp.com/www.fourseasons.com/content/dam/fourseasons/images/web/NYD/NYD_221_aspect16x9.jpg/jcr:content/renditions/cq5dam.web.1280.720.jpeg?w=584

One of NYC’s loftiest residential towers, the hotel soars above a neighborhood that’s redrafting the local scene on a daily basis. Designed by architect Robert A. M. Stern, the hotel oozes modern luxury, with a hint of  bronze hues evidencing Wall Street, the interior public spaces reflect a very stylized architecture. Inside, global design stars Yabu Pushelberg have created chic, richly layered retreats in all 189 guest rooms and suites. Some rooms feature balconies, this neighborhood is quiet enough to sleep with doors or windows open – yes, there is a choice! My stunning corner suite provided an almost touch me, reach to the shimmering glass of the Freedom Tower, rising to nuzzle the stars. Look down from the 26th floor corner to catch a peek at the intricate ribs of the gleaming white Oculus. Did I mention the white marble bathrooms, huge by most hotel standards and a luxurious soaking tub to die for.https://i2.wp.com/www.fourseasons.com/content/dam/fourseasons/images/web/NYD/NYD_225_aspect16x9.jpg/jcr:content/renditions/cq5dam.web.1280.720.jpeg?w=584

The soaring openness of the lobby and public spaces, provide a feeling like no other New York hotel; the interiors, in a way, reflect the neighborhood, there are expansive breaks of daylight between the buildings, a horizon can be enjoyed, and you aren’t boxed in by cement or glass towers.

Escape to the peaceful spa or dip into downtown’s coolest lap pool, a glass room with a view and loungers scattered about with the utmost privacy; lifeguard included! One work afternoon, an attendant found a plug for my laptop and stretched out towels for an impromptu office – laps between emails made for a fine work session. Two walls of floor to ceiling windows provide rare natural light illuminating the 75-foot long pool. Leave your lounger office for a workout in the 6,000 sq. foot fitness center, inspired by the views of the Oculus and the World Trade Center, a long treadmill run breezes past in no time!https://i0.wp.com/www.fourseasons.com/content/dam/fourseasons/images/web/NYD/NYD_210_aspect16x9.jpg/jcr:content/renditions/cq5dam.web.1280.720.jpeg?w=584

The spa is also in this corner of the hotel. The quiet and serene very European style spa may remind some Four Seasons addicts of their stay in Four Seasons hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Dubai, as the patron spa saint is the esteemed Dr. Burgener of Switzerland.

Located in Tribeca just steps from Wall Street, the World Trade Center and the new Oculus, the Four Seasons Downtown is a marvelous base for exploring lower Manhattan. It’s a brief stroll to the broad expanse of the Hudson River and its paths for walking and biking, the 911 Memorial is steps away, South Street Seaport, and a brisk walk up to Tribeca. Locals have already adopted the small park just a half a block away; if you enjoy an afternoon coffee combined with people watching, this is a slice of NY heaven. The neighborhood is audibly quieter than any area of the city. It’s busy yes, yet there seems to be an absence of the constant scream of sirens and the throbbing car horns that epitomize the city. I didn’t miss the noise!

I’ve only stayed in this neighborhood once, right after 9/11, when only the heroic had the courage to move to a new un-built corner of the island, which lacked all basic services. I honestly loved the Four Seasons Downtown, not just for the great dining, amazing spa and pool, my stunning suite with drop-dead views, the air was clean and refreshing, and to enjoy the wide berths of space between buildings and not feel confined by soulless cement was a unique New York experience – Four Seasons Downtown New York.

Highly recommend – our clients are spoiled by the Four Seasons management, let us know when you are ready to stay at the new vibrant luxurious corner of the city!