Episode 370 – Arrival in Mérida, Part 1

We’re here!

After a bit of a rocky start, including WestJet online check-in that didn’t work and resulted in hundreds of people queuing at the airport for boarding passes, and two planes arriving simultaneously at Mérida’s newly renovated airport which resulted in hundreds of people queuing for immigration and customs, we’re in our winter “home”.

It is both everything and also much less than what I’d hoped for.

First, a couple of photos I took this morning (hence the less-than-Ted quality) and the verbatim description of the property from VRBO, which includes the history of the property (be forewarned, it is long).

The front courtyard with its lion’s head fountain is actually the second thing you see when entering. There is a grand staircase hallway first. More on that later.

The garden terrace with pool and flowering vines.

Canton Mansion

This is a rare opportunity to stay in a truly historic and wonderfully elegant house. Cantón Mansion comprises three adjacent double height colonial townhouses that were built by one of the most famous native political figures in Yucatan’s history, Generalissimo Francisco Gregorio Cantón Rosado (1833-1917). General Cantón was in charge of all Mexico’s armed forces and later was governor of the Yucatan peninsular. He retired in 1902, one of the wealthiest Yucatecans of that era, owning many haciendas during the henequen boom.

On Paseo de Montejo stands one of Merida’s landmark buildings, Palacio Cantón, which for the past 60 years or so has been used as Merida’s Anthropology Museum, but was the home of General Cantón until his death there in 1917. The Cantón Mansion on Calle 56, part of which is offered for rent here, was constructed for his three sons, and the eldest, Eduardo, lived in this house. The three houses were originally connected on the second floor by archways, doors and terraces.

The house is presently owned by Christopher Collins Lee, concertmaster with the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra, and Christopher occupies the second floor of the property.

Guests will have exclusive use of the ground floor of the property except for the entrance hallway and staircase which the owner will use for access to the second floor when he is in residence; his international playing schedule means he is often away from Merida for weeks at a time. If he is in residence while you are staying you may have the pleasure of hearing a violin maestro practicing his art, however Christopher would like to stress that the privacy of guests will be respected at all times.

The ground floor consists of a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, bathroom, two inner courtyards, and the garden with terrace and large pool. There is also a music room on the ground floor with two pianos which may be available to guests who play the piano.

Like the Palacio Canton, to the north, the Canton Mansion was conceived and constructed by Italian architects and craftsmen led by Enrico Desarti, built in an eclectic style, with neoclassical, Spanish colonial, and French baroque elements. Desarti is also credited with building the Peon Contreras Theater just two blocks away from this house, where the symphony orchestra performs.

The Mansion Canton was constructed with and on top of megalithic Mayan building stones, which they used, turning them into the foundation, subterranean cisterns and walls. Under the front courtyard with the lion head fountain, for instance, lies the stone living room of a large Mayan dwelling inhabited over 1,000 years ago.

Though modern plumbing (street water) and concealed electrical wiring have been added, along with comfortable modern furniture, air conditioning, wi-fi and many other comforts of home, it should be stressed that the owner has opted to restore this historic house in much of its original Porfirian style, keeping many antique elements, the age-worn tiles being a notable example. It serves as a celebration of times past and an inspiration for the future. It is not modern, but rather for the historically and artistically responsive, it is in this spirit that the house is offered and hopefully appreciated.

The house is ideally located just two blocks from Santa Lucia and four blocks from Merida’s main plaza, Parque Principal, making it the perfect location from which to explore on foot Merida’s architectural, cultural and culinary delights.

Tomorrow I’ll start documenting the individual rooms and their history and features, because the space really is visually stunning, but … the cleanliness, kitchen, and plumbing are more than a little disappointing. I’m afraid that has dampened my initial enthusiasm, especially because realistically it means we won’t be able to host any longterm guests, which was something I’d been excited about ever since we booked this spot over a year ago.

POSTSCRIPT: Our landlord/owner Chris has been amazingly responsive. Since our part of the house is not a space he normally enters (he used to have a property manager), and no one pointed out the deficiencies (renters, puzzlingly, often don’t), he truly didn’t know what things needed attention. He has already provided us with a new coffee maker, and has promised to arrange for a professional deep clean of the townhouse, along with a new toaster and new stove/oven. If all that happens, it will make a world of difference. He also gave me permission to toss anything that’s broken or otherwise unusable. That in itself has made me happier.

7 comments

      • Rose, they do have specific carbon monoxide detectors that are “travel” size but it would be nicer, of course, to have functioning ones already installed. I only bring this up because it was just determined that the deaths of 3 young Americans was determined to be carbon monoxide poisoning that was in their VRBO or B&B in Mexico. Never can be too safe.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks again. I’m looking up at our 15 foot ceilings and 3 open courtyards (there is not a single room except the dining room that could be considered “enclosed” and not seeing anything….. which may make sense given the totally open space (the kitchen only has 3 walls !)

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