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— 1 —

We’re back.  We’re very glad to be back, too – it was an excellent trip, but you know, it’s always nice to get home, sleep in your own bed, walk around in your own house, drink recklessly from the tap, flush toilet paper without fear of destroying the plumbing of an entire region,  and shop without awkwardness at your own Publix.

Spoiled!

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I have two deadlines over the next four days, but after that, I think I’m going to pull together a separate mini-blog about the trip.  It was that good, and it’s that close and it’s that relatively inexpensive (I couldn’t have done Florida theme parks for a week for what I did Mexico for ten days. If I wanted to do Florida theme parks, that is. Which I don’t. Sorry, not sorry.) I want to have a website out there with all the details on our trip that might just serve the purpose of encouraging folks – individuals, friends, couples and families – to go to Mexico.  Plenty of you do, and I met and saw plenty of Americans every where we traveled, but I just want to do my part to encourage more.

And we’re not done, either.  It won’t happen in the next few weeks or even months, but this trip did not exactly satiate the Maya-Mad One, so I see Palenque and related sites in our future, definitely.  And Costa Rica or bust, Colleen !!!

(We flew in and out of Cancun and spent very little time there, but I’ll say that it held no interest for me.  I found the run of huge resorts on the coast between Tulum and Cancun so weird. Be brave. Go beyond the all-inclusive and cruise ship excursion!)

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Excellent Gran Museo de Mundo Maya in Merida – rich exhibits and quite a bit of interactivity.

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— 3 —

Because it’s interesting, fun and safe. Safe, people.  I – a single woman with two children – drove all around the Yucatan, walked in cities at night, and never felt anything but perfectly safe and comfortable (Except when I was about to run out of gas, that is.) There are parts of Mexico I wouldn’t venture into alone, certainly.   Border areas, other places known for conflict. There are parts of the US I wouldn’t wander about alone, either.  But the Yucatan isn’t one of them, and it’s very accessible to the US, and very educational and culturally rich.

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University of the Yucatan in Merida

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— 4 —

There are, indeed, as you hear, frequent police checkpoints on the roads – mostly at the borders of states and in and out of towns.  I probably encountered fifteen of them.  I always met the law’s eye with a direct look, a smile and a nod,  was glanced at and waved through.

(I also always stuck slavishly to the speed limit. Never, ever went over.)

They were also doing selective breathalyzer tests on the road out of Progreso (beach town) last Saturday but, oddly enough, I was not targeted.

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A soccer team doing some training on the beach in Progreso

— 5 —

I stayed in some great places.   Specific shout-outs to the Pickled Onion B & B and the Cascadas de Merida B & B.  Both were excellent, and the latter, in particular, is a model for a small hotel/Bed and Breakfast.  As an introvert, I may not seem like the natural constituency for the relatively close quarters of a B & B, but honestly, when I am traveling to an unfamiliar place where I don’t speak the language, I value the intimacy of a B & B – I need the assistance and advice that the owner can give, and I also appreciate the opportunity to bounce my observations of the day’s touring off of another adult over a glass of wine.

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By the way….if you’re a watcher of House Hunters International, you’ve heard of Merida.  It’s where I first heard of it and became aware of the amazing way in which those relatively plain facades  can conceal surprising interior spaces.

(Other stays were, in order, and for one night each: Mayaland Bungalows, the Plaza Colonial in Campeche, and the last night, the Marriott Airport Courtyard in Cancun. On points!)

— 6 —

Speaking of pickled onions…I didn’t know they were one of the National Condiments of the Yucatan.  I loved them – I’ll be making them myself soon!

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No pickled onions, but, you know…food.

— 7 —

Oh, and speaking of food – everyone stayed healthy throughout the trip.   We were super careful about the water, of course.  Bottled, purified water the whole way, including during teeth-brushing.  We ate plenty of just normal low-end restaurant, street and market food, and did just fine.

Some of the best food of the trip?  Here.  In Progreso. Three big plates – 1 fish and 2 chicken - small plate appetizers set out the way they do (ceviche, pumpkin seed spread, octopus, pico de gallo and something else, along with fried tortillas), four soft drinks, all for 190 pesos, which is about 14 bucks, and crazy.

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Now to those deadlines…..

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Merida Altar

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…told you.

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So today big brother went to SEC tournament basketball games with bigger brother, so this

9-year old and I headed to Stone Mountain. 

For those of you not familiar with Stone Mountain – it’s this enormous granite lump – technically speaking, a monadnock – that rises abruptly east of Atlanta.  It was quarried until 1978, and is now the center of an expansive park.

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It’s also known for the bas-relief of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis and being central in the re -founding of the KKK in the 20th century. (For a bit more on the carving, see here.) Not for nothing did Martin Luther King Jr include it in the “I Have a Dream” speech:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

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The carving was begun in the 20′s by the sculptor who did Mount Rushmore, and restarted several times after.

…and since today, probably 2/3 of the  folks I saw hiking, strolling, walking, biking and playing in Stone Mountain Park were African-American…maybe it does.

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Atlanta far off in the distance

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#FriFotos

The only Twitter meme thing I do.  The theme this week (it’s a travel-related meme) is “perfect.”

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Last year’s post on our 2012 visit…

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Remember, my book Mary and the Christian Life  is available as a free pdf here.

You can also read it on Scribd here. 

Had a fun and very quick trip to Charleston.  Signed books!  Sold books!   Including one to a woman who opened the book, flipped through the pages, and said, “Huh.  I have a nephew named Alessandro.  He lives in Rome.  I guess I’m supposed to get this for him.”

Guess so!

Reminder:  On Monday, I’ll be announcing our giveaway of one of Ann Engelhart’s prints and a signed copy of the book.  But first I have to figure out how to do this giveaway stuff that all the Real Bloggers do.

And, oh this:

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— 1 —

This has been a busy month.  Not busy in the same way we were this time – this exact date last year:

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Gang of scamps on a corner in Chartres.

But it’s all good.  I keep telling myself that….all good. Le sigh.  It’s GREAT.  (Seriously, it is.Gratitude. Always gratitude.)

Some of the places we’ve been over the past month:

It began here:

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Which is here:

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About a month ago, the 8-year old and I went to Knoxville where we cleaned out the last of the storage unit I’d rented to hold my parents’ things that I couldn’t fit in my previous house after my father died two years ago this past Monday.  We’d dashed through in August after dropping my daughter off at college, and since I had a rental van at the time, I’d hoped I could do the job then, but it didn’t all quite fit….so we had to go up one more time.

And so we did.   We fit everything into the (again, rental- my regular car is small) SUV ,  closed the account at the storage facility, turned down Rutledge Pike, spent a rainy afternoon at the zoo, drove by my parents’ home which was basically demolished by the new owners and rebuilt from scratch, and then headed for the 75/40 split, me knowing that I really have no reason to ever go back again. That’s just the way it is.

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One more stop on the way back:

Tennessee Aquarium

— 3 —

Fernbank

A couple of weeks ago, we headed to Atlanta to the Fernbank Natural History Museum and the High Museum of Art – the latter to see Vermeer’s Girl With the Pearl Earring (as well as other works, of course).  Oh, and to see the Shakespeare Tavern’s Twelfth Night, which we’d studied over the month.

— 4 —

Every Tuesday, we go to Huntsville:

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The 12 year old has a class/meeting in the afternoon up there, and in the mornings, one or both of them might have another class, if we’ve signed up for that one, or else we go explore.  The Space and Rocket Center, the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, and then, spying something interesting up ahead, taking a different exit than usual and pulling up beside cotton harvesting and baling in process.

By the way, much of what we do is free.  Sometimes because, well, it just is, but other times because of our various memberships.  We have three:  Birmingham Museum of Art,  Birmingham Zoo and McWane Science Center.   Reciprocity agreements with other member institutions bring a lot of benefits.  Between our multiple visits to the Space and Rocket Center, the Zoo and Fernbank and the High in Atlanta, I’ve saved a couple hundred dollars at least.  The memberships have paid for themselves a few times over.

— 5 —

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One day, we went to see the replicas of the Nina and the Santa Maria that are floating around the hemisphere.  Hate to say it, but not really worth the cost.  Perhaps if you’re part of a tour group or field trip they might be, but it would have probably been enough to just look at them from the dock without paying the cost to walk on the deck…..

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A quick side trip to Decatur, just down (up?) river from Huntsville, on the other side of 65 to the small, quirky and free Cook’s Natural Science Museum – as in Cook’s Pest Control.   As I said, it’s free, so it’s worth 20 minutes – 30, if you take it slow – many stuffed animals, rock and mineral samples, as well as (of course) preserved pests and evidence of the damage that they do.  Not worth taking a day of your life to go see, but if you’re passing by….why not?

— 6 —

In our own town, we’ve headed to Ruffner Mountain and Red Mountain for hikes, been to the zoo a few times (homeschool class, plus an extra visit or two for the animal fanatic) and even to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame - 

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This was on a day his brother had zoo class…so obviously, during those two hours, each was in his element.

Also local, the Southern Museum of Flight…

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— 7 —

And then to a local creek to collect some water.

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….and study the protists in their watery universe…..

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Do you think we’ll pass the test???

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I took this photo….

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It was the first full day of our trip, we were here, and in a way, it remains my favorite photograph of the entire 3-month journey.

It captures what I had hoped would be the spirit of the trip and what, indeed, for the most part, came out of it.

Last night I was talking to one of the friends who joined us on the trip – there were three:  Dorian and her kids came for over a week when we were in Paris, Bethany from here also came to Paris, and then Dorothy came from Florida for a week in Rome.  So, as I said,  I was talking to Bethany last night as we sat waiting at a kid function, and both of us found it almost impossible to believe that it had been a year.

Time is such a very odd thing.

Anyway, doing that trip was a little daunting, but it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made. I look back and am fairly sure I was insane for doing it, but have absolutely no regrets.   We encountered such beauty, such serendipity, such human ingenuity and creativity, and so many very interesting people.  I wouldn’t repeat that exact type of trip again with children right now – not three months abroad, especially during football season –  but I do miss it – a lot - and part of me wishes we were still there, staying in gites, seeking out ruins and leaping with the cows.

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On board

From the USS Yorktown battleship, now a museum in Charleston:

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