Mérida, at Last

Mérida, México
November 2016

It’s taken me more than twenty years to come to Mérida. But Mérida is worth the wait.

Spanish meets Mayan meets Caribbean.  A small, tropical city of colonial townhouses and colorful mansions, of narrow streets in the old centro and the wide boulevard of the cosmopolitan Paseo de Montejo. Churches galore and museums, too. The best food in the Yucatán. Chichen Itzá and Uxmal an hour or so away. A quick drive to the Gulf of México.

And the most vibrant weekend social scene at the Plaza Grande.

Yaxchilán and Bonampak

México
November 2016

The three-hour van ride down a rutted, two-lane highway through the remote Lacandon region of Chiapas leads to the riverside. We board a long boat and head down a river of muddy, red water for another hour. Disembarking at a horseshoe bend, a brief hike through the jungle, to the sounds of monkey cries, ends in a sudden clearing: the Late Classic Mayan ruins at Yaxchilán.

Situated along the river bank on two sides of a long, open plaza, Yaxchilán is known for the fine stelae and lintels that adorned its buildings. In the main plaza, the buildings are mostly crumbled single-story structures, along with a ball court and displays of stelae. But climb up the steep hills on the edge of the jungle, and more impressive buildings with well-preserved roof combs await.

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Palenque

Palenque, México
November 2016

I took more than 400 pictures today. I burned through two batteries. The combination of a Mayan ruin, a digital camera, and me is inevitably going to result in photographic overkill.

Palenque is impressive — even if they won’t let me climb the Temple of the Inscriptions. A grand palace capped by a tower. Stelae and carvings set deep in the jungle. A temple once occupied by a Spanish count. A steep climb to an imposing view.

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Tzotzil Villages

San Juan Chamula and San Lorenzo Zinacantán, México
November 2016

The funereal and the festive. Welcome to the Tzotzil Maya villages of Chiapas.

Cover photo: Ruined church, village cemetery, San Juan Chamula

When in Oslo

Oslo
July-August 2015

My first time in Europe in ten years, I’m summoned by the landscapes I’ve only seen on television. But first it’s Oslo, Norway’s capital, with its mix of the nation’s past and present.

Fanning out from a splendid harbor, Oslo spreads onto winding neighborhood streets and wide avenues circumnavigated by the ever-present trams. In the city center, Henrik Ibsen stands imperiously in front of the National Theatre, just blocks from the Grand Cafe where he once took his daily lunch. Along the harbor, an imposing medieval fortress stands sentinel over a burgeoning modern waterfront, while on a peninsula out on the bay, Viking ships are a reminder of Norway’s rough-hewn past.

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