Toilet Paper That Cares

Who Gives A Crap Toilet Paper Don’t you just love this name? Who Gives a Crap is an earth-positive toilet paper company that cares about everyone’s bum as well as the planet. Yay!

Who Gives a Crap 3-ply, 100% recycled. Their packaging is cardboard and paper (you can reuse the individual roll paper as fun gift wrapping paper). The verbage on the box and inside, as well as the emails are full of fun. They donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need around the globe. Think about it – what would your life be like if you didn’t have a toilet to use?

Besides making me smile, the actual product is amazing. It lasts longer than any other TP I’ve used, doesn’t involve any plastic, it is soft, strong and the company is committed to giving back. Hip Hip Hooray!

All Good Logo

Coconut Oil Skin Food

All Good Coconut Oil Skin FoodThis alternative to your typical lotions, most of which come in some sort of plastic (non-recyclable) packaging, is an easy and deliciously smelling oil for your whole body.

All Good Organic Coconut Skin Food

Company: Their production facility runs on solar power. They care about our reefs and only use 100% reef-friendly ingredients. They never use or incorporate GMOs. All of their packaging is recycled and recyclable. The product came in a cardboard box and the product is housed in a glass jar with a metal lid. They are a B Corp – care about the triple bottom line. They never test on animals. I could go on. This is a company to support.

I have only tried the Organic Coconut Skin Food – Lemongrass, but I have to say, I am in love with it. It is coconut oil – so it is hard or liquidy depending on the temperature in your house. But it is super easy to use and it makes my whole body smell good and my skin feel luxurious. I will definitely be trying more of their product options in the future.

Maya

Maya Temples

Over the years, I have had the joy of visiting many temples of the Maya, mostly when I was living in Guatemala. They were all magnificent and intriguing. But my favorite was and still remains Tikal. Maybe because I spent a lot of time there. I have also visited Yaxchilan, Ceibal, Copan, El Mirador, Bonampok, Dos Pilas, Naj Tunich, Uaxactun to name just a few. When you live in-country, you get the opportunity to really explore. So fun.

Mayan Ruins, Photo Credits: Ancientmayanruins.com, depositphotos.com, destination 360

Tikal, in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala is just stunning in that you are in the jungle as you wander from temple to temple. There are often Spider or Howler monkeys over head. Climbing temple five just before sunrise or sunset fills you with a near out-of-body experience. The photos below are very old, but I hope you get the idea.

Tikal

My latest Mayan temple experiences were in the Yucatan state of Mexico. We went to Uxmal, Kabah and Chichen Itza. Our first outing took us to Kabah and Uxmal. Again we joined Mayaland tours and on this trip, two wonderful women from Australia. Our guide was an old-timer that spoke, and helped to promote the learning in school of, the Mayan language. He also spoke Spanish, English and French – amazing!

Kabah

Kabah is quite small, at least for viewing. Only a small part of the site has been excavated. The main structure is the Palace of Masks, or sometimes called the Governer’s Palace. Upon its facade are over 250 faces of Chac, the God of Rain. Kabah is situated far from the subterranean rivers and cenotes, so the Maya of Kabah were dependent on rains from the heavens to water their most precious crop, maize.

Chac, God of Rain
Chac, God of Rain

 

Maya - Kabah
What is left of the “Governor” – on the left – known for his knowledge of architecture, engineering, language and religion.

 

Besides the hundreds of Chac replicas, the facade was unique in that it had an intricate lattice design. As you can see from this photo – much of this temple was rebuilt (see the small stones surrounding the larger stones).

We then ventured down the road a short way and found ourselves in awe of the buildings at Uxmal.

Uxmal

This is the first (and arguably the most impressive) structure at the site. While not allowed to climb this, it was stunning just to look up and see its mastery. There are apparently two or three other temples inside this. It was the norm, when conquering, to simply use the previous structure as a base to build and even larger one.

Below, notice the unique rounded corners of the side view of the main temple in Uxmal.

Uxmal

We climbed one of the temples at Uxmal. While very steep (60 degree angle), it was fun to climb. Coming down was a bit more challenging.

Uxmal

Maya Engineers

The Maya were amazing engineers. Without any type of grout, they layed perfectly cut stones tight against each other, slowly moving inward to form giant temples.

stones

stones

Check out this arch! Nothing but engineering and physics.

Photos of mom and I
Mom and I at Uxmal.

Inside what was called the “Nunnery”- no reference to Christianity and no other explanation given, were a lot of long images that expanded the length of the buildings (some over 500 feet). Below is the head of snake that undulated along one of those walls.

Chac – Maya God of Rain

Poor Chac – his nose just didn’t make it through the centuries. These temples were built some time between 600 and 900 AD.

At the building below was a wonderfully restored Mayan arch.

Along the wall below – when it is noon on the solstice, all the Chac noses, are lit by the sun – leaving everything else in some shadow, apparently making it quite striking to see.

After a very sweaty (100 degrees F, 98% humidity) day at Kabah and Uxmal, we headed back to Merida and tumbled happily into our dipping pool at our wonderful VRBO.

VRBO

All and all, Mayaland tours did a great job of hooking us up with a knowledgeable and friendly guide at Kabah and Uxmal and the transportation to and from was comfortable and air conditioned!  Ahhh.

Coming up – our day trip to Chichen Itza.

Flamingos, Yucatan

Yucatan Adventures

There are so many fun day trips to take when you are based in Merida, Mexico. The Yucatan is full of adventures. With limited time, only ten days, we were able to enjoy four great experiences utilizing my Lonely Planet guide and Mayaland Tours.

Flamingos in the Yucatan

Celestun Biosphere Reserve is a short 50 minute drive from Merida. We went with ten other folks, from Italy, Germany and the US in a comfy bus. The road was smooth all the way out to the gulf of Mexico. The park is named for the founder of the area, Celes Tuno and the main industry is the collection of salt. The protected park is over 145,000 acres and is located along the Emerald Coast of the Yucatan.

Once there we boarded boats and zipped out to the middle of the lake where hundreds of flamingos were dipping their heads underwater to nibble on shrimp larvae. It is in the eating of these small nibbles that the Flamingos get their color.  When they are first born, they are nearly pure white. Then as they feast, their feathers take on the pink hues.

Flamingos

While our boat driver was very respectful of the birds and didn’t get us too close or make any sudden movements while near them, it would have been better if I had been in a kayak and able to stay for much longer. I didn’t want to leave. They were truly mesmerizing. There were a few hundred feasting while we were there. In January and February there can be upwards of thousands.

Our boat excursion continued to the island of birds were we saw the swooping and heard the chatter of Frigats, Herons, Pelicans, Cormorants, and many, many more species.

Island of Birds
We then slowly made our way through a mangrove before heading back to the beach, lunch and swimming.

Mangrove

Celestun Beach
Restaurant on the beach at Celestun
Celestun Beach
The water was perfect.

Celestun Beach

Celestun Beach

A fun full day. Coming up – visiting three Mayan temple sites.

Until then, have a happy day dreaming of flamingos and sunny beaches.

~ Gretchen

Merida, Mexico...Delightful

Merida, Mexico

Merida, Mexico was delightful. The weather was hot and steamy. Sometimes the humidity was higher than the temperature. But the town of 892,000 was bustling both day and night. The center or centro, was definitely the most packed with tourists from all over the world as well as locals enjoying the Plaza Grande and the numerous other parks dotted throughout the city.

Life in Merida

When we weren’t out on excursions, we spent much of our days wandering the vibrant streets (calles) and enjoying the lovely evenings filled with good food and music.

Our first morning we had a delicious breakfast and coffee at Latte Quattro Sette on Calle 47, just a couple blocks from our fabulous VRBO.

Cafe Latte Quattro Sette

Then we ventured off for a free walking tour of the historical buildings surrounding Plaza Grande. Merida’s main square is situated between what was once five Mayan temples. Many of the foundations of the current buildings still have the original stones used from the dismantled temples.

Government Building Archway

Archway, church
Looking out from the Government Building towards the church in Plaza Grande

History

Merida was founded by Francisco Montejo, a Spaniard in 1524. Only the facade remains of his original home, and it is adorned with interesting sculptures and carvings at the entrance. Inside you’ll find a small musem replicating the European furniture brought over to fill the house, as well as a bank.

The main church on the plaza was originally used as a bunker and still has slits in the upper walls for rifles. The church was built using the stones from the temples of the conquered Mayans.

Church on Plaza Grande

In front of the church you could almost always find a carriage ride waiting.

Art Abounds

At the Governor’s Palace, we found extraodinary paintings by Fernando Castro Pacheco, painted in 1971. His paintings are approximately 12 ft. x 36 ft. and grace the lower walls and stairway. His focus was on the Maya and their beliefs. In the image below, you see a man rising out of an ear of corn. The Maya believed that the maize plant symbolized the creation of all life.

The conquered Mayans were treated as slaves by the Spaniards. It wasn’t until Salvador Alvarado became Governor of the Yucatan in 1915 that social emancipation was enacted. Not total freedom, but a beginning that favored education and women. Here is an image of Alvarado painted by Pacheco:

Salvador Alvarado painting

The upper hall of the Governor’s Palace is lined with large paintings from a variety of artists. These are all free to visit and the signage by each is in Spanish and English.

Governor's Palace Art Hall

Pasejo Montejo

After a really nice (free) two hour tour, we headed to lunch and then to wander the Paseo Montejo. This wide boulevard is where the wealthy first built their homes. At the time, it was a bit on the outskirts of town, but this allowed the inhabitants to utilize a new mode of transportation – the car. Now the homes are filled with businesses and museums.

Museum of Anthropology
Museum of Anthropology

We also found a cacao museum and took a short tour learning about the cacao and how chocolate used to be made. They also showed quite a few representations of the Goddess Ixchel holding cacao. Ixchel is the only female god of the Maya.

At the far end of the Pasejo is the monument to the patriarch.

Monument to PatriarchIn the evenings, after a siesta and perhaps a dip in our little pool (more about our amazing VRBO coming soon), we would head out to find a new restaurant and music. We tried most of the traditional foods offered. My favorite was the Cochinita Pibil; pork with delicious sauces on a banana leaf.

Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil

On Thursday nights in Santa Lucia park, there is a serenade to the history of Mexico. After the dancers leave, the band, with four amazing guitar players, continue to enchant the crowd. Listen to the end, the man on the right really jams.

Merida is a delight and I highly recommend a visit. More info on our excursions and VRBO to come.

Adios for now,

~ Gretchen

Sneak Peak...Merida, Mexico

Sneak Peak…Merida, Mexico

Sneak peak…Merida, Mexico – a fabulous trip to the Yucatan. So much fun, hot and humid, beaches, flamingos, Mayan ruins, great food and splashing in cenotes (sinkholes). A fun post to come with loads of photos and descriptions.  Flying back to California today. Here are some photos to tide you over. More to come soon!

Celestun Flamingos, Mexico
Flamingos in the Celestun National Park
Uxmal, Mexica
Uxmal, Mexico
Gretchen & Chaac, Uxmal, Mexico
Me with the god Chaac – God of Water, Uxmal, Mexico
Cenotes, Mexico
One of three cenotes we visited outside of Merida, Mexico.