When arriving in Mérida you’re instantly taken with the brightly coloured casas that line the calles of the Centro Histórico district – the ornate doors and grilles, the vibrant coloured walls, the shadow play of light on the whitewashed limestone – it’s a feast for the eyes. Occasionally, if you’re fortunate, a door will be left ajar and you’ll get a sneak-peak inside. What’s so wonderful about Méridian casas is the use of space. Massively high cool rooms with whirring fans, oversized wrought-iron ceiling lanterns, light pastel-coloured walls and a glimpse of a sun-splashed courtyard out back, always with a pool with lush tropical plants – a MUST HAVE in this climate, the pool that is.
But it’s what’s on the floor that’s so beautiful and so often overlooked. So don’t look up, look down. It’s worth it.
Because of its climate, homes here have tiled floors – but not any old tiles, these are known as Pasta Tiles. Pasta tiles were first introduced by the Spanish centuries ago and as far as I can tell, the use of the name ‘pasta’ refers to the paste-like nature of the materials used in their production, which hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. Of course tiles aren’t unique to Mérida, they’re used in most tropical and sub-tropical places as ornate floor coverings, but it’s the way they use the tiles here that’s so wonderful, creating rectangular carpets of bright tiled colour, often clashing geometric patterns to brighten up an otherwise dark cool space.
One of the best places in Mérida to buy pasta tiles is Mosaicos La Peninsular. The un-supposing factory showroom is on a dusty street in an unfashionable part of town but once inside you’re transported to a dazzling array of patterns and geometrics. A carpet of say 20 x 23 tiles each at 8 inches square would cost approximately AUD$1190 – not necessarily cheap, but that’s for a tiled ‘carpet’ that would last at least one hundred years, if not hundreds of years.
Like a magpie drawn to a bright-shiny object, I found myself mesmerised by a collection of much older heritage tiles. These individual relics of the past are from their private collection and sadly not for sale, but the modern tiles are equally gorgeous and will of course wear with age.
So don’t look up when in Mérida, look down – you’ll be encantado!