Atop the central entrance of the hacienda, the Union Flag was waving on the gentle tropical breeze in Yucatan, Mexico. It was a wink to our arrival but more than that, it was an invitation to delve into the details of this beautifully eccentric and most cleverly designed British-owned Hacienda Dzibikak.
Exactly one year after a spur of the moment search for some sun lead them to a hacienda holiday in Merida, Lena and Richard Nichols were handed the keys to their very own Mexican hacienda.
Now, I don't know what you are imagining when you think of what a new hacienda owner might be getting... In Lena and Richard's case, they bought 12 acres of land that had been abandoned for 50 years, after a fire had ended the life of the working henequen hacienda. When land is left unmanned in this region of Mexico, the jungle reclaims it. Dense vegetation covered the property, only the thick stone hacienda walls were left standing.
It took one year to clear the grounds, during which time unexpected finds beneath the undergrowth amazed the owners; lost ornamental gardens and the ruins of a Mayan pyramid. A further five years of renovations followed before the owners moved in and a new chapter in the life of Hacienda Dzibikak began. However, it was during those long renovation years that what really sets Hacienda Dzibikak apart from the all the other haciendas was cultivated. Four years of visits to charity shops and scouring ebay for anything and everything that could be used to decorate a hacienda in a such a unique style, reminding the owners and their young son of the country that they left in pursuit of a new lifestyle. Two containers later, a third of the hacienda was adorned with treasures such a framed one pound notes, a dish filled with cricket balls and numerous portraits of Queen Victoria gracing a corner by the upright piano. Due to the grand scale of the hacienda, bric-a-brac shops in Merida were also raided for an eclectic collection of curiosities. The final third of an amazing interior design feat came from the in-house workshop and crafted by a full-time carpenter. I just had a flashback to a wonderful wall filled with small framed sketches and prints of British churches and in the centre of it all a photo of one of the three small chapels on the hacienda property. Very clever stuff!
Lena and Richard's son was six months young (now eight years old) when making the journey from London to Mexico, so to our delight, since we were travelling with three small children, safety and kid-friendly fun is top on the list of priorities for Hacienda Dzibikak. There was a playground hidden in one of the beautifully landscaped gardens, since wherever it is you go, kids always love swings, slides and climbing frames; and huge boxes stacked upon boxes (made by that full-time carpenter and jazzed up with the hacienda's own logo) all labelled, so you know where to find the giant jenga; the croquet set; the lawn bowls.
Our outrageously spacious and luxurious apartment, wowing three young children and their parents alike, was homely whilst being fabulous. There was no uncomfortable and pretentious hotel atmosphere. The design invited you to feel at home and we could certainly have spent a month there whilst leisurely exploring the region. And WOW! What a region!! With beaches, cenotes, pyramids, nature reserves, hacienda ruins and the city of Merida all accessible in just a short drive, Hacienda Dzibikak makes a superb choice as a base to explore from and a wonderland to retreat to.
With all of these words I have yet to describe the bliss in the sun-lounger by the pool, the laughs on the barstool in chapel bar, the daydream in the swing under the giant laurel tree, the birdsong appreciated in the hammock on the front veranda, the birdwatching from the rocking chair on the back veranda and the delicious meals and delightful company at the dining table. You'll just have to experience all this for yourself.
'Dzibikak', from the Mayan language means, 'written with fire'. Whilst flicking through a few hacienda themed coffee table books, at the coffee table of a hacienda, my eye caught the dedication written by the sister to one of Hacienda Dzibikak's owners. It read, "December 2000. For Richard, in the hope that you will own one one day. Merry Christmas!" Richard insisted that this gift with its prophetic message was presented to him years before any thought of hacienda living occurred to him. I insist that I would like to have the pen with which that message was written, for my suspicion is that there was magic in the ink which allowed the words to craft a spell, hinting at the fate of Hacienda Dzibikak, a paradise reborn from the ashes of time.
Hacienda Dzibikak is a wonderful compliment to the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula, just 20 minutes from Merida International Airport, please visit haciendadzibikak.com for more details.