Mexico · 31 Days · 66 Moments · January 2016

A Month in Merida

16 February 2016

A perfect Tuesday evening in Merida. Head to the Casa Catherwood museum on Calle 59 just around the corner from Plaza Santiago, to see the display of Catherwood prints from the 1850's when he illustrated the "discovery" of several Mayan sites. The museum is small, the prints are original and there is a well written guide describing each print in the collection. From there, walk back two blocks on 59 towards the Plaza Grande and have dinner at Villa Martine (Calle 59 and 68). This is a beautiful place and we had our best meal by far here. The menu is continental and even included a tasty orange sorbet between courses. I had the Salad Leon and the ravioli stuffed with squash blossoms in a white wine sauce. Delicious. After dinner, walk a block back to Plaza Santiago and dance to big band Latin music in the park along with lots of locals and visitors having a great time and not caring whether your left foot knows what your right one is doing (8-10pm Tuesdays).
Merida house tour at the English Library. Yes, do this. Very interesting talk on local architecture at the beginning followed by a visit to three different homes each week. Tuesday's 9-12.

15 February 2016

Impressive balancing job. That's a tray of pastries on his head.
Nice little dance performance at lunch after our tour of Chitzen Itza.
The famous ball court at Chitzen Itza. The feather looking headdress in the graphic actually represents blood spurting from a decapitated body, thus the theory of human sacrifice as a major component of the ball game.
Chitzen Itza. The site is impressive and we only saw the main part of a much larger area. The main pyramid is a Mayan calendar with the number of blocks and steps configured in a way to mark the days and months of a Mayan year and the grouping of years with special significance. Evidently quite a spectacle at the equinox when the sun sends a serpent of light across the great courtyard.
People complain about the masses of souvenir venders so close to the ruins. I rather liked it. It brought the place to life. After all, there would have been markets in Chitzen Itza. In fact, the "thousand " columns was a huge market area for goods from across Mexico.
The sacred cenote. Another spot thought to be for human sacrifice- this time children. Blood and sacrifice played a fairly significant role in the historical Mayan religion.

14 February 2016

Bici Ruta on Sunday's. Rent a bike for 50 pesos and ride along Passeo Montejo and Calle 60 all the way through town. Great to see the buildings and plazas without cars. Lots of food stalls at the Plaza Grande too. 8-12 Sunday's.

12 February 2016

Izamal - the Yellow City. We took a collectivo (28 pesos and hot!) for the hour drive, climbed a pyramid, took a tour in a horse drawn coach (calesa), and visited the monastery, famous for the monk who burned all of the Maya writings and then felt remorse and wrote a book containing everything he remembered. Also famous as having the largest entry porticoed yard in the world except for St Peters in Rome and for a visit by Pope John Paul who came and blessed their virgin and issued an apology to the indigenous people for the church's acts against the Maya in the past. Izamal was a great religious center for the Maya before it became a Christian religious center.

11 February 2016

Just wandering in town one Thursday evening and happened upon these two great performances, both free, in theaters next to each other. So far I have counted six performance venues ( five are full blown theaters) within two blocks of the Plaza Grande. And then, of course, lots happens on the Plaza itself.

10 February 2016

Zoo at Park Centennario. I enjoyed it. Animals all very active and healthy looking.

9 February 2016

Typical small town in the country. Everyone seems to use these tricycle type carts to get around. What a great energy saving idea!
Lunch on the beach and a boat tour to see flamingos and mangroves in Celestun. It was cool out on the water but really fun to see the flamingos fly by our boat. We saw a group of several hundred but could also see a line of pink further away where there were many more. They spent winter here eating and turning pink and then head to the north coast to nest.

8 February 2016

Another Carnaval parade in Campeche. I liked this one better than the one with the big floats. This one must have been for the kids. Everyone was giving away lots and lots of candy. Not being kids, we didn't get any.
Hotel Plaza Colonial in Campeche. Really liked this hotel- small, super clean, beautiful lobby, nice marble tiles in bath, helpful staff -$64 US a night.
Ecological park near Campeche. Check the sign for the name. Pretty place with lovely clear water for swimming or bird/fish watching and a good path through the woods/jungle. No facilities to speak of on a Monday but it looks like the weekend might offer kayaking, zip line, swimming and a restaurant. Bring your own toilet paper.

7 February 2016

Nice view of the fireworks from our hotel room at the Plaza Colonial Hotel in Campeche.
Wondered around the old city of Campeche today. Pretty quiet on a Sunday, though many stores and museums open. Another Carnaval parade along the malecon and a great fireworks display in the evening.

6 February 2016

Arrived in Campeche in time for the Carnaval parade. Lots of people- chairs all along the route, cordoned off for beer gardens, or chair rental or family parties- not sure which- maybe all three. Some impressive floats and dancing troupes, but the parade moved way too slowly for our attention span.
Cathedral Campeche
Started our visit to Campeche with a walk along the old wall that surrounds the historical center. The wall is a fortress built to protect the city from pirates. It's a great way to start with good views across the old town within the walls and the newer town outside the walls. The historical center is very pretty- no overhead power lines and all buildings brightly painted whether or not occupied. 15 pesos to walk the wall. The guard unlocks the old door at the foot of the stairs to let us go up and then we had to ring the bell to get the door opened again when we were ready to come down.
Stopped in Becal on the way to Campeche. This is the town where panama hats are made. We wanted to see where it was done. We didn't know where to look, but this guy-Francisco- waved us down when we were driving slowly by the square and asked if we were looking for a factory. He told us to follow him and he led us to a friend's house where the hats are made- maybe. Hats are made in caves to keep the humidity up. We saw a homemade cave and got an explanation of hat making and shopped in a small store. It wasn't quite what we were looking for, but interesting anyway.

5 February 2016

Hacienda Uxmal. Loved the windows in the bath, the stained glass windows in our room and the porch above the pool. Staff was very welcoming and helpful.
Coco Story Museum across from Uxmal. It was a nicely done museum that consisted of a walk through a Mayan style garden and through several Mayan style thatched cottages. In each one was a very nicely done mini museum of some aspect of the history of cocoa and chocolate culminating in a demo of chocolate making and a chance to drink some hot chocolate. There was supposed to be a Mayan ceremony too but it was raining so they canceled it.
Rented a car and drove to the archeological site of Uxmal about an hour south of Merida. Easy drive and the site is stupendous. We wondered on our own and there were plenty of signs to explain what we were seeing. It is a surprise to me just how many Ancient Mayan cities there are on the Yucatan Penninsula. They are all over the place. Bring binoculars to see the detail at the tops of the buildings. The bird watching is great too.

3 February 2016

It's been hot, so we went to the mall and saw a movie. Nice theater with lots of food options. We were two of eight people watching our movie. Pretty quiet everywhere at the mall. I think everyone works. Got a pedicure while we were at it and watched four young girls get their private ice skating lessons.

2 February 2016

95 today so went to Progresso to cool off. I think it was even hotter there. If it hadn't been so hot, I'd have taken more pictures. It is a pleasant small town with lots of merchandise stalls and restaurants along the malecon and on the beach. The pier in the photo is about 4k long to get out to water deep enough for the ships. We caught a bus to Progresso at the Auto Progresso station a few blocks south of the Plaza Grande. 35 pesos round trip, air conditioned bus. It took about 50 minutes from there but would be closer to half an hour from a more northernly starting point. Though a direct bus, it did stop to pick people up after it got out of centro.

31 January 2016

Sunday- went to the symphony at Peon Contreras Theatre and then enjoyed the free entertainment at the plaza including a great police band performing salsa and cumbia to a dancing crowd. Really, the extent of free cultural performances in this downtown is impressive.
Merida Triathlon 2016. Swim a mile in the ocean at Progresso, bike the 15 k to Merida and then jog the remaining however many k in loupes at Paseo Monteo. The only grey haired participant I saw was also using a prothesis for his leg.

29 January 2016

Visited the Museo del Mundo Maya today. Wonderful museum! Very interesting rooms about the extinction of the dinosaurs from a meteor that fell on the Yucatan. Wonderful, beautiful recreations through film of that event and of Maya cities. Lots of displays on current Maya as well as history. If you visit, WEAR A SWEATER. They keep that building cool.

28 January 2016

Love the blond afro on the European mask used by Yucatacan dancers. Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan.
Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan- very nice small museum in restored colonial home- with displays of folk art from around Mexico, much if it by modern artists. There was a lot of beautiful art here. Two rooms contained original works interpreting the nativity. There were indigenous nativities, Spanish nativities, pig nativities, miniature, rough clay, glazed ceramics, wood, ivory, very simple and whole villages. I loved them all but got quite a chuckle out of this rendition of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the three wise men heading out to town in their colorful car with two angels riding on the fender.

27 January 2016

We took a painting class from Greenwood today at Mais, Cannela y Cilantro. Lots of fun. Now when I come home I can play with the acrylics i bought for the grandsons' art projects.

26 January 2016

This school is around the corner from our apartment. In the evening the young people are still attending class. Tonight as we walked to Plaza Santiago to dance, a phy ed class was going on in our street. The young women were doing sprints down the street while their classmates leaned against cars waiting their turn. Last week at this time the class was in a small parking lot doing jumping jacks. No gym, no field for these city kids. The tienda on the corner must do a good business at break time. A few evenings ago we walked by and it was crowded with students, arms full of snacks and a car outside was unloading fresh bakery items. It made me think of our neighborhood Speedi Market with it's piles of snacks right by the door and the school kids who wait for the bus there. Well, at least I know where I can get some fresh pastry.
Ice rink at Liverpool Plaza to the north of Merida's Centro. This would be a good way to cool down on a hot day. The cineplex there also has two for one deals on Tuesdays. Costco is right next door so you can feed your Costco addition after the movie and then catch a cheap cab ride home.
This must be the Yucatan version of wetland conservation- a garden around a cenote in the middle of the Costco parking lot. We walked through Costco to see the similarities/differences from Minnesota. It felt very familiar, yet different. You get jalapeƱo peppers on your hotdog and mango smoothies at the snack stand, for instance.

25 January 2016

Cenote at Hacienda Sotuta de Peon. A swim here finishes the tour. Beautiful clear, warm water in a cave.
A visit to Antonio is a part of the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon tour. He is a Mayan who has worked at the plantation since 1947. He enjoys greeting the visitors from around the world and getting his photo taken with them. I wish I could have asked him what it was like for him, but I don't speak Mayan.
Henniquin at Hacienda Sotuta de Peon. 1,000 leaves to get enough fibre for this bale. Fiber used to make rope. Tremendous trade for Merida for 100 years. 1500 or so haciendas, 80 or so owners. Fabulously wealthy. Thousands of nearly enslaved Maya and other people -immigrants-doing the work.

24 January 2016

Marquisitas are a treat created in Merida. A thin crepe is grilled with shredded gouda cheese and your choice of sweet such as Nutella, cajeta or jam, then rolled up with a little extra cheese at the top.
On Sunday, the streets around Plaza Grande in Merida are closed and there is a street fair with artisan booths and entertainment. Restaurants spread their tables out into the street.
Sunday morning is the Bici Ruta. I think the main street is closed to cars and open for biking all the way from Plaza Grande to the end of Passeo Montejo- a couple of miles at least. There are bikes to rent and to lend and it was fun to see all of the different wheeled vehicles going by. Next Sunday Gordon and I are definitely getting started earlier so we can participate.

23 January 2016

Downtown Merida on a Saturday night- the place to be. We are go to bed early birds but we still enjoyed watching very dressed up wedding guests getting on big tour buses to go to their party, a recreation of Montejo giving a speech to dancing Maya and video mapping of the cathedral along with a great vocal group followed by some excellent flamenco guitar.
The Marlin Azul, a pretty basic seafood eatery recommended by the tourist guy at the Govenor's Palace. The food tasted great and was inexpensive and fresh (the seaport of Progresso is only a half hour away), but my view was of the dirty dishes and the toilets. I look pretty up tight in that photo. Maybe that is why.

22 January 2016

Early use of a classic pose, seen at the Archological Museum.
Mother's bedroom. Interesting to me is that next to the door a hammock is hanging on the wall. She was from the Yucatan and preferred sleeping in a hammock. There were no beds in this room until the younger generation started using the room.
Dining room at the Casa Molina Museum. I'd like Tiffiny glass windows opening onto a porch in my dining room too. This is still a privately owned home and when the family is visiting Merida they stay here, sleeping in the bedrooms we see on the tour and eating in the servants kitchen with, I assume, the rest of the staff.

21 January 2016

Another nightly entertainment, aerial dancing at Parque Santa Ana. After that show we wondered a block further to hear a jazz trio and watch people stand in line at food trucks.
These bugs are Makech, covered in jewels. They are the stuff of legend here (you know, the kind where the young princess gets transformed into sonething wierd do to a broken heart-in this case a living jewel).
The jeweled Makech are sold in the stores to be worn as a kind of living broach. They sit pretty still but i've seen them sold with little chains, i assume to keep them from crawling off. When not being worn, they are kept in a terrarium and fed wood. They will live two years. As with the Panama hat, I havn't actually seen any locals wearing them.
Lobby of Teatro Peon Contreras. I love the doors.
Remnant from the old Mayan city of T'ho' embedded in the wall of the Catedral de San Ildefonso on the east side of Plaza Grande. (All churches faces west to let the sunlight in.)
Casa de Montejo, 1549, one of the oldest homes in North America. The Monteos are credited with the conquest of the Yucatan. It took twenty years. The Maya were not cooperative. The current Meridianos are proud of their Mayan ancesters. Zoom in on the photo to get a look at the detail on that door.
Plaza de la Independencia

19 January 2016

Tuesday night at Plaza Santiago, about four blocks from our apartment, dancing to big band Latin music and oldies with a crowd of mostly elders who still know how to shake their stuff. Gordon and I were out there dancing too. Fun!
Historic paintings in the Governer's Palace. Beautiful setting and impressive work.
Palacio de Gobierno, on the north side of Plaza de la Independencia or Plaza Grande. Just walk right in past the guards and enjoy the impressive murals by Fernando Castro Pacheco while learning some Yucatacan history.
The history of the Spanish conquest and later enslavement of the Mayans is somewhat grusome, but good to see that the official description now shows a clear affinity to the Mayan ancesters. All signs are in Mayan, Spanish and English.

18 January 2016

We walked to the Plaza Grande just in time for the flag lowering ceremony complete with police band whose leader twirled his bugle like a baton.
For lunch we had the comida corrida at Mais Canela y Cilantro. It was sooo good! Gordon had the chicken option and I had the vegetarian. Chips with beans and salsa, vegetable soup, main course and I even had a yummy dessert - $10 total for both of us.
Day two- here I am on Paseo Montejo. Pretty gorgeous. The boulevard is perfect for strolling, lined with many trees and many mansions from Merida's hay day of the henequen plantations.

17 January 2016

Our first meal in a little spot on the Plaza de Santiago. Caldo de Pavo - turkey soup - and panuchos- $4.50 for the two of us.
Plaza Santiago and the Santiago church are nearby. Church was in session when we arrived at the plaza.
In Merida we are renting an apartment in an old colonial home in centro. We found the place on Air B&B. Our hostess Georgia greeted us when we arrived. She spent time with us telling us about nearby restaurants and shopping and left a cold bottle of freshly made lemonade and a plate of fresh fruit for us in the refrigerator. The house is decorated with her art. It's your typical shotgun style home of the old colonial buildings - A long narrow apartment of living room followed by sitting room followed by bedroom followed by kitchen followed by bath front to back. It's pretty and comfy though there's a bit of the aroma of antiquity to the place.
Here we are heading to Merida, Mexico, capital of the State of Yucatan, to spend a month. 10 below in St. Paul when we left so you can understand why we are going. Flew to Cancun then hopped an ADO bus to Merida. We were able to catch the bus right at the airport for the 3 1/2 hour direct trip across the Yucatan peninsula ($72 for the two of us).