December 19-26, 2015: We spent the week of December 19th with our friends John, Kate and Brenna in Mérida. Mérida is a colonial city, founded by the Spanish in 1542, with a population over 750,000. The Yucatan is hot, humid and buggy once you’re off the coast. It’s hard to imagine life here before modern conveniences like screens, bug spray and air conditioning.
On Saturday on the way from Akumal to Mérida, we stopped at Chichén Itzá, one the largest, and probably the most heavily touristed Mayan ruin site. We had previously visited this site twice in the mid-90s and again about 5 years ago, so we weren’t exactly enthused about another visit, but our friends had never been, and Chichen Itza is a must see. However, a good guide and some new discoveries lead to yet another highly enjoyable visit.
For our week in Mérida we all rented a house in the Itzimná colonia (neighborhood). It was a nice big old house with ample hammock hooks (a ubiquitous local adaptation to the heat) and with some of the issues that you’d expect from a big old house in a foreign country. For example, we didn’t quite understand at first how to operate the ad hoc water system, and managed to overflow water tanks on the roof causing simulated rain runoff.
Blogging is hard work!
On Sunday, we all ventured out to the heart of Mérida, the Plaza Grande, a park surrounded by the city’s cathedral (the first completed on the mainland in the New World) and a number of other buildings constructed in the mid-1500s.
Every Sunday this park hosts an artisan market and a wide variety of street food vendors. We bought tamales cooked the Yucatecan way, in banana leaves rather than the more familiar corn husks. This stuff is a great value! We got 2 delicious tamales as big as our heads with salsa and a bottle of horchata for 56 pesos ($3.25).
Continuing our quest for free museums, we then visited Museo Casa Montejo, constructed around 1549. This was the home of the Montejo family, the conquistadors who ruled the Yucatan on behalf of the Spanish crown starting in 1526. The house has been restored in part to showcase furnishings of various periods of occupancy and in other areas displays rotating art. When we visited, there was a show of photographs of the Yucatan from 1946. It was interesting to see what has and hasn’t changed in the intervening 7 decades.
We then took our friends to the Lucas de Galvez market. This is a huge multi-level, multi-building market that sells just about everything.
The first area we walked into had a series of jewelry shops; other areas displayed shoes, meats, vegetables, backpacks, electronics and really anything that you might conceivably buy for home use.
We bought some produce, some tortillas and some mole paste, which we used to create some pretty great chicken mole.
We think this market area is amazing.
When we left the market we headed to Costco for a strikingly different shopping experience.
That night we had dinner just a couple of blocks from home at El Payaso, enjoying a feast of grilled meats and fantastic hand-made tortillas.
On Monday, while our friends went off for adventures, we took the day off from tourist activities to have a little work done on our van. We got new transmission fluid and filter, and got further repairs hoping to address the smoking issue that happened on the way down the mountain on our way to the coast.
Tuesday the 22nd we all attempted to go on a walking tour of ex-pat homes hosted (almost) every Tuesday by the Mérida English Library. As we learned when we got there, there is no tour on the Tuesdays before and after Christmas. So instead we went to Museo Regional de Antropología Yucatán “Palacio Cantón”. This anthropology museum, housed in a 1910 mansion built by a governor of the state of Yucatan, contains a pretty amazing collection of Mayan artifacts.
While not free, at 52 pesos ($3) per person, it’s close enough.
Our adventures in Mérida continue, next time on Our House In…