Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Musings on Merida

Sunday morning we woke up with our nice champagne hangovers and for some reason we were feeling adventurous and said "Let's go to Merida!". Hubby went to pick up Max from the Nanny (of course crossing paths with the Nanny who was bringing Max here, haha). I took Max and ordered Hubby to buy a DVD player for the car, no way were we making this trip with a hyperactive almost three year old in the car with nothing to do. The prize winning purchase made, we hit the road about 11 am excited about our upcoming adventure. I had never been to Merida, but Hubby had lived there a few years back. Hubby was so adventurous he didn't pack a thing, not a pair of underwear or a toothbrush, he just said we would buy everything there. Ooook Mr. Big Spender I Just Got a New Job. We basically had two nights and one day in Merida so it was a really quick trip, here's just a few of my thoughts, reflections and musings on the whole experience.

- The toll highway is one of the most boring stretches of road ever and the car DVD player is the best toy ever invented for road trips with kids. Having not done the free road, I have no idea if our 300 pesos was well spent, but the road was in good condition, clean and STRAIGHT. I mean straight, nothing to see, no curves, no nada. 300 kms of nothing but road. I wish I had stocked up more on some snacks and bevvies, I (like a dumb Canuck) had visions of the 401 hwy in Ontario with its bustling service centers. I at least thought we would find some road side vendors if not Pemex stations, but alas, there is really nothing between Cancun and Merida so stock up ahead of time and fill up with gas before leaving.

- We stayed at the lovely El Conquistador hotel, a treat and reward for us, we wouldn't normally spend so much on accommodations but we decided to splurge and got the last room they had left which was a junior suite. We had dropped in on four other hotels which were all full, oops, traveling during Semana Santa/Holy Week without reservations was a bit risky but paid off. The hotel was great.

- Merida has very clean, well repaired streets. I don't know how many times we said "My god the streets are nice here." I know, not exactly stuff that makes the tour books, but after the pothole-filled, garbage-filled streets of downtown Cancun, it was a shock to see a city that takes care of its roads and its trash.

- The Colonial architecture is amazing. "Wow!" came out of my mouth a million times seeing the old homes in their varying stages of decay, reconstruction or well kept beauty. It was odd to see things like Nextel or internet cafes in these very old buildings, but the dichotomy was cool. Also odd to see a big beautiful Colonial next to a Burger King, but again, not a bad thing, just interesting.

-The people in Merida move SLOOOOOOOOOWLY. It was hard to walk through the city or the mall as everyone seemed to be in slow motion. The service in every single restaurant was beyond slow, we almost walked out of a few places. The pace of the city was kind of frustrating, perhaps we would have gotten used to it with some more time there, but doing Merida in a rush was making us a bit impatient (well, Max is ALWAYS impatient) and when we were starving and waiting over half an hour for food it was almost infuriating. Now, I am a very patient person, so for me to say this you know it had to be a serious matter, it was a really noticeable change of pace from what we are used to, and not in a good, let's relax way.

- I was wandering around the town square and lost track of Hubby and Max for a minute. I saw them walk into the cathedral and tried to follow them. The priest asked me for money to enter, alas, my money was inside with the Hubby. (I probably would have been struck by lightning walking in there anyway). When he came out I asked him how much he paid and he scoffed, "You don't pay to go to church!" Well, apparently white girls have to pay to go to church.

- We did a traditional city tour on a horse drawn carriage which was a great way to see the highlights of the city. It took about 45 minutes and cost 200 pesos and was worth our time and money. Max was delighted, though he fell asleep about 1/2 hour into the journey. The driver was unobtrusive but informative when asked.

- The Merida Zoo was one of the attractions we hoped to see and we were not disappointed. The zoo is small but fairly well kept and the price was right, FREE. There is a little train that goes around the park, cost us a whopping one peso each to ride, it may have been the highlight of Max's trip. The zoo is peaceful and green, lots of trees and pretty plants to see in addition to the animals. Max melted my heart at every installation. He would see the animals, his face would light up and he would say "Looooook! A tiger/monkey/turtle!" followed by the sad face and "He wants his mommy, poor tiger". Every single animal apparently wanted its mommy, bless my little guy's heart.

Overall I really liked the city and hope to go back again soon. Hubby kept asking me if I wanted to live there, and while I liked it, it wasn't home. You know me, why do you think I say that? No beach and no ocean, lol! I would like to spend more time there to really see the place and to check out up close and personal the museums and theaters. I think I need to go back without a three year old and see it through adult eyes to really understand and enjoy all that the city has to offer.

Alrighty then, here's a selection of photos for you of our whirlwind trip to Merida, Yucatan.

Sunrise Over Merida

Ready for the Horsey Ride Outside the Cathedral

The Cathedral (the oldest on the continent)

A Saint (Peter?) on the Cathedral

The Main Square
A Big Old Building (Hey, I'm not the historian here, though I
think it's the municipal building)

Another big beautiful building

(there was an identical one next to it, our guide called
them the "twins")

Monument to the Flag
(Our guide told us it took 11 years to build by hand
by one man, the details were amazing)

Closer view of the monument to the flag

Crumbling Colonials

My own little monkey at the zoo

Choo Choo Zoo Zoo

This flamingo had a LOT to say, he was talking away to us
Sunset over Merida

Well, there you have it folks. Quick trip, long post. I'm happy to answer any questions, happy to have anyone add information or opinions and actually just plain old happy. We'll be going again, I'm sure it will be a whole new experience the second time around, this was the fast and dirty gringo tourist version which we greatly enjoyed. Next time we'll slow down a bit, when in Rome and all that. Thanks for reading!


Islagringo said...

I L-U-V Merida! I so totally agree about the freeway. I can hardly stay awake driving it. Did you not stop at the one and only rest area just before the turn off to Valledolid? Gas, pop, tacos, chocolate twinkies, you name it. We usually take sandwiches and grab a Coke and have a mini picnic. Coming back we get off at the Valledolid exit and take the free road on in. Takes a little longer and has tons of speed bumps, but you get to see the little towns AND stop at all the cheap nurseries along side the road! Next time you go, be sure to visit the town market. What a trip that is! (I'll go to Merida with ya anytime you want!)

Jonna said...

I think you got a great overview of Merida. I've been wanting to go to the zoo but haven't yet, I drive by it all the time but haven't stopped. I think that one of the things I do really love about the city is the civic pride, it is evident everywhere. I've also wanted to take friends on the carriage ride so it is great to know how much your guapo esposo paid so I'll know what to aim for, $200 pesos right?

You 3 are a lovely family.

K.W. Michigan said...

Agree with Wayne .. next time take the OLD road (back). We went to Merida 3 years ago. Took the toll road there and the OLD road back (much more interesting) We made several stops back to Cancun. Loved Merida and stayed at El Conquistador. Got a good discount for being a Royal Resorts member. On the weekends they block the roads and it's party time.
Max is such a cutie.
KW from Michigan

Fned said...

Seeing your post sure brought back memories. I lived in Mérida and I have family that lives in Mérida so it is fair to say we try to visit as often as possible.

It's funny to read your "toursity" impressions on the city... they remind me of the first time hubby set foot in "la ciudad blanca"... he loved it and specially the old houses down Paseo Montejo (did you know that avenue was designed after the Champs Elysées??, I didn't!)

Glad you liked the city, but I'd recomend caution if hubby and you are seriously considering moving there... the meridianos are known for not accepting "outsiders" that easily (by outsiders they mean anyone who isn't from Mérida). Still, it's a lovely city and hey! the beach is only a 30 min drive away (ok, so it's Progresso and it's the Golf Coast and not the Caribe, but it's still salty water, sun and sand...can you tell I'm not a beach person?).


P.S. On our last trip to Yucatán I'd totally forgotten the "long and staright Pemex-free road" from Mérida to Valladolid... hubby and I got to Valladolid with our tank at BELOW empty... what a scare that was!

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Merida is okay, I guess (LOL). When we came to visit before we moved here, we were enchanted by it. We went to some of the outlying towns and couldn't wait to come back.
If you want beach you can go to Progreso etc within half an hour, I love to take the autoprogreso bus, it's like 20 peso or something, and is a nice bus. During the summer the bus runs every 20 minutes in the off season it's every 40 minutes from 5 or 6am until 9pm.
Also there is Dzbilchaltun. Next time you have to go there, There is a museum (closed on Mondays), the ruins and a cenote.
Come and visit, you can even stay here! So you won't have to rent a room.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Oh, before I forget the peach building with the clock tower is the municipal building. The green one is the governor's palace. Next time you come you have to go inside to see the incredible murals. Some are a little brutal but they are powerful!
I have never been asked for a donation to enter the cathedral, and neither has Husband (and no one mistakes him for Yucatecan in spite of the guayaberas, but there are some guys with cans who ask for donations to some cause or another. Could that have been it?
La Muchacha (who is my age) says that the trains were a peso when she was a child, imagine that! now that is a bargain!

CancunCanuck said...

Wayne- Road trip! I would like to take the free road once just to see what it's about, though I understand it's not in great condition and can be a bit of an adventure.

Jonna- The zoo was small but a nice diversion. The civic pride was evident and a pleasure to see. Yes, the carriage ride was 200 pesos for the short version (45 minutes), he offered a tour that was an hour and 20 minutes but we didn't ask the price.

k.w.- We will take the old road next time for sure. We liked the Conquistador, but I think if we plan ahead for the next one we might stay at one of the old colonial buildings just for kicks.

fned- Nah, we're not considering a move, I think Hubby was just testing my love of the Caribbean Sea, the gulf is just not the same. I didn't know Montejo was modeled after the Champs Elysées, but now that you mention it I can see it. Oh man, I cannot imagine running out of gas on that highway, scary!

Theresa- I was hoping you would jump in with info on those buildings, thanks! I promise next time we will plan ahead and arrange to meet up with the famosa Theresa! Which end of the city are you in? Not going to stalk you, just curious now that I've seen parts of it. We passed a couple of museums that were closed, it was the holiday Monday of course, but there is always next time.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

I am south of Centro. We always tell people La Ermita. But we are close to San Sebastian too.

Anonymous said...

It IS fun to hear an impression of Merida from someone who lives here but not here, if you know what I mean.
Theresa already gave you the names of the buildings. The twin buildings on Paseo de Montejo have an interesting story. I was told that one of them was built by workmen imported from Europe and the other was built by local Mayans, learning to copy their techniques. In the heyday of the henequen boom, the rich families imported lots of goods and services from Europe, which is why we now get to enjoy such lovely architecture, ironwork, tiles, etc. Lucky us!

Glad you enjoyed the zoo. I got a not-so-nice comment from someone awhile ago and was doubting my impressions (maybe i've just been here too long?), but you've validated them again for me. Glad Max had such a good time!

Come back again soon!

Anonymous said...

and Theresa, I tell people the same thing! We must live close to each other!! (our new house is on C. 81)

CancunCanuck said...

Theresa- Thanks, now it will be easier to stalk you, bwahahahaha. ;-)

working gringa- Welcome, thanks for the comments! I'm happy to hear the story of the twins, I would love to learn the history of all the amazing buildings there. You do live in a wonderful city! (And pshaw to whomever disparaged the zoo, it was a great way to spend a couple of hours, so natural and green!)

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