Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weekend Road Trip to Merida

With my parents here for their sixth visit, it was time to show them something new. They've seen a lot of Quintana Roo but had never been to our closest neighbouring state of Yucatan, so we hopped in the trusty Tracker and headed west to fine city of Merida. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Merida, it's a beautiful city full of history and culture with some incredible Colonial architecture. It's the capital city of Yucatan, with a population of almost 800 000 people. To get to Merida from Cancun there are two options, the "cuota" (toll highway) or the "libre" (free) road. We chose to take the cuota as it is a very direct and quick trip, about three hours of seeing absolutely nothing except trees and road. The tolls total 319 pesos each way, but it's well worth it for the smooth, clean highway. It's highly recommended to fill up on gas before taking off, there is only one gas station on the route and it's about half way there. We stocked up on snacks and drinks and brought a gazillion DVD's to keep the impatient and hyper Max entertained. Be aware that you may be stopped by police or military for random spot checks. Seeing as how we weren't smuggling any drugs or Cubans, we were not concerned when stopped. This might be a frightening experience for tourists, but as long as you are within the law, you've got nothing to worry about.

We checked into our hotel (Best Western, basic rooms, good price and great location) on Friday night and promptly hit the streets to see what we could see. We walked to the main square and my parents got their first look at the oldest cathedral in North America, a splendid piece of architecture. We watched some clowns in the main square, they were quite good and had attracted a very large crowd. After the show food was our main priority and we found ourselves on a little side street at a lovely little Italian bistro called "Pane E Vino". This was the perfect restaurant for us, a wide selection on the menu, a relaxed atmosphere and fantastic prices (only a couple of items over 100 pesos). The food was good, the beer cold, though the service was a little slow. Max fell asleep while we were eating so we retreated to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

The beautiful Cathedral at night

Sweet little restaurant and street view of Merida

The next morning we woke up to a little kink in our plans. Max was sick. Really sick. He could barely hold up his little head. I ran out to the pharmacy and picked up some medicine and we spent the morning nursing our pobrecito (poor little guy). We were a little stir crazy by the afternoon so we just picked up our little bundle to go for a short horse drawn carriage ride and a quick tour of Colonial downtown. Though he was feeling lousy, Max was a trooper and pointed out all the sites he was familiar with. "Look, McDonald's!" "Look, Domino's pizza!" "Look, Oxxo!". He's a tour guide for the future that boy.

Monument to the Flag
(built by one man over eleven years, stunning)

After the carriage ride we wandered around the absolutely beautiful Palacio de Gobierno with its spectacular paintings of the violent history of the state of Yucatan. We continued to drag sicky Max around with us as we wandered over to the Centro Cultural Obispo for the Picasso exhibit. I cannot believe how emotional I became on walking into the gallery. Tears welled up in my eyes upon seeing some of Picasso's earliest works. I'm not sure if it was seeing Picasso specifically or just seeing art in general, we are so lacking in these kind of cultural events in Cancun that it may have just been a response to being in a real gallery after so many years of artistic drought. I enjoyed the exhibit immensely and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was free of charge! Kudos to Merida for providing such a display for their citizens to enjoy. Security was tight of course and no photos allowed so alas, I have none to share with you.

Hall in the Palacio de Gobierno

We spent the rest of the afternoon napping then took my parents to the "rich" end of town for a quick visit to the Gran Plaza fancy schmancy mall. We ate in the food court while my parents gambled in Caliente. We dragged them out of their before they blew all their pesos and went back to the hotel for another rest. That night we found a cute little bistro, sat outside for some drinks and live trova (Yucatecan folk music) while Max fell asleep on Hubby's lap. We were back in bed before midnight (we saw a lot of the inside of that hotel room!)

Merida street at night
(so safe and CLEAN!)

Sunday morning Max was feeling better and was begging to go to the zoo. The Merida zoo is small, but fun, definitely a great family place. In addition to the animals, they've got a train ride around the park, electric cars and boats, clown shows and pony rides. We had a very happy little kid on our hands until it was time to leave when he had a little meltdown.

We checked out of the hotel and decided to investigate the closest beach town of Progreso. It's about 45 minutes away from Merida and it was a pleasant surprise. I didn't expect it to be as nice as it was, I thought I would have been spoiled by the Caribbean Sea and would scoff at the Gulf side but it was a great treat. It was far too chilly for us to do any swimming, but we enjoyed our lunch on the beach before hitting the highway to come home.

Lunch on the beach in Progreso

Overall it was a wonderful weekend, marred only by poor little Max being ill. My parents fell in love with both Merida and Progreso and are surfing real estate sites for a potential house purchase! I don't know if they are really serious or not, but I would love for them to be able to retire to the Yucatan, it has so many great things going for it and they would be much closer to us and to their only grandson. And hey, if things really fall apart for us here in Cancun, Merida is a fabulous option, we would seriously consider living there (now that I know that the beach isn't so bad, you know me and my addiction to the sea!)


Holly said...

sounds like a wonderful weekend (minus max's illness of course!)

K.W. Michigan said...

Sounds like you all had a great time(except for poor Max). We like to take the LONG way back to Cancun. The little villages can be very interesting ....!!!! Thanks for the beach pic!

Theresa in Mèrida said...

You should check out the beach closer to Telchac Puerto, prettier water than Progreso, though I like Progreso.
I read recently that Mérida is up to a million and half people as of the last census! I have no idea where they are stacking up all those people!
Hee hee, you need to go to the Galería Mall next to Liverpool, they have an ICE skating rink! Fun to watch.
Max probably got sick at Pan e Vino, we went once, the olive oil was rancid, we got an argument that it wasn't but they finally took it away, tasted it and replaced it with some BS story. But we all lost our appetites when Son found glass in his food. So we just asked for the check and showed them the glass. The manager came out and magnanimously told us that we didn't need to pay since none of us had taken more than a few bites. I am all for giving a place a second chance but somehow I can't bring myself to do it.
Let's make some plans for your next visit. I'll take you on a walking tour!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful trip for your folks. We are LONG overdue for a trip to Merida. I wish we could make it over in time for the Picasso exhibit, but we are swamped with clients now. Thanks for the picture of Progresso. It is much prettier than I has imagined.

amyinbc said...

So beautiful there!

Kelly Todd said...

Hey Kell. Awesome blog. I voted for you. Cheers!!

Gaelyn said...

I really enjoyed your tour of Progreso and Merida. I visited there about 15 years ago and so liked it. Merida is incredibly clean and the beach at Progreso was quiet and almost empty except for the military workouts every morning. Great post and captures.

Jonna said...

I forgive you for not having time to meet up with Max sick and so much to do. You did a good job of dealing with all that. It would be wonderful for your parents to live over here so close to the nieto and if all of you came over, wheeeee!!

Living over here would be good for Max to work on the other half of his heritage. They call the beaches west of Progreso 'the Canadian Riviera' and they not only have an ice skating rink in the Liverpool mall, they teach Hockey!!

Anonymous said...

We used to eat at Pan e Vino a lot a few years ago... haven't been in awhile. The only thing we really liked there, though, was the fresh homemade pasta. It's worth the trip... nothing else is that special. And of course, it's close to the zocalo, which makes it convenient. We've never gotten sick there, and we've eaten there at least thirty times...

CancunCanuck said...

Holly- It was lovely, thank you. Would have been a whole lot more hectic if Max wasn't sick, but we had a good time regardless. :)

K.W.- I had to sneak in a beach pic for you of course! If we didn't have old folks and a young kid in the car,we would have taken the long way for sure. We may do it one day with Max if we've got an extra day or two, lol!

Theresa- Ouch, sorry to hear about your bad experience at Pan E Vino, we really enjoyed it and all had something different. I did find the service lacking, but the food was good (maybe we caught them on a good night?) I would LOVE to have the Theresa Special Walking Tour, that sounds fantastic! Next time for sure.

Michele- My folks loved it, it was the highlight of their trip this year. Progreso was definitely better than I expected (though still not our beautiful Caribbean). :) Glad to hear you are busy, that's a good thing after such a low season!

amyinbc- It really is a beautiful place, maybe I'll share some more photos that didn't fit my rather long post, haha. But hey, BC has it's wealth of gorgeous places too, lucky lady!

Kelly- How great to see you here!! (Wouldn't you like to be a Kelly too?) Thanks for the vote. I stopped into your blog and was so happy to read your bio, everything you said could have been written by me, is it something in the Essex County air or is it just our name? :)

Gaelyn- Hola! Glad you enjoyed the post. Merida is so incredibly clean, I actually took quite a few pictures of the sparkling garbage cans, teehee.

Jonna- I pulled out the cel phone to call you guys so many times and put it away when Max started crying. I was sooo hoping to catch up with you and have you meet my folks (and sneak a peek at your house!) With Max being ill, it wouldn't have been a pleasant meet anyway, next time my lovely amiga, next time! I haven't heard about the "Canadian Riviera", will certainly investigate that! Greetings and hugs to Miss Mimi and the furbabies!

Working Gringa- I had the gnocchi which can be easy to mess up but they did a nice job (in a 4 cheese sauce, drool drool). It was the convenience that brought us in there for sure. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi!

Heather said...

Amazing pixs! So glad you got such a great visit with the parents. I have a feeling you may be moving soon, lol!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing another slice of Mexico with us. Merida looks like a great place to visit.

CancunCanuck said...

Heather- Wellll, I don't know about moving SOON, I don't think I'm giving up on Cancun yet. :)

Jackie- Glad you liked it, I think if you travel down here frequently it's nice to see something new and Merida is a great choice. Hope you are doing well my dear!

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