Once round the block in Mérida

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November 23rd 2018
Published: November 24th 2018
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Today is earmarked for exploring Mérida (it looks as if it will take all of 5 minutes) and sussing out where everything is for exploring the region over the next few days.

We get up quite late (around 9am) and go out for breakfast. We both have fried eggs on a bed of fried potatoes, mushrooms and peppers with grated cheese. It’s really yummy. Then we set off to explore.

When the Spanish conquered the Mayan town on this site, they found a settlement of lime-mortared stone structures that reminded them of the Roman town of Mérida in Spain, so this place was named after it.

We walk down Calle 60 which is supposed to be the street where everything is happening. Actually there is not much happening but it does take us to the main zocalo and most of the main attractions.

The Iglesia de Santa Lucia, which we pass on the way, is a small 16th century building used by the local Indian communities. We rather like it’s simple decoration of white walls with one rich oil painting over the altar.

Nearby, a white and beige neo-classical building houses the Jose Peon Contreras Theatre, which was hosting a very melodic music festival last night. We enquire if there is another performance tonight so that we can buy tickets. Unfortunately not...they are moving on to contemporary dance tonight!

Sited next to a quiet square, the Temple of the Third Order is also simply decorated. Whilst there is a plain alter with a biblical scene frieze, the wall decorations are all hand painted on plain stucco plaster giving it a different feel to the many more ornate churches we have seen so far.

We pass through the Cepeda Peraza Park, named after the man who liberated the Peninsula from Imperial forces, to the Plaza Mayor (zocalo), another tree-lined square onto which most of the grandest and oldest buildings face.

The Cathedral is the oldest in the Americas. Begun in the early 1560s and finished in 1598, much of the stone from the original Mayan city structure was re-used in its construction. While possessing a magnificent facade and internal structure, it’s decoration is, again, far plainer than many others we have seen.

On the next face of the Plaza is the Palacio de Gobierno, a 19th century building that now houses the Yucatán state authorities as well as numerous large 1970s murals by a local artist. The murals depict the history of the Maya people and the peninsula. Two fierce looking armed policemen are guarding the door, but then they beckon us inside!

Opposite the Cathedral is the City Hall, a mix of styles with interesting coats of arms and a 1920s clock tower.

Finally, there is the Casa de Montejo. Built in the mid-16th century as a palace for the first Spanish governors and now a bank, it still has the original facade with the Montejo coat of arms.

Given that we intend to visit a number of the local sights by bus, we locate the second class bus depot - four blocks south and four blocks west - to confirm times and prices. It doesn’t look far on the map but the heat is seriously intense.

It is now mid day and the main heat of the day - we have obtained the bus information we needed and are now heading back to our hotel via the Plaza and an air-conditioned ice cream parlour. Ian has a real chocolate, chocolate whilst I have a real lemon, lemon! Just what we needed!

This afternoon I go for a dip. The water is freezing but that’s only because the outside is sweltering. As soon as I am in it’s fine. And it’s great that the pool is now in shade so hopefully I won’t get sunburnt!

A call home has confirmed that Dad has had his operation and is feeling fine, if a bit sore. That’s a huge relief.

We have deliberately not eaten since breakfast today (except for our sneaky ice cream cones) because we have planned a slap up meal at the Chaya Maya restaurant this evening. It is supposed to be THE place to eat in Mérida. It serves typical Yucatan food including their famous lime soup. We turn up early at just gone 5pm - the place is packed with people queuing out the door. You won’t catch me doing that!

We return to our fast food place which is actually very good and the waiter, George (I’m sure that’s not his real name!), is waiting to welcome us in. I think we are regarded as good tippers - the Mexicans rarely, if ever, tip. Tonight we both choose Mexican dishes. Ian’s is pork, onions, beans and green salsa with nachos. Mine is a salad with hot beef, bacon, tomatoes, avocados, hard boiled eggs and lettuce in balsamic vinegar. It also has a few chunks of peanut brittle - very odd! I leave most of the lettuce and the peanut brittle, but the rest is very nice.

Back at the room we prepare our bags for an early start tomorrow. We plan to catch a bus to Progreso, which is on the Mexican Gulf and we are determined to leave before it gets too hot!

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