Uxmal via Merida

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February 22nd 2014
Published: February 22nd 2014
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Tuesday morning we were out of the El Caribe (www.elreycaribe.com ) trekking across the now more familiar roads and traffic circles making our way to the ADO bus depot where we were going to catch a bus to Merida. (ever notice how unfamiliar roadways and surroundings look so much better in the light of day ? ) We had decided Monday night that for the trip to Merida we would just catch the next departing bus. It seemed that if we were to be making any decisions there would have been a choice of three types of bus. The standard, First Class, and some sort of Deluxe. When we got to the ticket counter it turned out the next bus would be leaving in about 30 minutes, and it was a First Class unit.

Near the appointed departure time this obviously fairly new large charter type bus pulls into the loading bay. Greyhound could take a lesson just from the outside appearance of this unit. Departure time is near and we begin to board, ( all 40 or so of us), and take our assigned seats. Assigned seating, just like the airlines, but beyond that the airlines could take passenger seating lessons from ADO. Large comfortable seats, leg room to stretch out in, foot rests, and large windows with pull down shades as well as fabric curtains. We had barely left the bus depot lot and the action packed Prince of Persia video, (in Spanish) began. Even without subtitles all the action made it pretty easy to follow along and figure out what was happening.

About 15 minutes later we were out of Cancun heading for the toll highway to Merida which seemed to pretty much be a straight line all the way. Four hours later we were off the highway making our way to Merida Centro and the bus depot. If I were in a small van with another half dozen or so people I didn’t know and the driver followed the route our bus was taking I would have been becoming a little concerned and wondering “ what’s going on here “ and “ where are we going “. After all, Mexico does seem to have a bit of a questionable reputation with tourists.

Narrow one way streets, tight, seemingly impossible corners, and the last turn into the ADO bus depot. I bet the company has its best, most experienced, and highly skilled drivers on this route. I thought some of the road trips in Scotland had narrow roads and good drivers. This was an altogether different level of coach driving /maneuvering.

Unsure of where our hotel, the Hotel Luz en Yucatan was we took a taxi from the bus depot. ( www.luzenyucatan.com ) It was a good thing we did, and even better that the driver knew the hotel. If we were walking we most probably would have walked right past it. The lesson turns out to be that old one we all know; “ Never judge a hotel by its’ door “.

Historically the building used to be a convent and was associated with the next door church that is on the street corner. As soon as the door closes after you enter, it is as if you have entered another world, leaving the outside noises behind you , and entering a cool oasis of calm and tranquility. Gleaming tiles cover the hallway that leads from the front of the building to the rear courtyard where the pool is located. And all so very quiet with not a window in sight overlooking the courtyard. Our host leads us past the pool to our room which overlooks the pool and as we pass we are greeted with warm welcomes from the other guests around the pool.

Our “room” almost turns out to be three small adjoining rooms overlooking the pool. Entering our room we are in what might be considered the service area with a refrigerator , counter, small table and coffee maker. To the right is the bathroom with another large walk-in shower. To the left of the entrance is our patio/terrace with a table and chairs overlooking the pool and an orange tree that grows past the patio. Next is the bedroom, with and individual wall mounted air conditioner, and the other usual hotel finishings.

After getting basically settled in we went to the square at the end of our street and found a small restaurant with outside tables next to the square. It was just 7:00PM, the restaurant was just opening, and we were soon seated. About ½ hour later I noticed other people arriving who had no reservation and could not be accommodated and seated. Guess we lucked out again ! ( www.apoala.mx ) The food was fantastic ! Ask about the Tuna Tartar, Not much else can be said about the food. Trip Advisor, ( http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g150811-d4871865-Reviews-Apoala_Mexican_Cuisine-Merida_Municipality_of_Merida_Yucatan_Peninsula.html ) will pretty much tell you why this is the #4 restaurant it Merida. It had been 29C in Cancun at 9:30 as we had been packing to leave. It felt much warmer when we arrived in Merida but my thermometer remained packed. I’ll bet mid 30’s ?

Tuesday morning was another blue sky day and it was obviously going to be a good one ! After breakfast at Café Club just across the street from the hotel and well recommended, the little thermometer said it was 32C already at 10:00AM.

Our first full day in Merida and with no specific plans for the day we were off to explore Merida’s “ Centro Historica “. The old central district is bustling with people and vehicles going to and from all the small little restaurants and shops and stores. It is an area of relatively narrow streets, mostly all one way. One vehicle stopped at the side of the street to unload passengers or goods causes a bit of serious congestion.

Leaving our hotel the Santa Lucia church is next door and across the street is the Santa Lucia Square where the restaurant Apoala is located. ( Calle 55 and Calle 60, Merida, on Google Maps) It had been suggested that we should visit the main square and the cathedral. Both of these places were South of our hotel. We just wandered along the street (Calle 60) taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. We have found both Merida and Cancun to be safe places for walking at anytime of the day, of course like any major city, that pronouncement somewhat depends what part of town, or what side of the tracks you are on. Perhaps I make this comment because as we are wandering I notice there seems to be a police vehicle every couple of blocks. Either police municipal, state police, Federales or the Tourist Police. It’s usually fairly easy to tell if you’ve crossed the tracks if you maintain an awareness of where you are. Despite the police presence which could be interpreted as a negative, we were comfortable and confident about our welfare.

We soon came upon the Cathedral de Merida with its soaring spires. The entrance doors have massive solid carved / hewn wood doors that have to be almost 6 inches thiick. Being a little lazy here is a link for you. (www.merida.gob.mx/historia/lugares_catedral.html ) The cathedral is on the East side of the square and on the opposite side is the pink Plaza de la Indepencia built about 1821. Both of these buildings are unmistakable land marks. On the South side of the square is Casa de Montejo, the first house the Spanish built in Merida after their conquest of the Mayan people. It is 465 years old, a little older than the cathedral which was built about 1589.

Having fulfilled the requirements of seeing the tourist attractions and honoring the culture of Mexico, and particularly the Mayan people of Yucatan province it was off to the market. It’s a BIG market that rivals the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It was so big that after spending a couple hours there we thought we had seen all of it. When we went back the next day (Wednesday) we found ourselves entering the market at a different access point that led us first to the fish market and then the meat market before morphing into the produce and other goods areas of the market.

When we had been having a dinner at Pik Nik in Cancun, Luis, the owner there had suggested that when in Merida we should look for a restaurant called El Neuvo Tucho and on our way back from the market I just happened to notice a sign. El Neuvo Tucho. Our hotel must be in an excellent location because so many places are literally just around the corner or within a couple blocks. It turns out that El Tucho is just around the corner. As a matter of fact the entrance to their parking area is just across the street from the front of our hotel.

So, El Tucho. From what Luis had told us it seemed they had a good happy hour from about 1:00PM to 7:00PM. The special deal though is that if you order one of the local (Merida) beers they will bring you free appetizers with every order of beer. And they don’t just bring one large plate, but instead bring 5 or 6 different appetizers and each plate has enough for two people to sample. We lucked out, (again !) and had a waiter who was good enough to let us into the secret by pointing out the local beers and then he would write notes of what each item was so the IPhone translator could do its thing. We will have to learn how to make the Mexican Beef Salad, so yummy and different.

A couple beer, some appetizers, and no dinner needed tonight as we went around the corner to the hotel. The hotel is small, only 15 rooms in total and a “ community “ of the guests gather every afternoon around the pool to exchange where to go, sights to see, places to dine, and maybe just share a few drinks, conversation, and laughter. It is really neat and perhaps it flows from the hotel owner and his staff who treat you not like a guest, but a friend by taking a personal interest in everyone.

Thursday we took an organized tour to Uxmal, (pronounced Ush-mall, - - the “ush from push, and mall). Our guide was an older gentleman who was very knowledgeable about the Mayan ruins at Uxmal, the Mayan culture, and Spanish / Mexican history. We were a small group, a couple from Denmark, one not overly social guy from Northern Quebec, and a couple from Australia and New Zealand on their 7 month nearly around the world honeymoon tour and two Western Canadians.

After touring the ruins we stopped for lunch and thanks to technology and CBC Apps we learned the Canadian Women’s Hockey team defeated the USA to bring home Gold for Canada . Yea ! !

We had been lucky enough that our little group had arrived at Uxmal about an hour ahead of the larger charter bus tour groups so we were not rushed and had time for our guide to give us so much more than “ just a tour “. The tour pretty much took up all of Thursday. It was 34C at 7:00PM and tonite we had reservations at Apaola again as there was to be entertainment in the square starting at 9:00PM.

Our table was waiting for us at 9:00 and the square was packed. There was a Mexican band aleady on stage and the performance actually began at the real 9:00PM and not Mexican 9:00. The band played, a storyteller entertained, a guitar trio played, and of course traditional Mexican dancing. All in all if was an entertaining evening and a nice way to end the day.


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