Day 31: Mérida, You Are A Hard City To Love

Thur. 13th September 2012

City Hall, MéridaWe thought at first that perhaps Miraslava was right – we wouldn’t enjoy staying in Mérida, it was a big city not the real Mexico. (Which strangely was why we booked to go there in the first place!). As Janet put in our post yesterday, we found Mérida a bit disconcerting at first, indeed in many ways it has more in common with Havana than Playa Del Carmen. As we were to later find out the similarities included a stock of impressive colonial buildings.

I’m beginning to think that you need to be familiar with a city in order to understand it, and need to understand it in order to appreciate it. It took us a little while to find our feet today, but as we saw more and became more familiar with the city we liked it more and more.

Not a Mayan site, but Monumento a la Bandera in MéridaThe classic (Mayan) sites to see around here are Uxmal, the ruins around the Ruta Puuc (a cluster of different ruin sites that can be covered in a whistle-stop day trip) and Dzibilchaltún (pronounced something like ’seebeelchaltoon’ which is famous for having the ‘Temple of the Seven Dolls’ which has an arch that lines up with the rising sun on the day of the two equinoxes each year. (I think Prof. Brian Cox forced the BBC to take him there for one of his programmes).

We could have signed up with any number of tours to do any of these, but in keeping with the ‘rules’ of our journey (and inspired by our success in Tulum) we thought we would take a collectivo to Dzibilchaltún. Ha ha ha! When we got to the location stated both in the Lonely Planet guidebook and the local tourist paper, there were plenty of minibuses but none of them going where we wanted. When we asked (so far as we could tell) we were directed to a different part of town (or we just got “no se” (I don’t know). We’ll chalk that one up to experience then! (Need to keep working on the Spanish!)

Edificio Montejo - We've been drinking the beer, so here is the building!Oh well! We enjoyed the open top tourist busses in both Havana and Vinales, so why not Mérida? Whilst the seats on the top deck had been so heated by the sun that we couldn’t actually sit upstairs, the good news was that we could (mostly) hear the commentary. The bad news was the commentary was entirely in Spanish (so, we understood about half of it). Still, it was interesting to see the sights of Mérida – including some of the Spanish colonial buildings – the one on the left is named after one of the original conquistadors, Francisco Montejo. We have enjoyed drinking Montejo beer whilst in Mexico so we wanted to find out a bit more of the background to the name.

Olly goes to MexicoWe hopped off the bus at Plaza de Americas, and that was a good reminder that there is more to the Americas than just the USA. Here the distinguishing feature (other than the trees for shade and the free WiFi hotspot) were the columns dotted around the park, each one with the name of a different country in the Americas. On the right, is the column for Mexico (and Olly) – we didn’t spot (but didn’t look very hard) for columns for the USA and Canada so it may be solely a Central & South America tribute.

Our other achievement during the day was getting our bus booked for Chichen Itza for tomorrow. We thought we would try slumming it in 2nd class – at £3 each, it is half the price of the first class busses we had previously used, but more to the point it meant a civilised 1pm departure rather than a 9am start we would have had otherwise.

How were we supposed to resist the Irish Pub?In the evening, we struck gold again. We wandered up to see a little more of the Paseo (by the illuminations in yesterday’s post) and we found an Irish pub which we immediately decided that it would be rude not to try. It may have been a cliche, but eating Beef and Guinness pie with a soundtrack of 70s rock that included You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Freebird and then Spirit of Radio was absolute heaven! (I did manage to resist ordering a pint of Guinness though – I didn’t see how it could possibly be the same as back home.

You see, Mérida , we did get there in the end – we found things to love about you.

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