It’s very quiet in Mérida on a Sunday with the sound of the church bells tolling from early morning, the green parrots chattering, trilling and whistling away in the trees with the occasional Auto Progreso bus barrelling down Calle 64, packed full of local day-trippers heading to the beach.
On a hot Sunday in town it seems everyone heads for the beach to cool off. It takes about 55 minutes and costs just 21 pesos (AUD$1.40) one way. Or, if you’re not up for a busy bus, then you can hail any cab from downtown and they’ll charge between $290 and $350 pesos (AUD$19 and $23 one way) but, as we’ve learnt, most cabs don’t have AC and many don’t even have seat belts. But they do have music! There are other safer alternatives such as UBER and Cabify which I think we’re going to explore as we head further afield from Mérida to the coastal town of Sisal, the wetlands of Celestun and the old Haciendas that offer a lazy long lunch in faded colonial splendour and a cooling swim in one of their private cenotes.
I love walking around this town early morning. The light is incredible, rendering the houses on the sunny side of the street dazzling in their vibrant colours. The people you encounter are super friendly and always offer a ‘Hola, buen día’ as they flash cheery smiles. And, unlike other cities in Latin America (notably Santiago and Buenos Aires) there are no dogs roaming the streets and therefore no dog mess – something that really plagues Santiago. Actually, I haven’t seen too many dogs here other than the cutest Chihuahua sitting in the lap of a driver at a traffic stop. There are also hardly any cats, other than the noisy one that occasionally tightrope walks the wall around our pool, flicking us a glance then ignoring us completely.
I’m getting the hang of the grid now and finding it super easy to get around – actually, I’ve been hoping to get lost but haven’t managed to achieve that as yet – but I’ll keep trying. Every now and again you come across an old, high faded yellow stone colonial gate that pinches in the road, funnelling the traffic into a single lane, then spills it into a large cobbled square. These old colonial gates are a remnant from when Mérida was a walled city. The gates supposedly kept out the local Mayan people, protecting the ‘elite’ Spanish-born and the criollos (people of Spanish descent but born in the ‘new world’) from the Mayan revolts, or the so-called Caste War of the Yucatán in the mid to late 19th Century.
I roamed the south of Mérida this morning, which some expats now jokingly refer as ‘SOME’ (pronounced Soh-May), or South of Mérida. I guess it’s what’s called an up-and-coming burb, so by giving it this Americanised moniker I presume they think It’ll speed up the gentrification process and inflate their property prices. I’m sure they’re right. The houses are as fine as Santiago, Santa Ana and Santa Lucia but many are in need of renovation, so ripe for the plucking I’d have thought – especially for expats looking to invest in this gorgeous city.
By the time I returned to the casa the light had intensified and the heat had gone through the roof, so ever thankful for our cool pool with a cold cerveza perched on the side in the shade. Heaven.
Lunch today was at Apoala (thanks for the tip Jenny!) on Plaza Santa Lucia, just around the corner from the casa. It’s located within a cool colonnaded colonial square with high ceilings and large whirring fans. The only gripe was the competing loud music from the neighbouring restaurants, with each one trying to out-do the other – when all anyone wanted was some peace and quiet, to watch the world go by and enjoy our delicious meal. Too much to ask on a quiet Sunday?
Excellent Mexican cuisine, probably our favourite place thus far. Ants had the Enmoladas vegetarianas – tortillas dipped in mole negro, stuffed with quinoa and nuts, topped with cheese and banana. Whilst I couldn’t resist the Memelitas de lechon de Sucilá – thick tortillas, lard (crackling), cheese, green salsa and local suckling pig.