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Our Favorite Restaurants in Mérida

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During our 91 days in the Yucatán, we spent a lot of time on the road. So whenever we were in Mérida, we tried to cook healthy meals and eat at home. Too many Mexican restaurants turn Mike and Jürgen into pudgy boys. Despite our best efforts, though, we couldn’t resist visiting a good percentage of Mérida’s eating establishments. Here are some of our favorites; not necessarily the city’s “top-rated” restaurants, but for one reason or another, the ones we most enjoyed.

Restaurant Tips Merida
Chaya Maya

If you’re looking for a classy place to try some classic Yucatecan cuisine, look no further than the Chaya Maya. This restaurant is a Mérida institution, with waitresses dressed in huipiles and even a woman at the entrance hand-forming the tortillas that will soon be on your table. The prices are reasonable and the food is fantastic, especially the sopa de lima and poc-chuc. There are two branches of Chaya Maya near each other, but we preferred the one on C/ 55, near the Plaza de Santa Lucia. [Location]

El Tucho

A raucous restaurant found a block away from the Plaza Grande, our initial visit to El Tucho was quite a surprise. I don’t know what we had been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this crowded hall with a band wailing away on stage. It was initially overwhelming and we almost left immediately, but I’m glad we didn’t. The food was good and, with each beer, the music sounded better. Plus, our ebullient waiter just kept on bringing out free tapas. If you don’t mind noise, head here for a fun meal in an authentically Yucatecan setting. [Location]

Bio Restaurant Cura-Kit

Here’s a restaurant that I can almost guarantee won’t appear in your guidebook. We only decided to eat at the Bio-Restaurant Cura-Kit (on C/ 48 and 71, adjacent to El Arco Hotel) because it was so close to our house. As luck would have it, it turned out to be one of our very favorites. They have daily specials at great prices, just 50 pesos for a huge plate, with a drink included. We especially liked eating here on Mondays, when the special was brochetas (chicken shish-kabobs). [Location]

La Vida Catarina

Found on C/ 60 between the Plaza Grande and Santa Lucia, La Vida Catarina was the restaurant in Mérida which we visited more than any other. It was our default; if we couldn’t be bothered to think of anything else, we knew we’d be happy here, safe inside its charming courtyard, with its daily drink specials, unobtrusive waitstaff and quiet music. Yes, quiet music! In Mexico! We came here over and over, and never could figure out why it wasn’t more crowded. [Location]

Salamanca Grill

Friends had recommended an Argentine grill called La Rueda, but when we showed up on a Monday afternoon, it was closed. A woman passing by on the street saw our looks of despair and recommended we try the nearby Salamanca Grill. Ma’am, on the off chance that you’re reading this… we thank you from the bottom of our stomachs. Our meal here was one of the best we had in Mérida. A small, dark restaurant with huge, mouthwatering steaks at prices that almost made me feel guilty. Perhaps La Rueda would have been just as good, but I can’t imagine it being better. [Location]

Restaurante Mary’s

We had walked by Restaurante Mary’s at least a dozen times, and always this cheap and simple cantina on C/ 63 was packed full with locals. That’s a good sign, and though we kept promising ourselves to check it out, we never did. Finally, on our last week in Mérida, we remembered Mary’s, and it was just as good as we suspected it would be. We’d eaten a lot of cheap, quick meals around the nearby Mercado de San Benito which weren’t bad, but none could compare in value or quality to this one. [Location]

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Restaurant Tips Merida
Restaurant Tips Merida
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February 15, 2014 at 10:29 pm Comments (3)

The Railway Museum of Mérida

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Once upon a time, the Yucatán had a popular and far-reaching network of passenger locomotives. Today, most of the train stations scattered across the peninsula are little more than ruins. Mérida’s, however, has been converted into a museum dedicated to the machines that once chugged through the jungles.

Train Museum Merida

If you’re a train fan, you’re going to love this museum, which asks for just a small donation on entry. And even if you’re not big on trains, you should still have a good time. The old locomotives are beautiful and you can climb into many of them. A couple have been refurbished, but most are still in their original, half-decrepit condition.

Unfortunately, the museum doesn’t provide information about any of the trains. So if you’re not the kind of person who can confidently tell a 4-4-0 locomotive from a 4-6-2, you’re not going to know what you’re looking at. But the photo opportunities are great and you don’t need special knowledge to enjoy exploring old trains. This museum will especially appeal to kids and, should you have any questions, the knowledgeable manager is usually around.

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Our Visit To The Train Cemetery In Bolivia

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February 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm Comments (0)

The Plazas of Mérida

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Though they’re beginning to blend together, Mérida is still largely defined by its neighborhoods, each with its own personality and history. Neighborhood life is almost always centered around a central plaza, where friends and family gather to meet, eat, chat, and just hang out. Here are five of our favorites.

Plaza de Santa Lucia

Just a couple blocks north of the Plaza Grande, Santa Lucia is the cultural heart of the city. Every Thursday night, you can grab a seat for a free traditional trova concert, but all throughout the week you’ll see people dancing, singing, playing guitar or doing Zumba on the stage which sits in the corner of the plaza, ringed by busts of famous Yucatecan artists. A couple of excellent restaurants fill out the plaza with tables in the courtyard. Apoala is one of our favorites, serving excellent modern Mexican cuisine. There’s no better way to spend a humid evening in Mérida, than sitting down for a margarita and watching whatever happens to be going on in the plaza. And there’s always something going on. [Location]

Plaza de San Cristóbal

Cristóbal was our “home” plaza, so although it hardly ranks as Mérida’s finest, it’s our favorite. Because it’s ours. That’s our laundromat, right between our office supply store and our habitual cheap-lunch station. Our laundry girl knows us collectively as “Miguel”. I am Miguel, Jürgen is Miguel, and together we are The Miguel. Over the course of 91 days, she’s become intimately familiar with every piece of clothing we own, and could easily pick our underwear out of a lineup. Oh that? That’s our church, not that we’ve ever attended a service. Whoa, who’s sitting on our bench? That’s alright, go ahead and enjoy yourself, we weren’t using it anyway. Ahh… we’re going to miss you, San Cristóbal (but you’ll always be ours!) [Location]

Plaza de San Juan

The Plaza de San Juan, found a few blocks southeast of the Plaza Grande, is perhaps best known for the ancient arch which once formed part of the barrier separating the city proper from the colonias of indigenous people. But in the early nineteenth century, under the direction of its liberal priest, the church of San Juan was the meeting spot for an enlightened group known as los Sanjuanistas, who fought against the Spanish Crown on behalf of the belabored Maya and creole populations. Continually persecuted by the landed elite and the clergy, los Sanjuanistas were prohibited from meeting and often tossed into jail. But in the end, they and their allies managed to achieve a brief period of Yucatecan independence. [Location]

Plaza de Santiago

The Plaza de Santiago is just as gorgeous and refined as the neighborhood surrounding it, which is perhaps Mérida’s most desirable. The plaza boasts a grand old church built in 1637, but it’s the modern life which most commands attention: the kids on the playground, the old men sitting around the fountain, and especially the bustling market with its range of excellent and super-affordable loncherías. This is Mérida at its most colonial and, unsurprisingly, the area most attractive to expats. [Location]

Plaza de Santa Ana

Although Santa Ana is found at the foot of the Paseo Montejo, it shares none of that boulevard’s ritzy atmosphere. This is a simple plaza and park with a beautiful little church, a popular market and a few places to grab some cheap eats. In the center of the plaza is a statue of Andrés Quintana Roo, one of the heroes of Mexican independence. And this was the scene of an important moment in Mexican history. In 1867, supporters of the ruling, royalist regime clashed with Mexican republicans loyal to Benito Juarez. The republicans earned a decisive victory, which helped bring the Napoleon-backed Mexican Empire to its eventual end. [Location]

Great Hotels In Mérida

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February 3, 2014 at 6:57 pm Comment (1)

The Legend of the Makech

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Jürgen and I aren’t the types to spend much time thinking about jewelry. Neither of us owns a single piece, not a ring nor a bracelet, and I very rarely notice the jewelry worn by others. But when the piece in question is a living beetle, it’s a little hard to ignore.

The Yucatan Makech

The Makech is the strangest fashion item we’ve ever seen. These large beetles, found only in the Yucatán Peninsula, have broad shells that can be decorated with gemstones. They feed on sporophores which grow on a specific type of wood endemic to the Yucatán, and can live for up to eight months. Attached to a golden chain, they’re worn as pendants by Maya women and kept as pets.

According to legend, a Maya princess was destined to marry the prince of a neighboring kingdom, but instead fell in love with a noble warrior from her own village. Enraged, her father announced his intention to kill the warrior. The fear-stricken young woman wailed, and pleaded with the king for the life of her beloved. If he were spared, she swore, she would willingly marry the prince as had originally been the plan.

The king listened to his sobbing daughter and consoled her. Her handsome warrior would live. And the promise was kept… in a way. A wizard was called in and, before the eyes of the court, turned the handsome young man into a wretched beetle. Horrified, the princess scooped him into her hands and ran off to her room. She adorned the beetle with the most beautiful jewels she could find and placed him on her breast, so he would always be near her heart.

The Makech is a custom on its way out. Today, it’s exceptionally rare to see women actually wearing one, and finding a store which sells them can be tricky. We asked around Mérida’s Mercado de Artesanias, on Calle 65/58, and eventually tracked down a shop that had a few richly-decorated makeches stumbling around a little cage. I held one briefly. They’re quite large and powerful, and I couldn’t imagine it crawling around my chest all day, even if it were my lost beloved.

Location of the Mercado de Artesanias

Travel Health Insurance For Your Yucatan Trip

The Yucatan Makech
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February 3, 2014 at 6:01 pm Comments (3)

The Casa-Museo Montes Molina

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Most of the mansions along the Paseo Montejo have either fallen into a state of disrepair or been converted into banks. But the Casa Montes Molina is a fortunate exception. Owned by the Montes-Molina family for generations, visitors can today tour this amazing house, or even rent it out for special events.

Casa-Museo Montes Molina

The mansion was built in the early twentieth century by Don Aurelio Portuondo, a Cuban businessman who fell in love with a local beauty. Don Aurelio was in Mérida supervising construction of the Peon Contreras Opera House, and was so pleased with the results that he hired the same architects to design his home. After a couple decades, when his fortune had dried up, Don Aurelio sold his mansion to Don Avelino Montes, a Spanish banker who had also fallen for one of Mérida’s young lovelies: Maria Molina Figueroa. (One of the city’s prime products seems to have been its marriageable maidens).

The Montes-Molinas moved in, made some additions to the house, and established themselves permanently on the Paseo Montejo. Today, nearly a hundred years later, the family still owns the property. The furniture is all original, with exquisite chandeliers, mirrors, floor tiling and everything else you might expect inside the mansion of a fantastically wealthy twentieth-century family. The great-granddaughter of Don Avelino and Doña Maria stays here when visiting from Mexico City and, incredibly, a couple servants who waited on the family over thirty years ago are still living in the basement.

During our tour of the house, we saw one of these women scrubbing the linens by hand in a washing basin. The scene fit so perfectly with the spirit of the house, we weren’t even surprised. This place is as authentic as you can get. We’ve been to quite a few historic homes during our travels, but never sensed the spirits of those who actually inhabited them so strongly as in the Casa Montes Molina. The personal items, such as toys and old LPs on the shelves, really bring the place to life.

If you have a chance, make sure to stop by. There are a limited number of tours every day, and just a couple in English, so it’s worth calling in advance to check on times.

Location on our Map
Casa Museo Montes-Molina – Website

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January 29, 2014 at 2:41 pm Comments (0)

La Música Yucateca

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One of the Yucatán’s defining characteristics is its love of music. From the daily free concerts in the plazas around Mérida, to the Mexican pop blasting out of every tiny shop and the kids walking around with their smartphones on speaker-mode, music is an inescapable fact of life. So we weren’t surprised to find a museum dedicated to Yucatecan music, right in the center of town.

La Música Yucateca

Found near the Plaza de La Mejorada, the Museo de la Canción Yucateca takes visitors on a tour of the peninsula’s musical history. The first room introduces ancient Maya instruments, but the exhibits quickly veer into celebrating the twentieth century artists responsible for bringing a golden age of Yucatecan music. For people such as ourselves, without any prior knowledge of the subject matter, reading the backgrounds of people we’d never heard of wasn’t terribly absorbing. It would be like visiting Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame without knowing Elvis Presley from Little Richard.

We were so quickly finished with the museum that we startled the lady from whom we’d bought tickets. The building and its courtyard are beautiful and the entrance price minimal, so it was a pleasant visit, but not an experience we were thrilled about. However, that didn’t stop us from making a return trip two days later. On a balmy Friday night, the museum was putting on a concert paying homage to the some of the peninsula’s greatest artists.

Now this was the kind of introduction I could get behind. For an hour, the talented lads of El Trio Ensueño took us through a musical crash course of the Yucatán’s most popular artists. Cirilo Baqueiro, Manuel Merodio, Guty Cárdenas … I’ll admit that I’m just copying these names from the program, but I really did love the music. Personal favorites included “Si tu no estás aquí” by Sergio Esquivel and Armando Manzanero’s “Somos novios”, the latter of which might be recognized by fans of Perry Como.

In 1971, Perry Como released an English-language version of “Somos novios” called “It’s Impossible”. Naturally, Mr. Manzanero’s permission hadn’t been sought, nor was he offered any compensation. Como and his studio simply translated the song into English, turned it into a massive hit, and even picked up a Grammy for their troubles. It was as open-and-shut a case of copyright theft as has ever existed, but a shameless US court ruled against the Mexican.

Now that I know some of the songs and artists, I’d probably be more receptive to the exhibits inside the Museo de la Canción Yucateca. But regardless of your knowledge of the peninsula’s music, don’t miss out if you happen to be in Mérida while the museum is putting on a show. You don’t need to know the names of the songs to enjoy their rhythms.

Location on our Map

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January 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm Comments (0)

MACAY – Mérida’s Contemporary Art Museum

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Next to the cathedral and inside one of the city’s most historic buildings, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatán (MACAY) offers a great place to escape the sweltering heat of the sun and take in some thought-provoking modern art. During our visit, we were almost as impressed by the fabulous air-conditioning as by the bizarre pieces hanging on the walls.

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The museum is totally free to visit, so even if contemporary art isn’t your thing, there’s no reason not to take a quick tour. This building was constructed in 1573 as an ateneo, or private cultural institution, on the orders of the Bishop Diego de Landa. Perhaps he was still feeling a tinge of guilt for having destroyed every Maya codex, book and idol he could get his hands on during 1562’s notorious auto-da-fé in Maní. Regardless, the ateneo is a striking building, and has found a perfect modern purpose as home to the MACAY.

The exhibition begins on the upper floor in a series of rooms organized around a courtyard. Most of the rooms are dedicated to temporary collections, focusing mostly on contemporary Mexican artists, though there are a couple permanent exhibitions. One features the work of Mérida’s own Fernando Castro Pacheco, one of Mexico’s greatest muralists. We had already been impressed by his work in the nearby Palacio del Gobierno, and were happy to see more.

A tour through the museum can take about an hour, depending on your tolerance for contemporary art. For me, it was a mixed bag; some of the exhibitions were truly fantastic, while others inspired “what a load of rubbish”-type sentiments. But still, I was disappointed when, after walking through the sculpture garden, our tour had come to its conclusion. The MACAY is quiet, cool and interesting, and spending time there is a pleasure.

Location on our Map

Framed Photos From The Yucatan

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January 14, 2014 at 12:35 am Comments (0)

Meet the Meridians

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After one month in our new homes, we always review our initial impressions with a self-interview. We figured it would be interesting to do another interview after two months… but this time with locals. So over the course of an entertaining day, we went out into the streets of Mérida and introduced ourselves to some random people. There’s nothing scientific about the survey which follows, of course, but it was a fun way to meet some Meridians.

We met Jorge in the Plaza de San Cristóbol, where he was leading a group of boy scouts in some outdoor activities.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m in college studying Administration and Information Technology.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Cochinita Pibil

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? I love the cenotes. If I had to chose one, I would say Peba, near Yaxcopoil.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The ancient Maya archaeological zones.

And what makes you least proud? Mérida’s cleaning service… there’s just too much trash in the streets here!

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I like rock, and one of my favorite Mexican groups is El Tri.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Two countries really have always appealed to me: the USA and Germany. [note: we hadn’t told Jorge that we were from these exact two countries!]

Father and daughter José and Maria were enjoying a sunny Sunday on a bench in San Cristobal, when we approached and introduced ourselves. José did most of the talking, and everything we said seemed to make María Victoria giggle.

Where do you work, or what do you study? [José] I’m retired, but I used to work in a factory. [María Victoria] I clean the house of a doctor.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Relleno Negro

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? The Plaza Principal, here in Mérida.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I suppose the statues.

And what makes you least proud? It’s hard to get help from the government. They promise things and you can ask, but you’ll never get any assistance.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? Marco Antonio Solís… listening to him always makes you feel good.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Cancún! We’ve never been, and would love to see it.

We intercepted Abel in the Plaza de San Juan, on his way to meet his family. He was in a hurry, but agreed to take a few minutes and chat.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m 12 years old, so I’m still in school.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Tamales

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Tizimín

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I think we have a really great culture.

And what makes you least proud? In Mexico, there’s just too much violence.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I like American music, and I suppose my favorite is Usher.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? The USA.

Enrique was in the gorgeous Plaza de San Sebastián, when we approached him. Very enthusiastic about Mérida and knowledgeable about its history, he was eager to talk with us about it.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I work at a decorations store.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Hmm… Pavo en escabeche. Also queso relleno, although this only for special occasions. Also, I love zic de venado (shredded deer in sauce), but it’s hard to find this nowadays.

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? The ports. Progreso and especially Sisal, which used to be the main port.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The importance of family in the culture here. Also, I love how tranquil the Yucatán can be.

And what makes you least proud? There can be a lack of manners among the people, and the city is too dirty. Mérida’s called “The White City”, but let me tell you… it’s not because it’s so clean!

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I most enjoy tropical or Caribbean music, but my favorite artist is Armando Manzanero.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? It’s not very likely that I’ll get there, but I would love to visit Australia.

Leticia was hard at work in the market near San Sebastian, making and selling tortillas. It was amazing to watch her hands continue to work automatically, while her mind was busy with our questions.

Where do you work, or what do you study? [We skipped this question, since we interrupted her at work, making tortillas!]

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Relleno Negro

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Chelém, a beach near Progreso.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The people and our customs.

And what makes you least proud? I suppose the politicians. Probably nobody is proud of their politicians!

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love ballads, and especially Marco Antonio Solís.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Egypt.

Andrés was walking through the Plaza de Santa Ana with his guitar, when we approached him with our questions.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m in school, studying Communication.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Cochinita Pibil… I love sushi the most, but I suppose that’s not really Yucatecan.

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Progreso

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I think the state does a great job supporting the arts. There’s a lot of culture here.

And what makes you least proud? Honestly, I can’t think of anything negative. I love it here, it’s so peaceful.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I’m into jazz-fusion, and one of my favorite musicians is Lee Ritenour.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? England.

Yanin had just finished participating in a half-marathon, when we cornered her in the Plaza de Santa Ana.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a veterinarian, working in Progreso.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Tamales

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Cuzamá

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The people here, and the lack of crime. It’s wonderfully safe.

And what makes you least proud? I suppose people don’t know how to treat animals very well. Especially in the rural communities, there’s a lot of abuse, which is sad.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love listening to ballads, and one of my favorite singers is Alejandro Sanz.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Spain.

Rafael was selling ice cream in the Plaza de Santa Lucia. It was a sunny day, and he was doing good business, so we waited for a quiet moment before approaching.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I sell ice cream, and my wife is also here in the plaza, selling homemade crafts.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Cochinita Pibil

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? I would say the capital. And to be specific, right here in Santa Lucia… it’s the best spot in the best city.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I’m just proud to have been born here.

And what makes you least proud? There’s really nothing I can think of. Everything here is great.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love the classics of the Trova Yucateca, especially the music of Guty Cárdenas.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? [This one took him awhile… his eyes kind of drifted off while he deliberated; either he had never put much thought into this, or he had thought about it a lot and had too many options.] France.

There was a public dance going on in Santa Lucia, and these three sisters were just taking their leave, pushing along their mother in a wheelchair. I correctly suspected that chatting with them would be fun…

Where do you work, or what do you study? [Right away, the sisters were talking and laughing and teasing us a little. Caught up in the fun, we forgot to ask this initial question!]

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Guadalupe: Cochinita Pibil, Tere: Frijol con Puerco, Paula: Papadzules

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Mérida and Izamal

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? How friendly everyone here is. You’ve noticed this, haven’t you? Of course you have! The food, naturally, and the culture.

And what makes you least proud? The heat, and the mosquitoes. These can really be a problem.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? The Trova Yucateca. Armando Manzanero is the best. [I started serenading them with Manzanero’s “Somos Novios“…] Not yet we aren’t!

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Ancient Rome and Jerusalem.

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January 13, 2014 at 11:30 pm Comments (7)

The Casa Catherwood

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A few blocks west of the Plaza Grande and across from the Iglesia de Santiago, you can find the Casa Catherwood. Hanging on the walls of this gorgeous old home are the drawings of Frederick Catherwood, an English artist who was one of the Yucatán’s first modern-day explorers.

Partnered with the American adventurer and author John Lloyd Stephens, Catherwood embarked on a series of expeditions into the jungles of the Yucatán between 1836 and 1844. Together, the two men uncovered Maya ruins which had never before been seen by western eyes. They found temples, pyramids, statues, bizarre hieroglyphs and cryptic engravings of unknown gods, covered by a thick layer of jungle overgrowth and all but neglected by the farmers who still lived on the land.

Forget Indiana Jones, Catherwood and Stephens were the real thing. It’s not difficult to imagine how thrilling it must have been to discover ruin after ruin, building an ever-expanding picture of the ancient Maya. Catherwood was an excellent draftsman, and took the time to produce detailed sketches of the ruins. Their books, written by Stephens, were massively successful across the Western world.

Today, around 25 prints of the Englishman’s drawings adorn the walls of the Casa Catherwood, along with detailed and well-written explanations of each. The collection itself seems small at first glance, but it takes quite some time to read through all of the material.

We toured the Catherwood House the day before visiting our first Maya ruins. Although it was doubtful that we’d be hacking our way through the jungle to discover a never-before-seen temple, Catherwood’s drawings helped to put us into an adventurous state of mind.

Location on our Yucatán Map

The Lost Cities of the Mayas: The Life, Art, and Discoveries of Frederick Catherwood

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November 24, 2013 at 2:53 pm Comments (2)

The Parque Centenario & Mérida’s Zoo

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It’s a considerable hike from the center, but the Parque Centernario (Centennial Park) on the west side of Mérida certainly warrants the effort, or the cost of a taxi, if only to visit the city zoo, which hosts a surprising number of exotic animals.

Zoo Merida

The zoo in the Parque Centenario is free to visit, which made us a bit nervous. While I generally love free stuff, I couldn’t help but wonder how well animals could possibly be cared for in an open, public zoo. Indeed, Mérida’s isn’t exactly a glorious Garden of Eden in the vein of San Diego’s or the Bioparc in Valencia, Spain. No, this is the kind of run-down and cramped operation which will probably make you a little sad.

Luckily, we were squarely still in our honeymoon phase with Mérida, and the city could do no wrong. So the fact that the hippos were confined to a tiny muddy pool didn’t really bother us. But the fact that there were hippos… thrilling! I hadn’t come to Mérida expecting to see animals ranging from chimpanzees to African lions, crocodiles and Burmese pythons, but they were all here and we had a blast touring the exhibits.

The zoo is just one piece of the Parque Centenario, a popular place for Meridianos to spend a weekend afternoon with the family. Since it was a sunny Sunday when we visited, the park was in full swing. There were pony rides, trampolines, bouncy castles, food stands, and thousands of screaming children. It was chaotic, but completely entertaining. This isn’t a park with a lot of green areas. In fact, it’s not a “park” at all, in the way I understand the word. There’s no place to have a picnic or play soccer, but there are plenty of places to have fun.

Throughout the day, we didn’t see another foreign face. It’s a 20-minute walk from the Plaza Grande, which is apparently enough to discourage most tourists. If you want to visit a different side of the city and see how locals enjoy themselves, check it out.

Location on our Yucatán Map

Great Hotels In Mérida

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November 21, 2013 at 12:52 am Comment (1)

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