Merida is the Yucatan state’s capital and is a lively, cultural hub in land on the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
The locals are really proud of their Mayan heritage and consider themselves to be Mayan as opposed to Mexican. Many of the shops and market stalls sell traditional handicrafts and colourful embroidered cotton shirts, in the traditional style of their Mayan ancestors and many of the locals still wear these garments today.
|The main square with the cathedral in the background|
Despite its Mayan heritage, we thought the city itself has a European feel and it reminded us a lot of Seville or Catania. The city centre is arranged around a number of shady squares with restaurants with tables outside. There are even horse and carts – exactly like the ones in Seville – taking tourists on tours of the city centre.
|A shady square by the Santa Ana church|
|Another square, another church...|
That said, we walked around eight miles a day according to my fitness tracker – no mean feat in the thirty-four-degree heat and blazing sunshine! It’s good to know that despite not doing any formal exercise, we are at least getting in a few miles of walking every day.
To take a break from the heat we escaped into a couple of art galleries to take in some local culture and to make the most of the air conditioning!
We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Popular Art. The latter was certainly an experience, being a very small gallery, run by a small and very enthusiastic team who spoke no English (and us with our very limited Spanish), but they insisted we saw every inch of the gallery including a twenty-minute video, of which we understood very little! There wasn’t a great deal of content in the museum, but we were really charmed by the warmth of the locals.
In the afternoon, we went for a stroll around the zoo, which formed part of a nearby park. They had an impressive selection of animals (especially considering it was free entry) including white tigers, jaguars, lions, crocodiles and hippos, but I’m not convinced all the animals were living in happy conditions as we saw a couple of them exhibiting some signs of distress, or certainly boredom. Hmm.
There is also a good foodie scene in Merida – many local Mayan specialities and the standard Mexican fare, like slow-cooked marinated pork, chicken 'mole' (a savoury chocolate-based sauce for meat), refried beans and of course, tacos and tortillas.
It must seem to readers of this blog that we do little more than eat and drink on our travels – well, it is certainly part of the experience! Here we had 'chaya' - a green leafy vegetable, very similar to spinach and apparently very good for you - we tried the chaya and lime juice, which was really refreshing.
|A traditional Mayan feast!|
We also discovered a good craft beer scene and in one bar we went to, of the eight local artisan beers on offer, three were stouts, so Kev was very happy!
|La Negrita - a trendy Merida bar|
We’ll put down roots in Tulum for a couple of weeks, so it’ll also be nice to stop and unpack our bags for a while, instead of constantly being on the move. I’ll write again from there.