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What Should I See In Merida?


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#1 DanB

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 09:19 AM

Just back one week and already planning the next trip.  Now that my wife (a teacher) is retired we can spend more time.  I was thinking of doing a 3 week trip and spending on week in the Merida area.  A couple questions:

1.  what things should we see in Merida (we are both interested in history and culture and Claudia is an artist and very fond of art museums, also a big fan of Frita.  Also, as a former monk, I'd enjoy visiting any older monasteries and convents)

2.  What Mayan sites should we visit (we have been to Chitchen, are considering Ek Balam on the way back).

3.  Any hotel suggestions (we find Hotel Reforma and Dolores Alba appealing from our quick internet review).

4.  The round trip cost by ADO bus would be about 200 total.  We can rent a car with full insurance from Cancun Airport, drop off at Playa ferry for 220.  I'm inclined to rent the car.  Some hotels in Merida offer free, off street/in-lot parking.  Any comments on that idea?

 

Thanks for you help


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#2 Carey

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 11:25 AM

I really like Luz en Yucatan as a good place to stay in Merida.  Driving in Merida looks like a total gridlock nightmare to me and you won't use the car while you're there probably.  I would suggest taking the fancy and comfortable UNI bus from the Cancun bus station to and from Merida and then taxi from the station to your hotel.  You can walk or taxi most everywhere else.

 

There are lots of people with more info on Merida than I can provide.  Been there 3 times but not in four years.  It's an interesting town with some great downtown shopping and a wonderful zocalo.  Good restaurants are another story.  I like that Lebanese place near Luz en Yucatan which you can probably find if you search for old posting on Merida.  Can't remember the name but it is really good and really inexpensive.  The kebbe bola is really delish -- ground lamb defried in corn meal batter and everything else on their menu is exceedingly good.

 

Also the restaurant and Hotel Villa  Maria is elegant and convenient place.  Also downtown. Beautiful venue and prix fixe dinners were good last time we were there at any rate.  They have a hotel whose doors all open into the beautiful, open air restaurant and I would rec. that place also.

 

Merida is Hot as Hades with not a breath of wind for at least 6 months out of the year.  And keep your elbows close to your body when you're walking the city sidewalks.  The buses tear past at an hellacious clip and have been known to injure walkers.  (This is true.)

 

Ek Balam is very interesting and very under visited.  We spent a long and scarey thunderstorm at the top of one of the pyramids which I will never forget.  And yes you can catch that on the trip back although we stopped there on our way back from a stayover at the little fishing village of San Felipe.


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#3 DanB

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 06:21 PM

Carey, thanks for the info.  My good friend Pancho who is the dive master for PanchoDivingAdventures in Cozumel does a lot of fishing with his uncles out of San Felipe (lobster, crab, sea cucumber, other stuff) when the dive season is low.  I'm hoping to stop there during this journey also.  I get the impression that there are no hotels in San Felipe - is that true?  About Merida:  have you been to many of the museums? The cathedrals?  The parks?  If so, what did you think of them?  I took at look at the Luz website - quite an entertaining read!  Thanks for the recommendation. 


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#4 Carey

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 07:34 PM

There is a nice little hotel on the water in San Felipe.  It's very small and I don't remember the name of it.  But there's only one and its right next to a tiny little wetlands park with a wooden boardwalk you can go on.  It faces out on the water but not a beach.  There are some rooms on the higher floors that have staircases that lead up to outside terraces with very nice views. Just a couple of rooms I believe.  We lucked into one just driving up but it was low season.  (Restaurant not open during the 3 days we were there, for example.)

 

Only restaurants are along the little one block long malecon and be sure to hit them early if you arrive on a Sunday as we did.

 

The musuems I haven't been to in Merida.  I love the downtown plaza and the giant cathedral there is interesting as is the palacio.

 

But I'm hardly an expert on The White City.

 

I do highly recommend Luz en Yucatan.


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#5 DanB

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 06:49 AM

The more I read Luz's website the more impressed I am with it.  I also notice that the San Lucia park on the corner is the site of traditional dancing every weekend.  And also the starting point for a couple different 'city bus double decker' tours - one apparently is a hop-on and hop-off buss that takes you around to many of the main attactions (museums/parks/church).  At Luz, I'm curious about the room they call the 'casita' - a 2 room with covered courtyard between them near the pool, and the 'standard room' on the 3rd floor with the private balcony overlooking the church.  Have you stayed in either of these or seen them when you were there.  Also, since I am diabetic and eat a very lo-carb diet and Claudia is glutten/dairy free I like the 'communal kitchen' they talk about so we could make many of our own meals.


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#6 Carey

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 07:07 AM

Luz en Yucatan was established -- and the website written -- by a very charming,and energetic retired American nurse who has since moved on to somewhere else in central america and probably is doing the same thing again.

 

She sold the place which used to be a nunnery I believe and has very interesting interior architecture to what sounds like a gay couple.  I wrote them once when I was thinking about going back for a visit and they sounded extremely nice and said they'd done many updates and a lot of renovation since they bought the place three or four years ago????  Not meaning to sound sexist, but in my personal experience, gay couples fixing up abodes tends to mean really good taste so that's in your favor on the new upgrades.

 

But I cannot speak to the condition of the rooms.  The times I stayed there they were comfortable but pretty makeshift but that was reflected in the low price, the good location and a really excellent vibe.  Also liked the design of the place with plants everywhere in the long narrow central courtyard.

 

So, sorry but I can't speak to your concerns about the rooms.  You are correct about the St. Lucia park which doe have dancing one night per week and a good flea market. And does have tour buses taking off from there.  Luz is also an easy walk -- about 5 blocks from the giant zolaco with the palacio, the cathedral and generally always a lot going on, actually.  Very vibrant.


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#7 pecas

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 11:04 AM

I don't think that you mentioned what time of year you plan on visiting.  Merida is a lovely city.  My husband's family lives there, so we head there several times of year.  But I won't go in the summer.  It is hot as hades!

 

In all the times that we've gone - we've always taken the bus.  It's easy and it's comfortable.  No dealing with crazy city traffic and parking.  Since you're thinking about staying downtown - every thing will be in easy walking distance. 

 

On the main square there are at least two tourism offices.  Check them out.  The staff there are incredibly helpful and will give you a great overview of events.  One thing that Merida has in abundance are cultural events.  They'll have information about the free walking tour as well as the bus tours (there are two - we've taken both and enjoyed them).  They may also be able to point you in the direction of a tour of the various churches.  All of which are beautiful. 

 

Also check out the Yucatan Today 

 

One thing that you don't want to miss is the weekend in Merida.  Saturday night there will be an open air market and probably folk dancing at the park at the end of the Paseo Montejo.  Sunday (Merida en Domingo) the square will be filled with artestians - there will be dancing in streets, restaurants will move their tables outdoors etc. etc. 

 

You definitely want to walk the Paseo de Montejo and check out the beautiful homes (several of which are now museums).  And the mercardo is not to be missed.  Plan on getting lost - you'll eventually find your way back out! :)

 

I also highly recommend taking a tour to Uxmal.  Stay for the night show - it is spectacular.  Your hotel can set it up.  Generally the tour includes transportation to and from, dinner and the night show (you'll pay extra for headphones to listen to the show in a language other than spanish). 

 

If you go Jan/Feb time frame  - head to Celestun (again the hotel can set up the tour).  You'll see Flamingos, tour mangroves, have lunch on the beach and do some serious shell collecting. 

 

El Colon on the square is a great place to people watch while enjoying a cool and refreshing ice cream.  La Chaya Maya is a great little restaurant that serves authentic Yucatecan food  http://www.yucatanliving.com/merida-restaurants/la-chaya-maya.htm


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#8 pecas

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 11:06 AM

http://yucatantoday.com/en/homepage

 

Link for Yucatan today


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#9 Carey

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 12:03 PM

You're making me want to go back, Pecas!  It's been a few years.  But only in the winter!  

 

I would like to add that there is some really great shopping in Merida.  The Mercado is enormous.and a great place to buy guaybera shirts and panama-style woven hats which are a signature item made in this area.  Beautiful, finely woven hats among other things.  

 

Hammocks is a great thing to buy there as well and, in addition to el mercado there are shops that specialize in this although I never found one.

 

There are also quite a number of Artensanio -- artists coop places in the two or three block area around the grand plaza with a couple of them opening right on the plaza.  I've bought 4 hand made Mayan quilts there that I just love and have hanging on my walls.  Patchwork quilts made up of many, many hand woven squares.  There are very different and distinctive and I love them.

 

Also a good place to purchase the carved and painted wall  decorations -- I am looking right now at two fat cherub heads with wings that are hung on the walls above two of my french doors.  The great little place to buy these is.....Well, I can only tell you from Luz. ...

 

Go out to St. Lucia Square, half a block from the hotel.  Turn left towards the main plaza.  Keep walking for 4 or 5 blocks.  You'll pass the opera house on your left, then a church with a park in front of it.  Then you'll see a busy cross street with a plaza beyond it with a lot of taxis lined up.  Take a right and walk half a block and you'll find the store.  It's on the right side of the street.  Sorry I don't know the name of it but it is a tiny and wonderful store that you don't want to miss -- along with the artensano coops.

 

Finally, on the shopping front, there used to be a bookstore on the way up to the Paseo Montejo  that had some perfectly marvelous Oxcaca painted wood animal sculptures.  Take the same street that runs in front of the St. Lucia park but hang a right instead.  It's on the left side of the street near the turn onto the Paseo.  Hope it is still there.  We found an Ek Balam, black leopard sculpture there that we treasure and a marvelous turquoise bear with a fish in its mouth.  These were not bargains like some of the other items we purchased.  But they are real works of art and of very one of a kind fine quality.


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#10 Eileen

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 01:41 PM

I would give the light show in Uxmal a big miss.  While the story is interesting, the light show is not worth it. Was there last November.  The ruins, on the other hand, in Uxmal are well worth the trip.  However, the evening light show at the new Maya Museum in Merida is worth the time and trouble.

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=M9DsDGrHhbU

 

If you are interested in doing something a little different, arrange a visit to Hacienda Sotuto de Peon, the only henequén/sisal fiber hacienda in the area that continues to work as it did 100 years ago. It is about half an hour south of town, but you should be able to arrange a tour through your hotel.


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#11 DanB

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 04:31 PM

Eileen, Pecas, and Carey - thanks so much for all this info.  Now that Claudia is retired we are in the "more time than money" category so I'll have to save up a while before this trip happens.  But I've saved away your comments and suggestions for when that does happen.  Muchas Gracias!


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#12 TnVol

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 06:28 PM

Much good advice about Merida here.  A really interesting place, in my opinion.  I like the Hotel Dolores Alba. If you decide to drive, it has something rare in Merida, free self parking in a spacious lot connected to the hotel. Also good security.

Probably my favorite event would be Noche Mexicana and it was mentioned by Pecas. Great food and entertainment.  It is the beginning of Paseo Montejo at 47.

Another fun thing on the weekend is that a long part of the beautiful Paseo Montejo all the way to the center of Merida is closed to traffic and bicycles can be rented. This is a Sunday morning happening.

Carey mentioned the bus and that is how I would go. Many ADO departures from Playa del Carmen including one of the luxury ADO Platino buses each day.


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