Visitor from Spain
About a month ago, I started planning a trip to Mérida, Mexico. One of my students in Spain, Albert, decided to visit and join Acelin and I on this trip, and also do the road trip to Nova Scotia, plus the trip to Thailand and China in July. He was the first one amongst nine of us to get the Chinese visa. He arrived in Canada on Monday, June 17. He was very helpful in cleaning my house and walking the dog. On the same Friday, my student, Bill, visited us and we had nice night training, eating, and Karaoke sessions after.
Sunday morning, my other student David came to pick up his passport from me after Selene had collected it from the Chinese Visa Centre. We got Multiple-Entry visas valid for 5 years allowing us to stay 60 days for each run. Albert then went to his bag to check the validity of his visa, and couldn’t locate his passport. We all assumed that he must have misplaced it somewhere in the house. For the whole of Sunday we search for it in the house and everywhere he went since Friday morning when he last saw it. Couldn’t find it. So, I recommended that he go to the Spanish Consulate in Toronto first thing Monday morning to get a replacement. He caught the 5 am bus and was at their doors at 9 on the dot. They told him that it would take 3 to 4 weeks to get one; however, he can get it in a day if he went back to Spain. Figure that out??? In the meantime, I tried to get Albert’s ticket to Mérida changed to another day; there was nothing less than $700 to change it, even though we had bought change and cancellation insurance for it. On Tuesday, I went around looking with no avail for Albert’s passport at places that he had gone in the past two days. Had to give up since Acelin and I had to go to Toronto to my brother’s house for an overnight stay since we had a very early flight to catch. On the way there, we stopped by a wildlife sanctuary place to surrender a starling bird we had rescued a few days ago. It was lying almost motionless on the sidewalk. We brought it home and revived it with giving her water and some soft food I made with milk and bread, or milk and cereal, and mashed up banana. My father was a birdman, and I remember him doing that to hatchlings. Lo and behold, the bird lived and started chirping for more food and water the next couple of days. Kip and I wanted to keep and care for her; however, we had a long trip ahead of us. I called around and found an organization called Save for Hope that took in rescued wildlives. It closed at 7 pm. Fortunately, it was on our way to Toronto, so made it exactly on the dot.
Click the image below to see the little hackling.
As soon as I got to Toronto, I was on the phone with an Orbitz agent for over 2.5 hours trying to work a decent fare for the date change. Even thought Albert had flown in from Barcelona on Air Canada, and had booked a flight with them to go back to Barcelona for the passport replacement, they would not give him a break at all. It turned out to be cheaper to miss the flight and buy a new one-way ticket to Mérida. Figure that out!
Albert booked a flight for Wednesday night to get his new passport in Barcelona on Thursday. Acelin and I left my brother’s house at 5:30 a.m. for our flight. We didn’t have time for breakfast. We ate at the airport. A tuna sandwich cost $11.50 and a small bottle of ice tea was $7.50. Such nerves!
Airports and Planes
In the plane, the only thing that was included with the fare was two servings of non-alcoholic beverages. We didn’t even get earphones for the entertainment devices. Acelin and I took turns sleeping through half the flight. We landed at Mexico City first. We transited to another gate for the jog to Mérida. The signages were not so good, so I asked a young fellow, Ahmed, if the gate we were at was for the Mérida flight. He confirmed, and offered to help us with anything we needed. He then went on to tell us the places we should visit in Mérida. He made sure we got on board when boarding was announced. It was our first direct contact with a Mexican in this travel, and we were left with a good feeling. Unfortunately, the flight was small and bumpy; the inside of Kip’s ears hurt badly from the change of air pressure. The flight attendant gave her two paper cups stuffed with wet cotton balls to cover her ears. The pain went away immediately. I guess that prevented the air inside the cups from changing pressure. What a great idea!
Click picture below to view video clips of our airport and flight experiences.
In the plane, we were seated with a lady named Aurora, who had lived most of her life in the US, but returned to Mexico about 10 years ago. We had a good conversation, and she gave me her perspective on Mexico from the perspective of someone who had lived in both countries. She had gone to the USA when she was quite young, and then married a Mexican and returned to live here. She was just flying back from Quebec with her granddaughter who went there as an exchange student. She loved Canada for its cleanliness, recycling and conservation programs. She said that Mexico is also taking steps to eliminate one-time-use plastic products. She said that Mérida is the safest place to live in Mexico because the police are plentiful and well paid.
We were picked up by Javier and brought to our quaint hotel. It doesn’t have a pool like many others; however, it has a jacuzzi. We dove into it as soon as we got our things in our room. We were very tired, and the jacuzzi was well-deserved and much-needed.
Click the picture below to see clips of Kip enjoying the jacuzzi.
La Chaya Maya
We were referred to a restaurant called La Chaya Maya. Mérida is in the province of Yucatan, which is heavily populated by the aborigines, the Mayans. The food is quite different from the typical Mexican cuisine. I enjoyed it very much. The restaurant was big and packed. The price was extremely reasonable. All the main entrees were about 100 pesos. I was getting 15 pesos to one Canadian Dollar. You’d get 21.50 pesos for one Euro and 18.50 for US Dollar.
Click the picture below to see clips of the restaurant and the food we ordered.
Hotel Del Peregrino
We’re staying at Hotel Del Peregrino. It is a small 14-room hotel with cute rooms and friendly staff. It is located just a few blocks from the main Centro. Getting around Mérida is easy. All streets running north and south are numbered oddly, and all streets running east and west are numbered evenly. The numbers run small to large from north to south; and from east to west. All the streets are one-way traffic; so, one street would run one-way north, and the next street would run one-way south. The center of the city is at the intersection of Calle 60 and Calle 61; our hotel is located at the intersection of Calle 51 and Calle 56.
Our hotel is not fancy; probably rated 3 or 4 stars. We have a queen-size and a single bed. The breakfast is included with the room price. To my surprise, we got a very nice, tasty, and healthy one.
Click the picture below to see images of the hotel and breakfast.
After breakfast, we roamed around downtown Mérida. I was reminded of Costa Rica, Thailand, and Morocco; there was little or no reminders of North America. The sidewalks were narrow; barely allowing two persons to pass each other. Often, they’re blocked by disabled beggars; however, no one complains and just walk around them. The traffic is chaotic during the day. The buses are not able to stay in one lane and have to occupy both two lanes because of their sizes; otherwise, they’d be hitting electric poles and pedestrians on the sidewalks. The city developed around 477 years ago, so the streets weren’t built for automobiles; they were built for horses and carts.
There were many little shops on the main streets and side avenues. There were no large malls, although Costco and Walmart is suppose to be around somewhere outside the center. There were a couple of 2 or 3-storey department stores. One of them sold only party products, like streamers, paper cutleries, and gift products; goes to show how much the Mexicans like to party. The patrons were all carrying baskets full of goods to pay at the cash counter. A store like that would never survive in Canada. There were lots of stores that sold traditional Yucatan clothing and straw hats. Nice to see products that are made locally instead of China. However, the contemporary clothing like dresses and shoes were definitely imported from China. They were cheaper here than Canada. The dresses and shoes in the windows were selling for $10 to $15.
Kip and I went to a locally-made ice-cream shop, which was located next to Dairy Queen; both were located around the main city park, Plaza Grande. They had all kinds of drinks and ice-cream. I’m hooked on a drink called Chaya. It’s always green whether they’re flavored with orange, lemon, or some other fruits.
The weather is extremely hot, although it is not the hottest time of the year. Like Thailand, it is the hottest in April and May. It is humid too, but not as humid as Bangkok. There was always some breeze that we could feel. When we sat for our ice-cream, it started raining suddenly. I took the opportunity to take pictures of the passersby. It is rather sad to see beggars who seemed to have been left behind by progress. There was an old man begging whom I couldn’t help but give him some change and a pina colada that I had bought. He was very thankful for that. Overall, I noticed that people here are not afraid of eye contact and exchanging smiles. I feel pretty secure walking in quiet streets. I don’t feel I’m being eyeballed because I’m a tourist with a camera. Although vendors try to sell me things, they’re not high-pressure salesmen as in some countries.
When the rain subsided, we visited a famous mansion called Casa de Montejo. It was beautiful, but a reminder of the disparity between the rich and poor.
Because of the heat that we were not used to, Kip and I got tired by 3 pm, and headed back to the hotel to cool off.
Click the picture below to see images of the city center.
Word from Albert was that his flight to Barcelona got delayed so he missed his appointment for the passport replacement. He went to another branch to get it, but they refused to do it since he didn’t have an appointment. He will go back to the main office on Friday to see if he can get it without appointment.
On Thursday evening, Kip and I went to a restaurant which was more “Mexican.” It was called La Pellia. The setting was nice; however, the price was definitely geared towards tourists. I should have known since there were no other patrons than the two of us. All the entrées were priced at $20 or more. Anyway, we decided to disregard that and order what we wanted. We chose their mixed grill for entrée and guacamole with chips for starter. Kip said that was the best guacamole she ever had.
Click the picture below to see images of the restaurant and food.
After dinner, we headed for Parc Santa Lucia, where Yucatan dancing was scheduled for 9 pm. On the way, Kip wanted to try the handmade ice-cream rolls that was being made by a street vendor. I was reluctant for her to try anything made in the streets; however, it was milk based instead of water, so I went for it. It was interesting how the man made it. Kip and I watched him from start to finish. It was only 50 pesos … about CAD$3. Kip enjoyed it very much, and there were no consequences that she had to pay after in a toilet.
Click the picture below to watch the making of the ice-cream roll.
We then went to Parc Santa Lucia to watch the dancing event. The park was packed; however, we managed to get some seats on a high bench, but wasn’t prime for viewing as a huge tree blocked the view right in the center. The place was buzzing with energy from the spectators and vendors who went around selling their goods. The spectators were mostly Mexicans with their families. There were just a few tourists. This event happens every Thursday, yet the local folks come out to enjoy it with their families every week. You can tell that this event wasn’t made for the tourists because the emcees just spoke in Spanish.
The dancing began sharply at 9 pm to my surprise. It was wonderful to watch men and women still enjoying their traditional costumes and dancing. After every dance they were cheered loudly by the audience. It was so nice to see people enjoy the simple things in life instead of spending time at home watching crappy programs on Netflix.
Unfortunately our visit was cut short because Kip started to fall asleep after our long walks during the day. Also, my stomach started growling, needing relief. So the price of the food at La Pellia was not only disagreeable to my stomach, but the food itself was. Actually, I had tasted spoilage in the bell peppers in the food, but I ate enough to cause the reaction. I had to rush back to the hotel to make it just in time to the toilet! It would have been an embarrassing situation if I hadn’t.
Click the picture below to see the Yucatan dancing at Parc Santa Lucia.
These are the adventures of our first two days in Mérida!
Ah … just got news from Albert that he got his replacement passport, and will be arriving in Mérida on Sunday morning. Hope it is good sailing from hereon. He still needs to get a new visa from the Chinese Visa Center in Toronto.