Arrival into Merida from our second overnight bus was very welcome. The capital of the Yucatán and the largest city of the peninsula, around 22 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, it is a colourful, sometimes ramshackle, colonial town built on the grid system. The Spanish dubbed Merida the ‘White City’ due to the abundance of local limestone used to construct many of the buildings.
Many of us made use of this stop to recuperate from the ravages of San Cristobal and Palenque, overjoyed to find a pool in our hotel. I even treated myself to an incredibly affordable massage.
He went off with the group for lunch at Chaya Maya (I was still somewhat off my food), a fine restaurant specialising in local cuisine which includes the chaya leaf, a spinach-like vegetable that is used in fresh drinks and all kinds of recipes like lime soup and Agua de Chaya.
After an orientation walk around town he then gallantly set off in search of fresh bananas for me, which he found at a local market. Also there he observed women making the local black flour tortillas in a semi-industrial method, part machine part manual. Later we would observe women at Chaya Maya making their tortillas in the traditional fashion.
On day two I decided to try and limp into town and check out the sights. We discovered fine murals on the courtyard walls of the palace depicting the history of Mexico, the fine limestone cathedral (one of the earliest in Mexico) and we visited the Museum of Modern Art to ponder the potential meanings behind the paint splatters and bricolage.
That evening we snuck into Oliva, a delightfully intimate Italian restaurant, for lasagne, my first proper meal in days and really delicious. I’d recommend a visit whenever you’re next in Merida.
On our walk home we wandered to the plaza which was full of people watching ‘MeridaFest’, featuring local dancers and musicians performing for free. We stayed for a while until our basic Spanish comprehension was stretched too far trying to understand the poets!