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Trip Report Merida and The Last Resort Part One

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 We stayed in Merida, Mexico for a week at hotel called Luz En Yucatan. It was their web site that convinced us it was the right choice. Below are how they determine rates and their "awards" program. The owners and staff are warm, welcoming, and trusting. There is a little wagon with free liquor just outside the office.

The communal pool just under our windows is filled with magpies otherwise known as guests. You can hear their conversations bounce off the hotel walls that is converted convent. Their discussions are decidedly “Enough about me, let's talk about me.”
Their rewards program:   

Our room is at once small and long. As you slide into the entry room from a rather ill-conceived set of stairs, there is the bathroom to the right and an open terrace to the left. On the other side of the terrace is the bedroom. There are steps and a screen door, wrought iron doors and frosted glass door. Nothing in Merida is on the same level. The next step on the street is either higher, lower, slanted, or broken. The sidewalks are so narrow that the hips of a squat woman could touch the building and the other brush a passing truck. The store awnings are a perfect height if you 5 foot 5.

The curbs in Merida are 6,8 inches high since there is no sewer system and the rain seeps into the limestone foundation. The brick and cobblestone streets make the 35 year old VW's seem to be twice as many as they actually are.

We walked about Merida all morning and we saw out of work American MBA's looking to be picked up by Mexicans for day work.

Although the hotel staff was extremely helpful, rarely did they get any bus schedule right. It was not entirely their fault. There must be thirty bus routes in Merida, none with numbers and all with the stops written with a bingo marker on the front window. And you can't ask where they are going unless you yell. After the first step into the bus there is an electric eye that counts passengers and once you pass you must pay otherwise the driver has to answer for it.

Most of the faces of the people are peeled off a Mayan hieroglyph.

The food is good. We really do not know Mexican food but there are very few tacos and enchiladas and no burritos. I have tried the mole sauce a couple of times. The best was at Casa Frida honoring Frida Kahlo. Every dish comes with a mustache and a fat cheating husband. Breakfasts are big deal there highlighted by “hot cakes” spelled in English. The ones we had were light and fluffy.

We found a tiny French bakery, and while it is good and might never make it in France, it is better than any Mexican food we have had in Paris (which of course is none.)

One day we went to Celestun, a flamingo sanctuary where we encountered hundred of flamingos, many crocs, and one boa constrictor, thick as his last meal. The water was often a wondrous rusty orange, tinted from the red mangroves.

Another day we visited Chichen Itza with a small tour group. The correct way to pronounce it is chee-CHAN eat-zah. Most impressive even the lines looked like the original Ellis Island. Overall it was grander than any other Mayan ruin we have seen even though for individual edifices I preferred Tikal in Guatemala. On the long road back we and the other tourists performed tongue twisters and songs in Japanese, Spanish and English. Apparently Bob Dylan is not well known in Tokyo and the Yucatan. I could not have been me.

Another day we went by public transportation to Dzibilchaltún, a small Mayan ruin with a large cenote which a pool supplied by an underground spring which was one way the Mayans had a constant source of potable water. Cenotes are found throughout the region. We are getting to old to take public transportation. When we were younger a bus ride with with chickens and their owners was fun and instructive but an unair-conditioned bus in humid heat has lost its charm. And when we got to the ruins which was at least ¼ mile walk from the bus, we found out there was no bus back from there. So in order to get home he had to take a min-taxi which was a bench enclosed in half a cage attached to the front of a motorcycle to the next town. Exhilarating but dangerous. There we took a van with a Rube Goldberg door that seemed to open at the caprice of the driver and stop at imaginary bus stops, as we passed the money along from the other passengers to the driver, who were of course, less mystified by this every day occurrence.
Peacocks and Sparrows
 The first night in Merida, Mexico we go to a concert in the nearby plaza. There is music, poetry, and dance. The square is filled with locals. The women sighed at the romantic poetry, the men cheered when they are portrayed as heroes. Every song has a corazon and a vida that needs love and everything of course, is overwrought. The tilt of the emcee's white straw hat is perfect and half the band plays sharp, the other half flat, canceling each other out. But their eyes and lips and the way their bodies lean forward, tell you, the romantic tradition lives in this corner of the world.
Another night we met Rafael a virtuoso on the saw who charmed young women into talking a stick in hand and while they beat the rhythm, he bent the saw to the proper pitch for songs like Jingle Bells And White Christmas. When they finished he would bend a perfect wolf whistle.

We were there for annual event when the art galleries are opened from from 8 PM to 1 AM. People claim Merida is the safest town in Mexico but there were police everywhere. And even though we did not want to test this claim we wondered on some desolate streets without incident

There were all sorts of markets and singing and dancing in and around the city center on Sundays. One plaza attracted elderly people dancing Mexican favorites plus some sambas and tangos. The peacocks were the husbands and wives who were once graceful and artful but now their footsteps cannot find their old shadows. Yet they dance with enthusiasm and pace. One woman was shaking her shoulders as she did 50 years ago but still wanted the acknowledgment of the crowd. And a man in his 80's remembered every step, even if they were a bit stiff. The sparrows were their spouses dutifully dancing so the other could still star in the spotlight.
I told all the merchants our last night was the last time they could harass me. My favorites were the pros at Chichen Itza who were screaming, "Almost free" and after I said to some guy "No gracias," he said "Com'on man."

 There is one universal truth about travel. The first time you visit a city or country, you do not know how to do anything until you are ready to leave.

Part Two is our short visit to Cancum, which we called Canned Corn.

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