Back from Cancun and Merida

Jul 10th, 2015, 07:33 AM
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Back from Cancun and Merida

We returned Monday night from a six night trip to Cancun and Merida. All in all, it was an excellent trip. The primary reason we went was to see a good friend who lives in Merida.

Cancun.

We flew into Cancun, arriving at 11:00 am on Tuesday morning and our friend drove us to the Casa Magna Marriott for two nights. Cancun isn't my favorite place to vacation but the Casa Magna was very nice. Our room was well appointed and we had a decent sized balcony with a very good ocean view. Our room rate ($169/night) included a full buffet breakfast for two. The buffet was exceptional. Really good selection of juices, fruits, and pastries, as well as the usual breakfast meats, eggs, omelette station, etc. In addition to breakfast foods, it also included an Asian section with spring rolls, shrimp shumai, and rice and a Mexican section with an assortment of meats and frijoles.

The pool area is fairly expansive and the pool has a swim up bar, where we had an obligatory tropical drink. The beachfront is much improved from the last time I was in that area. I was there several years ago at the Ritz Carlton, which is close to the Casa Magna and at that time, the beach was almost non-existent. Now the beach is wide and good for walking. The first day, there was a ton of seaweed. But it seemed to mostly clear by the second day. The surf was fairly rough, which made the ocean swimming a little more fun. We spent several hours at the pool and beach, just swimming and lazing around. We ate lunch at the pool. Service was prompt. Food was good.

The first night we went out to dinner at Fred's House Seafood Market and Grill, which is right across from the hotel. Here is the biggest problem with Cancun for me. Dinners. It's been really difficult for me to find good restaurants in Cancun the several times I've been there, even with prior research. Fred's gets good reviews on a number of restaurant review sites so we decided to give it a try. I really liked the ambiance and location (on the lagoon) and it started out promising with the shrimp tostada appetizer. However, my main course, which was grilled grouper, was not good at all. The grouper was overcooked, dry and a little tough. Very disappointing. So my bad luck with dinner in Cancun continues. Compare this to Puerto Vallarta where it is pretty easy to find a good meal. Anyway, our second night we didn't even go out to dinner. We had a late lunch at the pool and ended up just grabbing some slices of pizza later at night at the hotel.

The next morning our friend was eager to get on the road - he was driving us to Merida and we were making a stop at Chichen Itza on our way.

Next installment: Chichen Itza, Merida, Progreso and Izamal.
tom42 is online now  
Jul 10th, 2015, 08:09 AM
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Haven't been to Merida and am looking forward to your thoughts on it.
Weekender is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 08:10 AM
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I especially look forward to hearing about Merida, a place I've been thinking about for a possible extended stay. It's always nice to have someone "test drive" towns for us.
MmePerdu is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 01:16 PM
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We're planning a trip to Merida in January, so I'm also looking forward to your observations. Don't stop now!
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Jul 10th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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Following along too, Tom. Haven't been to the areas you're describing either.
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Jul 13th, 2015, 05:50 AM
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Looking forward to your Merida report. We were there in January for a week and are planning to return for two weeks January 16.

Ginger
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Jul 13th, 2015, 06:06 AM
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I will try to add more later today.
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Jul 13th, 2015, 09:41 AM
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On the road to Merida:

We left Cancun mid morning to drive to Merida with a planned stop at Chichen Itza. Our amigo was in a hurry to get on the road, so we skipped our included, delicious buffet breakfast at the Marriott and proceeded on our way. After driving for an hour, we were getting hungry so we stopped at a roadside "restaurant" (I use that term very loosely here). It was an open air place with a guy behind a case that included various pre-made food options from eggs to meats to empenadas and various other fried foods. Let's just say it didn't look particularly appetizing, especially with him behind the case swatting away the hordes of flies with a spatula. We left it to our friend to order and crossed our fingers. It wasn't good but we were thankful we didn't get sick. Back in the car and sometime later we arrived at Chichen Itza. It's a pretty impressive site, with the main pyramid and a number of surrounding ruins of other buildings. It's amazing that people were able to build these stone structures without modern machinery. The site was a little different than I imagined because there is row after row of stands with people selling stuff. Not sure why I didn't anticipate that but for some reason, I was picturing it as more of a serene place. Not that it mattered. The place was still very impressive. We walked around for about an hour and a half, until we just couldn't do it anymore. It is HOT out there and we were basically dripping sweat.

So, after buying a couple of souvenirs and a couple of large bottles of water, we got back in the cool, air-conditioned car and proceeded to Merida. By the way, the drive from Cancun to Merida is really easy. You are on one main road the entire time and for most of the drive, it's two lanes headed in one direction with a big median in between the two lanes going the other direction.


Merida Day One.

Our friend dropped us off at the Hyatt Regency Merida and went back home to shower and rest. We chose the Hyatt on his recommendation (he actually recommended either the Fiesta Americana, the Hyatt, or The Conquistador). For $90/night, we had a decent room (it was a little sparsely furnished but clean and comfortable) and continental breakfast buffet daily. The hotel is in a good location - right next to the Paseo De Montejo, which is a main boulevard in Merida. Very picturesque with many trees lining the boulevard and beautifully restored colonial buildings. We checked into the hotel, we were feeling a little hungry so we ventured out for a bite to hold us over until dinner. We ended up strolling down the Paseo De Montejo and stopping at a Starbucks for a coffee and a ham and cheese panini (I know I know - but we were hungry and just wanted something quick.). After strolling a little more, we went back to the hotel to shower and rest awhile.

Our friend picked us up at around 8:00 that night for dinner at Slavia Bistro Bar. Very cool restaurant. We loved the ambience of it. A little on the dark side, very eclectic. One side is a restaurant, the other is a hookah lounge. Food was quite good too. We tried the pechuga de pollo (which was rolled and stuffed), the salmon and the tuna. All entrees were well prepared. Service was good also. After dinner we moved to the hookah lounge where we had some after dinner drinks. We called it a night around 11:30. Here are some pics of the restaurant (these are not my pics). https://www.google.com/search?q=slav...p7r6gU3G5L4%3D
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Jul 13th, 2015, 01:08 PM
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Thanks for posting this, Tom42. I was thinking you were a little scarce in the last week. Glad it was a good trip.
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Jul 13th, 2015, 01:26 PM
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How much of Chichen Itza did you feel like you covered in an hour and a half? I guess in my head I imagined it to be close to the size of Teotihuacan, and that took us about four and a half hours. I understand the humidity may have been a factor too.
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Jul 13th, 2015, 04:45 PM
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reading with interest, tom42. thanks for taking the time with a detailed report for us.
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Jul 14th, 2015, 08:28 AM
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hey bitter and suze. nice to run into you outside the lounge. ; )

tripplanner001 - I am not sure how much of Chichen Itza we covered in an hour and a half. But enough for me. I am really not one to spend all day looking at a site. I felt I got to experience it sufficiently for me. There were other paths and areas we could have explored so you could probably spend another couple of hours if you wanted. If so, make sure you have lots of water.
tom42 is online now  
Jul 14th, 2015, 09:29 AM
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Sometimes they let me out!
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Jul 14th, 2015, 09:44 AM
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Merida Day Two:

Our friend met us at our hotel in the morning and had breakfast with us. After a really good continental breakfast (the cheese puffs were addicting), we headed to the Plaza Grande )(Independence Plaza) in downtown Merida. One one end of the Plaza is the Merida Cathedral and at the other end is the Governor's Palace. We started at the Governor's Palace, which was pretty cool. It has several different open air-type levels, each with huge murals covering all of the walls depicting the history of the Mayan people. The artist's name is Pachecho. It was helpful that each mural had an accompanying description both in Spanish and English. These murals were really amazing.

From the Governor's Palace, we went into a number of indoor, air conditioned small museums each with different themes. They were all free and small and air conditioned - which was a nice respite from all the outdoor walking. We crossed over the Plaza to the Cathedral, which I've been told is one of the oldest cathedrals in all of the Americas. It was built in the 1500s on the site of Mayan ruins. Impressive and solemn as most cathedrals are and a little different in that the interior is fairly plain as far as cathedrals go, with the exception of a huge cross with Jesus over the altar.

After that, we did a little people watching in the Plaza and strolled through some side streets. After spending several hours downtown and again working up quite a sweat, our friend who was showing us around said to us - in Merida, there are poor people and there are wealthy people. The poor people are downtown. And the wealthy people are in the malls outside downtown. So we got in his car and drove to a mall, a quite nice mall. I wouldn't normally go to a mall when on vacation but it was an interesting juxtaposition. We got something to eat at the mall, then drive back towards the hotel - he showed us some of the neighborhoods of Merida, pointed out some other things, then dropped us off for some rest and relaxation before going out to dinner later that evening. We were going to take a quick dip in the hotel pool but it was closed due to a private event. So we took a cool shower and a nice nap.

Later that night, we went back down to downtown Merida to experience it in the evening. It was pretty bustling - lots of people, food vendors, people selling things. We went out to dinner - can't remember the name of the place but it was good.
tom42 is online now  
Jul 14th, 2015, 09:45 AM
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aw heck tom42, I do get out, even for real now & then
in fact just last week confirmed my apartment rental & bought a plane ticket to Puerto Vallarta (for Nov).
suze is online now  
Jul 14th, 2015, 10:00 AM
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Puerto Vallarta again? Why don't you try somewhere new? lol. just kidding. You must be excited.
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Jul 14th, 2015, 02:15 PM
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Thanks for the feedback, Tom. Continuing to follow along with you.
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Jul 15th, 2015, 08:33 AM
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Merida Day 3:

Slept in a bit, went down for breakfast at the hotel (more cheese balls). Then our friend picked us up and we drove to Progreso, which is a small beach town about 30 minutes from Merida. It has a nice long malecon, with some shops and restaurants. We chose one of the beachfront restaurants (can't remember if it was Pelicanos or Flamingos - we were looking at both and decided on one). Sitting under a palapa on the sand with a cold Modelo and warm ocean breezes, life is good. We ordered some lunch - fried camarones, fish soup and broiled fish. It was good. Progreso is a fun little town. Not the prettiest beach I've ever seen - there is a very long pier that extends out from the end of the beach area (think it's the longest pier in Mexico). But it was nice to stroll along the malecon, checking out the vendors and taking in the ocean. It was a nice respite from the heat of Merida.

We drove back to Merida late afternoon. Went back to the hotel for a quick shower. Our friend was picking us up at six to meet some of his friends at a local bar. We were told that in the last several years, a dive bar trend started in Merida. A bunch of bars opened up in old buildings - typically a cramped inside part and then an open courtyard in the back if you want to sit outside. Small, cramped and packed. We ordered buckets of Tecate and some appetizers - simple flour tortillas with melted cheese, chicken morsels, and some type of Lebanese inspired wheat ball. (A side note, there is a surprising Lebanese influence in Merida.). Food was good but it was more about drinking some beers and having some good conversation with new friends. We sat outside, which was marginally cooler than the inside (which, of course, is not air conditioned) - it was the Merida version of happy hour as the bar closed at 10:00. We stayed until about 9:30. Lots of fun. We then went out to another bar with a stop at the hotel for a shower (we sweated our way through Merida). This was our late night. Got back to the hotel at around 2:00 am, after too many beers.
tom42 is online now  
Jul 15th, 2015, 09:02 AM
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Your dive bar sounds something like the "ruin" bars in Budapest that were all the rage when I was last there. The most famous was down the street from my friends' place and felt like something out of an Anne Rice novel, quite fun.
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Jul 15th, 2015, 10:26 AM
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MmePerdu - this is the bar. It's called La Negrita. Apparently it's been around for 100 years. It was a lot of fun.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/la-negrita-cantina-m%C3%A9rida
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