Campeche: Day 1 (Sunday)

(Post 225 of 263)

After 33 long months, I’m back out into the world seeing new sights! I even managed to take some time off for a proper vacation. Being pretty burnt (and financially tapped) out from another year of renos, then adding in that the pandemic is still raging outside of Yucatan, I decided I didn’t want to go to far or commit to too much. A quick jaunt two and half hours to the city of Campeche fit the bill.

Saturday, my house and cat sitter arrived so that I could leave without too much worry. Sunday, I took the 10:30 bus out of town.

Yes, I took for only three full days away about as much as I brought to Europe for 9 months.

Some time with Alma before I left. Notice the paw pressed into my thigh.

I found snacks for the trip and conquered the bathroom turnstile contraption, so the trip was off to a good start.

Goodbye, Merida!

I’d already done this route last year as far as Pomuch, so I was eager to get into new territory!

Debating confusing everyone and going to China instead!

Ominous storm clouds rolled in as we approached Campeche.

We arrived in Campeche at about 1PM. It took a moment, but I finally got a cab to take me to my hotel in the centro historico.

I’m not going to get into a lot detail about the history of Campeche — there’s plenty of resources out there — but the city was founded by the Spaniards in 1540 and the amount of original colonial Spaniard walls and fortifications remaining in the city have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What is now the historic centre was fortified against pirates, with Spaniards living inside the walls and the natives outside in what are today the barrios of Guadalupe (whose church is 500 years old), San Francisco, and San Roman.

First glimpse of the fortifications, similar to those of Quebec City.

I checked into my hotel. I got a really good deal through, all those bookings from Europe still counting for something. The room is small and not much to look at, but it is clean and quiet, the bed is comfy by Mexican standards, and the shower water pressure is positively luxurious. At only $4,000 for four nights in a prime location, it’s a veritable bargain.

My room does not have windows to the street (intentional — I sleep better in interior rooms), so I did not realize that it had started to rain while I was unpacking. The streets were flooded and it was a nightmare to get around as the high narrow sidewalks were crowded and there were no bridges across the flooded streets.

I eventually made it into a drier area and started to wander. I just wanted food at this point, but couldn’t help but marvel that Campeche looks a lot like my first home in Mexico, Mazatlan. I immediately felt comfortable here.

I eventually made it to the main square where I spotted a tour agency. I figured I’d get food and then come back to ask about tours to local ruins. Well, luck would have it that a gal from the agency intercepted me as I crossed the park. We ended up gabbing for what must have been a full hour and I booked a tour for Tuesday all day. She also told me where to go for lunch, so my next stop was Santos Taquitos y otros milagritos (holy tacos and other little miracles, LOL!). OMG, this place was well named.

I started by ordering a horachata that was perfectly seasoned and not too sweet.

The highlight of the menu is 3 tacos for $130, each presenting an iconic dish of the area, all served on handmade tortillas. I ordered (top down):

1) Camarones al pastor — al pastor-style shrimp cooked just like the pork version with achiote

2) Camarones al coco — coconut shrimp with strawberry sauce (!)

3) Cochinita pibil, Campeche style, a pork dish I frequently eat in Merida. I was told that it would be different here, but I didn’t see a difference, other than not being excessively greasy.

They were so good I had to order another round! I switched to this dark beer that had chocolate in it! I’ve had several beers with espresso but never chocolate. I was amused that this brewery is about 10 minutes from my house in Merida!

Round two were, from left to right:

1) Shrimp ceviche (shrimp ‘cooked’ in lime juice)
2) Fried fish
3) Pan de cazon, which is a Yucatan staple that originated in Campeche. Cazon is dogfish, a type of shark. This was the only taco I wasn’t crazy about as it was a bit too fishy for my tastes. But at least I could say I finally tried this iconic dish!

All the flavour of Campeche in one taco, indeed!

I then wandered down to the malecon and an interesting park across from it, but was worried about the rain so I meandered my way back to my hotel.

The tour operator sent me information on evening shows, so I went back out after a nap to see if I could get a ticket for one of the shows. I discovered the hotel is around the corner from a wonderful pedestrian street full of restaurants and bars.

Despite it drizzling the show went on as scheduled. It was a light and sound extravaganza about the history of Campeche. Absolutely stunning. We started off having to climb up to the top of the fortification (up a steep drive and then down narrow steps) and were surprised by pirates along the way. Then, we went into one of the gated areas to watch what was essentially a pantomime. The story of Campeche played out over a loudspeaker with excellent sound quality — I could understand everything but for a few words I’d never heard before. The production values were stunning, including firing guns and scaring all the guests!

Heading back to a hotel, I popped into a quiet bar playing my kind of music (‘80s and ‘90s rock). The beer selection was disappointing, but a Victoria still hit the spot.

I ambled to the end of the pedestrian street and caught some Christmas sights at a market.

It was a very good first day in Campeche and I looked forward to getting properly orientated Monday morning.