City Tour of Mérida and Barrio Itzimná

First on the agenda today was a two-hour city tour of Mérida with Carnavalito City Tours. The cost is $120 per person, plus a tip. The office is on Calle 55 between Calles 60 and 62, right in front of Santa Lucia square. Look for a sign that says Gua Gua (“Wah wah”). I left home around 9:15 and got there at 9:40ish, with departure being at 10:00.

I knew that the buses are open air trolleys, so I didn’t expect to hear much of the tour, and I was right. Our guide gave the tour in both excellent English and Spanish, but we could barely hear him. Between both languages, I think I caught about 25% of what was said. But don’t let that deter you from taking this tour. It takes you through the parts of Mérida around Centro that are of the most interest to tourists and will give you an idea of what to go back to and explore further later. This is my last day in Mérida (!) and I was quite pleased that only one thing on the tour stood out as a must go back to…

We saw a lot of beautiful old buildings. This is a building with Montejo in the name. It’s right off of Plaza Grande and is a museum.


This is a ceiba tree, which was sacred to the Mayans. It is about 150 years old. In Maz, my landmark for routing is the Pemex La Ceiba near the embarcadero. Now, I know what that means!



And then we came to Barrio Itzimná… I found that I really narrowed down this week where I don’t want to live, but I haven’t really nailed down a place where I could see myself living. I really wanted to be in one of the older barrios that is anchored by a square and a self-contained village, much like Juárez in Maz, but the ones nearest to the Plaza Grande are Gringoified. Itzimná is just a bit up from where I’m currently living and I knew I had to go back after the tour because I was pretty sure I could imagine myself living there!


It’s definitely much higher up than I thought I wanted to live, but when that appears to be the only con…


The church made me laugh. Can you see the face?


A culinary institute.


Hardware store. Love the logo.


There were some really lovely houses in this neighbourhood.


This one looks like a castle and is going to be converted to a hotel.




These old gems are so inexpensive to buy, but I have to wonder how much it would cost to repair them…


We continued on, had a break at a mall near the Hyatt hotel, and passed a Saturday farmer’s market. I wish I’d made a note of the corner where the market is!

This park has a cenote.


Another gem for sale.


If I understood the guide correctly, this is the entrance to a zoo.


The bus depot is right downtown.


I liked the colour of this church.


The only place in the world where you can learn the Mayan language. My guide at Mayan Heritage says classes have been fully booked for ages and the soonest he can get in is August.


This church altar is done in gold leaf.



The tour office is just a block from Pita, the Mediterranean restaurant I spotted the other day. Same street! I call that destiny. 🙂 I sat in their sunny courtyard and ordered the falafel pita. As a free starter, I got pita with an herbed butter, a pesto-type thing, and a very spicy red thing. All were tasty.


The falafel was adequate! I would sub the coleslaw for hummus next time, though, since I can’t do the mayo. Their menu says the falafel are made with garbanzos, but their bright green colour betray that they are made with fava beans in the Egyptian style. The salad was wonderful, with some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever had in Mexico. I paired my meal with an ice cold and super sour limonada mineral, probably the best limonada I have ever had.


The bill came in a cute little watering can.


So reasonable! I know I will eat here a lot when I move to Mérida! I wish I’d had time to go try out the Thai place because having both Pad Thai and falafel would clinch the deal on Mérida being perfect for me. 🙂


I headed home for a bit of a rest, then went out to explore Itzimná (home was right on the way, so why not?). I have actually been to the periphery of it, but did not get to its square. I can’t believe all of this was only about 1KM from my place, closer than Plaza Grande!

Here’s that hardware store again:


So pretty!


Coffee shop? Check.


Traffic around the square was very busy!


Here’s the church again. The ropes make it look like it’s crying.



Ice cream parlour next to a bakery, nice!


House for sale.



This no parking sign is awesome. It says, “Palm leaves fall and dent cars.”


A gorgeous fixer-upper.



I passed what I call the “duck house” on the tour and was happy to find it again!



Found my Mérida home! Just needs a little elbow grease. 😉





Or maybe this one?


Coming back out onto the Paseo de Montejo, I spotted a Mega. I’ve passed this intersection a few times but didn’t see it from those vantage points. That would have been useful last Saturday!


Like in Maz, there are a lot of VW Beetles in Mérida. This one had no hood! I have to say that I think I would like to find myself one of these when I move here, just until I can afford what I really want. 🙂


So ends my week in Mérida. I can’t believe how quickly it passed! I feel that I accomplished my goal and that I’ll be able to hit the ground running when I move here. I can also start to look at real estate online to get ideas of prices in the areas that interest me.

Mérida is such a sharp contrast to Mazatlán.

The most appealing part of it is that both the city and the state are safe. Sinaloa is in the midst of a drug war right now and there have been a lot of murders lately, with some in Maz and in the tourist village of El Quelite that I had wanted to visit. There’s none of that here in the Yucatán. I’ve even been told that I could safely drive from Mérida to Uxmal after dark to see the light show, no problem. Wow! I feel like my world in Mazatlán is very small and that I would get claustrophobic very quickly if I chose it as my forever home because I wouldn’t feel safe enough to go exploring in the environs.

Mérida is also more approachable because, like Durango, it has good signage and a strong tourism industry that understands the importance of strategically placed information kiosks, maps, signage, etc.. It took me no time at all to get orientated while it took months for me to be comfortable in Maz, and I still get disorientated. I love that you get actual addresses here, as well as the nearest intersection(s).

Drivers here are more like what you see in most of Canada and the U.S., obeying traffic signals, respecting pedestrians, and not driving like maniacs. I felt safer walking here than I do in Mazatlán.

I’ve always found Mazatlán to be fairly grotty and run down, but I imagine it will appear even worse now that I’ve spent time in a second city that is so well maintained and clean.

I didn’t spend much time on the buses here, but my experiences were less positive than in Maz. I found buses hard to flag down, with locals confirming that it’s not because I’m doing it wrong. Some said that they sometimes need to flag down four or five buses before one will stop!

I also didn’t get much experience with taxis, but I know that I will miss the Mazatlán pulmonías very, very, very much.

I thought that being near the ocean wasn’t important to me, but the realisation that I will not get to have a beer while looking at the ocean hit me hard this week, to my surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever really said how much of a treat it is for me to grab a beer on the Malecón. It is one of my Maz things that I will miss the most and which will be one of my favourite memories. I will also miss horseback riding on the beach!

Yucatán cuisine hasn’t wowed me. This isn’t an agricultural state and so the cuisine is very heavily meat-based. I’m pretty sure my salad today was the only real portion of good veggies I had all week! It’s no wonder I’ve been run down! Sinaloa is an agricultural state and produce is part of the local diet. I loved the meat I had here, but, really, the portions were too enormous and not balanced.

I’ll have spent a wonderful year of my life in Mazatlán and I am grateful for being the welcoming first port it was, but I’m ready for something different. I don’t care how much the locals (and not-so-locals) have warned me about the Mérida heat. Bring it on!

I’m still feeling a little rundown, so I doubt I’ll be going out again today, especially since I have to be out the door at 5:30 tomorrow morning to catch my 8:30 flight! My plan was to walk down 35 to the hotel at the corner of Paseo de Montejo, where there is a taxi stand. But, first, I emailed my host here to ask if he could request me a cab. He said that there is little point in calling as they would say that they’ll be there, but then forget to show up. He said that the taxi stand at the hotel is, in fact, my best bet to quickly get a taxi, even that early. Thankfully, I don’t have much luggage!

Glancing around the apartment, I realise that I’d better start packing! I really made myself at home here. 🙂

15 thoughts on “City Tour of Mérida and Barrio Itzimná

  1. Wow. It seems like you had a busy & full day again. You found out more details of your area & new places to check out.
    You always find neat places. No wait, didn’t I say that yesterday too?
    I hate being on the lower level with someone living above me.
    Hope you sleep better tonight.
    By your schedule, it looks like you should be home early.
    Safe travels.

  2. I think I made up for yesterday, that’s for sure! 🙂 The reason I find new places is that I walk. It’s amazing how little you discover of a city if you only know it from a car.

    This flat is the worst — I have to worry about people below me finding *me* loud and annoying AND about the people upstairs being loud and annoying!

    I’ve actually been sleeping okay here, no worse than on Isla.

    You’re absolutely correct about my schedule! As long as I don’t have any delays, I’ll be landing in Maz at 2:30 local time and should be home by about 3:15, 3:30…

    • I hate leaving, too, but I’m going back to Mazatlán! I think I’d be feeling a lot sadder if I was going back to Canada. 🙂

  3. Looks like Merida te pega! Beautiful city, excellent food and I’d love to fix up an older home. We have several areas like that in Monterrey but my real estate days are over. Time to retire and pull up stakes.

    • That’s an expression I’ve never heard!

      I have to be careful not to fall into the fixer upper trap again! I’d have to get an insane deal to do that.

  4. We too are packing up today. Tomorrow afternoon we head for LA and then on to Vancouver, BC. We will be back next winter and explore more of this beautiful country.

    You had a great week, thanks for sharing your experiences.

  5. I know you’re not really interested in a fixer upper but if you were, could you, as a non-MX citizen purchase a house?

    • Absolutely, yes. It’s a little trickier in areas about 100KM from the ocean, like Maz and Mérida, in that landowners can own buildings, but not the actual land, which is held in a trust for 99 years. But from the folks I’ve spoken to about that, it’s just ‘like’ owning — you can sell for full value, pass it on to children, etc. It’s apparently easier to get a residency permit if you own property. I don’t have a lot of cash available right now, but property prices in Mérida are so super cheap that I am not discounting the idea of buying something that just needs cosmetic work if I can find a way to pay for it. I just don’t want to get into a project where all my money goes to major structural issues. Something that is not great, but still livable, would be an option.

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