Exploring Mérida’s Paseo de Montejo and Centro Histórico

Today was another getting the lay of the land kind of day, trying to get a feel for the location of Centro Histórico to further narrow down where I might want to live. Calle 35 is a bit too north, but not bad. I think I’d like to be between 41 and 59, though.

First order of the day was to pop in at the Oxxo a few blocks away to add some pesos to my account since I ran out last night. The internet in the apartment is a bit unreliable, so I added $200 and then bought the $169 “Alto7” plan that gives me 1GB of data with a week to use it up. That’s cheaper than paying the per MB rate, which is what I’ve been doing for a while since I’ve only been using my phone when out and about in Maz and, for some reason, sites like Facebook are free to use. I couldn’t phone or send a text from my phone last night, but I could still post to Facebook. Too funny! My $200 purchase netted me $200 in “salda regalo”  (gift balance)! So that will cover me for calls, texting, and casual data use for several months!

I walked up the Paseo de Montejo from the Oxxo and discovered that one lane is closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays!

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There were a lot of folks on bicycles.

I strolled for a bit, wanting to find the Paseo de Montejo information kiosk. It was marked as being at the intersection of 33A and Paseo de Montejo, but this intersection was not on Google Maps. I walked up the Paseo de Montejo to the intersection where I turned onto it yesterday and saw the kiosk kitty corner from Walmart. Say Walmart is the NE corner, the tiny information kiosk is on the SW corner.

I went in and got a map as well as the free tourist guide book. I had a nice chat with the couple running the kiosk. They were pleased that I’m planning to move to Mérida and thrilled that I am avoiding the expat Santiago neighbourhood at all cost so that I can get a more authentic Mérida experience. They think that I picked the right neighbourhood (Paseo de Montejo) and strongly urged me to go check out Santiago and Santa Ana for my peace of mind that I did my research and got it right. We also talked about the weather and they said that if I can handle the weather this week, I could make it through the hottest part of summer as long as I have AC and a pool. I have been thinking of looking for a house with a pool… 🙂 But seriously, I think that too much fuss is made about the heat. People come to Canada to live in areas that frequently hit 40 below or colder and nothing is really thought of that other than to buck up. The culture here is used to the heat and there is siesta. I will be fine. I’m more not looking forward to the rainy season.

From the kiosk, I turned around to go back the way I come to go down to the area of the Zocalo, or Mérida’s main square, where I could catch a free traditional dance show at 1PM.

The Paseo de Montejo is known for its grand houses:

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This one’s for rent. I wonder how much!

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These are “las sillas de confidentes” and are featured on the cover of the tourist guide.

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This one’s bound to be cheap, right?

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This is the museum of archaeology. I’ll be visiting it for sure!

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So beautiful. Remembers me of some of the architecture in Southern U.S. cities.

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This tricycle looks like a lot of work.

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Roads were blocked for bikes all the way to the Zocalo.

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This is a smaller plaza. There were lots of vendors selling jewelry and traditional clothing.

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Now, we’re at the Zocalo. See that green umbrella on the left? Little did I know I would be sitting under it some time later!

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Basilica.

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Entering the Zocalo. Lots more vendors.

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Pretty building off the Zocalo.

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I wouldn’t mind living above shops…

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Very useful discovery!

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Artisan market, but it was mostly shut tight.

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This part of Centro is a lot more like Maz, only the drivers aren’t insane.

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Another artisan market, with some vendors open. I had a look at the clothes and am glad I can recognise what things are worth now. Some things (like my dressing gown) are made of very thin fabric with seams that fray on the understand because they are not overlocked. Other things (like my traditional dresses) are made of thicker fabric and better finished. I don’t mind my lesser quality items because I paid a fair price for them. I didn’t like the prices here at all.

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I then went into the central market. It was huge. Some parts were really pleasant to shop through, but the bulk of it, especially where the veggies are sold, was very grotty and was over due for a power washing. I actually don’t know if I could see myself buying produce there!

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Speaking of produce, I’ve never seen a stem on a pineapple!

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I made my way back to the Zocalo. I was ready for lunch and when I spotted a place with shade and beer, that was good enough for me!

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I ordered a traditional Yucatán dish called poc chuc. There was no description on the menu, so talk about taking a leap of faith! It wound up being pork marinated in sour orange. The meat was very gristly and I had to work hard to get good bits of it, but what there was was very tasty, especially dipped in that non-spicy red sauce on the plate (to which I added the spicy sauce you can see in the above picture). I loved the grilled onions and black beans, as well as the slightly charred tortillas to mop up my plate. Lunch was only $140 with the tip and I also got some advice from my server to take an organised tour out of town instead of renting a car…

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By the time I’d picked up a lime sorbet thingamabob in a cone from a cart, toured all the vendors in the Zocalo, and found a place to stand for the dance show, it was 12:40. I was disappointed it had been standing room only by the time I’d arrived back a the square at 11:30  since I was pretty fatigued, even with having sat for lunch.

The show was very entertaining, but having to stand for most of it and move around to stay out of the sun and get different views means I didn’t get to really absorb it as much as I would have liked.

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The dancers wore traditional costumes. I love those white dresses with the bright embroidery. Women here wear them all the time! I’ve seen coloured dresses with the same embroidery and which I find tempting, but the cut is not fitted and so wouldn’t suit me well. They are so pretty, though!

There were a lot of different dance numbers. There is a video after the pictures with highlights of my favourite bits.

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See the yellow flowers in the hair of the dancer closest to me? All the ladies had a different main colour to the embroidered part of their dresses and matching flowers in their hair, as well as, for some numbers, a shawl.

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The music was live, and very loud!

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Here they are with their shawls. That’s my kind of outfit. 🙂

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This was a Maypole-type dance number, where they wove the ribbons.

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Here they are building a “palapa” (their word). I really appreciated all the times the announcer said, “¡Lista cameras!” (ready your cameras)!

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I’m really glad I stayed till the end because of this amazing number, where they danced balancing trays of glasses on their heads. That’s in the video!

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There was another info kiosk right by the Zocalo, so I popped in to ask about tours. I was given a brochure in English, but got all the information in Spanish, same as at the Paseo de Montejo kiosk. The man understood my desire to do something close by (I’m saving Chichen Itzá for when I move here!) and proposed what sounded like the perfect tour. It’s well reviewed, so I contacted them to see if they can fit me in this week…

I then schlepped home, tempted as I was to get in a cab, and popped into a a shop to get three cold Tecate Light beers, which were only $32.50, or just under $11 each. I get four for $52 on Isla, or $13 each. I was surprised since beer at a restaurant is so pricy here compared to Maz.

I hadn’t planned to go out again today, but now I’m hungry and trying to decide which will take less energy, walking to a restaurant or making my own dinner. 🙂

It was a very good day for getting myself grounded in this part of Mérida. Now, I’m ready to play tourist!

15 thoughts on “Exploring Mérida’s Paseo de Montejo and Centro Histórico

  1. I am wondering if an apartment above a store might be cheaper. Norma and I lived above a dry cleaner in Vancouver. It was great. Maybe you could find one above a beer/grocery store! 🙂

    • I’m keeping my options open. From what I’ve seen in classified ads, rents in Mérida can be very reasonable. I am going to be picky. 🙂

    • The heart of Centro around their Mercado was more like Maz, quite run down and dirty. The Mercado wasn’t very appealing, either. Don’t know if you’ve been around Playa Sur at all, but where I am has that same level of cleanliness and peacefulness. The biggest difference with Maz is that people respect the driving rules here!

      • I was surprised that you found the mercado gritty, worse than Maz?

        Compared to the drivers in Acapulco the ones here are really great 🙂

        • I’ve been to three central markets so far, Maz, Durango, and Mérida. Maz’s is the best of the three, so much cleaner and better organised. The one in Durango was a dark warren of stalls and the one in Mérida alternates between nice clean parts like the Mercado in Maz and some really dingy areas.

          Compared to the drivers in Durango and Mérida, Maz drivers are LOCO! 😀

  2. It looks to me like you have found the perfect sequence of events to explore any area. I love that you are feeling confidant already.

    • I don’t know if it’s confidence so much as my not being new to this country anymore and having lived here more like a local than a tourist. So I already know a lot of the basics. But I have yet to do anything really challenging, like negotiate a legally-binding rental contract, open up accounts with the utilities, go to the emergency room, etc. That is going to be pretty scary!

  3. It’s always nice going along with you site seeing. You always find neat places & things to do & not to mention the food.
    Looking forward to more 😀
    Enjoy

  4. Chichen Itza is best seen early as there are so many hundreds of venders there it’s like running the gauntlet! Uxmal is magnificent too, we visited this week and although we were here early there were no venders and at most there may have been sixty people at most by the time we were leaving.
    There are free shows everywhere in Merida. Yes, they close many of the streets on Sunday and whole family’s are out on bicycles which is wonderful to see! It is great to see so many locals enjoying the shows, grandparents, parents and grandchildren all together. I must say I really enjoy walking around Merida and the people are so friendly and helpful when you get lost. Like you I have been taking a lot of photos. I may have a look at some houses this week before we leave for home on Friday just to get an idea of the difference between a web version and the real thing!

    • I’m not too keen on going to Chicken Itza. It’ll be something I do when I live here and can go in the off season. As for Uxmal, I will have a lot to say later, hint, hint.

      I’m tempted to start house hunting, but I don’t want to waste anyone’s time since I’m nowhere near ready to sign a contract!

  5. Pingback: I’m Not Moving to Progreso |

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