Second Full Day in Yucatan

Stephen F. Dennstedt

This is my second full day in Yucatan with my son Shawn. The flight down always tires me out even though it’s only about six hours from San Diego to Merida via Houston. We were picked up at the airport at 8 p.m. by a special lady friend and then deposited at our hotel about an hour later (after an extensive tour of her area of town—Norte).

The equivalent of a stateside freeway circles the city of Merida and it’s called a periférico. Theoretically it allows you to bypass the inner-city traffic and gets you to your destination faster and with less hassle—I’m not totally convinced that’s true but it gave Shawn a chance to see another part of town other than old Merida (Centro Historico). If my friend is reading this she knows (I hope) that I’m teasing her.

Our first evening the three of us had a simple late (by American standards) dinner at a little outdoor cafe called the Impala. It’s within a very short walking distance of our simple local hotel—Hotel Santa Ana (about $18 usd pp per night). We had sandwiches and beer (Dos Equis Amber to loosen the travel kinks). I must admit that we were both in bed by 10:30 p.m. and sound asleep at 10:35 p.m. We skipped breakfast the next day and slept in (travelling can knock the stuff’n outta ya).

We did head out to explore Avenida Paseo de Montejo (Merida’s prettiest tree-lined avenue) in the early afternoon (the hottest time of day this time of year—88F with 76% humidity = Heat Index of 104F). San Diego can get mighty hot during the summer months but (cliché as it is) it’s a dry heat. Humidity can completely enervate you in short order and it takes some getting used to. When I was in Vietnam during the war (1967 – 1968) and ambient temperatures reached over 100F with high humidity the Heat Index could easily soar to 120F to 130F (the same is true in Yucatan).

Sunset arrives at about 8 p.m. in Merida this time of year, so we headed out to explore Centro Historico during the cooler evening hours. We had eaten lunch at 1 p.m. at a restaurant (Manjar Blanco) that serves the best Queso Relleno Negro in all of Merida (in my humble opinion) and as the hours wore on Shawn was getting hungry again—he’s a really BIG guy at 6’4″ so you have to keep the big machine well fuelled. The evening was cooler, the humidity had dropped a bit, and there was a soft balmy breeze blowing. Shawn started packing away the calories but I was content with a small bowl of Sopa de Lima.

After dinner we strolled through the historical district visiting Parque Santa Lucia, the large cathedral in the heart of Merida and the main plaza across from the cathedral. This morning we met an old friend for breakfast (Mexican style—meaning it lasted over two hours) at Rosa’s on Avenida Paseo de Montejo. Jose, or “Pipo” to his friends, owns three newspapers in Mexico, one of which is The Yucatan Times which Joel and I worked for when we lived in Merida. He is a good friend and we’ve come to love him and his family. Later this evening Shawn and I will once again venture forth for dinner (possibly Tortas de Pavo y Tacos de Cochinita y Cerveza at the local mercado—about $5 usd pp).

I was recently asked if Shawn and I travel well together—the simple answer is yes we do. When he was a kid we used to backpack our local mountains and deserts together, and when he got older we went on a long road trip after he graduated from Marine Corps boot camp. More recently we spent about three weeks travelling through Vietnam in 2004. It was my first trip back since the war and we visited former battle sites, villages and bases—it was a very emotional and cathartic experience and I was glad that I could share it with my son (Joel and I spent almost a month in Vietnam in 2008). Hopefully, he will be joining Joel and I in about a year as we continue our world trek.

As we continue our stay in Merida I plan to introduce Shawn to the Cenotes at Cuzama, the Maya Ruins in the Ruta Puuc district and we will be visiting the small coastal fishing village of Celestun for four days and three nights. My good friend James Callaghan, the Director of the Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve, has also invited us down to his reserve this coming Monday (it is also the home of Puuc Jaguar Conservation). This is a private scientific research center (open by invitation only) so it will be a real privilege to show my son around (I used to do some photographic work for Kaxil Kiuic and Puuc Jaguar when I lived in Merida). Shawn will get to experience the real Yucatan.

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