Sunday, 23 February 2014

Plaza Carnaval – a work in progress

XMATKUIL, YUCATAN.  Merida’s “Carnaval 2014” begins on Wednesday, and the first parade at the new location (the Xmatkuil fairgrounds, south of the city) will take place on Friday. Work is in progress at ‘Plaza Carnaval’, however as of today, much still remains to be done to create the different ‘zones’ which the city is promising will ‘revolutionize’ the experience.

At the main entranceway to the parking area, some of the ‘gradas’ (seating stands) are already in place.

Outside the fairgrounds on Calle 50, some barriers have been placed, and some minor tree cutting has taken place.

Inside, the former ‘Playa Sol’, well known to fair-goers, is in the process of being converted to ‘Guitarra Loca’, which will be a feature of the ‘Área Juvenil’ (teen area).

This zone will also feature a skateboarding area.

Except for the addition of some statues of comic book characters, the rest of the fairground still looks remarkably similar to its normal state when the ‘Feria Yucatán’ is taking place.


All photos courtesy AZ Publicidad (

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Random Musings

MERIDA, YUCATAN.  Recently, I’ve been wondering. I’ve been wondering about the cost of the ‘1er Informe’ (1st yearly state government report), which was featured in TYT last month here: Specifically, the cost of the ‘advertising’ (i.e. propaganda) plastered on every available billboard, bus, bus shelter, taxi, etc., plus constant spots on the radio, TV and in print media.  For a couple of weeks before the ‘Informe’ you couldn’t go 50 meters without being assaulted by another billboard ‘informing’ you of the miracles the state government has performed in its first year. Then of course, there was the event itself, which featured entertainment and other diversions for the adoring crowd. How much, exactly did this cost? Was it, in the government’s opinion, a good use of funds?
While thinking about the state government and its ‘achievements’, I also wondered why, when Yucatán is already the safest state in the country, the government felt it necessary to hire hundreds of new police patrols? What, exactly, will they be used for?

While thinking about the new police, I wondered why we currently have vehicular ‘retenes’ (checkpoints) all around the city, manned by the state police, most of whom can be found either sitting in their cars, sitting under nearby trees for shade, or standing around playing with their mobile phones, rather than paying any attention to the passing vehicles? Will the new patrol officers be performing this same valuable function?

Keen to obtain answers to these questions, I contacted Governor Rolando Zapata’s press office, and sent them over. More than two weeks later, I am yet to receive a response, and I am not holding my breath for one.

As one of the other political parties is currently ‘advertising’ on billboards around town “Yucatán escuchará el informe, pero tambien preguntará” (Yucatan will hear the report, but will also ask). Good luck with asking.

* * *

Have you been to Sisal to see the new face of the town, as reported in TYT here: On a recent Sunday afternoon, we took a trip over there. It is indeed, lovely. Unfortunately, while the town looks beautiful, the same poor standards of service prevail at its restaurants and eateries. We intended to have lunch at ‘El Muelle de Sisal’, generally considered to be the best place in town. We arrived, and took a seat at one of the few vacant tables. There were still dirty items on the table from the previous guests, along with the leather folder containing the tip for the server. We waited. And waited. Several servers passed us, none acknowledged us or endeavored to serve us, or indeed clear the detritus from the table. After 15 minutes, we stood up and left. Apparently, no one cared.

Next stop was the restaurant right at the base of the pier, in a previous incarnation known as ‘Corsarios’, however without any current identifying name painted on the outside. It was busy, with most tables occupied. While wondering where to sit, we spoke with some customers already in the restaurant. They told us they had been seated for 45 minutes, and apart from their drinks, had yet to receive anything else they had ordered. This did not sound auspicious, so on we moved.

Hoping for third time lucky, we stepped inside ‘Restaurant Juanita’, a block from the base of the pier. Tables were available, and we were greeted relatively fast, although the waiter gave the impression he really didn’t care if we were there or not. The food was good (especially delicious was the fried fish in garlic sauce), the ‘botanas’ generous, the beer cold, and the prices reasonable; service speed declined however as the restaurant got busier.

Overall, I would recommend a visit to Sisal to see the newly painted buildings, and the beach of course is still beautiful. You might want to take a picnic with you though.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Hacienda Dzibikak – The most romantic hacienda in Yucatán.

Mérida and the state of Yucatán offer many venues for weddings and events, and indeed, many haciendas. Hacienda Dzibikak however, with its superb reconstruction and stunning panoramas is a truly special ‘hidden gem’, located 20 minutes driving distance from Merida, just outside Umán.   

Richard Nichols, was born in England to a Mexican mother and British father, and consequently was a frequent visitor to Mexico, along with his wife Lena, however always to Mexico City, where his mother’s family lived. They found that they didn’t enjoy the weather in the capital, and, during one visit, decided to come to Mérida, where they stayed at Hacienda Xcanatun, their first taste of hacienda life. Suddenly, an idea started to form in their minds.

Realizing that for the price of their small apartment in London, they could be the owners of a hacienda in Yucatán, Richard and Lena started investigating the possibilities, and in 2005, took the plunge with the purchase of Hacienda Dzibikak; at the time, an overgrown ruin. The development and reconstruction of the hacienda took 6 years, the first 4 years remotely from the UK, and the final 2 years on site in Mérida. It was, as Richard tells it, a nightmare, well beyond anything he could possibly have imagined at the start. Having seen the ‘before’ pictures, I fully understand the extent of the work that was done, and can only congratulate Richard and Lena on seeing it through to its conclusion.

While Richard and Lena had the vision of owning a hacienda, they were not so sure what they were going to do with it once it was reconstructed, and the arrival of the first wedding inquiry came out of the blue, when a passing ‘father of the bride’ knocked on the door one day. Four years later, the business has grown steadily, and in the years to come, this side of the business will doubtless continue to increase.

A big part of the appeal of holding a wedding in Mérida is the safety and security offered by the location, and this is proving a major attraction for couples from other parts of the Mexican republic, particularly the northern cities, where large family gatherings can be considered unwise. Destination weddings increase in popularity all the time, and the Mérida area is riding the wave started by Cancun.

The hacienda charges between $20,000 and $35,000 pesos (US$1550 – US$2700 at current exchange rates) for the venue for a wedding, accommodating up to 1200 guests for 8 hours. The average attendance at weddings to date is in the region of 350 – 400 guests. The big appeal of holding a wedding at Hacienda Dzibikak is the ‘homelike’ atmosphere, with attendees free to roam throughout most of the property. The rate includes overnight accommodation in a deluxe suite for the bride and groom.

In addition to weddings, the hacienda is popular for photo sessions, often catering to wedding couples who are looking for a spectacular location for their photos, even if they are holding their reception elsewhere. Other clients include ‘quinceañeras’ as well as corporate photo shoots, an area which they are particularly keen to see developed further.  Corporate events have been held at the hacienda, and a ballet with 300 attendees was a recent success.

While continuing to develop the wedding and corporate business areas, a future focus will be the rental of the entire hacienda, for family getaways or incentive events. Available for a minimum duration of 3 or 4 days, the hacienda can accommodate 12 people, with staff to cater to their every need, and will cost from US$15,000 per week off peak and US$25,000 per weak in peak season. Richard is currently working on a website featuring hacienda rentals, which in addition to Hacienda Dzibikak, is planned to showcase other haciendas in the area, providing a one stop shopping site for anyone in the market for a hacienda rental.  

A range of hacienda style furniture is also being developed, and Richard and Lena employ a fulltime carpenter on this project. Various items are on display at the hacienda, and can be ordered, to enjoy the ‘hacienda at home’ experience.

A major event in the hacienda’s calendar is the Mérida Music Festival; a partnership between Richard, musician Colin Gow, Sean Hennessy (owner of Hennessy’s Irish Pub), and Jürgen Eggers (owner of La Bierhaus); the third edition of which will be held this year on March 29. Six hours of live music will start at 2pm, and during the course of the afternoon and evening will feature Los Lásgori, Golden Years, Flus Boox, Eduardo Rodriguez (performing a Santana tribute) and CopyPaste (featuring Maydel García). Presale tickets are $225 pesos at Hennessy’s on Paseo de Montejo, and La Bierhaus – Colonia Mexico. Learn more at

If you are planning a wedding, corporate or incentive event, or fancy taking over a hacienda for a few days for an unforgettable family reunion, why not consider Hacienda Dzibikak? Richard, Lena and their team stand ready to assist you with whatever you need. For more information, visit or on Facebook

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Chichi Suárez Bridge fully finished and looking great!

MERIDA, YUCATAN – Have you passed along the east side of the periferico recently? The new bridge at the Chichi Suárez intersection opened to traffic a few weeks ago; however is now fully open, with the glorieta under the bridge also in use, and beautifully landscaped. It’s a great example of the high quality construction that exists in Mexico, and proof of federal funds being put to good use. The stop light that used to be at this intersection was a major source of annoyance to drivers; the new bridge has made access to Chichi Suárez considerably easier, and avoids the need for drivers on the periferico to even reduce speed, let alone stop at a red light while passing through.

Thanks to AZ Publicidad ( for the photos.

Monday, 10 February 2014

La Perla Tapatía

GUADALAJARA, JALISCO – While Mérida was rocking to the sounds of Maná at the opening of the Coliseo Yucatán (, we were far to the west, in Guadalajara, Mexico’s ‘second city’, famous for mariachis, tequila, and a unique style of cuisine.

Actually, we regretted missing the Maná concert, however had booked the trip to Guadalajara months ago, during one of Interjet’s online sales, and had secured tickets via Mexico City at an extremely good price. It’s not the fastest way between Mérida and Guadalajara (that honor goes to VivaAerobus which flies nonstop in 2 ½ hours, 3 days a week) but, as you will know if you have flown Interjet, it is by far the best airline in Mexico, and the most comfortable, with seat pitch of 34”, several inches more than other airlines.  Even with a transfer in Mexico City, is still a relatively fast way to travel between the capitals of Yucatán and Jalisco.  

Although a huge metropolitan area, Guadalajara is surprisingly manageable for the visitor, with the main areas of interest being concentrated in and to the immediate west of the centro historico. Unlike Mexico City, with its frenetic pace and perpetually stressed population, Guadalajara is much more laid back, and the Tapatíos (as the city’s residents are known) generally relaxed and happy. 

From the airport in Guadalajara, it is a $300 peso taxi ride to the center of the city, not unreasonable given the relatively long distance, and the traffic can be heavy, depending on the time of day.

We chose to stay at the Hotel One Guadalajara Centro Historico, located directly on Plaza de Armas, in the heart of the city. It’s a great location, convenient for exploring the center of the city, and with excellent connections to other parts of the city using the extensive bus network.

First stop for lunch was at Kamilos 333, the best place in town for ‘Carne en su jugo’, a local specialty, which is a type of beef stew, cooked with bacon, beans and a flavorful broth, including cilantro among other ingredients. The better known Karne Garibaldi is right next door, and a fierce rivalry exists locally, however for my money, Kamilos 333 offers the better experience.

Other ‘not to be missed’ culinary delights in the city include the famous ‘Torta Ahogada’ (literally ‘drowned sandwich’) which is a crunchy baguette style pork sandwich, drenched in a tomato based sauce, and Pozole, a pork and corn soup with tomato base.

As one would expect in a city of 6 million, there is a vast selection of eating and drinking establishments, with the centro historico being well supplied. Slightly more upscale is the area centered around Avenida Chapultepec in Colonia Americana, a 30 minute walk west from centro, or a short bus or taxi ride. Wandering around, we came across York Pub, a new addition to the Chapultepec scene, which offered a moderately authentic British pub atmosphere, great service and very reasonable prices.

Tapatíos love football (soccer), and Guadalajara boasts two top teams, Chivas and Atlas, each of which play at their own dedicated stadium. Having previously attended a Chivas game at the new Estadio Omnilife, this time we chose to watch Atlas play at the 54 year old Estadio Jalisco, which we found to be much more atmospheric than the newer and fancier facility used by Chivas. It’s also much easier to access, being only a few kilometers north of the center, on the route of the Macrobus.

An interesting side trip is the city of Zapopan, immediately to the north of Guadalajara, and part of the same metropolitan area. Accessible via the comfortable TUR bus service, for $12 pesos per person, Zapopan is best known for being the home of the Virgin of Zapopan, an image of the Virgin Mary, dating from the 16th century, which has been credited with a number of miracles, and which is to be found at the basilica.

Less famous, but our main reason for visiting, are the seafood restaurants, offering fish and seafood brought fresh daily from the pacific ports. Fresh oysters and patas de mula (a type of black clam) are an excellent choice, and at $70 pesos for a dozen, reasonably priced.

The weather at this time of year could not be better – warm and sunny in the daytime, with highs around 29°c / 85°f, and overnight lows a cool 6°c / 43°f. Rain is virtually unknown during the winter.

If you fancy a big city experience, but can’t face Mexico City, then look further west to Guadalajara – La Perla Tapatía – it may be just what you are looking for.


We travelled with Interjet (, with service from Mérida, via Mexico City. Sign up for their email alerts, and watch out for a sale! If you prefer to fly nonstop, and don’t mind the cattle car style of service, there is a nonstop flight three times a week with VivaAerobus (

We stayed at the Hotel One Guadalajara Centro Historico, part of Mexico’s Grupo Posadas hospitality group. We found it clean, quiet, comfortable and excellently located. A basic breakfast and high speed WIFI are included in all rates. Rooms on the front have a view across Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral.

Kamillos 333 is located at Jose Clemente Orozco 333, in the ‘Santa Tere’ neighborhood. Details on their website: or via Facebook:

York Pub is located at Chapultepec 179, in Colonia Americana. Details on their Facebook page:

For more general tourist information, check Visit Mexico’s website: