Monday, 31 March 2014

“La Esmeralda” – come eat lunch at UVM!

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – Maybe you visited “Chaud Devant”, last semester’s ‘project’ restaurant at the UVM in Mérida? If you missed it, or if you visited and enjoyed it, now is your chance to try “La Esmeralda” – the newest concept by the students of the Glion hotel school. 

During their 4th semester, student teams of four to five people compete for the grand prize; namely to develop their concept into an actual restaurant, which they will run for one month. The winning students are responsible for everything, from developing the concept, to food preparation, service, and managing the restaurant.

The restaurant caters mainly to the campus, however is also open to the public from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm, from now until April 11.

Menu offerings include appetizers of Guacamole ($35 pesos) and crisp mini flautas ($29 pesos) while main dish offerings such as fajitas ($49 pesos), enchiladas with green or red sauce ($38 pesos) or on the lighter side chicken Caesar Salad ($35 pesos) provide a satisfying lunch. If you have a sweet tooth, the brownies ($22 pesos) or excellent queso Napolitano ($25 pesos) may be just the thing. Coffee, juices and sodas run from $13 - $19 pesos.

If you fancy trying this ‘pop-up’ concept, come along and support the friendly students at La Esmeralda; they’ll be happy to practice their English with you, and will greet you with a smile. But don’t delay! The restaurant will close on April 11.

To reach UVM, head north on the highway towards Progreso, and shortly after passing the periferico,  take the Dzitya exit, make a u turn, and head back towards Merida. You will see UVM on the right. Enter through the gates, park, and then walk back to the Glion building, which is right next to the gate. Visit for more information.

2014 Mérida Music Festival a Rocking Success

MERIDA, YUCATAN.  Under partly cloudy skies, on an afternoon as warm and sultry as only Yucatán can be in March, the Mérida Music Festival 2014 took place on Saturday at Hacienda Dzibikak.

Over 600 attendees representing both the expatriate and local communities enjoyed the sounds of five local bands; Los Lásgori, Golden Years, Flus Boox (with well-known lead singer Mauricio Zoreda, who performs in English in a number of locations in the city), Eduardo Rodríguez, and CopyPaste featuring Maydel. Between bands, there were performances by Batucada do Fogo, and saxophonist David Dzib. Food and beverages from a number of local vendors provided much needed refreshment (perhaps not surprisingly, well chilled beers were selling very well), while the hacienda itself offered a spectacular backdrop in its beautiful gardens.

A large dance floor in front of the stage was sparsely used initially, however as the sun set, and dancing without the risk of heat exhaustion became possible, a crowd gathered, and danced through the evening until the final performers concluded.

Large covered seating areas, with waiters from the various food and beverage vendors in attendance provided shade in which to relax and enjoy the music and song, while the benefits of the hacienda infrastructure (real toilets!) were much appreciated by all.

Save the Children was the beneficiary of this year’s event, and their staff were on hand to provide information about their local activities and volunteer opportunities.

As the organizers stated previously, the festival is styled on the European / North American concept of an all-day music festival (rather than a concert), offering a pleasant location to enjoy with friends, good food, and drink, while also appreciating the various different styles of music performed. Richard Nichols, co-owner of the hacienda as well as one of the organizers of the event told me that the organizers are very confident that the event product is right for Mérida, and they were delighted to see increased attendance at this year’s event.

A big attraction of the event is its family friendly atmosphere; while Rock & Roll was on the menu, sex and drugs were definitely not, and from the youngest to the oldest attendee, all found a welcoming and inclusive ambiance.

It’s never too soon to start planning for next year, and in fact the organizing committee will be meeting next week to start advance planning for the 2015 festival. Following the success of the invited foreign singers at the St Patrick’s Day weekend at Hennessy’s recently, the committee is definitely considering the benefits of including foreign bands at next year’s event, which would add an extra attraction for many potential attendees. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

American Society of Travel Agents Destination Expo in Progress in Mérida.

Did you know that Travel and Tourism is now the largest industry in the world, employing 1 out of every 11 people on the planet?

MERIDA, YUCATAN.  The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Destination Expo 2014 has kicked off in Mérida; this flagship event took place in Dubai in 2013, and will be in Marrakech, Morocco in 2015; this year however, it is all about the Yucatán.

Nearly 400 people are participating in the event, including more than 200 active travel agents, and during the four days, in addition to educational seminars and the opportunity to meet one on one with suppliers, the travel agents will also experience the best that Mérida and Yucatán have to offer, including Tequila tastings, local cuisine, a visit to the Mundo Maya museum, and tours to Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, Izamal, Dzibilchaltun, Celestun, Chichen Itza, and Uxmal. Educational seminars available to the agents include ‘Hacienda Splendor’, ‘Destination Weddings in the Yucatán’, ‘Mérida Chic’ and ‘Nature and Adventure’.

This morning, Yucatán Governor Rolando Zapata Bello, Yucatan Secretary of Tourism Saul Ancona, and Mexican Ministry of Tourism Assistant Secretary Carlos Gonzalez joined ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby, ASTA board Chairman John Lovell and the other ASTA members and participants for breakfast and the opening general session of the event, held at the Hyatt Regency ballroom.

In his opening remarks, ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby noted that although the name ASTA implies that participants are all from North America, this is not in fact the case, and he welcomed agents from as far afield as Ghana to the event. I spoke personally with the agent from Ghana, as well as some agents from Serbia, all of whom commented that Mexico and Yucatán are practically unknown destinations for travelers from their countries; however they are excited about returning home and highlighting what they have experienced during their visits to Mérida.

“It is a tremendous honor for us to partner with ASTA and host this immersive learning and networking experience for travel professionals” said Yucatan Secretary of Tourism Saul Ancona. “We look forward to reaping the rewards of having a trained, energized, and motivated cadre of North American travel professionals who will showcase the wonders and value that Yucatán offers.”

Hyatt Regency General Manager Richard Westell noted in his address that his career with Hyatt has taken him to a large number of countries in the last 20 years, however the 6 years he has spent so far in Mérida have been the best of all, and he expressed confidence that the participants will leave with a similar love for the city and state.

ASTA board Chairman John Lovell commented that he has been overwhelmed by the charm and culture of Mérida, while Mexican Ministry of Tourism Assistant Secretary Carlos Gonzalez expressed the commitment of the federal government to the tourism industry in Mexico, which is growing every year, and is one of the government’s most important focusses.

Yucatán Governor Rolando Zapata Bello thanked the participants for coming to Mérida, and noted that by experiencing the city and state in person, they will have a huge advantage over those who have only visited ‘virtually’ on the internet, since they will have had the chance to experience first-hand the sights, sounds, flavors and aromas that the state offers.

Robin Tauck, co-owner of Tauck World Discovery, a company with over 90 years of experience in the travel industry gave a fascinating presentation on the importance of the travel industry around the world; for example, did you know that Travel and Tourism is now the largest industry in existence, employing 1 out of every 11 people on the planet, and accounting for $7 trillion in annual revenue? The industry is also expanding hugely; in 1950, 25 million travelers made cross border journeys around the world; in 2012 it was 1 billion, and in 2030 it is projected to be 1.8 billion. In light of this, she stressed the importance of sustainable tourism, i.e. providing a net benefit in all ways to the areas in which the tourism occurs.

Following the general session, the travel agents participated in educational seminars, and enjoyed a trade show at the Fiesta Americana, featuring 35 suppliers from the region, such as hotel groups, attractions, airlines and tourism boards, as well as a sumptuous lunch buffet, featuring local delights as well as international items.

While talking to various agents, including ASTA board Chairman John Lovell, the point that nearly all of them mentioned was the fact that, prior to this event, Mérida and the Yucatán were pretty much “off the radar” to them, however, having been here and experienced all that the region offers, they will be enthusiastically promoting both the city and the state as cultural destinations to those clients who might otherwise have been looking to ‘old’ Europe for their travel experience; while previously they considered Mexico mainly for its beach destinations (i.e. Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, etc.) they now realize that there is so much more to the country, and they are delighted to be able to broaden the range of Mexican choices they offer their clients.

This lack of awareness can come as somewhat of a surprise to those of us who already know and love Yucatán; however it represents a vast potential market for the region; one which this event will certainly help to stimulate, and which the state is ready to exploit.

At the conclusion of this event, Yucatán will have gained more than 200 enthusiastic ‘ambassadors’ and we can look forward to seeing the benefit in the near future.  The Yucatán Times would like to congratulate the Tourism Boards of Mexico and Yucatán for working together with ASTA to bring this event to Mérida and for raising awareness of the region to this level (remember that last year’s Destination Expo was held in Dubai, so we are in great company.) This can only be good news for the region and its tourism and travel industries.

Friday, 21 March 2014

2014 Merida Music Festival Launches

MERIDA, YUCATAN.  The Merida Music Festival 2014 will take place on Saturday 29th March, and today in a launch event at Hennessy’s Irish Pub, the organizers outlined their plans for the event, and introduced the beneficiary charity – Save the Children.

The festival is styled on the European / North American concept of an all-day music festival (rather than a concert), offering a pleasant location to enjoy with friends, good food, and drink, while also appreciating the various different styles of music which will be performed.

Taking place at Hacienda Dzibikak (on the highway from Umán to Hunucmá at km 5), the festival will open at 1pm, and continue until approximately 8pm. Performance schedule is as follows:

2.00pm – 3.00pm:           Los Lásgori (Mexican Rock)
3.15pm – 4.15pm:           Golden Years (50’s/60’s Rock and Roll)
4.30pm – 5.30pm:           Flus Boox (Rocking R&B)
5.45pm – 6.45pm:           Eduardo Rodríguez (Santana Tribute – Latino Rock, Blues and Jazz)
7.00pm – 8.00pm:           CopyPaste featuring Maydel (Funk, Rock, Blues, Soul)

Between bands there will be performances by Batucada do Fogo, and saxophonist David Dzib.

Food and beverage offerings available for purchase at the festival will cover a wide selection of cuisines, from local vendors Hennessy’s Irish Pub, La Bierhaus, Union Jacks, KOKU Sushi, Le Café de Bruxelles and Pistache Patisserie & Boulangerie.

There will also be products for sale from local merchants, as well as an area with children’s activities.

Tickets are available for pre-sale at Hennessy’s Irish Pub, and La Bierhaus (Colonia México and Centro) for $225 pesos, or $275 pesos at the gate on the day. A limited number of VIP tickets, including food and beverages and access to the main house at the hacienda are available for $1000 pesos each. A percentage of the ticket sales will be donated to Save the Children, a charity close to the heart of Sean Hennessy, who has worked with them in the past.

Children under 12 enter free, and onsite parking is also free of charge.

A bus service will operate hourly starting at 1pm from Mérida (boarding at Hennessy’s) at a cost of $50 pesos round-trip. A bus from Progreso will operate one service, costing $100 pesos round trip. Buy your bus transportation when buying your tickets for the festival.

For more information, and a map showing the location of the hacienda, visit or or on Twitter @MeridaMusicFest

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Full house for the long weekend in Progreso

PROGRESO, YUCATÁN.  As you’ll know if you are reading this from Yucatán, summer has arrived. We’re enjoying hot and sunny weather while in much of North America they are still shoveling the snow. Since it was a long weekend (yesterday was a public holiday in Mexico), many Yucatecos headed to the beach, and Progreso, Chelem, and the other towns along the coast felt the benefit. Restaurants were packed, beach palapas were fully occupied, and locals, along with seasonal visitors enjoyed a perfect sunny Sunday all along the waterfront.

Strangely however, the malecón remained open to traffic. As I recall, one of the main reasons given by the city for remodeling the malecón was to allow it to be closed to traffic at busy times of the year; and it is hard to imagine a day much busier than we witnessed on Sunday.

After an hour or two in the bustling atmosphere of Progreso, we headed to Costa Azul in Chelem for lunch. If you haven’t already been to Costa Azul, it is well worth a visit – the seafood botanas served with the drinks are delicious, fresh, and in copious quantities, and a well-priced menu of larger meals is also offered. Unlike many of the beach restaurants, particularly those in Progreso, service at Costa Azul is normally fast and friendly.   

Costa Azul is on the right hand side (ocean side) of the road, as you are heading towards Chelem from Progreso, before arriving in the center of the town.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Medical Treatment the ‘Dr. Simi’ way

MERIDA, YUCATAN.  We’re all familiar with the ubiquitous ‘Dr. Simi’ pharmacies, (“The same, but cheaper”) of which (according to their website) there are 76 locations in Mérida alone. Many of us have probably visited them to make purchases of aspirin, band aids, or other basic medical supplies. Have you noticed however that many of the locations have an onsite doctor, offering consultations for minor illnesses? If so, have you ever consulted ‘Dr. Simi’?

Early evening last Saturday, I was hit by a rapidly progressing food-borne illness. By 10.30pm, I was in something of a state of agony. What to do? Knowing that my local ‘Dr. Simi’ was open until 11pm, I proceeded to the consulting room. Happily, upon my arrival there were no other patients, and I walked right in to the doctor’s office. I was pleasantly surprised to find a young doctor who spoke excellent English, and who in 10 minutes was able to determine the likely cause of my affliction (an infamous bacteria), and recommend two options for treating it. Having selected my preferred option, a prescription was written. The cost of the consultation? $50 pesos. And that was including a $15 peso weekend surcharge! The chosen medication was an additional $70 pesos at the 24 hour onsite pharmacy.

72 (unpleasant) hours later, I had made a full recovery.

This was my first ‘Dr. Simi’ experience, so I cannot say how typical it was, and your chances of finding a doctor fluent in English in attendance may vary. For an urgent but ‘minor’ issue however, the ‘Dr. Simi’ way, could be the way to go.

If you have had a ‘Dr. Simi’ experience yourself that you would like to share, please tell us about it in the comments field below.  

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And now, to more pleasant topics…

The Mérida Music Festival at Hacienda Dzibikak is only 3 weeks away. Do you have your tickets yet? See TYT report here: for more information and where to buy your tickets.

Mark, co-owner of Canada Burger is in town, working with Scott until Tuesday. If you haven’t been to Canada Burger yet, stop by and say hello to them and sample what is rapidly becoming a Mérida institution!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Inaugural flight to Belize leaves Mérida

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN.  Tropic Air’s inaugural flight between Mérida and Belize City departed from Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport on Monday afternoon, following a commemorative event at the airport, organized by the Yucatán Tourist Board. This new link between the capital of Yucatán and the capital of Belize means that a seven hour road trip between the two cities can now be accomplished by air in under two hours, providing some spectacular aerial sightseeing along the way. The flights are operated by 14 passenger Cessna Grand Caravan 208B aircraft, delivered factory fresh to Tropic Air. Being small aircraft, they fly much closer to the ground, meaning that the journey itself becomes an amazing opportunity to see an aspect of the Yucatán peninsula from the air that you would never see on the usual 737s and A320s that ferry most air travelers in and out of the region.

The intention is to expand trade and tourism between the two countries, and will also allow travelers from Mérida to make connections to Honduras, Guatemala, and 11 destinations in Belize including Ambergris Caye.

"We have been working closely with our partners in the Yucatan on this service, and we are excited to be flying there," John Greif III, President of Tropic Air was quoted as saying. “We expect the market for this service to grow and we plan to add additional service as that happens.”

Tropic Air flies from Merida to Belize on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, departing the white city at 2.00PM, and arriving in Belize City at 3.45pm. Return flights are also Monday, Wednesday and Friday, leaving Belize City at 11.15am and arriving in Merida at 1.00pm.

Flights can be booked online at

All photos courtesy Rebecca Coutant of – we greatly appreciate her assistance.