Monday, 28 July 2014

Twenty Four Hours in Campeche

CAMPECHE, CAMPECHE – You could stay longer in Campeche, but if your time is limited, or you just want to make a quick overnight trip from Mérida, twenty four hours gives you a great taste of the city and its attractions. The centro historico is a living museum, and well worth wandering around for a couple of hours; the well restored buildings are delightful to the eye and the peaceful cobbled streets are a pleasure to stroll. 

If you decide to visit for longer, there are additional attractions; the following are my suggestions for a twenty four hour visit. The evening attraction mentioned operates on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’m assuming you are visiting by car.

Plan to arrive in Campeche around 2pm, stopping at the ‘Zona Cockteleros’ for lunch, which you will pass as you head into the city. This area, at the north end of the malecón, features a number of seafood restaurants on the bayside, all of which offer views across the normally placid waters of the Bay of Campeche. We chose Restaurante Calakmul 2; the large seafood cocktail was $120 pesos and was solidly packed with shrimp, conch, oysters, octopus and crab. Cocktails can be ordered to taste, featuring any or all of the available ingredients. The ‘potpourri’ shrimp was six giant shrimp, two each of coconut, bacon wrapped, and stuffed with crab. Served with rice and vegetables, we found it fairly priced at $159 pesos. 

After lunch, continue along the malecón into the city, and check in to you chosen accommodation. There is a good choice of hotels to suit all budgets; those on the malecón of course feature bay views, while those in the centro historico tend to be more traditional and atmospheric. The Hotel Castelmar is highly rated by many travelers, as is the Hotel Lopez Campeche. On this occasion, we stayed (rather boringly) at the Holiday Inn, thanks to a credit card promotion I received. We found it perfectly adequate, well located, and with a lovely bay view. As with any Holiday Inn however, it lacks any real ‘atmosphere’, and, at ‘rack rate’ could be considered overpriced.

Once you’ve got settled, hop back in your car, and continue along the malecón until you see the signs for the Fort of San Miguel. Located on the top of the hill at the southwest end of the city, the fort was built towards the end of the 18th century. Its construction, along with the Fort of San Jose, gave the city the best defense fortifications in Latin America. Today, it houses the Museum of Mayan Art, and offers great views across the city and bay. Once you come back down the hill, on your way back towards the center, stop and take a walk along the malecón, to enjoy the bay views and, hopefully, a fresh breeze, which often picks up in the late afternoon.

You’ll have time for a shower or quick rest, before making your way to the ‘Puerta de Tierra’ (Land Gate) in time to buy your ticket for the 8pm ‘The Place of the Sun’ tour and show. Performed Thursday – Sunday, the show takes the spectator back to the colonial era, when the local population fought fiercely to defend themselves from pirate attacks. The tour portion involves climbing up to the top of the battlements and a walk along the walls. Following that, a sound and light presentation takes place. The entire event lasts around one hour.

For dinner, attracted by the large local crowd (always a good sign) we enjoyed flavorful tacos at Potros, on the malecón to the south side of the center, followed by drinks at a bay-view terrace bar in the next block. Alternatively, a number of bars, cafés, and restaurants in the centro historico are around the main square, and along Calle 59.

After a well-deserved night’s rest, a great place to start the next day is at Restaurante La Parroquia, on Calle 55, a block from the cathedral. Among other more traditional breakfast foods, they offer an excellent ‘Huevos Motuleños’ – tortillas topped with beans, fried eggs sunny side up, ham, tomato sauce, and green peas, served with fried ripe bananas.

Walk off your breakfast in the centro historico, enjoying the many unique galleries, shops, and cafés, and taking the time to wander down the smaller streets to take in the beautifully restored buildings.

Once you’re ready to leave, head out of the center along the malecón, in the direction from which you entered the previous day. Turn right after the new shopping mall (or make a stop there if you wish) and proceed past it, across the railroad tracks, and up the extremely steep hill to the statue of Benito Juarez at the top. After a brief stop to enjoy the view, continue past the statue to the Fort of San Jose. Completed in 1792, the fort offers more views of the city, bay, and the Petenes Reserve. The internal part of the fort is currently closed for renovation.

Once you head back down the hill, follow the malecón out of town. Fancy some of those crab claws you saw on the menu yesterday but didn’t order? The ‘Zona Cockteleros’ will be on your left. Otherwise, continue up the hill where you will rejoin the highway to Mérida. About 90 minutes later, you’ll be there.

Monday, 21 July 2014

13th “Feria Tunich” starts Friday in Dzitya

DZITYÁ, YUCATÁN – This Friday, July 25, the 13th edition of the “Feria Artesanal Tunich” will open in Dzityá, a small town on the northern edge of the city of Mérida.

It’s a great opportunity to visit the pueblo of Dzityá, and to browse the handcrafted artisan products which will be on display and available for purchase. And of course it’s not only merchants; as with any event like this in Mexico, there will of course also be food and drink for sale, and entertainment to enjoy.

There will be a large selection of regional handmade products, using materials such as wood, stone, and fabric, both from Yucatán and other places such as the municipality of Corregidora, Querétaro, which is this year’s special guest. The 2nd national artisan pavilion will feature exhibitors from the states of Puebla, Michoacán and Veracruz.

The town of Dzityá itself is famous for its artisans, with generations of local families working with wood and stone to produce many of the items you find for sale in Mérida and further afield.

The hours for the fair are from 10am to 10pm, from Friday August 25, until Sunday August 3rd. While the merchants will be on site all the time, the entertainment is mainly in the evenings, which of course is also the coolest and most interesting time to visit. There is a full program on the city’s “Feria Tunich” website; it’s in Spanish, but easily understandable even if you don’t speak it well:

It’s simple to get to Dzityá by car – just take the highway towards Progreso, and take the first exit after the periferico. You can also get there easily using public transport – there is a limited free bus service from the Plaza Grande in Mérida, departing at 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm from Monday to Saturday. On Sunday, the free service will depart from Parque Santa Lucía; the hours will be the same, with the addition of a 10am departure. Three public bus lines also run from centro in Mérida to Dzityá; departure points are listed on the fair’s website here:

So come along and enjoy the 13th annual Feria Tunich! More information (in Spanish) can be found on the fair website:

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Rock in Río approaching

RÍO LAGARTOS, YUCATÁN – Have you been to (or even heard about) Río Lagartos? If not, you might want to start by reading my article here:

Coming up on August 16th is the 4th edition of the popular Rock in Río festival – which could be just the reason to plan a first visit if you’ve never been, or a return visit if you have.

After three successful years, this 4th consecutive event hopes to introduce more people to the touristic pleasures and natural beauty of the Río Lagartos area, while at the same time raising awareness of the need to conserve and protect the natural resources through music and culture. 

The full name of the event is the Festival of Music and Nature – Río Lagartos – shortened to Rock in Río, and each year, the event has had an ecological theme; this year, it will highlight the problem of garbage polluting the ría (estuary) and the dangers caused to the ecosystem. Personnel from the ecological reserve will be cooperating to provide information and resources.

Besides a plethora of regional bands performing, the festival will also feature an exhibition of paintings and photographs, and work by local artisans. There will also be an area for young people to utilize for cultural expression.

The event takes place at the natural spring and swimming hole known as Balneario Chiquilá, on the edge of the town of Río Lagartos, and is 100% free to attend.

The festival is made possible by the sponsors, which include businesses in the town of Río Lagartos and the city of Tizimín, as well as local politicians and the town government.

The musical line up this year includes Kayaroots, Kiabeth, Ruta 42, Calavera, No Canta, Suburbanox, Up the Irons, and Forgotten Son.

A fishing tournament will take place the same day. Registration fee is $750 pesos per boat (hire your own boat and captain) including a supply of beer to keep you cool. Prizes will be given to the top three catches, with a special prize for the largest fish. Free fish frying will also be available after the tournament to cook your catch, accompanied by live music from “Wicho y sus costeños.”

If you’re thinking of going, and looking for a place to stay, the Hotel Tabasco Rio ( is offering special rates for attendees at the festival.

There’s more information about the festival (in Spanish) on their Facebook page:

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Colors of Yucatán

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – There’s something to see around every corner in Yucatán, and colorful surprises wherever you look. For the last couple of years, I’ve been documenting some of the moments of color I have encountered, and the results follow.

It can be as simple as a blue house, almost becoming part of the sky:
Or a pink house, vividly contrasting with it:

The stately charm of a green colonial:
Or the warmth of an orange one:

It can be as basic as an old, purple house:

Or the bougainvillea coming over a wall:

The pink and purple flowers of spring:

Or the white ones of summer:
Or brightest of all, the flamboyant tree:

You can find colors in the city, like the dappled sunlight on a building on Paseo de Montejo:
Or the wall of a cantina near the market:
The church in Colonia Itzimná:

A school near Parque de la Mejorada:

Or the old post office:
Outside the city is colorful too, although sometime more monochrome:

While Izamal at night is a feast of yellow warmth:

The small village of Chocholá has pastel color:

While the paradise of the coast can best be seen in Chelem Puerto:

On a sunny day, or even in the evening, color is everywhere in Yucatán. Take a moment as you move around to appreciate it, absorb it, and photograph it. Share it with your friends, especially in the winter with those at home in Cleveland, Toronto, or London. If the cloudless blue skies and powdery beaches don’t bring them down, I don’t know what will.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Mexican Team Out, But Not Down

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – Mexico’s world cup journey ended on Sunday in a somewhat controversial 2 – 1 win by Netherlands at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza. It was a sad moment for a team which has, in general shown world class performance during the tournament; unfortunately the “curse of the final 16” struck yet again, and by Monday night, the Mexican team was on a flight back to Mexico City.

Mexico fought through the tournament against a backdrop of poor refereeing, bad decisions, and the continuing refusal by FIFA to use the technology at their disposal to ensure games are fair.

Despite the loss in the round of 16 however, Mexico has much to celebrate. The national team, winners of the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament in London has spent the
last two years languishing in the doldrums; now however, after months of doubts, the last two weeks have proven that they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Under new manager Miguel Herrera, the team has bounced back, and looked like champions throughout their games in Brazil. Before the tournament, Herrera was frequently criticized for his ‘experimentation’ with various combinations of players right up until the final preparation game; time has shown that he knows what he is doing, and the chatter of criticism soon died away once the real games began.

The Mexican team is home today, of course reflecting on what might have been. The rapturous welcome at the airport in Mexico City must have done much for their self-esteem; they can be proud of what they achieved in Brazil, and can look forward to continuing in their rightful place at the top of the region and as a powerful force in world football in tournaments to come.

One final time, for now, let’s all scream “Viva Mexico!!!!!!”

For the schedules of the remaining matches in the upcoming World Cup, see here: