From Cancun to Mérida, Colonial Splendor in The Yucatán Capital

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The MEXICO Report
By Susie Albin-Najera

(Mundo Maya Tourism Fair, Mérida, Yucatán,  Mexico; Oct 16 – 19, 2010)

Walking out of the Cancun airport at dusk, we were greeted by a smiling representative from Mundo Maya who was holding a sign for those attending the Tourism Fair in Mérida, Yucatán.  We waited to collect the other journalists for the shuttle and were soon on our way. The spectacular sun made its final bow as we headed into the dense green jungle of the Yucatán.

Mérida had been on my list of places to see in Mexico before I die (as well as the Copper Canyon among many others) and landed #1 on our Mexico Bucket List recently.

After all, travel experts have raved about Mérida for decades, journalists have written beautiful descriptions of the town, the culture and the history plus hundreds of books in every imaginable language have been published on the great civilizations of Mexico. Exhibits in major cities worldwide can be found featuring the Mayans, Aztecs and Olmecs (see Ancient Mexico Exhibit now in Los Angeles through January 2, 2011).

But more than reading about it or watching a video, I was about to see the real thing.

A very special thanks and appreciation goes to Mexico Tourism Board, The Mexico Tourism Board of Chicago and Secretary of Tourism Yucatán for their gracious hospitality (including Jessica Seba, Veronica Rivas, Daniela Segoviano, Ismene Castro, Ivonne Erosa Serrano) and all of the coordination involved.

At sunset, Cancun to Merida

As our little white shuttle disappeared into the Yucatán jungle, the greatest hits of Barry Manilow, Elton John and The Bee Gees occupied the three and a half hour ride to Mérida. Not exactly the music I expected to hear, but the dichotomy of it made me laugh out loud. And after all, Elton John did recently perform at the nearby ancient ruins of Chichen Itza.

Anyway, we were in Mexico and it was all good.

About an hour into the nighttime journey, we made our initial stop at the first of several checkpoints, and visited a little stand that sold orange Fanta and ‘Japones’, delicious sugar-coated peanuts (cacahuates estilo japones).  I doubted that this ecstasy of a treat would spark a mention in any of the other journalists’ articles.  So leave it to me.

Traveling through the thick jungle for hours in the pitch dark can leave your mind to wander. With my vivid imagination, I was sure that some sort of wild animal would be jumping out at some point, maybe a cougar. A jaguar? Well, nothing like that. However, closer to Mérida as lights began to appear, I did see a roving goat. Why I was so happy to see a goat, I have no idea. I see goats all the time in the California country.

Intercontinental Presidente Merida

We arrived to the hotel in Mérida, at the centrally located Intercontinental Presidente Mérida, formerly a mansion owned by a Mexican general. A colorful combination of colonial history mixed with modern conveniences, the hotel is ideal for a visit to the area due to its proximity to the Siglo XXI Convention Centre, the Governor’s Palace and the Cathedral, plus surrounding attractions such as Izamal and the ancient Mayan ruins at Mayapan and Chichen Itza.

A sunrise shot from the room

The friendly and helpful front staff made check in a breeze, which was especially refreshing after the commute from Cancun. We picked up our itinerary materials from Yucatán Tourism, before setting out in search of the cochinita pibil and panuchos we had heard so much about.

From the hotel, we strolled around the corner (it’s been a while since we’ve strolled) and down the way to find an outdoor café-restaurant nearby and enjoyed watching passerbys from a nearby concert just letting out.

This is not cochinita pibil, but a typical sight at most outdoor restaurants among the town

My husband ordered the conchinita pibil (Yucatecan-style pork roasted underground) and I ordered a (vege) panucho, layered tortillas stuffed with beans, topped with cheese, a piece of tomato and purple onions. Sipping on my fresh limonada, I was already loving Mérida.

The next morning, a plentiful breakfast buffet was waiting for us in Frutas y Flores dining area. High above the eating area, a 20th Century mural proudly adorns the room from wall to wall.   I gave it my full attention.

The next two days we spent in Mérida were packed with excursions, which I will chronicle in forthcoming articles.

Stay tuned…

More About Mexico Tourism Board (MTB):

The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB), also referred to as the Consejo de Promocion Turistica de Mexico (CPTM), brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico’s tourism attractions and destinations nationally and internationally.

Created in 1999, the MTB functions as an executive agency of Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat, with autonomous management and the broad participation of the private sector.

The MTB has nine offices throughout North America (Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York, Washington D.C., Toronto and Vancouver) as well as in Europe, Asia and Latin America. These offices are dedicated to supporting the wholesalers, travel agents, airlines and hotel chains that serve the country.

Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara Manzo, is the MTB’s Chief Executive Officer, and Rodolfo Lopez Negrete is its Chief Operating Officer.

For more information on Mexico’s many destinations, call 1-800-44-MEXICO or visit www.visitmexico.com.

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Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at info@themexicoreport.com

1 comment for “From Cancun to Mérida, Colonial Splendor in The Yucatán Capital

  1. Barbra Bishop
    2010-11-26 at 7:47 pm

    I love Merida – Can’t wait to read more about Merida and the Mundo Maya Tourism Fair! Loved the jugo photo; we just returned from Riviera Maya where the daily breakfast jugo selection was amazing, including jugo verde, such as that pictured in your article, and some included chaya – (native to Yucatan peninsula, I believe) so nutitious and delicious. Looking forward to your future posts.

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