Palenque

Entrance to Hotel Chablis, Palenque

Entrance to Hotel Chablis, Palenque


Palenque is about half-way between Campeche and San Cristobal de las Casas. It wasn’t part of our original plan, however, after encouragement from more than one source that it was worth a stop and realizing it broke an 11+ hour bus ride in half we decided to add Palenque to our itinerary.

This is definitely a tropical jungle complete with all the sounds of birds and howler monkeys!

Street outside our hotel

Street outside our hotel


There are two activities of interest for us in Palenque (besides the hotel pool), an archeological site, i.e. Mayan ruins and two sets of waterfalls.

We’ve seen quite a few of the Mayan archeological sites, however, Palenque is described as ‘a dramatic sight colored by the mysterious feel of the ruins themselves.’ The ruins stretch out of the jungle. The entire area is lush and green. Only about 2% of the sight has been excavated and yet it appears massive. Palenque is considered one of the grand archeological sites in Mexico. Since you are in the jungle, the sounds of birds and howler monkeys are evident and add an eeriness to the experience. I know my pictures won’t begin to capture the sites, sounds, and smells.

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Yes, we really did climb up and through and over all those pyramids. Did our old hips feel the effort for a few days after! It was worth the stop. I apologize for not remembering all the names of the structures.

The trail walking down from Palenque’s major excavated archeological area takes you through the rain forest. Along the trail you see ruins that are still covered with the jungle and a beautiful waterfall.

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The next activity of interest out of Palenque was visiting two large waterfalls. The first was called Cascadas Mishol-Ha. Supposedly Arnold Schwarzenegger filmed part of a movie here although there were no signs. You can actually walk along a path behind the falls, that is, if you want to spend the rest of the day wet. There were a few people taking in the experience. It was indeed tempting!

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Let me just say that our van driver on this waterfall day was a bit of a maniac. Actually, I think he was a budding Mario Andretti. He whipped that van around all the other vehicles on the winding mountain roads. In the little villages women would hold up a rope across the highway to get cars to stop and buy their goods. Yes, it was a challenging ride since windy roads are tough for me with a steady, slow driver!

We made it safely to the next destination, Cascadas Agua Azul without getting sick. We’d been warned that due to the recent rains the water would not be the typical beautiful blue. The water in the falls has a very high mineral content that causes it to be very blue. I encourage you to check put the pictures on this link if you’re interested, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agua_Azul.

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The falls were a series of cascades down the mountainside. Even though we had a tough van ride and muddy water it was a gorgeous day. Well worth the stop in Palenque.

And now, just because…

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On to San Cristobal de Las Casas.

Campeche

Campeche is a little known colonial city in Mexico and has been mostly bypassed by visitors to other places in the Yucatan. It was at one time one of the most important ports in New Spain. As such, during the colonial era it suffered more than 21 major pirate attacks by the likes of John Hawkins, Henry Morgan, Sir Francis Drake, Diego the Mulatto, and others.

Don't mess with me!

Don’t mess with me!


Aye maties

Aye maties


Found in the wall...

Found in the wall…


"Aaarrrrgh! Gimme a bottle a rum!

“Aaarrrrgh! Gimme a bottle a rum!

In an effort to counter the pirate attacks, a wall was built around the city. It took over 24 years to construct the 2,560 meters of polygon shaped wall. There were three entrances on the land-side and one on the sea. Additionally, there were at least four major forts built in this area.

Map of Campeche city wall.

Map of Campeche city wall.

In the 1970’s oil was discovered offshore. Now this city and state are the major producers of oil in Mexico providing 70% of all the oil in the country.

What was our interest in visiting Campeche you may ask? We learned it was a beautiful colonial city and unlike Merida, it is on the water. In the 1990’s it was declared a World Heritage Site. This city has not been settled by hundreds of gringos and there are many old colonial homes for sale. We thought we’d have a look see.

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The city wall is undergoing a major renovation. Roads around the city center are torn up and work is progressing slowly.

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As in all these colonial cities, there are many churches, all catholic. Of course the church in Spain had a great interest in exploring new lands to spread the message. This effort was supported by the kings who controlled the purse strings.
Campeche had several churches in the historic central barrio. Most, yet not all, are in the simple Franciscan style.

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So, what were our impressions of Campeche? It’s a lovely colonial city, it’s been restored well, there’s a great effort to maintain the historical buildings and culture. There were two big hospitals in the centro area and many doctor offices. It seems like a great place. However, the in shore waters are very polluted and not swim-able. That’s a big downer. It’s also quite expensive to fly from Seattle to Campeche.

Check Campeche off! Here’s a few more pictures.

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Leaving Merida

We are in our last day in Merida. Leaving is always a bit sad. There have been some very good things about our stay here. We’ve said our good-byes and are waiting for time to go to the bus station.

Daily street and sidewalk sweepers.

Daily street and sidewalk sweepers.


Some of you may be wondering, “what do you think about living in Merida?”. It was one of the reasons we came, to have a trial run of living in Mexico and to see if Merida might be the place.
Door Knocker

Door Knocker


Merida has many things to offer; great parks, historic buildings and museums, art museums and classes, Spanish schools, many colleges, 30 minutes from the beach, symphony, theatre and great health care. We heard that good health care theme echoed repeatedly throughout the ex-pat community here. There is a great ex-pat community with lots of things going on. It’s truly a cosmopolitan city. It’s a great walking city depending on where you live. We could make this place our home. However, we are missing the beach.
Beach at Celestun

Beach at Celestun


Sure, it’s only a 30 minute bus ride to a not-so-great beach and it’d be closer if we had a car. But to go to a beach we like, it’s around 1 1/2 hours. We’ve decided the beach is something we want in a Mexico lifestyle.

We’re trying to become more clear about what it is we are looking for in a permanent residence. All these years we’ve never had a real choice of where we’d like to live. Now the choice is completely ours so where shall it be?

How important is it for us to fit in with the local population? Yes, Kris is of average height in the Yucatan and that means Doug is really tall. Does it matter?

Gigante Sr Dooglas

Gigante Sr Dooglas

There are really interesting things about Merida.

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The local people carry their infants and young children in their arms. You see an occasional front pack but not a single baby carrier. This isn’t always good such as when you see a toddler sitting between two parents on the back of a motorcycle.

I think we’ll see that carrying infants in arms is true throughout Mexico. It’s nice to see.

Mom carrying baby

Mom carrying baby


Baby on the boat

Baby on the boat


In Merida there is free music for dancing or listening in the squares. Each square has a designated day and music style. On Sunday afternoons there is salsa in Santa Lucia, on Tuesday nights there is big band music in Santiago square, on Friday music is played in Santa Anna. Of course one has to be able to stay up past 10 PM to take advantage of these offerings.

There are also free special events in the squares such as an arial show while you eat dinner.

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There are always young people practicing a dance routine. Sometimes it’s a surprise what you’ll find.
Giant puppets for an impromptu parade at St Lucia square.

Giant puppets for an impromptu parade at St Lucia square.


On Palm Sunday there were lots of variations on palm fronds to purchase outside the cathedral. Inside you could have (no cost) a palm frond.

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The ex-pats try to stay involved in the community. We’ve attended a few fund-raisers, wine tastings, art walks and an all day music festival for “Save the Children”.

Dancing at Save the Children music festival.

Dancing at Save the Children music festival.

We’ve had a good stay in Merida. The disadvantages, as we see it of Merida, are the distance to a good beach, the heat during the spring, and the long travel time from the northwest U.S. There are definitely things we’ll miss about this lovely colonial city.

We’ve learned a lot about living in Mexico and some about what we think we’re looking for.

Now it’s on to our next adventure. We leave today for Campeche (4 days) then on to Palenque (3 days). This is the beginning of our cross-country bus trip. We will end up on the west coast of Mexico in mid-June.

Hasty luego…