Monday, June 7, 2010

What to do with only four hours in Merida in the middle of a heat wave!

What to do when you arrive in Progreso on a cruse ship and only have 4 hours to have a peek at the area?

Today I had some fine folks from - you guessed it - Georgia and we did the lightning, in car tour of Merida.

After a very brief stop at Dzibilchaltun, these Georgians had the good taste to hire me and we sauntered past the panting tourists waiting on their bus to head into town for a brief look-see. Stopping only to pick up some cloth samples for a quilting project, we saw the Paseo de Montejo, the Plaza Grande and all the fun and exciting things on the way, in between heavy noon traffic and traffic lights. The heat was such that no one wanted to leave the LawsonMobile and we just chatted and had a good visit.

Before heading out to Progreso, we made a quick stop at the Gran Plaza mall to sample some of Meridas best cookies, biscotti and carrot cake, which I hope they were able to take on the ship!

Hacienda Day Trip with my Georgia Folks

To take a break from all that Mayan ruin visiting, my Georgians wanted to see some haciendas.

A good little tour with plenty of wild and crazy hacienda action is out towards Uxmal, so we headed off in that direction. Our goal was to visit a few haciendas and have lunch somewhere along the way, and our first stop was the hacienda furthest out; the Hacienda Ochil.

There was absolutely no one around when we arrived which, considering the hour (10-ish), I thought was odd. We toured the workshops (stone and basket weaving) and enjoyed the ever-increasing oppressive heat and upon arriving at what apparently was the entrance gate, found it closed and locked. I started looking up the hacienda on my trusty phone to get a phone number to call when we saw someone approaching to unlock the gate and let us in. He informed us that the cost to visit the hacienda was $50 pesos and in we went.

Strolling around we came upon a large wood-burning oven which we were in the process of investigating when a very nice man came out and explained the story behind the oven; how it was built, by whom and what for. He then proceeded to ask us if we wanted a little tour. Of course! He gave us the run down on the hacienda, its history, the amphitheater, the cenote, and little details of the construction that we probably wouldn´t have picked up on ourselves.

Unfortunately there was no possibility of cooling off from the now-aggressive heat, the cenote being a rather shallow affair with dust covered water and plenty of bird activity overhead, literally. The tanque, that hacienda fixture once used for irrigation and often rehabilitated for swimming was being painted or re-sealed and so unavailable as well. There is an attractive little museum on the site as well as a very boutique-feeling gift shop with some very nice items. We settled on some refreshing Jamaica and a slushy, thick virgin tamarind margarita and then were on our way.

Next stop: the Hacienda Temozon Sur. While the Ochil hacienda was purposely left un-restored, the Temozon hacienda is the exact opposite. This is a luxury hotel where you can spend hundreds of dollars for a night (breakfast is extra). This is also where Bush and Clinton stayed when they visited the Yucatan. You can marvel at the grounds, have a meal or a drink and just enjoy the ambience. If you stay here, you will have complete access to the property including their spa and pools.

After Temozon, I suggested we visit a new-to-me cenote in the village of Peba, on the one lane road from Temozon to the highway. This turned out to be a great little cenote, with enough clear blue water to permit wading and very little in the way of touristy crowds.

Refreshed, we finished the tour with a visit to the Hacienda Yaxcopoil, which is more of a crumbling museum than anything else. To me, it does not deserve the title bestowed upon it by the readers of Yucatan Living which named it 'Best Hacienda Experience'. Um, don't think so. While it is a very complete collection of artifacts, books, Mayan stones, furniture and history, the fact that it is all literally falling to pieces in front of your eyes (and under your feet) makes it seem rather melancholy and sad. But there is a lot to see and a visit to the haciendas of the Yucatan wouldn´t be complete without at stop here. Entrance is again, $50 pesos. A guide will show you around and you can tip him at the end. There is also a small, somewhat limited gift shop.

After all that touring in the heat, we decided that we would skip lunch and part ways, the Georgians to their hotel and me off to the house for a siesta!