I go to Izamal about once a year. Usually I´m with guests so I do the touristy things like the crafts museum and the convent. But yesterday I went just to see an antique dealer who had a few saints I wanted to see. After spending all my cash there I went to town and used my debit card on some crafts at Hecho a Mano. All that shopping made me hungry so I went to the Restaurant Kinich. El Pricipe Tutul Xul in Mani has long been my favorite restaurant for the classic Yucatecan cuisine but now Kinich has take it´s place. Nothing in Merida compares to these two restaurants. It´s a pleasure just to have a cool drink and lather the beans and habanero sauce on the freshly hand made tortillas. The staff are all so friendly and attractive in their traditional dress. It´s worth including Izamal as a side trip with Chichen Itza or Valladolid. It´s also worth just heading there for the day from Merida without a to do list… For more daytrips see my Best of Yucatan blog.
Not this corner of the world yet. Mexico no doubt will suffer for the next four years and sadly that may make the cheapest safest place to be if you are one of those Americans who did not vote for (he who shall not be named). We are renovating our website of renovated vacation homes in Merida capitol of the Yucatan Peninsula. You can check us out at Best of Yucatan and here are some new photos of one of our most popular rental homes L´Orangerie de Santa Ana.
I spied a large billboard a few weeks ago with brilliant happy colors and a crab on it that said Crabster Seafood Grill – Progresso. Since I´d not been out there in half a dozen years I decided it was my duty to give it another chance to seduce me. My past experiences of sequin sombrero wearing American cruise ship tourist vomiting cliche spanglish phrases at the top of their lungs could not deter me. Hot pants and sunburned blubber would not deter me. After all I´d seen many happy selfie faces on Facebook and nice appetizing dishes on Instagram all tagged #Crabster. Twenty minutes from the billboard and I was driving through the new improved town of Progresso. A place that was once as beautiful as the Paseo Montejo but hurricane Gilberto wiped that slate clean decades ago. The town has really cleaned it´self up and the malecon looks clean and inviting. So far so good the terrace at Crabster looks comfortable with the ubiquitous upscale synthetic wicker chairs. Nice marble top tables until you sit down. At once you feel like a toddler again. The table is about 3 inches too high for the chairs and the base of the table is a pyramid. This precludes any possibility of comfort as your feet won´t fit under the table. Well at least the napkins are nicely embossed.
The menu comes and it is huge. This always discourages me in a seafood restaurant. How do they keep it fresh? Why so many choices and sauces? A gigantic sea bass and grouper are presented to us by a waiter who could barely lift the tray, which is garnished with a lobster tail and crab claws. They may have been impressive yesterday. What is that strange odor I start to wonder. It reminds me of walking through Bloomingdales and being spritzed with Halston back when there was a Halston. Alas it is my fingers. The napkins are scented with the sort of perfume your elementary teacher may have sprayed around the class room after lunch if your teacher were on a budget. Good lord who thought that was a good idea? Suddenly I feel like I´m having lunch in an Uber.
The waiters are very attentive and so we order from the yuge menu where the starters are all about 200 pesos. Still it was the day after the US election and we were there to stare at the sea and escape reality and the internet. The peso has fallen as far as our spirits so we decide to splurge. First came the Red Snapper carpaccio with it´s garnishes. We refused the cheese and had it with a dressing (mistake), capers and avocado (another mistake). It would have been fine with capers some lime and a good olive oil. That was 25 minute behind us at Costco I suppose. The ceviche was fresh and good, if a little watered down. It was nothing to compare to the better and cheaper ceviches and aguachiles at Apoala. In fact it was nothing to compare the bigger better and ceviche at La Pigua, or Muelle 8 or even Marlin Azul in Merida. Third came the soft shell crab tacos which were good but not great. At least they were big! Last and least came a big heap of fried octopus served on a cutting board, with a side of tomato sauce and tortillas and habanero. Either we were full or it tasted like shoe leather or both.
Now, I have learned over the years not to expect much. To say I was disappointed would not be accurate. Let´s just say I was not surprised. It wasn´t very good but I was surprised the place was full by the time we left. Everyone else seemed happy to be over paying for mediocrity by the sea. A fitting analogy for the election I suppose. I vow to not be deceived by good graphics again. It took several washings at home before the cheap perfume left my fingertips. I should have remembered Susan Sarandon´s trick in with lemons in the film Atlantic City. I´d rather not ever think about Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City or Crabster again for as long as I live.
aI had forgotten how much fun it was to visit the factory in Ucu where cement tiles are made. These tiles originated in North Africa and can be seen all over the Mediterranean. They came to the Yucatan in the ships as ballast along with the Marseilles terracotta roof times. The pigments are mixed with white cement and water with a little sifted sand. Then a small portion is measured and poured from a scoop to the template. When the template has been filled to the middle with colored cement a mix of grey cement and sand tops off the template and is pressed in these early 20th century presses. You can see the stacks of completed tiles in the store room. An order of 100 square meters is taking about 6 to 8 weeks for delivery.
Here are some of the tiles in Meson San Sebastian from Mosaicos Traqui in Ucu.
And here are a few of the other floors in our houses at Urbano Rentals some old and old and some new.
The first thing I bought after I bought the house in Merida was a crucifix with a headless black christ with long white fitted underwear. I´ve had my eye on a Maya cross for a while and have visited it 3 times but then a couple of days ago I was in a shop that I visit rarely and was just about to walk out when my friend asked the price of this cross in the window that I had not noticed… my heart stopped. I held my breath. When I heard the price and he didn´t buy it I pulled out my wallet and escaped with this beautiful cross and my friendship still intact…. I think.
When I moved to Merida in the old Jeep I learned one can not pull a U-haul across the border. At the border you will be scalped. So I left all my treasures in Texas at my cousin´s house for safe ke…
Source: Where and When to Shop and Why
Source: The Fine Art of Shopping
Surely someone somewhere has written about the tradition of the Trova in the Yucatan and they are building a fine new museum, school and concert hall to the glory of same. But the casual stroll though the main square on a Saturday night could be your introduction to this loveliest of traditions. It´s a pay to play situation but will cost you less than AG in Florida who wants to investigate your private university scam. One can also engage these troubadours to serenade your love (or just the person you stalk) for a song. Here they are singing at our supper for Jorge Pardo´s birthday last year.
An hour or so from Merida depending on how many times you stop along the way you arrive at a crossroad with a sign to Uxmal. Instead of turning off the road I recommend you drive strait through the town of Muna and climb the hill for a little detour with a majestic site overlook the Puuc hills. It´s a little detour of less than 10 minutes but the change of landscape is welcome after the flat Yucatecan plain with no views through the dense tropical jungle. After you pay your federal fee you get in a second line to pay your state fee and then you cross the plaza of shops and enter. That´s when you see the Pyramid of the Magician so named by John Llyod Stephens after the tale he heard from one of the local Maya. I recommend you read Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan before you come to the Yucatan.
The staircase on the western facade faces the setting sun on the day of the summer solstice. Uxmal translates to thrice built and there are two older pyramids concealed beneath the one we see today.
Next you pass through a corbel vault and wander over to the big rectangular plaza called the Nunnery by the Spanish conquistadors because it reminded them of a convent.
In 1863 when the Empress Carlotta visited Uxmal they removed all of the phallic sculptural elements from the facades. Thankfully they have been restored.
Here we sat for a good half hour looking at masks of Chac, the rain god among the varied lattice work facades. Eventually we found the energy to proceed.
Moving up the hill to the house of the turtles which you can see of the freeze of the facade. One of the many buildings now overtaken by the swifts and swallows.
I had heard the Great Pyramid was closed to climbing but as there were several people on top and no one was looking I climbed up to see the parrots. If you are here early in the morning or just before sunset you are likely so hear them coming long before you see them flying to and from their roosts.
At the House of the Doves (or pigeons) one gets a better idea of what things looked about when the ruins were rediscovered in the early 19th century. An unrestored temple has yet to be restored.
Because I was so extremely lazy about updating the old blog I decided to make an Urbano Rentals Facebook page where friends and guests could keep up with what´s new and what´s going on in Merida and around the Yucatan. But if you do visit the old blog you´ll find my restaurant reviews and chatter about the Yucatan and life in Merida. So if you are coming to visit check out our Facebook page for the most current info and news. Coming soon Instagram! But not too soon!!!
Research suggest being lazy is a sign of high intelligence… a word it took me 3 times to spell correctly…see here