Merida Archives

July 11, 2009

Day 5 - Chichen Itza, Cenote Azul and Merida

Time is flying by. It's Day 7 already and I still have a couple of days to blog about. I also haven't yet posted any of the pictures - but I will do shortly. If you are following this (Kathy), you may want to look back at older entries for corresponding pictures.

Anyway, we woke up in Valladolid for our 5th day, at the Hotel Hacienda Sanchez, and had a very nice breakfast of eggs (served with black beans, of course) or pancakes, coffee, orange juice and pre-buttered French bread. Service, as the night before, was amazing.

We packed up (always a hassle for us) and headed towards our next destination: Chichen Itza. First, of course, we made a detour to buy a couple of hammocks at the state prison. In Mexico, you may remember, prisoners must feed themselves, plus they have a lot of time on their hands. So the prisoners at the prison in the Valladolid-Chichen Itza road, make some money by making hammocks. Their hammocks are double-stranded, and have the reputation of being the best in the Yucatan. We wanted to buy the largest there was, but that proved to be of monstrous proportions and price. Instead, we bought more "valued" price ones, which I think are still large enough. They are quite heavy and we paid US$40-50 for them. I can't tell, at this time, if we got a good deal. In any case, those selling it weren't willing to bargain (they said each prisoner puts a price on them, and they are not authorized to take less).


After that, it was time for Chichen Itza (MN$20 to park, MN$111 entrance, children free) which Mike explored fully. You can't climb much at Chichen Itza anymore (when I went, eighteen years ago, I actually climbed everything), so it wasn't as much fun for Mika as Ek Balam. Mike enjoyed it, visiting all the ruins, while the kids were probably more fixated on finding something to buy for the MN$10 we gave each of them. Mika was interested in the story of the human sacrifice victims thrown into the cenote, though somewhat disappointed that she couldn't see the remains.


Camila was obsessed with going swimming at a cenote, and she let us know of her wishes pretty much constantly throughout the visit. The only thing that really distracted the kids were the iguanas. They've seen lots of them by now, but they're still cool creatures.




After Chichen Itza it was time for the Cenote Azul at Ik Kil. This is a completely commercial operation, with a fully developed cenote, dressing rooms and bathrooms, life jackets and towels for rental, and tourist buses from Cancun (which visit it before or after hitting the ruins). Still, we got there right between the time that the earlier buses left and the newer buses arrived, so that we had 10 full minutes of bliss (aka "alone time") at the cenote. The cenote itself was beautiful, deep in an open cave, with roots of plants and trees hanging on top of it, and tons of little catfish swimming around (just try to grab one).



Once again, the life jackets were a great savior, as the kids delighted in both swimming around, and, later, in jumping into the cenote.



Despite my natural buoyancy, I was still a bit unnerved about swimming around in what's essentially a bottomless pit, so I mostly kept to the sides.

Once people started coming in, it became more like a glorified swimming pool than anything else, but the kids & Mike still enjoyed it. The hike up the stairs was much easier than it seemed it'd be.

After cenote azul I thought we could hit Izamal or the ruins of Acanceh, but neither Mike nor the kids seemed that excited by the prospect. Instead, we came directly to Merida (through the non-cuota highway, which proved to be quite nice).

In Merida, we are staying at the hotel Dolores Alba, which is very popular with tourists from all over. It's no wonder, it's pretty cheap (MN$540 for a double room for the four of us), it has a small but very clean pool, and gorgeous, large, tiled rooms. It was built in a more traditional-looking style than modern hotels, which makes it so much the nicer.

In the afternoon, the kids swam at the hotel while Mike slept. He wasn't feeling too well after his own encounter with Montezuma's. Of course, by the time he woke up and was ready to go, I fell asleep, and we all didn't end up going out for dinner until 9 or so. And of course, we were still somewhat confused about the layout of the city and did not take a map, so it took us a while to find a place for dinner (an expensive taco-chain near the zocalo).

We were all pretty tired by the time dinner was over, I had suggested that we take a taxi, but Mika insisted on that we do a buggy. It was MN$100! but Mike acquiesced. She, of course, was in princess-land being taken by a very cute horse-drawn carriage. We ain't doing it again, though.

July 12, 2009

Day 6 - Uxmal & Kabah

It's later on Sunday, the kids are playing at the hotel pool with Mike and I have some time to blog before we go shopping and city-exploring. I think I will actually be able to get caught up - at least with the blogging of the trip. I still have hotel & restaurants reviews to write - but I can do that when we get home.

In any case, yesterday started with breakfast at the hotel and then a leisurely drive to Uxmal, which is probably the second largest reconstructed Maya site in the Yucatan. In my opinion, it's also prettier than Chichen Itza, but being out of range of Cancun buses, it's much less visited. There were only a handful of people during our visit. Cost-wise it parallels Chichen Itza, just FYI.

The whole family enjoyed the Pyramid of the Magician (which you can't climb) and the Nunnery (which you can) together. It was alternatively hot and cool - depending on clouds and breezes - and there was much to see, including, of course, multiple iguanas. There were no cute puppies here, but lots of birds (in particular in the very aptly named "Quadrangle of the Birds" ) which build oven-style nests inside the ruins.

Despite the fact that it wasn't that hot, Camila and I tired quickly, and decided to go back to the entrance and wait for Mika and Mike. Mika and Mike, meanwhile, explored the rest of the site, climbing every possible structure and having a lot of fun. Their most interesting moment came when they saw two male iguanas bloodily fight each other. It's disturbing how much they enjoyed the whole bloody mess.

After Uxmal we meant to stop in Santa Elena for lunch, but couldn't find any suitable restaurant, so we continued on to Kabah, probably the 2nd largest reconstructed Puuc site. It's sad to say that the kids and I stayed at the entrance drinking sodas while Mike explored it by himself - but hey, we are wimps! Mike explored to his heart's content, though, once again climbing whatever could be climbed.

We decided to have lunch in Ticul afterwards, at the famed restaurant Los Almendros, known for its Yucatecan cuisine. I had actually eaten there in my last trip (let's repeat again, eighteen years ago) and wanted to relive the experience. Alas, the restaurant had moved since then, and we spent close to an hour looking for it - under the false premise that it would be somewhere near downtown.

During our search it started to rain heavily in Ticul - and when I say heavily, I mean heavily, as in trees falling off the ground heavily. We were glad we weren't outside. We finally found the restaurant, coincidentally during a short reprieve, and had a good, but not outstanding, Yucatecan lunch. By the time we finished it was close to 4 PM, too late to make it to the Loltum caves, our next destination. So we headed back to Merida ... and to the hotel pool.

We had dinner in Plaza Hidalgo - a square I well remembered from my last trip here eighteen years ago. Back then there were restaurants there, and I could bet there still would be some. And so they were. Very expensive restaurants, but we've found that Mexico, at mid-level traveling, is just as expensive as America. C'est la vie.

Day 7 - Merida

What a laid back day! Mika and I got up and went to get some pastries, juice and a dress for her at the zocalo. Then we came back, I blogged, the kids swam.

The whole family headed to the zocalo, got a couple of more dresses, watched a kids show (Mika volunteered to participate, she loved it!), had lunch (finally an affordable one!) and returned to the hotel.

We went back to the pool, I played with the kids for a while, then Mike did, and now the three of them are laying down on the beds, sleeping. Yep, it's 3:45 and that's it for the day so far. My plans for museums, zoos and all are shot - but hey, they are enjoying themselves :-)

Restaurant @ the Gran Hotel

Last night we had dinner at the restaurant of the Gran Hotel, situated in Plaza Hidalgo. I had often been to Plaza Hidalgo when I was in Merida, eighteen years ago, and remembered that at the time there were restaurants located there. I figured, chances are they'd still be there. Indeed, there are two restaurants at the park, the one from the Hotel Caribe and the one from the hotel Merida. They both are quite expensive, IMHO, with dishes hitting and going over MN$100 - but we weren't sure we could do better elsewhere and it was nice to eat at the park (really, a small plaza surrounded on two sides by the hotels and on the other by a church). We decided on the restaurant of the Gran Hotel because in addition to Yucatecan food, they offered pizzas and pastas.

We ordered a pizza margarita for the kids, a ham & pineapple one for me (MN$9) and panuchos for Mike. For the uninitiated, panuchos are small fried tortillas filled with black beans and covered with shredded chicken, lettuce and perhaps tomato and avocado. I remembered liking them more than I have in this trip. Mike thought that they were good, but not special.

I enjoyed my pizza and the kids seemed to like theirs. The crust was very thin, but the cheese was flavorful and the toppings tasted fresh. Beware that one small pizza is really enough for two - we wasted a lot of food.

Drinks were expensive - MN$20-40 for soft drinks, juices and shakes. I had a glass of OJ which was good and Mika liked her watermelon shake. Camila found the lemonade too sour, even after adding quite a bit of sugar, but I enjoyed it.

Dinner came to about MN$400 after tip, which I felt was too expensive for the experience, but c'est la vie. Service was quite good, though I'm not sure why the waiter regaled us with stories of his own family.

Beware that because you are eating outside, street vendors come from time to time to offer you fans, kids' toys and other things. But I guess that's part of the fun.

Gran Hotel - Restaurante
Calle 60 No. 496 x 59 & 61 @ Parque Hidalgo (aka Cepeda Peraza)

July 25, 2009

Hotel Dolores Alba - Merida, Mexico - Review

I almost didn't go to the hotel Dolores Alba in Merida due to a couple of negative reviews at One, in particular, claimed that the pool was full of leaves, and if there was something I wanted in a hotel, it was a good pool. But then, someone in the fora recommended the hotel, and I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did, as the Dolores Alba is a very nice and comfortable hotel, and we felt very much at home there.

The hotel is situated four or five blocks from the main square - not as close as I'd have wanted, but there isn't much you can do about that. It has a small, private, locked parking lot for those who, like us, are driving (and given all the ruins and sites to explore near Merida, it pays to have a car). It also has a restaurant, which we didn't try.

The hotel itself is divided in two parts. The older part of the hotel consists of two wings surrounding a central, covered patio (where the table/chairs for the restaurant are located). A newer part is made out of three additional wings surrounding the swimming pool. There are a lot of arches and iron work that help give the place a faux-colonial style. There are some plants around one side of the pool to make it look more tropical.

The pool is on the small side, and it's very popular with guests, but it's immaculately clean and my children loved it. My 7-year-old was able to touch bottom in the shallower part, but my 4-year old was not (so she floated around in her life vest).

We found the rooms to be quite beautiful. Ours had a very nice tiled floor, darkening windows (you can look out from the inside, but they look like a mirror from the outside) and some stylish features such as gorgeous painted glass night lights. The a/c worked very well, and the room had a TV with cable but no fridge. There was only a shower in the bathroom (I think soap but no other toiletries were provided).

My favorite detail from the room were the two rocking chairs placed around a small table by the windows. They were comfortable and just a tad luxurious. Unfortunately the beds were very hard, probably the hardest we experienced in this trip.

The hotel has a laundry room with rather big washers and driers. Washing and drying a load will cost your MN$50, including the detergent. There are also drinks for sale at MN$15. As the hotel is downtown there are places were you can buy anything close buy, including a very good bakery 1/2 a block away.

There is free wi-fi in the hotel, though the connection is not always great from the bedrooms.

In all, we really enjoyed our stay at the Dolores Alba and would stay here again. We made our reservation through their own website. The rate during our stay for a room with two double beds was MN$540.

Hotel Dolores Alba
Calle 63 No. 464 x 52 y 54

Dining Room at the Hotel Dolores Alba Merida

Hotel Dolores Alba Merida

About Merida

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Marga & Mike's Yucatan Adventure Blog in the Merida category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Isla Holbox is the previous category.

Restaurant Reviews is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34