Merida, Mexico Travelogue, Part 1

Tired, and everyone is already in their bedrooms but me.  We had two main choices as to how to get here and, though we made the right one, it was tiring.  We could’ve flown to Houston, then taken a flight direct to Merida.  Total flying and layover time:  about seven hours.  But we wouldn’t get in until 9:30 p.m. local time, meaning we’d get in late.  Instead, we chose the alternative:  a straight flight to Cancun, then a four hour drive to Merida.   Our driver picked us up at the airport, and along the drive the air conditioner stopped working and my family started getting hot and cranky.  We stopped in Valladolid, a colonial town of about 35,000 people, touristy, but still gringos are a small fraction of the people you see out in the square, and quite a nice place.  After a mid-afternoon snack of fruit cocktail at a local indoor market, we felt refreshed.  And once we got started again the air conditioner worked for the remaining two hours of the trip.
The house, a restored colonial villa, is excellent, with three well appointed bedrooms en suite, an inner courtyard with pool, and lots of nice amenities.  We had the option to have all our meals cooked, but I chose just to have breakfast—and our first dinner at the house.  A good choice because we were all beat by the time we got here (6:00 p.m. local), and wouldn’t have wanted to go out.  Sopa de lima, a Mayan-style barbecue chicken, and flan constituted our meal, and we all enjoyed.
I think we’re going to like it here, though right now we’re all tired and a bit out of our elements.  I’d initially planned for us to take a walking tour of El Centro at 9:30, but we’re all so tired, we may just take it easy tomorrow—at least in the morning.
FRIDAY NIGHT, 7:45 P.M. LOCAL TIME:  A good night out, a good couple of days, good meal and we’re tired.
Yesterday was low-key.  Everyone was tired in the morning.  I worked out here, and my wife and I took an exercise walk around to get a feel for the area, eventually making our way to the Paseo de Montejo, a four-lane tree-lined boulevard with nice old mansions and new businesses.  We ate a good breakfast, and while the rest of them rested, I walked to the Grand Plaza to see if it was something my parents could manage.  It was, and so after lunch we walked down.  The area is nice, lots of things to see, but the combination of narrow cracked sidewalks, heavy fume-spitting traffic and large amounts of pedestrians make the walk not as pleasant as it could be.  I told my wife that I’d never be in favor of any government making such a rule, but—if they ever did shut down the roads around the square full-time—the value of the place would double.  We went to the Governor’s Mansion, walked through the Montejo Museum, visited some shops in the square, and generally had a laid back time.  We got back here and were too tired to go out to eat, so we just fixed leftovers in.
Today we hired a driver (the same company that picked us up from Cancun) to take us to the coastal area.  The plan was to do a sort of loop:  we’d drive to the failed but taken over Flamingo Lakes subdivision, then drive along the coastal road visiting coastal towns, then leave the coast and visit Yucatan Country Club on the way back to Merida.
We’d planned to meet a sales person from Flamingo Lakes at 10:00.  Flamingo Lakes was supposed to be a budget-friendly gringo development located somewhere near Merida.  It might’ve even been planned to have a golf course at one time, though all of that crashed.  The development crashed, the owners went bust, I even heard worse allegations.  Last year I actually made contact with someone from Flamingo Lakes, who offered to sell units—already built, mind you—for somewhere around $30,000.  These were units that had been offered for more than $100,000.  I was at least interested in learning more.  Prior to coming down, I’d contacted the manager again, was told that a new company had taken over and the sales plan hadn’t been finalized, and nothing was currently on offer.
We made plans to meet at 10:00.  Our driver picked us up at 9:30, and the salesperson emailed that it should take us 45 minutes.  It took us more than an hour to reach the road she indicated the development was off of, though to be fair, I believe our driver wasn’t that familiar with it.  We drove down the length of the road, past a little Mayan village, then past an old Mayan ruin, and still didn’t see it.  The email indicated it was at a mile marker we’d already passed, amazing because we’d been driving down a fairly desolate road, seen no signs, no gates, nothing to indicate the development.  I told our driver I thought we’d overshot it, but he didn’t believe me, telling me he thought it was down at the end of the road and then a left.  He was wrong, we learned, but only after we’d driven perhaps 20 or more minutes.  The salesperson indicated that they were now at the sight, on the site of a road, beside a dirt pile!  I hated to put her out for having driven down there, but I honestly knew that if I couldn’t have even located the road into the so-called development, driving down that flat, desolate stretch of road, that this was nothing I wanted to even look at.  I have no reason to believe they didn’t build the first condo units that they sent me pictures of, but I’m guessing that they didn’t have a paved road during construction, and the dirt road must’ve become overgrown.
I didn’t feel like returning, much less my family, so we moved on.  We were by this time at Telchac Puerto, probably the prettiest beach area I’ve seen on the gulf side of the Yucatan.  I’d been to the little villages west of Progreso (and then again on this trip, as described later), but not this eastern town.  Here, our driver (Rodolfo) told us, the wealthy of Merida had large plots of land with large homes on the beach.  And indeed, the lots were large, the houses spectacular in a minimalist beach style, and the water very pretty.  Unfortunately there was no public access to get on to the beach, so we kept going, shortly thereafter reaching Progreso.
Progreso is a port town, apparently created originally for shipping, but now has a large cruise ship port with an extremely long pier—long as in perhaps a couple of miles long.  The construction of this pier (as will be explained shortly), has allegedly had a deleterious effect on the neighboring towns to the west.  Progreso was set up for tourists, though no cruise ship was in today, and was also preparing itself for Carnival next week.  We all walked along the ten-block malecon in between the stores and the ocean, enjoying the view.  A few tourists—gringos and Mexican—sunned on the beach, and a few local women were out with their children.  It was lunch, and all the seafront restaurants were open, but nobody in our group wanted to eat other than me.  And I wasn’t hungry, really just wanted to sit in an open air restaurant, enjoying the sea breezes while we people watched.  In any event, we just walked, looked through a few shops, did nothing really.
The pier, which we could see in the distance, had been added on to.  The first portion, originally created,  had arches underneath that allowed the flow of water through the pier.  The second part, the add on, however, was simple rock and concrete, probably adding another mile on to the pier for the cruise ships, and this is what—according to Rodolfo—created a problem to the west.
The problem, he said, was that it changed the tides and flow of water, creating erosion on the beaches of Chelem and Chuburna.  I’d actually visited these two villages on a previous trip, thought they were quaint, noticed the shore almost lapping up to homes, but wrote that off to just the decision of locals (without zoning, I assumed) to build literally as close to the water as possible.  Actually, Rodolfo said, these homes had once been the second row homes, and were likely, in the next few years, to also get washed out.   I’d thought the beach homes (built practically on top of each other, probably for the more middle-class Meridians) had been quaint, but after viewing the grand homes at Telchac Puerto, they seemed pretty shabby to my group (including myself).  Nobody but me wanted to get out and look at the seafront (which I did for just a minute), and then we slowly made our way back to the villa.  I wanted to see the Yucatan Country Club, but everybody else was tired and wanted to go back home.
YCC is an interesting place, a club and residence that would be high-end by American standards, and absolutely would be only accessible to the elite of Mexico. A pro-designed golf course, a Marc Spitz aquatic center, perhaps ten well-groomed tennis courts, beautiful pools, restaurants, etc., this place had it all.  It was beautiful, a playground for someone sports minded.  Nothing was shabby about it, very first world, when I’d visited two years ago, but no homes had been built.  Now they had.  Guess I’ll have to return another time.
We came back, crashed here the remainder of the afternoon.  We intended to walk to Santa Anna park nearby to eat at the square, but many of the places had closed (open only for breakfast and lunch).  We walked over to Paseo de Montejo, enjoyed people watching, and ate a good dinner outside at a restaurant, then made our way back.