Merida, Mexico - From HGTV to Reality
Like many people who are prone to sitting in their PJs on a Sunday morning sucked into endless episodes of HGTV shows, we first heard about the Mexican city of Merida on an episode of HouseHunters International. The beautiful colonial homes coupled with tropical warmth and Mexican hospitality seem like an irresistible combination. We vowed to go check it out to discover if it was somewhere we wanted to spend more time.
That was probably 8 or 9 years ago. This year we finally made it there! Why did it take so long? Well worklife got in the way for a while but when we ditched the jobs and started traveling full-time we prioritized other places first. Then, after spending six months in South East Asia and realizing that we didn't care too much for humid climates, we started to reconsider if Merida should even be on our wish list any more.
Well this year we decided it was time to check it out once and for all. We spent 12 nights in a cute little bungalow, just off the palatial Paseo Montejo, a stones throw from the historic centro of Merida. So how did it measure up?
The first thing to say is that it had a very different feel to other parts of Mexico we have visited. This was our first visit to Yucatan peninsula and unsurprisingly it had a more tropical, Caribbean vibe to it. Mayan culture is prevalent but at times it felt more like how I imagine Cuba. Lots of dancing, Cuban music and sweet, sweet cocktails. We really liked the nightlife and bars in the city and while I would never have been brave enough to compete with all those dancers of Latin descent we really loved spending warm nights wandering the city and bar hopping.
There was a great selection of restaurants and bars. We especially liked the food-court / bar styles places Mercado 60 and Casa Dominga. A bit touristy, but still fun with live music and lots of atmosphere.
We were surprised that much of centro area has not been revitalized. There were still lots and lots of colonial homes that were in various states of disrepair. We had expected the gringos to have bought everything up but that was definitely not the case. We went on a Homes and Gardens tour, organized by the Merida English Library as a fun way to see inside some of the beautiful properties that had been restored.
Merida is a great base for day trips. We took the bus out to the coast to Progreso and also booked an organized tour to the nearby Uxmal Mayan ruins. Progreso is an easy, inexpensive bus ride but we found the town to be a little shabby and lack lustre. Not sure if there is more to it than we saw but for us it just meh. We chose Uxmal for a tour because we wanted to avoid the tourist crush we had heard about at Chichen Itza. I'm sure it's wonderful there too and many people do both. For us one set of Myan ruins was enough. Uxmal was a great visit. We clambered up pyramids and let our minds be boggled imagining these civilizations so advanced yet so far back in time.
Ans so to the climate. We were in Merida in December; according to climate charts this is one of the coolest months of the year. We still found the heat of the day pretty oppressive, always wanting to retreat to air conditioning by the middle of the day. Living in this climate would definitely take some adjustment and ultimately, we were probably right in thinking it wouldn't be a top choice for us.
Despite probably not being on our list of potential new homes we really liked our time in Merida. We loved the balmy nights, the music, the dancing and as always in Mexico, the friendly locals but I don't think you'll see us on HGTV moving there any time soon.