Saturday, 16 March 2013

Merida Day 10 - downtown crowds

Lesson learnt - don't go to the downtown market on Saturday - loco gringo!
But first to catch up on last night. We went to MEL-lo. Stands for Merida English Library and the lo is just to say it is a relaxed social occasion. We stopped in and socialised at the MEL for a while, cash bar, snacks and about 50 English speaking people (and occasionally other speakers) who either live in Merida or are "snowbirds". Many are travellers so we heard about some exotic trips and also about the trials and tribulations of living in Mexico ie foreigners can't own property so even if you pay for your property outright, the bank owns it, and new rules with the new government makes owning a car bought in another country difficult. Most issues seemed to be about negotiating bureaucracy. Nothing but rave reviews of the medical system though. Met some nice people.
This morning we set out late, about 11, and took the bus downtown. Our intention was to explore barrio (neighbourhood) San Juan, do some shopping and come home for a leisurely afternoon in the pool/hammock.
On the way to San Juan Square, we passed an unusual church, unusual because of its colour, most seem to be white. The doors were open so we went in.
Iglesia Candeleria, according to the plaque outside
In the courtyard behind a woman was ironing the altar clothes and at 12 a man went out to the front of the church took a nylon rope of the wall hook and rang the bell for noon. It was a small and simple church but behind the altar was a magnificent gold wall with niches for Christ, saints and Mary.

I have read that 91% of Merida is Catholic but not all are practising. I suspect as we lead up to Easter we will see the evidence.
We continued on to Parque San Juan. At one corner is an arch, one of 3 arches remaining in Merida. There used to be arches in the walls of the city for the roads that were leaving. This road lead to Campeche and the travellers would pray at the church for a good trip.

I sat in the park and sketched the doorway and gates of Templo de San Juan (St John the Baptist). A very pretty church with plaster relief above this doorway and the side entrance too.

While I did this, George went to look for the bus station that had buses leaving to Chichen Itza. The city has 4 bus stations and different bus companies and first and second class buses! Whew, its a learning curve. I will post on the in town bus system later, believe me I am getting some interesting photos in an attempt to explain it.
We needed to pick up some vegetables before going home. Memo to self - don't shop in the downtown market on Saturday! It was packed. We entered in at the fish section, no problem, lots of fish stalls, lots of loncharias handing us menus and shouting out their wares, but not too crowded.

It got more and more crowded as we got further into the interior of the market. The stalls take up designated areas and then spill out into the corridors.  the lonchareias have designated areas but the stools to sit on spill out.
An amazing selection of peppers
It is wall to wall people. Even I am a head above everyone and George of course is ducking all the time. We were the only gringos in there (the others had more sense). After some fruit and vegetable purchases George was feeling too closed in and we had to get out.
Finding our way out in the sea of people, we found that the road wasn't much less crowded and we took a breather in a small restaurant. Both ordered a cervesa (probably the first time I have ever ordered a beer, but it tasted great) and botanas came with them (little sausages, nachos, cucumbers and beets).

Beer and botanas
We then ordered lunch, me sopa de lima and George a quarter chicken with fries. Again we were the only gringos in the place. Most tourists are eating in the restaurants around the Plaza Grande. That was fun too.
Total cost, 106M$ (about $11)
Next stop was to buy a hammock at a shop recommended in the Rough Guide, La Poblana, right where we were catching the bus home. We settled on a doble  (holds a large person) rather then a matramonial (holds 2 people) as our trees at home can't take the weight of 2 people anyway. Here the hammocks are hung from rings embedded in the wall and weight isn't as much of an issue.
Caught the bus home, got home about 3:30 and the pool and hammock (our new one) never looked so good.

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