We took it easy on our final day in Merida, even to the point of lounging around our hotel pool for an hour or two. We still had a couple of buildings and museums to see, but being Monday, both the city museum and the Casa Montéjo were closed.
We started by exploring the residential area just to the north of our hotel. We saw two of the city’s gates, one of which had a pedestrian arch that was so low we had to bend to get through. We were so used to the hustle and bustle of the central streets that the quiet seemed downright eerie. But there were some beautiful houses, courtyards and public buildings that negated the usual jumble of garages, stores, bars and workshops.
A stroll in the area around the zocalo took us to the Teatro José Peón Contreras, an Italianate building from the early 20th century. We were taking pictures in the lobby when a worker in the building approached us an asked if we wanted a short tour. With a nod and a smile towards the security guard, he took us past the barrier and up the stairs. Obviously proud of the building in which he worked, he showed us portraits of the theatre’s founder and other dignitaries. He explained the function of the huge open-air gallery at the front of the building, which is rented out for civic and social events, such as the 15th-birthday parties of teenaged girls, an important event in Mexican society. He also showed us a private box from which we could see the theatre itself, with its 1,300-seat capacity.
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Photo gallery: Street scenes in Mérida
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After a fruitless search for Merida’s English-language bookstore (which had closed), we stopped at what had become our favourite lunchtime spot, Los Trompos on the corner of Calle 60 and 59, where I discovered that the place had draft beer for around $2.00 a pint. I find Mexican draft delicious and an excellent accompaniment to spicy food. This was our third visit in a week and the waiters recognized us. It seemed we had the whole group of them hovering around us, supplying a kind of short coat tree where we could hang our hats and bags and constantly replenishing my glass.
After lunch, we determined it was time for a siesta. We were walking back to our hotel when a Mexican man overtook us an engaged us in conversation. In excellent English, he told us he worked as a cook in the restaurant’s spotless open kitchen and recognized us. It seems Los Trompos is a chain, with four franchises in Merida. Our new friend told us he commuted from Progresso and would shortly be on his way to the bus station for his ride home.